Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean....

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Title: Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean....
Creator: Justacat
Date(s): August 25, 2006
Medium: online
Fandom: The Professionals
Topic: Kate MacLean, The Professionals, Fanfiction
External Links: Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., Archived version
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Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean.... is an essay by Justacat.

In it, Justcat analyzes the complex fiction written by Kate MacLean, focusing on:

Some Excerpts

...I have been ... wanting, feeling compelled, to write about one of my very favorite Pros authors, Kate MacLean. Her writing affects me in a way relatively few other authors do - there are times I get into a mood when nothing but Kate MacLean will satisfy me, and I will read every one of her stories in a row, and then start all over again; nothing else will do. There is something about the way she writes B/D that draws me, satisfies me, gives me what I need and want and crave from slash, that peculiar, particular fannish jones: there's no good way to describe it, but every fan, I think, knows what I'm talking about. That thing we ache for.

KM's stories are all about ... emotional conflict, between B and D but also internal, within each of them - emotional conflict, and emotional turmoil; more specifically, the turmoil that is stirred up in independent, self-sufficient, cynical, emotionally well-guarded - and more than that (to use a sort of psychobabble neither KM in her stories nor her B and D would ever employ, but is nonetheless analytically useful, and I think, accurate), emotionally damaged, and to a certain extent emotionally ... oh, crippled maybe, or stunted, or at least inaccessible - men who are suddenly faced with unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) feelings: self-deception, the loss of perspective that love can induce, the desperation and panic arising from dawning realization of growing need and loss of self-sufficiency, the struggle with - and against - unwelcome intensity of feeling, the discomfort of changing self-image, the despair and pain of acknowledging unwanted but seemingly inescapable vulnerability.

KM does as good a job as any author I've ever read at evoking these difficult feelings. She takes these tough, tough guys, who are, or have been, confident in their invulnerability, their imperviousness to the softer emotions - guys who are used to deflecting impassioned "I love you"s from their women, used to moving on, used to avoiding commitment, used to breaking hearts - and shows us what happens when they come face to face with their achilles heel, their single massive (and unexpected, and unwanted) vulnerability, the one person who, for whatever reason - fate? destiny? karma? who knows... - has the power to crack them open, bring them to their knees, break through their previously unshakable self-possession. And it hurts, oh how it hurts - them, of course, but also us.

But god it's a good pain, the best - for us, I mean; it hurts so good, and it satisfies like nothing else can, to watch these hard-arsed bastards hoisted, as it were, by their own petards, brought to their knees by Love, which, in the end, spares no one its indignities; indeed, those who believe themselves immune are apt to fall the hardest and most painfully. And that, after all, is exactly what we who love Bodie and Doyle want so much: to see them fall. KM leaves us at the end of her stories with basically the same guys she began with. She doesn't eviscerate them, doesn't strip them of the grit and hardness that I love so much about them, doesn't take the edge off, doesn't even really redeem them - they're still as tough and hard and callous and cynical as ever, in every way but one: now we, and they - but no one else - can see the cracks in their armor, their one finally-acknowledged vulnerability, the one emotional bullet they can't deflect, and that's what I love. To me this is incredibly moving, and KM does it with consummate skill.

Most fundamentally, it's the satisfaction of seeing tough, cynical guys start to wake up to emotion, of feeling their achingly painful fear of revealing vulnerability as their walls crumble, of seeing their confusion and pain. It's KM's amazing effectiveness at conveying rawness and intensity of emotion, emotional turmoil, pain - it's the stomach-clenching, gut-churning, remarkable immediacy of her writing; every line hits me in the gut, in the heart; she makes me feel every single feeling so deeply, while, even more remarkably, never seeming to hit an off note, never getting "talky," never triggering my "OMG, they'd never say that" alarms, never making me cringe. And god, she keeps them guys - or more accurately, she keeps them CI5 guys, Bodie and Doyle; there's so damn much feeling, it's so deep, so intense, so real, so undeniable, and yet somehow it's never sentimental. How the hell does she do it??

The thing is, KM's Bodie and Doyle aren't "nice guys." They aren't guys you'd want to date, nor would you wish them on any of your girlfriends. They are - each in his own way - arrogant, difficult, manipulative, violent (or capable of great violence), callous, emotionally inaccessible. They're not cold, unfeeling bastards; not vicious or evil - they're just, well, the kind of guys you would expect them to be, really, given their profession. A whole lot of testosterone, not a lot of softness, fierce possessiveness, a bit of insanity, cynicism and inappropriate humor. Even Bodie, after the hell he's been through, understanding so viscerally what it's like to be rejected, takes heartless satisfaction in the misery of his rival in Choosing: when Ray finally dumps Ann for him - on their wedding night, no less - Bodie thinks, "God… it was brutal. And all for him. He couldn't stop smiling."

This is just the kind of Bodie and Doyle I love - gritty, realistic, flawed, and with one undeniable vulnerability: each other. Yes they're heartless bastards sometimes, callous and arrogant, not terribly likeable, maybe; and yet somehow incredibly appealing nonetheless - it's easy to see why they like, love, each other, and it's easy to love them for that. No compassion - these aren't really compassionate guys - but passion.

And god but I love that. It satisfies me in a way that nothing else, nothing, possibly could. It's not just that they love each other - it's that they are it for each other; they need each other - maybe they don't want to, but they do. It's kind of like Siamese twins or something; maybe it's not healthy, to threaten to kill your partner if he leaves you, but it doesn't leave a lot of ambiguity about their feelings, the intensity of their bond. And that hits all my buttons.

KM can build tension with the best of them; she tears the characters apart, takes you on quite a gut-churning, stomach-clenching ride, heart in your mouth, agonizingly, achingly difficult at times. But in return she gives you certainty: she leaves you reeling, but knowing that they are together, this is it, there will never be anyone else but each other for either of them; in the end it's just the two of them, only and always. She strips you bare, flays you, and then builds you back up again, to ... hope.

As odd as it may sound, I therefore find her stories, prickly as they are, uniquely, well ... comforting. It's strange, I know, but true. They give me what I most need from my slash; for a little while at least, they fill up the empty place, assuage the voracious appetite, ease the ache ... And I love them, deeply, wholly, and passionately.

Reactions and Reviews

I feel like someone should be standing up and cheering for this post, so: *cheers*. You're doing something rare here. What you've written seems to carry all the emotional punch of the stories themselves, in fact possibly more. I found your words more moving than the quotes, in many places. You have a gift for this (not that I'm discounting the difficult, exhausting, time-consuming thought and effort you mentioned)! [1]

I haven't read any of Kate MacLean's other stories, and the fact that they've moved you write a long post like this doesn't bode well for my liking them (*g*)! Stories where one person wants more than the other are right up my alley, but what really doesn't appeal to me from what you've said is KM's stories are all about the entanglement of possessiveness and love, love and ownership and quotes like "No one touches you but me, Bodie. No one," and "you're not leavin' me ... An' I'll kill you if you try". I think I'd find it very hard to enjoy a story where either of them displayed that kind of jealousy and possessiveness. It'd be interesting to see how it's done, though, so I'll definitely read them if they ever do come online. (I have trouble getting behind the zine publisher's preference of not having stories appear online even years after the zines came out, and even if I liked owning hard copies, I'd hesitate to buy them for that reason.) The fact that I don't think I'd enjoy these stories greatly is part of the reason I liked your post so much, though. You said below "I wish you could see them through my eyes" and that's what you've done for me here — distilled some of the emotion, when I might not have been able to appreciate it, as written, myself. [2]

That was a very interesting read. Thank you. You pointed out some thoughts about reading fics I share, but were never able to find the right words therefor myself like you did. [3]

Wow. Well, yeah, that pretty much sums up exactly what I think of Kate MacLean's stories. :g: And then some--you've given me insights into my own reactions. So, thank you!... Everything you've said here...yeah, that's it. Her stories can be very...well, "hard to read" isn't the right way to put it. They cause deep anxiety, and it can be painful to watch what the characters go through--these characters that you love. But, oh, her stories are *so* deeply satisfying, as only stories that touch you that deeply can be. Thank you for putting it all so beautifully into words. [4]

You've pretty much expressed how I feel about Kate's writing. [5]

This is a fascinating and obviously long considered essay, but I'll have to say that I disagree with almost everything you say. *g* Yellow Brick Road is the only one of Kate Maclean's stories that I've liked! My comment after reading one of her stories was - "I do know that if I read another 'selfish, unfeeling bastard Doyle and hopelessly in love and hurting Bodie' story by Kate MacLean I'll scream." *g* Unlike you, I really detest her characterisation of Bodie and Doyle. She obviously dislikes Doyle, admittedly my favourite of the two, since she is constantly describing him as aloof, unfriendly, disliked by his peers etc and I'm thinking - this is just NOT the Doyle I see on screen. As to Bodie, I have never, ever seen Bodie as insecure in either his knowledge of his physical attraction or his own own ability to charm the pants of anyone. I guess the long and the short of it is that I detest what I see as gross mischaracterisation and I also hate long, unending angst as I'd far rather have action and interaction that's fun, amusing and full of charm. Having totally disagreed with you however, can I say I look forward to more from you, and as someone who has written a number of reviews I'd like to add that I never 'whip them off'. They may be considerably shorter and far less insightful than this essay, but they still require blood, sweat and tears. *g* [6]

I really enjoyed reading this. For one thing I know what I'm getting into by reading one of this author's stories. For another it is nice to read a positive review of the work in full. (Remember I come from Sentinel fandom!) Thanks! I know this took you a long time and a lot of thought and it was very well done. [7]

I'm so pleased you made this post for two reasons: I think KM is a very talented writer and deserves the praise; and I think anything which promotes more story discussion within the fandom of Pros is a good thing. Thank you. [8]

Thank you for this excellent look at Kate McLean. I've been hoping that more would be written/discussed on this topic - she's at the top of my list of authors as well. [9]

This was absolutely wonderful. I was as glued to it as I have been to Kate's stories. I agree with every word. You expressed everything I feel about reading fan fiction and my reactions to stories. This is the most fabulous piece of feedback to an author that I have ever seen. If I were Kate I would frame it. [10]


  1. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006; archive is
  2. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  3. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  4. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  5. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  6. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  7. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  8. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  9. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006
  10. ^ comments from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean...., posted August 25, 2006