Written by the Victors (Stargate Atlantis story)

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Title: Written by the Victors
Author(s): Speranza
Date(s): 05 September 2007
Length: 52,843 words -
5:27 hrs (the podfic)
Genre: slash fanfiction
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
External Links: Written by the Victors (Speranza's Fiction)
Written by the Victors (AO3)

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Written by the Victors, often referred to as just "Victors", is a John/Rodney Stargate Atlantis novel by Speranza (~55,000 words). It was released on the 5th of September, 2007[1] to wild and rapturous acclaim.[2]

The secession of Atlantis from Earth and its reformation as a city state is told through thirty-six unreliable narrators, in a mix of excerpts from academic books, interviews, poetry and so on, and a connecting straight narrative (probably the straightest thing about Victorsverse Shep :P).

Victors won the 2007 McKay/Sheppard Awards in the category "Best Story".

Lim produced a five-and-a-half hour podfic of the story, read by dozens of speakers, which still stands as one of the most ambitious collaborative fan podfics: Written by the Victors (Podfic).

The story was mentioned in 2015 in the Fanfiction Syllabus of the Vulture.com essay collection It’s a Fanmade World: From One Direction to Soderbergh as one of "Ten classics that cover the history, breadth, and depth of the form".

The Author Comments

From Slashcast Insider Interview with Speranza in 2012:

I mean at the minute [my best-received fanfic] probably still is Written By The Victors, which was just unlike anything in my experience. I mean, it was this SGA story and what was so amazing, aside from the response – which continues to come in, I mean the story was done in 2007, which in internet time you know, there were dinosaurs, but it’s a long time, you know, it’s five years and people are still reading and reccing it – but the part that really got to me was the incredible creativity people had of their own off the story. And in fact I try to collect it and celebrate it as much as I can, um, but you know people made art for the story and wrote poetry, and recorded kind of song cycles and made vids and you know Lim made this podfic, you know, or edited this podfic that was, it may be the longest podfic out there, it’s something like six hours and 32 people on like six continents, I mean it’s like a joke. But to see people, I guess that- I would say it’s what the powers that be feel when we make – I hope it’s what they feel, it would be what they felt if they had any sense at all – to see somebody engage your work that way and make beautiful things about it and near it. And so that really in that way is really a cut above. Every couple of years I think to myself you know, I’ve written the story that’s going to be the first line of my obituary, fannishly. For a while it was ‘oh, you know Francesca who wrote the Nature Series’, and then it was ‘Speranza who wrote ‘Chicago’s Most Wanted’, and then, and now it’s kind of ‘the author of 'Written By The Victors’. Um but it’s been enough times that I’m confident that I’m not going anywhere and so that someday I’ll do something that-


Possibly due to the interpretative legroom afforded by its multiple, contradictory POVs, possibly due to Speranza's enthusiastic commitment to remixing and transforming fanworks [3] Victors spawned a sprawling and vibrant body of fanworks set in its universe,[4] including but not limited to:

Story Covers

Reactions and Reviews


I stopped reading the story at the point when John decides he has to fuck Rodney in the lab. I am sorry, but serious adults do not behave this way. It just defies credibility. The premise of the story is fascinating, and she may be a good writer. But, I rarely like the intrusion of lengthy, graphic descriptions of sex into my reading material. The only exception to that, that I can think of, off hand, is "In A Dark Time," where the sex scenes are necessary for character development. IMHO, there is no reason for that scene. At that point in the story, it seems wholly gratuitous. I can assure you, I am not adverse to reading smut. Or slash. But that scene just turned me off. Sorry.[5]


As a history student I can't help loving these little pretend essays to death. The rebellion of Atlantis as seen through the eyes of tomorrows historians. Half social science, half fact... or er... fiction. Awesome! Of special interest for this list is the quote by Jeannie. Her perception of Rodney's childhood while their parents where in the middle of a messy divorce. Also, he may or may not have had a sexual relationship with his guardian when he was 15! ( "Whatever the relationship, McKay seemed to suffer no ill effects") Yikes! And also heee. This is quite possibly the coolest thing you'll read this year.

Warnings: sex between a minor and an adult? [6]

A lot of people in Stargate Atlantis fandom have recommended Speranza's "Written By the Victors," but I thought it worthwhile to add my rec too. It's a historical perspective on John Sheppard declaring Atlantis separate from Earth and the battle that followed. The various perspectives on the whys and hows are fun as you can see the commentator's biases showing. Some of the stuff about Rodney is particularly interesting. You'll need to set some time aside because it's meaty and longish.[7]

This story has been recced everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to convince the last few who haven't read this story yet.

The premise: Atlantis declares independence. The new citizens of Atlantis now have to survive on their own, hold off SGC, fight the Wraith, and eventually become the most powerful empire in the Pegasus Galaxy.

What I liked about the story: The unique narrative style and the historical ambiguity. I love history, and any lover of history would know that history is always ambiguous. A well-known Chinese author once said, Chinese history is written in twenty-year portions. What he was really trying to explain is the fragility of accurate perception. The political environment, people's beliefs, and societal norms change very rapidly. Therefore, people can, at most, somewhat accurately account for events that happened within their life-time (i.e. the 20 yrs of their prime, between being too young to understand and too old to give a shit). And even then, people's perceptions are shaped by the society they are situated in. In short, non of the historians that later wrote of the events of the Atlantean separation or the people involved had no clue what actually happened. They rely heavily on documents originated from that time period and interviews of people involved, but we've all heard about how reliable a witness is 20 min after any given accident. However, the author also gave us a chance to see the real events as they happen (and have them juxtaposed to accounts written later on) and interpret them ourselves.

Well, I didn't like my interpretation.

What I didn't like about the story: First, I must clarify that, to me, a good story doesn't necessarily have to have likable main characters. Anyway, I doubt very many others had the same problem I did with the story; it's just one of my pet peeves.


I could understand (and still not like) why John had to marry Teyla. Yes, yes, lie back and think of England, or Atlantis, in this case. I couldn't believe that after all of their efforts, John still took the easy way out! Lucky for him that Rodney was so "understanding". Yet I couldn't help but feel sad for Rodney. He ran away from music, ran away from home, ran away from academia, and eventually ran away from earth (see Vol. 3, section 6, Jeanne Miller's account) because he didn't fit-in, didn't feel loved. I was sad that this Rodney had to learn to compromise, had to settle for the love he could attain. A major reason for the Atlantean separation was they wouldn't be forced to do things they didn't want to. If John still couldn't announce his true love to the world and marry him like any decent man should have, then, WHAT'S THE WHOLE POINT!!!

I am in no way suggesting this is a flaw in story-telling or plot construction, but what I got from the story was "shit happens so you better learn to deal with it", and that just left me feeling sad and a bit cold inside. As we know, what victory really entails is defined by the the participants. Was it worth it? Was happiness part of that victory? The characters in the story had asked and answered the same question. And now we must make our own conclusions.

Written by the Victors is a very well-written story with exceptional narration and characterization. This story has fascinating plot, political intrigue, complex interpersonal relationships, and many other things you may or may not (but happen in life regardless) like to see in a story. Since this isn't a romance-focused story and they did win in the end (& with no actual unrequited love), I'm putting this one in the "happy-ending" category. Highly recommended.[8]

...the runaway hit stories, the fannish zeitgeist stories -- I don't really think most of them have a whole lot in common, and I'm not sure if whatever made them popular can be nailed down to any one specific thing. "Freedom", for example, really made people feel -- two and a half years after reading it, I still remember that raw blast of emotion. Whereas, say, "Written by the Victors" is, basically, a pretty generic Sheppard/McKay story -- well-written and well-woven together, yes, but nothing exceptional (I've seen the documentation/pseudo-historical thing done before). But it nailed, and nailed hard, a particular idea that really resonates with this fandom, the breakaway-Atlantis idea. It's not the first independent-Atlantis story and it's not the first historical docufic, but it just happened to combine those ideas in a way that really resonated with people.

But why those stories specifically? It's not that they're that much better than everything else out there; it's not that they're the only stories to use those ideas. I wonder if there isn't a sort of fannish critical-mass effect that happens, where a story's popularity gets to the point where it starts to beget more and more popularity -- I'm not saying it's a matter of people reading it just because it's popular, but the more widely known it gets, the more times it turns up in rec lists and "best of" lists, the more people hear about it and the more people read it. The same phenomenon happens with RL best-sellers -- how many people read "Da Vinci Code" or the Harry Potter books who wouldn't have heard of those books if they hadn't been talked about everywhere? [9]


I’ve found this round proof that there aren’t many Atlantis fans reccing, because there are quite a lot of SGA Harlequin AUs which feature marriages of convenience of one kind or another. This isn’t one of those.

This is one of the true classics of SGA fandom. It’s an AU wherein the SGC decided to recall Atlantis—the whole city—to Earth, and John and Rodney refused. They led a mutiny, sent back everyone to Earth who wanted to go home, and set up a new society in Pegasus, throwing open the doors of Atlantis and establishing themselves as a leader in trade and taking the fight against the Wraith to a whole new level. John and Rodney are lovers, but John marries Teyla for political reasons. But note the title: it’s taken from the old saying “history is written by the victors.” Most of the story is told from the point of view of historians arguing about what really happened. It’s fascinating to piece together the different interpretations and the scenes we’re given.

(If you think that a collection of excerpts from fake history books would be dull or dry, you are completely wrong. Academics often get into bitch-fights of epic proportions over interpretations, and so besides the puzzle of piecing together what really happened, you get to watch the infighting of the historians.) [10]

It may be the single best Stargate:Atlantis fan fic ever written.

This story is told from multiple perspectives, mostly from the various historians writing about the events that led to the Earth losing control of city of Atlantis. In addition we get to see what the historians could not: what actually happened. The interplay of historian vs. actuality is fascinating and fun.

As someone who has tried to ferret out what really happened in a poorly documented period in history, I have some sympathy for the historians in this story. They do their best, but they each have their own agendas and preconceptions.

An important warning: To those who, like me, have no interest in reading John/Teyla, and who upon seeing a mention in the first few pages that John had married Teyla start to hit the back button, don’t. Note the pairing listed above. This is a complex story, emotionally, but it is most assuredly John/Rodney.

This is probably one of the best loved of all Atlantis fan fictions. I was astonished it hadn’t been recced here yet.[11]


What Stuck With Me and Why: Another negative take away. This was my second round of Mixed Feelings about Male-centric Fic. I loved the idea of this fic, the collected history in documents, and the feminist point of view, but it was absolutely fascinating to watch it at the same time shoot itself in the foot by interweaving those with the author's pet slash pairing (which to be fair was the fandom's mega ship). And by treating one of the show's woman as someone without courage or conviction, and the other as some... political third wheel who ended up in a loveless dynastic marriage. And well, everyone ended up in a monarchy ruled by a genetic master race. So. But it I kept thinking about that fic, because it was really well written, and the documents felt so convincing that it took me until I saw the vid (which showed McKay reacting to Teyla with what was actually a reaction shot to a Wraith) to pin down my unease. And it's not like the author MEANT any of this, but in doing so many things at once, and in trying to balance all those contradictions, the combination of good writing and unintended subtexts really got to me. This is how you can get so distracted by the lights in the distance that you trample the flowers along your path.[12]

Do I actually need to explain this story? Can a paragraph do it justice? I mean, it’s probably one of the best things to come out of the entire Stargate: Atlantis fandom. It’s a piece of fanfiction, but it’s woven with fabricated academic texts, interviews, folklore, art, and music, and it takes us through generations of Atlantis and shows us the future of the expedition and the Pegasus galaxy from nearly every angle. Seriously, just not to be missed.[13]