“Listen you dumb punk and listen well. You gonna join my team or not? And think long and hard before you answer because despite your attempts to push me away I don’t trust your jerk ass to keep yourself alive long enough for us to get through this war and get the effects of this serum reversed. So suit up or shut up. C’mon,” and her tone turned a bit playful at this, a bit like the Stevie you once knew. “Don’t you wanna follow Captain America into battle? See what adventures we could have?”
You look down at your beer for a long time. Contemplate the foam head, the sweat on the glass. Think. “Nah,” you finally say, but you’ve got a small smile on your face. Maybe this will work. Maybe you can make it work. “But that little gal in Brooklyn too stupid to know when to quit?”
You look up at her, unable to help the adoration from coloring your eyes. “Guess I’d follow her anywhere.”
An Alternate Universe (AU) is defined in my Glossary as a story that takes only the bare essentials of the story, and exists almost entirely independent of canon. AUs draw off of characters and their perceived personalities, but place them in a new setting separate from canon. This is often done for shipping purposes. Settings range from historical to modern day to space to bands to high schools to coffee shops to abstract ideas. The structure of an AU is odd in that it expects that a character will still act the same way as always, despite them having lived under entirely different circumstances. Nevertheless, an AU can provide a valuable insight into a character, by suggesting alternate ways in which a character could develop in the same fashion, or by presenting a new twist on the character, brought about by a setting that could never have been achieved in canon.
Well, that’s all nice and good, you say, but how about an example of a valuable insight? Your point is a bit lacking when I have no story to connect it with. Fear not, wait not, search for another fanfiction not, dear reader, for I have an example.
Unfortunately, this fanfiction is not the best example. It is not what I would consider a ‘genuine’ AU, in that it does not happen in a different setting. That does not, however, mean it is not a grand story. This is a Universe Alternation (UA), a story that has been separated from canon by changing a few major details, with the remainder of the setting/characters/plot line staying the same. But even though it is an imperfect example of an AU, the point I am trying to make is still exemplified, and so I will endeavor to stretch the comparison nevertheless. That point is that there is a major point to this fanfiction; a theme that could never be explored using the canon universe. And that point is body dysmorphia, the mismatching of one’s body and mind.
In this universe, Steve Rogers was not born under that name. She was born Stella Rogers, and throughout her life, she has been different from the other girls. She is secure in her femininity, but, as with the canon Steve, she is not content with letting her body shape her future. She still picks fights, because she still won’t allow anyone to be belittled (even herself, due to her sickly and womanly form). With this strong heart, she dates and marries her childhood friend, Bucky Barnes. This AU allows for some major twists to the classic comic, changing every detail of Stella and Bucky’s marriage, and of this story, into a subversive, casual critique on the period’s views of women. As a female, Stella is only able to enter the army through the Nurse Corps, and is only subjected to the super serum in place of a soldier, to make sure a good man isn’t wasted. But the super serum changes everything, and suddenly, Stella has crossed a canyon of a gender divide, and she is dangling from its edge. She never wanted to be a man.
And her husband never wanted her to be a man, either. After he is rescued by his newly-buff wife, Bucky Barnes finds himself in the most awkward and unsatisfying of marriages. As a straight man, Bucky cannot treat his wife the way she deserves to be treated, because he simply isn’t physically attracted to her anymore. Fittingly, this dilemma is reminiscent of the tragic accidents that can befall soldiers, transforming their veteran lives forever. Even though they have sacrificed for a just cause, they will always be treated differently, as someone who does not belong among the healthy, the natural, the unburdened.
I can’t give any more of the story away, but as you might have noticed, this is a very angsty fanfiction. There is quite a lot of sadness, quite a lot of dark themes, and quite a lot of what seem like historically-accurate views on women and gays. There is some major erasure of transgender and queer individuals, as Stella attempts to preserve an inconvenient history; everything she loved about her old life is forgotten in a men-only, straight-only, cis-only narrative. Also featured: heartbreakingly accurate characterization, and a new take on an old ship.
There is something which could be considered smut in this story, but as no one is pleased with it, it can only barely be considered porn. Nevertheless, the failed smut is still trying, and is still explicit. Most of the fanfiction deals with the complications of a straight marriage suddenly becoming queer.
Surprisingly enough, fluff does survive in this environment, but only as a scuttling creature several links down the food chain, which will dominate the Earth after the other aspects of fanfiction have killed each other off. But perhaps, despite all the painful twists fate has given her, Stella will find a way to be happy. Sometimes, those twists can become turns in a better direction. Sometimes, there are benefits to losing your body or mind. You’ll have to read the fanfiction to find out. And I highly recommend reading it. It is fantastic.
Overall Rating: +++++
Read it here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/2614352
This is a tale of the struggle to fit in your own flesh. But it is also a story about moving on, accepting tragedies, and patching yourself into a new, improved, whole person.