Amy H. Sturgis (eldritchhobbit) wrote,
Amy H. Sturgis

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When Qui-Gon Went Under the Microscope

As a companion to my previous post about the "pure vessel" metaphor and Star Wars Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn, and as another installment of my fan fiction retrospective, I thought I would mention some of the fan fiction works that to me have presented particularly interesting explorations of the Qui-Gon character and his relationship to the Force. I cannot possibly mention all of the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace stories I have enjoyed, but these choice few are among the very best.

* If I could recommend only one story to a Star Wars fan, I think it would be "The Magic Lamp" by Marnie. In this G-rated, general tale, Marnie finds a unique way of creating a conversation between Qui-Gon Jinn and Luke Skywalker without denying Qui-Gon's canonical death decades earlier -- or, for that matter, turning Qui-Gon into one of the infamous "glowing blue ghosts." Both characters ring very true here -- interestingly enough, Marnie rejects the Jedi Apprentice series as canon, and yet she paints a portrait of the Jedi Master that is very convincing even to this reader, who accepts the novels -- and the resulting dialogue reveals much about their different perspectives on the Force, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. What impresses me most about this short story, aside from masterful handling of the Qui-Gon character, is that Marnie moves the reader between moments of aching despair and true hope, and makes the reader believe that with the Force, all things really are possible. Consider it a "must read" story.

(Note: I hope Marnie will eventually complete her current work-in-progress fan novel The Stolen Ones, which presents another detailed portrait of Qui-Gon Jinn and a most interesting interpretation of his mentor relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi.)

* Of the general stories I find particularly noteworthy, I also highly recommend "Departure," "Not A Place," and "First Principles" (together, Memories of Never Was) by Nym. These linked stories follow a newly-knighted and independent Obi-Wan and a Qui-Gon Jinn recovering from his grievous wounds on Naboo, both trying to negotiate their new relationship and understand what the training of Anakin really means. Nym's greatest strength is restraint, and these subtle stories speak volumes about the Master/Padawan connection.

Other "general stories" are as follows:

* "Pain" by Stacey Lee tells two parallel stories, one of Qui-Gon's early days as a lone Knight and one of his later mission with his Padawan Obi-Wan. The story explains how Qui-Gon helps Obi-Wan learn a difficult lesson he himself learned long ago. Qui-Gon's growth as a Jedi and the trust implicit in the Master/Padawan bond take center stage before a backdrop of violence, torture, and intrigue.

* "Survival" by Skye details how Qui-Gon survives his wound on Naboo and slowly fights his way back toward soundness. This story inverts the psychological caretaker/cared for dynamic between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and shows both reevaluating their positions as Obi-Wan becomes a Knight and Qui-Gon a Master once again.

These slash stories also require special mention:

* Meet Another by Torch is an excellent alternate universe novella in which Qui-Gon never took Obi-Wan as his Padawan, and Obi-Wan was trained by another Jedi. Years later, still harboring a bit of resentment toward the now-disappeared Qui-Gon for his rejection long ago, the now-knighted Obi-Wan discovers Qui-Gon being held as a slave on Tatooine. Badly used and scarred by his original abduction by Xanatos, who eventually gave him over to his present captivity, Qui-Gon is artificially cut off from the Force, and yet he still seeks to protect his fellow-slaves Shmi and Anakin and still believes in the prophecy of the Chosen One. This story directly relates to Qui-Gon's unusual connection with the Force and his points of disagreement with the Jedi Council. It is all the more powerful for Obi-Wan's awkward -- and, eventually, awed -- perspective on Qui-Gon. The story's successfully ambiguous and untidy ending strikes a satisfying chord, as this story considers the shades of grey surrounding the entire Jedi experience.

* "Forgotten" and "Forgotten: Roles Reversed" by Trudy West are fascinating character studies. Both spring from the same premise: a mission for a Jedi goes terribly wrong, leaving him enslaved, his memory deliberately erased. The other Jedi searches for him and "purchases" him in order to return him to Coruscant for healing of his body and restoration of his memories. The first story posits Qui-Gon as a slave used for manual labor and Obi-Wan as the Jedi who finds and rescues him; the second story switches the two, with Obi-Wan as a slave exploited for sexual purposes. Trudy West explores how the two Jedi would respond differently to enslavement and in the attempt to gain freedom, as well as how they each would approach the other if the situations were reversed. A terrific concept, these two stories provide interesting sketches of the two men's psyches and dispositions.

Other slash stories are as follows:

* "A Kind of Genesis" by Anna describes the revenge of Xanatos, as he captures Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and tries to break them both. This story moves beyond H/C cliches in moments of real insight about Qui-Gon's demons and Obi-Wan's devotion. Anna's characterizations do not always match my understandings of the characters perfectly, but the times when the two diverge are still interesting to me -- and some of those moments are rather breathtaking.

* "Mos C'Ethra" by DBKate might be considered "pre-slash." It also takes a tried-and-true formula and rises above it. While on an unrelated mission on a distant world, Master and Padawan find themselves in the midst of a plague. Qui-Gon uses the last inoculation for Obi-Wan and, when the Master falls ill, charges Obi-Wan with peacekeeping duties in a city dissolving into anarchy. Qui-Gon's descent before Obi-Wan's eyes, as well as Obi-Wan's growth due to Qui-Gon's trust and need, are the hearts of this tale, which alone is worth a reading for the scene in which a delirious Qui-Gon mistakes Obi-Wan for a Xanatos bent on murder and revenge.

There are three remarkable slash series I should mention separately. Each is worth multiple readings for its insights into the Jedi world.

* The Exiles Universe series by Kass and DBKate following an aging Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon (who survived his terrible wound on Naboo) living together in the desert of Tatooine, watching over young Luke Skywalker. The characters are portrayed with singular sensitivity and thoughtfulness, making their older selves convincing and at times heartbreaking to encounter. Kass and DBKate infuse the most mundane details of existence with meaning. The devotion of the two, in the face of a changing universe and hostile exile, goes without saying, but the most remarkable part of this series is the attention given to the two men's different approaches to the Force and to the vocation of the Jedi. Certain stories retell previous ones from the opposite partner's point of view, fleshing out our understanding of these humble and forgotten heroes.

* The JAOA series (a.k.a. "Jedi Academy on Acid") by Black Rose, Gail Riordan, and others creates an alternate universe in which Qui-Gon survives Naboo but is nearly crippled, Obi-Wan assumes Anakin's mentorship, and Anakin eventually choses Han Solo as his own Padawan. I am particularly taken by the descriptions of the ways in which Qui-Gon achieves and undermines his own health, and of the aging of both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan under the constant threat of Qui-Gon's decline. Here again Qui-Gon's unique relationship with the Living Force is contrasted with Obi-Wan's more orthodox approach; moreover, the authors suggest how Anakin might have matured if Qui-Gon had played a role in his training.

* The Riding the Wheel of If series by MrsHamill and various other authors follows Obi-Wan after Qui-Gon's death on Naboo as he, quite unintentionally, opens a portal between parallel universes. Each story in the series puts Obi-Wan in another world. All Obi-Wan wants is a live Qui-Gon who will love him as he is loved, but what he finds are nearly endless variations on a theme: Qui-Gon as living while Obi-Wan has died, Qui-Gon as Sith, Qui-Gon as the last survivor of a Jedi extermination, Qui-Gon as a woman, etc. With Obi-Wan as the readers' constant factor in a series of wild variables, we watch as Obi-Wan encounters and is changed by different realities in which all of the facets of Qui-Gon's character can be explored.

There are easily a dozen more stories I would like to mention. (Ask me if you're interested!) But these stand out as particularly useful in the larger discussion of Qui-Gon as a pure vessel. Please note that certain stories contain warnings about violence, sexual content, and dark subject matter. If there are others you can recommend to me in the context of Qui-Gon's characterization, I would be most grateful!
Tags: fan fiction, star wars

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