The Minnow and the Dragon (3100 words) by raspberryhunter
Fandom: Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Yarrow (Earthsea), Vetch (Earthsea)
Additional Tags: Brother-Sister Relationships, Misses Clause Challenge
Summary: Vetch and Yarrow: an afternoon together, a short journey, and what they find at the end of it.
Recip said they liked domestic and sense of place, so I tried to put that in as much as possible, but in discussion with sprocket I said, well, I hope they don't mind domestic with dragons. Because I fell shatteringly and completely in love with Earthsea's dragons when I first read these books, and although my first couple of tries didn't have dragons (the first try also had Penthe, until I determined I would need either more time or more inspiration than I had to write her), it was probably inevitable that a dragon was going to make her way in, somehow. When I reread Wizard of Earthsea and remembered how much I love Vetch and Yarrow, the fic started assembling itself.
I also had read rachelmanija's letter in which she expressed her love for the first couple of books of Earthsea, and I also wanted to give her something she would love, so I spent a while trying to figure out how to write in that style. (Huh! On rereading I see she says she loves dragons as well. That was a complete coincidence, as I didn't remember that at all.) I find writing Le Guin pastiche to be very difficult, which I wasn't expecting when I started -- after all, I wrote 10k words of reasonable pastiche of Fountainhead treatfic last year in a couple of (admittedly extremely stressful) weeks, why did 3k of Earthsea knock me over? I think first of all Le Guin is just a really really good writer (whereas, I'm sorry, Ayn Rand is definitively not) and therefore hard for me to mimic, but compounding the difficulty is that my natural writing style is almost diametrically opposed to hers. Her writing is spare, poetic, incisively observant, lovely to read aloud. Mine is prolix and mundane and written by someone who doesn't think about words as auditory and therefore tends not to read well aloud without a fair amount of editing, and is liable to go rambling off without letting anyone know where it began or where it's going to end. (And is therefore a muuuuch better match for Rand-pastiche. I'm not sure I like what this says about me...) As usual, this fic would not have been nearly as good had it not been for sprocket, who with her usual superlative tact and kindness described all the things that were wrong about it but which I was unable to myself articulate, as well as a couple of things I had no idea were problems until she opened my eyes to them.
One of the things I wanted to do with this fic was to address a dichotomy in Vetch's character in Wizard. He is an extremely kind, perceptive, wise person. He's not arrogant or prideful at all (unlike Jasper or Ged). At the same time, everything in his interactions with his sister Yarrow is a little over-condescending, in a way that probably partially has to do with being an older sibling (...not that I would know anything about that!) and partially clearly has to do with the gender issues Le Guin saw in Earthsea later on. I like to think that Vetch got over that, because he's definitely awesome in ways that would help him realize what he was doing and, well, stop it.
A related thing I wanted to do with this story is the same thing that Le Guin was trying to do inTehanu: show that "women's work" (in particular emotional labor and the kinds of things that go along with it, such as noticing people and their problems), and women (in a world where men hold the power), have value and importance. I have a lot more respect for Le Guin's attempt in Tehanu now, because it's a difficult problem. Jo Walton identified the problem better than I could:
I also felt, and still feel, that Le Guin is speaking with a double tongue in this book. On the one hand she’s saying very clearly that women’s domestic lives are central and important, and on the other the force of story is bending everything to have an actual plot, which needs an evil wizard and men and the world of action... She says that women’s lives matter, but she shows that they don’t, that what matters is magic and power and calling on dragons.
And in the fic, too, I wanted to show that Yarrow's domestic life is central and important. But then there's the double-tongue problem again: one could say that the plot of the fic implies her skills in the area of domesticity and emotional labor are only important because it allowed her to deal with a dragon. On the other hand, that's part of the point as well: that until Vetch could see Yarrow's domestic life in his sphere of dragon-banishing, he had no frame of reference for understanding that it, and she, are important. And (at least to a certain extent) she has to come to that realization as well, as she also lives in this culture.
But anyway, in conclusion, yay domesticity and yay dragons! (I have more to say about dragons in my related book-post here.)