|Author(s):||Martha & Kitty|
|External Links:||online here: Sentinel Smarm Sanctuary Inner Sanctum|
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The story was released a chapter at a time on the Senfic mailing list as it was written, with the authors apparently alternating chapters. The chapters themselves were relatively short, no more than a few thousand words at most. The posting schedule was at first very regular, then gradually more intermittent, and stalled out at Chapter 78 sometime in 2001.
Beach opens in media res, with Blair searching frantically for an injured and drowning Jim, who has just escaped mysterious captors. Jim's injuries are horrific and he's so hypersensitized that even water drops hurt; the story focuses on Blair trying to help him.
What makes the story truly notable, if not to say infamous, is the amount and kind of touching involved: from kissing to french-kissing to Blair fondling Jim's genitals, all completely platonically.
Martha and Kitty had always intended to finish the story, and eventually to publish the entire thing as a zine: "Note: When this story is complete, a revised and re-edited version will be released in print. The zine will be illustrated by Marty Siegrist and published by Monte Cristo - Amethyst Press as a high-quality collector's edition with a limited print run."
When the posting schedule got more erratic, they began a mailing list to give people access to the new chapters as they were written, instead of having to check back at the website to see if a new chapter was up.
In 1999, saffronhouse was asked in an interview: "If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?" Her answer: "Beach obviously. (A story I am co-writing with Kitty). Filmed in black and white at Ingmar Bergman-esque detailing and pace. I guess it would probably take a couple of episodes to do it right. Or a couple of seasons." 
From the Authors
The pace is glacial, as the story lingers over every emotion and sensory input. In the first chapter, they make it from the water to the beach, but it takes 12 more chapters to move from the beach to a vehicle, and 10 more chapters to make it to a motel. This drawn-out telling was deliberate; the authors were well aware of their indulgence, and reveled in it. The list posting of the eleventh chapter stated:
- OK, so we're not going on hiatus, despite the disappointed grumbling from certain quarters. But we know this story has been going on a while, and it's not always easy to follow. So, for those of you who may have been getting lost in the complexity of the plot, we present a handy summary of the story so far. Please keep these notes handy for future reference as the intricate narrative will continue to grow ever more convoluted as we progress.
- Ch. 1: Blair finds Jim in the ocean. They get out of the water.
Ch. 2: Jim feels really bad. They move to some rocks.
Ch. 3: Jim feels really bad. Blair holds him.
Ch. 4: Blair checks Jim's injuries. Blair feels really bad.
Ch. 5: Jim feels really bad. He holds Blair.
Ch. 6: Blair feels really bad. He talks to Jim.
Ch. 7: Blair tries a ritual. They hold each other.
Ch. 8: They stand up and walk. They fall down.
Ch. 9: They lie on the sand holding each other.
Ch. 10: They hold each other. They stand up again.
All the Chapters Titles and Blurbs
- Chapter 1 He thought briefly of Naomi, and grief closed around his heart
- Chapter 2 Either was an end to the torment, the only goal he had left
- Chapter 3 A fear so large he couldn't name it yet
- Chapter 4 Listening for the sound of that heart, and its truth. Finding his own there.
- Chapter 5 Though he had nothing to give, not even his own self left to offer, he tried
- Chapter 6 He hadn't known anything could be worse than Jim's madness
- Chapter 7 This time, Blair stayed down
- Chapter 8 All that strength and beauty held in abeyance, in sacrifice
- Chapter 9 But his heart was naked
- Chapter 10 Blair felt the white heat again
- Chapter 11 In the soft silence of the fog-bound morning like a lost god
- Chapter 12 Closer to the end of the hurting
- Chapter 13 Beating in his breast like a living thing
- Chapter 14 Whatever it takes, Jim. Now and forever.
- Chapter 15 His heart taking over before his mind could convince him not to try
- Chapter 16 The gulls were getting louder
- Chapter 17 It was the end of Jim's life
- Chapter 18 Blair heard the surrender in his voice
- Chapter 19 Surrounded entirely by Blair's living presence
- Chapter 20 Blair decided he would not speak again
- Chapter 21 His eyes were open, clear, their brilliant blue more achingly bright than the morning sky overhead
- Chapter 22 Rest, Jim. I'll be right here
- Chapter 23 The memories could still be read plainly, scrawled across his body
- Chapter 24 He wouldn't allow Blair to partake of such a bitter feast
- Chapter 25 Deaf and blind, at peace
- Chapter 26 Quiet blueness as he looked into Blair's eyes
- Chapter 27 Though his voice was furious, his touch was gentle
- Chapter 28 All I had to do was get you off the beach, and then everything would be all right
- Chapter 29 His entire life had been only prologue and preparation for this moment at Jim's side. Nothing else would ever matter so much.
- Chapter 30 Jim in agony, beyond his help forever
- Chapter 31 Didn't I promise you that? Didn't I promise?
- Chapter 32 Blair must love your strength
- Chapter 33 He would take his death, if they wouldn't give it to him
- Chapter 34 As though a soul in hell had been granted voice
- Chapter 35 Nothing I hate more than getting caught in the rain
- Chapter 36 A pristine white beach in the heat of mid afternoon
- Chapter 37 His weakness had brought Jim to this, and Jim's weakness had let him do it
- Chapter 38 Soul stripped bare as his flesh
- Chapter 39 The same strength that would take them both home
- Chapter 40 For the courage that made him strong, for the strength that made him beautiful
- Chapter 41 A man who could touch him that way loved him enough to make anything possible
- Chapter 42 I'll be more careful next time
- Chapter 43 The hills were still dusky with the flush of spring
- Chapter 44 The heat of a tear scalded his thumb
- Chapter 45 Souvenirs of the journey
- Chapter 46 A glimpse of the life Blair would help him reclaim
- Chapter 47 The ease their closeness brought him
- Chapter 48 Blair's faith and laughter
- Chapter 49 No music and damned little grace
- Chapter 50 Rest, and I'll be right here
- Chapter 51 Had kind of a rough night
- Chapter 52 The painful, joyous weight
- Chapter 53 Accepting without surrendering
- Chapter 54 The ocean of betrayal in Blair's eyes
- Chapter 55 They hurt him
- Chapter 56 Like talking to a crazed jumper
- Chapter 57 Needles of language
- Chapter 58 Might be great coffee
- Chapter 59 Blair's smile was almost enough
- Chapter 60 Cold and heavy going down
- Chapter 61 The drift was fast and easy
- Chapter 62 Seeping into their combined soul and darkening Blair's eyes
- Chapter 63 Smiled back at him with contented trust
- Chapter 64 Without anyone losing a finger
- Chapter 65 You're not going to believe this, man, but I haven't got anything to say
- Chapter 66 As though Blair had taken the pain first
- Chapter 67 Such a minor, fragile victory
- Chapter 68 We're done with room service
- Chapter 69 Used everything up and not finished the job
- Chapter 70 Feeling quite young
- Chapter 71 The spaces between gasped breaths
- Chapter 72 Constellations of time and agony
- Chapter 73 No son of mine
- Chapter 74 From the May to the roses
- Chapter 75 His father's house
- Chapter 76 Not innocent
- Chapter 77 Low and golden through the windows
- Chapter 78 He was all alone
Posting and Feedback
Kitty and Martha weren't getting enough feedback for their smarm epic so they decided not to post it to the list anymore. This caused a slew of letters about feedback and how immature Kitty and Martha were and blah, blah, blah... It was really quite silly. They had said in the last posting of "Beach" if they didn't get any feedback they weren't going to continue posting. They got no feedback and discontinued posting. I don't beleive this was to garner attention for themselves or beg for pleas of "I'm sorry" from those who done them wrong. In fact, Kitty said they quit posting it to the list because they didn't want to feel like spammers by posting a story no one wanted to read anymore. They still write it. It's on their page for those who want to continue reading it.
Reactions and Reviews
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you "Beach."
"Beach," for anyone not on Senfic, is a multi (multi, multi, multi) part epic by Kitty and Martha that has become the death knell for smarm. Not because it’s so purple that Anne Rice would hesitate at some of the prose. Not because it pushes the gen/slash continuum into oblivion. Not because it’s so plotless you’d need an electron microscope to find the story. Not even because it took Jim and Blair 20 parts to walk about 50 feet and another 25 to take a shower (together).
"Beach" is killing smarm because it has become smarm. It is the standard to which writers who wish to write smarm now look. And it is the best ammunition slashers who think gen writers/readers (especially smarmers) are just "in denial" have ever been handed.
"Beach," or at least the 25 parts I read before I finally gave up, consists of Blair finding Jim naked and more or less catatonic on (you guessed it) a beach – vague hints are dropped of some sort of torture that has caused his senses to go completely haywire. The only thing that helps him at all is physical contact with Blair. Thus we have much touching and caressing and a french kiss or two. 25 or so parts of physical (Jim) and emotional (Blair) agony later, they make it to a hotel room, where we have more touching and cleaning off of sand and a shared shower.
That’s about where I got off.
Ouch. Bad choice of words.
Because all of this, you see, is purely platonic. Nary a sexual thought in sight. And unless I’m totally misunderstanding the goal of smarm, I’m not supposed to be having sexual thoughts, either.
Now, let me be the first to say that the argument that all gen fans are somehow in denial of their slashy leanings pisses me off. In a culture where I sometimes have a great deal of trouble explaining to people that some women do find the idea of two men together a sexual turn-on, I’m always amused at slashers’ inability to understand that some women don’t. I like genfic.
Which is why "Beach" and the inevitable imitators/wannabes give me the willies. I don’t want to be in a slashy mindset when reading gen. I don’t want to be thinking, "oh yeah, they’re doin’ it" when reading a story that isn’t supposed to involve them doin’ it. And most importantly, I want to be able to both respect and trust authors enough to take them at their word when they label a story slash or gen.Now, I must needs point out that the authors of "Beach," and of similar stories, are quite adamant that, in their stories, Jim and Blair are not doin’ it. And I don’t want to argue with them about that, because it comes down to a mindset I simply can’t get into: I honestly don’t understand the appeal of having two wet, naked men stroking each other in a totally platonic way. And while I normally pride myself on trying very hard to understand mindsets not my own, this one takes me to places I just don’t want to go, involving as it does a lot of pseudo-psychoanalytic speculation. I hate it when people do that to me, so I won’t do it to someone else.
Very, very intense smarm. An on-going serial written with heart and soul and love for these two men. Full of gorgeous imagery and heartspoken, heartbreaking, tremendously tender, tremendously powerful words that describe the close and warm friendship between Jim and Blair that goes beyond everything and anything either men expect or realize is true. A must-read if you're a smarmaholic. Don't miss it! 
Light smarm vs. heavy smarm. And is there a standard? A topic I approach with much trepidation. I see light smarm (also what I call soft or subtle smarm) as usually limited to maybe a shoulder touch or a playful cheek slap or a few honest "glad you came" words. From there it moves up the scale to hugs to cheek stroking and hair stroking (usually in hospital situations) to forehead kissing (usually in those really intense emotional situations) to the really heavy levels that Kitty and Martha's Beach is, which is beyond my vocabulary to find a proper word to describe. And a standard? Well, for some there might be. ~stepping into very dangerous territory~ I've heard that Beach and Ann Brown's Moonglow series have become the standard, which, honestly, I have to disagree with. ~wondering if she needs to find a place to hide~ Both stories are lovely, yes, but if I tried to write smarm with them as the standard that I need to match up to, well, I might as well stop now. I can't write that way. And I don't want to. ~shrug~ 
"Beach," that epitome of the extremes to which smarm has gone, is still something I read and adore. But I enjoy it in the same way I enjoy...eating chocolate cake batter. See, chocolate cake batter is a *good* thing in its normal amounts - i.e., what's left on the sides of the bowl after the spoon has scraped (but NOT the spatula - that's just cruel). It's a wonderful, simple, but almost orgasmic delight... But reading "Beach" is something like making up a batch of cake batter and eating the entire bowl in an afternoon without ever baking the cake. I've DONE that. (In fact, I've done both in combination. Usually when I'm depressed as hell.) I do it, and I'm not ashamed of it, but I'm not exactly proud of it, either. I know there's something not quite kosher about my desire to do it - that it *says* something about me and my needs that I don't want everyone to know. It's comfort food, but it makes me blanch to think that *that's* how much comfort I need when I'm really down.
Martha is a name to be whispered with awe and wonder in Sentinel fandom. She has written some of the most incredible gen stories in any fandom which are repeatedly listed as top picks by readers of slash and gen alike because they are lush, deep, satisfying and emotionally rich. She is also infamous because of the degree to which she has stretched the bound of gen through the art of smarm, but I think it's about time a whole new world was invented for the way she can have completely het, manly men cuddle and cry over each other without it making you want to (a) puke or (b) tell her to leave that river in Egypt. Maybe we should just call what she does 'Mwarm' - or 'Marthaisation'. I dunno. Don't care. I love her stuff, I love her gen, and her slash (although I gave up on that utterly peculiar story, Beach because fucked if I could make any sense of it) ...
Very, very intense smarm. An on-going serial written with heart and soul and love for these two men. Full of gorgeous imagery and heartspoken, heartbreaking, tremendously tender, tremendously powerful words that describe the close and warm friendship between Jim and Blair that goes beyond everything and anything either men expect or realize is true. A must-read if you're a heavy-smarmaholic. Don't miss it! 
To get an idea of how weird TS gen got, you should look up Martha's "The Beach"... and other great works of smarm.
I remember this one fic that never ended. It was the smarm that never ended, it was called “Beach” and it was by Kitty and Martha, I think. I think the website’s still up, it’s called Smarm Sanctuary. It got up to, I think, eighty parts. It was this never-ending smarm-like, fest... this story, I don’t even remember everything that happened--I think they spent thirty chapters just in the shower where Blair is cleaning Jim from this horrible thing that happened. I don’t even think we ever found out what it was-- I don’t remember! And I would read and be like: this is amazing! Because, you know, I’m in my hormonal teenage angst phase, so the smarm really worked for me because it was that--you know, I want a friend like that. I want someone who would do that for me. It was the emotional connect. [It's not porn.] There was no sex.... They were friends, and they were brothers. They were not lovers, but they were like--not mind lovers, but you know. It was that emotion--they had that emotional connection... It was absolutely the platonic soul mates, it really was. 
Notes and References
- Sentinel Smarm Sanctuary Inner Sanctum, accessed January 12, 2009.
- from Cascade Library
- Beach, by Excellency, Martha
- Kitty, "Senfic: Beach chapter 11," posted to Senfic list, 8 Jul 1998 (list archives not currently available online)
- October 1998 comments at alt.tv.sentinel
- Fanfic Symposium: The Death of Smarm by Lucy Gillam, posted 9.1999, accessed 9.2011
- The Death of Smarm by Lucy Gillam
- from Smarm, Warm Fuzzies, and Friendship: A Somewhat Irreverent and Rambling Essay
- from Cry: the Beloved Smarm by Renae, posted 3.2000, accessed 9.2011
- Tee hee, I've got asbestos undies, me (2003?)
- Cascade Library, Smarm Recs
- 2011 comments at Bigmamag
- Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Chi1013