To refresh memories, Past Grief was posted over a year ago, to a really stunned fandom. Think dropping a small asteroid into a really quiet pond and the ripples in some ways simply haven't stopped. The debates over the characterizations, the plotline, and the choice of material were huge and fascinating to everyone who followed them, and I followed pretty obsessively. As a massive influence on the fandom (A Handful of Dust can be considered almost a homage, considering I took the religious themes I saw in Past Grief and played with them quite mercilessly), it also influenced later characterizations of Clark, being a kind of grandparent to the ultradark apocalyptic angstfics that began to surface soon after its release. The themes of absolute, destructive, and really relentless love have been picked up by many and mmm. Yes.
More or less, the text sent to Te in late March of last year. I've edited for typos. When I say this story hit me between the eyes and has never moved from its place in my head? I'm seriously not kidding. You people should have seen me for the month after reading it--total inability to think of anything else.
on Te's Past Grief
What frustrates me right now is that I didn't do this when I first read it, because this is going to be the third damn interpretation of the story and I'd have liked to remember clearly what I thought first.
By the way, the soundtrack to this email is Lenny Kravitz. And this will be the most disjointed feedback I've ever done, but honestly? My thoughts aren't gonna GET more organized than this. Almost a full week is plenty.
Here's what I remember thinking after first read.
Lex. Is. Evil.
Manipulation. Love, oh yes, love like nothing on this planet, the kind that really IS worth dying for and worth killing for and worth destroying for. The kind of love that causes wars and the kind of love that's never anything less than EVERYTHING. And everything real love is--filthy and degrading and uplifting and explosive and violent and absolute, without compromise.
The only thing that surprised me was that he didn't kill Lois himself. He HAD to have saw that coming. But. It's another part of it, the KNOWLEDGE that its that kind of love, and that Clark would do it himself eventually.
Doesn't make him less attractive as a lover--in the twisted part of me that gets off on those intense relationships, it's almost addictive. Addictive for Clark to be the focus of all that emotion, everything Lex has in him. Every single drive and every single bit of his mind and his body and his soul, all for Clark, and fuck, you don't GET that more than once every fifty or so lives. Maybe.
That was first read. I'm on the fifteenth. Roughly.
It's not Lex at all.
God, it's so weird--after I read it, I was dazed. Utterly and completely. Out of it. And then I started thinking about it ALOT, and a few other things started clarifying.
This scary and utterly flooring possibility that Lex wasn't even close to being responsible for everythign they did. And I wouldn't even say they do a fifty fifty on blame. It's almost--
We have Clark, The Needy Guy. And Lex gets hold of him, wants him badly, and is by nature and inclination perfectly willing to be there for him, full-time. Like a parent and a lover and a best friend and a brother all rolled up into one bald, delicious package. Which no one else could do--no one else Clark could trust IN THAT MOMENT, so on one hand, there probably weren't a lot of other options. Clark might literally have driven himself insane without Lex more or less restructuring his life for him bit by bit. He needed the stability, needed the focus, needed exactly what Lex was perfectly willing to give him. So. We're good there.
Then things started getting seriously strange.
On one hand, I was watching Lex and thinking, manipulative. But the narrative voice of Clark was just barely--off for that. And every time I'd think Lex was manipulating him into darkness, the same thing would occur, so I re-read again and started from the end of the story and went back up, in a weird way.
Clark files the thought away as he leaves the house. The plan grows
and changes like coral between them, just fluid enough for an
intelligent hand to shape.
Just as Superman was born for the people through chaos, so,
perhaps, should their New Order be born.
It would surely be accepted more readily then.
Most people need to be led to the right decisions, Clark has found.
And some people won't follow, no matter what.
This is where I stopped and breathed again, and wow, here's a thought. Lex wasn't manipulating him at all--or at least, not completely and not all the time. Not so much as--in his existence, changing Clark. With the loss of his parents, Clark had Lex, and hell if anything would take that away. Nothing. Not friends, not family, not Lois, not Superman, not even Lex himself. And through the story, I kept getting caught by the same thought--whose idea was it to kill Chloe early on? Whose idea was it to kill Lois? Incapacitate Lionel? Who the HELL has been playing Grim Reaper like a banjo?
It's like--and this was on seventh read (obsessed? Me?) that the entire religion thing started making sense. It's like Clark made Lex his god. And that's almost literal.
And so I wondered if we actually have a Clark corrupting himself FOR Lex, not necessarily because of him or even by Lex's own will. And while I'm happy to see wonderfully dark Lex, there wasn't enough of that to justify everything. It's as if Clark, in his obsession, just started wrecking all Lex's inhibitions in the name of protecting him. The planned possible murder of Chloe when she became editor of the Inquisitor, and Clark remarked on Lex's surprise--not that probably Lex hadn't thought the same thing, though I have moments when I wonder if Lex maybe NEVER considered killing her to silence her--but CLARK bringing it up. Because the choice between Lex and Chloe was obvious. And in a weird way, like something he wanted, like a sacrifice he could make to Lex. I mean, I was almost waiting for him to start lighting incense and chanting at some point when he talked about Lex.
And Lionel. Which his eagerness to be the one to administer the poison--and that was blatant eagerness, even Lex seemed a little--well, not resistance or reluctance so much as natural knowledge of what he was doing. And Clark doing the Gung-Ho, I'll incapacitate granddad....yeesh.
And that's all through. Lois, who Superman fell in love with (and God. Split personality much? I could write VOLUMES on this one), was the big sacrifice. He might as well have taken her to a mountaintop and started quoting Old Testament, because, wow. It was THERE. It was the ultimate expression of what Lex was to him, and I'm not sure Lex ever GOT it, really, what Clark would have done for him, and in his name. Just how damn far Clark would go. It was even there in Clark's answers to Lex's questions. All of it--plain, blatant worship. And of course it hurts to make a sacrifice, and Clark was practically GLORYING in being able to do it, to feel all that pain, becaues that's what a sacrifice is SUPPOSED to be. Like he'd been waiting all his life to be able to prove how MUCH he loved Lex.
And all these acts to take over the world, make it better, which I see easily in both Clark and Lex--it stopped being about the people as more than something vague and there. The methodology, the means--it's as if Clark almost deliberately worked to stamp out what there was of Lex's inhibitions so it would work, to make the world what Lex wanted.
I'm seriously expecting there to be the Lexian Bible at some point, with Disciple Clark saying stuff like 'and so it was that the Lex was great and powerful and should be accorded all'. I mean, REALLY. Nice big church, pretty non-celibate nuns, good old fashioned anal sex right after the service, maybe some hymns and dammmit, I just choked on coffee on that one. Odes to the Bald Head of Truth.
And re-reading Past Grief 2, I figured out why Clark dropped his pants for CloneLex like a starved whore with a hundred waved in her face. Lex is god. Moral, soul issues? Lex had them. Clark didn't. Lex was Lex was Lex and it was a pantheon of Lexes to worship, not just one, and I've given myself another headache, because I'm so not explaning this the way I'm thinking it.
Clark is beyond my ability to even comprehend. It's almost sociopathic, except it really, really isn't that at all. I mean, all the symptoms are there and it's nearly textbook, but it's *not*. I pity the writers of history if Lex isn't telling them what to say, because they will suicide at the idea of psychoexamining Clark's motivations.
Now. Superman Versus Clark.
How do I count the ways I love this? He cut himself in half. And he got JEALOUS of his other half of all things. All that hate of himself--he made that other persona deliberately different, someone who could never, ever compete with him for Lex, be better and more worshipful to Lex than him. Refused him access to Lex as well, resented every time Superman did something that benefited Lex. Made his own psyche his archenemy, and talk about TWISTED.
And Lois? Clark took a rich and really sick satisfaction out of giving Superman someone to love and then ripping it away. Punishment for existing, for being important. And the guilt, the grief, the anger? All of it. Fun. Like masochism raised to not just a fucking art, but some kind of perfection. Polished. Purified. Man, he's an overachiever.
Okay, so I probably just scared you badly, but i love this story. I love it, love it, love it, and just want to curl up with it and be perfectly content. Because you know? Lex is HAPPY. I like a happy Lex. He makes me smile.
on Te's Past Grief: Renewal
Eh, I thought at one time I'd do the feedback for hte first one first, or actually do the stories in order, but God.
I am beyond words creeped. By the fifth reading, I was getting a sort of sick chill. This was BRILLIANT. Disturing as all hell. And in more ways than I thought the first time I read it, too, so I thought I'd write out my issues and hope that worked them out before this totally blocked me for writing for the next, oh, ten years or so.
The clone concept I was okay with, though the multiples mentioned in the first story triggered a little alarm--what WOULD they do with several Lexes? That's a dangerous thing, not least for Clark himself in some ways. So, it wasn't exactly a surprise when Lex said he'd killed most and only kept a few for study. And chose the one that would be his successor, the other two to be imprisoned with the others.
I mean, I see the logic here--you need more than one to have back-up. But. Creepy. But so far, okay, though on no level do I see them being able to keep the extra Lexes long without having to kill them pretty damn soon.
But the--duplication. The deliberate copying of an individual human being's soul--still getting mildly and wonderfully nauseated from that. Two Lexes in the same space, older and younger. No difference except in body, sort of, but again, not exactly. And the new one scared the crap out of me. And the way that the original Lex seemed to know exactly what was going to happen, the rather calm way Clark took it, all things considered...
And the way CloneLex snapped Lex's neck just so damn easily. True, we cannot have two Lexes in the same space--just something even scarier about that, though fun on a lot of seriously disturbed levels. They couldn't possibly ever share the world, Clark, etc. But the pure coldness of it, the ease of it right in that moment, this intimate moment between lovers. The jealousy of CloneLex when he woke up, seeing his lover with someone else. Even if it was him. Almost like CloneLex is staking his claim immediately and with blood to seal it, make absolutely sure Clark knows who owns him now. And it IS ownership, in every sense of the word.
And Clark, who is shaping up as the single most terrifying character in the world--even scarier than Lex really. He watched his lover die in front of him, dropped his pants for the next one almost without hesitation, and it says some things about his neediness, which seems to be his theme--just this NEED that scares the hell out of me.
The sex was probably the single most disturbing thing--and hot, of course, but. Damn. All those messy questions of individuality and personality and souls and etc--and on one hand, if you'd taken another route and done a direct Lex to CloneLex brainish sort of neural transfer that was clearly a change of the person of Lex from one TO the other, I wouldn't have been nearly as utterly shocked. And I would have liked it better. But most of me is really glad you chose this method, if for no other reason than I like to be slapped around every once in awhile in what I'm thinking, which I suppose is the difference between a really good fanfic and one that you'll never be able to forget for the rest of your life.
The thing is, it ISN'T the same Lex, and it IS. The soul thing, I suppose. And no matter what, I can't get over that.
I'm getting a headache.
Oh. Anyway. I can't say I loved it, or liked it, but I can honestly say it is the best and most provoking thing I've read in longer than I can even remember. And I KEEP re-reading it, because it's so disturbing and so good and so fucking trippy.
The story continues in Past Grief: The Wrong One, available at Teland and the Smallville Slash Archive