We’ve already discussed different ways of twisting the Chuck story at about every specific point of the story. But what about twists before we even get started? There are both big and small things that could have been changed to make a completely different story. And unlike many of the previous talks on this subject, this will never be about making things better. This is variety for its own sake. I’m sure many readers will recognize how many stories and myths come in a variety of forms.
After the jump, will look at some extreme variations on our basic Chuck story.
Many myths and stories come in multiple versions. I find this an interesting topic all by itself. Whether we’re talking about the Trojan War or James Bond; canon and fiction is sort of a fluid thing. One self aware example of this springs to mind; those who are familiar with Homer’s Iliad will recall an entire chapter describing a new suit of armor Achilles had made after his previous suit was lost on the battlefield. A much later story, Achilleid by Statius adds a famous detail that Achilles Mom Thetis tried to make him impervious by dipping him in the river Styx. The movie Troy (2004) has Achilles questioned by a small boy about this story, which he dismisses with “if that were true, I wouldn’t need armor!” Alternate realities collide, and I love it!
A more profound mashing of reality, tradition and fiction can be found in the stories of King Arthur. To call the history, or reality of King Arthur sketchy is generous. Many historians dismiss the character as myth outright. I read enough on my own to call such skepticism hogwash, but only barely. We know a warlord named Arthur lived in 5th century, post Roman Britain. He won a three day battle at Badon Hill, and 20 years later, at the Battle of Camlin, Arthur and Mordred fell. And that’s about it. Some will point out Arthur is not called “King”, and it isn’t clear if Arthur and Mordred were on the same or opposing sides. Everything else you think you know about Arthur is later invention. But that invention and variety is the fun of it. The earliest “novelization” of Arthur’s times is Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory published in 1485. That’s a thousand years after Arthur would have lived. What was written then was a combination of invention and folklore. King Arthur has been written about, at length, by every generation since. That includes such excellent movies as Camelot (musical-romance), Excalibur (fantasy) and King Arthur (quasi-historical). Cheesy fun television like Merlin (high fantasy). And a staggering number of books, my favorite being Stephen R Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle (six books. historical fantasy. It starts in Atlantis, and ends with Arthur reborn in 20th century England).
A more current example would be James Bond. We’re now in the modern world of copyright and intellectual property laws, which may limit proliferation in some ways. But even so, when Ian Fleming, a former Naval Intelligence officer, started a series of novels in 1952 he gave birth to something extraordinary. He wrote Bond in only 12 novels and two short story collections, which has led to 23+ (depending on what we count) movies, comics video games. And fan fiction. The length of time, changing global political environment, and variety of stories has led to many differing continuities and realities. Yet many of us enjoy Bond in a number of different incarnations. We may argue the merits of Connery vs Brosnan, yet still enjoy The Living Daylights. We never have to choose only one Bond to love, we can have them all (and somehow I think Bond would like that philosophy…).
Obviously this could continue at length. So many books, movies, television shows and songs have been redone in the same or a different format with many different canons. We often accept this without much worry; if I mention Last of the Mohicans many listeners will automatically inquire if I mean James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, the Michael Mann film, or some other iteration. If we say Battlestar Galactica, we ask original or recent?
And that is my long way of getting to Complete Alternatives in the Chuck universe. The story that aired is what we call canon. Many writers have explored roads not taken, or tried to improve on story details that sat wrong with them, finished the story, or just filled in aspects that seemed underdeveloped. This post is about something a little different. Now we’re getting to those brave souls who went further. They took Chuck down to just the characters, maybe a few aspects of the story, and started from scratch, or put them in a wholly different time or setting. So many of us loved the characters and performances so much it seems only fitting to imagine them in fun and different scenarios. Or just variations on canon.
Unlike past “Alternatives” posts I can’t really discuss things I would have liked to see happen, or could have happened. This is more wide open. How many ways can the Chuck story be retold? (that’s a rhetorical question!). Any writer with an idea can work our favorite characters into any setting, or other story we can think of.
There are couple of recurring themes I can mention. One is what I call “macho Chuck” stories. Obviously not every Chuck fan was a nerd, and many apparently wanted him to be more heroic or “take charge” in a traditional sort of way. This doesn’t always bother me, although in some cases it does. As a life long nerd I was thrilled to have a hero who was one of us. And I loved the “fish out of water” aspect to the canon story. I also loved a hero who used brains and imagination to save the day. I even enjoyed the role reversal with Sarah as the traditional heroic sort (Chuck will make the plan, Sarah will break the bones). But in many cases I’ve enjoyed more macho Chuck characters. I see this as a fairly common variation, but it is neither good nor bad in its own right.
Another is the teen version of the story. This doesn’t work quite as well for me. I get that many of the fan fiction writers are probably teens themselves, and I’ve read a fair number of these stories. Some are pretty good. But I’m well past my teen years, and I don’t really relate or connect easily to these. Its a pity geriatric Chuck stories aren’t all the rage…
Mash-ups are another recurring sort of story. This inserts the Chuck characters into a different movie or story. Obviously how much I like (or am familiar with) the donor story has a major bearing on how much fun such a story is. A huge advantage to doing this is we are normally talking about an already well developed, well thought through story. Its often fascinating to me how well this type of story works. A number of these stories are absolute favorites.
As I get into listing some recommendations a few introductory comments are in order. You all know I shy away from darker themes and stories. I’m not ever opposed to villains being villains, but a key part of what makes Chuck work for me is that I adore the characters of Chuck and Sarah. So I do avoid stories that make either character look very bad for very long. There are certain themes I’m unenthused or disinterested in. That can mean some stories that are very will written, and have large followings, don’t quite work for me. But there is still a staggering number of re-imaginings of Chuck that appeal to me. Perhaps this isn’t really surprising, since the canon versions of Chuck and Sarah were pretty good heroes and role models, its only fitting that many writers would be drawn to that same presentation.
Since the series ended, I think this complete alternative type of story has gradually become the most popular type. I have no numbers or statistics for that, it is only my perception. As has been the norm on these sort of posts I will give a brief description of each story to mention what was different and why it hooked me. These stories are all off my own favorites list. This list is fairly complete, although several stories that were too incomplete to really go anywhere have been omitted. Feel free to bring up any favorite of yours that got left off my list. You all know my taste by now; any story I recommend will reflect well on Chuck and Sarah and end well for them. I hope that doesn’t spoil any endings, but you all knew that already anyway (!). This list goes from oldest to newest, by completion (or last update).
“Charles vs His Destiny” by Arathorn73 starts with Chuck and Bryce running their own software company. When a key piece of software is stolen, government agents are sent to investigate. Guess who. This story takes longer to develop than most on my list, but it is very well written.
“Chuck vs The Time Warp” by CostasTT is a World War II adventure for the gang, that shamelessly borrows from a number of excellent movies.
“Chuck vs The Twist of Fate” by CostasTT starts with a slightly more successful Chuck, who had not been kicked out of Stanford. In some ways it follows canon closely, but Costas pointedly lowers the angst in places. A fun story, with a large number of small changes.
“Walker’s Eleven” by Moonlight Pilot (AKA Frea O’Scanlin) has Sarah Walker as a career con woman, who is betrayed by her team on what was to be her final scam. Chuck is as we knew him in canon, yet Sarah will turn to him for help in building a new crew.
“That Which is Greater” by Frea O’Scanlin starts with the small twist of Chuck being a single parent of a five year old daughter. Violet Bartowski is one of the more entertaining original characters in the Chuckiverse. The linked story is the central story, but I also linked the author’s page because there are eight additional short stories in this setting.
“Collide” by brickroad16 is a collection of 50 (!) one-shots that each tell a different story of Chuck and Sarah coming together. Okay, not quite. Some of the stories continue on previous stories. And one story (two non-sequential chapters) is pointedly not ‘shipper friendly. But the author’s notes clearly tell you which chapters to avoid. Some of these stories would have made excellent longer AUs.
“Chuck vs the Accidental Spy Team” by CostasTT is that author’s contribution the teen spy genre. Well almost. Chuck, Sarah and their friends are all recent college graduates. One funny thing for those who read much of Costas’ work, he likes little variations on his own previous stories too. So certain details will become quite familiar over the course of several of his stories I’ll recommend.
“Chuck vs The Sound of Music” by Quistie64 is one of my very, very favorites. I am amazed at how perfectly Sarah becomes an alt-Maria. And Quistie’s versions of the original songs are brilliant and twisted. This story is sweet and fun. It is also the very best example of how much fun Sarah can be with kids. Even better, the story continues in “Chuck vs The Sound of Music II” which is a long, family spy adventure and tour of Europe. I also linked the author’s page above for access to the three short stories attached to this AU.
“Chuck vs The Sunken Treasure” by NinjaVanish is a modern adventure of pirates, marine salvage and ship wrecks. A sequel is in progress.
“Chuck vs The Frontier” by NinjaVanish is Victorian Sci-Fi. Think Jules Verne or HG Wells. Then think of the American west. This is a very fun story. And if the core role reversal was notable for 21st century Chuck, imagine it in the late 19th century!
“The Good Samaritan” by bvr2109 (AKA Aerox) has Chuck the innocent victim of a mugging, who Sarah decides to help out. Very appealing idea.
“Chuck vs The Master Thief” by CostasTT has master spy Charles Carmichael in need of the services of a world class jewel thief named Sarah Walker.
“Chuck vs Hollywood” by CostasTT stars Chuck as a successful game designer for Orion Computers, who manages to get his latest game turned into a movie. He about flips when his favorite actress, Sarah Walker, is cast in the leading role. Costas really likes doing complete alternates!
“Chuck vs The Wildcat” by Dettiot is set in the old west. Chuck gets caught up in a range war between the Walker and Shaw ranches.
“Permutations” by Uplink2 is set at Stanford where Chuck is the late night DJ of the student run radio station. Sarah is an interested listener. The story is more fun than I just made it sound…
“Chuck vs The Charade” by somedeepmystery is a mash up with the classic Carey Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie. Except of course, Sarah is in Carey Grant’s role, and Chuck is Audrey Hepburn. This works very well, in several ways. See how many Sarah aliases you can recognize…
“The Fairy Tale of Sarah Walker” by Dettiot is another mash-up, this time with the movie classic “Sabrina“.
“Chuck vs The Long Island Debutante” by Jason75 (AKA Old Resorter) is a mash up with The Thin Man. Sort of. Jason has a unique style that fits this style of the classic detective story nicely.
“It’s a Wonderful Cover Life” by Kate McK is a Christmas Story but not the one you think. Chuck is a single parent working at Buy More, Sarah is the bored owner of the store. When she decides its time to get rid of that property she arranges a sale that will require her to be a family woman. Guess who gets the job. This is a fun and entertaining story that may be stalled, we seem to only be getting one or two chapters each Christmas now. Hopefully Kate will see this through!
“A Good Man Goes to War” by ygbsm is an insane action comic version of the story. And it takes “macho Chuck” to ridiculous extreme. And that is why its fun.
“Chuck vs The Biggest Looser” by ThereIsAnother introduces us to a version of Chuck who gained almost 300 lbs after being kicked out of Stanford. Another story that may be stalled, but it went long enough to be a lot of fun and resolve most major issues.
“Sarah vs The Farm” by Angus MacNab makes a crop duster pilot of Chuck when he receives the Intersect. Angus is an excellent story teller, with an obvious love for flying. The title is a double meaning with Sarah adjusting to a “cover” life at Chuck’s rural home, while being more aggressively at odds with the government than in canon.
“Chuck vs The Masquerade” by CostasTT is a little different from Costas’ earlier tales. More involved and complicated. Chuck is recruited by his old buddy Bryce when its realized he looks exactly like Hans Lichtenstein, a nefarious criminal whose organization the CIA is eager to infiltrate. Another on going story, its been updating weekly.
And I’ll leave it at that. A lot of fun stories there, and a very different sort of list than what I’ve done here before. None of these start where the show started, many have no mention of computers, Buy More or The Intersect. These are all different sorts of adventures for Chuck, Sarah and the rest of the gang. But they’re all a lot of fun and a good way to revisit our favorite characters.