Trying, for a minute, to turn this back into what it was originally supposed to be: a fun journal of fannish fics and ramblings. So.
I'm getting ready to take part in the Yuletide fanfic exchange, and I'm super excited about it! I'm taking advantage of the chance to request, and hopefully write, some stuff that doesn't have a consistantly active and articulate fanbase of its own – most notably, various young adult fantasy novels.
The first side effect of this is that it's turning me into a total fandom slut. First it was just Buffy. Then Buffy and Tamora Pierce. Then I went and got obsessed with Firefly. Well, now it's all of the above and Across the Universe, L A Meyer's Bloody Jack series, Caroline Stevermer's College of Magics books, and most everything by the queen of YA fantasy, Diana Wynne Jones... and probably other stuff, too, as I come across it.
The second side effect is a prolonged trip down memory lane. Most of the YA fantasy I read is stuff I discovered as an adult – a lot of it hadn't even been written in the early to mid 90s, when I was in its target age group. But I first discovered Diana Wynne Jones in sixth grade, and so thinking about her work in detail, as I am now, is taking me back in time.
I read two of her books back to back, though I can't now remember which was the very first. Charmed Life was as fascinating as it was creepifying. Eight Days of Luke was one of the first books I reread purposely, to glean more details, rather than just out of boredom. It drew me in completely, sparked a fascination with Norse mythology, and tickled something in the back of my brain that I hadn't even noticed before.
I'm not so into writing book reports, so here's the Publisher's Weekly summary of the book, lifted from Amazon.com:
“David dreads the upcoming holidays. Usually it means he is sent to camp or on an educational tour. This year, things are worse: his great-aunt and -uncle are confused about the last day of school and must cancel their own trip because they haven't scheduled something for David. Even worse, David finds that he can't seem to do anything right, and is constantly in trouble. Then, while playing in the garden, David unleashes unseen forces from another world; only with the help of the mysterious Luke can he send the forces back to the earth. Summer becomes more interesting. Luke can charm David's relatives into letting them do almost anything, until David learns that the forces he freed are beyond his control.”
So, that's who and what it's about. What the above summary doesn't mention is the ambiguity in the relationship between David and Luke. The number of times David thinks about Luke when he's not there, the way he constantly wishes for Luke to show up – you might even call it pining.
I'm gonna call it proto-slash.
Of course you can find slashy potential anywhere, if you're looking. But the remarkable thing about this book is that the chemistry between the main characters is present even if you're not looking, yet subtle enough that you can read it as simple friendship (which, I imagine, is what allowed it be published as a kids' book in 1975).
The first time I read it (first few times, actually) I was in the “not looking” camp. It was 1992 and I was eleven years old. I was raised Catholic, in the Midwest, and I didn't (to my knowledge) even know any gay people. I was just beginning to become aware that there are options beyond heteronormativity. At the same time, I was becoming infatuated with the sci-fi and fantasy genres.
And then I found this book. All the intensity and passion of the story stems from the relationship between the two main characters. Sure, there's magic and danger and family issues for both of them. But the way the two relate, rescue each other from peril, think first of one another. David's musings as he watches Luke sleep. The dumb shit Luke does to impress David, and the fact that it (mostly) works. The ending, presented as a happy one, in which the two of them are safe, and together, and most of the rest is chaos. It's what you usually find, in fiction, between a man and a woman or between a boy and a girl. The first time you find it between two boys, instead, is eye opening. Heart stopping. Life changing.
If it's something you need to find, as I did.
So if you've never read Eight Days of Luke, track down a copy (which shouldn't be too hard, although astonishingly, it's out of print at the moment) and give it a go. And think about buying a copy for any middle school aged kid you know, because you never know who's going to need it.
And, uh, watch this space for Luke/David fanfic.
Unfortunately, I've never really found a femslashy equivalent. For a while I wasn't interested in anything outside the fantasy/sci-fi genres, and though I read all the “girl power” fantasy books I could find, most of those didn't pass the Bechdel Test. Even if they did, the heroine still found heterosexual romance by story's end. I guess the closest would be Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics, which deserves an essay of its own. Sometime.