Before I embarked on DS, I got helpful hints from Fametracker's Gwenyvere1, but I know nothing about the actual show. I've never seen an episode and I'd never heard of the show before I started seeing the name on FF. It took me a while to figure some things out, including, notably, the whole Ray K/Ray V thing, and some of the theories I formed in the interim were as strange as – well, as strange as the canon truth, in this particular case. And canon truth is, generally, pretty strange in DS. Also – surprisingly – fairly grim. Because despite the humor that apparently filled the series and certainly fills the FF, this is not the world's happiest canon, folks. Let's just take a little look at the characters, shall we?
Ray Vecchio, OK, he seems to have known where his towel was. But Ray Kowalski is angry, sad, lonely. This is a guy who went undercover because no one would miss him or even notice he was gone, a guy who seems to have no friends and no life except what he borrowed when he became Vecchio. That, to me, is not the essence of humor. And Fraser? Fraser's worse. Fraser is in exile, in disgrace, and permanently in waiting – in waiting for his life. He's got Dief, and while Dief is certainly an excellent companion, that's it. Fraser doesn't have a family. He doesn't have friends. He doesn't even have happy memories, for god's sake. His closest long-term human relationship is with a dead guy who had no time for him when he was alive. His most challenging task at work is to be a statue. He lives in his freaking office. He's this intelligent, talented, kind man who has no one, nothing, and nowhere. In short, Fraser is possibly the saddest character I've seen outside of Ethan Frome. And when you put Kowalski and Fraser together - well, Russian novelists would be depressed by the possibilities inherent in these two. Ambrose Bierce and Jean-Paul Sartre would be depressed by them. (Though I doubt anyone would be able to tell.) This is one canon with all the angst you need - as in, for your lifetime - built right in.
So, hey, the backstories are downers. But somehow that just makes the FF better; I rejoice all the more when Fraser and Kowalski end up together. And I'm always impressed at how much humor and comedy and light-heartedness people can work into stories about these two.
-Helpful Links for the dS Newbie-
If you don't know the canon, you can fake it with:
Kat Allison's Due South Fandom Intro on crack_van. This was the single most useful resource for me. (Once I found it. Which took a while, because I am remarkably dense.) Kat is writing for a FF-reading audience, and it shows. If you've read fan fiction but you've never seen Due South, this is the place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions about Due South. This is a gen site that answers a lot of questions; there's even a very brief summary of each episode.
Real Due South. Another gen site with incredibly detailed information. Need a transcript of an episode? It's here. Need to know how to survive in the Northwest Territories? It's here. Want to know everything there is to know about Ray Vecchio's car (a 1971 Buick Riviera that Kowalski and Fraser destroy – accidentally – by setting it on fire and then driving it into Lake Michigan)? Yup, here again. You talk about obsessive, folks – this site is it.
If you don’t know the canon, this won't help much:
You can also try to survive with just my summary. I wouldn't recommend it.
CONSTABLE BENTON FRASER, R.C.M.P. is a demigod. Seriously. Because no mere human could be so perfect and yet have such a sucky, sucky life; you have to be, like, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman so beautiful she was cursed by Aphrodite to look like a caribou to end up in Fraser's brown leather boots. He has a magnetic attraction for women, but never has sex with them. He has unusual intelligence, but his primary job function is "statue." He has heightened senses and he lives in Chicago. See what I mean about his life sucking in ways that smack of divine planning?
Anyway, he's a Mountie, which means every sex scene he's ever involved in will feature one of the following.
- A detailed description of removing his Mountie suit, proving the writer did her research.
- A careful avoidance of the whole Mountie-suit issue, proving the writer doesn't want to spend her time with weird belts and weird pieces of leather and weird underwear (which sort of makes you wonder what she's doing in FF, no?).
- Benton Fraser off-duty, in jeans and a Henley shirt, proving that the writer doesn't have a Mountie-suit fetish. This is less common than you'd think. Real Mounties must live in constant fear of ravishment.
DIEFENBAKER is, I suspect, not just a demigod, but an actual god - the god of sarcasm and inappropriate eating habits. (It should come as no surprise to anyone that he is my favorite character.) He's incarnated at the moment as an incredibly adorable deaf half-wolf, but he reads lips in five languages, just so you don't forget he's really divine. And he's more devious and manipulative than any human three-year-old, just so you don't forget he's also a canine.
RAY VECCHIO is not a god of any kind. He was a Chicago police detective and Fraser's first Ray until he decided he was more suited to the profession of Mafia clothes horse. Don't worry about him. We won't be dealing with FF involving him until the advanced course.
STANLEY RAYMOND KOWALSKI is not a god, although some DS fans will tell you otherwise. He's actually a litmus test. If he's called "Stanley" or especially "Stan" in FF, it's crappy FF (unless Vecchio is talking). He's also the world's least likely Chicago police detective and the world's most persuasive advertisement for hair gel. Kowalski likes dancing, candy, experimenting with his hair, working under the covers, and Mounties. Is anyone surprised that he regularly won "Most Gay-in-Canon Slash Character" every year until Lord of the Rings came out?
SERGEANT ROBERT FRASER, R.C.M.P. (DECEASED) has achieved every parent's dream: he's found a way to continue to interfere in his child's life from beyond the grave. He's just trying to help, but in the process he makes his son act like a lunatic. This is the essence of the parent-child relationship, as far as I can tell.
Crimes happen. Ray, Fraser, and Diefenbaker strike out on the trail of the criminals. Disasters happen. Ray and Fraser are endangered in wildly bizarre ways; Diefenbaker rolls his eyes and mutters under his breath, wolf-style. Arrests happen. Ray and Fraser exchange manly embraces and go out for pizza; Diefenbaker makes sure he gets half. The end.
Look, I've never seen the show, OK? If you want to know the actual plot, you'll have to ask someone else. But fear not; you'll never need to know it to read the FF; in this fandom, the writers supply their own plots. Novel idea, is it not?
Where to start with Due South fanfiction:
With Fraser/Kowalski. (For the record, the other somewhat common pairings in this fandom are Fraser/Vecchio and Vecchio/Kowalski. F/V features a big nose and pretty much has to end unhappily; it is not recommended for beginners. V/K is, well, kinky, just for existing. And just as you should try basic sex before you get out the riding crop, the razor blades, and the shower attachments you can only find in internet stores, you should try F/K before you get out the Ray/Ray.)
To reduce confusion, I suggest you start with longer F/K set during the run of the series; this fandom has a lot of post-series stories, and many of them are excellent, but you should see how the characters were before you see where people are taking them after the end.
Where I Started: Broadway Hotel, American Way, and The Teeth of the Hydra, by Resonant. These were my first three stories in the fandom (and what a way to start it was; by the third story, I was ready to marry Resonant and Due South), and this is the order in which I read 'em – you might want to start with Hydra, actually. Three nice, plotty stories, some funny, some angsty, that totally introduce you to the joy that is Kowalski/Fraser and DS.
If You Want to Go Right to the Heart of the Fandom: Juggling Act, by speranza. For me, this story really sums up the fandom – it's got pathos, humor, improbable situations, and clowns. And masturbating birds, and anti-animal-rights terrorists, and...well, just read it. Which is what I always end up saying about the best stories in this fandom, and that's why this is the heart of DS for me.
If You Want to Go Right to the Therapy You'll Need If You Pick up Another Fandom: Eight Sessions, also by speranza. This story has enabled me to being more people into DS than any other, and I'm not one to argue with results. It has, again, the perfect balance of angst and humor (studies indicate this is approximately a 1:3 ratio, in case you're curious), and it features some of the best therapy sessions you'll ever, ever read.