cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

SGA, Torchwood and Forbidden Planet

Yesterday was very odd. I had to give a lecture on Shakespeare (my life is so awesome right now), but I was sick and high as a kite on flu tablets. I have the terrible feeling that in my delirium I said Robbie the Robot was Caliban, rather than Ariel... doh! Those poor students must be very confused. I wonder what else I said. O_o

Speaking of Forbidden Planet, I'm struck again by how ironic it is that the metal robot is the helper air-sprite, and the intangible id is positioned as the problematised, post-colonial monster. I shall have to think on that more once I'm no longer sick.

I am at home, as I have no desire to spread my germs. I've hit that stage where I can't really focus enough to get any work done or even read anything complex, but I'm too awake and miserable to sleep. So of course I thought I'd meta. Sadly, I'm in no state to do justice to "cliches and idfic," so instead I'm going to answer several pressing questions that have been left in recent comments. Namely...

Why I broke up with SGA... and what I'm doing hanging out with this Torchwood.
(Plus, as added bonus questions: is the entire cast of Torchwood really canonically bi? What is a PWP, and what on earth is "storytime" and can I join in?)

Why I broke up with SGA
Before I fell into SGA fandom, I was reading Smallville fic. This may seem irrelevant, as I never really wrote Smallville fic, but it is not. Superman has long been an interesting character to me -- the appeal is in a God who thinks he's a man. I used to love the Superboy comics with Ma and Pa Kent indoctrinating Clark into being human and all the ways he got it wrong, back in my misspent youth, so of course I adored reading Smallville fic. That lasted for several years, until all the interesting things had been said about the topic of Clark's (lack of) humanity, and the stories started to go flat. I suspect most of the reason I never wrote in this fandom was because I was too daunted -- I just wasn't good enough as a writer to tackle either such an extensive canon, or those kinds of large-scale themes. But, oh, I did love to read them.

Enter SGA. I had been underwhelmed by the first few episodes of the show, despite being an SG1 fan, but started reading the fic because a) it was being recced by people I trusted, b) I was looking for a new part-time fandom to take up the slack left by Smallville, and c) all the cool kids were playing in the sandbox. Hahaha. How naive I was.

I fell in love with it and wanted to write it for two reasons (and no, they weren't Sheppard and McKay :). First, it was a shiny space opera with lots of elbow room to explore different genres and tropes (unlike, say, BSG, which is an awesome show, but by its very awesomeness, doesn't seem to invite "What ifs" and other types of fictional commentary in the same way). SGA allows for space pirates as easily as "magic" slippers, and everything in between (and a few things that are right out there as well). And second, McKay and Sheppard, I quickly discovered, had these really strong parallels to me, which is pure gold as a writer.

For instance, they were both in their thirties and had known both success and tragedy. McKay is a PhD, and while his field is as far from mine as it's possible to get, he had still privileged a life of the mind and all that entails. Sheppard had clearly had a troubled childhood and was uncomfortable in his own skin, for some reason, when it came to intimacy.

It was easy enough for me to go read some books on astrophysics and then fake my way through Rodney's technobabble. It was interesting to play with different issues for Sheppard and then work through them -- maybe as a kid he lost a parent, maybe he wanted to be a woman, maybe he was gay and repressed, maybe he had superpowers, etc.

And so I loved them, and had lots of stories to tell about them. Even more, I enjoyed being part of the fannish conversation about them; reading other people's "what ifs" and replying to them, or countering them, or saying my own thing, and then seeing how other people replied. It was huge, huge fun.

Then, several things happened all at once in canon and in fandom. There was the awkward double triangle between Ronon-Keller-McKay (text) and Sheppard-McKay-Keller (subtext), which was handled clumsily by the show's writers -- their strength really isn't in writing romances, except of the buddy type. That made it difficult to write anything based in canon, because the character dynamics reversed suddenly more than once, giving the impression that there was no rhyme or reason to it. On top of that, there was the cancellation of the show. There was the rude commentary from the PTB implying that SGA fans were too old, and they wanted a younger, hipper following. There was the ending, which tied up many character arcs to at least some degree, but left Sheppard in a weird emotional limbo. And there was a drifting away of all the other cool kids from the fandom.

For me, the way Keller (whom I wanted to love so much) inadvertently broke up the team dynamic due to the tensions she provoked between Ronon, Sheppard and McKay... well. The thing I loved most was the team dynamic, above and beyond the McShep bromance, and in the final season it just seemed to fall apart. It broke my heart. And I wasn't alone. It felt as though the entire fandom all fell out of love at once, and started moving on. SGA was a mega-fandom -- everyone had come to the party at one point or another. But in a single season, the party was over and everyone went home.

Honestly, I hadn't even realised how much mental space was taken up by SGA and the discussions I was having with SGA fans. It really did feel like falling out of love and a break-up. Except with less crying in the shower.

I didn't stop reading and writing SGA all at once (in fact, I am still dabbling; it's just no longer my main squeeze :), but I did start looking around at other fandoms. Die Hard. NCIS. Supernatural. RPF. Merlin.

Ah, Merlin. For a while, I thought Merlin might be my new main fandom. It has a lot of the same features as Smallville -- the focal canon with the coming-of-age story, combined with a huge background canon of other mythology to draw from. As it happens, I love the Arthurian cycle to the extent that I have read Malory and the Mabinogion and Parsifal and so on. To add sweetening, Merlin has superpowers! And as all good superheros must, it seems, there's a need for secrecy. All of which makes for good storytelling possibilities.

Finally, lots of the people from SGA were moving on to Merlin, so there was infrastructure and friends waiting for me there. I started writing some fic... and quickly got bored and stopped.

Here's the thing about Merlin: it's about kids. They're sweet kids and everything, but most of their issues are not really issues I'm interested in writing about. Also, and perhaps more importantly, I realised I was really, really, really fed up with repression and denial. I was tired of secrets. I was tired of sexuality being subtext and shameful. In short, I wanted a grown-up fandom with people having actual relationships.

What I'm doing hanging out with this Torchwood
My fall into Torchwood fandom was slow at first, and then kind of vertiginous. I read a few of the epics ages ago, before I'd seen canon, and they were spectacular time-and-space romance epics. Fantastic! So I was predisposed towards liking the fandom, but was just dabbling while SGA was still my number one.

Then, late last year, I had a tv watching frenzy, in which I mainlined True Blood, Merlin, some Dresden Files, random other things, and Torchwood.

Here's the thing about Torchwood: it has many of the same strengths as SGA, plus a few extras, but the weaknesses are more interesting. It's a fandom which allows for almost any kind of story, from space opera to criminal investigation, from psychological study to timetravel extravaganza. It has a team, which is a dynamic I love, plus a wider canon to draw from (and Doctor Who was probably my first ever fandom, right up there with Star Wars). Plus! It has a God who thinks he's a man! And now I have the skills to write the stories I want to on those themes. But best of all, even when Torchwood's writing is totally naff (and it is easily as bad as SGA at its worst), it is naff in a very British way, which I find hugely interesting as a writer.

To give you an example. I've heard many people say that they don't like Captain Jack in season 1 of Torchwood, because he's not the wonderful, happy-go-lucky rogue of Doctor Who. Instead, he's this dour, damaged, manipulative man, and also a terrible leader. I agree with all that, but I love first season Jack because of it. See, in SGA a character like that, who is positioned as the lead, would be hard to read as anything but a badly written hero, because there's a smarmy kind of moral authority that underpins SGA. In early seasons of SGA, you could almost read the incompetence of the leads as the authors examining the perils of colonialism against a backdrop of the real world post-Twin-Towers War on Terror, but as the seasons went on it became hard to read the text as saying anything but, "American military intervention = good!"

In Torchwood, however, I can easily read Captain Jack as an anti-hero. We know he was a villain and a torturer in an earlier life -- probably much worse than John Hart. We know he's got issues. And at its worst, Brit writing still tends to have enough layers that there isn't the same kind of smug moral authority as in SGA -- I might think Jack's actions are dumb and badly written, but it's also easy to read that as him being the anti-hero, and that he's actually not meant to be perfect, or right, or even good at his job.

I love that! I love that the show is full of murky moral complexity; that none of the characters are morally pure, but also that none of them are textually condemned. Take Gwen and her extra-marital affair: I really admire that the text lets her make what is clearly a mistake, and yet she continues on as a hero and is allowed to not be defined by that one moment, but nor is it textually forgotten all at once. Take Ianto: he's a male femme fatale! How awesome! And he, too, is allowed to get it all wrong, to be a very smart, very manipulative shit, basically; and yet he too is allowed to grow into something else.

And then there's the dynamic between Jack and Ianto. Now, unlike SGA, I don't see a lot of myself in either character (at least not yet, but I'm still learning how to write them). But I love that Jack is emotionally manipulative; I love that he is clearly desperate for love; I love that he's physically and sexually open and confident, but emotionally warped. I love that he's a God who still thinks he's a man... but is on the cusp, maybe, of starting to grow into something else (The first hints of the Face of Boe?). I love that Ianto is a genius -- he tricked Jack emotionally to get the job; Tosh intellectually by bypassing Hub security; he managed to fly under the radar of Suzie and Owen; and not ping Gwen's copper instincts. Plus, he got a Cyberwoman into the Hub and kept her alive! There is a dark, twisted, brilliant practical streak in Ianto. He is not the powerless wuss in the Jack/Ianto partnership that so many people seem to think he is; in fact, he's one of the very few people we've canonically seen stand up to Jack. He's also mortal, and young enough not to have a true sense of his mortality yet, so how he deals with Jack's immortality when it really starts to hit home is going to be fascinating, and it's going to have a huge impact on how Jack deals with it too.

So that's why I'm fascinated with canon, and why I'm already writing Torchwood fic. I know it doesn't look like it from the outside. I'm still recovering from burnout, so it's slow going. (Also still suffering a bit from performance anxiety, but that's a whole other meta post, and a boring one, so eh.)

As for the Torchwood/Whoniverse fandom... whoa. Talk about a strange new world. It has a very different flavour to SGA. For a start, there is way more badfic, largely because there's a tendency to write Ianto as a fourteen-year-old emotastic idiot, and Jack as an unsubtle bully. So I feel a bit like I'm talking about a whole other fandom to those fans. But that's kind of liberating after the intense meta of SGA. Also, the fandom isn't as integrated, and the infrastructure isn't as cohesive. But again, that's kind of nice -- it's this huge, sprawling thing, and I doubt I'll ever get all the way to the edges of it. There's less meta, and less of a sense that a conversation is happening, although I may change my mind about that once I'm really posting fic. What I'm finding, though, is that not being bound so tightly into the fannish web means that I'm feeling very free to just cut loose and write about stuff I haven't written about before. Polyamory, for a start, but also weird AUs and all sorts of "What ifs".

It feels like a whole new fannish adventure, and so far, I'm loving it.

Is the entire cast of Torchwood canonically bi? What is a PWP, and what on earth is storytime?

In short: yes, the entire main cast of Torchwood is canonically bi. That said, Gwen only snogged a woman under alien influence, so she is probably straight. And Owen only snogged a man to get a woman, so he's probably indiscriminate, with a preference for women. But Jack is omnisexual, and Ianto and Tosh are both bi. Frankly, I find this awesome, especially after the stultifying anti-sexualness of canon SGA.

"PWP" means "Plot, What Plot?" or "Porn Without Plot". Basically, stories which are just a sex scene. I find PWPs are quite a good writing exercise for getting into characters' skins, so to speak ;) as the focus is on psychology of the characters (what they want and need) rather than intricate plotting or dialogue.

"Storytimes" are Chat sessions with fellow fans, which tend to happen once or twice a week, depending on how tired I am. During storytime, we share abbreviated versions of our latest story ideas. I tend to tell long, sprawling novel ideas, which I then never have the time to write out in full, as it would take months and months. In IM, it takes maybe two hours at most. I have done storytime with several people. At present, [info]angstslashhope is my main storytime buddy, as she is as hot for Torchwood as I am, and we discuss all sorts of stuff, like what Ianto was like when he worked for Torchwood 4, and what Jack was like before the sex change, and what kind of secret computer programs Tosh might have left in the system, and whether the Mainframe is a TARDIS, and... you get the picture.

Is there a way to join storytime? Well. Maybeeee, and then again, not so much. I promised myself that this year was going to be the Year Of Laziness. So I'm not keen on organising things and then having to actually turn up to them. This makes it hard to do group storytime. Apart from that, sometimes I have many stories brimming to get out, and sometimes I'm dull and have none. Sometimes, I just want to listen to someone else's story, and sometimes I can't help but give "helpful" suggestions. This has been known to drive some people around the bend. Sometimes people have managed to ping me at just the right time, and got the surprise of their life as I spontaneously deluged them with a story; more often, people ping me, and I'm asleep over my keyboard or off doing the washing-up and don't even answer.

I kind of wish I was more with it about storytime, because it is a great joy to me, but I suspect its randomness is part of what makes it so wonderful. If I ever figure out a way to make it so that people can come along and join in if and when it happens, I'll make a post about it. Until then, I guess randomness will continue to rule.

So now you know more than you ever wanted to about my fannish interests.

Hmmm. You know, fannish transitions are probably something a bunch of you are going through right now, given SGA's cancellation. I wonder if there are common parallels in the experience when people change fandoms.

Talk to me.

Have any of you fallen out of love with a fandom, or changed fandoms recently? What made you break up with your fandom. What were you looking for in a new fandom, and did you find it? Do you have separate reading fandoms to writing fandoms? Have your tastes changed over time? Do you mostly do fandom in semi-public like LJ or DW, or is it mostly Chats with other fans?

I'm off to bed now to try and get rid of these germs, but I should be back in a bit if you have any questions.
Tags: discussion, fandom, sga, torchwood
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