Title:Strung Out on Heaven’s High (hitting an all-time low) Author:
on AO3 Fandom: Hockey RPF Relationship: Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews
Rating: Mature Word Count:
Alternate Universe, Reporter AU, Homophobia, Threatened Outing, Panic Attacks, Referenced Career Ending Injury
Author’s Summary:When Patrick Kane gets a summer internship at the Chicago Tribune, he’s determined not to screw up another career. But instead of covering fashion shows for animals or becoming an agony uncle, he finds himself charged with writing an expose of the Blackhawks’ new captain.
Or, the AU in which Kaner is Chris Kuc.
Review:Alternate Universe - those two words are the little black dress of fanfiction. They could mean anything from medieval knights to space pirates.
What’s interesting is how fanfiction AU’s both fit within the traditional sense of AU’s and make it their very own. Traditionally in science fiction, alternate universe combines two similar but competing ideas - alternate history and parallel universe. Essentially it comes down to whether the writer subscribes to the mono-verse or multi-verse theory of physics, although they don’t automatically cancel each other out (for example, the Star Trek reboot universe seems to co-exist as both an alternate history while containing in their world the Mirror Universe). In Alternate History, the idea is that there is only one universe which can be altered by changing history (intentionally or not). Ray Bradbury first wrote about this in his 1953 short story “A Sound of Thunder” when his protagonist leaves the acceptable path for time travelers and accidentally kills a butterfly, that small event setting into motion many changes in the future when he returns to it. (By the way, this is apparently NOT where the chaos theory’s butterfly effect idea came from in the 60’s, which would be considered a butterfly effect with a literal butterfly). The Simpsons did a very amusing parody of this idea as well based on this story.
Parallel universes are a much more popular mechanism for sci fi writers. Fringe did it best, while Star Trek did it most famously, and The Flash is currently trying to figure it out as well. Parallel universe theory is based on string theory, which suggests that there are infinite universes because every time someone makes a choice in one universe, in another universe they made a different choice. Multiverse is the answer to Robert Frosts’ desire to take both paths in the poem “The Road Not Taken” that ends with: “Two roads diverged in a wood/ and I — I took the one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference.”
The fascination with parallel universes or alternate histories is basically the same - change one thing and see what happens. Given that, I would suggest that many fanfics that use the term Alternate Universe do so inaccurately. These fanfics are really Alternate Setting, with the idea that the personalities and relationships will remain similar while the surroundings change (and that can be very interesting, I’m not knocking that at all!), whereas with Alternate History and Parallel Universes, the idea is that one thing changed and the interest is in exploring how that one thing impacts the personalities and relationships of these characters we already know. In fact, fandom has its own unique take on that one change - Rule 63, which states that for every given male character, there is a female version of that character, and vice versa - to see how that changes things. (By the way, I know Marvel did this with Antonia Stark, but I believe that was after it had already become a popular trope on the internet).
Fortunately, there is one thing that you can be sure of when it comes to fan fiction - the characters will always find each other no matter what changes. Perhaps it could be called Fate, perhaps it’s that their leptons and quarks became inextricably linked in the Big Bang and now mirror each other across time and space forever and always. In the end, people who are meant to be together will always find each other. It is the perfect Valentine’s Day concept.
The work Strung Out on Heaven’s High (hitting an all-time low) by jezziejay, is the perfect example of a true alternate universe. In the story, Patrick Kane is in a car accident that ends his chance of becoming a professional hockey player before he is drafted into the OHL. Up until that point, everything was the same, including Kane & Toews playing together on the Junior Flyers as young teens. Once professional hockey is off the table, Kane has to come up with a new goal for his life and he goes to college to pursue journalism. He is also able to come out and live his life honestly in a way he couldn’t if he had followed his pro hockey dream. In this universe, Toews is still drafted by the Hawks and becomes their young captain. Kane, interning at the Chicago Tribune, writes an opinion piece questioning not Toews’ ability to be captain, but rather whether or not it’s the best choice for him given the pressure, etc… It is through this inauspicious start that the Kane & Toews relationship in Chicago begins again, eventually leading to Kane becoming a beat reporter for the Hawks. What’s lovely about this story is how well the author incorporates accurate facts about both Kane and Toews, while still examining the repercussions of Toews being a bisexual closeted hockey player in a relationship with an out gay reporter Kane. Kane is still a stats nerd who loves hockey. Toews is still driven to succeed, even to the point of ignoring a concussion. Both men are themselves yet different due to circumstances in ways that make sense. Their relationship is written both humorously (there’s a scene with them drunkenly putting together a bed frame that is hilarious, as is the aftermath when Toews tries to buy Kane a new bed in apology) and with a lot of angst. There’s a beautiful rom-com moment involving chicken nuggets that will warm your heart.
There’s also an underlying tension about the fact that Kane is out, and whether he wants to be Toews’ secret. And even if he is willing, the fact that he has been out and people know that might lead to questions about the closeness of their relationship. I felt the author handled these issues beautifully, with a deft touch, in showing the emotional aspects between Kane & Toews as they wrestle with these issues within the story. The ending is both resolved and unresolved in a sense, and because of that, I’d love it if the author wrote a sequel, but this story in and of itself is excellent whether she writes a sequel or not. The best stories are ones that leave you wanting more, and that’s what this story did.
In general, I recommend all of this author’s stories, but this particular one is my personal favorite and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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This morning we [John Scott and I] actually had to do something together since we’re both captains, we had to put the skills competition together. He wanted to put guys like myself, Daniel Sedin, and Johnny Gaudreau in the hardest shot so he could come away and win it.