ext_21:   (Thoughtful)
[identity profile] zvi-likes-tv.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] the_comfy_chair
Chasing Sheppard by [livejournal.com profile] scrunchy
Teamwork by [livejournal.com profile] methaya and [livejournal.com profile] magus_minor


I have a really long fic to read list. I put things that have an interesting [livejournal.com profile] sga_noticeboard write up or get recommended by someone I know on it, either c&p the write-up/rec or summarize what I think is potentially interesting, and stick it on the list.

Which is the long way round of saying I just read these stories today, instead of in November and October, when they were each posted.

They are both AUs, in very different ways, and I think Sheppard is largely unsuccessful (as SGA fanfiction, not as writing), but Teamwork is a darn fine piece of work as fanfiction, and I'd like to, you know, talk about that a bit.

So, Chasing Sheppard is a rewrite of Chasing Amy, where Carson (straight) & Rodney (gay) write a superpopular comic book, Liz is their token dyke friend, and John is this cute straight guy who tends bar at a gay club that Liz introduces Carson and Rodney to. Rodney and John get along really great, even though people tell Rodney that John has a gigantic dick and was a giant slut in highschool (and, yeah, so much sex in so many strange combinations that he crosses the line from stud to slut, even though he's a guy.) And, you know, I'm reading this story, cruising along fine, Carson is kind of a whiner (check), Rodney's a bit obnoxious (check), John's devil may care (check), but there's no moments where I'm seeing how the characterization on the show is crystallized and refined into this very different context. And the speech about the $100 and the crossroads and the Easter Bunny doesn't really work coming from Beckett. But I don't care, because, dude, I dig Chasing Amy. A. Lot. And Rodney tells John he's in love, and John's like, "OMGWTFBBQ," stalks off in the rain, then stalks back and says, "OK, yeah, I love you too, I was just freaked for a second."

Which, totally like the movie, I'm good with this, enjoying their happy funness of young straight/homo love, when Liz calls and it casually comes up that, weeks, maybe even months before John Sheppard had any idea Rodney McKay had ever been born, he slept with Liz that one time cause they were drunk and it seemed like fun, which, totally, it was, but Liz is like really gay a lot {and this is the point at which I realize Liz is Elizabeth Weir and hit myself up the head for being a doofus} and Rodney freaks out and I say, "OMG, that's completely retarded, why would he care?" Because, in the movie Chasing Amy, I can buy that Ben Affleck is the sort of SNAG who has passive-aggressive ownership issues and would totally get tripped up on the double-banging of his lesbian girlfriend. But Rodney McKay isn't really that guy in canon, and this AU hasn't really explained to me what about ChasingSheppard!McKay would turn him into a crazy dickhead, especially since he's, you know, gay, and I sort of expect gay men to understand why someone would enjoy slutting it up, even if they themselves don't enjoy that sort of thing. Unless they're the sort of gay men who are Log Cabin Republicans, which, well, this Rodney hasn't been explicitly made out to be. But I mutter, "Chasing Amy. It's the plot of Chasing Amy," and move on.

And I run smackdab into Teyla and Ronon in that fucking diner. Now, Ronon Dex as Silent Bob can kinda work for me. He's a man who doesn't have anything to say until he's got something to say, right? Right. Teyla Emmagen as 'Tey', the stoner who talks like a refugee from an Offspring video, doesn't work for me. Teyla's not a hood rat (i.e. an ignorant person from the poverty stricken, abandoned commercial centers of her planet); she doesn't use a lot of jargon; she doesn't use drugs recreationally or sell them for same; she's the leader of her people, not the dregs of her society; she's just not Jay of Jay and Silent Bob, by a long shot, and trying to force his template on her character doesn't work. Also, frankly, I'm a bit offended, because Jay and Silent Bob aren't from the hood, so trying to write off Tey and Silent Dex as being from the hood doesn't work in the context of Chasing Sheppard or Chasing Amy. And I'm thinking, wow, this is totally because Rachel Luttrell is black and it's dumb. A lot.

But I'm going to let it go when I realize that the whole story is like that. It's a decent rewrite of Chasing Amy, but it's actually pretty bad SGA fanfiction. Because where is the Stargate Atlantis-ness of it? And I don't just mean the absence of spacevampires (there actually are space vampires…in the comic), but where's the characterization? I'm happy with a wide range of characterizations for SGA characters. Carson the evil mad scientist or Carson the worry wart or Carson the nurse maid; Rodney the megalomaniac or Rodney misunderstood genius or Rodney misunderstood woobie or Rodney perfectly understood asshole. I'm game for Liz the kickass diplomat or Liz apparently raised by wolves and unable to communicate, facilitate, or administer to save her life or the lives of those responsible for her. John Sheppard, flyboy, secret math genius, abused/neglected by parents, can't take orders, has learned to take orders with a bit of snark, emotionally distant because he's deep like a teaspoon, emotionally distant because he cares too much. Really, I'm game for lots and lots of different versions of the people I see on SGA, but I feel like the bits of character work most consistent with the show are: Carson has a Scottish accent and Rodney is Canadian.

So then I read Teamwork, and, dude. Dude. It's Texas, it's like a whole other country. It's an Alternate Reality, where Rodney ends up a Mountie and John ends up a mathematician and Carson is not the CMO on Atlantis. And it's so good. John has obedience issues which I can see from the character on the show, and where, if he hadn't had to go through the enforced obedience of the air force, he could end up crazy like he is in this story. And Rodney, Rodney's nice and he's good with people, but he learned that, he studied people as hard as he could for a really long time trying to find out how people should be. And if Rodney McKay, genius, put his studying into people instead of physics, yeah, man, he would totally be excellent with people and dedicated to what was right and just. And Beckett is just a lot like he is on the show, and so is Cadman (smart, a little pushy, flirty, hot), and there's a really nice integration of canon events with this story, it's beautiful and I love it and I want to have its little babies.

So, I don't have any big overreaching conclusion, I'm just sort of wondering if other people see the same difference I see, where one story is a pretty good story, but just doesn't cut it at as good SGA fanfiction (pretty good Chasing Amy fanfiction, if you wanted to write, "So what if Alyssa were a guy?"), and the other as, well, as Alternate Reality Done Right.

Date: 2006-01-23 12:43 am (UTC)
aithine: (Rodney & John - blue)
From: [personal profile] aithine
I thoroughly enjoyed Teamwork, too. :)

I also had pretty much the same reaction to Chasing Sheppard. It didn't work for me at all, despite liking both the movie and the show. I think it's because--unlike other successful movie-to-show-AU rewrites I've read--the author tried to force the characters to fit the movie plot exactly, rather than reworking the movie plot and adjusting it so it fit the characters, whether or not that actually fit the characters as we see them on the show.

Since people (like you and me *g*) are more likely to be fussed by characters that aren't acting like themselves, forcing them to fit the movie rather than the other way around is usually not the way to go.

Date: 2006-01-23 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thepouncer.livejournal.com
I never read Chasing Sheppard because I've never seen Chasing Amy, and it seemed like the kind of AU that relied on knowing the secondary source material.

But I read Teamwork and liked it a lot, even though it seemed clear to me that the author decided she wanted Mountie!Rodney, Scientist!John, Beckett, and Cadman on a team together and by god, she'd do whatever she had to do to get them there. Even with that kind of agenda shining through, which can be a turnoff in less deft hands, I loved the story. I loved the way it was written, in small sections that told much more than the mere events conveyed. I loved the way Sumner didn't like the team but then they *came through* and got to stand up to the people who'd been writing them off. And Rodney as take-charge military guy worked for me, when in other stories I've been massively bugged by a Rodney who is super-duper perfect.

On the larger issues of AU and SGA fanfiction - yes. I've noticed that sometimes a story will work for me and other times it will fail completely.

Date: 2006-01-23 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thepouncer.livejournal.com
There are different sorts of AUs, and I think the typography has some bearing on how well they work.

1. Alternate universes set on Atlantis itself, so a smaller shift from canon. Maybe a character took a different path in life but still ended up there (like in Teamwork).

2. Atlantis characters in some other setting. John is a publisher, Rodney is a typesetter (from [livejournal.com profile] lalejandra's publishing AU. This category has to work harder to get me to buy it, or else they're just random people who happen to be named John and Rodney and Elizabeth et al.

3. Somewhere in the middle - a situation that touches upon Atlantis canon - aliens, Ancients, NID, Stargate Command - but has the characters doing very different things. Jenn's Arizona series is one that comes to mind.

In the end, I think the thing that makes an AU work or not work is characterization. Of course, that's my key point for all stories, and with Atlantis I find myself accepting a narrower range of option than I have in other fandoms. My view of these characters is concrete in a way that doesn't allow me to follow every single flight of fancy.

It's a game of alternate paths: what if John had done this or Rodney had done that? I have to believe the answers the author poses, or else she's going to lose me and I'm going to move to the next story with a shrug of my shoulders.

Date: 2006-01-24 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com
In the end, I think the thing that makes an AU work or not work is characterization. Of course, that's my key point for all stories, and with Atlantis I find myself accepting a narrower range of option than I have in other fandoms.

Hmmm, interesting--I find I can enjoy a wider range of situations, and even characterizations, with the Atlantis crew in an AU than I've been able to with other fandoms/pairings. There's something about John and Rodney that translates well all over the place, for me. As long as some essential (to me) characteristics remain, I'm pretty open to enjoying all types of AU with them in it in a "Whee, this is fun!" way, more so than I would be with, say, Jim and Blair, Xander and Spike or Mulder and Krycek. I feel the need to keep John and Rodney tied very closely to their canon selves less, though, as I said, their essential qualities, those things that I appreciate most about them, need to be present, at least in part. But, the closer the AU gets to canon, the more I want to see them portrayed as they are in the show, and, for non-AU stories, I really want that characterization to be spot-on. Hmmm, again.

Date: 2006-01-24 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thepouncer.livejournal.com
[livejournal.com profile] mecurtin has a good point below about plausibility and logic. That's one of the things I enjoy too - what changed in the past to result in this John or this Rodney or this Elizabeth? And I think that's another reason the stories that are totally removed Atlantis have to work harder to earn my interest. Rachel Sabotini's AU with John as spare nobility given in an alliance marriage to Rodney is a good example. For me, I absolutely believed that John-as-nobility would act that way, and that Rodney-as-researcher would act that way.

My problem with some AUs is that I really do suspect that the only connection the John/Rodney/Teyla/Ford have to canon is name and appearance. And then I don't want to waste my time with the story, because why bother if it doesn't have anything to do with the show?

Date: 2006-01-23 02:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com
I wish I'd read Teamwork already--it's long and I haven't had a chance. I'm really looking forward to it, now. I've read Chasing Sheppard and enjoyed it, while having some of the same reservations you did--re: Teyla, I had the 'because she's black' moment, too, and I cringed. But it didn't ruin the story for me, and I liked Ronon in that scene.

I'd have thought it was a really excellent story (because the writing was very good, though I'd have liked it to have had more visuals, more scene setting, and maybe more sex *g* because I do like her style a lot; there were some great little moments and turns of phrase, and I wanted more) if she'd done two things--given the Carson character more of Carson's characteristics, and helped me understand better what Rodney's problem was. The second wouldn't have taken much; maybe a little more, when he came home upset, about why hearing that Sheppard was a slut bothered him so much. Was he prudish? Afraid of disease? Because guys do understand other guys wanting a lot of sex, I think, whether they're straight or gay, but not so much women. She did a good job changing the casting from straight guy after gay girl to gay guy after straight guy, except in that one area. Guys can be pricks about the amount of 'experience' their girlfriend has had, the whole Madonna/whore thing, but I expect it less from a gay guy with another guy unless his issues are explained to me. And I know that, in the movie, they tried to make it at least partly about guys being intimidated and insecure with a woman who has more experience, but I didn't buy it much in the movie and I don't really buy it here (though I do see it in this situation more than in the movie, and it probably wouldn't have taken much for me to be okay with that.) I just needed a little more insight into Rodney's state of mind over this thing to overcome what are, I guess, my preconceptions about how he'd react to the news.

The Carson thing was a biggie for me, because I felt that an opportunity was lost. This Carson was much like his counterpart in the movie, and I liked him and felt for him about as much as I did movie guy--not much. Carson is so appealing, and this guy wasn't. It would have been much more poignant for me if our Carson was inhabiting the part, was more sweet and long-suffering and competent/confident than jerky and loserish. In this case, trying to adhere more closely to the movie characterization robbed the re-write of something that having Carson in that part could have brought to the story. Even if they weren't entirely our John and Rodney (I imagined them as younger, both in looks and in attitudes), they were enough John and Rodney that I enjoyed them. I didn't get to enjoy Carson because I didn't see him in the part. It could just as well have been Radek, and maybe Radek would have been a better choice, given this characterization.

But it certainly didn't suck. *g* Far from it; I thought it was a really good read, as much for the technical skill and style and re-write of a movie I liked as for an SGA AU. It just could have been a better SGA AU, could have cleared all the bases with those things addressed. For movie re-write AUs, I'd refer anyone to Danver's versions; her Ghostbusters was a hoot, for instance, really deftly done while being fairly loosely translated, and her characters hit the mark.

I think the measure of success for a fannish movie rewrite is, as you say, how well the writer incorporates the characters as we know them, and not just the actors, into the parts. You could cast a story with JF and DH as my character visuals, and I'd enjoy the pretty in my head, but, if they aren't John and Rodney, it's not the same. In this story, I enjoyed this John and this Rodney, and this Elizabeth and Ronon, too, but not this Teyla or Carson. Still a good story, though.

I'll get comparative about the two stories after I've read the second one, which I hope I can do today. This is a great topic to follow the crackfic discussion, since we touched on the AU vs. crackfic line, there. Very cool. :)

Date: 2006-01-24 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] carolyn-claire.livejournal.com
I was okay with Elizabeth. Her name told me who it was from the outset, and I was able to picture her in the part without difficulty because she wasn't a major character and because this isn't a role where Dr. Weir's leadership abilities, etc., were called upon. This was a case of, if she were this person, how would she behave? Can I see her speaking and acting this way, if this is who she was? And I could, I could translate her over to this part where very different aspects of her personality were portrayed than what we see on the show. Different setting, different needs, different aspects. If I feel that, when character X is transposed into a role where the character is about A and B instead of C and D, what comes out is consistant with what we do already know of the character, then I'm good with it, if that makes sense. If, in extrapolating to the new role, the author's view of what the character would be like and mine jibe, I'm okay. I like being shown new and potential sides of a character, too, something a little different, as long as it doesn't conflict with what we already know. That's why John and Rodney worked for me--I felt they transposed successfully into this setting and these characters. Not Carson, and not Teyla, but there was something essentially John and Rodney in these versions that I liked. If your essential characteristics for John and Rodney are different than mine, though--Rodney vaunting his genius, for instance--then you could look at the same work and not find the characters satisfying.

I've found that if someone tries too hard to make the transposed character speak and behave like the SGA character, that can fail, too. Rodney's genius-ranting, for instance, is canon, but so are a lot of other things about him, and when I see the genius ranting done and done and done, even in AUs where he's an entirely different character, it gets to be too much. Show me other aspects of Rodney while you have him in this new role, bring out things that are true about him but get less play on the show or in close-to-canon fanfic. There are opportunities there for some cool character exploration, if the author wants to take advantage of them.

Date: 2006-01-28 06:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tingler.livejournal.com
I've read Chasing Sheppard and enjoyed it, while having some of the same reservations you did--re: Teyla, I had the 'because she's black' moment, too, and I cringed.

It didn't hit me as 'because she's black'. (But then I don't tend to think of Teyla or Ronon as 'black', either.) It hit me as the only place the author found to stick a character with Teyla's name. I did find the character very jarring, though, and not at all like Teyla.

I did like "Chasing Sheppard" as a good read, but not as a really good SGA AU. I felt that it tried too hard to shoehorn the SGA characters into the movie roles without allowing them to be "themselves".

Date: 2006-01-24 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mecurtin.livejournal.com
I have never seen "Chasing Amy", and I think for that reason "Chasing Sheppard" failed for me completely. In particular, for a gay man to get upset because his guy had been a slut just broke my suspension of disbelief. None of the gay men I've known would have been other than pleased to have landed a slutty guy, especially if he stopped being slutty for them. None. I've seen that kind of jealousy-of-previous-lovers in straight men more often than I can count, but in gay men, never.

The Teyla & Ronon thing just baffled me, because I couldn't figure out how Teyla's characterization was supposed to hook into their SGA characterization, so it was all about the WTF.

In discussions of what works in AUs and what doesn't people often say "it's all about the characterization", but that's not what determines it for me. For me there are two factors:

1. Logic. The tighter the logic of the AU-transformation, the happier I will be. For instance, in "Teamwork" not only is Rodney in the RCMP, but his altered path to get there is tied to a change in a specific canon event: meeting the Mountie (who I keep seeing as Fraser's father) during the canon 6th-grade-bomb incident. As far as I'm concerned, this kind of thing is AU Gold. I want to see a few basic changes and then have the author work out the consequences ruthlessly, so that even if the characters are different from canon -- Rodney is fonder of structure & authority, John even more resistant -- we can see why and say, Yes, that is how they would develop.

2. The dynamic. More important than characterization (do I recognize these people?) is the dynamic between the characters, the sense that they pull at each other along certain lines. John and Rodney don't have to have the same turns of phrase they do in canon, but I have to feel like I'm seeing the same basic dynamic from a different angle.

This is where "Chasing Sheppard" fell apart for me repeatedly. I didn't get the sense that the Sheppard/McKay dynamic was still there, I also (maybe even more so) didn't get the sense of recognition from the McKay/Beckett dynamic.

Date: 2006-03-27 02:58 pm (UTC)
ext_1439: (Argh)
From: [identity profile] almightychrissy.livejournal.com
This is...wow, really belated, but I just had to say something a little bit embarrassing.

First of all, I want to say that I really, really agree with your analysis of "Chasing Sheppard," especially that Teyla as Jay does not work at ALL. Which brings me to my next point, that I have been hearing the word "hood rat" since I was a little high school freshman in the suburbs and I have never actually known what it meant. At some point, I decided it meant someone who was not terribly sexually responsible and may or may not have sex on the hoods of cars. I'm not sure how I came to this conclusion (I was 14 at the time!), but I did, and clearly it was incorrect. So, thank you very much for elaborating on that term. I very much appreciate it.

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