Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Soap

Author: Aliana
Nominator: EdorasLass
2007 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe: Gondor or Rohan - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Language, violence, adult themes.
Summary: Death, denial, sushi dates, air raids, and Ayn Rand--just another day during the Siege of Minas Tirith. A spinoff of "Fallen," a longer (and more traditional) work in progress.


Reviewed by: EdorasLass -- Score: 10

Although all of Fallen is populated with beautifully drawn original characters that are very easy to identify with and care about, I absolutely adore these almost-but-not-quite-modern offshoots of the Fallen universe. They always read as almost World War I-era to me, and mixing that feel with the Ring War makes the whole thing more than a little surreal, and it works marvelously, when really it probably shouldn't. The fact that it *does* work like gangbusters is a credit to Aliana's ability as a writer. This fic I love particuarly: Beren with his "in-denial-and-knows-it-and-is-working-very-hard-to-stay-there" approach, all the conflicting emotional reactions/thoughts he's having (or trying not to have) to the death of his friend Tarondor, the way it's all closing in on him as he's attempting to act normal seem very real - even asking The Girl out on a date seems to me a realistic reaction, another desperate attempt to keep Tarondor's death at bay, when I can't imagine a worse possible time for a first date. There are many wonderful details as well - the [museum as a memorial to the ennui of women], the stilted dinner conversation, every single thing about Crazy Lou and his restaraunt - all come together to form an almost familiar, yet totally new pocket of space that's just wonderful to discover. [ And then he’s angry at himself for being angry at her, angry at her for sitting here beside him when he doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore. When he only wants his friend back. She puts her hand on top of his head.] This is a perfectly perfect little moment, reality setting in on him and the grief pushing everything else aside. And her reaction is perfect as well - minimal, because really, she doesn't know him and besides, nothing will actually give comfort, but sympathetic. She doesn't know his friend, either, but she knows grief, and it won't be enough, but that's all she can do. The entire story is delicately, skillfully held together - Beren's so finely balanced between keeping it together and freaking out at any given moment that any time anyone speaks, it's a bit nerve wracking. But that's as it should be.

Reviewed by: annmarwalk -- Score: 10

This startling and imaginative post-modern gapfiller to 2006 MEFA Award Winner “Fallen” showcases Aliana's droll humor and sense of the ridiculous. It's actually like a M*A*S*H/ Return of the King crossover, featuring one of the unnamed nurses we see running in the opening credits, and an ambulatory (and semi-talkative) young patient. Professor Tolkien would be scratching his head down to the scalp if he read this, but Larry Gelbart, et al, would be standing and applauding. The description of Crazy Lou's Fast Food and Sushi Bar is priceless – we've all been there, and we recognized it instantly, whether it was called Santeremo's (in Alamosa, Colorado), or More Than Coffee (in Blacksburg. Virginia), or just plain Cheers in Boston. It's the place where everybody goes. Aside from the perfectly realized absurdity, though, there's a beauty and lyricism to Aliana's writing that is unmatched anywhere in our fandom. Beren's analogy of his pain to a soap bubble [beautiful soap bubble of denial, little rainbow patches swimming around on the glycerine surface] is heartaching, as is that climactic moment when his carefully constructed facade all comes apart: [Outside, he falls to pieces. It’s like being cut with a very sharp blade; for a second you know it’s happened but there’s no pain, and then… The bubble’s popped, the rainbow swirls are gone, and the inside of his mouth tastes like nothing but salt and bitterness.] Nobody, NOBODY, writes like Aliana, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to watch her develop her writing gifts and talents, to take risks, to discover and nurture her unique voice.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 9

Excellent, excellent and evocative look at grief, in wartime or any time. It really is a missing scene from ["Fallen"], but the themes are so universal that I don't think any knowledge of that storyline is necessary. This is representative of anyone dealing with a great loss, and it's a wonderful bonus that it additionally fleshes out Aliana's wonderful OCs for those of us who already love and root for them. I loved the interactions between Beren and his future wife, and his reflections about how they are both being rather boring. It's very funny and true-life to me that they had such an awful first date, and yet ended up married. Crazy Lou and his restaurant are just... awesome. Beren's attempts to encapsulate his grief over Tarondor and hide it, to carry on in a fantasy world, speaks clearly to all of us who've been there. The breaking of his bubble is handled very well, with inspired imagery used throughout. It's bittersweet and moving, and I love the bleak way he starts to come to terms at the end. Tarondor's death will always leave a hole in Beren's life, one of those things never truly filled no matter how terrific future friendships may be, but Beren is at least learning to live with it.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 7

The subject matter of the piece is dead serious, in a sort of theater-of-the-absurd sort of way, and oh-so-poignant. I definitely found myself sitting up straight at points, and the postmodern elements did not seem out of place. The gritty language and the reference to modern nihilistic philosophers only made the themes of the piece seem more universal, but the story is definitely fanfic as it connects quite nicely with a beginning in your universe. Death, denial, grief, and existential angst in the aftermath of Pelennor -- I can completely see this kind of thing happening in Middle-earth, even if the details would have been a bit different. And it has to be said: there's something beyond cool about the line ["This is not a menu. This is a hardback edition of Atlas Shrugged."] Just sayin'. One-liners like that made me want to burst out laughing as I read this piece, so I wasn't overwhelmed by the piece's more serious themes. Excellent use of humor throughout, ALiana.

Reviewed by: stefaniab -- Score: 3

"Soap" might be how Tolkien would have portrayed the siege of Minas Tirith, had he set Lord of the Rings in the time during which it was written (World War II and its aftermath). The relation between the wounded and grieving soldier Beren and the nurse who cared for his now-dead friend is touching.

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 2

The Battle of the Pelennor meets modern warfare as we look at the universality of losing companions who are dear to us and the manner in which we fall into denial.