- What I Learned at SRU -
A labor of love and collaboration. A character-heavy, sequential, personal expression of growing up as a young adult.
“Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.”
Art Credits (from selection above): [X] by pineapplefactor; [X] [X] [X] [X] by Hoodsun; [X] by nymre; [X] by c-dra; [X] by DarrenGeers; [X] by SqueakyE; [X] by doodlebuggy
What I Learned at SRU is complicated to explain in terms of genre or content. It is a serialized work of young-adult fiction that is essentially an original plot set in contemporary times which uses references and homage to the Avatar series as its foundation. Likewise, many of the primary themes are derived from Avatar, and the likenesses of its characters are directly inspired by the casts of both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. That said, you do not need to have seen either show to understand or appreciate the story. It is this very fact — and the fact that many of the character reinterpretations have become more my own characters than anything else — which has made me decide to eventually convert the entire work into an original series down the road. You can read a FAQ about the story here.
The story focuses mainly on a cast of five characters who are college students with a six main character in her late twenties coming into the fold maybe about 1/3 into the story’s length. The primary cast is Katara, Toph, Aang, Sokka, Jane, and further in, Korra (the older one). Who’s Jane? Well, she started off as a re-interpretation of Smellerbee, (with the TV show characters’ name serving as her gang-member nickname) but ultimately grew into her own, as many of the characters have, really. I took the spark of inspiration that was Smellerbee’s androgyny and evolved the premise into an initially violent and grouchy intersex-born pansexual who turned into Jane Fitzpatrick. Where Smellerbee is a footnote in the Avatar series, Jane is just as important as any other member of the ‘Gaang’ in SRU, who come to call themselves the Fearsome Fivesome (plus one).
As for the recurring supporting cast, it is comprised of (in order of relative prominence) Mai, Zuko, Meng, Ty-Lee, Azula, Iroh, June, Suki, and Longshot.
The story is sequential and was designed to be a long-term story like a running comic or TV show. As of October 2013, the story will have been in steady production for three years running. Its current word count is nearing 900,000 words (I expect it to top off around 1 million by the end), and its art gallery is somewhere in the range of 300 pieces of art. It does have a planned ending that I am getting pretty close to, I am just taking time to do my best at wrapping up any notable loose ends and character arcs before reaching the story’s finale, which I anticipate will occur this winter.
"It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others - the other elements, the other nations - will help you become whole. It is the combination of the four elements in one person that makes the Avatar so powerful. But it can make you more powerful, too.”
The story’s themes and tone vary from chapter to chapter, much like a TV show or comic, but in general, its core is probably a combination of the ideas of balance, harmony, and coping with loss and learning to move on. While the plot is its own fictional thing and generally not at all like the TV series, I work in references to the canon series (sometimes as commentary on my opinions of said canon) and some occasional nods to the fandom (including such bits as ‘Mama Mako’). I also openly express my own real-life experiences through parts of the narrative and through the characters, and yet none of them are quite like me. In its current, ‘rough draft’ form as an online fanfic, I also experiment a lot with various narrative devices. These include text messages, e-mails and social media posts, song lyrics, theming comparisons to pop culture, poetry readings, phone calls, and more.
This is not a story for people who specifically seek out works based on “ships.” The relationships in SRU are not static. In fact, there is only one romance in the entire work that remains steady and consistent throughout, and even that one runs into difficulties that are dealt with. Just like in many peoples’ college experiences, crushes aren’t always reciprocated, love doesn’t always happen at first sight, not all relationships last, and even those that work out do not involve riding off into an easy sunset. Romance in SRU is — as it would be for most college students — just one slice of the pie of life. But if you are that curious, the more prominent romantic dynamics in the story include: Toph x Aang, Katara x Aang, Toph x Sokka, Mai x Zuko, Ty-Lee x Azula, Jane (Smellerbee) x Longshot, Korra x Bolin, Mako x Asami
In short, What I Learned at SRU is homage to the Avatar series while also serving as an original story, character analysis, and personal expression of things I have experienced and learned in young adulthood. It’s my way of participating in and collaborating with the fandom while also exploring my interpretation of the themes and messages of the Avatar series.
"You think you’re any different from me? Or your friends? Or this tree? If you listen hard enough, you can hear everything breathing together; you can feel everything growing.
We’re all living together, even if most folks don’t act like it.
We all have the same roots, and we are all branches of the same tree.”
The story can be read at the following locations:
FanFiction.net - Archive of Our Own - DeviantArt
Artwork for this story project can be viewed at the DeviantArt Gallery.
Other related links for following updates:
DeviantArt Group - Facebook Page
Esteemed Master Post (Toph & Lin Beifong fanfic/art project)
THANK YOU to everyone for all of their support over the past few years.
~ Destiny-Smasher (e-mail)