tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana
thefourthvine

205: General Joy

This entry is dedicated to Best Beloved, who has dragged me back to my old system for organizing stories to rec. It's very inspiring, and I'm not sure why I've been putting it off for, um, three years or so. (Let this be a lesson to those of you who are likely to engage in a battle of wills with Best Beloved: she is implacable when determined. It is better just to give in now.)

Anyway, there may be some crazy amounts of recommending as we work through the new (old) system. If it reaches spammination levels, that would be Best Beloved's fault. (If you like it, of course, that's totally to her credit.)

Today: gen!

The One with the Best Damn Trial Scene in the History of Creation. Almost No One Makes It Out, by [personal profile] atrata. Iron Man.

When I was going through that phase of role-playing gaming where you have to try every system ever devised, I created several characters using someone or other's superhero system, where you rolled percentile dice (which, for you non-gamers out there, gives you a result from 1 - 100, or rather, from 01 - 00) on a chart to determine your Super Special Powers (mutant or otherwise - things like being really, really smart were on there, too). If you got 00, you got TWO powers.

I love this story, first and foremost, because it makes it very, very clear that Tony Stark rolled 00 on that table. He is not just a mechanical genius; he is also rich. Richness is a superpower all in itself. And if you take that superpower away from him, as [personal profile] atrata does in this story, you end up with a very different person. Richness insulates him from a lot of things: the consequences of his actions, the real world, his inability to deal with people. Richness also gets him lots of things: equipment, security, people to solve his problems, special privileges, and attention. And I just cannot get over how amazing it is that [personal profile] atrata took that away from him and still kept him the Tony Stark we all know and, um, probably feel vaguely conflicted about loving quite so much, because he is, in all honesty, a total asshole.

And I also love Pepper in this story. I simultaneously long for Iron Man fan fiction and avoid reading most of it, and at least half the reason is that I fear for what will happen to Pepper. It's deeply important to me that she remain independent of Tony even as she's managing him, and that she stay competent and smart, and I worry worry worry that in Tony/Pepper stories she will be reduced to helpless weeping. Plus, okay, I admit it; my actual ideal pairing for Tony Stark is some kind of complicated sex machine that he builds himself:

"Pepper! I've perfected my greatest invention, and now I don't need women!"

"Oh, really. Does that include me?"

"Don't be ridiculous. Hey, watch this."

"Oh my god no. I'll be upstairs. If you need me to dial 911, tell Jarvis." And then she calls Rhodey and they bond for a while over the Impossibility of Tony Stark, and I think it is now obvious to everyone that one of the reasons I don't read much Iron Man fan fiction is that I am already writing it in my head.

(And now that I've totally fallen in love with this story, I - well. You all know how Dark Agenda is having the Racebending Revenge Ficathon, right? Where people make a white character not white? I want someone to make Tony Stark's skin much, much darker and see what happens. I cannot even tell you how much I want that.)

The One That Can Double as a Portland Guidebook, If You Ever Find Yourself in Oregon and Wondering What Jim Kirk Would Do. Graduate Vulcan for Fun and Profit, by lazulisong. Star Trek Reboot.

Someone on my friends list (sorry, I can no longer remember who, but if it was you, fess up - it was [profile] brown_betty!) was talking a while back about her Secret Smarts kink, about how she loves stories where a character who is, you know, kiiiiiiind of a doof in the canon is revealed to have believable hidden skills or competence or brains. And I agree with her. It's a rare thing to see it done well, but when it is - oh my god I love it so. And this story is the exemplar of the genre.

For one thing, it is obvious to me that Reboot Kirk must have Secret Smarts. And not because of Pike's whole "genius-level" comment (many is the character I've been told was a genius, and usually I have a hard time believing it), but because I have seen TOS, and I tell you what, Original Kirk is no one's fool. (Okay, he's Spock's, if Spock needs one, because he is whatever Spock needs, but otherwise, no.) So it works for me that Reboot Kirk, in the process of becoming all tarnished and bruised, learned to hide his intelligence.

And I love the background lazulisong gives him here; it adds some complications and depth back to the Misunderstood Hero deal that Abrams went with. I mean, I love a Misunderstood Hero as much as the next girl - which is good, because otherwise I would have to move to a small island without electricity or any kind of communication with the outside world and read nothing but cruise ship brochures - but I love it most when the Misunderstood Hero has some other stuff going on. I like to add a few adjectives to his archetype, is what I guess I'm saying. And this story so perfectly does that, without in any way making him less perfectly Reboot Kirk.

As if all that wasn't enough to make me love this story, there is also an incredible OC in it. He's - he is everything I want in a Vulcan: he's smart, he's tricky, he's so stubborn that redwoods everywhere just give up and move on when faced with him, and he's just barely emotional, just enough to remind us all that Vulcans could be the masters of melodrama if they wanted to be but they choose not to be. (I tell you what, the Federation is lucky there isn't an inhibition-loosening drug that Vulcans use a lot, because it'd be fucking scary: 90% of the time, they're the living definitions of flat affect, but the other 10% of the time, humans everywhere are saying, "Dude, just - just calm down. And please, please, please - stop singing.")

The One That Proves, Once and for All, That John Sheppard Will Not Thank You for Doing Him Any Favors. Earth 2, by Martha Wilson. Stargate: Atlantis.

If there is one thing that we all learned from Gateverse canon (or, okay, that you all learned from the actual canon, and I learned from reading your ep summaries and meta), it's that Pangloss was right, after all: this is the best of all possible worlds. Which, okay, gives me some pause, because - seriously? Especially when you throw in the Goa'uld and all? These are the ideal initial conditions? But apparently there is no change that could possibly improve things. It's all downhill from here. (I am pretty sure that the Gateverse folks did not realize how inherently depressing this is. Try not to think about it, that's my advice.)

In this story, we get to see John Sheppard learn that very thing; he gets to travel to one of those other, less wonderful universes. But not just any of them. (I'm going to try to talk about this without any spoilers, but, seriously, you should just go read the story right now.) And not just any John Sheppard - it's the original, pre-Atlantis John Sheppard, and here is how we know how fucked up John is: Atlantis was actually therapeutic for him. As in, he got more emotionally healthy in an environment of constant stress, danger, and insanity. (I suspect Kate Heightmeyer had an unfinished paper on this very subject, talking about how John and Rodney, pretty much alone in the expedition, somehow got better from it.) As it happens, I have a sneaking fondness for early John Sheppard, so I love this story.

And this story also hits my competence (and smartness!) kink - here we get to see John (plus a couple of other people, naming no names) being surprisingly good at things, given that he is utterly clueless. (Something John should be used to, of course. Good But Clueless is pretty much his middle name.) And also there is a plot, which notice how I am determinedly not spoiling it.

...Actually, I had better shut up about this story right now, while that's still more or less true.

The One in Which We Learn That One of the Major Risks of Time Travel Is That You Might End up Being Schooled by Yourself. Klein Bottle, by basingstoke. Torchwood.

For most fandoms - television fandoms, anyway, and any fandom that has a lot of fan fiction in it - I find, sooner or later, that I've divided the fan fiction into eras, based not on when the story was posted, but when the story is set in the canon. And usually somewhere in there, there's the Nostalgia Point, the setting I miss most once canon (and therefore most stories) has moved past it. I re-read stories in the Nostalgia Point a lot, especially if the canon progresses to the point where I don't want to read new stories in it very much at all.

This story is set squarely in my Torchwood Nostalgia Point. I'm not sure when it is in actual Torchwood canon, since I've never seen any of it and have only a vague sense of the progression of events, but I know what I need the story to be set after. And, definitely definitely, set before. This is a twisty and blissful little story; it's filled with the complications of being Jack Harkness, his emo and his majesty, but it's also in the relatively innocent period of Torchwood, and I love that.

But that is not why I love this story. I love it because it's a time travel story, and time travel has always been one of my biggest narrative kinks, and here it is so very perfectly done. And basingstoke handles one of the difficulties of writing about time travel - if there are multiple versions of character X in the room, but they are from different times and therefore are different people, how do you deal with that? - as well as I've ever seen it done, here. And there has never been a better reason to use second person. (Plus, second person is the only way it's really possible for me to believe what I'm told about Jack's thoughts, because he's so shifty I firmly believe he could lie to an omniscient narrator if he wanted to.)

So: great story, great writing, great nostalgia. I really do not see what you could possibly be waiting for, here.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: [rec theme: gen], ironman, star trek, stargate: atlantis, torchwood
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