Mojave Crossing

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Fanfiction
Title: Mojave Crossing
Author(s): Connie Faddis
Date(s): 1977
Length: 82 pages
Genre: gen
Fandom: Starsky and Hutch
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Contents

panoramic interior for "Mojave Crossing"

Mojave Crossing is an influential Starsky and Hutch story in the first issue of the gen zine Zebra Three. Written and illustrated by Connie Faddis, it is considered to be the first get'em story in the fandom. It is widely mentioned as the h/c fic that started it all.

This story won an Encore Award, a Huggy Award, and shows up on many fans' favorite lists; 1993 Virgule-L Fan Fiction Survey is one example.

The story begins shortly after the episode "The Set Up," with Starsky and Hutch and Terry Nash holed up in a hotel room, along with some Federal Agents, as they await the trial. Driven out by poison gas, a substance that affects Hutch more than his partner, the two escape and are on the run, where they join up with an OFC named Maggie Landis, an archeologist friend of theirs. They end up injured and are pursued across the desert, where great suffering awaits them.

Reactions and Reviews

issue #1, illo for "Mojave Crossing," by Connie Faddis
'Mojave Crossing' is a sequel to “The Set—Up”, in which Starsky and Hutch cleaned out a nest of contract assassins with high but unspecified political connections. Not surprisingly, the bad guys turn out to be renegade FBI agents, who are, also not surprisingly, set on preventing S&H from testifying against them. The upshot is a harrowing trek across the Mojave Desert in high summer, in the course of which Starsky is blinded, Hutch is horribly wounded, and Maggie Landis, surely one of the best— realized female characters in fan fiction, learns something of the nature responsibility——to oneself, to friends, to society. It is an intensely emotional story, that addresses the reader on all levels of response, brain, heart and gut. The author nevertheless remains in full command of her material throughout. The tenderness of the hurt/comfort scenes in both exquisitely controlled, and entirely free of the steamy sexuality which mars so many K/S epics of the Contact school. [1]
It isn’t easy being a fan when you’re male, at least to the extent that one might get involved without some people assuming you must be gay or weird. [This fan also writes that “Mojave Crossing” is the piece of fiction that got him hooked on fanfic. [2]
Many moons ago, before I knew fandom existed, my partner and I were writing all kinds of S&H. You name it, we wrote it—not particularly well, perhaps, but that's beside the point. And rarely did a tale get by without a good hefty dose of h/c. When you're gonna dent em, dent 'em good, was our motto—no way is Hutch going to cuddle him if he just tears a hangnail. Or vice versa. So Kick Hutch Week was followed by Stomp Starsky Week, and they and we got our jollies without any qualms of conscience on either side. Suddenly along came the Brave New World of Fandom, and we discovered there was a name for all this stuff. And we read 'Mojave Crossing,' and stopped writing h/c for a while, because we knew we couldn't top that. [3]
Besides the wonderful hurt/comfort, the life and death situation they're involved in, "Mojave" is an important episode in the lives of Starsky and Hutch. In it they learn what they mean to each other, and to express their caring in a way never before shown either in the aired episodes or in fiction. Because "Mojave Crossing" was published in the infancy of SH fanfiction, it has become the yardstick by which all other stories are measured. Another story with hurt/comfort, life and death situations and an expression of love between the characters seems like a repeat of what Connie did so well. To be equally moving and powerful and memorable, a story must go one step further, have the characters learn something else, change their lives in some other significant way, or it's just a rehash that pales in comparison. "Wilderness" is competently written and well-edited and though I don't think it's quite as powerful a story, it differs from "Mojave" and stands on its own because of the cop story format, because we explore Hutch's guilt over Starsky's grave condition. [4]
My earliest memory of the fan lit is lying on Connie Faddis's carpet in 1977. paging over the second draft of "Mojave Crossing" and thinking, what the hell is this stuff? It wasn't science fiction and it sure wasn't Star Trek. not even the K/S version. (Yet.) But since a quantity of people I liked to talk with were hoofing over into this new fandom, it was either hoof with 'em or forever hold my peace. [5]
It's difficult to pin down just one all time favorite. I'll always have a special feeling for the first ever SH zine, ZEBRA III #1, because of the unforgettable "Mojave Crossing" by Connie Faddis. At our Paul Muni Special con, the tenth anniversary of SH, Carol Davis and I gave out the "Encore Awards", so named because every piece of fanfiction, art, etc. since the beginning of SH fandom was eligible. And "Mojave Crossing" is the story that won "Very Favorite Story Over All". Everyone, whether you're into slash or non, can enjoy and appreciate this beautiful hurt/comfort story... I'd read this zine years before actually getting involved in SH fandom. [6]

In 2014, a second-generation fan wrote a reflection on the experience of buying the zine Zebra Three as a collectible, and reviewed "Mojave Crossing" in light of its reputation within the fandom and later hurt/comfort stories that followed it:

This is a fic I'd already heard a LOT about before from ancient 1970s-80s reviews quoted on fanlore.org, and they were all raves: omg, this fic is so good, omg, the h/c is so beautiful. Omg this is so much better than that tiresome contrived cloying crap in other fandoms. Etc. I was very curious to read it, because it was history, but I was also pretty damn certain that "well, this is the first zine in the fandom ever, it's not like they had much basis for comparison back then" and so I lol'd politely at all the fangirling and took it all with a heap of salt.

Uh. Okay. So there are fics that are highly-praised and popular because they appeal to a big lowest common denominator, rather than because they are good. There are also fics that are well-loved by fans because they were The First Big Thing Ever and are perpetually seen through nostalgia goggles. And there are fics that are really good, but are so overhyped that they wind up being a huge letdown.

Mojave Crossing, to put it mildly, is not one of those fics. Everything hyped about it was woefully inadequate, not hyperbolic.

Okay, I'm not gushing because the fic was OMG THE BEST, because it wasn’t the very best fic I’ve ever read. It’s probably not even the very best Starsky & Hutch fic I’ve ever read, though it's up there. It’s not perfect or anything. Some (though very little) of the writing sounds dated, there’s a couple clunky places and pieces of dialogue that are unrealistically on-the-nose, and personally, I think the last chapter is just a tiny bit too Happy Happy Joy Joy (though I can appreciate the need for soothing after all the trauma in the main plot). It is, however, everything I love and have ever loved about fiction, fandom, and fanfiction, with no aspects that I have a real problem with, all condensed into one modest little story. Therefore, half the appeal for me was the way it made me make all kinds of connections about what I love most in fanfic in general...

[snipped, writer discusses the phenomenon of sublimity in writing]

...[Connie Faddis] knows how to use her writing as a tool to achieve a desired effect...the greatness sneaks up on you unawares, with the writer in complete control of her typing fingers and big red editing pen. Except in a few brief flashes, and then a longer, sustained blaze at the climax, it doesn’t exude mind-blowing amazingness from every pore or anything. 90% of its language is nice and crisp and clean and humble. It doesn’t have much symbolism or metaphors apart from the desert. Its format and narrative devices aren’t incredibly unique or creative. Its parameters are very modest...The part that makes it brilliant is how vividly the thoughts and feelings these particular characters would understandably have during these events are revealed without being overly wordy (not like I’m doing here!), and how honestly and unpretentiously they are tackled...

A good sign of its good writing is that it manages a very hard trope – the good OC (the archeologist widow I mentioned). A full believable character who is not just a 2-D prop for the plot and has her own arc going on, yet at the same time, is also a character whose existence is totally entwined with the "real" characters' story so the reader doesn’t go "yawwwnnn, why am I reading this? I don't actually care about her, I care about the main characters, can we get back to them?" Her arc is really crucial the story and to the character arcs of Starsky and Hutch in it, which is all about responsibility, and appreciation, and what makes something worth any pain or sacrifice, and their arc is crucial to hers...

Also she's an amazing narrative device: during most of the fic, Maggie is right there with Starsky and Hutch and her presence stops them from being exclusively focused on each other because they talk to and care about and interact and love her too. Her presence doesn't -- uh, what's the gen equivalent of cockblock? -- their feelings or the way they interact, but her presence holds their intensity down a bit because their feelings and compassion are generous and open and kind, not exclusionary and selfish and hierarchical, and it makes you like them as people even more because they care about and pay attention to her too. And then, when she does leave them all alone together -- it makes that giant wham of mutual electricity that has always been the most unique part of the partnership, as the emotional circuit suddenly closes, and the universe suddenly drops away and their whole world is each other and their existence is only each other, a hundred times more stunning and intimate.

Also, very importantly, is that the relationship is not static – not just threatened and regained. Their friendship is transformed and indelibly marked by the whole thing. They explicitly speak about it to each other and revel in it later on, in the hospital, and it brings them self-perpetuating joy and belief in themselves and each other that you can imagine lasting for the rest of their lives after the ordeal is over. It manages to not be a cop-out when they survive in the end, because it's all about acquiring new understandings of themselves and their friendship, new ways of relating, new views of the future based on their experiences – the part about the future is, IMO, really important for preventing that hard-to-avoid aura of cop-out-ness in h/c fics where it looks like a character is actually going to die.

At the beginning, the plot and the suspense and action are in the foreground. The beauty of the story unfolds slowly, layer by layer. It’s intensely emotional, colorfully dramatic, keenly perceptive, elegantly controlled, thoughtfully worded, and deeply heartfelt, all at the same time. The author loves good storytelling, but she loves her characters and source material even more. The love and emotion between the two main characters expressed in her writing builds and builds, suddenly blooming and deepening in crescendos of well-turned, never-too-wordy revelation, and becomes more and more open and emotional and lyrical and poetic and visual until it catches fire in the long climactic hurt/comfort scene -- Hutch is slowly bleeding to death from a bullet wound, Starsky is blinded and trying to comfort him, both of them are stranded in the desert, weak with exhaustion and exposure and dehydration, waiting for help to arrive before they die. And everything else is stripped away to show the extent of their adoration of and tenderness for each other, of the suffering from their injuries and strain and trauma, of the even worse suffering of not being able to save their best friend, and of the terror and desolation of knowing their partner is going to die.

This comes to the h/c, which is...wow. I've been in fandom, reading h/c fic, for eight years, and even I was really bowled over by it. It's very controlled and restrained, doesn’t try to reach for too much outside the modest scenario and at the same time doesn’t skirt around Starsky and Hutch’s thoughts or feelings within the scenario....

It's almost more like a deathfic than an h/c fic (but like I said, avoids the cop-out syndrome) – slow, sweet, dark, ruthless, and aching with love being ripped cruelly away by death. Their interaction reaches a fever pitch of emotional torque where it becomes, like I said before, luminous and hushed and delicately suspended in a little pocket universe, like so many great scenes in fiction where the interaction between multiple characters or elements in a story makes the scene more than the sum of its parts.

...after an exhausting stretch of struggling, pleading, cursing, arguing, darkly joking, fake-insulting, and undergoing the process of trying to articulate how much they love each other, Hutch has finally fallen unconscious after insisting on telling Starsky goodbye and is dying, and Starsky shields his body, whispering to Hutch that he will always take care of him, so brokenhearted that he rejoices in the realization that he is going to die too, and silently promises Hutch that he'll follow him into death and will be with him soon. Describing that doesn’t sound like anything unique, but because of how it's written, so characteristically straightforward, and the positioning of that moment after the scene and story that precedes it, it's completely, completely soul-destroying. It brings the number of fics I can remember crying over in my life up to a whopping grand total of...uh, well, four. I don’t cry very much, even though I’m easily emotionally affected by fiction. [7]

References

  1. from Mahko Root #2 (1978)
  2. from S and H #11 (May 1980)
  3. from S and H #21 (May 1981)
  4. from Between Friends #7
  5. from Paula Smith in 1985 from the program book for The Paul Muni Special
  6. from Frienz #13
  7. see this review for more about this story, and about Zebra Three in general: Reading a 1977 zine in 2014: Zebra Three #1, Archived version
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