Not Easily Conquered

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Fanfiction
Title: Not Easily Conquered
Author(s): dropdeaddream and WhatAreFears
Date(s): 17 Jun 2014 - 07 Jul 2015
Length: 117,000 words
Genre: Slash, Canon Divergence AU, Epistolary
Fandom: Captain America Movieverse, MCU
External Links: Not Easily Conquered on AO3
Cover art by Bookbee (2019)

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Not Easily Conquered is an MCU fanfic series by dropdeaddream and WhatAreFears. It contains 3 stories: A Long Winter, The Thirteen Letters, and Not Easily Conquered, for a total of over 117,000 words, and features Steve/Bucky and Steve/Peggy. It focuses on thirteen letters, written from Bucky Barnes to Steve Rogers. In the series Steve survives the crash in Captain America: The First Avenger, and marries Peggy, only to later learn, from the letters, that Bucky loved him.

It is considered by many to be a fandom classic[1] for the Stucky ship/fandom, and is often recced as a must read to newcomers to the fandom. The fic inspired much squee and wank,[2] and a substantial amount of fanworks. It is also extremely widely quoted, to the point that fans may recognise quotes from it without necessarily knowing where they came from.

In May 2019, a Twitter bot was created to tweet quotes from the verse 24/7: @NotEasilyBot. As of 31/08/2021, it had 1315 followers.

As of August 2021, A Long Winter has over 349,000 hits, 12,300 kudos, 1,000 comments and 4,100 bookmarks on Archive of Our Own. The Thirteen Letters has over 244,000 hits, 9,400 kudos, 720 comments and 2,400 bookmarks. The final story Not Easily Conquered has over 179,000 hits, 10,900 kudos, 1,100 comments and 1,900 bookmarks. The series as a whole has been bookmarked more than 6,000 times.

Synopsis

Summary

A Long Winter

In 1945, Steve Rogers jumps from a nosediving plane and swims through miles of Arctic Ocean to a frozen shore.

In 1947, Steve Rogers marries Peggy Carter.

In 1966, the New York Times finds the lost letters of Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes.

The Thirteen Letters

Womb to tomb, sweetheart.

Not Easily Conquered

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Peggy says, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Podfic and Translations

Podfics

Translations

A Long Winter:

The Thirteen Letters:

Not Easily Conquered:

Reactions and Reviews

A Long Winter

Hurts like hell but in the best possible way.[3]
I’m not sure how or why it took me so long to read ‘A Long Winter,’ but it is by far the best Stucky AND Steggy fic I have ever read (might be the only one where they coexist in exquisite harmony but hush). I cried at least five times[4]
oh my god i finished reading a long winter and the reason it took me so long was bc i was getting teary eyed way too often and it was so on point about everyones characteristics and jesus fucking christ i literally cannot handle this perfectly written story about these two brooklyn boys who never left the war and bucky who just warms the blood in steves veins god help me im a wreck[5]
It’s very rare that I come across a story–any story, published or not– that resonates with me as much as “A Long Winter”. The characterization is absolutely spot-on, simultaneously powerful and delicate. Difficulties between Steve and Peggy in their relationship are portrayed sensitively and realistically– little slights and white lies build up to weaken their marriage from both sides even though they both still love each other immeasurably– and in a story where it would be all too easy for blame to be pinned on Peggy I adore that the authors make it clear that neither one is entirely at fault for the cracks forming in their relationship. I think that if I was forced to describe the writing in this story in one word it would be “subtle”, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s colorful, poignant, and mature, and all of the characters, even minor ones, have distinct voices.

There is also a fantastic amount of research that went into the history covered here, impressive in itself, even more so when the historical events feel completely at home in the story. I have a real weak spot for historical fiction, if that’s not obvious.

And of course, I love the lyrical quality of the writing–Barnes’ letters are so poetic and house such a depth of emotion: infatuation, loyalty, bitterness, and above it all unconditional love. They’re the glowing heart of the story and I keep coming back to reread them in particular.[6]

A Long Winter Podfic Review

It’s a fanfic/podfic that I’d love to recommend to anybody who studies American history – it reads like a highly personal memory of a bisexual man, a soldier and an artist. ShannonXL did an amazing podfic of the story. She included sound effects (the howling of the wind whenever Bucky appears, the turning of pages). And she incorporated snippets of songs, always fitting the historical period covered in the chapter. The combination of Shannon’s engaged, emotional reading and the underlying music is what makes this podfic such an intense and awesome experience. I grew up with some of that music, and for me the music really anchors the story in its time.[7]

The Thirteen Letters

alright yall listen up i think why “the thirteen letters” (of “not easily conquered” fame) fucked me up so much is bc i am a huge fucking sucker for pining, selfish/savage love, war stories, codependency, flowery writing, and angst. and by god does this third of nec have all six. bucky as a character is like something out of my deepest fiction desires....

and bucky’s letters. let’s talk about bucky’s LETTERS, yo. the only better writing in the entire series is roger buchanaan’s epilogue in the last installment (WHICH I REALLY NEED TO BE A REAL BOOK PLEASE AND THANK YOU)

bucky’s letters are raw, selfish, intense, and angst-driven. we’re still talking about my literary wet dreams here, mkay. the one letter, the one that was so heavily censored, the one that reads, “you make me hungry. you understand? you make me hungry.” i can’t even talk about that. i can’t even talk. i can’t

the bottom line here is that nec is brutal and honest and fierce, desperately fierce. we see bucky change without seeing him change at all, because he always loved steve like this, he always had this savagery in him, he just didn’t know it. we read his deepest thoughts and his truest confessions. we pine with him. so listen up, i love bucky barnes in the original mcu canon, but in the nec canon, i LOVE bucky barnes.[8]

For the Series

To me, this fic is like the classic Stucky 101 fanfic – if you’re a Stucky fan and you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. The authors explore the Steve/Bucky relationship in such an interesting, tragic, emotive way and I cry every time I read it. I couldn’t praise this work enough.[9]
Not Easily Conquered is one of the best pieces of straight up fiction I’ve EVER read; it is a nuanced and gorgeously written alternate Marvel Cinematic Universe. I also loved all the very real historical research woven into the story. Most of all, I loved how the story moved through time and gave Cap this amazing, full, complicated life. It’s the perfect blend of MCU and what if? And the bisexual rep! It’s so good! It is really really well done, fully realized, and nuanced. This is the Steve Rogers we deserve.[10]
That was just the most exquisite, well-researched, well-written, practically canon, heartbreaking, soul-wrenching fic ever.[11]
Not easily conquered is a beautiful lesson in one of the most sacred rules of storytelling: show, don’t tell, wonderfully combined with the poetry that Bucky’s letters bring to the table. The language is so visual and beautifully charged than you can see them clearly, Steve and Bucky standing next to each other, sharing space as they share everything else. And it is so fresh and inspiring reading them this way, so vividly, so real through their actions and choices. I’ve read and loved dozens of versions of this relationship and I think this particular version will always be one of my favourites, or even it might be the one. This series is one game-changing fic and I will be recommending it, wait for it, til the end of the line. So go read it right now and join your sisters here in this world of pain.[12]
I put it off for a long time because of the Steggy, and oh how I regret that. This series is… life-changing, truly. It’s extremely real: The history and politics of the time it spans were thoroughly researched (see the second chapters of each part for the authors’ incredibly interesting research notes!) and it’s easy to believe that this is exactly how everything would have played out if Steve hadn’t gone down with the Red Skull’s plane. Of the three parts, the second is probably the most affecting: The writing in Bucky’s (Emily’s) letters is strikingly visceral, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, actually tangible. Every time I read these fics it has a direct effect on my own writing for a while after—I can’t help striving to write like Bucky (Emily). Just. Please read this series. You won’t regret it.[13]
It's Steve/Peggy and also Steve/Bucky, if a bit more lengthy about the latter than the former. I want to emphasize that both pairs are very, very present. As I read through the winters of the various years I came to wish that I lived in such a reality where, for real, both Bucky's letters and Captain America existed and his words and their story become a particle in the ether that is pop culture. There were some parts that absolutely had me weeping.[14]
it’s a total 10/10 read. it has a great story, and it’s the perfect stucky arc that the MCU is lacking. i love finding fics like this, that transport you into their world and you feel their emotions and can empathize with their woes. i cried, i laughed and i cheered throughout this story.[15]
This whole series is one of the most incredible I have ever read, not only across this fandom but any fandom. I reread The Thirteen Letters every once in a while. just to remember myself what good, good writing is. Just read it if you haven’t, read it again if you have. Womb to tomb, sweetheart. [16]

Criticisms of Peggy's Characterization

I don't actually think that the writers hate Peggy. But I think they believe too much in the Steve/Bucky love story. I think their bias when it comes to the extent to which Steve and Bucky love each other blinded them to the fact that Peggy doesn't, necessarily, have those same beliefs. Why should Peggy believe in Steve and Bucky's grand love story? What reason does she have to think that Steve would tear down the world for Bucky? (Note that she finds out about Bucky in 1962; Bucky's letters are published in 1966.)

So maybe the writers don't hate Peggy. But I do think that her characterization was very skewed, and in a way that reflected the writers' Steve/Bucky bias. And that's what the other nonnies are picking up on.

I like Peggy! I would like to see her doing morally questionable things! But her actions in the fic weren't so much "morally complicated" as they were "not really well thought out", and that really does a disservice to her character.[17]
I toitally buy Peggy doing shady spy shenanigans for SSR/SHIELD. But Peggy lying to Steve about so much just because she fears him not loving her or leaving her for Bucky? I 100% cannot buy. Putting aside her morality (and I think she has a very strong and explicit set of ethics that she relies upon), it's too stupid and mean and cowardly. Stupid because, if Steve is in love with Bucky, how does hiding the letters/Bucky's survival help get Steve to love her? Stupid because, if Bucky is working for the enemy, you should damn well get Steve to stop that. Mean because in what world would any member of the Howling Commandos leave another to be tortured by the enemy? And cowardly because Peggy apparently decides the only way she can have Steve is by avoiding a fight between her and Bucky. I cannot see her ever backing down from that kind of struggle--if she wants something/someone, she'd fight for it. And if Steve didn't choose her, or wasn't committed enough to her, then she wouldn't want HIM.[17]
An MCU fic that is apparently often recommended called 'Not Easily Conquered', where in the first part, apparently Peggy knew that Bucky was being tortured/wiped/used as the Winter Soldier...and not only did nothing about it but deliberately didn't tell Steve about it. Its very well written, but I just can't. And I am not even particularly a Peggy fan, its just too much.[18]
I can forgive the terrible Steve/Bucky. I can forgive the purple-prose letters. I will never ever forgive the pod person Steve characterization, the Peggy character assassination, or the author's claims that teehee they ~love~ Peggy and want to do her ~justice~.[19]

Fanworks Inspired by this Series

Fanfiction and Poetry

Art

Graphics

Gif Sets

"womb to tomb, sweetheart" - the last in a series of gifs by aridante memorialising a famous quote from The Thirteen Letters. "So, how long have I loved you for? Womb to tomb, sweetheart. Since before I was even here at all."

Fanmixes

Vids

Example Art Gallery

Links

References

  1. ^ EP20: Fanfiction Classics, Fannish podcast
  2. ^ An archived Tumblr post by radialarch recounts the highlights of some wank surrounding the fic that transpired in 2015, as well as summarising the discourse it sparked off about general critical attitudes towards fanworks.
  3. ^ "Fanfiction Recs - Steve/Bucky". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  4. ^ "August 31, 2014". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  5. ^ "August 11, 2014 Tumblr post". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  6. ^ "July 5, 2014 Tumblr post". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  7. ^ "MCU - Captain America: A Long Winter 13 Letters by ShannonXL, rec at podfic-love". 
  8. ^ "August 21, 2016 tumblr post". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  9. ^ "Stucky Fic Recs". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  10. ^ "FanFic Feels: Not Easily Conquered". Archived from the original on 2021-08-28. 
  11. ^ "May 12, 2015 at epicstuckyficrecs". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  12. ^ "November 30, 2014 Tumblr post". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  13. ^ Rachel's Official Fanfic Rec Doc
  14. ^ "Give me your MCU fanfic recs!". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  15. ^ "July 18, 2021 Tumblr post". Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. 
  16. ^ "Behold, the Steve/Bucky fic rec, May 2019 edition!". Archived from the original on 2021-08-30. 
  17. ^ a b Comment on FFA, July 9, 2015
  18. ^ Comment on FFA, June 23, 2021
  19. ^ Comment on FFA, Jan 19, 2019
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