Alternate Universe 02: Words On Your Skin
Reviewing SEVENTEEN fan fiction
I love the freedom that comes with owning a publication because I can do whatever I want, and I will be reviewing fan fiction this month as if they are serious works worthy of literary criticism.
Because they are and they always have been. Fan fictions should be taken seriously.
A pairing like SEVENTEEN’s SCOUPS (Choi Seungcheol) and Yoon Jeonghan has amassed a superb oeuvre of “canon compliant” texts, meaning fan fiction based on their real lives as idols. They are each a thought experiment, a “character study” that delves deep into the (deduced) psyche of coups-han. Through fan fiction, talented writers philosophise, interrogate and explore the elaborate wirings of intimacy, the expanse of human connection and the price of partaking in the entertainment industry.
I’ve read over 6.2 million words on Archive last year, and there was some insane stuff.
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First, a note on Choi Seungcheol and Yoon Jeonghan to help you grasp the extracts that will follow. The eldest two of SEVENTEEN, they are seen as the parents of the 13-member boy group who managed to pull everyone through the darkest of days until their groundbreaking success. Their complementing personalities, matching wits and synchronised aspirations made them an efficient duo in the professional realm, and a perfectly compatible pair of soulmates otherwise. They are childhood friends, roommates, coworkers, confidantes and life companions. A constant source of strength and warmth in each other’s lives. A presence that cannot be properly pinpointed but far more certain and immovable than a forbidden lover or a rarely-seen family member.
It is no surprises, then, that coups-han writers love to zero in on one specific moment: when their quotidian fondness metamorphoses into something heavier, something laden with subtexts, possibility and want. When their platonic bickering turns into a sensual tête-à-tête, and unspoken words threaten to burst at the seams. When everything suddenly cuts a bit too close to the bone.
The emotional bond between those two is and will remain unyielding, which makes that moment of transition difficult and wonderful to imagine. “Choose Sides” by @ninamonday does that with such a suave it blew my mind the first time I read it. So much was articulated within just 3,446 words so I recommend a full read if you’re interested, but here’s how it begins:
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” Seungcheol asks.
His eyes, deep and liquid as the beer, are trained on Jeonghan's face. This is all usual—the food, the alcohol, the inevitable point in the evening when Seungcheol stares into Jeonghan’s eyes and asks leading questions about love.