So. Last week was crappy for me, the kind of week that might make other people load up the car and drive off into the west (although, given where I live, it had better be a really short drive, 'cause if we didn't stop for pancakes five minutes in, we'd hit the ocean). I'm not a big fan of the random travel, though. (I'm not, um. Actually much of a fan of travel at all. My ideal journey is one taken by someone else, someone who wrote about it and then sent me a free copy of the book. Travel essays? Very much so. Actual travel, with strangers and hotel rooms and unfamiliar food? I need some time to work up to that.) So I just read road trip stories. And then I recommend them to you all, in case you also had a crappy week.
If you did, this set is dedicated to you. With my love and my intentions of staying very much in one place: fan fiction about travel.
The Story from When the World Was Young and Dreamed Not of the Big Gay (Interspecies) Love. But That Didn't Mean the Big Gay Love Wasn't Happening, You Know? Seawrack, by Hossgal, aka leadensky. Lord of the Rings, genish, or maybe it's Legolas/Gimli - who can say?
See, this story illustrates perfectly the problem I have recommending in LotR and all the other universes created back in the days when your average writer thought of The Gay as the unspeakable vice of the Greeks: namely, that it's impossible to tell what's gen and what's non-explicit slash. I mean, on the one hand, here we have a story in which Gimli frantically seeks out a missing Legolas, finds him navigating entirely based on feelings, curls up with him under a blanket, and asks him to swear that they will be together forever. To me, that reads like slash - hell, I've read 3,000 dS stories with that plot line. On the other hand, J.R.R. himself could've written precisely this story, and he didn't even write het romance; as far as I can tell, he deeply, deeply wished that sentient beings reproduced via courtly exchanges of epic poetry.
But, confusion or no, I had to recommend this. It's beautiful - it really does read like something Tolkien could've written, if he'd miraculously recovered from his two most annoying writing habits* - and it fits perfectly into the canon. And it's all about travel - about a trip Gimli takes through Middle Earth, and about a trip he and Legolas will take across the sea. Plus, pretty much all of LotR is about travel, and yet I don't think I've ever put an LotR story into a travel set - obviously a tragic omission, now remedied with this gorgeous, gorgeous (and ambiguously slashy) piece.
The Story That Proves That Psychometric Clairvoyants Bring a Whole New Meaning to the Concept of "Do What You Have to Do." The Big Picture, by cesperanza. Dead Zone, Johnny Smith/Walt Bannerman.
Any summary I could write for this story would sound like the start of a joke. "So, this small-town sheriff and his psychic friend are on a road trip..." (Don't ask me what the punchline would be. You do not want to live the horror that is me trying to tell a joke.) But, you know, that isn't it at all. Well, I mean, Speranza wrote it; the story summary could be "Two characters fuck their way across time, space, and three separate parallel dimensions," and somehow there would be plot and humor and tension, like, all this storytelling everywhere. She's just that way, and I salute her for it.
So. Not a joke. (And, really, we should all be glad. Because the thing is, I get, like, hideously polite silence when I try to tell jokes. Except sometimes people do laugh, but if they do, it will be in the middle. Not at the funny part, in other words. When the punchline comes, it will still be hideously polite silence, sometimes followed by an encouraging, "...Yes. And then what happened?") Instead, there's plot galore - this is pretty much a classic procedural mystery story, with the added kink that the mystery is in the future. And that, right there, is what fascinates me about this story. I don't want to spoil it, but - this story sets up an ethical dilemma that is, um. Damn. It really is impossible to talk about this without spoiling it. Suffice to say that it'd be tough to write this story as anything but fan fiction, and if anyone wants to discuss it further than that, I am all for it, because wow.
The Story That Demonstrates That N'Sync Is a Powerful Force, Uniting People Who, Let's Face It, We Probably Don't Actually Want to Be Together. Anywhere But Here, by Sarah T., aka harriet_spy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, gen.
You know, I spent this entire story riveted to the screen, and that is just totally unlike me, for the record; generally I have to pause at potentially embarrassing or disturbing or sad moments, play some Spider or Sudoku or something and brace for the inevitable. (It isn't inevitable, of course, but it feels that way. And if that hasn't told you entirely too much about my way of handling change (DENY DENY DENY), this will: I also tend, at those moments, to re-read the paragraphs of the story that I've already enjoyed, as reassurance and encouragement. There are some stories I can recite whole chunks of because of this tendency of mine.) This story is filled with disturbing moments, and yet I couldn't stop. Something about the road trip construction, perhaps; there is always this kind of what-happens-next imperative to a road trip story.
Or, hey, it could be the people who are on the road trip: Ethan Rayne and Dawn Summers are not precisely the perfect candidates for a fun buddy-movie style drive to Vegas. (As a total side note, people, please: link me to the story about Ethan, Giles, and John Constantine hanging out together in the 1970s, and maybe being in a bad band and doing a lot of really bad-ass magic. Please. They were meant to be, seriously.) There's a surprising amount of fun on the way to the seriously-I-mean-it-this-time inevitable chaos and disaster, though, and it made me - it made me want to see even more of this. Which should tell you precisely how amazing and compelling this story is, since I am not usually the person who wants to see good characters go bad, and I am so not a fan of chaos. But it's just - yeah. It's a story that I would've said couldn't work, and now I can't help wanting to see a whole universe based on it. Wow.
The Story That Will Fill You with a Strange Desire to Seek Cold, Cold Places and Order Wine in Them. Fight This Urge. Antarctica Has Some Down Sides, I Hear. Harsh Continent, by 30toseoul. Stargate: Atlantis, gen. (Look. It was posted in a slash community, but I see nothing in here that I don't see in the canon, so...gen, I guess, is what I'm gonna call it.)
This is just - this is just the most perfect Sheppard-in-Antarctica story ever. For one thing, it feels real. (I read this story a lot, trying to figure out what it is, stylistically speaking, that gives it the air of authenticity. I have no answer as yet, although I have, as you might expect, several theories.) For another - this is Sheppard at the end of the road; this story made me realize that when Sheppard said, in Rising, that Antarctica was the only continent he'd never been on, what he meant was that it was the only continent he wasn't finished with. Which makes the whole Pegasus Galaxy trip rather unsurprising, and now I want to poke him and make fun, all: "No matter what the coin said, you were going through the wormhole, 'cause where else could you go? But some people are just so good at their little denial games."
And, at the core, that's what this story is for me: an incredibly revealing look at the character of one John Sheppard, USAF. He handles Antarctica precisely the same way we'll see him handling unfamiliar planets in Pegasus - basically, he's lost most of the time, and never really knows what he's doing when he's on the ground, but he manages surprisingly well anyway. And he interacts with the assembled McMurdo, SGC, and military staff pretty much the way he will with people on Atlantis: he smiles, gets people to like him without letting them know him, and gives in way too much to Rodney McKay. So, you know, I love this story. A lot. Yup yup yup.
* Namely, PoV disorders (like, he's always telling us about a battle from the perspective of a character who is hearing about it from a guy who wasn't there but heard it from these two other guys who were) and inability to break up the narrative to indicate simultaneity; if two characters were separate - and they often were - but doing things at the same time, he'd tell all of character A's story, even if it lasted for 100 pages and most of a century, and then switch over to character B, slam the plot into reverse, and start all over again, back in Rivendell or wherever. What, you thought I didn't actually have a list? I always have a list, people.