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Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Alternative name(s): John/Rodney, Sheppard/McKay, McShep
Gender category: Slash, M/M
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Canonical?: No
Prevalence: Popular
Archives: Wraithbait, Area 52,
works tagged McKay/Sheppard at AO3, At FF.Net
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Rodney McKay/John Sheppard, also known as McShep, is the slash pairing of Rodney McKay and John Sheppard in Stargate Atlantis fandom.

It is by far the most popular ship in the SGA fandom, and became the fandom juggernaut.

There is some argument that SGA is not much of a threshold fandom, and that slash fans seem to have come to SGA, and thus McShep, from other existing slash fandoms. It has been called an "old school slash" fandom, possibly because of the lack of ironic distance, or the subject matter and types of stories being written, rather than simply the 'tone' of the fandom. It might even have been something that happened due in part to Fannish Drift.

Although, others assert that they were drawn to the pairing because of the dynamic between the two characters and their close canonical friendship, and that inspired them to create friends to lovers fanworks.

Origins of McKay/Sheppard Fans and Fannish Drift

In 2008, Sherrold explained the show and fannish drift, tapping into Lezlie Shell's Wave Theory. Since SGA was a spin-off of a pre-existing show, there was already a large fan base interested in the Stargate universe. At around the same time, many Enterprise fans were growing disenchanted with their show, and decided to try Stargate Atlantis. These two communities brought with them an interest in canon-centered, character-based stories, akin to classic first and second wave slash stories. [1]

The pre-existing Stargate community existed primarily on mailing lists, and was supported by the Area 52 archive. Other SGA-focused mailing lists were created, paralleling the existing SG-1 ones, and Area 52 opened up to SGA fan fiction. The McShepSlash mailing list was opened in August 2004 - one month after the show premiered.[2] Some fans also felt a need for more-SGA focused archives. In September 2004, the Wraithbait mailing list was founded[3] and the associated Wraithbait archive was launched by November. The Enterprise crew also brought with them a strong interest in Sheppard/Weir and threesomes with their McKay/Sheppard slash, while the SG-1 community seems to have been more exclusively slash-focused.

Both sets of communities had some people who were also set up in LJ and some who posted to, so all major slash community hubs were hit with fiction right away, exposing large swaths of potential new fans to the show. In-person pimping at the Escapade 2005 slash con also exposed a lot of existing slash fans to the possibilities inherent in the show, and the relationship between John and Rodney. However, the first ship_manifesto posted was Sheppard/Weir, and the first slash one Beckett/McKay; both were posted in the late November/early December timeframe in 2004. The John/Rodney manifesto[4] wasn't posted until second season started, July 2005. Crack Van's brief introduction to the show [5] was posted at the end of February, 2005.

The next two big groups to populate the Stargate Atlantis slash community were Popslash writers and writers from Smallville. Popslash was also in very early; on crack_van, the first popslash/SGA crossover recommendation is "Untitled by Coreopsis", recommended on Dec 15, 2005 [6] The rec even includes pictures as the two communities may not have been familiar to each other. As evidenced by Singular Tropes By Fandom, the popslash writers were noted for writing fantastical stories without requiring a lot of explanation; Smallville had its fantastical element stories as well, and with the addition of a few Harry Potter slash fans, this set the stage for the crackfic vs. canon-based fic controversy that keeps popping up in the McKay/Sheppard fandom. The fantastical also typifies Lezlie's 1993 third wave of slash.[1]

RPS fans such as LOTRPS writers acted as the next wave, bringing with them a much more realistic tone, which also aligns with Lezlie's fourth wave. As general steps, the fandom passed through the wave progression in a classical manner; perhaps this is part of why the McKay/Sheppard slash fandom is considered "old school slash," despite its high percentage of crackfic.

A fan in 2008 wrote:

Everything that SGA touches, turns into AU SGA Crack....She introduced us to the show when we were just innocent, naive waifs and occasional fans and appreciators of SG-1. She pushed and pushed and pushed SGA on us until we sighed mightily, crossed our arms and flopped on the couch and were slowly drawn into a fandom where psychic telepathic whales are canon. - artemisiabrisol, Welcome to McShep Tin Hat Nation, 21 October 2008, (accessed October 22, 2008)

Fanwork Tropes

  • Genderswap: Rodney being genderswapped as a woman, in these fanworks Rodney is often changed into a woman via sci-fi magic, see Only Grumpier and With Darker Hair as an example
  • Animal Transformation: mostly crackfic, there was a trend at one time to have John and Rodney be transformed into animals, penguins was a popular choice
  • Hurt/Comfort or Whump: Rodney being whumped and John providing the comfort is very popular. However, the opposite can also be found, there are some fans that love to exclusively whump Sheppard. There are also some stories where they are both hurt, sometimes by canon related events, and will seek comfort from each other
  • Kidfic: where John and Rodney somehow become temporarily or permanently parents of a child, either through adoption or becoming guardians of orphaned children, another option is to have child John didn't know about from a past love interest turn up in his life
  • Mundane AU: stories set outside of the Stargate universe, and John and Rodney meet under different circumstances. A popular career choice for Rodney in AUs is some sort of composer/musician, John's AU careers are much more varied
  • Crossover: because of the nature of the Stargate universe, having John and Rodney go on adventures in other fandom universes is not uncommon
  • Sentinel AU: a smaller trope, usually where John is the sentinel and Rodney is the guide.
  • Pre-canon stories often involve Alternative First Meetings and could extend to full blown AU stories. Due to John's military rank, the US military's DADT policy was often referenced. DADT was sometimes the reason for McShep keeping their relationship a secret.
  • Stranded Together stories have a basis in canon. Rodney and John may be trapped on an uninhabited planet following the destruction of a Stargate, or they may have to spend weeks together in a small ship as they travel to the nearest planet with a Stargate.
  • Mensaverse and Vegasverse are two canon alternative universes that often provide an alternate setting for McShep fics. Mensaverse fics can vary considering due to the lack of canon information about that universe.
  • Post-Trinity fics often involve John giving Rodney the cold shoulder, after Rodney blew up a solar system in the episode Trinity. These stories can be very angsty, with lots of Rodney-whumping and hurt/comfort. Lemon chicken may be served in the SGA mess. In many works, John sees the error of his ways, leading to a McShep reconciliation. These stories can also deal with darker themes including depression and attempted suicide.

Fan Comments

Despite going into the show already shipping it, John and Rodney themselves convinced me to love the ship. They have a fantastic dynamic that I can't get enough of. Stargate has so many possibilities all on its own, and you add in the possibilities that the characters themselves bring, and there's so much to write and theorize about. Joe and David have fantastic chemistry together that translates well on screen, and nothing brings out the emotion in their characters more than the other. Rodney is palpably worried about John in 38 Minutes, The Siege II, and Common Ground. John is visibly near tears during Tao of Rodney and The Shrine. Even from the beginning, they had fun together....

It's been nearly three and a half years since I first fell in love with John Sheppard and Rodney McKay. I've loved every minute of it. They make me feel so much. They've made me laugh, made me cry. They make me smile helplessly and feel full to bursting with emotion. They've introduced me to the kindest, most generous group of people I've ever met. I've found the best fanfiction I've ever read here.[7]

McShep was the perfect cross between an antagonistic ship and friends-to-lovers.[8]

there is just no point in being in this fandom if you don't ship McShep. You can either push that rock up the hill or just slide on with it back the way it naturally wants to roll, my friend. So just get over your ship preferences now and roll with it, because it will make your SGA fandom experience that much easier.

(eta: this is not to say that there shouldn't be more popular pairings out there for this fandom - John/Teyla, John/Ronan, Rodney/Radek are all strong contenders and then some. (And I'm pretty sure J-Flan ships himself/Jason.) But for whatever reason McShep is the vast majority of all fics posted [...] )[9]

The early meta about "the slacker and the president of the chess team are going to save the world" defined their relationship for me. I identified with those images and ideas; the characters were human and flawed. I loved that they were human-scale, not the big hero figures that destiny signed up on day one. Plus their relationship was so tight! I loved their banter and camaraderie, and how they came to rely on each other. Their friendship was awesome, and I loved watching it on-screen.[10] [notes 1]

McKay/Sheppard in Canon, a brief overview

Most of these moments appear in vids and are referenced in fic.

Season 1:

  • Rising (So math is a turn-on for you, McKay?),
  • Hide and Seek (Chin up, Brave!Rodney),
  • Thirty-Eight Minutes (John's first bug bite),
  • Underground (Just you and me and an underground bunker make three),
  • The Defiant One (Sand Fleas! Sand Fleas! Yuck.),
  • Hot Zone (Apartment shopping)
  • Sanctuary (Jolene!),
  • The Brotherhood (The Genii, Mensa tricks and a ZPM),
  • The Siege Part 1 & 2 ("So long, Rodney!")

Season 2:

  • Trinity (possibly inspired more episode tags than any other episode; see The Post-Trinity Phenomenon for more)
  • Aurora ("habit of saving each other's lives")
  • The Lost Boys (supportive arm touching in the field)
  • Grace Under Pressure (inspiration for countless tags of hypothermia-induced snuggling)
  • Inferno (cock-blocking at its finest)

Season 3:

  • McKay & Mrs. Miller (introduced Jeannie, a supportive presence in much fic)
  • The Return Part 1 (the phonecall)
  • Echoes (whale-watching)
  • Tao of Rodney ("The way a friend feels about another friend.")
  • The Game (playing the Ancient Sims game)

Season 4:

  • Adrift
  • Miller's Crossing ("I know.")
  • The Last Man (rewriting time itself to save John)

Season 5:

  • The Shrine ("John!", beer on the pier)
  • The Prodigal (racing RC cars through the halls)
  • Vegas (gum in interrogation)

Notable Fanworks

Influential Vids




For a list of John/Rodney fanfiction articles on Fanlore, see John/Rodney Fanfiction.

Sample Canon-Based or Canon-Related Fanfiction


Sample McShep AU Fanworks

McKay/Sheppard is a pairing especially rich in AUs, many of which take place on an Earth without a Stargate.

elderwitty compiled the Giant McShep AU List, which includes hundreds (as of March 2011 close to 900) of stories featuring such alternate universe roles as Actor/Agent, Figure Skater/Coach,Lumberjack/Environmentalist, Model/Painter, Nursery school teacher/Clown, Singer/Keyboard player, Sith/Jedi and TV Producer/Talk Show Host.

Example Art Gallery

McShep Reclists and Reccing Resources

McShep-focused recommendation lists, posts, and communities:

Archives and Links

Livejournal Communities

For more, see SGA Lists and Communities

Meta/Further Reading

Notes & References


  1. ^ a b The meta referenced here is a flocked livejournal post from 2005, written by merryish. This post discussed the differences between SG-1 and SGA, and included the line "OMG my slacker ex-boyfriend and that dork from the debate club are supposed to save the world?? We are SO DOOMED!!!" to describe SGA