Does anyone remember the 20 Questions game online? You know, the one where you played against a program. Well, it has new versions that are still in the learning phase, and I've had a delightful time teaching the movie and TV edition to be fannish. I added a bunch of my favorite characters to the database and have been patiently playing through them over and over until the program learns to guess them. Add yours today! (Rare fandoms only at this point, I'd think.)
But here's the thing - I added John Sheppard. But I didn't have to add Rodney McKay. The database didn't know anything about Stargate: Atlantis - or most of my other fandoms, when I first got there - but it knew Rodney McKay.
Am I the only one who finds that amusing? Am I the only one who sort of suspects Rodney of adding himself, in some weird AU-twisty kind of way?
Anyway. Today's theme is near-death experiences. In fan fiction, I mean; I'm not going to, like, hold your head under water or anything. You want an actual near-death experience, you can pay to attend a management seminar, just like everyone else has to.
(P.S. halcyon_shift just celebrated her 1000th entry. So, if you get a chance, go over here and leave a comment, to help her get to 1000 comments on her 1000th entry. You can request a vidlet, too, while you're there.)
You Know, a Lot of Men Claim That the Only Woman for Them Is an Indestructible Bisexual Amazon Goddess with Magical Rope, but When Batman Says It, I Kind of Believe Him. Aspire to Touch the Sky, by brown_betty. DC Universe, Diana/Bruce Wayne, Diana/Batman. (Yes, the pairing information is entirely accurate. It's not my fault Bruce has issues, people. Or, okay, let me put it this way: it's not my fault Bruce Wayne is batshit crazy. Blame - I don't know. DC, I guess.)
brown_betty describes this as a Lord King Bad Fic, and, frankly, I resent that. Or, rather, I did resent it (entirely on the story's behalf, let me assure you); I have since decided it's okay. Because, see, the key to the Lord King Bad designation is, as far as I can tell, to use all your talent, skill, passion, and belief to pursue an idea that you would totally have loved when you were 13. You let your inner adolescent write a story or make a vid, now that you actually have the ability to, you know, do it well. So, really, when Betty calls this a Lord King Bad Fic, she's just saying, "When I was 13, I would have read with pleasure any story in which Bruce Wayne and Diana entered into an arranged marriage. But I had to wait until now to be able to write it."
My only argument now is - who wouldn't read with pleasure a story in which Bruce Wayne and Diana enter into an arranged marriage? I just cannot believe there could be some sad, deranged soul out there who doesn't read that description and immediately say, "The only thing that could be better than that is a DC genderfuck pirate AU." (Seriously. If you don't want to read about Bruce Wayne + Diana = marriage of convenience, you just - well. I'm sure you have your reasons. But please don't tell me about them, because I want to retain some faith in humanity, thanks.)
Anyway. This is a fabulous story; an arranged marriage with a side order of near-death experience, gods, Amazons, hot sparring sequences, sarcastic Robins, and, best of all, fabulous Diana narrative, so perfectly in character that I would suspect Betty of being her, except that would break the fourth wall so thoroughly that we'd all end up in the fourth dimension, like those poor characters in the really clever kind of modern novel that you end up having to read because a friend or relation wrote it. (And, of course, now I'm wondering - if Wonder Woman was in fandom, what fandom would it be? And would she be exclusively femslash, or would she ruthlessly bring all characters together regardless of gender, or would she completely ignore sex in favor of writing lengthy gen stories featuring a lot of fighting and rope play? I have no idea, but I can say that whichever of the options she chose, I would be entirely in favor of it.)
The One in Which John Sheppard Racks up More Near-Death Experiences Than All the Other Characters in This Recs Set Combined, and No One Is Really Surprised. MVP, by cesperanza. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay.
Lately, I've been trying to avoid the, "But everyone already knows about that one" line of reasoning. I mean, I assumed that everyone on earth knew about the vid Atlantis!, and it turned out several poor unfortunate souls did not. Imagine if I hadn't recommended it. They'd be condemned to a wretched, tragic existence, endlessly searching for something to fill the gaping hole in their lives, sort of like those ghosts that wander around sucking people's lifeforces and wailing and rattling chains. And in those situations, do people ever think of systematically watching all the vids in the world until they find the problem? No. They turn to drugs and sex and then, in the fullness of time, therapy. So, really, I was saving souls when I recommended that vid. Or at least a lot mental health co-pays.
And that's what I'm attempting to do here. Because it is just possible - just barely within the margins of possibility - that someone has not read this story, and, well. Did anyone ever read "The Little Match Girl"? Yeah. It could turn out like that. I can't take that risk.
Because, see, I think that maybe, just maybe, this is my favorite of all Speranza's SGA stories to date. (I know, I know, tough call. And I'll probably make a different decision tomorrow. But at the moment of typing it, that was a true statement.) It has a simple plot, really. Rodney is tempted by forbidden knowledge and then learns that snooping doesn't pay. No, wait, wrong - I think Milton wrote that one. In this one, Rodney learns that snooping totally does pay, in hot gay sex. And, frankly, I think we're all better people for observing his learning process.
John, on the other hand, once again demonstrates his amazing abilities to defy death and confuse the fuck out of everyone. (And I don't just mean everyone on Atlantis. Half the attraction of this canon, I suspect, is that the fans can stare at John, totally mesmerized by his intensely weird suite of behaviors, and then try to make up explanations for them. The current leading explanation, I believe, is that he's the reincarnation of Elvis, but it's neck-and-neck with the shapechanging robot from the future theory.) And did I mention the hot gay sex? (I find, upon review, that I did. But, hey, it's worth a second mention, right?)
The One in Which Death Is Proven to Be a Minor Obstacle, All Things Considered, in the Search for the Divine Hand. Well, the Canon Proved That, So Let's Just Say This Story Provides a Meaningful Underscore. Bloodstone, by K. Stonham, aka sakon76. Hikaru no Go, gen. (If you're looking for the manga, you can find it here, a chapter at a time, or I'll be happy to upload it in larger sets for you. If you're looking for the anime, you can download it at ftp://ftp.hikago.flirble.org.)
There is, actually, a near-death experience in this, but it comes rather late in the story. The predominant plot is actually about what we might call a trans-death experience. You know they say - and by "they," I mean "a bunch of people I can't call to mind, only some of whom are imaginary" - that you can't call it a fandom until it has a vampire story? Well, this is Hikaru no Go's vampire story. (It's actually based on one of those extra pieces of canon art that you find with manga - a Hallween picture with Hikaru as a vampire. And I would totally link to it for you, but I can't find it. If you've downloaded all the manga, you'll find the vampire picture somewhere in there.)
Despite the presence of a ghost in the canon, I have to say "Hikaru no Go vampire story" was not high on my list of obvious stories for someone to write. It's just - Go. Vampires. They don't seem like a good fit. But they are, and I am so glad. And not just because I crave good Hikaru no Go stories (although, hey, if anyone ever wants to make me happy, that's how) but because it works so surprisingly well. And it mostly does that by focusing on what really matters.
Because, okay, yes, Hikaru's a vampire, and, yes, that does cause certain problems - sensitivity to light, need to drink blood, living death - which lead to other problems, like a certain amount of difficulty getting to scheduled matches. But that's just minor stuff, really. Totally irrelevant, in fact, because Go is what matters.
In this story, Hikaru and Akira have the same laser-like focus on Go, and on each other, that they do in the canon. (The first real game they play against each other, Akira says he's been waiting for two years and four months. And then they play lightning-fast, because they can't hold back - they've been waiting too long and wanting each other too much. Seriously, the Go is sex in this canon.) And Akira won't let anything, including a minor case of death, get in the way of Go, and neither will Hikaru, and I just - I love them for it. *sniffle*
The Story That Is Going to Make Me Feel Like a Total Wimp the Next Time I Whine About Not Wanting to Go to Home Depot. Sinner's Grove, by Martha, aka saffronhouse. Stargate: SG-1, Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson. (You know, it's just occured to me that if SG1 fandom was starting up now, in this modern era of unfortunate pairing names, this pairing would be called JackJack. Unless - wait. It's not actually already called that somewhere, right?)
So, first and foremost: disturbing themes, folks. I mean this. I'm going to try not to spoil this here, but - well, as the author says, if you've got places you'd rather not go in your fan fiction, read the warnings on her index page. (There's a link at the top of the page.) I will also be offering an alternate near-death experience SG1 story, so you can still get your fix if you need to give this a miss.
And I would not in any way blame you for skipping this, but you would be missing out in a big way. When I first read this, I was horrified and absolutely transfixed; I could not move away from the computer until I was done. This story is way, way outside my comfort zone, dealing with a topic that I basically never want to read in my fan fiction, and yet it is so perfectly done that I regularly re-read this out of pure admiration. I'm not even sure why it works the way it does - surely the contrast of the mundane and the horrible helps, as does the way the story is told; she doesn't hit you with it, but lets you figure it out, and she builds the comfort right alongside the hurt. I get all that. I still can't quite see why this works this well. I'm guessing the secret ingredient is genius. (Or tea. Could be tea.)
I do think, though, that it'd be damned near impossible to tell this story with different characters. This story comes close to defining SG1 for me, because - yeah, this is what they do. They live through the pain, the horror, the suffering, the near-death (and real death) experiences: they live to fight another day, only they do it without any of that pansy retreating and regrouping stuff. It's pretty much damn the religion-associated evil aliens, light speed ahead for this team. (And if you want one of them to take a vacation, you either have to kill him or drive him to Minnesota, which, as I'm sure you know, is basically the same thing.)
My point is - I believe, or this story makes me believe, that Jack and Daniel could go through this and survive. I know I couldn't; I would have given up before I gated out (my motto is: no science fiction devices that defy all known laws of physics near my component atoms, thank you). Even the toughest of characters would likely have given up somewhere in the middle of this story. And yet Jack and Daniel (oh my god, that's hideous pairing name for them that must already be in use: Jack Daniel's, or bourbon for short) live to have bickering arguments - and visit Home Depot - another day.
The One That Proves That Daniel Jackson Cannot Stop for Death. And If Death Kindly Stops for Him, It Will Just End up Regretting It.* Post Hoc: After This, by Otter, aka agentotter. (I very nearly mistyped her LJ name as agenthotter, which is a whole other deal.) Stargate: SG1, Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson. (You could also call them Jack'D, you know. My god. I think I've got some kind of pairing name disease. Send help.)
This story is just as good as the Sinner's Grove, but, you know, totally different, with a bare minimum of disturbing themes. (Unless you consider Jack, Daniel, or near-death experiences disturbing, in which case SG1 is really not the fandom for you. It's not the canon for you, either.)
I love this story for many reasons, not the least of which is Daniel's casual ability to defy the odds and his absolute belief that the odds don't apply to him. (Hint, Daniel: that attitude may have something to do with why you die all the time.) But I will always love it most and best for the exchange when Jack says, "Landmine" and Daniel says, "Pants?" Because, okay - that's Daniel. He files away every single attempt at communication, and if something doesn't make sense to him, he puzzles it over, and it's right there in his head when the same thing comes up later.
He's totally willing to try communication without understanding, too. His response in this story reads to me as though he is attempting to divine the customs of the alien tribe Jack O'Neill, and he's heard that "Pants" is the right response in some O'Neillian situations, so he'll try it out. If it works, he'll write a paper about it. (Of course, given that he works for the SGC, only four people will read the paper, and only three of them will understand it. And then later there will probably be a briefing that lasts a really long time and never actually gets to the "Pants" item on the agenda because everyone is too busy arguing about pastries. I know what it is to work for the government, people.)
This is, for me, a fantastic SG1 comfort story. Pure fluff doesn't work for me in this fandom; it has to be something like this, where, okay, sure, there's some pain, but there's never any doubt that everyone will be okay, and then at the end there's pain medication and cuddling. I'm not sure if that's attributable to me or the fandom, but I'm going to hope it's the fandom.
* Am I the only one who immediately thought Daniel Jackson/Death OTP here? I am? Okay. Um. Let's just, you know, forget I ever said anything.