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This morning I'm working on some research for Unascended, specifically which foreign policy NGO Elizabeth worked for first, as an intern between her junior and senior years at Georgetown in the summer of 1990. I've decided on the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a number of reasons. First, I heard a very dynamic speaker from that organization in 1986 who made a powerful impression on me, something which is contemporary with Elizabeth's experience of the organization. Secondly, while their new building is on Rhode Island Avenue in DC, their old K Street location -- the building in which Elizabeth would have worked -- is well known to me. I know the bus routes, the neighborhood restaurants, and exactly what everything looks like. Thirdly, 1990 is a pivotal moment not only for Elizabeth but for the organization. While it formally ended ties with Georgetown in 1987, I'm sure that Georgetown students continued to be the primary source of interns for some years. I am also intrigued with featuring Senator Sam Nunn, who was then with CSIS, and who very plausibly can interact with Elizabeth. I think he could be a major factor in shaping the very pragmatic direction of her work, and her somewhat unconventional approaches for the company she's moving in -- which ultimately is the fictional Vice President Kinsey's downfall with her in the episode New Order!

So why am I bothering? Seriously. This is a Stargate tie-in. Why does it matter which organization Elizabeth interned at? Why does it matter what Senator Nunn was doing in 1990?

Because it matters in the real world. This is our own real, recent history. These are real places where real people reading these books live and work. These are real events. Yes, Elizabeth Weir is a fictional character and the Stargate program is fictional -- just as Alma Gilchrist in the Order of the Air is a fictional character. But the events of Elizabeth's life are no less historical, no less momentous and imperative, than the events of Alma's. Therefore they deserve exactly the same emphasis on authenticity.

When Sam confronts Elizabeth in New Order about going to search for the Asgard, both women have come to this moment through real, historical paths. Both of them reflect the women of my generation. Both of them are people I might easily have met in real life. In the first Legacy books I was meticulous in working out Sam's background to reflect that. Now it's Elizabeth's turn. It matters how her ideas were shaped. It matters how she became this extraordinary person, a person underestimated by Senator Kinsey and who completely transcends the model of what she was supposed to become just as surely as Sam does. That's what leads her to Atlantis. That's what makes Elizabeth Weir the formidable figure she is. And that's what she has to find again to find herself.



( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
This is possibly the best post yet I read from you! I will think of it when I spend another three hours trying to find out how baggage claim worked at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base in 1966 or how the career path of a class of '91 Academy graduate might look after fifteen years and wonder why the heck I'm even doing this (when a lot of other people, especially in German fandom don't even bother with looking up basic facts and still get tons of reviews).

Your post is a confirmation that this is necessary (and, to be honest, a lot of fun, too, at least for me) and part of what makes a good story. I especially loved It matters how her ideas were shaped. It matters how she became this extraordinary person, a person underestimated by Senator Kinsey and who completely transcends the model of what she was supposed to become just as surely as Sam does. because that's just it. That's the essence of why research far deep into a character background matters.

Thank you!
Dec. 4th, 2013 06:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I appreciate it!

I think the thing that sells the characters and makes the world feel real and authentic are those things, the ones that usually aren't at the center of the story but are really critical to having it ring true. I know nothing throws me as fast as something, some detail, that can't possibly be right!

Have you read our Order of the Air series? (Lost Things, Steel Blues, and Silver Bullet out in February) It's set in the 20s and 30s, and so it's a little more obvious why the research matters, but it's such a pleasure to be meticulous. And sometimes the things Melissa and I find lead us in totally different and cool directions for where the story should go, things we never would have thought of if we hadn't been pursuing something like Carl von Rosen in the Italo-Abyssinian War! I mean, that's a great example because I wasn't familiar with him at all until I ran across him in that context, and now he absolutely has to appear as a major guest star in the fifth book.
Dec. 4th, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
*I'm* amused because I literally work around the corner from that K Street location and so I'll be very familiar with that area. Always frustrates me no end, when writers will seemingly research any number of other details, but then don't do basic research on the real cities they use. Washington DC especially seems to be "oh anything will do" approach to some writers. So *I* appreciate it!
Dec. 4th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Oh cool! I didn't realize you worked in DC. I worked at Thomas Circle and Mass for years, and before that on Rhode Island Ave. My bus stop was at K and 14th for a long time. So you'll also appreciate that Jack's office at Homeworld Security is in the Homeland Security building on Mass across the street from Capital City Brewery!

I'm thinking of having Elizabeth have lunch at The Fourth Estate at the National Press Club. I've been there a bunch of times and done a number of events there.
Dec. 5th, 2013 11:54 pm (UTC)
I was just at the Fourth Estate for an event last month!

Capitol City Brewery closed the Postal Square location two and a half years ago, which is still a source of annoyance for me. Just in case this ever comes up.
Dec. 6th, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'll have to remember that. But I know it was there in 2009 in The Furies, right?
Dec. 6th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it had closed very recently when I tried to take Cody there in the summer of 2011. The one downtown was still there (and as far as I know still is).
Dec. 7th, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
Yep! I'm more Farragut Square and L street and we're about to move around the corner. I've never attended any events at the Press Club, although I've walked by a number of times.
Dec. 8th, 2013 12:08 pm (UTC)
I used to plan events, so I did a number at the Press Club because they're convenient, appropriate, and also have really excellent catering rates. (Ok, they did five years ago, the last time I used them.)

Oh yes, I know Farragut Square. My metro stop was Farragut North when I worked on Rhode Island Ave. So right around the corner from you.

I bet you used to go to the infamous Borders that was frequented by Monica Lewinsky!
Shawn Edwards
Dec. 4th, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
What a fantastic post! Elizabeth Weir is one of my favorite characters in Stargate. She proves that diplomacy can be a battle just as much as physical conflict. It's certainly harder! So who is really the tough guy? In addition, I think her arc proves that she can learn and grow. She wasn't fond of the idea of using weapons but grew to accept that circumstances can require painful choices! She never looked comfortable carrying a weapon. Of course, some choices (Michael) sure came back to haunt Atlantis. I think Elizabeth was always thinking about long term consequences of choices that were made by her and those under her command.

When she chose to "unascend" she knew full well what she was doing and giving up. Was it a sacrifice for her? That is an answer I can't wait for you to discover and reveal to us:)!
Dec. 5th, 2013 09:32 am (UTC)
I'm happy that you like it! Absolutely she knew what she was doing when she gave up Ascension. She knew exactly what the price would be. But the alternative was to watch Rodney die on his suicide mission, and she just couldn't do that when she had the means to save him. That wouldn't be Elizabeth. And so she traded her immortality for Rodney's life.

But you know how dogged Rodney is. Even if nobody but Sam believes what happened, he'll stick to it. (They all think he hallucinated because of hypoxia. But Sam did this round with Daniel.)
Dec. 5th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for caring about this character.
Dec. 5th, 2013 09:33 am (UTC)
Elizabeth is awesome! I don't understand this thing in fandom of if you love one female character you must hate the others. I love Teyla and Sam so I must hate Elizabeth? So not true. I love Elizabeth too, and I'm so excited that we can bring her back.
Stuart McCarthy
Dec. 12th, 2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
Since you've said that the Hammond is leaving the Pegasus galaxy, does that mean the return of the Apollo? Surely there's been enough time to salvage and fix it? And I'm curious how Colonel Ellis would deal with a still slightly Wraith Rodney!
Dec. 13th, 2013 01:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Apollo
Probably we'll see the Apollo in Unascended and Endless. I'm not absolutely certain yet, but probably. I know we'll see Daedalus, and I think Apollo is likely. I think Colonel Ellis will have some doubts about Rodney! Oh yes! And haring off on a secret mission on Rodney's word would definitely give him pause....
Stuart McCarthy
Dec. 19th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
Can't wait, this sounds like it will be great!
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )