The Course of Honour

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Fandom
Name: The Course of Honour
Abbreviation(s): TCoH
Creator: Avoliot
Date(s): 02 February 2017 - 15 May 2017
Medium: formerly online at AO3
Country of Origin:
External Links: archived on AO3
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The Course of Honour is an original slash novel by Avoliot posted on Archive of Our Own in 2017. The story's early descriptive working title was "Arranged marriage space royalty origfic".

The small fandom has struggled to connect on AO3 because the tag wranglers have synned fandom tag "The Course of Honour - Avoliot" with the "Original Works" fandom tag where The Course of Honour was originally posted. The author does not read fanfiction of their own work because they feel it would be an intrusion on fannish spaces, which are usually author-free.[1][2] Several works were written for the 2017 Yuletide exchange and it has since been occasionally requested in other exchange fandom events.[3]

The Course of Honour and A Short Speech were taken down from Archive of Our Own on April 15th, 2019.[4] Avoliot announced the takedown in advance, saying "It is likely to be available in some form or another in the future, but I can’t give any certainty as to what form," and encouraged fans to save the story by using AO3's download function. Before the takedown, the work had over 3900 kudos and over 1400 bookmarks.[5]

In August 2019 it was announced that The Course of Honour was being published as a novel by Tor Books, now titled Winter's Orbit. Debut author Everina Maxwell received a three-book deal.[6]

Summary

When Jainan arrived on Iskat to represent his home planet in a diplomatic marriage to Imperial Prince Taam, he was naïve enough to hope the match would work. Taam knew better. Five years later, his confidence shattered, Jainan is released when Taam dies in an accident, only to be faced with another marriage to help salvage his treaty. Jainan understands how the real world works now; but Prince Kiem - the cheerful, scandal-prone darling of the Iskat celebrity magazines - keeps breaking all the rules he's learned.[7]

Origins

Avoliot first shared The Course of Honour anonymously to the fail_fandomanon WIP thread on April 25 2016,[8] using the descriptive working title "Arranged marriage space royalty origfic" with the summary:

Jainan, an off-planet diplomat, arrived at court five years ago to marry Prince Taam. When Prince Taam dies in an accident, Jainan is quickly forced into marriage with another minor royal to keep his treaty valid. Jainan is shattered from five years of a bad marriage and knows hes going to fail at making his new one work, but his new partner, Prince Kiem, is Taams opposite in most ways. Jainan isnt quite sure how to deal with this.[9]

In late May of 2016, all of the previously posted pieces of the "Arranged marriage space royalty origfic" were collected in a comment thread the on-going WIP post fail-fandomanon. Six parts were posted immediately, followed by another ten parts. The last part posted to FFA was part 17 on September 30th, 2016[10] and in an early February comment on the same section Avoliot (posting anonymously) told a fellow anon: "It's all done, it's 70% edited, and it's going to my beta next Monday come hell or high water. Depending on how long it takes her to beta and me to fix 100k, if you check back in a few weeks it may be up? I will be putting a link here and probably leaving a main meme comment."[11] Roughly a week later, Aviolot switched to Archive of Our Own.[12]

Avoliot created a Course of Honour Updates tumblr.

Reaction

The Course of Honour has a Goodreads page with 140+ ratings, 25+ reviews, and an average 4.13 star rating.

[The Course of Honour is] not fanwork in that it's based on anyone's intellectual property, but TBH a lot of it reads like a lot of fanfic for fandoms I'm not in - it has the same "the author's primary interest here is the tropes/kinks" feel, the same missing characterization... essentially, the same focus on what the author gets off on and lack of content that readers who don't get off on that might find interesting.[13]

Thanks, that's an interesting analysis that rings truer to me than just "it's obviously a fanwork".

I think that's one of the reasons Course of Honour gained popularity - dedication to fannish tropes that were very much in keeping with prominent preferences on the platform where it originated (ffa) + enough worldbuilding around the edges and accessibility that its fans could recommend it generally. I think you're right that the characterization and themes - beyond the tropes - are light enough that it wouldn't have got through trad publishing without looking quite different, but there's still *enough* there for it to gain traction. It's a really, really good fit for people who read fanfic and also read romance & light sci-fi.[14]
Okay, this one is kind of a bonus. As in, it’s free! You can click that link and find the Download button (up there in the righthand corner) and nab a copy in your favorite ebook format. Or, you know, you can read a chapter right here on your screen, and then click on to the next at whatever pace.

I want to thank Liz Bourke for tweeting about this, because I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ve said before that I’m not much for category romance (though I do enjoy them now and again), but the fact is I’m a sucker for a good Arranged Marriage/Fake Marriage plot. And this was a good one! Jainan was married to Prince Taam of Iskat–a marriage arranged for political reasons, and when Taam suddenly dies [ahem] accidentally, the Emperor of Iskat declares that party-loving Prince Kiem will step up. And…look, I’ll just paste in the “additional tags” here, so you’ll see what you’re getting into:

Romance, Slow Burn, Arranged Marriage, Pining, past abusive relationship, space princes, Court Politics, Emotional Hurt/Comfort

Space princes. I mean. Seriously. Give it a look, and maybe leave some kudos if you like it.

Ann Leckie[15]
[...]Part of me feels like I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I did. As I was reading, it felt like there was some kind of background checklist going. If Character A says this, then of course Character B will eventually respond like so. If Characters A and B are in X situation, then of course Y will happen. For example, the instant Kiem and Jainan were stranded in the snowy wilderness, I knew that one of them would end up having to keep the other warm with his body heat and that it would probably lead to sex. (I was right, but I was pleasantly surprised that the sex wasn’t explicit and didn't lead to a sudden sharp increase in sex scenes.)

The world-building was extremely light, even in terms of Iskat vs. Thean culture. And some details and events were a little difficult to believe and probably would have irked me more if I’d stopped and thought more about them. For instance, it took Kiem far longer than I thought it should have to figure out that Taam had been abusing Jainan. I would have thought that a prince, even one as good-natured as Kiem, would have learned at some point not to take everything everyone said and did at face value.

Jainan, too, took longer than I expected to realize that Kiem was nothing like Taam, although I gave him more leeway. His big argument with Kiem felt a bit forced, though, like it only blew up that badly because the story needed him and Kiem to be separated for a bit. And the entire “let’s save Jainan” part felt like it’d fall apart if I examined it too closely. Even a prince with a mother who was a general should have had to do more than smile and show off a video clip of someone’s kid to get that far into a building like that without trouble.

Considering all of that, why did I love this book? The best answer I’ve got is the characters. Kiem was almost aggressively cheerful and charismatic. He remembered everyone, liked almost everyone, and could be shoved into a roomful of strangers and end up making at least half a dozen friends by the time he'd made his way out again. I was worried, at first, that he’d be a useless drunken rogue, but he turned out to not be like that at all. He spent a lot of his time networking and drumming up support for various charities, but he tended to have so much fun that it didn’t always look like he was working.

Jainan was the opposite, completely locked down and tightly controlled. While his and Kiem’s tendency to misread each other was frustrating, it was also a lot of fun - I was really looking forward to seeing them finally get onto something like the same wavelength. In the meantime, it was nice seeing Jainan gradually come out of his shell a bit and rediscover the things he’d enjoyed doing before Taam had boxed him in.[...]

[16]
This is a trope-tastic m/m romance novel set in space, and it made me SO VERY HAPPY. I literally want to bounce around with GLEE, it's so fun. If you enjoy slow burn, epic romance with a nice dramatic plot that all comes perfectly together in a giant raspberry swirl of satisfaction, then you want to read this.

For real, this is gonna put a smile on my face for WEEKS. Kiem and Jainan = JOY.

(For those who need to know: This story does discuss an abusive relationship. It is very definitely treated as one, the main actual relationship of the story is the OPPOSITE of that, and the details provided about the abuse are not unnecessarily graphic, but the abusive relationship is central enough to the story that if that's something that you just want to avoid full stop, this may not be the romance for you.) [17]

Controversy and Wank

Miswrangling by AO3

For more depth on this see the AO3 Original Works and Self-Pub Wrangling Debacle

On August 26th, 2017, an anonymous user posted to fail_fandomanon's AO3 thread asking for advice on what to say to AO3 support to convince them to unsynn "The Course of Honour - Avoliot" from "Original Works."

I wrote to AO3 support because the Course of Honour fanfics (Is The New Prince K Here To Stay?: http://archiveofourown.org/works/11410209 & And Indeed There Will Be Time: http://archiveofourown.org/works/11026398) were synned to original works two weeks age, and today I got their reply.

"Hi:

Thanks for asking about this fandom. I passed this question on to the wranglers. After considering the tag and reviewing the works and the lack of a clearly published source material, the Wranglers don't feel that the fandom tag should be canonized at this time. They note that they very very rarely canonize a fandom that is not based on a published pre-existing canon. Even then, it requires a significant number of discrete creators. As these are not fanworks of an existing canon, but a cooperative attempt to build a canon, that it is better sorted under "Original Works". They recommend using a common Additional Tag to simplify searching.

Best,

AO3 Support"
I think the rationale is a bit unconvincing, because afaik 17776 is published on Internet only and hardly qualifies as published pre-existing canon under the same standard, but it still has its own fandom tag. I also doesn't see any proof that the two fanfics are "a cooperative attempt to build a canon" instead of "fanworks of an existing canon". However, I'm not very good at formulating convincing arguments. What do you think, nonnies?[18])

With help from anonymous users on fail_fandomanon, the anon in contact with AO3 support wrote back the following:

I find the argument unsatisfactory and worrying.

The Course of Honour is a self-contained, single-author canon and not a collaborative work. Any stories using the characters or setting from it authored by others are thus fanfiction and not additions to the canon itself no matter how much the fic writer may have discussed the canon with the author. Any argument to the contrary actually sets a distressing number of bad precedents because it's purporting to give ownership of the canon to people other than the original creator. By denying that there is one original creator and pretending that it's a group project, AO3 fails to acknowledge the original author's intellectual property rights.

As the original creator has never listed these other people as their co-writers or stating that it's a deliberate group project, it is wrong to list the works in question as "a cooperative attempt to build a canon." as even the writer of the works in question explicitly list them as fanfic. This decision puts all fanfics of an original work on the same canonicity level, and that's misleading and frustrating for creators and readers alike.

I would like AO3 to reconsider this decision based on the above reasons.[18]

On September 9th, 2017, the anon returned with a reply from AO3 Support:

Hi again

I apologize for the lack of clarity in my response. The wranglers' concern is not whether a work is "collaborative" or not, and my inclusion of that word was a mistake on my part.

Their evaluation was based on the fact that the creator's source canon is posted on an inherently fannish site. As such, they consider it to be an original fannish work. I have passed on your additional feedback, but they are not changing the wrangling at this time.[19]

Both pieces mentioned in the original August post were written by emilyenrose, who beta read The Course of Honour for Avoliot and is thanked in the first author's note of the work.[7] They were posted earlier in the year and in August of 2017 were the only TCoH fanworks on the archive. A third work by another author was added in October of 2017, and more since then, but the fandom tag is still synned to "Original Work" as of mid-2019. With the help of Aviolot, fans have been trying to make each other aware of the tagging problems, for example in this tumblr exchange:

[Excerpt from Aviolot's post "Course of Honour & Fic"]

[...]

1. For anyone who wants CoH fic: I know there are a couple on Ao3! I don’t think ‘Course of Honour’ is very unique so maybe try plugging a character name into the search box.

2. For anyone who wrote fic: I don’t know if this is helpful for listing but I know there is a fan comm - I don’t think it’s particularly active because super tiny fandom, but it may be a place to put links?[2]

[...]

[antonomasia09 reblogging Aviolot]

A couple of things I would add!

1. Due to the way wrangling guidelines work, the fandom “The Course of Honour - Avoliot” has been made a synonym of “Original Work.” This means that if you find a fic and click on the fandom in the hopes of finding other Course of Honour fics, you’ll get all ~47k fics in the “Original Work” fandom tag.

2. That being said, if you type “The Course of Honour” (including the quotes) in the search bar you should find all of the fics plus Avoliot’s story.

3. Someone made a collection on AO3 for The Course of Honour fics here: Course of Honour Fandom Unite. Not all of the fics are in the collection yet, since authors who received an invitation for their works to be part of it need to confirm their permission.

4. Since it’s technically part of Original Work and not its own fandom, The Course of Honour is unwrangled. This means that, if you click on the tag Jainan nav Adessari/Kiem Tegnar, you will get only works using that exact tag and not works that used Kiem Tegnar/Jainan nav Adessari, Kiem/Jainan, etc. The fandom is pretty small, though, and people have mostly been good about tagging characters with their full names, so a search for either Kiem Tegnar or Jainan nav Adessari should get you most of the works.[20]

Yuletide 2017

Original works posted to "fannish spaces" are generally said to be disallowed from the yearly winter fanwork exchange Yuletide, mostly because the author has identified the work as fannish in some nature and might expect the same social etiquette around further transformation that authors of fanworks would expect.

The third post on the 2017 Fandom Eligibility post was a fan asking if The Course of Honour would be eligible. They provided a link to the author's blanket statement of permission for fanworks. A mod replied:

While in the past we have ruled out any work posted to AO3, we are willing to trial an exception this year for original works.

We would appreciate you making a comment on the Evidence Post when you nominate it, to sum up what the fandom is and why it stands alone.[21]

In the anon meme yuletide_coal, the discussion during sign-ups of The Course of Honour's likely inclusion was 89 comments long. Much wank ensued over whether The Course of Honour is a fanwork because of the AO3 Terms of Service and if that should automatically disqualify it from Yuletide.[22] There were accusations of Avoliot trying to cause drama to stir up interest on anon[23] probably because the anons in question were unaware that much of The Course of Honour's initial fanbase grew organically from fail_fandomanon.

There were seven requests for TCoH in Yuletide 2017[24] and the same number in Yuletide 2018.[25]

Fandom

Fanfiction

Fanart

Elsewhere

References

  1. Avoliot, response to an anonymous ask on 15 October 2017. (Accessed 31 July 2018.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Aviolot, Course of Honour & Fic. Posted August 15th, 2018. Archived.
  3. For example, the 2019 Pining Exchange; see the nominated tags in the tagset under "Other Media", the single request on this page, and the sign up summary where it shows one person requested it and two people offered it.
  4. 2019.03.25 by avoliot
  5. archived on WBM, March 28 2019
  6. Announcing Winter’s Orbit, a Queer Romantic Space Opera Debut, Aug 13, 2019
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Couse of Honour on AO3 (Accessed 31 July 2017.)
  8. Re: WIPs (Works In Progress) - Arranged marriage space royalty origfic by Anonymous, 2016-04-25
  9. Avoliot, posting anonymously, on a WIP post from April 25th. Accessed November 2019.
  10. Avoliot, posting anonymously, on Arranged marriage space royalty origfic. Posted 30 September 2016. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  11. Avoliot, posting anonymously, on Arranged marriage space royalty origfic. Posted 06 February 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  12. Avoliot, posting anonymously, on Arranged marriage space royalty origfic. Posted 15 February 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  13. Anonymous on yuletide-coal on 05 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  14. Anonymous on yuletide-coal on 05 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  15. Books I’ve Read, AUGUST 18 2017
  16. REVIEW: The Course of Honour (e-book) by Avoliot, MAY 17 2017
  17. Katie's review, 5 Stars, Mar 10 2018
  18. 18.0 18.1 Re: Archive of Our Own [AO3 thread] - The Course Of Honour fic synned to Original posted by anonymous on fail_fandomanon on 26 August 2018. (Accessed 31 July 2018.)
  19. New reply from AO3 support on The Course of Honour fanfic tag syn posted by anonymous on fail_fandomanon on 02 Septemper 2018. (Accessed 31 July 2018.)
  20. antonomasia09, reblog here. August 31st, 2018. Archived. It was reblogged by Aviolot the next day here.
  21. morbane, September 3rd, 2017, in Fandom Eligability for 2017.
  22. Various anons on yuletide_coal posted 04 September 2017 through 10 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  23. Anonymous on yuletide-coal on 04 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  24. Yuletide '17 requests, accessed August 4th, 2018
  25. Yuletide '18 requests, accessed August 4th, 2018