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From the Comfort of their Favorite Armchair
  February 22, 2002

Today's Featured Author - Crystal (C. Sprite)

by: Debbie Cybill

A couple of years ago, while I was recuperating from a long illness, I started to surf the web searching for TG stories. If I could not exorcise my demons, at least I could pacify them in this way. Most of what I found was rubbish, but here and there I found a grain of gold amongst the dross, prompting me to look further. One of these was The Spirit is Willing by C. Sprite. It was such a well-constructed story that I searched high and low for other stories by this author, finding nothing. After a further spell in hospital a friend pointed me to Crystal’s site and I discovered for the first time that C. Sprite and Crystal were one and the same person, a brilliant author.

It is difficult to be objective about Crystal’s stories. We all owe her so much for developing this site, and her stories form its core. This is not a review of her site but of her stories or I would rave about how much greater a proportion of high quality stories I find there.

In each of her serial stories Crystal takes a simple, believable plot in which the protagonist turns to femininity for a plausible reason and then she develops it logically, with a wealth of detail that is almost Dickensian. Not merely the protagonist is developed as a fully-rounded character, but also the subsidiary characters, so that her stories become populated by a well-realized cast.

In Texas Gal, possibly her best-known story, David is the youngest child in a loving family with three older sisters, all young teens. He is precocious, small for his age and not athletic, always the last to be chosen for team games, preferring to play with the girls rather than with the boys. One day his sisters and a couple of friends tease and tickle him until they force him to put on their clothes. Surprise! Surprise! He enjoys it. This may sound a hackneyed theme, but in the hands of Crystal it blooms. After his father is killed and his mother severely injured by a drunk driver, his aunt, the widow of a Texas Oil man, who lives in Texas, looks after first David and then his sisters too. David evolves into Darla Anne, the Texas Gal, who soon becomes the protégé of a rich neighbour, also a widow, who is the president of a major conglomerate. Darla Anne learns rapidly from this adoptive Grandma and soon performs invaluable services. In school Darla skips first many five grades and is accepted at university at the age of 13. In her vacations she works for Grandma and soon becomes an entrepreneur in her own right.

Improbable as this all sounds, summarised as baldly as this, it becomes a magnificent saga in the hands of this gifted writer. This is a true novel in which TG matters are central but are not the whole story.

Cary is a 15-year old boy who hangs around the local Community Theatre working as a gopher, helping all the actors with their cues in rehearsals, making coffee for everybody. He want to audition for the next play but the only role for anyone of his age group is for a girl. One day the director bets the wardrobe mistress and makeup chief that they cannot disguise Cary as a girl. They win their bet and so successfully, despite Cary’s demurring, that all the members of the company think he makes a lovely girl. When it is time to go home they help him off with the costume and then discover that they have used the wrong adhesive for the breast forms and can’t get them off. Cary’s wail that, "I can’t go home like this." becomes the title of the story. They dress him outdoor girl’s clothes and street makeup, instead of the stage costume and grease paint, and take him home to explain to his mother and sister, who love it. It is the July 4th weekend and the manufacturers are closed for two weeks.

The leading lady in the play breaks her leg just before opening night. She has no understudy and only Cary, who has helped them all to rehearse, knows the lines. Cary, now Crystal, steps in and plays to accolades. The story of Crystal’s career takes off from there.

Crystal’s stories cover an enormous range, exploiting well-known themes to great effects, the haunted house in Spirit is Willing, the somewhat extraordinary lives of teenagers in Texas Gal and I can’t go home, a most unusual UFO story in The Observer, sci-fi in A Nu-U. In every one of these genres she treads new ground so that although the basic premise of each story is almost trite the stories themselves are anything but, opening up new vistas. I would rank Crystal among the top two or three writers of TG stories.

It surprises me when I look at the number of hits on her stories how few they are. The first installments of Texas Gal and of Can’t go home have had a mere 8,000 hits apiece, and subsequent installments no more than about 3,000. What is wrong with you all out there? Here we have some of the very best stories on the web almost neglected. And of those few of you who have started to read Crystal’s long serials not so many have come back for the rest. Shame on you!

In David/Darla and Cary/Crystal our hostess has given us accounts of the sort of childhood we should all love to have had. Oh, if only we could look back on such childhoods, how happy we should be! Read them and then tell Crystal how much you have enjoyed them.

(Note from Crystal : This was completed by Debbie just before she entered the hospital in September. She passed away on February 9th from cardiac related complications. I miss my dear friend.)

    by: Maggie Finson

This has to be one of the hardest reviews I've done so far. Not becuase I'm trying to find things to say, or because Crystal is not only a writer but the founder of this site, but for trying to get everything said in a short enough manner so this won't read like a novel. Enough of my moaning, though, and on to the matter at hand.

Crystal has an extensive body of work on the site, and for those of you who haven't read any of it, I have to tell you that you are missing a real treat. Her style is easy to read, easy to relate to, and will catch you the moment you start reading. At least it did that with me.

The first of her stories that I recall reading was "The Spirit is Willing" Where some college boys enter an old mansion, see a real ghost, then find themselves transported to a time about at the turn of the previous century and in the bodies of several young women who would have otherwise been dead from being caught in a snowstorm. Nice, character driven story with fine detail work on clothing, surroundings, and the milieu where the story takes place.

For those of you who prefer shorter stories, (Spirit is in two parts) A Nu U series will fill that bill quite well. There are three of these stories, all of a length that can be read easily in one sitting, and highly enjoyable. These stories revolve around VR technology and the TG aspects of the process. In one, the main character goes back to the fifties and lives twenty hours of a normal life. For a sixteen year old girl. Another, "Mondo Cool", has the character fiddling with the programs and getting stuck in post revolutionary France as a lady sentenced to the Guillotine. In "Kerri" a quadraphlegic lives two months as an olympic gymnast. Good story telling in all cases. Short reads, fun, and thought provoking all at once. Also, in the last case, very moving.

As for Crystal's longer works, "I Can't Go Home Like This", and "Texas Gal", I would suggest that you download them then settle down for an enjoyable reading experience. Wjithout giving too much away, "I Can't Go Home", centers on a teenaged boy who takes a part in a play as a fifteen year old girl, and the problems, joys, and discoveries he runs through while doing so.

In "Texas Gal", the protagonist is forced into donning female clothing and acting like a girl by his sisters and their friends. Through this originally forced journey, he becomes a stronger person, and develops the self confidence required to handle the company he inherited while ousting the people who were running it into the ground, so to speak.

In "The Observer" an alien switches a man and woman who work for a publisher and are out to find a writer the publisher wants to sign. Both characters have their faults, and don't like each other very much. In fact, the story opens with them having an argument. Through the story, they have to experience life as the other for a time that lasts a year, but is not limitied to that.

As mentioned earlier, Crystal's writing style grabs you immediately, holds interest, and makes you emote with her characters as all good writing should. I will put in, as a personal aside, that I have found her work every bit as good, or better, than a lot of the "mainstream" fiction I've read.

About the only downside to Crystal's work is the general length. Except for her A Nu U stories, all of them are quite long, involved tales that require a lot of reading. The upside there is that reading will be an experience that I firmly believe will be greatly enjoyed and well worth the time and trouble. So, on that note, if you haven't read any of these yet, I envy you the discovery. Enjoy. Your time will be very well spent.

Editor - Heather Sinclair


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