Tsunderin and I have come down really hard on the original characters in our Fanfiction Follies Series; however, I feel the need to say that I by no means hate original characters just because they’re original. I’m actually very open to the idea of them, and I commend any author capable of inventing someone who is new and interesting while adding to the story. Unfortunately, I see time and time again any original character automatically being written off as the dreaded Mary Sue, most notably female characters, though male characters have been subjected to this stereotypical thought process too.
Let me just say, I hate Mary Sues. I do, but that does not mean every original character I hate is a Sue. If I counted all original characters as Sues, I would be incapable of ever picking up a book again. People seem very open to the idea of being introduced to someone new in a published work, but not in fanfiction. I would theorize that this is because people read fanfiction mostly to further explore already existing characters, and new characters are almost always written off as Sues. This is such a lie. Yes, a good proportion of original characters in fanfiction are bad. I think we can all agree on that, but bad does not equal Sue. I think my aggravation for this is the ready belief that any and all original characters must be Sues. I can list a good number of fanfictions that feature numerous original characters that are far more than just decent, but compelling, thought-provoking, and realistic.
In these particular fics, I have perused the comment sections, and am very happy that no one—or at least no one who took the time to read the fics—accused the author of writing Sues, though I know Lady Geek Girl has a friend who is constantly told that her original characters are most definitely Sues despite how small the characters’ roles may be. Why is this? Why is there such a negative stipulation to someone new?
I myself am very wary of original characters, but I will give them a chance. Hell, I’ve read about original characters in fanfiction I hate whom I would never accuse of being a Sue. One particular fic I’m thinking of actually features more original characters than it does canon ones, and I still maintain that it’s one of the better stories I’ve ever read. It’s even for Avatar, which is another movie I can only enjoy so long as I remember to undergo a lobotomy before watching it. One of the reasons I’m drawn to that movie is the visuals, which I can certainly appreciate as an artist, because Lord knows I don’t watch it for John Smith, his blue-skinned Pocahontas, and their adventures in Ferngully.
Painting with all the colors of the wind, biatches!
The fanfic I’m thinking about in particular is by one Katkiller-V and her story Semper Victoria. The summary for the fic reads as follows: “Humanity is on the brink of self-destruction, and unobtanium may be only hope for our species. A story where Pandora is not an Eden, and the shades of white and black have been washed into a sea of gray.”
First published late last year, it took the author just under two months to post all forty-nine chapters and start on the sequel, Semper Furor. I can only assume she either had most of the first story written, or at the very least outlined, before she began posting. Notably, she’s been taking much longer to finish the sequel, but she manages to maintain the same quality of writing throughout, that being remarkably decent for something found on fanfiction.net. Hey, Katkiller-V obviously knows a good deal more about grammar than other fanfiction authors, so I’m not going to complain whenever I see a typo.
Semper Victoria takes place after the events of Avatar. It follows the scientists the Na’vi allowed to stay behind after all the other humans are kicked off the planet, while at the same time showing what Parker is up to and how the Earth is suffering without its unobtanium resources. The Earth is about to die, and there is no other option than to send another expedition back to Pandora. Failure cannot be allowed, and once the humans arrive again, the ship that brought them immediately leaves, thus stranding them on the planet to fend for themselves should Eywa launch another attack. Their numbers are so few that they can only hope none of the natives spot their new mining sites and realize their presence.
By the time Parker and the other humans make it back to Pandora, Jake and Neytiri have a son named after Tsu’tey and twin daughters named after Grace and Neytiri’s sister. Jake has the people’s ready respect, and despite no longer being Toruk Makto, everyone is willing to follow him. It’s been almost two decades since the humans originally left, and though Jake knows it’s only a pipe dream they won’t return, everything seems quite peaceful for the moment.
Meanwhile, life has not been kind to the remaining human scientists, and the Na’vi only grudgingly tolerate their presence. Those who had Avatars have successfully integrated into the society, but the others are outcasts left to fend for themselves, including Norm, who receives little to no gratitude for his part in war since his Avatar was destroyed. By the time the humans arrive, only Norm, Katrina, and Max have not been eaten by the local fauna, and they are all too happy to join back up with humanity while also attempting to stop yet another war after the Na’vi discover the return of the evil Sky People.
One problem that Avatar suffered from—and trust me, there are many of them—always stuck out to me so prominently that I never could root for the Na’vi. I wanted the humans to win, and not just because I am human, but because it’s established early on that without the unobtainium supply—seriously, unobtainium?—all of humanity is pretty much doomed to hell and yet the audience is meant to support Pocahontas because a ginormous tree got blown up. Avatar didn’t capture any sort of crisis we humans had inadvertently caused for ourselves. It practically said, screw humans! Go nature!
Good job, douche bag.
Not to mention, that if Jake had done his damn job instead of having hair sex with Neytiri, the war probably could have been avoided in the first place. Think of all the people who died, both human and Na’vi. Arguably, the humans would have left the tribe alone after destroying Home Tree.
Yes, the Na’vi were fighting for their home, but the humans were fighting for their survival as a species, and because of that, I couldn’t find it in myself to pity the natives over the plight of humanity. Like, go find another tree. Pandora certainly has enough of them. Avatar focused so much on the Na’vi and allowing James Cameron to shove his political statement down everyone’s throats that it forgot to develop the antagonists. I mean, we’re facing extinction, and all humans are portrayed as either tree huggers or complete assholes. Not necessarily wrong; people are assholes, but it came across as completely flat. Avatar strikes me as one of those movies that completely disregards the fact that people go to the theater to be entertained, not preached at.
Katkiller-V’s story addresses what the Earth’s facing, while still keeping most of the fic centering on what’s happening on Pandora. The interludes cut away to Earth, but she addresses the rest of the issue by showing the mining from the humans’ perspectives. They don’t return to Pandora to be assholes. They return to get the unobtainium the fastest and safest way possible so that someday in the future they can still have a home. They don’t want to go to war, or kill Eywa, or start cutting down trees. They want to live, and they’re there on Pandora risking everything in order to give everyone on Earth that same opportunity.
Parker, Norm, Max, and Katrina are the only canon humans in the fic, and Katrina wasn’t really explored that much in the movie for me to really call her canon. And that’s another thing Katkiller-V has done. Not only has she invented numerous characters, she’s taken preexisting characters who had maybe two seconds of screen time and fleshed them out. Katrina is just one example. Another would be Tun’txampay, both Olo’eyktan and Tsahik of that clan with all the Ikran by the sea. Yeah, remember her and all her kickass body paint? She’s pretty prominent in this series, and by far one of my favorite characters. She helps Jake with the second war against the Sky People, and in the sequel, everyone is feeling the effects of the war. The humans are weakened, but they’re there to stay, and though Eywa’s readying for another battle, Tun’txampay, like many others, is sick of war. For the first time, she and Mo’at are questioning whether or not they should follow Eywa, and Tun’txampay—okay, how the hell do you pronounce this?—just cannot figure out the best course of action. She loves Eywa and doesn’t like the Sky People, but the goddess has stripped her of the title as Tsahik for disagreeing to enter a third war. And after she and Jake lead numerous warriors in a civil war against Jake’s son Tsu’tey to stop him from starting that third war, she no longer feels qualified to be an Olo’eyktan either.
Jake himself is at odds with Neytiri who was permanently crippled in the second war. Neytiri supports Tsu’tey, as Eywa fully does, but Jake can see what another war will bring, and the population is already suffering from the previous battles. And Tsu’tey, as a completely original character, is tragic. He’s young, brash, arrogant, living in the shadow of his father. He wants to please both his father and Eywa, and he has Jake’s army training too. He knows full well that the Na’vi would have won the second war had they more time to prepare and train, and his mate agrees right along with him.
There are plenty of Na’vi characters to get into, like Pey’ral, one of the finest warriors the Omaticaya have to offer, but I could spend pages on her and other natives before getting back to the humans, and the original human characters are some of my favorite people in all fiction. Sometimes, I do forget that they are OCs.
The new expedition is being funded by just about every nation, and so our humans consist of people of all ethnicities. The new leader is a man named Weigand, who I believe is from Germany. He’s a hard leader, but he’s also has the best intentions in mind. He knows how to lead, and understands that not all the men under his command are soldiers. A lot of them are miners, and he’s responsible for them. He’s a brilliant man who understands all the risks and is willing to take them if it means saving the Earth. And at the end of Semper Victoria, he sacrifices himself to save his men. He’s not the only original human character that the author built up before killing in the battle, and all the deaths hit hard.
Weigand’s replacement is a woman under his command named Maria Thomas, who becomes the sometimes lover of Parker. Everyone’s general consensus of her is that she’s a bitch. The characters either greatly respect her or completely hate her. The humans all slowly realize her as their new leader, while the Na’vi learn to not mess around with her or she’ll blow up another tree to make her point. She knows why she’s on Pandora, she doesn’t want to fight, but she will if that’s what it takes. Her character intrigues me a lot. She has this stiff persona, but the role of leadership really drags her down. Every turn, something else is going wrong, and people look to her for answers.
I could go on for a while on her too, but I think I’ve already said too much. And given too much of the story away so far. Oops. Spoiler Alert!
This fanfic is really rich. It’s filled with excitement and realism that the original film could never hope to capture, and it fills in a lot of gaps that the movie didn’t. I think one of the reasons Semper Victoria and Semper Furor works so well is because Avatar needed a different cast, or at least a more developed one. Jake, as a main character, added nothing to the story. I guess he was supposed to show us just how important nature is, and teach the audience, while relating to them, how much we should love plants, or something like that.
But Avatar wasn’t set in our world. It was set on Pandora. And the rules there don’t apply here. Yes, the message of the film is good—and I say this as someone who doesn’t care enough even to recycle—but Earth works differently. We can’t talk to plants. There is no goddess communicating her will to us through a glowing whopping willow. The main moral or lesson should be subtle, so as not to drown out the characters or alienate the audience. In what way are we able to relate to the Na’vi, or to Neytiri and Jake after his character arc—what little of one he had—reaches an end? I maintain that this movie wasn’t so much about a group of people and a religion that requires no faith because they have undeniable proof, but about James Cameron just wanting to throw his own beliefs at the audience.
Unless you are already a firm believer of what’s being said, as I stated earlier, people don’t want to pay twenty dollars for a lecture even if it has really pretty slides.
This is why Katkiller-V’s story works where Avatar doesn’t. It’s great, especially if you’re someone who wants to explore the world of Pandora more or just wants to know what happens next. Katkiller-V obviously went to great lengths to make her fanfic believable and her story and new characters all fit within the world James Cameron brought to us while adding to it.
Check it out here.