attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
[personal profile] attackfish
[personal profile] sholio wrote an essay just recently about why Steve/Bucky AUs don't work for her (the AU part, not the Steve/Bucky part) and quite apart from the contents of the essay, it got me wondering about what we call AUs in fandom currently.  Back when I got started, *crotchety old fan voice* things like high school AUs and coffee shop AUs were called "ARs", or Alternate Reality fics whereas  "AU" referred more broadly to both ARs and also "what if" stories.  However, [personal profile] sholio only talked about AR-style AUs, and a number of her points don't really work for what if AUs.  A while back, I ran an Avatar: the Last Airbender AU meme, and after getting almost exclusively AR prompts (and most of those for fusions) I had to explain that what if prompts were definitely also accepted.  I periodically see meta about how the writer of said meta doesn't think AUs are enough like canon, then goes on to describe only AR-style AUs.

Did the meaning of AU narrow  and I didn't realize it? I would kind of like to know, most of what I write other than drabbles are what-ifs.  What if Lupin bit Snape when they were in school, what if Azula captured Zuko at the beginning of  "The Southern Raiders," what if Iroh died when he drank white jade tea. The story I'm working on right now is a what if: what if those Earth Kingdom soldiers in Book One had managed to capture Iroh and Zuko and take them to Ba Sing Se.  If these aren't AUs, I kind of would like to know what to call them.

Date: 2014-09-17 08:24 pm (UTC)
opusculasedfera: stack of books, with a mug of tea on top (Default)
From: [personal profile] opusculasedfera
I believe the current common term is Canon AU, though most people would say just that they were writing "an AU where Azula captured Zuko, etc." to use your example. I remember the term AR, but I don't think it's in use now at all, except possibly in the oldest fandom spaces where people are still discussing long defunct shows.

It's perhaps not so much that canon AUs aren't happening now, it's just that they tend to come up less in meta because people seem to have fewer issues with broad trends in them (except perhaps fandom specific ones, if there's a spate of "latest huge spoiler in $show never happened!"), whereas a lot of people have Views on how to determine which elements of character and setting-as-it-defines-character (e.g. the Steve+Bucky longstanding friendship in the post you linked) are most crucial to correctness in ARs.

Date: 2014-09-19 07:48 pm (UTC)
opusculasedfera: stack of books, with a mug of tea on top (Default)
From: [personal profile] opusculasedfera
Heh, you and me both, sister.

That's a good analogy. It is really weird how AU is sort of morphing into "plot ideas" when people talk about it in the abstract, when those ideas may or may not be AUs depending on the fandom you choose to write them in, or even how you choose to write them. Don't we already have 'prompts' to cover that?

Date: 2014-09-19 08:50 pm (UTC)
opusculasedfera: stack of books, with a mug of tea on top (Default)
From: [personal profile] opusculasedfera
I think [personal profile] sholio's got the right of it: some people are so focused on the meeting between the members of their ship that that's their default state of affairs for any plot so they come up with these bizarre "AUs" because they don't bother to state that these are about the meet cute, which obviously happened differently in canon. Which makes it not exactly a universal sort of AU when a lot of people aren't interested in alternative relationship structures except, actually, in canon AUs!

Leaving aside as well the fact that virtually the most boringly typical way for humans to meet is while slightly intoxicated at a festivity. :P Not that you can't write that well, but dang, sometimes these plot ideas seem really dull compared to the SFFnal shows I know the prompters are mostly writing in. Hmmmm, put like that, I wonder if this formulation came out of J2 or one of the other media RPF fandoms that seem to spawn a lot of AUs that are almost like original movies with the actors in mind for the leads. It seems to be more recent though, so perhaps not.

Date: 2014-09-19 11:55 pm (UTC)
opusculasedfera: stack of books, with a mug of tea on top (Default)
From: [personal profile] opusculasedfera
I honestly didn't really notice or at least not even put it all together until we were having this conversation and I was thinking about why people put together those lists like that. But there have been a couple go past on my tumblr dash that are explicitly lists of alternate meetings, and the rest of them do make more sense if you think of them like that.

See, that's perfectly reasonable! There's nothing wrong with alcohol and parties, I have also used them as an incident in multiple fics, I just don't understand why people would take a couple who met, say, travelling across the world to incite revolution or in a complicated and emotionally fraught court situation, to bring it back to AtLA, and have their entire story be that they have some mutual friends and met while tipsy at someone's house, generally in modern North America. It's just so much less intrinsically interesting, why make work for yourself? It's not why I'm in the fandom, at any rate.

Date: 2014-09-17 09:08 pm (UTC)
lizbee: The Gallifreyan Citadel from "Sound of Drums", a Time Lord standing to the right. Text: gallifrey (DW: Gallifrey)
From: [personal profile] lizbee
I've been wondering the same thing! Especially because I keep seeing a list of any-fandom "AU" prompts that don't even need to be AU. "Drunk at a party" could happen in nearly any fandom, and so forth.

Date: 2014-09-18 04:03 am (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
Yeah, I realize, reading this, that I should've specified I meant total AUs and not any AUs. The terminology I'm familiar with is total AU (i.e. coffee shop AU, space AU) vs ... well, I've heard a lot of different terms for the other kind, the kind you write: canon-divergent AUs or canon-based AU or what-if AU or alternate timeline are all things that I've heard people call them.

In any case, it seems like AU is still generally used as an umbrella term for all forms of non-canon-compliant fic, whether a branching timeline or a completely different universe -- well, to the extent that I'm clued into popular fannish terminology myself, which is ... not very. XD I guess for myself, when I say "AU" without specifying a type, it's total AUs I'm talking about (as my meta shows, I guess!) but it certainly doesn't confuse me when people say "AU" and mean a fic of the turn-left-at-canon type.

In any case, I'm sorry for being confusing with my own imprecise use of terms!

Date: 2014-09-17 09:39 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
they are AUs, AU just pretty broadly means 'not canon'

Date: 2014-09-18 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's what I always thought. Maybe part of it just has to do with what corner of fandom you're in.

Date: 2014-09-17 10:19 pm (UTC)
frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Default)
From: [personal profile] frith_in_thorns
I would call all of those things AUs, but to specify I'd call the what-if ones canon-divergent AUs and then the others also specify according to type, ie no-serum AU, coffee shop AU, space AU etc.

(That's also how the AO3 tags work, helpfully for me!)

Date: 2014-09-18 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That seems to be the consensus, though it still seems to be that canon-divergent AUs get kind of forgotten when people talk about AUs, which is sad, because they're my favorite.

Thanks for telling me that about AO3's tags. I've just been tagging my fics as "Alternate Universe" without spesifying

Date: 2014-09-18 06:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I call them AUs or canon-divergence AUs, and they're my favorite type too :) But I think the fandom definition is a bit unclear - some people only mark the alternate realities stuff as AU, leaving the what-ifs without a proper label. I'm glad someone wrote a post about this, because lately I've been asking the same thing myself - I used to write only what-ifs AUs but recently began to explore the "real" AUs which are actually ARs, and it felt weird to mark them both the same when ARs include a brand new world while the what-ifs only branch off at a specific moment. Then again, a divergence can cause such a big changes that you pretty much have to rebuild everything anyway (like, what if Azula wasn't a bender? Imagine how much that would change everything... what would the dynamics be in the Fire Nation royal family? Would Osai still become a king, or would Iroh take that position? Would Azula still grow up to be abusive to everyone around her, or would she develop a more thoughtful and somewhat kinder personality? What would have happened with Ursa? Would Zuko ever get burned? What about Mai and Ty Lee? And we haven't even left the Fire Nation yet...).

To save myself a headache, as long as it's not canon (and not, let's say, a missing moment or possible future), I mark it as AU.

Date: 2014-09-18 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And then if you do make a distinction between types of AUs, comes the question of where you draw the line between canon-divergence and AR. For example, I have a fic in the White Collar fandom, where Neal is secretly a dragon. Nothing else is different, and no one knows until after Neal is out with the anklet, but it presupposes a world in which dragons exist. Is this a really out there canon divergence, or is it an AR? What about if canon characters switched places, say Ozai is the chief of the Southern Water Tribe, and Hakota is the second son of Azulon, father to the non-bending Sokka and firebending prodigy, Katara? What about if Korra instead of Aang were the frozen Air Avatar who had to save the world from the hundred year war, would this be a fusion, since they are technically different shows?

(As for Azula,I tend to really dislike AUs focused around her, because they tend to be written by people who think her psychopathy is because of how she was raised, whereas my experience with my first stalker, and knowing how young my stalker started, started, I think it's inborn. However, would not being a bender and prodigy, and not having the favor of a powerful adult to give her license to operate change the expression of her lack of empathy and willingness to use others? Hell yes. Also, I think Ozai would till become Firelord, because his ambition was for himself, and he was only ambitious for his children only so far as it served him and fed his ego.)

Date: 2014-09-18 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Exactly. (BTW, your Dragon!Neal is one of my favorite stories - I was just reading it again about two or three days back :D ) Also, Hakkoda as Azulon's son and Ozai in the Watertribe? Wow, that would really change things so much, wouldn't it? I can't really imagine it - Hakkoda seems to lack Ozai's ruthlessness, so would there be a war at all? Would the Watertribe be determined to take revenge for what the Fire nation under Azulon put the world through? So many possibilities.

I agree about Azula - I can't ever see her becoming a warm-hearted, nice person. Most likely, she would have found new ways to be manipulative and domineering, using her cunning to abuse those beneath her (and as a Fire Nation Princess, there are still many of those). Even as a child, she is already cruel and without conscience; she's also highly intelligent and very resourceful, so she probably would have still been feared and respected even if she wasn't a bender. I don't know whether different circumstances could have helped her to find a role where she could channel her personality in a way that wouldn't be harmful to other people - she really is a psychopath, and I don't have enough information and education in psychology to tell whether she could have been taught to handle these tendencies and become a better person or not.

I really dislike when fiction describes some people as being "born bad", because that seems like disregarding free will and taking away the responsibility for your actions; I believe that everyone has the potential for both great good and evil. It's one of the fascinating dilemmas in (fan)fiction - what you're born with, what are the outer circumstances, what choices you make - and how that reshapes you and the world around you. But Azula is a psychopath - no questions there.

Date: 2014-09-18 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, there would have been a war, since Sozin started it, but would Hakoda have tried to supplant Iroh? would Katara and Sokka be a team, would Sokka be jealous, what would Ozai and Azula do as nearly powerless peasants? All these questions, and the AUs I've found with this premise never answered them to my satisfaction.

I believe that everyone has the potential for both great good and evil.

I believe that everyone is capable of great good and great evil actions, but my experience leads me to believe that not everybody is capable of good motivations. However, the most dangerous people usually aren't psychopaths, but people who were born capable of empathy and understanding and choose instead to disregard it. On the flipside, could Azula have been taught to prove how great she is by doing charitable works? Would this make her a good person if she were only doing it for self aggrandizement? Would that matter to the people for whom she built hospitals and wells?

Date: 2014-09-18 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Great points!

You may be on to something with the actions/motivations distinction. In certain circumstances, I can totally see Azula doing just that; actually doing something that would help people but for her own selfish reasons. Could I see her becoming selfless? - not really. Could she recognize her emotional shortcomings and choose this path as a way to deal with them? That I don't know. Maybe one day, if she became mature enough... If she recognized her inability to feel compassion and empathy and choose to do charitable work both for her grandeur AND as a way to do something considered "noble", would that be a good motivation? And no, the majority of the people she helped probably wouldn't care.

It just proves that there are few things that are clearly black or white. People, actions, motivations... it's rarely simple, and different view points may both look justified from their own perspective.


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