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Fanfic / Paris Burning

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Paris Burning is a Les Misérables fanfic written by thecitysmith. It imagines a universe in which all cities with a sufficient population and sense of group identity have near-immortal anthropomorphic personifications. Grantaire is the personification of Paris, driven by the accumulated trauma and bitterness of his long life to flee from his role as City and distract himself with drink.

Paris Burning can be read here. The Cityverse, a community worldbuilding project inspired by Paris Burning, has a dedicated tumblr and a TVTropes page.


This work provides examples of:

  • Alternate Universe: Whilst obviously originally being a Les Mis AU, the City Verse is more of an AU of history itself.
  • Animated Tattoo: Paris (and a few other European Cities with Celtic backgrounds, including London) once had Celtic war paint that would appear and disappear in response to the City's emotional state.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Cities themselves.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Paris was subjected to this by order of King Charles VII as punishment for his unauthorized attempt to rescue Joan of Arc. This was one of the events that drove him into drunkenness and reclusion.
  • Atlantis: A major plot element. The legendary disaster was caused by the City of Atlantis himself, who wanted to wipe out his humans in order to be free of their control. Having succeeded in this, he decided to share his newfound freedom with his fellow Cities… and if they didn’t want it, he would just have to force them to accept it. For their own good, of course.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Paris' included his encounter with a grieving Jerusalem during the Crusades and the death of his beloved Jeanne d'Arc.
  • Downer Ending: Unsurprising, since it's based on Les Misérables, but it's still pretty upsetting.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Sometimes experienced by Cities. Several examples are described in Paris Burning, and it was a dream that lead Paris/Grantaire to find Enjolras and his group.
  • Fantastic Racism
    • Many human cultures regard Cities with wariness and seek to control their activities and/or expect them to be paragons of virtue and display perfect, selfless dedication to the needs of their inhabitants.
    • On the flip side, Cities tend not to regard humans as equals, although most are kindly disposed at least towards their own citizens.
  • Gossipy Hens: All the Cities. Paris laments this after his re-emergence into their community causes a great stir.
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  • Healing Factor: All Cities are capable of quickly regenerating damaged body parts and reviving from lethal injuries. Enjolras discovers Paris' identity by seeing him heal while rescuing people from a burning building.
  • Immortality Hurts: Affects almost all Cities. Particularly applicable to those with human lovers.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the existence of personified Cities and other strange things that are explored more in the Cityverse at large, history isn't very different from that of our own world. There is ample justification for this:
    • Cities generally have very little power in human politics and society, both because their minds and wills are influenced by the will of the people and because they usually choose to avoid any behavior that humans might regard as interference in our affairs so as to minimize interspecies conflict.
    • The Things Dreaming, as the name suggests, have been asleep for most of human history.
    • On a non-diegetic level, thecitysmith frequently incorporates fictional elements into real-world historical events rather than inventing alternate history.
  • Kill It with Fire: The only certain way to permanently kill a City.
  • La Résistance: Les Amis become it, of course.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Human-City romances invariably fall into this. Cities are said to prefer human partners who have established themselves as leaders or public figures of some sort, so that after the human shuffles off this mortal coil, the City will not be the only one to remember and admire their former partner.
  • The Napoleon: London, ironically enough.
  • Nations as People: Cities, rather, but still under the general "sociopolitical entities as people" qualification.
  • Psychic Link: Cities are linked to their inhabitants. This leads to some troubling questions of free will, as Cities are highly susceptible to having their beliefs and opinions shaped by those of the majority of their people. The link goes both ways; a City’s emotional state may influence their people’s moods or dreams, and when a City is attacked their people may experience a psychic compulsion to protect or avenge them.
  • Queer Romance: Between Grantaire/Paris and Enjolras, a male City and a male human.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Almost all of the Cities.
  • Scars Are Forever: Cities, despite their Healing Factor, can acquire permanent scars from events of particular emotional weight or historical significance. Scars may come from an injury to the City's human body or be symbolic of damage to the buildings or inhabitants of the physical city.
  • Scar Survey: Paris Burning has a scene like this between Paris and Enjolras.
  • Secret Keeper
    • During Paris Burning, Enjolras agrees to help Grantaire keep his true identity a secret.
    • Secret Secret-Keeper: It later emerges that, unbeknownst even to Grantaire himself, Combeferre had deduced the truth some time ago and had also kept quiet.
  • Species Loyalty: While Cities may fight amongst themselves for territory or Capitalhood, they all share a sense of solidarity in the face of the unique hardships and complexities of life as a City. There's a bit of a double standard arising from this: City-on-City violence in some circumstances is accepted as a fact of life, but any human who deliberately harms a City in any way is likely to face swift and violent retribution from fellow Cities.

Alternative Title(s): Cityverse


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