[identity profile] thepouncer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] the_comfy_chair
I’ve been thinking about making this post for a while, because I read a lot of Atlantis stories, and frequently I’m thrown out of a story (that isn’t an obvious alternate universe) because of deviations from canon that seem random or nonsensical. In my less charitable moments, I chalk those deviations up as errors, as mistakes that could have been caught by a good beta or by researching the show a bit more. Other times, I’m able to shrug and continue. But it always lessens my enjoyment of the story in question and if the deviations are too egregious, I stop reading and go on to the next one.

There have been stories that I thought were otherwise marvelous, but the canon deviations were too overt for me to embrace them fully. I’m not talking about characterization, because that’s often in the eye of the beholder. As a reader, I try to immerse myself in an author’s words, but if a story contradicts canon for no good reason that I can see, my critical faculties blare an alarm: wait, what was that? Why? Why would XYZ happen given that the show said ABC? Instead of going with the flow of the story, I’m busy trying to problem-solve. I can’t relax and enjoy the writing, because I haven’t been given a basis for the changes. Suspension of disbelief only takes me so far.

Of course, I like canon. I like the show; I think it has room for stories that are humorous and funny and romantic and adventurous and serious and angst-filled – an entire spectrum of emotion and potential without venturing into alternate universes, although those can be cool too.

For the purposes of this post, I want to discuss Sabine’s ([livejournal.com profile] iamsab) The Pegasus Society (McKay/Sheppard, NC-17). She does what writers are told never to do and switches point of view freely between John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, and Atlantis and it works. The story takes place after the events of The Brotherhood, and this is where I start to have problems with canon deviations.

There seem to be three types of deviations:

(1) Things that directly contradict what was shown on screen, during an episode.

Bates is a Lieutenant in the story, while he was clearly a Sergeant throughout the first season.

(2) Things that are logically inconsistent with what was shown on screen, yet don’t contradict anything specific.

There is coffee in the story, while Rodney says Atlantis is “almost out of coffee” in Underground. Maybe he had a secret stash, but it stretches my suspension of disbelief that no explanation at all is given for the continued existence of coffee in Atlantis some weeks later.

(3) Things that contradict reality, given that Atlantis is supposed to take place in the “real world”.

Rodney eats donuts. We were never told that there weren’t donuts in the latter half of the season, but I know enough about cooking that it seems farfetched that scarce resources would be devoted to mixing flour, sugar, and yeast and deep frying in oil to produce nutritionally-bereft sweets. Especially given the episodes devoted to locating food for trade and the emphasis on Atlantis’ isolation and need for supplies to ensure basic survival.

The latter point is more fluid, because the way things happen on the show doesn’t always align with the real world, so it’s definitely subjective. If the show is patently unrealistic about something, should a story hold itself to a higher standard or go with the show canon? Try to find some sort of middle ground?

The truly weird thing is that small changes would have made The Pegasus Society into an ideal story for me. Have Rodney eat some sort of Athosian sweetcake, drink tea and complain about running out of coffee. Remember that Bates was a Sergeant and didn’t get a surprise promotion to the officer corps. The writing in the story is fresh and enjoyable, and it doesn’t retread ground already walked in Atlantis fanfiction, but the things I list above pull me out of the flow just enough that I’m not fully satisfied.

In other stories (that I haven’t bothered to track down for this post), I get confused when it’s first season but Major Lorne is present and best buddies with Ford. Or when Ford and Ronon are palling around Atlantis. Or when Weir and Sheppard and McKay and Beckett took the Daedelus back to Earth at the end of the siege, since it was established in The Intruder’s dialogue that they opened the stargate and walked through to Stargate Command. Or (and this is definitely a personal tick) something having to do with recent military history on Earth is wrong, like the US being in Afghanistan during Desert Storm.

[livejournal.com profile] serialkarma and I were discussing this topic a while back and she said that whenever she notices one thing that deviates from canon, she no longer feels she can trust the author, and spends the rest of the story wondering what else is going to be off. And that kind of sums it up for me. Deviations from canon bother me. I notice them, they jolt me out of a story, and then I can’t immerse myself in reading for a fully satisfying experience.

How do you feel about deviations from canon? Do you notice them? Do they bother you or not? Are there things that you see all the time? Things that don’t fit into the three categories above?
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