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Talking About the Team -- Teyla

A reader asks, "What happened to the other two posts about the team members in the Legacy series? We've had Rodney and Ronon. Where's Sheppard and Teyla? Please!" Here's Teyla!

The challenge of writing Teyla in the Legacy series is exactly the opposite of the challenge of writing Rodney. If the problem with Rodney is the completed character arc, the challenge with Teyla is the hanging character arc! There is a very solid arc -- begin with The Gift and Letters From Pegasus, and then go on through Michael and Submersion, through Spoils of War and The Kindred, through Search and Rescue and The Queen -- what is Teyla's arc about?

It's about the Wraith.

More specifically, it's about Teyla's kinship with the Wraith and what that means for humans and Wraith alike.



What does it mean to be part Wraith, to have as Carson delicately puts it, "some small amount of Wraith DNA?" What does it mean for someone who has been raised as prey to find out that she is kin to the predators? And what does it mean for the predators to find that there is a woman, a human woman, who has the ability to function as a Queen? That's where the series leaves us. Teyla has impersonated a Wraith queen so thoroughly that no one suspects she is not Wraith. What does that mean?

One of my favorite books as a teenager was a tie-in novel, Diane Duane's The Romulan Way. A young Federation agent, Terise, who is of Hawai'ian descent, is undercover in the Romulan Empire, disguised as Romulan. What she discovers is a world different from any she had expected, a culture that's rich and diverse, complex beyond imagining, and also beautiful. They are not the Romulans, a name made up by their enemies. They are the Rihannsu, and they have their own names. Over the course of the book Terise becomes very conflicted. Who is she really? What does she really want to be? And is there any middle ground possible, a place of peace where cultures could meet without one walking away the loser and one the winner?

Who is Teyla? Is she Athosian only? Can she reject the Gift she is perfecting, ignore the things she has learned? Forget what she has experienced more and more deeply, ending with The Queen? And if she does not reject her Wraith blood, if she does not reject it utterly, is there anywhere she can be? She made the decision back in Season 3 not to return to the Athosians, and indeed is that world big enough for her anymore? Can she go back? And if she doesn't, is there a middle ground? Is there any place where she can be whole, human and Wraith both at once without rejecting any part of herself?

What is she? Teyla can't answer that without untangling the threads of her own ancestry, without understanding what it is to be Wraith. And that's a journey into secrets that are too dangerous for anyone in the galaxy to allow to be opened. Teyla's path leads fearlessly into territory that human and Wraith alike flinch from, into wounds and old blood that have transformed the Pegasus Galaxy. Can one woman be a bridge? Or is she instead the sacrifice?

These questions lead the team (and the readers) hard up against one of the most damaging assumptions that Sheppard and many of the readers share -- there are only two ways for cultures to interact -- they can be isolated and free from contamination, or one can conquer and exploit the other. That's it. No contact, or conquering empires. Those are the only two options. There is no middle ground. It does not exist.

Is there a third way? What is the path for someone who refuses to say, "I am this and nothing else?" What is the path for one who says, "I do not want any of my kin to kill the others?"

Is it possible for humans and Wraith to interact in ways other than predator and prey, any solution besides extinction?

That's Teyla's plot, and that's her question that informs the entire Legacy series. Who are the children of the Ancients, and what is their legacy?

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( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
madripoor_rose
Jun. 24th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Ooh, a comparison between Teyla and Arrhae ir-Mnaeha t'Khellian is a great way to look at the character...and one I wouldn't have thought of.
jo_graham
Jun. 24th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
I loved that book so much! I must have read it twenty five times. It truly was a touchstone -- it showed me how to write an alien culture, and how to invest the reader in a world that is richly described rather than explained. It's probably the second most influential tie-in in my life, the first being Brian Daley's Han Solo's Revenge.
draco_stellaris
Jun. 24th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Is it possible for humans and Wraith to interact in ways other than predator and prey, any solution besides extinction?

That's an interesting question indeed. Maybe the most discussed question of the WDC in more than one way. I'm veeeery curious where Teyla's way may lead. :)
jo_graham
Jun. 24th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
It is a fascinating question! (And I've seen some of the discussion, yes. I'm always impressed by the depth of the discussion and the respectful differences embraced at the WDC.)

I strongly believe that there is a third way, syncreticism, and that's something I've explored in all of my Numinous World books. We have to find ways to live together -- or die. The world is too small for any people to live in isolation without "cultural contamination" from their neighbors. We have to come up with ways to grow and change together or we will all suffer for it.

That's the question before Todd and Sheppard alike, and if they can't find a solution sooner or later one of them will have to kill the other. Neither of them are responsible for the trail of blood that has led them here, but it's theirs now, for better or worse. And Teyla, standing between, may be the only one who can bridge the gap.
draco_stellaris
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
I'm very curious about the 'third way' you're aiming for. It has to be difficult to come up with a solution that both humans and Wraith can live with. Even though Carson's first version of the retrovirus seemed to be an answer for the humans, it would 'defang' the Wraith and deprive them of everything that makes them superior. And even if the second version of the virus would work and let them keep their longevity and their regeneration abilities it would still be a difficult situation for both species with the Wraith having these huge technological advantages.

btw, I ordered 'Black Ships' from amazon and I'm looking forward to read it! :D
jo_graham
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
A third way isn't easy, and it's not one everyone is going to be happy about, Wraith or human. But the thing is, we know where the other two ways go. Path one -- the humans from Earth go home and the Wraith keep living on the Pegasus humans and knocking down any civilization that develops sufficient technology, on and on forever. Path two -- the humans from Earth figure out some way to kill all the Wraith and make them extinct. Neither of these are good solutions. And so a third solution that isn't perfect may still be better than what's on the table.

I hope you enjoy Black Ships! It's very much also about a search for a third path in a time when that seems utterly impossible, the aftermath of the Trojan War. And yet.
jetnova16
Jun. 24th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
I don't know what to say
I think that there may not be a middle ground but there is something for Teyla that others with "The Gift" don't have. The Genii called them tainted and killers, and even Dahlia Radim in "The Lost" like warned John that Teyla could kill him in his sleep, I guess speaking about how the others with "The Gift" acted and done. That is where I would say Teyla unlike the others with "The Gift" has something good going for her. John had said that he would be the first to know if something was wrong with her, if she was going to kill him or someone else.

I guess this is another reason why John and Teyla would make a great couple, he knows her, he knows about "The Gift", and most of all, he supports her.
jo_graham
Jun. 24th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't know what to say
He does support her. And because of that he can't look at the Wraith quite the same way. If Teyla can pass for Wraith, what does that say about the Wraith?
jetnova16
Jun. 24th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't know what to say
That is why I don't know what to say still. It just might be possible for the Wraith to pass as human as well.
That just brings another question though, for StarGate Atlantis Legacy Book 2: The Lost, how did the Wraith turn Rodney McKay into a Wraith?
jo_graham
Jun. 25th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't know what to say
You'll have to wait and see how they did it! I can't spoil that much plot! :)
jansma
Jun. 24th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
I read The Romulan Way a few times too, and also loved it, but then I always embraced vision, and the ideology inherent in Trek. My own journey into recognising difference is to be valued began even before then with my abhorrence for the mistreatment of people because of culture - I was radical even as a kid.

For me, if Todd and Shepard, and the teams they have behind them, with Teyla, cannot change the face of Pegasus, then the task is impossible. All of them want this, so badly that it's like a toothache, and it won't go away. Todd knows that without it, his species is dust, Shep knows he will be the one to exterminate the Wraith, and Teyla has to come to terms with her heritage, or go barking mad. They are terrible choices, but not insurmountable if they can believe in a future together, side by side, as allies, and even as relatives.
jo_graham
Jun. 24th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
I absolutely loved The Romulan Way!

I agree -- if they can't do it, nobody ever can, because they all want it. But the weight of the past, the weight of custom and the desire for revenge is so strong!
silverbullet27
Jun. 25th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
First of all: I'm really surprised how many here know the book that's in the shelf right next to my desk... *g*

Then: I hope, You had found a plot to the 3rd way, because I don't like the imagination of the total extinction of any of the fractions. Although it might be the most realistic "solution", as far als reality goes in SciFi.

Btw, have You heard anthing new about the release date of Allegiance by now? I'm getting a bit nervous and quite... impatient *cough, cough* ;)
jo_graham
Jun. 25th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
I love The Romulan Way so much!

I think there can be a third way. But it's the hardest way. The other ways are easy and feel good, but this is hard.

Allegiance is still at MGM. As soon as they release it, it should be out within about three weeks.
ssagey
Jun. 25th, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
Just love that you are going where the writers of the series did not...
Finally having Teyla embrace who she is in total...
And havng someone like John love her in total...
And having someone like Todd respect her in total...

And then us as readers embracing the whole concept so that we become better people and more tolerant and compassionate to others...
That we as the reader truly think what all this means to us as humans and as part of the human race..

And if they all cant make a difference to the pegasus galaxy, if not more...then they wouldnt be the characters we have come to know and love...

And now I wish I had all the Legacy series books right here in front of me...lol..so looking forward to reading them all...
hugs
jo_graham
Jun. 25th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
I think Teyla's arc was well constructed -- but it didn't finish. Each season we got more, and the fifth season episode The Queen is one of my favorites. I'd like to think this is where that arc might have gone in season six!

And yes, lots of real life applications! :)

I wish they were all out too! (Well, except for the last one that isn't written yet!)
jetnova16
Jun. 25th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with you.
And to quote you: "And havng someone like John love her in total..." - TOTALLY AGREE!
2bluaeryn
Jun. 26th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
I LOVE the prospectives here!

Teyla has always been a multi-dimensional character and it was the lack of exploration of her many facets that made fans of Teyla upset. It was as if they teases us with this beautiful gem only to throw us rock candy.

In any case I'm thankful for someone like yourself that has seen this character gem as she trully is and really plans to polish it to a fine finish. I so look forward to more of the books and dread their completion as well.

*high five*
jo_graham
Jun. 27th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like it! Teyla is my favorite character, though I love them all, and I'm writing 99% of her in Legacy. It's such a pleasure to write her.
sgawraithfan
Jun. 27th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
I look forward to watching this theme blossom as the story goes. :)
jo_graham
Jun. 27th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
It's truly been fascinating. There is so much to explore there, and so many interesting places to take the story. There is one scene in Secrets that makes me cry every time I reread it, and one scene where the entire story then and forever turns on a split second decision that John doesn't even realize he's making, but he's been making it for seven years, when he does the right thing not because he had to but because it's who he is, who he's chosen to be.
sgawraithfan
Jun. 27th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
I'll have to have the tissues ready! I almost cried for the brotherhood scene on page 298 of The Lost.
draco_stellaris
Jun. 28th, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
Same here! *sobs*
jo_graham
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:43 pm (UTC)
Like I said to Orb, that scene had to be there to parallel John and Holland. That's one of the keys, and it's something that we'll revisit in Secrets, only much more critically!
jo_graham
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
That scene really had to be there. We had to see that as a parallel to John and Holland, because that's the key. And that's what these two plots are doing in the same book, a theme we'll come back to ramped up in amplitude in Secrets!
jetnova16
Aug. 18th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
I was wondering if there has been any new developments on StarGate Atlantis Legacy Book 3 Allegiance?
jo_graham
Aug. 19th, 2011 12:17 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately we don't know anything new yet. :( I'll post as soon as we do.
jetnova16
Aug. 20th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
Oh how sad. I am really anxious to get it.
(no subject) - monacoivyb - Feb. 17th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )