2008-03-30 02:28 am (UTC)
Comment the first
First some general commentary on AUs in general. I am not a huge fan of the AU; in fact, I never read them at all until I got into Supernatural and started reading RPF. A huge number of SPN RPFs are AUs and I simply adore the AU in that context. I cannot get enough of Jared the barrista or Jensen the older brother’s college roommate. It also doesn’t hurt that many of these AUs are HIGHLARIOUS. My desire to read an AU usually increases exponentially with the amount of humor it contains. As far as fic featuring the actual characters of a fandom, I’m not really into AUs and I’ve been wondering why as this discussion approached. I think it’s because for me, RPF is already AU. I don’t read celebrity interviews or stay up to watch X on Leno or chase down details of stars’ lives. (Well, except for my subscription to Star, which is mostly so that I can read something in the tub that I don’t mind getting soaked). I have no idea what these people are like and even if I did do all those aforementioned things, I still think I’d have no idea what they’re *really* like. What’s under the persona they show to the public. An AU of Jared and Jensen as dogsitters feels very similar to me in terms of content to a fic where Jared and Jensen are getting it on in the trailer between shooting scenes of “Tall Tales.” If that makes any sense.
AUs of the actual characters of a fandom are, I think, really hard to pull off when they’re not intended to be cracktastically funny. Taking the characters and transporting tbem to these very different roles while still retaining their them-ness is incredibly difficult. For the most part, I’m satisfied with all the permutations that fandom can create from the bare canonical bones of John Sheppard or Buffy Summers or Mal Reynolds. However, a very well written AU in which I feel as if I’m reading the Rodney McKay I know and love as he would be if he’d simply existed elsewhere—those I can enjoy. And I think both these fics deliver on that score.
Edited at 2008-03-30 02:32 am (UTC)
2008-03-30 02:51 am (UTC)
Comment the second: Life
I love how matter of fact John is in the section that opens Life. He’s young; he can’t afford shoes or a trip to the dentist; he sells his body; like any kid, money sometimes wears a hole in his pocket. I love how it’s all just laid out there, the sort of bleak bones of their lives. It’s harsh, but that moment when John is running down the street kicking the bag and grinning, that’s the same John at the stick of a jumper—the same sort of wild joy.
Rodney in particular feels real to me here, from the physical descriptions to the bossy superiority he has even as a child.
I love how that first time that they kiss, Rodney thinks it’s because John has him all wrong, because he’s thinking of him as a girl, but he’s not. That misunderstanding is so bittersweet for me to read.
Edited at 2008-03-30 02:54 am (UTC)
2008-03-30 03:16 am (UTC)
Comment the third: Ring
I like the nods this fic makes towards canon—Atlantis and AirAncien and Elizabeth. These are the kinds of details that really ground me in an AU and keep me interested.
I also think that for me, it was in some ways easier to read about John and Rodney as adults, mostly because we have to extrapolate so far to determine how they’d behave as children and we see them as adults every week for an hour when the show’s airing. I think in that way, this fic lives more in my comfort zone in terms of AUs (although Lord knows Lorraine loves being slung out of her comfort zone in the worst way when it comes to fic).
I think busaikko retains the matter of fact narrative style of kyuuketsukirui's original story. Again, there are no punches pulled here, nothing flowery or showy for the story to hide behind.
Again, John and Rodney are themselves here. How much do I love that John has his team? That their love for him is just as deep as it is on the show? That Ford is still around and kicking it?
I love the way that busaikko turns John’s canonical black mark into a prison term; that makes a lot of sense to me given the lives that kyuuketsukirui creates for them. (Also bonus points for mentioning dentistry in a way that doesn’t feel forced but like a natural progression from the first fic.)
I love that line about John only seeing Rodney for who he is; I think kyuuketsukirui does a good job of establishing that quality of their relationship and busaikko a good job of continuing it.
And Jeannie. God. Jeannie. Apparently I cannot help but adore this woman no matter the incarnation.
This is such a little thing, but I love the way that Rodney’s first move after John confesses he has AIDS is to hug him—not to shy away, but to touch him. Wholeheartedly.
I also surprisingly really really really adore that John isn’t a pilot and that he’s never flown. I love turning that fanon on its head, that Sheppard would somehow spontaneously combust if he was grounded.
I think the only thing I'd have liked to see in this fic that I didn't is a discussion or some mention of how the two of them were managing safe sex since John has AIDS.
Edited at 2008-03-30 03:20 am (UTC)
2008-03-31 04:13 am (UTC)
Re: Comment the third: Ring
I think the only thing I'd have liked to see in this fic that I didn't is a discussion or some mention of how the two of them were managing safe sex since John has AIDS.
This is sort of OT (well, okay, a lot OT), but this comment made me think of something about SGA fic in general that I've been thinking about for a while, and that's the prevalence of unsafe sexual practices. I mean, I'm not accusing this specific story of that (hell, if anything, it's a cautionary tale!) but -- I don't know if this is just the fic and authors that I happen to be reading lately, but it's always a surprise (a pleasant surprise, but still a surprise) to run into a fic that talks about condoms at all. This is a little weird to me because among the gay men I know outside of fandom, barebacking (anal sex without a condom) is considered a very risky practice, akin to Russian roulette -- it's more like a fetish, and a risky one at that, than a normal sexual practice, the way it's treated in most SGA fic that I've read. Thoughts? Like I said, I'm certainly no expect (hello, hetero female here) and there aren't too many fandoms besides SGA where I've read slash widely enough to form an opinion -- at least, fandoms in which the characters weren't aliens or in a time period where it didn't really apply -- so I'm curious if this is just a slash thing in general, an aspect of the fantasy aspect of slash (there are no STD's in fantasyland!), or if it's something that's unique, and strange, to SGA fandom. Or even if it's just that I'm reading the wrong stories.
2008-03-30 03:25 am (UTC)
And comment the last
I hope that the authors comment and let us know what degree of collaboration existed between them on these fics. I'm curious to find out whether they worked on them together or whether they wrote independently of each other.
I'm also interested in what they and the comm at large think of extra-canonical sources of inspiration for fic. I think that people creating universes and inviting others to play in them is such an interesting idea, sort of fanficcing the fanfic. And what happens when people who aren't invited play in the sandbox. Clearly there's no animosity between these two, but I'm curious how people would react to find someone who had not asked posting a fic based on their own?
For me, as long as my fic was mentioned or linked to as the inspiration, I don't think I'd be anything but flattered. I'm certain I'd be nonplussed if I found a fic that obviously continued or played off mine without acknowledging me as a source, but otherwise, awesomecakes.
ETA Oh yes! And titles. I hope they'll both say something about how they choose their titles.
Edited at 2008-03-30 03:36 am (UTC)
2008-03-30 04:51 am (UTC)
Re: 2 yen's worth
1. Basically, the characters from Life took up residence in my head. I thought it was very impertinent of them, as they weren't *my* characters. I didn't even know Grace, but she persuaded me to publish--I hadn't intended to. Speak of impertinence! (here
2. Re permission: I think it is necessary: it's the polite thing to do. Some stories are very personal or iconic for people, and that needs to be respected. IMO!
3. I copied Grace's title format. Hers is a line from a song by REM (I've Been High
); mine is 2 songs, Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)
and Day Is Dawning (Hidden Cameras)
. I knew I wanted Cash lyrics as dividers, and RoF has a line about 'falling for you like a child' *is shallow person*. Day Is Dawning is about death, rebirth, transformation... and me mishearing, because *I* heard the lyrics where 'the nails driven through the steel' = 'the will to live' (but the lyrics site says 'the will to build', though that works, too!).
I had a whole lot to say about Life (Sometimes It Washes Over Me). So much so that, as a birthday present for Grace, I wrote DVD commentary.
So please, feel free to pop over and take a look at it. I don't actually touch on the whole AU thing and fandom; must contemplate that particularly because Grace and Busaikko handled the question of whether or not to include other characters very differently.
Also, if I have time in the next day or two I'm hoping to do commentary on Ring of Fire as well. Um...I should ask for permission, shouldn't I? *grins*Edited at 2008-03-30 08:05 am (UTC)
(it would be very undignified of me to say 'Do me, baby', wouldn't it? so I shan't.) But I'd be thrilled *bounces on toes*
I love the way the early reference to John's toothache grounds this story in a lower class milieu. I understand why most fanfiction depicts almost everyone as middle class and college educated; people want to write within their comfort zone and tend to identify with characters whose backgrounds are similar to their own, but not being from a middle class background myself, I love stories like this. The assumption that talent will out, or all smart people arise from middle or upper class backgrounds is a conceit only very sheltered people can maintain.
I once sat in a county children and youth office and entertained myself by guessing with amazing accuracy which women were birth parents who had temporarily lost custody of their children and which were foster parents based solely on the condition of their teeth. Yes, poor people in this country can usually get free health care, that is, if they are able to jump through numerous hoops and persist through all sorts of obstacles and subtle or not so subtle humiliations; too often they don't get decent care, many times various circumstances keep them from even trying.
I just recently wrote a column for a research publication on children's mental and behavioral health and my column reviews the current research (or as much reviewing as one can do in 2500 words LOL) and one of the articles I looked at examined the health of children living in a variety of settings, and outside the control group (the two biological parent home), dental health was the first to go. Like you, I think that's an excellent detail that matter of factly gives us the setting without being too overtly expository. These fics definitely show rather than tell, I think.
Partly I'm responding to this part of lunabee34's comment here
:I think that's an excellent detail that matter of factly gives us the setting without being too overtly expository. These fics definitely show rather than tell, I think.
But I'm dropping it into a root comment because that's just a jumping off point for my thoughts on both these stories. (Also posting in two parts, 'cause am wordy.)
One of the things I admire most about Grace's writing -- probably the one thing I admire most of all and the one I most wish I had her skill with -- is the way she simply shows, in very straightforward language, how things are. This is evident all through Life (Sometimes it Washes Over Me), which is one of my favorite of her stories. I mean, I'm a pretty good writer, but what I might take thirty words of metaphor to get across, she does in "He never got caught and he never forgot the look on Mr. Hunt's face the next day, like it hurt to smile." It just blows me away. Her writing seems so effortless, so unflinchingly honest, and in a story like this one I think that's vital. I couldn't write this story.
So, I'm new to the community, and was looking over the welcome post, and specifically what kinds of things to talk about wrt the stories. One of the suggestions is particularly apropos for me as regards Grace's story: how does this fic connect to your personal life and/or the wider world. I've never thought of myself as being closed-minded or lacking in compassion, but when Grace mentioned she was writing transgender fic, I felt a little uneasy, because I'll read pretty much anything she writes, but transgender fic was something I always shied away from. I didn't realize, until reading her story, that it was because I didn't understand at all
what it means to be transgendered. I thought I did -- I've known mtf people before and believed myself to be very accepting of it. But it wasn't until I read this story that I realized I'd never been comfortable with it because I always thought of transgendered people as either being very much apart from me or -- and I'm especially ashamed to admit this -- being somehow frivolous, as if their feelings of being in the wrong body couldn't really be real
. Who could be born into the wrong body? I understood intellectually that it could happen, and that transgendered people legitimately felt wrong and had every right to want to correct the mistake that nature had made, but something in reading Grace's story brought this home to me on a gut level, and also brought home the fact that being transgendered doesn't set a person "apart" from me at all; it was my own prejudices that were doing that.
I attribute this realization, I think, to the honesty and unaffectedness of her writing, which makes her characters feel fully real and genuine. Not to sound overly dramatic, but I feel like Grace's story has shown me a flaw in myself and given me the chance to start correcting it. Has, in a way, given me the kick in the pants I didn't realize I needed in order to be a better person.
Heeeee. I think I'm unreasonably gleeful that somebody read the welcome post and found it useful. :)
You know, until I got into fandom I never really thought about transgendered people at all. I have never met someone in RL that I knew was trans; although I'm fairly well traveled, I've mostly lived in the US South in rural areas and being openly gay in this area is still incredibly problematic at times and I can imagine that being openly trans would be even more difficult. So transgenderedness was never on my radar until I got into fandom and met people who were talking about it. I am enjoying learning about and becoming more familiar with what it means to be transgendered and the issues that surround that identity.
Ring of Fire (Nails Driven Through the Steel) is a wonderful follow-up, I think. The writing is different, but still has the straightforward genuineness that makes it easy to believe in the characters. They're also more obviously John and Rodney from SGA, having grown into their adult characters -- Grace's story took place so long before they were really adults, that while it's very easy to see where they'll become the characters we know from the show, they aren't those characters yet. busaikko makes a beautiful and seamless transition from Grace's younger versions of the characters to the ones we know from the show through a very deft use of the past Grace wrote for them.
Seeing them come back together after years apart is lovely and wrenching, especially when Rodney reveals the reason he left, and when we learn how hard that was for John, and that Rodney had thought about trying to find him but found it was easier not to. It's also enough happier than Life (Sometimes it Washes Over Me) that the ending of it is especially bittersweet. In Grace's story, you kind of know that these two are going to have a really, really hard time ahead of them, even if they're together. In busaikko's sequel they get to be together and happy, but the reader learns just how together and how happy in the inferences that can be drawn from John's obituary. Now that's wrenching.
A really gorgeous pair of stories; I can't find anything to complain about in either of them.
I love and adore AU's in general, and the farther they are from 0°, the more fascinating they become. It's a rare skill, to take iconic characters and transform them while retaining their core essence.
, we're given a what-if: what if their respective families had imploded and an exploration of the forces that life brings to bear on John and Rodney. kyuuketsukirui
throws an additional what if into the mix, Meredith's certainty that she is not a female, merely inhabits the body, that she's really Rodney.
This story is a vivid, unreserved look at a gritty reality. The emotional abandonment and physical abuse that John appears to both accept so readily, and yet shrug off, as his due is stark and awful, and the fact that John can't help but worry about what his absence means in re: his mother's presumed abuse are all such iconic Sheppardian traits; he's the same person we see on screen, hidden under the neglect, shame and childhood. His capability of seeing beyond Meredith's physical self is also very canon.
Meredith as the nascent Rodney is harder to see, because s/he is filtered through John's POV. If we accept a certain value of Rodneyness, then through John as unreliable narrator, Rodney is there: sharp-tongued, easily hurt by John's abandonment (removal from the Allen's), skipping grades, and playing piano. They also have a certain amount of canon interests, though it is a point of canon departure that the fantasies are indulged as a means of escape. John never questions Meredith's reasons for leaving the Allen's, he accepts that s/he has her reasons and is willing to go, because by now, that Meredith is home for John is very much rooted in canon.
John and Meredith's extremely rich fantasy life is the unspoken theme. They are grounded and circumscribed by it. CHiPs, Love Boat, Dukes of Hazzard, Star Wars, The Bionic Woman (and I love that Meredith insists that John accept the same role reversal in fantasy that she exists within on an every day basis, as if it is a tool by which s/he is educating John in how s/he perceives life): they not only very concretely set the story, but are the role models that they try on in search of themselves, but they are also essentially escapist. It is no surprise that they choose to physically escape as well.
Unlike the fantasies that they are subconsciously emulating, theirs is one of the grim realism of their teenage years, overlaid with a certain naiveté despite it all. Rodney's depression, likely over the fact that s/he realizes that she can't run away from reality (though busaikko
gives us another meaning for it), and though John loves Rodney, his erratic loyalty wavers—they both are living on a knife's edge, and they fall into the shocking, almost despicable trade of underage whoring, barely able to care for themselves, much less each other, and yet they (almost) never look back.
The almost is John's—his wish to look for his grandparents, and the tears he grinds out when he sends a postcard to the Allen's, are another key to the canon Sheppard—leave no man behind—he's not going to leave Meredith, even when there is a chance that he might be able to escape. We don't see Rodney's chance until Ring
, through his point of view. This is the Rodney that we more fully recognize, male, mouthy, arrogant and smart. Ring
is as beautifully bound to the era as is Life
, modems and computers and software, jobs and families they've managed to pull together. This story shows the fallout of their attempt to escape, and what the cost truly was.
It's Rodney's essential betrayal of John, and his journey that is so brilliantly portrayed here. A person who is essentially male in point of view endured that most female of rituals, pregnancy and childbirth. The absolute horror s/he must have felt, the desperation and depression that Rodney felt, drove hir to leave John behind, and the years of therapy to come to terms with all of it.
yeah, there's more. *sighs*
This is the canon part of Rodney, the reality of his selfishness, that s/he'd hit rock bottom long before the more resilient John, and hir leaving John is an echo of hir own body's betrayal. Sadly, it is through that betrayal that Rodney succeeds—he has a family, he's educated, he's gainfully employed, though again, he chooses to escape before a degree.
The ramifications of Rodney's defection are barely hinted at, what it must have done to John; that prison was the best thing that ever happened to John and that he'd been afraid that he'd given Rodney AIDS are a sad indictment of the intervening years for him, though John also managed to survive, eventually thrive and succeed despite Rodney's defection.
John's unspoken forgiveness, his own gathering of a disparate family, and his work with the CDC IEP are canon Sheppard, set against the very non-canon characteristics of having never flown and being content to stay in one place. Rodney leaving school is very uncanon, but his focus and determination in his company, and his glee in media recognition, are very much canon.kyuuketsukirui
's canonicity is far more subtle than busaikko
's, but that is not an indictment of Ring
in any way, merely that her story had the advantage that they were adults, and she was able to start from a more canon perspective and slowly reveal the back story through the softer focus lens of distance. kyuuketsukirui
started at the end of her story and showed how they got there—but between the two, we're still left with a huge chunk untold in between.
I think part of what makes these two extraordinary stories really shine is the use of extra-canonical sources. In Life, it's the brilliant use of the television shows & movies of the era, and in Ring, it's the use of sexuality and the hard reality of AIDS.
This is one of those interesting cases where the sequel made me see the original in a different light. I'd read "Life" back when it was originally posted on mcshep_match
and while I loved getting a serious look at a transgender Rodney -- it was the first SGA fic I'd read at that point that took a serious look at the idea -- I don't think I could honestly say that I liked it because the main impression that I came away with was of an unrelentingly hopeless existence for the kids; they were so naive and so unaware of the desperation of their situation, but I honestly couldn't see a happy ending for them. I don't remember what made me read the sequel -- I think I just poked at it to see where the author had taken them, and then ended up loving it and went back and re-read the original story, and was able to see a lot more of the promise in it once I had the hope of a happy ending (of sorts) for them. It's beautifully written; I just wasn't able to get past the feeling of "... okay, this cannot possibly end well". Ironically, in spite of that, between the two I much prefer the first story because I like the total AU-ness of it, as opposed to the more one-step-away-from-canon feeling of the sequel; however, I needed the promise of happiness offered by the sequel in order to tease the sweetness out of the original, if that makes any sense. (And yes, I realize that a future in which Rodney abandoned John and John dies of AIDS is probably not "happy" by most people's standards, but it's happy to me because they both bootstrapped their way out of that life and found fulfilling lives as adults, and I just wasn't able to realistically see that potential in their lives without having it shown to me.)
No, I know what you mean. The first story is so bleak and harsh and it was hard for me to imagine reading it that these kids would ever have more than brief moments of joy and hope in the midst of unrelenting misery. And the sequel is bleak and harsh in its own way, but there is a happiness there, an acceptance there, a peace there, that does make the story arc as a whole so much sweeter.
I liked the first story because at it's core it's a romance: no matter what has happened in their lives, no matter how shitty things got for them, John and Rodney were together. What I have never gotten beyond with the sequel is how she changes that right at the offset, without any motivation for it whatsoever. So what was the core point of the story, the compassion that they had for each other, is gone, and I was given a harsh argument to begin with. So the tone's don't match, and I could never reconcile the second story with the first.
What an interesting observation. :)
I think I read the first story very differently than you do. For me, Life is so bleak. Their lives are so harsh and horrible and I read that we're gonna be okay that concludes the story as less an indication of actual okayness and more of a bit of wishful thinking on John's part. I guess I just can't imagine anything happy for them given those circumstances. So for me, Ring of Fire is a much happier story even though its circumstances are still spectacularly shitty.
This conversation is so exciting. I love that we're getting lots of different people talking and sharing. :)
2008-04-13 12:20 pm (UTC)
Re: And comment the last
I've been meaning to get back here for days, but just hadn't found enough free time til now; I'm glad to see that discussion seems to be flourishing well on its own, though!
I generally feel that AUs need to incorporate more detail work and background than other fanfics do in order to flesh out their alternative vision. It's not like they can rely on canon for those things, after all. I think that both of these fics do a fine job of painting a clear and detailed picture; I have no trouble at all seeing this John and this Rodney and all the bleak mundane circumstances of their lives. Also, I think "Ring of Fire (Nails Driven Through Steel)" builds well on the detail work of "Life (Sometimes it Washes Over Me)". For instance, I really like John bringing up prison dental work in busaikko
's fic; I feel that it ties back well and creates a sense not only of continuity but also infuses something that might seem small with unexpected emotional and narrative impact.
I especially wanted to mention that I like the way kyuuketsukirui
uses gendered pronouns to great and subtle effect in her story. Just watching the pronouns John uses to think about Rodney reflects a great deal about John himself and his changing relationship with Rodney. On a related note, I also liked the way Rodney's transgenderness is portrayed in both stories more as a matter-of-fact part of the narrative and his character than as a sensationalizing element. I'm a little uncomfortable reading about people's identities as if they're exotic kinks; that feels exploitative to me, and I've seen stories with transgendered characters fall into that trap too often.
2008-04-14 02:32 am (UTC)
transgender as kink
Your comment brings up an issue that this set of stories has made me contemplate and let me preface this comment by saying that I hope this doesn't come out offensively because I don't mean it to.
Transgender is not a kink for me.
Tattoos and piercings are kink for me. But those are things that people do to themselves.
And angst is kink for me, but that's a genre.
My initial gut reaction is to say that transgender shouldn't be considered kink because after all, it wouldn't sit right with me if someone said blackness is a kink for them in fic. That seems wrong somehow, Othering. Being black isn't a choice; it's who you are, inherent, like being transgender.
But at the same time, homosexual sex is kink for me. I get off on reading about those relationships and as a bisexual woman, once upon a time participating in them in real life. And gayness also is inherent.
So my question is: is it offensive to think of transgender as kink? What do transgender people think about people who get off on reading porn about transgender people?
(I'm working through this as I type the comment and not articulating my thoughts very well, I don't think.)
2008-04-18 05:42 am (UTC)
Fun LJ Tricks
2008-04-20 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Fun LJ Tricks