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SW AUs - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
SW AUs
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Hmm. I did the survey, but it doesn't seem to really be applicable to fansites--when they asked about what we posted, there was no space for fic or entertainment news!

A few days ago, there was a rant on fanficrants about the rash of AUs following Episode 3, wondering why people were "not accepting" it or some such thing. As a longtime SW Alternate Universe writer--I once started a thread at TFN with no purpose in mind other than to generate as many AUs as possible by having Anakin and Padmé sit around and try to think of possible futures--I felt vaguely annoyed.

The first thing to keep in mind about AUs is that that are not a denial of canon. Fics that deny canon are... just puzzling. An AU takes canon, carefully chooses something to change, changes it, then follows the changes through their canon-logical conclusions. Sometimes it's a vast thing--what if the Queen's ship were sent ahead in time after it left Tatooine in TPM, and the TPM-era characters saw their future? Could they change it? What would their presence change in the RotJ-era where they landed? I was part of a round-robin that did this story (called I'm Your What? or The Shifting of the Sands), and it actually ended up spawning two parallel AUs, which we were planning to reconcile in a sequel that never quite came together. Other times, it's a small thing that could easily have happened but didn't--what if Shmi Skywalker, on the occasion of her freeing, had come to Coruscant and insisted on seeing her son? What if Mace Windu had said, "Yes, come along with us when we arrest the Chancellor?" In those cases, the actions may be lynchpins, which cause a cascade of new effects on the universe.

So... what's with the "Anakin didn't turn" AUs? I mean, doesn't that kind of make the Imperial Trilogy a bit less interesting?

For want of a nail...
I know that one reason some people write these AUs is because, hey, pretty Hayden gets turned into a gross and icky thing and that so needs to be fixed... ;) Honestly, this is as good a reason as any, as long as the AU is done well. The loss of Anakin's beauty is actually a fairly important hinge of Vader's character, I think. He loses his attractiveness to other people, and his ability to touch them, and for an extrovert like that, that's got to contribute to the feelings of total isolation that lock him into his weird relationship with Palpatine. Stuff can be done with it. But I'll acknowledge that it's vaguely possible that some of the fics irritating to the ranter were, you know, mostly about not messing up the pretty.

But those aren't really the kinds of AUs that are interesting, or why this particular angle--Anakin doesn't turn--is interesting. The first reason it's interesting is that the movies show Anakin not being the only person making mistakes, and that even Anakin comes very close to not making this one. There are what-ifs in nearly every scene. What simple, basic action might have averted the turn? What if Padmé had taken Anakin seriously about the possible problems with her pregnancy and actually taken some steps to assure proper medical care and make sure he knew about it? What if she'd allowed him to tell the Jedi to shove off, go to Naboo with her, and just be a family? What if Obi-Wan had told Anakin that he knew or had guessed about the marriage? What if he'd been allowed to go back and save his mother when he first started dreaming? What if Yoda hadn't been smoking something weird before Anakin came to him for personal advice? What if Mace hadn't left Anakin alone to stew in the Council chamber? What if Anakin himself had questioned earlier why Palpatine happened to have an interest in Sith legends?

The very fact that any of those very simple things would change the universe radically is what makes it interesting to come up with AUs. Other events could be inserted as well--a discovery of a communication between Dooku and Palpatine, maybe. Nearly anything could have tipped the scales, because Anakin is a lynchpin, and his decisions--and the decisions of people who have an impact on him--are always going to change the entire galaxy.

Then what happened?
To switch metaphors entirely, once you've pulled your card out of Lucas's house of cards, the real fun begins, because you get to see how the rest of the deck falls down, and start to build a new one with the same materials. Anakin's not turning is actually only the beginning of that, because how the AU is built is always going to rest on the possibility of what happened in canon, and how you've made the difference work. Is it because the Jedi gave him their trust? Suddenly, he's going to be a serious mover and shaker in the Order. What will happen to Padmé and the twins? Or will he finish up the war and leave the Order? If so, how will they respond?

And if Palpatine had been unable to acquire Anakin as an apprentice, would he have left Dooku alive? Quickly apprenticed someone else anc kept trying for Anakin... or for Anakin's children? If Palpatine is himself destroyed, then the orders to end the Clone Wars never go out, the civil war remains between the Republic and the Separatists, neither of whom will have any central organization, and that could form the backdrop for the twins' upbringing and any conflict between Anakin's duty to the galaxy and his duty to his family.

Or maybe Anakin didn't turn for some other reason. Maybe he left before any of the RotS events--managed to save his mother, maybe, or keep in touch with her. Or he had a vision of his possible future when he was a young padawan and ran away from the Temple to avoid it, thereby never receiving training or getting Palpatine's influence. What would have happened in the wars without him? Would Palpatine have found someone else to purge the Temple while the clones executed Order 66? If so, would Anakin be blamed for it because, as the Chosen One, he wasn't there to stop it? (I did an AU on this principle once, in which Obi-Wan went purely crazy, blaming Anakin for abandoning the Jedi to a fate he could have prevented and not fulfilling his duty. Never did finish it, but I liked that universe.)

Of course, there are plenty of AUs to go around after the turn. Toss Padmé into the Imperial Trilogy mix (this is an extremely easy AU to set up). This can go dozens of ways once you get her there. Have the twins grow up together, either on Alderaan or on Tatooine. Or have Yoda raise them on Dagobah. Have Shmi survive--or be resurrected somehow--to see what becomes of her son (there's one I haven't seen; I have no idea why Shmi isn't a more popular character with fic writers).

Sigh.

One of the really fun things about SW is that it lends itself to AU exercises very well, and you don't have to warp canon to do them. It's very much event-based and decision-based, which are the two elements that make AUs possible.

I don't get the hostility.
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Comments
ashtur From: ashtur Date: June 25th, 2005 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I avoid things like fanficrants, but is a fair part of the hostility the result of badly done AU's? Or really, "pseudo-AU", where the author doesn't really know what a true AU is?

It's like the old thing about "Mary Sue" and "OFC". Too many will condemn all OFC's as Mary Sues, where the real problem is that one particular from of bad OFC's is Mary Sues. Generalizing from a particular problem to the entire genre.
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 25th, 2005 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that's where the hostility arises, yes. One badly written AU can spoil the whole genre to some people. Hell, a few badly written Siri Tachi fics spoiled the character for me. I accept she can be written well (as Fern proved in "Family Portraits"), but I have no desire left to see her. I can understand their bitterness, but since I too often have to fight the OC vs. Sue/Stu battle (which is funny, I don't have that many OCs) I often try to reason with them (and win ;D). I personally enjoy OCs in stories, as long as they're background or secondary characters. SW and even HP lends itself to OC creation or "canon OCs" (the fleshing out of minor/cameo canon characters or names). I tend to avoid fanficrants because it got silly very quickly, and quite vitriolic, and I don't need their attitude problems, I've got one of my own. ;D
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: June 25th, 2005 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. I don't understand the AU hostility, provided the AU is done well. Envisioning how much different things could go is a bucket of fun. The RotS videogame has an alternate ending involving Anakin defeating Obi-Wan on Mustafar, and though it's very brief, it gave me an AU plot bunny to envision this universe if Anakin had been able to walk away victorious and Obi-Wan was left dead or crippled. Because it only shows Anakin killing Palpatine and saying the galaxy was his. But what about Padme? The twins? Yoda and Bail? How do things progress, with Vader as the Emperor? That's just fun to imagine the potential.

My only problem with AU is when they go really wild. I don't mind the "what if SW was in a classic fantasy world" deal, though I don't want to read it. What I mind is the AU label slappage for the mere excuse of pretending Padme doesn't exist to enable Anakin/Obi-Wan (yes, even though I ship them, I mind editing out a character just so you can enable a PWP) or the usage of AU to simply take wild liberties with canon and characterization. That's what I mind. Other than that? AU is fascinating and yes, can be done very well.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 25th, 2005 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)
What I mind is the AU label slappage for the mere excuse of pretending Padme doesn't exist to enable Anakin/Obi-Wan (yes, even though I ship them, I mind editing out a character just so you can enable a PWP) or the usage of AU to simply take wild liberties with canon and characterization

Well, the latter's not an AU at all--it's just badfic and doesn't get to use the label. The former, if you maybe have her killed in one of the assassination attempts or have her be left behind on Naboo during TPM so they never meet... well, I'm a big believer in destiny in fics, especially AU, so I think they'd get together, and I'd be spending the rest of the story waiting to see how the situation fixed itself, so that would never work for me, but one could build an AU around her death or around them never meeting. Of course, you know me and stories that just exist to ship, anyway!

As to "What if it were in a fantasy world?" I dunno. That sounds more like alternate reality than alternate universe--"What if the lived in a different world?" I've never known exactly where to put that genre, since it's definitely not my thing.
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: June 25th, 2005 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)
wondering why people were "not accepting" it or some such thing.

I completely and totally accept the events of RotS. They spawn many a canon plot bunny, and fill in a lot of detail that makes the OT much more interesting to watch. However, as you say, SW lends itself to AUs. I cannot begin to count the number of AUs currently in progress on the TFN boards, and I've stop keeping track of my personal number of AU fic bunnies.

You are totally right that the genius of Star Wars, and the fic that it inspires, is that it has multiple points of decision in it, all of which could potentially change the outcome of events. I mean, I just finished a fic in which Luke learns the truth about his parents shortly before Bespin, and that changes both the Bespin duel and the confrontation on the Death Star. Just one little tweak, and the universe changes.

As for the Anakin doesn't turn, and therefore remains pretty, well, that's a silly and fangirlish reason for having him stay good. If there's a better reason, like say he remained a slave on Tatooine during his formative years and Palpy never got his hooks in him, then go for it. But if it's just teh pretty, then get out of my fandom.

That goes for the Hot!SithLord!Anakin lovers, too. If you have Anakin survive the duel unscathed because you think he's pretty, I don't want to talk to you. If you have him survive and slowly go insane/get more evil, I may want to read your fic.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 25th, 2005 11:31 am (UTC) (Link)
As for the Anakin doesn't turn, and therefore remains pretty, well, that's a silly and fangirlish reason for having him stay good. If there's a better reason, like say he remained a slave on Tatooine during his formative years and Palpy never got his hooks in him, then go for it. But if it's just teh pretty, then get out of my fandom.

It depends on how it's done. If you really get into a study of how a person's looks effect his life, what difference it might have made if Anakin hadn't come out of it scarred, it could make for an interesting fic. (It wouldn't be Hawt!Sith!Lord, either, imho--it would be Anakin forced to look himself in the eye, an also an Anakin who didn't have any grudge to nurse, or much need for Palpatine, after all.)
murasaki99 From: murasaki99 Date: June 25th, 2005 05:15 am (UTC) (Link)
What if Yoda hadn't been smoking something weird before Anakin came to him for personal advice?

*Snicker!* I like the thought of this one. I think Yoda would have had a very important impact if he hadn't been so hidebound as regards Anakin. Windu didn't help at all, but Yoda could have made Windu toe the line and be less hostile to Anakin. That line from Windu about he will *finally* trust Anakin *after* he deals with Palpatine? I'd have Turned right then and there! How many years has Anakin been fighting for the Jedi and to have his face slapped and honor impugned so horribly at a critical moment like that?

So yes, lots of great AU material for the taking everywhere you look.

Why do some hate AUs? Dunno. I try to avoid the rant pages just 'coz I find them depressing.
gehayi From: gehayi Date: June 25th, 2005 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that there's hostility to alternate universes because so often the term is used to mean "complete and total canon rape."

Madam Mervin and Mrs. Hyde have an essay on the Hammer of the Sues about the four kinds of AUs: The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Stupid. I would highly recommend this essay. 'Tis funny and accurate.

The alternate universes you mention--and they're great, by the way--are the sorts of AUs that I grew up reading and loving: the "what if one crucial thing had changed?" scenario. These are hard to write--you have to know the universe and the characters very well to figure all the possible repercussions of an altered event or decision, and you have to keep the characters in character, despite the fact that they'll be subtly different from their canonical selves as a result of being in a different universe.

Second are what Mervin and Mrs. Hyde call the "pre-canon expansion" AUs--the stuff that WAS canon-compatible until the new book or movie came out. I suspect this is what's going to happen with my Peter stories after HBP comes out. And, as Mervin and Mrs. Hyde mention, there were many fine stories written about Harry's fifth year involving Sirius's continued survival, all of which were thoroughly Jossed by OotP. They DID fit canon...until canon changed.

Third are the character studies--the ones in which a character alters, for some reason, but the other characters don't. The "Dumbledore-is-evil" or "Dumbledore-is-really-Ron-who-has-gone-back-in-time" stories fit this. The other characters are, essentially, themselves; the idea is to explore how the world would alter if one key person were different.

And then you get the stories that are what Mervin and Mrs. Hyde call "canon denial" and what I call "canon rape."

You've seen these stories. The Fellowship of the Ring are teenagers, and they're in an ordinary American high school. Buffy and her friends live in a universe where there are no vampires and no Slayers. Draco is a Tolkien elf (never MIND that Tolkien elves don't exist in the Potterverse). Despite the fact that the Slayer in the Jossverse is always one special, chosen GIRL, the Ultimate Slayer is a male. And a god. Legolas is Aragorn's guardian angel...despite the fact that Arda doesn't have angels. Harry Potter isn't an ordinary wizard with an extraordinary destiny...he's actually the incarnation of the Greek god of war.

This is the kind of thing that drives canon purists like myself up the proverbial wall. This is the kind of thing that gets the fanbrats screaming, "It's fan FICTION! I can do what I want, okay?"

And many, many of them--not really understanding what AUs are (and not really understanding much of anything else, either, as near as I can tell)--label their violations of canon "AU."

This is where the bad rep comes from. It's hard to do a true AU well; it is a small subgenre. There are, alas, many, many stories by fanbrats who don't know canon and who don't care about it, either.

Hence the AU's undeservedly bad reputation. It's really a shame. Because it's an extraordinary genre, and AU stories can be spectacularly good, if done well.
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: June 25th, 2005 05:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Despite the fact that the Slayer in the Jossverse is always one special, chosen GIRL, the Ultimate Slayer is a male.

Well, I can think of one, and only one, situation where that would work. The Star Wars/Buffy crossover that I thought up a while ago.

::ducks flying objects:: What? They both have people referred to as 'the Chosen One'! And really, I wouldn't put it past the Sith to have dealings with vampires, or possibly *be* vampires. ::hides::
(Deleted comment)
threnody From: threnody Date: June 25th, 2005 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I've always avoided AUs because I find that they are very rarely well done. In fact, I'd go so far as to say a great many of them suck sweaty monkey butt. That's where I'd rant about AUs (general lack of quality), not that they somehow mean you're not accepting canon*. On the other hand, I can see where this person might be coming from (I'm too lazy to go and hunt out the post)- I can see a lot of people *not* accepting ROTS, and writing their own way out.

For me, the 'we have to save Anakin (w/ or w/o the 'because Hayden's too hot to be Vader' clause)' is a lot less intruiging than 'we have to find a better way for him to turn than the scenario Lucas gave us'. Because just by way of his personality, Anakin has been headed to the dark side since the Jedi set hands on him. IMO. This is one case where instead of seeing a set point with different paths spreading out, I see all the paths from Qui-Gon onward leading towards a single end. I'd be way more interested in reading that sort of AU than the other. (It should come as no surprise that I thought ROTS was extremely weak in portraying his fall from grace.)

I had a point in there somewhere. Hmm.

*I've actually come to enjoy AUs a great deal, at least in SW fandom. Maybe SW AUs really are just better, because the canon *does* make it easy to do. HP AUs... not so successful. :P
honorh From: honorh Date: June 25th, 2005 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Think you nailed it with your answer about why these are suddenly cropping up--Anakin *is* gorgeous, and fangirls don't like to see Teh Pretteh messed up. Personally, I've fiddled with the idea that Anakin somehow came away from Mustafar unscathed (he defeated Obi-Wan or something), but still lost Padme in childbirth and was left with the twins. What would happen then? How would Palpatine react to the idea of Anakin having children, and thus a tie to his past and something to love--which doesn't exactly contribute to his Sithliness? I can actually see something like that working its way back around to something like the Imperial Trilogy, except that this time, Anakin hides the children himself.

Or not, since Anakin shows no talent for being able to let go of someone he loves, even if it's in that person's best interest. How, then, would Luke and Leia grow up? Would Anakin turn on Palpatine and become Emperor himself? Strikes me as a great idea.

Bah! Too many plot bunnies.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 25th, 2005 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that canonically, Anakin-the-father is the diametric opposite of Vader-the-Sith, so if he had the kids, the chances of his sticking around with Palpatine's teaching is pretty slim. And if he'd been the one to come back, I doubt we'd have had to worry about Padmé going all Fainting Couch on us anyway.
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: June 25th, 2005 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I already had a hankering for good AU...you just made it a whole lot worse. The one I like to play with, in my head (because I can't write SW, so not going there) is "what if Anakin hadn't turned (for one of the many reasons you'd named) and joined the rebellion, and then, any number of years down the line, his relationship with Padme was discovered." Because you have a potentially internally destructing Rebellion, if it comes out two of what would be its leaders had been lying all that time. Plus the remaining Jedi will be Not Happy. Plus if he turned then...just, fun.

But I don't suppose anyone in the SW fandom wants to write good AU or direct me to it? Pretty please?
volandum From: volandum Date: June 25th, 2005 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
If your supposition is confirmed or denied, please tell me.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 25th, 2005 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I had to tell myself that Anakin didn't kill all the little Jedi but that they're frozen in carbonite somewhere. It's the only way I can keep from doing AUs where, instead of being redeemed at the end of RotJ, Anakin gets some really nasty comeuppance.

It makes sense in a way. Jedi that young would be easy to turn to the Dark Side and, if you need an apprentice somewhere down the road, you've got all of them to choose from. If you're Palpatine and your objective is to get Anakin to go down the road paved with good intentions, you've given him a perfect out. You intend that the kiddies be as good as dead for the rest of eternity, but Anakin can always rationalize that someday he'll let them start their lives again.

And then there's the AU question of what happened after RotJ. Did an angry mob destroy Vader's house? If so, did they stop before or after destroying the frozen children? If after, who's really guilty for their deaths? If before, what does Luke do with a small army of children trainees? Does he put off unfreezing them because there are so many? These children have lost their world in the blink of an eye but were spared the purge and the Empire. What are they like? What do they think of Vader/Anakin who saved them/imprisoned them? What do they think of his son?

Of course, I also think that Anakin was originally meant to kill Jar-Jar instead of the Jedi younglings. He was an incurably childlike character with innocent goodwill towards everyone. Of course he was cannon fodder. He was also incredibly unpopular with the people who were supposed to see his murder as Anakin's horrible crime, so new sacrificial lambs had to be added.

Sorry. Rambling. I'm just giving my own reasoning for a particular AU and letting anyone who wants to judge it as worthless or good.

Ellynne
From: deviantauthor Date: June 25th, 2005 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is the one SW movie I haven't seen at the theater. Your post makes me really want to see it, although it's not showing anywhere in a reasonable proximity to me.

I'll have to wait for it on netflix.

Thanks for tossing such a nifty post out.
From: candyredcup Date: June 27th, 2005 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Are the sequel(s?) to "I'm your what?" posted anywhere?

Thanks! *relurks*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 27th, 2005 11:11 am (UTC) (Link)
It was never finished. We all just kind of had our heads in different places. We started it on the TFN forums at http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=2219618, but it didn't get far.
pronker From: pronker Date: July 5th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Coming at this discussion from Jedi News Recap --- very interesting. I think it points out Lucas' storytelling ability to get all the rants going on about AUs diverging from Anakin's Turning or Not Turning. It hit home to me when all the things he did for Padme came to be for nothing and there he was, with his last "friend" being Palpatine, the one who did him dirty. Just a sucker for drama, am I. Go meditate, I SHALL.
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