I probably should've done the SG-1 FIHL before this one, but that one's indefinitely stalled. (Look, you try summarizing nine seasons of a show you've never seen a minute of; I mean, the character deaths (permanent), character deaths (prolonged), character deaths (temporary), and character deaths (bait and switch) alone would take fifteen pages, which pages are already extant at Arduinna's phenomenal Stargate Handbook, thank god.) Whereas I still have a shot at finishing this one. Shall we begin? (Note: this is a Fandoms I Have Loved, so spoilers will abound after the cut tag.)
I started reading SGA because of the fandom equivalent of a heavenly conjunction; suddenly three thousand FF writers, including 80% of my favorite ones, were writing stories in this fandom, causing massive orbital fluxes and gravitational anomalies.
I am not a strong woman. When it comes to fandom, I am downright weak. I knew better than to try to resist.
And since then, SGA's gravitational pull has only increased. I now call it the black hole of fandom, and I could do this whole extended metaphor thing involving solar masses and the Schwarzschild radius and the Chandrasekhar limit, but I think we'll all be glad I chose not to. Suffice to say, SGA is where I expect we'll make alien contact for the first time; some writer will notice a new name on her friends list, click, and discover that the fine entities of Alpha Centauri have been sucked in and are now searching for SGA slash. (They will probably want OT3 fic - maybe little glowing fly creatures from "The Defiant One"/big power-eating cloud from "Hide and Seek"/sentient energy beings from "Home." I mean, they're aliens.)
I don't think people from the darkest depths of fandom (and the universe) are piling onto SGA because of the brilliance of its canon. Because, um, the canon? Is, well, sometimes funny. And full of characters, and reasonably well-acted, and angsty, and sometimes interesting. It's not - it's not brilliant, though.
But now I feel like I've betrayed McKay and Zelenka and Sheppard by saying that.
Are you starting to see why so many people are in this fandom? It's the characters, baby.
Well, partly. The other thing is - anything can happen in an SGA story. The combination of Ancient technology, otherwordly location, and mysterious brain-breaking pseudo-science is - well, let's just say that the characters are flirting with the line where sufficiently advanced technology becomes magic. And sometimes they get all the way to home base and start straddling that line, or even openly fucking with it. Want a story in which wishes come true? SGA can meet that need. Want a story involving mythological creatures - vampires, fairies, centaurs, unicorns, maybe gorgons or phoenixes or King Kong? SGA can meet that need. Tentacle porn, Japanese rope bondage, all manner of weirdly erotically-fixated deii ex machina, sentient light - really, there's nothing that can't happen in this fandom. And I think that's the other reason people can't resist it.
But let's start by looking at the characters.
The CharactersNow, normally I don't divide them up like this. But for me, in SGA, there are interesting men. And there are annoying or faceless women. I don't know if the writers aren't interested, or if they can't write, or if they're just such dorks that they said, "We want real men and women, so we'll have geeks and…Lois Lane! Like from the Superman comics! Oh, and we'd better have a charming flyboy, 'cause that worked real well with O'Neill." I suspect this was pretty much their development process, actually. So, just like in golden age comics, what you have here is a fandom where men have character and women have breasts.
So, and let's all just accept right now that this is my opinion with which you are free to disagree and even argue, the men are the interesting part of this fandom. The women - they are interesting to other people, and they are very interesting in FF, but as far as I am concerned they are sometimes fucking annoying in canon, and that needs to be acknowledged. Anyone who accuses me of misogyny, stupidity, or willful blindness gets my special multi-page Women of SGA Rant, and may end up beta-reading my leviathan Weir history story, should it ever be finished. (I didn't say I didn't also find them fascinating. I do. It's just - it's the kind of fascination I usually keep for people who drive 45 in the fast lane.)
JOHN SHEPPARD, MAJOR, USAF and later LIEUTENANT COLONEL, but still USAF. (Apparent motto: "Who, me?")
Five Things You Need to Know About Sheppard:
- He has hair. You'll hear a lot about his hair if you read anything in this fandom, including just walls in bathrooms used by other SGA fans. ("Sheppard's hair R0X0RS!!!" "No, Sheppard's hair SUCKS ROCKS!" "Shep is a product-using PANSY!" "I know. It's his best trait!")
- He flies helicopters and (later) Ancient puddle jumpers and (still later) things with wings.
- He likes football (you'll also hear a hell of a lot about the Doug Flutie Hail Mary, and if you don't know what that is, don't worry - you will), Ferris wheels, and "anything that goes more than 200 miles an hour." And as far as self-disclosure goes, that's pretty much it for Sheppard, who has that nifty ability to talk a lot without actually saying anything he doesn't want to, which in his case is everything but "I like Ferris wheels." And after you spend enough time listening to his diversionary conversation, you start to wonder if he's even been on one.
- He has the ATA gene, and either he's better at using it than anyone, like, ever, or he's got...more of it. Or something. (Do not think about the science. If you do, you will likely die of a fatal exception error of the brain.) Atlantis looooooves him. (John/Atlantis OTP OMG SQUEEEEE! Seriously, people, I'm verging into tinhat territory with the John/Atlantis ship. It's scary.)
- He's smart and has some computational ability (canon) or a giant amount of math skill (fanon). Also, he passed "the Mensa test," but that's easy enough that my dogs could do it - well, one of them could, provided you had enough cheese to hold her interest and didn't take points off for drooling - so it doesn't prove much, except to McKay, who appears to have, shall we say, a bit of a Mensa fetish.
RODNEY MCKAY, Ph.D. (Apparent motto: "Smarter than you. Also? Still smarter than you.")
Five Things You Need to Know About McKay:
- He is a very smart man, but that does not mean you should try to understand this "science" whereof he speaks. Sometimes you have to let art flow over you. Or lose your mind.
- He's incredibly sarcastic. Delightfully so. It makes you (and by "you," I mean "me") want to just hug him. Except, of course, he'd probably bite you if you tried.
- He's cowardly, neurotic, hungry, greedy, whiny, self-centered, and seriously lacking in social graces. He hates children and stupid people, and considers everyone (except, sometimes, Sheppard and Zelenka) one or the other. On the list of "Characters You Would Not Want to Work For," he's roughly equal to Lionel Luthor. Except when he's not.
- People are not rational when they speak of McKay. This is because, in addition to his manifold flaws, he's also - well, not brave. But courageous. He's also the guy who grits his teeth and saves the day, not because he has any special inclination to be a hero, but because it has to be done, and he's right there, and maybe he's the only one who can do it. What with his giant brain and all. And he's not kind, exactly, or tactful at all, but he still sometimes manages to say or do the right thing at the right time. So there are those who love him for being who he is and still being a good guy. And there are those who are stuck back on, "But he's such a bitch! And I don't mean in the good, sexy, Oz way, either!"
- He always saves the day. Except when he doesn't. Another thing people (and again - by "people," I mean "me") really like about him is that he does genuinely fuck up sometimes, and his overconfidence does have consequences. Bad ones.
RADEK ZELENKA, Ph.D. (Apparent motto: "Hchtchotchka szszotch.")
Four Things You Need to Know About Zelenka:
- He's Czech. This, as it turns out, is cute.
- He apparently forgot to bring a comb with him to the Pegasus galaxy. This is also cute.
- He's smart and nice. He manages to work with Rodney without killing him, and even gets respect from him. (This is the coveted McKay seal of approval, which actually translates to only calling him an idiot sometimes.) Add in his smile, which goes well beyond cute and is capable of not just stopping a charging buffalo in its tracks but also making the buffalo want to be friends, and you have a character you can't help but love.
- He has an apparent crush on Weir (and you have to give credit to the actor; the whole crush thing arose from the 30 seconds he spent with her in one episode, and it wasn't written into the script, and yet it's painfully obvious anyway).
CARSON BECKETT, M.D. (Apparent motto: "Oh, no.") Carson is the ultra-woobie of the crew; he figured out the Ancient gene but is afraid to use his own, he doesn't like wormhole travel, and he misses his mother. He's a highly competent doctor, and it is best not to ask yourself why someone who apparently specializes in genetics research is head of the medical staff on Atlantis. (Or, if you'd rather, you can just blame Weir's unfortunate planning. I do, but more on that later.) He is very Scottish, at least in terms of accent. If you have any interest in medical or research ethics, do not look too closely at Beckett. His actions will drive you insane.
AIDEN FORD, LIEUTENANT, US MARINES. (apparent motto: "You won't like me when I'm angry.") I liked Ford. He was one of my favorite characters - cheerful, competent, normal. He was fun. But - and season two spoilers are coming up - the writers decided that normal wasn't what Atlantis needed, and they infected him with some lame Wraith virus, gave him a hideous mutant eye so terrifying I cannot stand to look at it, and sent him off to, I don't know. Fight Wraith, I guess. I'm still in mourning. I want the good Ford back!
RONON DEX. (Apparent motto: "Uh.") He's the guy they brought in to replace Ford, and I'm actually sort of managing not to hold that against him, which is mostly a tribute to some great FF writers out there. He's a Pegasus galaxy native who was betrayed, and spent seven years playing the Most Dangerous Game with the Wraith, and then his whole planet was wiped out, and it's all highly tragic and sad. Now he spends his time on Atlantis, sparring, running, and otherwise improving his manifold skills. Also eating. He is known by some sections of fandom as the Hot Guy and in others as the New Guy. The rest of us are still patiently waiting for his character to develop. (And, yes, missing Ford. I liked him, okay? I'm allowed to sulk.) Ronon likes: food, not talking much, killing Wraith, and orders. He apparently really likes orders. At least from Sheppard.
TEYLA EMMAGEN. (apparent motto: "My people have a long and noble tradition of being deii ex machina and also hot like burning. I am happy to assist in either capacity.")
Four Things You Need to Know About Teyla:
- She's the leader of the Athosian people, except she doesn't hang around with them much. Her leadership of them is mostly represented these days by her rustic (by which I mean "revealing") outfits.
- She's a tough warrior. She fights Wraith and John Sheppard with sticks. She's also part Wraith, but you'll feel better if you never think about that again.
- She's a diplomat-linguist-trader person. Basically, this means she eschews contractions, gets to provide the exposition a lot of the time, and is a sort-of-semi-if-you-squint excuse for Sheppard and company's miraculous ability to communicate easily with every civilization in the Pegasus galaxy. Okay, so she's not much of an excuse for that, but, trust me, she's the best one you're going to get.
- She's also very hot. Hot enough that we will not discuss, for example, her fashion choices, which involve fighting in a skirt and a halter top - after all, this is the armor of choice for sexy females in fantasy universes everywhere. I mean, she's hot. The creators of the show are guys. I totally understand where this whole skirt and halter top thing comes into it. Basically, she's the clothing-optional-tai-chi person of this fandom. (Every fandom needs one. Angel! Duncan! Kirk, sort of! It's a noble company in which she, well, fights moodily while underdressed.)
(Note: If Teyla starts to work on your nerves, I suggest a foolproof remedy invented by my OTP, norah: every time she says "My people," assume she's talking about her breasts. And suddenly all will be right in Atlantis again, and you'll be positively looking forward to lines such as, "My people were happy to oblige" and "My people have never been in such a place as this.")
ELIZABETH WEIR. (Apparent motto: "Bringing fine human traditions - including inefficiency, marginalization, and the Dilbert Principle - to a brand-new galaxy.")
The One Thing You Need to Know About Weir When You're Reading Anything I've Written:
- She drives me nuts. And I have reasons, I do, but I won't list them because I know I'm biased. I lost all chance of liking her about 15 minutes into the pilot episode. Because, see, when you make a long-term commitment to someone? When you live with him, as she obviously did, and share a life with him? You do not announce that you are leaving him via video after you have already left. If you have a "once in a lifetime" opportunity at work, and you can't tell him about it, you can:
- Tell him anyway. If you honestly can't choose between the two of them, this is your only option.
- Separate from him, but lie about the reason. See, this way? He does not spend a year wondering if you've been kidnapped and the video was a lie. He is not left hanging, unable to get over you or continue his life. If you honestly prefer the job to him, this is the decent thing to do.
- Don't take the opportunity. Elizabeth might have been unable to pass this up, but unlike, for example, McKay, she's not irreplaceable on Atlantis. If she loved Simon, this was the choice she should have taken.
Also? Once you have informed someone you're leaving for an unknown period via video, and then sent him another video essentially breaking up with him and telling him you're probably dying, and asking him to get on with his life? You do not hold the moral high ground, and you do not get to claim hurt party status if he did, in fact, take you at your word and get on with his life.
- Tell him anyway. If you honestly can't choose between the two of them, this is your only option.
She's slashed most often with Teyla and shipped most often with Sheppard.
-The Bad Guys-
THE WRAITH. (Apparent motto: "Yum! Also, grrrrr.") These are big tough space vampires, only not hot, not vulnerable to sunlight, and not, frankly, all that scary. Also, they apparently are very prone to gender identity disorders. They use their hands to suck the life right out of people, and they also regularly kill (and eat) bunches of people on all the planets in the Pegasus galaxy. They are Big Bads, in other words. Try to ignore the way they walk.
THE GENII. (Apparent motto: "If we can't beat the Wraith, we can at least be a thorn in the side of anyone who might.") This is a pseudo-Amish human civilization with a massive underground military-industrial complex. They like nuclear bombs, C4, and losing to Sheppard. They also apparently have access to advanced hair-curling technology, to judge by their females. Oh, and they supply some additional and wholly unnecessary clothing-optional tai chi. To which I say: Give it up, guys. You'll never be prettier than Teyla or tougher than Sheppard or smarter than McKay, and your clothing-optionalness is, frankly, icking us right the fuck out. Go back to bean farming.
THE ANCIENTS. (Apparent motto: "Beginning another glorious millennium of totally skeevy mysteriousness.") I don't care what anyone says. I'm convinced these are bad guys. They left incredibly dangerous things lying around, they were apparently hugely racist, and they did some science that was, at best, ethically dubious. They aren't automatically good guys just 'cause our heroes are sort of following in their footsteps, you know. But, fine, okay, let's say they're not bad guys. Their leftover science fair projects cause a fair amount of trouble for the home team, hence they still belong here. So there.
The PlotSo, you know about Stargate, right? And about the stargate that lets people zoom from planet to planet via pretty stone circles left by a mysterious race known as the Ancients (capital letter added for extra mystery!)? Because if you don't, whoa Nelly, you're going to have some trouble accepting the SGA universe. Your options are:
- Check out the crack_van SG1 summary.
- Check the comments for this post; sooner or later someone might provide additional links, or maybe a super-short summary just for SGA people.
- Rent Stargate, the movie, then forget everything but Jack and Daniel and evil aliens in gold lame. And even then, replace the robotic Jack of the movie with a Jack who has a sense of humor, a penchant for playing much dumber than he is, and longer hair. Or, hey, just rent the first season of Stargate: SG1 and watch the pilot.
- Live in blissful ignorance. Sooner or later, you'll get all the info you need from the FF.
Enter the lost, flying, sinking, floating, and massively itinerant city of the Ancients, aka Atlantis. It is full of Ancient tech (although most of what we see in the canon is lights and doors) that can only be run by people with "the Ancient gene," aka ATA. Most earth humans don't have it, and no humans in Pegasus do, and no, I don't know why. Sheppard has it in spades, and several other of the original crew have it in, shall we say, a minor suit. Beckett also figures out how to do "gene therapy" to introduce the gene into some - but not all - of the people who try it; this is how McKay gets it. But Atlantis still loves Sheppard best.
Atlantis is located in a different galaxy than earth, which means you have to dial an extra character on the stargate to get there. Which means, in turn, that you need a ZPM, which is a special power supply that looks like a very cheap special effect. Think of it as half a calling card with a lot of prepaid minutes, only somewhat less impressive, and half the Holy Grail, only much less impressive - and I'm talking about the Indiana Jones Holy Grail, here.
McKay figures out how to get people to Atlantis using the ZPM. Weir sets up a mission to go there. Sheppard inadvertently sits in a very uncomfortable-looking chair, reveals his inner Ancient, and gets recruited for the trip at the last minute. (Those of us since sucked into this fandom kind of know how he feels.) Everyone packs up and ships out, including Bates, Ford, Zelenka, a number of characters not appearing in this FIHL, and Sumner, who is John's CO and thus destined for an unhappy ending.
When they get to Atlantis, it takes one look at John and says, "Ooo, aren't you pretty. C'mere, honeybunch; I've been waiting millennia for someone like you." (It says this via lights, but trust me, you can just tell.)
John says, "I still haven't totally dealt with the whole aliens with bad taste thing. But, hey, you're kinda cute. Maybe we could just hang out for a while, get to know each other?"
Atlantis says, "Oh, yes. And you can sleep with me in your underwear. I promise I won't touch you."
Rodney says, "Oh, FUCK. We're DOOMED." And, surprisingly, he is not talking about the huge crush Atlantis has on John - he's saving that kind of jealousy for later in the season - but the power situation.
See, they were hoping to find another ZPM on Atlantis, as it's something they need so they can go back to earth. Instead, they've (by which I mean Rodney) discovered that the city is almost depleted of power - I suspect that's why it isn't ravishing John right there in the gateroom - and they are soon going to die an unfortunate and very moist death.
They raise the city, averting death. Then they (by which I mean John) accidentally wake the Wraith, bringing the death thing right back to the foreground.
They meet Teyla's people (hee!), the Athosians, who are all going to die at the hands of the Wraith because of the waking-them-up deal. So the earth folk bring the Athosians back to Atlantis, where they stay for a while. Eventually, all of them but Teyla move to the mainland.
Meanwhile, the Atlantis crew faces many dangers and conquers most of them. Well, definitely more than half, anyway. Red shirts die. Sheppard and McKay flirt a lot, and then Sheppard has glowy not-sex with the Ancient chick, Chaya, and McKay has a massive jealous tantrum. (No, really. It can't be anything else. And he's not jealous 'cause he wants Chaya, either.) Later, a native of another planet wants McKay's ass, and Sheppard, who is way too cool for a tantrum, just gives bad advice and rolls his eyes a lot.
Then the Wraith attack in force and season one ends.
I haven't actually seen season two yet, but this is where Ford gets his essence o' Wraith infusion and takes off for his new career as a plot device with a really disturbing eye. That's also where they find Ronon Dex; Sheppard brings him home, swearing to Elizabeth that he will feed him and play with him and take him for regular runs and he'll be really useful on the team so please can he keep him huh huh huh please?
A lot of other stuff happens, too. But, seriously, how exhaustively inclusive do you expect me to be? Let's just get right to the sex. I mean, the FF. Let's get to the FF.
The Fan FictionThis is where we get to the good stuff. I mean, good stuff for the hypothetical fan who just came out from under a rock and thus has not yet begun reading SGA; for me, it's just a lot of agonizing choices, people. I suffer for my art. Or, okay, it isn't exactly art, and I don't suffer so much as, well, type, and also indulge my obsessiveness to an alarming degree, but "I suffer for my art" would fit on an icon, so I generally just go with that. Misleading but succinct, that's my motto. Except for the succinct part.
But, seriously, the only thing limiting this list is that I want to post this, preferably before season three starts. Because the strength of this fandom is in its fan fiction - its long, plotty, often funny, scarily engaging fan fiction. So. Where shall we begin?
Intersections, by kaneko. How about before the series even starts? This is an amazing piece, both for characterization and for sheer depth. And it's funny. And it joins up seamlessly with the series start. And it explains away several of the more confusing contradictions in the pilot. Not enough for you? There's also math! Clowns getting kicked in the nuts! Pears! Sex in a tent! Seriously, this is the story for the fan who wants it all. And it's one of those that I'd recommend to anyone, even people who don't read in this fandom. On those rare occasions when they cautiously poke their heads out of their lead-lined bunkers, twitching helplessly from yet another round of merciless SGA pimping. Poor souls. I think of them often. Usually in terms of what I'll rec if I ever get one in my sights. This has to top the list, because although prior canon knowledge helps, it isn't required, and it really shows off the two characters who appeal to me most in SGA. (McKay and Sheppard. Of course. Surely you didn't have to ask?)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Give or Take), by merryish. I had to include this one, and not just because the author's note has been has become my mantra in this fandom. ("Pffft. Science.") And also not just because I read it very early in my SGA exploration, and it made me say, "SGA, I have no idea who you are, but I love you and may very potentially be taking you home and cuddling you all night, as soon as I figure out what your initials stand for," and I figure it might do the same for others. No, see, I'm recomending it because I want to show off the funny side of the fandom. Because SGA is definitely prone to the light-hearted (at least thus far; after a few seasons in the hands of the SG writers, that could all change) and giggle-inducing stories. And this is so definitely one of them. One of the very best of them. The plot is: Rodney and John go under the sea. (Darling, it's better down where it's wetter. Take it from them.) If you are the kind of person who goes for amusing character pieces, I also heartily recommend Advantage, by Resonant, aka resonant8, and A Beautiful Lifetime Event, by Shalott, aka astolat.
And, fine, yes, I'm cheating. I don't even care. Asking me to limit myself to five stories and five authors is torture in this fandom. (And, no, you may not point out that I set that rule myself.) From here on out, we will all just pretend that five is equal to a number substantially larger than five, okay? This is SGA, remember - we can do anything here.
Flying Blind,by minnow1212. I know I'm departing from a FIHL tradition; usually my starter stories are all about the pairings. (Sex does more than Milton can to recruit your average fan, I always say. And then I start thinking about Paradise Lost slash, and I have to go put a cold cloth on my eyes.) But oh, this fandom has such gorgeous gen. SG1 actually still has more, but SGA is no slouch in this department. And Flying Blind is one of the very best stories I've encountered, period, anywhere in the gateverse; in it, Rodney confronts the inevitability of mortality, and there is friendship, and also teamishness, and it's just - really good. If you've never seen the canon, pay particular attention to the team interactions and the minor characters in Minnow's work; she really gets that, and I mean she gets it down on paper, too. Plus, she's a wonderful writer just generally (Hee! Generally! Get it?); I commend you also to her Face Value (slash, S/M) and Necessary Things (gen).
The Taste of Apples and Sacrificial Drift, by Auburn, aka auburnnothenna. Gen and S/M slash. Atlantis may have stories featuring three wishes and centaurs and penguins and surprisingly horny aliens - and let me just make it clear that I love and adore and worship it for that - but it also has more serious stories. I mean, okay, this series's central plot device, which I really don't want to spoil, could have been used for a light-hearted, porny story, but Auburn takes a darker, deeper route, and yet still brings the story back to the light. Apples is a stunning story that could easily be original SF - brilliant original SF. And Drift is the slashy resolution of that story, and again it doesn't take the easy road. (Experienced SGA readers should also note the most excellent Bates ever in Drift. You don't hear this a lot, but: Yay Bates!) This is a great SGA starter story for people who like their fiction serious, intense, and dark(ish); the characterization is fantastic and the universe is both canon and nearly self-contained. (Wasn't kidding when I said it could be original SF.) If you read this and you're wanting even darker stories, try Auburn's Legion the Things I Would Give to Oblivion, a stunning, heart-breaking, brilliant story, and Rosebud and its mirror story Up Into the Silence, two even more heart-breaking and brilliant stories.
Thicker Than Water, by julad. And this is one of the great stories set back on earth between seasons one and two. It was as hard to choose just one of these as it was to choose from all of julad's stories; she's got fantastic McKay/Zelenka stuff (for example - note how subtle I'm being with these extra recs - Absurdity Theory and The Secret Life of Scientists), plus some great gen, too. But eventually I settled on this one (sort of - we're not counting the add-on recs, remember?), because - well, there's the established relationship aspect, traditionally a favorite of mine. This is even an established relationship that takes into account some of the complications living on Atlantis would bring to, you know, the whole thing. And then there's this version of Rodney's sister - only her name is canon, but I love her to bits. And I love that Julad doesn't give us a perfect resolve; some things work out, and some things don't, and the ending is happy anyway. That's a tough, tough trick, and the fact that SGA is just full of writers who can pull off things like that is something I really wanted to point out. For the, you know, eight people who haven't noticed that yet.
Edited 9/21/2005 to add John's proper current rank (thanks to those who reminded me that just 'cause I haven't seen the second season doesn't mean it hasn't happened) and information about the ATA gene. Apparently my brain so rebelled at the whole concept that it refused to incorporate it into the original post. Whoops.