BJ Sandburg

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Zine
Title: BJ Sandburg
Publisher: AMC Press, then Requiem Publications
Editor:
Author(s): Gillian Middleton
Cover Artist(s): TACS (print) Lupe online
Illustrator(s): TACS
Date(s): 1999? (online), June 2000 (print)
Medium: online, print
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: The Sentinel
Language: English
External Links: Gillian's Sentinel Slash Page, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

BJ Sandburg is a 179-page Sentinel slash novel by Gillian Middleton. Cover and interior art of print issue by TACS.

cover by TACS

It is part of AMC Press' Best of the Net series.

It was first published by AMC Press in 2000. In 2018, it was reissued in print and PDF by Requiem Publications.

History

Originally released online, roughly one chapter per day for 34 days, BJ Sandburg was groundbreaking when it was published (1999?) because it was a rare example of genderswap (not to mention mpreg) in Sentinel fandom. The story was widely-discussed. On the whole, even the dubious were won over.

It was later released as a zine.[1] Though the zine is now out of print, the story is still available online.[2] The story also inspired fanart.[3]

art from online version, Lupe, "After reading Gillian Middleton's wonderful story BJ Sandburg, I kept wondering what Blair would look like as a female. So even though I really appreciate Blair's masculine beauty, I did a little experimenting and this is what resulted. I put his features, eyes, nose, mouth and hair into a feminine face. I'm still not sure if you can see Blair in there. I think I ended up with Fiona. --- Derwent Terracotta Drawing Pencil on Charcoal paper" [4]

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

I highly recommend the Sentinel zine BJ Sandburg by Gillian Middleton. It is het and slash. The basic story premise is that Blair becomes a woman for one year at the age of thirty due to a ancient family curse. Jim and Blair fall in love as a man and woman and then when Blair becomes a man again, they decide to use that love to deal with the changes in their physical relationship. There is a lot of humor, angst, smarm, hurt/comfort, romance, action, drama, and love. It's a wonderful story of how friendship can turn into love. Blair is shown to have many facets as a man and as a woman. He can be strong and vulnerable, silly and serious, compassionate and sarcastic. Jim is shown to have many vulnerabilities as well. Jim is shown to be insecure and confident, as well as the same qualities mentioned before that Blair has. I really liked the portrayal of Simon. It really hit the nail on the head. His character in the story is very similar to that on the show. It added a lot to the humor and the drama. The cover is beautifully done with Jim, Blair and BJ (female Blair). There is some nice b/w art work spread throughout the novel. I however liked the BJ on the cover the best as a picture portrayal of a female Blair... I had already read the story twice on the internet at Gillian Middleton's site. I wanted a copy to keep just in case she ever takes it off the net. It is a heartwarming story of love blossoming, that includes very real fears, concerns, and situations. I cannot stress enough how much I liked this story. I think it is one of my favorite stories, and the genderbender aspect is part of what makes it so good. I don't want to give anything away, but Jim and Blair encounter life altering crisis and circumstances, besides the gender changing bit, that captures the reader so as to not to want to put down the story.[5]
Blair turns into a woman for a year. Sounds icky but it's actually quite well done.[6]
Gillian Middleton posted her story B.J. Sandburg to her site in parts as she wrote it, and every morning, I would fly over to my computer to see if there was a new chapter. When there was, I'd read it over breakfast, and it absolutely made my day. It's such an interesting and unusual premise: everyone in the Sandburg clan changes gender for one year when they turn thirty. And now it's Blair turn. Gillian writes about the experience so deftly and so realistically that after a while switching sex just seems like a normal part of life. It certainly helps that her Jim and Blair really sound and behave like Jim and Blair, only it's Jim and Blair dealing with this very, very weird thing. B.J. Sandburg is a funny, moving, thought provoking story that I can't recommend enough.[7]
Blair knew for a long time that the men in his family were different.... R: I have to say that I was more than a little weary before reading this story. It's been years since I've read anything with a female main character. I had to picture Blair in my mind as a hermaphrodite, just to get through the first part. B.J. Sandburg grew on me though, and I have to say that I ended up being okay with Blair turning into a woman, and B.J. and Jim starting a heterosexual relationship. The overall story was very well written, too. GENDER-SWITCH PREG [8]

2000

This story is not one I would normally even consider reading, but there is an exception to every rule, right? In this long (35 parts!) story, Blair turns into a woman for a year, and yes, pregnancy becomes an issue. But this isn't a squick-fest. I personally do not like male pregnancy stories, or switching gender stories. Kinda defeats the purpose of reading about men, doesn't it? But somehow Gillian makes this story work for me. Jim never, ever forgets that it is Blair he is with, and the chemistry between them just gets hotter and hotter. I read this entire thing in one sitting the first time, and I'm re-reading it again now. Don't ask me how Gillian has accomplished the impossible, find out for yourself. Yum.[9]
Well, many know how I feel about BJ Sandburg (love doesn't begin to explain it). After the initial shock of the whole gender-bending issue, it's a wonderful story and the fact that Blair DOES act in a feminine matter is what is the key to the story. You get lost in this relationship that Jim is developing with BJ and then you realize WHO BJ is and the joy is three-fold. He doesn't turn into a walking billboard for females everywhere, but slowly he takes on the mannerisms so that we embrace the pregnancy, the marriage, the pain, the loss....EVERYTHING. OK, enough of my gushing, back to your regularly scheduled lives;) [10]
... it was *way* weird when "BJ" suddenly found a male body attractive without ever having found a woman attractive. It just didn't make *any* sense in the narrative, unless you assume a worldview where everyone is unthinkingly heterosexual--therefore BJ *bonds* with Megan instead of lusting after her or any other available woman.
[reply by the author]: It may not be a world wide view but it's this authors view that some people are homosexual and some people aren't. Blair as a woman *wasn't*. He had his own mind, memories etc, but he had this brand new body pumped full of female hormones, etc. Pump a man's body full of female hormones and you'll change his behaviour too.
And let's face it, Blair's spent his life lusting after women, here he is with a year to spend as a woman, with no comeback or fallout later on. He can experiment *as* a woman, and part of that, to him, is painting his toenails and buying a dress and making out with a guy. It might not what all men would do when given the opportunity to be a female, but it's what Blair did. (At least the Blair I was writing did!)

Whatever happened to Canon-Blair's table-leg behaviour? Gillian's Blair gets breasts and he suddenly doesn't even *look* at a woman sexually? Hell, once he got over the shock, I'd expect BJ to fondle himself/herself with sudden interest *because* he/she likes *breasts*.

[reply by the author]: <grin> Maybe he did? Before I succumbed to the temptation to switch to Blair's POV for a few chapters, who knows what he was doing while Jim wasn't looking? As a man I'd think the whole 'missing penis' thing would be his biggest concern for a while, certainly when I wrote a DS story where Fraser turned into a 5 year old, his biggest freak-out concerned his now tiny weeny. <g>

Even beyond the heterocentrism of the story, I was completely unconvinced by Blair's sudden interest in exploring "feminine" things, without his seeming to even be *aware* that wearing frilly clothes and painting toenails is a culturally conditioned behavior that not all women share, and that in no way defines what it *means* to be a woman--which on some level, the story itself defines as a matter of biology (Blair's proof that he's a woman is that he has a woman's body, not that he has a penis and a sudden interest in changing diapers).

[reply by the author]: Hm, not sure what that last part means. But as to Blair not being aware, I disagree. He would be very aware that there's more to being a woman than painting toe nails, etc. But these were his first exploratory steps after all.
In my experience a lot of guys are fascinated by the whole make-up thing, probably because it's taboo for them, maybe because they're denied the fun of painting their faces. How many little boys will have a ball with a make-up case? But they reach a certain age and suddenly this is something they're not even allowed to *want* to do.
Blair strikes me as the type to be intensely interested in make-up and nail polish and the whole feminine mystique. First chance he got he'd be jumping into femininity head first.
And to be fair he got past the strapless dress stage pretty quickly.

Despite the fact that, in this story Blair's still an anthropologist and 30 years old, Gillian's got him acting on what appear to be very unquestioningly essentialist beliefs about female behaviour and sexuality. The BJ she paints is, in many respects, just plain *stupid* in his complete lack of reflection on what it means, both culturally and personally, to become a woman. To me, it smacks of more than just bad politics on Gillian's part--it's bad *characterization* of a BJ based on a Blair that I don't even recognize from canon.

[reply by the author]: Again, we don't know what Blair was thinking at first! Maybe he reflected the heck out of the whole thing? Or maybe his way of coping with this complete change was to just go with the flow.

Blair's the guy, after all, who doesn't let Jim *drive* a *truck* without giving him a lecture on the cultural implications of road rage, for goodness sake! Blair's the guy who's got a cross-cultural meta-level explanation for most things. But give him breasts and ovaries and watch out--the boy loses his intellect, which I think is a high price to pay for seeing him get fucked by Jim.

[reply by the author]: At which point did he lose his intellect? Remind me.

Just for contrast, a better example of a story that *does* *think* in a knowing and complex way about gender, and that tells a good story in the process, is Acer Canadensis's "Ours" (Due South: Fraser/RayV) <http://www.hexwood.com/archive/challenge/ours.html> It's an MPREG story that *doesn't* believe that biology is destiny, and it (unlike most of the MPREG stories I've read) doesn't presume that "woman" and "man" are stable, essential, and heterosexual categories, or that pregnancy means feeling any particular way about anything.

Although I seem to be harping on the politics of a story, in the case of most trans-gender and MPREG stories (Gillian's being the most obvious in this respect), the characters act dumber than canon (and, given that TV writers are not the brightest bulbs out there, that's saying something!).

[reply by the author]: Poor BJ! I didn't think he was that dumb! Whatever culturally impolitic thing did he say to garner such a response!! Or was he just dumb because only dumb women like to paint their toenails and wear make-up? Did I miss my opportunity for him to wear sleeveless denim overalls and show of his unshaven armpits? Should he have been burning his bra rather than buying one? <G>

All of which isn't to say that Gillian's "BJ Sandburg" lacks merit. It was well-written enough that I read the whole thing with a kind of increasingly horrified fascination, which may not have been her *goal*, but it is *something* in her favour. By the time I got to Blair's vestigial vagina--the scar that Blair *keeps* after becoming a man again and that exists as a permanent "opening" or sign of Blair's female body--I was ready to applaud Gillian for getting me to come with her that far.

[reply by the author]: Okay, that's the second vestigial vagina comment I've heard! I must ask my sister-in-law (who's had 3 C-sections) whether that's how she views hers? To me it was no different from the scar Blair had from being shot in the leg that time, that convinced Simon he was BJ. His body changed into a woman's body and then back into a man's. He kept his scars. Period. No deeper meanings meant here.
Blech. It was hard enough writing the het sex without dwelling on vestigial vaginas!!
Anyway, hugs from Gillian! [11]
Blair viewed this year as 'time out'. It wasn't 'real', there shouldn't be any consequences, it doesn't matter. And he started preparing himself mentally for this year when he was a little boy, before he necessarily started deconstructing culture and constructions of the feminine. It was a time removed from his normal way of being, and from the way his aunts and mother talked, family practice was to go out and behave in the most stereotypical ways imaginable. (Being a cowboy, for a little old lady who's never left her city before, is hypermasculine, don't you think?) I would buy the theory that his behavior was an unexamined family practice, at least in part.[12]
Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Danger, Will Robinson! The sound that you hear is the alarm bells of one of Francesca's hot buttons being pressed--yes, my office is rigged up like the Batcave, and right now there are all sorts of lights and bells and whistles going, and a giant "F" emblazioned across the sky...

What's set this off is Angelika's leap from "anatomy as destiny" to the notion of "free will." The implication here is a simple Nature/Culture duality (and don't even start, this isn't about my stories, just work with me here!) which is fraudulent. I agree that we haven't got free will, but that's not just about anatomy or science or biology. *Culture causes a lack of free will too!*--in fact, I'd say that we lose a great deal *more* of our free will to *culture* than we do to nature/science/biology, which is supposed to be so rigid. It isn't. And shit, now I *am* gonna quote myself, but yeah, Blair lays this out in Nature Vs. Culture--i.e. that culture is supposed to be changeable, and nature not, but right now we're cloning sheep and mapping the genome but people are having a damn hard time trying, say, to get people not to use their automobiles so much, for example. Changing behavior is a hell of a lot more difficult than changing hormone levels or brain patterns. Your body doesn't care whether you have sex with a member of a different race or not. Your culture does. Look how much "free will" we have in choosing our partners--note that the vast majority of people marry/partner within their ethnic/racial/religious group. It ain't free will--but it ain't anatomy or biology, either.

Thus I'm sticking with my original thesis. If Blair is really, totally straight (and yeah, who the fuck knows what *that* means, but like I said--work with me, people!), which is to say he's *culturally* straight, I don't care if he's in a female body or not--he's gonna go for girls. The same way that I, as an Italian, will probably crave manicotti till the day I die. And it ain't that there's some *gene* or some *hormone* that makes me want manicotti, its that it's so bone deep in my culture, so full of

warm feelings and good memories and love and affection and holidays that I would eat it even if society told me that it caused cancer. [13]
I admit to reading BJ Sandburg as a sort of trainwreck. And Gillian, you really hooked me and reeled me in, I have to say. I was at Escapade and someone on this list who shall remain nameless shoved it under my nose and said you *have* to read this and laughed when I began cursing her an hour later. Well, it's not 2 a.m. and I'm *still* reading BJ Sandburg! I even went home and recced it (with reservations), simply because, for what it was, Gillian did a damned good job. The reservations come in when I leave a story with more questions than I can remember and holes I can plug in a single evening. [14]

{{Quotation I thought the story had fabulous potential to be either a gender-swapping romp, or a serious exploration of the year-long change. I was disappointed when it straddled the line between the two and, in the end, really wasn't either one. [15]}}

2001

Two of the better MPREG stories in TS fandom are BJ Sandburg by Gillian Middleton (which includes gender-switching, so it softens the M in MPREG) and saraid's Voyager crossover, the second story (Voyager's Guide). I think both fall a little bit into the feminization trap, but they both include lots of delightful angst. I've read a couple of other good MPREG stories in other fandoms, but 've never found one that I thought really lived up to the promise of the genre. I hope someday I will. Someday, someone will write the perfect MPREG story, and all those doubters out there will gape in awe and say "So THAT'S what it's all about!" Someday. [16]

2004

Love [mpreg], if the author actually takes it seriously and writes it in a plausible manner. Like Gillian Middleton's "BJ Sandburg." [17]

2006

I hate Mpreg. And genderfuck. I would never have read this story if the friend who addicted me to Sentinel hadn't begged me to locate her favorite story for her. And that would have been a damn shame, because I would have missed out on a really fantastic read. In this story, all Sandburgs switch sexes for one year when they hit a certain age, and Blair's birthday is coming up fast. But what's incredible about this story is the attention to character detail: What it meant for Blair to have his mother become a man, an experimenting stranger, for a year. What it means for Megan to take BJ at face value... and then lose her best friend. What it means to play a part and realize you're playing it wrong. Outsides and insides and where the lines blur.[18]
BJ Sandburg was the first sorta slash, sorta MPREG I ever read and I still enjoy it to this day. I was ecstatic when it came out in zine form because I wanted to keep it forever. It's a great story, wonderful universe.[19]
MPreg usually just isn't my cup of tea since most of the time I don't get it why authors want to write a man pregnant and find the characterization off. Anyway, that's just my taste and I know others enjoy MPregs greatly, no problem for nobody. *g* But there's always the one exception that breaks the rule and in case of MPregs it's... no, not BJ Sandburg but T.W. Lewis'/Gardendoor's "Problem, Child". :-) [20]
I've always said a really good writer can make you believe black is white and white is black and you'll smile while it's happening. I happen to like decent mpreg and genderfuck anyway, but this is still that rare gem that makes people who normally don't read it.[21]

2007

Highlights: Blair turns into a woman. Gender-bender, het sex, jealousy, Possessive!Jim, pregnancy, babies ...etc. It's a crack fic premise, but the writing is serious and angsty and beautiful as well as funny. Very possibly the best gender bender I've ever read. Blair Sandburg as a woman is surprisingly in character and easy to believe. Low Points: I do wish there was a more canonically possible reason behind the gender change.[22]

Written in Response/Reaction

  • Curse by Speranza -- "With apologies to Gillian Middleton and her story BJ Sandburg. I just couldn't help myself."

References

  1. ^ BJ Sandburg zine info, accessed September 17, 2009
  2. ^ BJ Sandburg at Gillian's website, accessed September 19, 2009
  3. ^ BJ Sandburg illustration, accessed September 19, 2009
  4. ^ Lupe's Corner of the Web
  5. ^ Destinies Entwined, accessed 3.21.2011
  6. ^ A Good Read - Sentinel Recommendations, Rebel Dante, accessed September 19, 2009
  7. ^ Anna Bleigh's Recommendations, accessed March 29, 2011
  8. ^ Ximeria’s Lair
  9. ^ August 2000, at Slashrecs by xen
  10. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (July 2000)
  11. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (July 2000)
  12. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (July 2000)
  13. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (July 2000)
  14. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (July 2000)
  15. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (July 2000)
  16. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (August 20, 2001)
  17. ^ Teh Big Slash Meme, 2004
  18. ^ a 2006 comment at Crack Van
  19. ^ a 2006 comment at Crack Van
  20. ^ a 2006 comment at Crack Van
  21. ^ a 2006 comment at Crack Van
  22. ^ rec dump - TS: B.J. Sandburg by Gillian Middleton (J/B), Archived version, 2007