The Difference Engine
|Title:||The Difference Engine|
|Date(s):||02 May 2008|
|Length:||~21,000 words (plus ~1300 words of deleted scenes)|
|Genre:||AU, robot-fic, slash|
|External Links:||The Difference Engine (Dreamwidth)|
The Difference Engine (AO3)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
In the story, John Sheppard is a robot. That is, he comes to the realization that after his death in Afghanistan, he was given a cyborg brain by means of an experimental project called "Tria Prima" out of the the SGC.
Several of his co-workers on Atlantis were heavily involved with the project, notably Rodney McKay (with whom he is involved), Carson Beckett, and Radek Zelenka. He was also programmed with certain imperatives to protect the Atlantis mission and its leader.
How he deals with these revelations, how he decides to tell others about who and what he is, and the ways in which he teaches himself to evolve far beyond what some of the people involved in the Tria Prima project thought would be possible are some of the outstanding elements of the story.
Recs & Reviews
"I've always loved stories that offered solid explanations for John Sheppard's occasional, you know, oddness. [...] And this explains it better than most. He has subroutines! He has programming! He has technically already died! Wait. Does that mean this story is about an undead robot? [...] And I for one will not be sorry if that proves to be the case. Only rarely is fiction this wonderful. Going on the available evidence, undead robots make everything better."
"This is an incredibly well-written robot!John story with great characterization of the main and supporting characters. The writing is a on the minimalistic yet effective side; some characters may only a few lines but you will like remember them for a long time. The scientific premise of this story is somewhat iffy, but some of the analogies are very interesting, such as compiling data is like dreaming, dumping memory buffer is like sleeping, and writing new basecodes is like forming original ideas [...] Robot!John is so very human-like, although he seems to lack some of the most common basic human instincts. [...] An interesting and thought-provoking read!"
The One Where We Get All That Unpleasant Character Death Business out of the Way before the Story Starts, and the Character Himself Doesn't Really Take Any Notice of It. The Difference Engine, by copperbadge. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay.
When I went to write this set, I got all pouty because I couldn't rec this, on account of some dickwad hacked the community and deleted it. But now it is back, and I am recommending it while I can, because I love it. And who doesn't love stories in which John Sheppard is a robot? (Or, in this case, I think he's technically a cyborg. I don't know. I didn't major in cyberpunk or whatever.)
The first lines of this story are pretty much the textbook definition of a narrative hook - seriously, why can't I do that? It takes me like 2,000 words just to get to the part that might vaguely interest at least a few of my readers - and it just gets better from there.
I've always loved stories that offered solid explanations for John Sheppard's occasional, you know, oddness. ("He's a big ol' gay queer homosexual" is perhaps the most frequently offered explanation, but sucking cock can't explain everything, people! I know, I know. I'm heartbroken too.) And this explains it better than most. He has subroutines! He has programming! He has technically already died!
Wait. Does that mean this story is about an undead robot? Because I think if we start combining those two genres, we could end up with the kind of mutant subgenre that proves to have superstrength and mind control and starts taking over all of fiction.And I for one will not be sorry if that proves to be the case. Only rarely is fiction this wonderful. Going on the available evidence, undead robots make everything better. 
John Sheppard as a robot! Well, sort of – more a cyborg. When John is killed in Afghanistan, his body is given over to science. He becomes the first test subject for the top secret project Tria Prima, in which John’s organic, ruined brain is replaced with a cybernetic one. The fic covers the events of the show, including John turning into a bug and their struggles against the Replicators (which makes for some interesting reactions for John), and does nice things regarding John and emotions. Copperbadge does a fantastic job taking John from someone who is is a human with bits of coding done by Rodney and Radek, to a person in his own right, who lives and learns and loves. Fascinating premise, well-written, with spot-on characterization for everyone. 
This AU was creepy, yet also funny. The premise was that John dies in Afghanistan and gets resurrected as robot via experimental SGC tech. And okay, I totally have a soft spot for "Sheppard as a robot" stories (though not because I think Sheppard was somehow emotionally stunted, but because robots are awesome), but this was just a quick and fun read. 
- copperbadge in i_defeated_sga. The Difference Engine 1/3, 02 May 2008. (Accessed 21 November 2012)
- The Difference Engine: Post-Story Notes, includes deleted scenes.
- "The One Where We Get All That Unpleasant Character Death Business out of the Way before the Story Starts, and the Character Himself Doesn't Really Take Any Notice of It." from 184: It's Been a Long Time. recs post by thefourthvine, 16 December 2008. (Accessed 8 April 2011)
- story rec by meishali at Epic Recs, 29 June 2010. (Accessed 8 April 2011)
- rec by thefourthvine at 184: It's Been a Long Time., December 16, 2008
- Slash World, 2013
- Alternate Universe Recs for Stargate: Atlantis, Rat Creature