I thought it was time to visit my favorite topic again; and start with an aspect of it I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, even before our recent arguments about S3 arguments (?).
It seems to me, very little recent fan fiction is based off of current events on the show. That is, many FF writers seem to be lacking inspiration to re-write or re-interpret recent events on the show. I have often mentioned in discussions on fan fiction how exploring options, alternatives, or even thought processes at different key points in the show seems to inspire a significant amount of fan fiction. But we seem to be seeing a corollary of that now, when fans are mostly satisfied with the show, they are apparently less driven to tamper with it.
So what have been the major launching points for past stories? The first was clearly the end of S1. Sarah’s helicopter pad rescue of Chuck in Marlin inspired many writers from January 2008 until S2 started in September of that year.
S2 was rich in potential. I think a number of works have been written using just about every single episode as a launching point; but the kill order (from 2.01), Jill (2.06-2.08), the Mauser shooting (2.11), running away together (2.23) and re-Intersecting (2.24) seem to be the major inspirations. This led to a couple of motifs that were very popular in early works; like a secret relationship and running away together.
Any number of other elements and characters from those first two seasons are often recurring in fan fiction, but those key crises points are easily the most popular starting points for any number of stories.
Just like in all our discussions of the show, S3 holds a unique place. I’d say fewer themes and characters have been adapted by fan fiction writers; but a small number of crisis points have led to a lot of fan fiction. Prague and the Red Test being by far the most prominent. Writers clearly want to re-imagine these events. Some are surprisingly even darker than what the show gave us, but most focus on “fixing” what various writers feel went wrong. Speaking as one who was very bitter about S3, I took much comfort from many of these more upbeat versions of the Chuckiverse. No surprise, Shaw holds a special place of contempt among many writers; few can accept that Sarah ever saw anything in him, and it is common for him to be portrayed as a buffoon or villain. There are a few Shaw surprises out there, he is occasionally simply an ally; and in one case I can think of, he makes a heroic sacrifice to destroy The Ring. On the other hand, several stories have featured prominent scenes of Sarah (or less often Chuck) beating the daylights out of him. It’s safe to say there is no more reviled character in Chuck Mythology.
The death of Orion and Chuck inheriting the Orion Cave was probably the biggest crisis point of S3.5. But the off-season leading up to S4 mainly fed off the main arc of the season.
S3 started (well maybe not “started”, how about ignited!) another phenomena that I’ve enjoyed greatly, the complete AU. That is stories that start at a different beginning. We’ve seen Chuck graduate Stanford, marry Jill, join the Navy, join the CIA, meet Sarah as a patient of Ellie’s, become a professor, invent the Intersect, have his own software business (several times), or live in the old west (a couple of times!). Most of these stories are far longer than those that simply break from a canon crisis point, but a number of them are very good.
Which brings us to S4. I’ve stated many times I’ve never been happier with show, and I think I’m not alone. But one consequence of that would seem to be far fewer stories that take off from S4 moments. Most of the really good stories that have come about this season have been either complete AUs, or they’ve broken off from much earlier crisis points. Sadly, I think this means we’ll see less really good fan fiction in the future. I don’t mean this as a slam on any writer, and much good work will continue to be produced. But I don’t believe so many viewers look at the show now and think “I can fix that”. And I think satisfied viewers are less likely to feel they have to tinker with stories they’ve seen on-screen.
Some earlier crisis points were just about going directions the show didn’t or couldn’t. Like the always popular life on the run for Chuck and Sarah. There is really no way to do that on the show without a total change of format/genre/cast. The secret relationship was also popular but was never done by the show. But this season we’ve actually seen TPTB deliver the product most of us seem to want. that’s good news when we’re viewing, but it doesn’t light so many fires in aspiring writers. (and yes I know, you won’t all agree with my interpretation of events…)
So what shall I recommend this time around? My first choice is easy. “The Long Brick Road” by BillandBrick. This is a collaboration by two well-known fan fiction writers, billatwork and brickroad16. The writers have very different styles, and they have so far done a very good job of playing to each other’s strengths. Bill likes the epic narrative with a fair amount of action; while brickroad is better at introspection and dealing with feelings. They have worked with each other (betaed each others work) for quite a while and are well aware of their respective strengths; which is very fortunate for the readers.
This story chooses an unusual crisis point, and breaks off from the fountain scene at the end of Lethal Weapon. It would seem Chuck’s cover as the Intersect has been blown, and the unusual grouping of Chuck, Sarah, Cole, and Ellie are forced into a few weeks together hiding off grid. No shock, this is a Chuck/Sarah romance at heart, with enough action and peril to keep it exciting. This is a very satisfying story so far; as I understand it is mostly complete (or at least outlined) already, and the updates are coming regularly (every Thursday!), so I’d say there’s a very good likelihood it will be completed. So far I would rate the story PG just because of what’s been discussed a few times, but nothing graphic (so far?!)
In talking about brickroad16 above, it occurred to me I’ve never recommended one of her stories before. There is so much fun stuff out there, I can only call it an oversight, truly no reflection on her talents. So let me fix this by recommending “Super Powers and Super Spies”. This is set shortly after the S1 return of Bryce. He seems to have taken some offense at Sarah’s obvious affection for her asset; so he reports that she is compromised to Graham. So the burning question is, how hard will Chuck and Sarah fight to stay together? This story was written over quite a long period of time, which leads to a fluid relationship with canon, but the characters are well written and the story is up-beat and fun. One of brickroad’s greatest strengths has always been capturing the friendship aspect of Chuck and Sarah’s relationship, this story is a great demonstration of that strength. It can be read in a couple of hours and would be rated PG.
My final recommendation this time will be for “Scenes From a Wedding” by atlee. This is a funny piece. The wedding in question is Chuck and Sarah’s. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, and it’s safe to say they aren’t all happy to be there. From Jill, to General Beckman, to Jeff, this is an odd assortment of characters and laugh out loud funny at times. It also can be read in a couple of hours and would be rated PG.
Updates on a couple of stories I’ve recommended before. “Chuck and Sarah vs. Themselves” by NinjaVanish is up to Chapter 35 now! The author says the story will end at 40, or more to the point, tie into it’s already published sequel “Chuck and Sarah vs. the Bunker” at that point. This started as an S3 AU, right from Prague being a “fake breakup”. Now the end is obviously near, but I believe a rogue mission for our favorite spy couple still lies ahead before the end. This is fully novel length, and would be rated R for violence, some language, and the actions of a married couple.
Another excellent work “Walker’s Eleven” by Moonlight Pilot was finished this week. This is a complete AU that starts with Sarah having never left the con artist life. Sarah is betrayed by her crew and left for the police. She has nowhere to turn except a particular nerd she’s recently met; and together they put together a new crew (of nerds) to get back what Sarah lost. This is a very fun story involving a clever con and an unlikely team. The character humor is extraordinary in this story, and the Epilogue has one of the funniest final twists I’ve seen (think “who’s the last person Lester should ever call ‘Ass Man’.”) This is also a longer piece that could take 10+ hours to read and would be rated PG-13 for some language and a sex scene.
As always, my favorites can be found by following the “atcDave” link under the Fan Fiction header at right. I always love to hear about everyone else’s favorites too and look forward to discussion!