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Strawberry Fields by Holly Starting 12th May

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  • Strawberry Fields by Holly Starting 12th May

    I am very excited that Strawberry Fields by Holly is out next group read.

    It's 59 chapters, so a big fic to get your teeth into Hope everyone will join in.

    Set in S2/3 Heartbroken and determined, Spike sets out to form a truce with his mortal enemy to take down Angelus once and for all. The last thing he expected was a couple of restless spirits interrupting his sales pitch, or to find himself in a magic-induced liplock. And one taste of Buffy Summers, he finds, is nowhere close to enough.

    Holly, if you join us for this read and discussion (which we would love) please read this first

    If 5th May isn't long enough for anyone, please let me know and I'll extend the reading time
    Last edited by Priceless; 20-04-20, 07:59 PM.

  • #2
    I might struggle to make 5th May but if I put Scars to one side to finish later and move on to Strawberry Fields I might manage it. So I'll yell if I'm struggling to fit it in but won't expect everyone to wait if it is just me (as usual!). Really looking forward to this one.


    • Priceless
      Priceless commented
      Editing a comment
      No worries, I'm sure we can extend the deadline if necessary. I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth into a long fic :vamp_lol:

  • #3
    I have the original Strawberry Fields WIP from 2008 before her revisions - there are 26 chapters. I'm going to read both In alternating chapters and see If there are any major differences between then and now. I love to see the development of a writer's work - the process is sometimes more fascinating than the end result.


    • #4
      Ooo that'll be interesting as I saw when I took a copy she made some notes at the end of the fic. I only glanced as I didn't want to read story specifics, but I think she made reference to having edited it as an older Holly which, if true, would imply she felt a different perspective did affect her choices.

      Still not sure if I'll make the 5th. I'm only at the start of chapter 16.


      • #5
        You're ahead of me Stoney, I'm on chapter 6.

        Let me know if everyone would like an extension and I'll extend it to the 12th.


        • Stoney
          Stoney commented
          Editing a comment
          I'm sure me being ahead won't last, but any extra time would help from my pov, I just don't want to delay everyone else if it is only me.

        • Priceless
          Priceless commented
          Editing a comment
          No worries Stoney, it's a team game so we wait for the whole team.
          Last edited by Priceless; 25-04-20, 06:21 PM.

      • #6
        If one of the Admins/Mods would be so kind as to change the start date from 5th to the 12th May, that would be great


        • Stoney
          Stoney commented
          Editing a comment
          Done, and thanks Pricey.

      • #7
        Hey everyone, this discussion is open!

        I'm ashamed to say I've yet to finish this story. I'm on chapter 38 so should be done in the next few days.

        My thoughts so far... I'm really enjoying the story, I love seeing Fred, Gunn and Lorne interacting with Buffy and Spike. The actual plot is really interesting and the writing is good. Everyone's voice is pretty perfect, especially Gunn. Holly should write Gunn more often as his character really jumps off the page for me.

        The only thing I'd change is the start of this fic, I think we spent too many chapters building up to Buffy going to LA and I think if a lot of the first say 15 chapters was removed, we wouldn't lose anything from this great story.

        I'm not a fan of 'the claim' in general, but I think Holly is handling it quite well here, and I like seeing Buffy's reservations, which I think are absolutely legitimate. I also love that she's set ground rules regarding intimacy, and they keep breaking them.

        Really enjoyable so far and looking forward to finding where the story goes


        • #8
          I'm two chapters off the end so I'm going to try to finish it up today and post later.


          • #9
            Just finishing it up and going back to look at the small changes between the original and the revised fic. Scanning the first few chapters of both versions, I note that all of the changes are for aesthetic reasons - sharpening the prose, choosing different imagery, slightly changing the tone. I think the new fic is def. an improvement and I'm glad that Holly cared enough to start over again and massage her story into a more aesthetically pleasing shape.

            Like Priceless, I'm not a ?claim' fan. It's really a fan fic meme that was at its height shortly after the show ended. I don't see it as much in new fics whereas it's everywhere on ancient Spuffy sites.

            Here's an interesting question - from where did fan fic writers pull the idea of a vampire ?claim'? Is it from Anne Rice or Twilight or somewhere else? I see that ?claiming' was a big theme of the TV show True Blood - which premiered in 2008 - but the idea predates that show in fan fiction.

            I have to admit that when I read fics and the characters say, "Yours!" "Mine!", it feels like a script stolen from somewhere else. Yet it's everywhere in Buffy fanfiction with both Spuffy and Bangel. Any thoughts before we move onto the fic?
            Last edited by American Aurora; 13-05-20, 03:35 AM.


            • #10
              I've no idea about the origins of the claim. There is that weird 'imprinting' aspect in Twilight that (as I recall, I still haven't seen the final film yet) a werewolf senses their destined mate and connects to them in a way that is emotionally binding. But they do have that separate term for it. I've no idea how it was described in the books or where they sit chronologically to BtVS fandom/fanfic. But claims do tend to have really set aspects to them that are repeated over and over in fics so I would agree it is safe to assume it comes from somewhere. Whilst I don't like the formulaic aspects and the 'mine' territorial marking of it, I'm not against claims in fics generally. I'll try to explain in my notes from finishing the story (hopefully later today) what element of it I appreciate.


              • #11
                I'm really loving Strawberry Fields! I'm still not totally finished and I cheated and skimmed ahead, so I want to go back and savour it more slowly-(and trying to finish some other things) but just wanted to post for now that this is fantastic to read! Interesting to know about the edits/ changes from her original fic as well - this felt very polished in tone and seamless. (I know this sounds like a gush fest lol, but I'll add more complete reasons for why I'm enjoying it so much later)


                PS. Just adding-I adored the incorporation of the Beatles songs btw! (I guess not surprising with the title being Strawberry Fields), but the selection representing both Spike and Buffy's POV really appealed to me. Very creative use of Lorne too (i know who he is on AtS and that he can read emotional states) Sometimes when fics try to incorporate songs it doesn't work or comes off clumsily or flat, but this was so great and i loved imagining their renditions! I love Fred befriending Buffy and Gunn feels very real and believable. There was so much I loved, this story deserves a proper engagement but just mentioning this for starters right now

                I'll add more thoughts later..... Looking fwd to reading everyone else's thoughts! Thrilled to have discovered Holly! ???


                • #12
                  In general I enjoyed this story, some aspects a great deal. I did find it a little long but think it must be really difficult balancing main events with times that build into main aspects feeling earned and not rushed. All in all I think a lot of different 'stages' in the overall timeline of this story are worked towards well and the writing stays engaging, even if it perhaps did get a touch too drawn out at points. In the main I agree with Pricey that it did feel like there was a better overall rhythm by the time the characters were settling up in LA and onwards.

                  I think I could definitely have lived with a few less sex scenes, so was amused to see Holly commented in her end of fic remarks that she originally had intended for more. Sex scenes often seem very formulaic and get repetitious in a fic, but I appreciate it was a key point in this story for the connection developing between them and how they were accepting their relationship, themselves and who they were as a couple too. So multiple scenes wasn't surprising.

                  The biggest weakness for me is very typical of early season fics that tangent and look to have Buffy accept a soulless Spike. I do roll with this far more happily from the early seasons before I feel canon tested and proved the importance of the soul for Spike. But there is still often a fundamental need to change Buffy's character to have her accepting a relationship with a soulless Spike. This feels even more marked to me if she's been through the experience of what happened with Angel in S2, as happens here. That dismissal of what she's experienced is almost emphasised by the idea that just one liplock with each other would be such an earth shattering moment that it upends all that they've known before and sets them on a different path. Spike doesn't need any of the gradual social shifts that contributed from a development like the chip, just a taste of Buffy's perfect pout! It's just a little too close to love at first sight for me and feels like a relatively easy/quick fix to change. At least Spike does at one point even think about how quick it has all been, only 'two bleeding days' or something along those lines.

                  Also, whilst Spike's literal evilness is nodded to, that he doesn't personally care about the things they are fighting for other than that Buffy does is acknowledged repeatedly. Yet there seems to be a desire to set Spike apart from Angel, that it be the case he is 'different' and that just be the way it is. His motivation for love enough alone to change him. That he doesn't feel remorse for his past and isn't fundamentally different to the person who committed such crimes and enjoyed inflicting such violence is just kind of brushed aside, because he's willing to stop now for Buffy. If I'm looking critically at a story, rather than just rolling with enjoying the read, this is troublesome for me as it isn't really him changing but just his willingness to play along at the moment. It's stated Buffy trusts him as a man, but he's a man that has committed atrocious crimes for a century and loved it. I don't see canon Buffy accepting that and feeling Spike is special in some way that separates him from his past choices and his soullessness not flare up learned experience from Angel's soul loss too. And as often happens alongside Buffy's character shift, Spike shows great control and restraint at several points, often more than Buffy herself. All really to support the notion he can just choose to walk the line successfully suddenly. He's written more like a step between the souled and the unsouled Spike of canon.

                  But despite these negative aspects from my pov, it leads nicely into an aspect in this story that I know others feel bothered by that's a positive for me - the claim. Claims can be formulaic and I'm not keen on the territorial 'mine' moments, as I said before but I think it works better in these early season fics where a soulless Spike is being accepted if there is something else that is a literal connection and contributory factor in their relationship. That it leads them to question the strength of his emotions and ability to choose a different path is good to see written in, even if it is predictable that he is going to shine. And the story goes to great lengths to emphasise that the claim doesn't create the emotions, but it does also at least wonder at several points at how the claim affects them and even raises very briefly whether Spike is affected by Buffy's soul.

                  Whilst I don't think it is healthy for a relationship to be based on one person being the moral caretaker of the other, I do think a supernatural connection can be used as a sort of bridge for Spike's lack of morality unsouled. It eases the soulless/souled disconnect a little for me and works with that sense of disconnection from canon. That it's a different path being explored when a key aspect of the mythology in the story is a shift from the original verse. That works well alongside the characters feeling different I think. The expansions that Holly wrote into this story with the potential breaking of the claim and how that had them test their relationship and consider their bond, the potential of that and the cost of doing it, was an idea that was interesting to see explored and gave the element of the claim extra layers I enjoyed.

                  The biggest strength of this fic is one that I think holds it up against a lot of really excellent fics, and it is the voices of the additional characters thrown in and the use of other verse characters in this different scenario. I was a little disappointed that it felt like Angel and Xander in particular, but also Willow and Giles were somewhat vilified. But the use of Fred, Gunn, Lorne and Faith was just fab. All four of them had superb voicing and real presence and impact on the story. I especially loved the return to Sunnydale and seeing the situation of Faith coming and claiming her place as the new SD slayer realised. The different leadership style she had and how those around her responded to it with Buffy elsewhere, how Faith herself responded to the different scenario, was truly great. That initial scene when Buffy entered the library and everyone's issues overlapped and spilled out was excellent. Really fascinating and great characterisation throughout.

                  Equally the whole situations with Fred and Gunn and how they were introduced gave really interesting variants from what was seen on AtS. I found the infiltration of the demon slavery ring a bit exploitative in an uncomfortable way, but I don't think that wasn't somewhat intentional because of the subject matter. The unit they were forging in LA was really believable to me and I enjoyed Lorne's part in it too and his insight and interactions with them all. I could absolutely, definitely read ongoing stories about that group and the situations they face and how they get through it together.

                  I also enjoyed the combination of Spike going to suggest the truce with the magical events of IOHEFY. Generally how Holly used parts of the shows and reshaped them was really clever and interesting throughout the story. That the connection to Buffy made Spike review how coldly Dru treated him was a great variant that I thought worked really very well and the violent break between them fitted the underlying truth of their relationship. Having Buffy's appreciation of Spike drawing both her wish to feel like a 'normal' girl as well as eventually drawing her acceptance of how she isn't, was an interesting revisiting of a key reoccurring theme of the show for her and within her dynamic with Spike. Buffy's ready swooning and easy acceptance of soulless Spike may have needed those character shifts I mentioned not relishing, but how the rewrites weave together is well executed. As a writer I think Holly makes the overall story cohere really well and the number of elements considered and rewritten helps to keep you gripped.

                  It was really interesting at the end to read Holly's notes about what had changed since she started the story. I especially found her choice to remove the dubcon aspects that had been originally intended interesting. I think older fics in particular often played with dubious consent, and I do think that there is a different social reaction to such issues now. Instead I think dealing with the troubled and confusingly complex mix of feelings and worries as a key aspect outside of their physical intimacy but tied to the claim works well instead and the emphasis on the choice to keep the bond and mutual lack of knowledge of what it all meant, was a good choice for bringing in conflict and angst instead. As I say, claim fics both work to often underline their attraction but put emphasis on what there is beyond that in a way that bridges that soulless gulf that I appreciate if we're stepping out of canon on the soul.

                  It may not have been perfect for me, but there were some really very strong aspects in this story and for the use of existing characters and a vision of a Faith led Sunnydale, I thought it was truly excellent.


                  • #13
                    Holly's notes at the end of this fic were fascinating. I would absolutely love it if more fanfic writers spoke about what they would and wouldn't do if they were rewriting their fics now.

                    I think it says a lot about the changes that we have seen in Society, in such a short time, that dub con is out of fashion now.

                    I am also glad that Buffy and Joyce reconnected. I think it is difficult if you are young to understand how important your parents are, because you can't ever imagine not having them.

                    I am sure Holly will not be offended to know than I'm not a fan of the claim in fanfic. But saying that, I thought this was one of the better claim fics, and at least Buffy was given a choice.


                    • #14
                      I completely agree with you Stoney , and you say it so much better than me.

                      I generally don't mind claim fics, if they are done well. I liked that this one explores what that actually means, how it affects Buffy and Spike, and that it was made by accident.
                      Some parts of the story are a bit too long. Maybe if it was shorter, it would improve the pacing of the story.
                      Holly's writing is great as always.


                      • #15
                        I'm often prone to using way too many words. I even edited down my original post and lost at least a third of what I'd originallly written. Which aspect of the fic was your favourite part redtent?

                        Another thing that occurred to me just now, is that I enjoyed seeing Wes in his early stage as the pompous watcher. As I'm at S4 of AtS in my rewatch alongside the rewatch of S7, it is easy to forget where Wes started.

                        Originally posted by Priceless View Post
                        I am sure Holly will not be offended to know than I'm not a fan of the claim in fanfic. But saying that, I thought this was one of the better claim fics, and at least Buffy was given a choice.
                        I imagine that she would appreciate that claims aren't something everyone likes. It does seem to be a bit of a marmite aspect often seen in fanfics. It just works for me as a bridge to finding it easier to accepting a functioning soulless relationship. It's like with West of the Moon, East of the Sun. As I remember the claim in that was written in such a way that it felt like Spike was influenced by Buffy's soul. I don't think the writer in that case intended it to be something he needed to be accepted, but it worked for me for that reason. I think I vaguely remember Holly saying in her chapter notes within the story that she thought claims were canon compatible. I'd love to know what she was thinking of in relationship to that because I really don't see them as something that draws from the show really at all. And this comes back to what Aurora was saying about what originated this as such a standard element in stories. It's intriguing, particularly if it is something that is written less. As you say, a lot of the shifts in that sense reflect social changes.


                        • #16
                          I can't think of anything canon that would suggest a claim.

                          Darla left the Master for Angel. She virtually ran away with him. If anyone were to claim anyone I would have thought Darla would have claimed Angel.


                          • #17
                            James and Elizabeth would have claimed each other I'd imagine, but I don't think any other vamp couples we see would probably have both wanted to bind themselves like claims are commonly depicted in fanfics. I don't think Darla and Angel would have, just thinking of how she left him in that burning barn. But yeah, I agree there isn't anything in the actual show that suggests claims. I think Holly was saying that the idea wasn't incompatible with canon and could be supported by elements in it rather than was saying the show had suggested claims at all. I'd have to look up the comment she made.

                            Personally I like that claims don't tie to canon. It just makes the fics that have them, especially alongside accepting soullessness, feel like a really distinct alternate universe is being considered. Reading fics that are canon compatible is always great. But when they aren't, I really appreciated them being distinct and looking at something distinct from canon. It's probably why I enjoy all human fics that just use aspects of the characters personalities in totally different scenarios.

                            I wonder at all if there could be any correlation between claims first appearing in fics and a totally different film/tv genre looking at blood bonds? I have vague memories of seeing the 'blood brothers' style of mutual cut and hand clasp used repeatedly in film and tv when gangs features at one time. May be totally unrelated of course.

                            EDIT: I just looked it up and what Holly said was actually, "Also, the lore I added here is completely new and I kinda dig it. I know claims are fanon, but I think there are ways to make them canon-compliant." I'm not sure that I see the point being made in that I can't think of anything in canon that refutes that claims could be possible other than we haven't heard any mention of them. So perhaps her point in the story about them being rare and not often entered into is meant as a simple way of acknowledging that nothing in the existing canon has raised them before.


                            • #18
                              Originally posted by Stoney View Post
                              I'm often prone to using way too many words. I even edited down my original post and lost at least a third of what I'd originallly written. Which aspect of the fic was your favourite part redtent?
                              I like your long posts, Stoney. They are always so insightful. I'm crap at writing reviews.

                              Well, In fact, my favorite part would be the accidental claim and that Buffy actually has a choice if she wants to keep it that way, and of course, she does, duh! Maybe it influences Spike to be less evil since he's soulless.
                              I don't really like that Spike was so head over heels about Buffy with just one kiss. There could be some build-up for that to happen.


                              • #19
                                Thank you, that's a lovely thing to say. I do still need to try to be a bit more succinct at times tho.

                                I think Holly was going for the contrasts against his experiences with Dru as being what built into him being so affected by the smooch session with Buffy. I agree it is still too simple and easy, but I do think this is part of the background justification to it for him.


                                • #20
                                  I don't like claims and that's why this story was not on the top of my list to read. But the way it was handled made it acceptable to me, and the story had enough other things that I really enjoyed, like the setting in LA and the parts with Fred, Gunn and Lorne. And the writing in general, there's no denying that Holly is a great writer even though I don't share her love for claims. One other thing I wasn't a fan of, besides the claim, was how utterly unsympathetic the Scoobies, Angel and Joyce were when Buffy returned to Sunnydale. I guess it was a good source of conflict and drama but I didn't enjoy it.
                                  Last edited by Double Dutchess; 16-05-20, 12:24 AM. Reason: Typo