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I'm not sure if it was while watching Avatar: the Last Airbender or while reading related fanfic, that I discovered that benders didn't tend to use weapons. Zuko is unusual in that he is a fire bender who can also use a sword. Most benders just use their bending for both offense and defense, and people with weapons are clearly marked as not being benders.

Another thing is that the Air Nomads all seemed to be benders. The other nations had a much longer percentage of benders in their populations. But let's pretend for a bit that instead most people, in any given nation, are benders.

So, I had a thought: 

SG-1 walks through the stargate and comes out near some small village in the Avatar universe. It doesn't even matter which nation it is. Just four soldiers all armed to the teeth, saying, "We're just peaceful travelers. We come in peace. etc."

O'Neill thinks it's getting to be increasingly ridiculous to introduce themselves that way when they are so obviously armed soldiers. Most of the people they meet on trips think it's ridiculous, too, and tend to try to kill them. These villagers on the other hand seem only slightly amused and condescending when they agree that SG-1 are peaceful visitors.

What's odder still is that a couple of times the adults in the village have had to take the village children to task for making fun of the poor strangers with their many guns.

Then they see some school yard scuffle between two kids. It might involve them throwing boulders at each other or maybe shooting flames. The school teacher walks right into the middle of it, breaks up the fight and gives both kids detention. Nobody is hurt.

But even Teal'c is disturbed.

Jackson goes around chatting with various people and finally comes back to the SG-1 to explain that, "well, everyone is a bit condescending BECAUSE we're carrying weapons, not despite it."


"It's a bit like if someone on prosthetic legs or in a wheelchair came to the SGC and announced that they didn't intend to challenge anyone to a hand-to-hand fight."


"I'm beginning to see why the Goa'uld never tried to conquer this place." 

marbleglove: (Default)

Watching Avatar: the Last Airbender was a whole lot of fun. Although, I have to say, it was odd to watch it for the first time only after I had read Vathara's Embers fanfic. It was interesting to see what changed and what didn't. And, while the cartoon definitely grew on me, there were still times when it threw me out of my suspended disbelief. After all, here are kids (and adults) throwing around dangerous things and no one ever gets seriously hurt. There are a few people who were killed in the backstory, but no one really dies in the plot. Evil people and groups put together these elaborate and expensive prisons in order to hold dangerous prisoners, but there's no thought of simply killing someone.

Defeat, torture, maim, etc... all of these happen, but not killing.

The few exceptions are:

1. A fire nation commander kills Katara's mother, but then does his best to hide the fact. (The mother's body is never found.) Zuko agrees that the commander committed a crime that deserves payback. And the commander recognizes Katara pretty much immediately as the only witness to what he had done.

2. Katara considers killing the commander who killed her mother but refrains in the end.

3. Azula tries to kill Aang and Zuko.

4. Everyone tells Aang that he must kill the Fire Lord. Aang really doesn't want to and eventually finds a way around it.

Now, of course, the fact that the story is a cartoon intended for young children could clearly explain the lack of deaths. However, I had a thought: 

What if, instead, it's that killing is seriously taboo. Given all of the elemental benders around, it would be easy enough for even young children to kill each other, but rather than just being a matter of morality and/or strength, killing is considered seriously disgusting and unthinkable. You want to defeat your enemies, destroy their culture, possibly put them into a situation where they won't survive, but the culture of all four nations agree that to directly kill someone is on par with having an affair with your own mother or some such.

Thus, benders in particular need to be able to pull their punches.

Anyway, this wouldn't necessarily change the events of the story, but how would it change the implications all the way through? 

Something to think about.

And while this idea definitely came from watching Avatar, it could also be applied to an original story. What would the implications be for a society if everyone had the ability to do vast damage to all around them--property damage was common and construction workers well-paid--but killing was completely anathema? 
marbleglove: (Default)
Lu Ten was the son and heir of General Iroh, crown prince of the Fire Nation. He was also a soldier under General Iroh’s command at the Seige of Ba Sing Se, capital of the Earth Nation. The siege lasted for a grueling 600 days: soldiers and fire benders against soldiers and earth benders.

According to Avatar: the Last Airbender canon, Lu Ten died during that siege, and his father, General Iroh, retired soon after. However, in my idea: 

Lu Ten prayed to the sun every day at sunrise, as did all fire benders, to give him the life and fire and the will to fight. But over the course of the days studying and fighting earth benders, he found himself in some ways relying on the earth to give him the will to persevere, to stay strong and maintain his position.

Those thoughts were locked in his own mind, though, and seemed a petty enough heresy, until the day his troop fought another round of earth benders, and this time they lost.

It didn’t break the line of the siege. It was a single scuffle of little importance except to the fire nation soldiers crushed by the monolithic tiles toppled on top of them. They were all dead or dying except for Lu Ten, who hadn’t even though about what he was doing when he pounded his feet and shoved his arms in a way he had watched his opponents do a thousand times, to control the boulders and tiles they flung. It shouldn’t have mattered; he was no earth bender. But the tiles stopped just short of crushing him, and he felt their presence in his mind, felt the sun soaked dirt, warm and dark, under his control.

He is rescued from his small space that night when his father came in private to retrieve his body. Iroh was amazed and delighted to find his son alive, but also curious as to how it came about, and suspicious enough of the answer that he took Lu Ten to his tent in secret before asking.

Lu Ten thought of concealing this new ability—after all, it was just one time, it was probably a fluke, and it was probably heresy—but to conceal it from his father, his prince, and his commanding officer would be worse than any heresy.

“You are right. It is heresy for a fire bender to also bend earth. Also impossible for anyone other than The Avatar.” His father sounded more philosophical than angry, though.

“I’m not The Avatar.”

“No, I do not think you are. The Avatar is an old, old soul, and your soul is fresh and new.”

“Thanks… I think.”

“I wonder what The Avatar was like in his first life, when he was first learning mastery of each element.”


“The world is out of balance. It would seem that even Agni has realized this, to give one of her own to XX and XX. I have watched our soldiers kill and be killed for too many years, now. I think even Agni must grow tired of never setting.”

“You don’t think we can win this war?”

Can we? I don’t know. The question I ask myself more and more is, should we?”


“It is treason to say such, I know. It is also treason to disobey ones commanding officer, and I think as your commanding officer I will command you to learn the other elements.”

“You think I’ll be able to learn not just earth bending but water and air as well?”

“It would seem likely.”

“Likely? None of this seems likely! And anyway, there aren’t any air benders anymore. How can I learn if there is no one to teach me?”

“You are fire nation and have just demonstrated earth bending. You will have to learn the cycle of elements in the opposite order from The Avatar. By the time you have mastered earth and water, I’m sure you’ll have thought of something to do about air.”

“Father…” Lu Ten couldn’t help but whine a little bit at that.

“Lu Ten. You are my beloved son. But from this day forth, I am declaring you dead in battle. Your uncle Ozai will be the crown prince and your cousin Zuko will follow him on the thrown, because tonight I will commit treason. I command you to leave this army for the greater world, and learn the other bending skills. I will break this siege and return to the fire nation. Come back to me when you are ready to bring the world back into balance.”

“Yes, Father.”

However many years later…

This could be:
(A) a completely AU version of Avatar: The Last Airbender, in which Aang never does return, or
(B) a modified AU, in which Aang and Lu Ten work together, or
(C) potentially canonical if Lu Ten is simply staying under the radar during all the events of the show (Iroh doesn’t even know if he’s still alive), and then appears after the conclusion. His life wasn’t necessary for fixing the problem this time, but maybe if he does reincarnate later, his existence will help prevent such an unbalance from happening in the future. And even know, it might take some weight off of Aang’s shoulders.

Anyway, these were my thoughts during my commute home today.
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Despite the epic casting fail that was The Last Airbender, I went to see the movie. And, wow, the casting bit was not the only failure involved. Nonetheless, I actually enjoyed the experience once I realized that it's not a movie in the traditional sense. It's sort of like a retelling of the actual movie (which would be about twelve hours long, have actors that can act, and plot development that actually works.) The plot of that movie is sort of summarized by the movie that I went to see with a combination of voice-over narration and random monologues in which characters describe their entire backstories. And the movie I saw really made me want to watch the movie that it should have been.

In the quest for the movie that should have been, I decided that I should probably actually watch some of the original animated series. I watched several episodes and confirmed that while, yes, it is a very good cartoon, I am, alas, not part of their target audience anymore. My days of being fully satisfied by cartoons aimed at the six to twelve-year-old audience.

Thus, moving on to fanfiction, I was fairly disappointed by the selection. There simply aren't that many good fanfic writers for a series with a target audience that young. Sigh. However, I did find Embers by Vathara. She's an excellent writer and I recommend pretty much all and any of her writing. Go and see what coolness she hath wrought. However, this particular story of hers goes oddly extreme in it's apologist writing for the fire nation in its later chapters. That made me think: 

Let us consider The Avatar (the main character of Avatar: The Last Airbender.) The current avatar is 12-years-old but he is the reincarnation of the whole line of avatars going way back. The avatar has control of all four elements (air, water, earth, and fire) unlike the other benders in this universe who can only control one each. The avatar brings balance to the world and is insanely powerful. The implication is that The Avatar is inherently good.

What if The Avatar wasn't?


The Avatar is insanely powerful with control of all four elements. Which ever side of a war he is on, is the one that's going to win. (This is true of The Avatar, not just Aang, our current incarnation.) So, his history is always, always, always told by the victors who he helped. He's not good because he's good; he's good because the people who survive are the ones who like him and the ones who don't like him don't survive.

None of the monks who raised Aang (current Avatar) thought this through, though, and just told Aang that he was inherently good. Aang ran way before claiming his role as The Avatar because he was beginning to realize that he doesn't automatically know what's right. He's going through his teenage years trying to figure out a proper moral code to live by (and to make others live by) when all of his allies seem to think he doesn't need one. They tell him that anything he randomly decides on the spur of the moment must be right. However, he's The Avatar and has plenty of experience to say that, no, really, it's not that easy and he's perfectly capable of messing up with some fairly severe consequences to everyone else.

Consider what happens when an essentially nice sweet kid discovers that he's powerful enough to essentially lack external boundaries, either physically or socially. No one and nothing can stop him except himself. I'd like a story that develops Aang's struggle against his allies' opinions even more than against his enemies' attacks.


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