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Who Do You Ship?

A reader asks, "You said you'd written a lot of fanfic. Who do you ship?"

Oh golly. That's hard. I've written fanfic since 1978, when I was ten! I've shipped a lot of different characters in a lot of different fandoms since then. Let's see. Some highlights.

The first pairing I ever wrote was Leia/Han. Now, this was back before Return of the Jedi came out, and the shipwar to end all shipwars was Leia/Han vs Leia/Luke. And I was not quite yet in middle school! So it was certainly fun. But Leia/Han was absolutely the pairing I cut my teeth on.

My second pairing was more of a three way -- I shipped Cassie/Cain, Cassie/Starbuck in old Battlestar Galactica. That was such an amazing show. It had not one strong female character but four, all different archetypes and all of them sympathetically portrayed. There was Serina, the single mother news reporter who was principled and kind. There was Athena, who was brainy and jealous and at her father's right hand. There was Sheba, the warrior maiden with a death wish. And then there was Cassie. I'd never before encountered (and rarely have since) an Aphrodite archetype explored as valuable and strong -- the sacred prostitute who isn't a bit hung up about that and who demonstrates the link between generation and healing, as Cassie does as she becomes a nurse in her new circumstances. I adored Cassie. I wanted to be Cassie. And I loved it that her life was complicated. She loved one man without ceasing to love another, and even her choice in the end is less about her preference than it is about his destiny.

In the last couple of years I've written a ton of Sanctuary fic. One thing I love about Sanctuary is the multi-shipness of it. I've done Helen/John, Helen/James, Helen/Nikola, John/James, kind of John/Nikola, and some side parings with original characters or historical figures. And I've done one that was John/Helen/James/Nikola which was interesting! I love that The Five fit together in so many interesting and plausible ways, a tangle of feelings rather than straight lines. And of course I adore that there are at least three main characters who are either canonically or implied to be bisexual.

Most recently I'm just watching Farscape for the first time and I'm all into Aeryn/John. Interestingly enough, my viewpoint character is John rather than Aeryn, which happens sometimes. Aeryn is much more my type of girl than the type I am. I'm much more like John. (Only hopefully without being batshit insane a large part of the time!)

And of course I ship my own characters. Wait until you see Elza/Michel!

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
padawan_aneiki
Jul. 25th, 2012 12:54 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness...this is like...trip down memory lane for me. lol My first fanfic, too, was SW. I was like...11 when the original movie hit the screens and then I wrote my first fic when I was 12. lol

And BSG, the original!!!! yes, yes yes! LOL I adored Starbuck. My best friend and I at the time wrote a ton of BSG fic back then. *snerk* He was always in a lotta trouble. ;)

At any rate...your post here just put a big ol' smile on my face. :)
jo_graham
Jul. 25th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
I was nine when the first movie came out, so we're about the same age. I was ten when I wrote my first fic!

Starbuck was fun, wasn't he? But I admit the one I loved best was Cain.
azarias
Jul. 25th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
Aeryn is much more my type of girl than the type I am.

Heh. That right there is why my Leia/Han -- not that any of it's readable -- is usually Han POV.
jo_graham
Jul. 25th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
Yep, I know the feeling! Though I'm definitely Leia pov. But Aeryn? So not like me. I am anything but restrained. I'm much more John.
azarias
Jul. 25th, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
On a different thought, there's a post I'd be interested in seeing you write.

You mentioned the original BSG, with its four strong female characters. I've noticed that a lot of science fiction from the 70s and 80s featured absolutely fascinating female characters in a wide variety of roles, often in a surprisingly unselfconcious way. In the original V miniseries, for example, both the heroic, tough-minded leader and the brilliant, merciless villain were women, and there were women in a number of other key roles, as well -- everything from weak-willed collaborators to fearless spies to kids who made a mistake and got in way over their head.

(This is also the only televised sci-fi I've ever seen where the debate over whether or not a woman should have an abortion is ended with someone saying, "Let's ask her." Or where a woman who is sleeping for the enemy for information tells her real lover that he's going to have to man up and cope with this because her mission is too important for fidelity to get in the way.)

And no one in canon stopped to point out that women were doing all these things.

The characters in these sci-fi series (and movies, and books) weren't uniformly strong women, but they were important and realistic women. But it seems like in the 90s and the new millenium, we seem to favor Strong Women -- a very selfconscious portrayal of women in a limited range of roles, usually something along the lines of the warrior babe, and with their emotional reactions very narrowly constrained to keep them from being perceived as weak. Strong Women don't break down crying because they're scared and definitely don't talk about their feelings. Girls do that. And whenever a woman takes a strong role or does something heroic, the material seems to go out of its way to point out that a woman's doing this.

I've got my own hypotheses about why the trend went this way. Do you see the same thing in sci-fi and fantasy? Has that shaped your writing, or impacted publishers' willingness to buy your books?

jo_graham
Jul. 25th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
I definitely see your point, and yes, it's a fascinating change.

Today, when someone says a woman is "a good role model" they mean she's a doctor or a scientist or a lawyer, not a kindergarten teacher or a nurse. They mean she's smart and she's savvy and she's tough and she takes no prisoners. Not that she's kind and compassionate and creative and a good listener. As a society, we've devalued the traditionally feminine. Being "a good role model" means being masculine. And isn't that just one more way of saying that men are better than women?

Why is it better to be tough than to be kind? Why is it better to be smart than to be compassionate? Why is it "better" (and prove how much better a parent you are) if your daughter plays with trucks rather than dolls? Why can't we view all the female archetypes as equally worthy? It's just as good to be a teacher as a professor, to be a nurse as to be a doctor. It's just as good to be a poet as it is a professor. Society needs all roles, not everyone competing for a few limited roles that we've given high status.

The Warrior Maiden and the Brilliant Scientist are both wonderful archetypes for women -- but so are the Healer and the Mother and the Priestess. They are all equally valuable.

And oh yes, I think that's something my writing responds to very, very explicitly, particularly in Hand of Isis. All three of Isis' aspects -- the brilliant and celibate Lady of Amenti, the beautiful and sensual Sea Lady, and the Mother of the World -- are all equally valuable, equally worthy. Different women are fulfilled by different lives, and different archetypes fit different women. That's how it's supposed to be. We're not all supposed to be the same. And it is as much of an error for all women to be the Warrior Maiden or the Brilliant Scientist as it is for all women to be the Mother or the Healer.

I try very explicitly to write women who are a variety of archetypes and show their choices as strong and positive. That's what I've done in my original books and in the Stargate novels as well.
azarias
Jul. 25th, 2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
The Warrior Maiden and the Brilliant Scientist are both wonderful archetypes for women -- but so are the Healer and the Mother and the Priestess.

You have watched Babylon 5, right?
jo_graham
Jul. 25th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
No, I've never seen it.
azarias
Jul. 25th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
Oh wow.

I'm trying to figure out how to pimp this to you and my brain is exploding with the number of reasons it would appeal to you. Politics. Women. Spirituality. Canonically bisexual major character (okay, it was the 90s, so you're mostly looking at subtext, but she outright says it at one point, and the writer has always been adamant about it). People doing the right thing not because they're the best or the brightest but because it's the right thing to do and someone has to. Unrequited love that's unrequited for good reasons, like vows and honor, not cheap angst. Requited love, too. People who age and grow and struggle, and some of them fail. And the message that all great stories end, and a new great story begins.

Honestly I think Delenn could sell you on the show all by herself. She is the Queen Regnant and the Priestess both. And G'kar. G'kar. It's not an exaggeration to say that G'kar has the most profound character arc I've ever seen in a work of fiction. Over five seasons he goes from a man driven by lust and resentment, to deepest hate and fury, to someone who befriends his bitterest enemy and devotes his life to helping others find the peace he's found.

There are some spoilers in these clips, but I think the spoilers are worth it.

Delenn says goodbye to her husband for the last time. Canonically -- and we see this, we don't just get told it -- she lives a long life after him, and continues the work they began together.

Delenn explaining her faith.

Susan Ivanova is a rather different person from Delenn. Neither is a woman you want to anger.

G'kar, not at his lowest point. And, incidentally, Londo nowhere near his. I struggled to find a less-spoilery clip. This one has massive spoilers for what happens with the Narn and the Centauri halfway through the series, but it's such a powerful scene and stands so well out of context, I can't find one I like better.

And in every diplomatic posting, there are the attachés.

Edited at 2012-07-26 12:18 am (UTC)
jo_graham
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the clips. I expect I'll get to Babylon V someday. I watch so little TV, maybe one or two hours per week, so generally I'm years and years behind on everything!

Edited at 2012-07-26 12:00 pm (UTC)
settiai
Jul. 26th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Oh, that's a shame. It's an awesome show. ♥
kickstand75
Jul. 25th, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
oh goodness...I do so love Crichton for his sometimes insanity! And Aeryn and John's chemistry is something I haven't yet seen beaten in a show since, imo

And, I forget which reader posted it above, but I LOVED the original V too!
jo_graham
Jul. 25th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! That chemistry is really something else. I'm loving it. (I can't help but see Mitch in Lost Things played by Ben Browder....)
off_the_post18
Jul. 25th, 2012 10:22 pm (UTC)
Farscape is such a magnificently brilliant show. Like you, I tend to relate to John more than Aeryn (and when I have written in the fandom, always do John POV.) For me, it is also one of those shows I can pop in the DVD at anytime and never get tired of it. How far along in the series are you now?

Original BSG and Original V totally FTW! :D (I type this as I sit here and watch the re-imagined BSG, which has become one of my favorite SciFi series' of all time.) Favorite pairings for me (in the re-imagined series) include: Lee/Kara, Lee/Sam, Kara/Sam, Apollo/Helo, Apollo/Helo/Anders (yeah...I have eclectic choices. LOL.)

I need to read some Sanctuary fanfic. :]

jo_graham
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
I'm really enjoying Farscape! I'm in mid season 3, just finished Meltdown.

And I would be delighted to give you Sanctuary recs! Do you have a favorite character or pairing?
off_the_post18
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:07 pm (UTC)
All I will tell you about what is to come is have a box of tissues at hand. The ride to the end of Season 3 is very good but emotional. Some of my favorite Crichton episodes come from S3.

Shifting gears to Sanctuary...

Henry is my favorite character, followed by Nikola and then Will. I will read pretty much any pairing as long as the story is good, Het or Slash (I've been primarily reading slash lately, but I am open to all!) Would love any recs you have to offer. :D
jo_graham
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:37 pm (UTC)
Ok, not reccing my own fic here!

This is absolutely one of my favorite Sanctuary stories ever, backstory for Nikola -- Sure and Bright. I love this story so much!
kickstand75
Jul. 26th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
oh yes, tissue warning should be heeded for season 3 Farscape! :)
ninja007
Jul. 26th, 2012 02:44 am (UTC)
Scaper here! Ben Browder said that the show was written to have the audience see everything from Crichton's POV, for them to be the 'alien' in that universe. I also see the show from his POV (I'm more like Aeryn, which is odd I think), but I do know a lot that see it from Aeryn's.

I also loved Han/Leia and still do. My favorite author in that genre is Carolyn Golledge. She writes wonderful adventure, hurt/comfort fics.

It's nice to see author's going on to writing their own books!

jo_graham
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:07 pm (UTC)
I see that -- it really is about the alien, and that's one of the things that makes it interesting. A time tested technique, bringing the audience into an unfamiliar place through eyes that seem sympathetic and familiar, but it works. I'm finding it interesting how that's morphing in season three.
nacinom
Jul. 26th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
I also discovered Farscape just a few months ago. I am in the middle of watching season 4, so I won't mention any specifics to avoid spoiling some upcoming surprises for you. Aeryn/John are a very interesting couple, attracted to each other and carrying all sorts of heavy baggage. They are both kind of crazy but John acts definitely more insane at times (not necessarily in a bad way). Their story really evolves through seasons 3 and 4, you'll see. Season 4 also has some very interesting episodes: in a few there are all-female adventures (with the guys going their separate way on different misadventures), in others we get glimpses of Earth.
jo_graham
Jul. 26th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
They are kind of both crazy. I mean, she seems a little saner at this point, but she's not exactly nice and stable. (The Way We Weren't?) I'm really looking forward to the rest of the ride. And anyway, I like a little crazy....
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )