Talking Stick Series

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Star Trek VOY Fanfiction
Title: Talking Stick/Circle
Author(s): Macedon, Peg Robinson
Date(s):
Length:
Genre:
Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
External Links: series page at The J/C Index and Macedon's homepage and series page at www.snerk.net
series page at the AO3

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Talking Stick is the first story in a Star Trek: Voyager fanfiction series. The series is a "braided novel" of 8 stories and novellas that Macedon wrote in tandem with Peg Robinson.

Many of the individual stories won a whole raft of ASC Awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

This series, written in the early days of Voyager fanfiction, was described by Diavolessa as, "Too sprawling (in the grand sense) in scale and reach to reduce to a mere synopsis; let us just say that this is Voyager unfettered and red in tooth and claw, such as Paramount with its nice tidy pander-to-the-demographics mentality could only dream of producing."[1] The series dealt with themes of community, acceptance, justice and friendship.

Although it did eventually become a Janeway/Chakotay love story, the romance is very much on the side with complex plots dominating. The series was also notable for introducing several memorable original characters to the cast and crew, as well as for portraying Chakotay's Native American heritage without over-romanticizing or shying away from it.

These stories have been preserved, by permission, as a collection at the Archive of Our Own.

List of Stories in the Series

  • Talking Stick by Macedon
  • Circle by Peg Robinson
  • A Cherished Alienation by Macedon
  • The Red Queen's Repose by Peg Robinson
  • Walking Across Egypt by Macedon
  • Raisins and Almonds by Peg Robinson
  • Otterskin by Macedon and Peg Robinson
  • The Rose and the Yew Tree by Peg Robinson and Macedon

Related Links

Author's Comments

This story originally appeared in mid-1995. I wrote it in a fit of angry frustration. I'd just seen the episode "Initiations" [early second season] and it was the straw that broke the camel's back, if you will. I decided that a native character needed a native voice (not to mention a tribe). I wrote the original on-line, live, posting as I went. It's been revised since then, cleaned up, and also made to fit with the stories which came after.

It was never meant to generate a series; it was my attempt to get some of my anger out of my system, and was a stand-alone story. At the time, I got exactly 4 emails in response (I counted <g>). I figured I'd really done it and pissed off nearly the entire newsgroup. <G> Over the next few months, a couple more comments trickled in, maybe 3? Anyway, several months later, I got an email from a lady who said her name was Peg Robinson and she wanted to collaborate on sequels. My initial response was, "No way! I don't do collaborations." Some email ensued. The result was a story which Peg asked permission to write, with no obligation from me, from Janeway's point of view. That was "Circle." I'll post it tomorrow or something, since it's also relatively short.

Once I'd read Peg's story, I simply had to respond...and the "Talking Stick-Circle" series was born, although we never *did* get a better name for the whole thing. We reposted everything not long before we posted "Otterskin"--but that was over 2 years ago now. So "Talking Stick" hasn't been seen on the group since the late summer/fall of 1996.

The whole series does have it's own webpage (as well as a mirror site kept by Mirage). Folks who want pretty pictures and html, plus links to all the stories in order, can find it here: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/8435/ts-c.html [2]

Reactions and Reviews

Talking Stick and Circle

My first encounter with fan fiction came after I read Constance Penley's book NASA/Trek -- I was considering it for review for Amazon.com, as it got very good reviews in the British scientific press. In the event, I did not review Penley's book, but I was interested enough in the topic to do some web searches for more information. What I found was totally unexpected.

No-one had hinted to me that fan fiction might be good in a literary sense. I was expecting to find it interesting or subversive, but not of very high quality -- no better than the average of the professional Star Trek novels, and probably much worse.

Instead I found myself reading some of the best fiction produced in the 1990s in any genre. I was astounded. The best fan fiction -- works like Killashandra's "Bitter Glass" and Macedon & Peg's "Talking Stick and Circle" -- are true works of art, a distinct genre of literature with its own particular strengths. [3]

The Rose and the Yew Tree

[The Rose and the Yew Tree]: Macedon and Peg's amazing epic, "The Rose and the Yew Tree," one of my two favorite stories of the year ("Closing In" being the other, so don't miss that either). Even if it weren't following up the rest of the thoroughly impressive "Talking Stick/Circle" cycle of stories, "Rose and Yew" would stand on its own as much, much more than "mere" fanfiction. This is better, more sweeping, more moving, more complex than a whole slew of professionally published novels that I've read in my life as a reader/writer. Thankfully, Peg's talent has been recognized through her selection as one of the SNW anthology authors. I can only hope for similar at some future point for Macedon. If you haven't read "The Rose and the Yew Tree" -- if you haven't read *any* of "Talking Stick/Circle" -- you're depriving yourself of a reading feast. I almost wish I hadn't read it so that I could read it again for the first time. Instead, I 'll content myself with having the cycle to read again and again. I've printed this out to keep, I've read it aloud to my husband, I've recommended it to friends -- I recommend it to you. [4]
[The Rose and the Yew Tree]: Oh, man. I don't know how I can write coherently about this one. It's the culmination of the "Talking Stick/Circle" series, and what a culmination it is! Truly sweeping -- epic in scope -- yet the humanity is not lost. This one has everything -- love, war, death, despair, redemption, peace -- all woven together in a seamless narrative by Peg & Macedon that, despite its length and sweep, never loses its focus on the "human" side of things. The characterization of all is rich and full and complex, both for series characters (Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Torres, etc.) and for original characters (Magda, Anyas, Chessie). Aliens who are *alien*, culture shock -- oh, I'm starting to ramble. But it's a wonderful, gripping, amazing story. Hard to imagine that it all started with a little gem like "Talking Stick" or that it ended up here. Read it, read them all. And if you don't like it -- well, I guess I just don't see how that could happen. I suppose it's possible, but I just can't imagine it. [5]
[The Rose and the Yew Tree]: Is there anyone left who hasn't read this? Voyager fic..fanfic in general..can hardly get better than this. An incredible end to the Talking Stick/Circle series. One of the most carefully written J/C romances I've ever read, yet interwoven so wonderfully into so many different plot twists that it is far from the focus. Rather, it unfolds naturally out of the relationship that has been developing throughout the series. Peg and Macedon created a very realistic race of aliens, the conflict is gripping, and the final scene is in my top five favorite scenes in fanfic, ever. Sometimes, the roses will do. [6]
[The Rose and the Yew Tree]: The final <sigh of disappointment that there will be no more to follow> installment in the 'Talking Stick Series'. This one *can* stand alone just fine, but it will make more sense if you've read the earlier stories in the series.

As a result of playing good samaritans, Voyager's crew is drawn into a bloody genocidal war. The bad guys are truly, truly awful as a group; but rather less so as individuals. The good guys have 'right' clearly on their side (they are fighting desperately for their very existence), but they are far from perfect. The aliens are fascinating: a fantasitc mixture of morphotypes cemented together -- at least in part -- by their shared victimization. As introduced in earlier parts of the 'Talking Stick' series, Janeway and Chakotay are portrayed slightly differently than we see them in canon -- all to the good, on the whole. They became lovers previously in the series, and in the context of this story, they are drawn even more firmly into a satisfying, strength-giving, but nonintrusive, domestic relationship. To my eye, the principal strength of this story is the portrayal of the long, slow, grinding pressure of living on a damaged ship overcrowded with beings who really do not understand one another. Cultures clash and tempers fray to the breaking point, as 'inconveniences' inexorably turn into major deprivations of even the basic necessities of life. One nit I have to get off my chest though -- and I apologize for no doubt being the 5,000th person to bring this up. The analogy Janeway was searching for in describing the manner in which the Bandei assisted their escape was *Dunkirk* (or Dunkerque) not 'Normandy'. The Normandy *landings* took place on June 6th 1944 (D-day), when allied troops made an all-out frontal assault on a series of beaches in that Provence. The desperate *evacuation* of British and French troops from Dunkirk (which is not in Normandy) took place much earlier in the war, in June 1940. Every fishing boat, private yacht, and

garbage scow which could make the trip across the channel was enlisted to help. And it *was* quite something (not like I was there to see it, mind you, but the movie version was great ;)). [7]
[The Rose and the Yew Tree]:Another long story that had me on my toes for days. Peg and Macedon have established a great A/U for Voyager. I especially like their version of Chakotay with a background that is better worked out as in the series.

I also liked the relationship he and Janeway developed gradually during the series, its realistic and mature. In previous installments they have introduced very compelling original characters, which the reader can care about. Killing of one of them was as effectfull as the death of someone of the tv-crew would have been. To call the new cultures they introduce in this story very interesting is an understatement. The interaction between them and voyager's crew was great - the resentment they have towards one another and the way it was overcome slowly. I was drawn into the story and felt with the characters. The story itself is everything I want from Trek - thought-provoking, daring, intriguing. The despair, the hopelessness of the situation was

portrayed very well. I liked the turn, when they finally are rescued but then discover that nothing's for free. With fanfic like this, who needs Pocket Books? [8]

The Series

Echoes of multitudes of kudos to both of you for a story/series/novel that just might have influenced the way I think about some things today. I still hold this cycle up as the standard for everything J/C (and indeed VOY in general) should be... [9]
I don't remember the first story I ever read here [at alt.startrek.creative], which is sort of strange since I've only been around here for a couple of weeks. I do remember the first story from the archive (when it was still at token.net) that sent me on a frenzied search for more. That was "Talking Stick" by Macedon, which I read at the wee hours on a weeknight, despite having to be at work at 8:00 a.m. I was just going to skim it quickly to see what it was about and ended up reading it word-for-word, crying at my computer (thank God I live alone - explaining that to a roommate might not have been do-able!), then going right back to the archive to look for more. I now have all six stories in the cycle printed out, as well as saved to my hard drive, and am eagerly looking forward to the next. [10]
As I do with all my favorites, I've got a stack of hard copies of his stuff--which includes the entire Talking Stick/Circle story chain. Fifty-five pages of 6.5 Palatino type in two-column format, margins .5 inches... [11]
Definitely, definitely deserves an award. Peg and Joe made these characters into what they should be--which is something that the writers on the show never have achieved. [12]
A remarkable "braided novel" of 8 stories and novellas which Macedon wrote in tandem with the equally remarkable Peg Robinson. Too sprawling (in the grand sense) in scale and reach to reduce to a mere synopsis; let us just say that this is Voyager unfettered and red in tooth and claw, such as Paramount with its nice tidy pander-to-the-demographics mentality could only dream of producing.

This is what the show could have been if they had allowed the characters to be real, flawed, but still courageous people. This is what the show could have been if they had allowed it to actually deal seriously with issues instead of platitudes. The writing is awesome, the characters and plot will grip you, and if it doesn't make you think, you have no brain. There are not words to describe the awesomeness of this series. When I read it, I stayed up all night to read the whole thing despite having to work in the morning because it was just that incredible.

Among the many issues that the TV series ignored or glossed over that this series does not: 1) the fact that Chakotay is an Indian from a tribe that has somehow managed to keep its identity as a tribe despite the fact that the Federation has screwed it over almost as much as the US did back in the white settlement of the West. 2) the fact that Janeway and most of the Starfleet officers, enlightened and culturally sensitive as they may be, still carry the backpack of privilege, still look at the world through that lens.

3) the fact that the Maquis are not Starfleet, and have their own identity and pride, and that is very different from Starfleet identity and pride. 4) the fact that religion isn't just a nice bit of local color for the Indian character, but a true and deep faith. [13]
Even if you've never read Voyager fic... even if you only know the premise of the series in the sketchiest terms... even if the idea of Janeway/Chakotay brings you out in scary blotches, you should read this "braided novel" of eight stories and novellas. (If you already read Voyager, I know it's four years old but I'm slow okay? <g>) Written firstly in turn and then jointly, Macedon and Peg create a convincing world where even the apparent comic relief develops depth and dignity. It begins with a bonding session for the crew which goes awry when Chakotay lets a little too much of his anger leak out and moves through a series of adventures until it reaches the climactic and genuinely wrenching final installment. It's not perfect but as fanfic goes, it's wonderful. A legendary ride that will eat your life for days. (But I can take or leave the cat.) [14]

Perhaps Talking Stick/Circle is a classic because there is so little well-written fanfic that it stands out. Perhaps because Voyager fans find the series as aired wanting in characterization. Perhaps it's really a classic. Or, perhaps, there are people who really like it and keep recommending it to the rest of us, who are too busy to read the whole long braided novel written back in the nineties when the series was a couple of seasons old, and we fall in with the consensus rather than appear to have committed the mortal sin of not reading it.

Whatever the reason, in Star Trek fanfic circles, Talking Stick/Circle pops up on recommendations lists time after time. This Reviewer has spent quite a bit of time perusing the stories at Taberna Redux, the current online home of the series and other fics by Macedon, as well as his essay on the craft of writing. Macedon and Peg have long since left the realm of fanfiction. I believe Peg was published in the Strange New Worlds contest Paramount continues to run, and went pro writer. They leave behind them some good fiction.

The thing is, like 'good' food, 'good' writing is relative. It's not to everyone's liking to read fic that crawls along so slowly that progress can be measured in epochs. (I am exaggerating, but it does feel that way sometimes.) "Talking Stick" was meant to stand alone. No sequels were planned, and then along came Peg to throw in Janeway's point of view, and some time later there was this sprawling "braided" novel that dealt with the issues of Maquis vs. Starfleet and being lost in the DQ with much more character development and no reset button syndrome. Original characters abounded alongside the familiar crew members. All of the characters are painstakingly drawn with great care and love -- Macedon (Joseph Little Otter) wrote "Talking Stick" as a way of refuting the Hollywood Medicine Man they made Chakotay. He and Tuvok have a quiet clash of character that constitutes the storyline, which is resolved by Chakotay instituting the Talking Stick Circle, a story circle to which all crew are invited to come and tell the stories of themselves, their families, their heritage.

On Macedon and Peg's Voyager we find Jews and Bajorans, a French lady Maquis who gives Janeway a run for her credits, a pregnant Kes who carries her infant in a natal pouch over her shoulder and who gives birth to a lovely little half-Talaxian with a roached blond mane. I have no idea how many of the details liberally sprinkled throughout the story are canon and how much is not. I never kept up with the series enough. But, I do know that the people in this story are all strong and intelligent, that they all have roots, that they are aware of them and of the mistakes made by their ancestors, that the problems they face and the way they face them are believable. Naomi has a different name. The aliens are here, there and everywhere, and unlike most of the episodes I have seen, largely indifferent to Voyager and her plight, rather than trying to hunt her down or take her over or destroy her. The Borg are not the major issue. Seven is nowhere to be found. TS/C is more faithful to the Roddenberry vision of Star Trek than Voyager itself, in that not all the aliens are out to get the heroes and the characters show ethnic diversity.

This is not a series of stories that caters to the whims of demographics or merchandising. The inception was not planned; the authors did not go back and edit until everything was knit together and the plot solid from first page to last. It takes 441k of story to get the main plot (if you can call it that) started, and then the final two sections are 441 k apiece, but they're also the ones with the most action, and the J/C element, which has gotten off to such a slow start, finally kicks into high gear.

If this was a pro manuscript being submitted for publication, you can bet the first third of it would be either pruned entirely or heavily edited to a fraction of its length. Because it's fanfiction, the writers obviously didn't feel the motivation to go back and rewrite as heavily as needed. As a result the other stories at Taberna Redux have a much more concise and put-together feel. Macedon writes understated, lyrical prose, relying heavily on showing and not on telling. As a result it takes him a long time to get the story told -- scenes developing the characters over time will always take up more space than "Chakotay loved her. Janeway wasn't sure. Then she thought about all they'd been through, and loved him back." The first story on the page, "Wisdom and Beauty," gets a bit heavy-handed at points but is mostly a wonderful love story between two original characters, and won me over much more than Talking Stick/Circle.

Which is not to say TS/C isn't worth reading. For those with the time and a yen for intense and thorough character development, it's wonderful. All of Macedon's work in the fanfic realm make my recommendation list, in fact, for a variety of reasons, which do not include "a quick read" or "just like watching Star Trek." For fanfic readers who really want to learn how to write fanfic well, reading Macedon's essay on writing is very worth it, especially since he slants it to fanfic authors. His three-part series about Jake Sisko is quite good, and I've already mentioned "Wisdom and Beauty." His Vulcans are Vulcan, and all aliens receive similar treatment -- the differences are drawn plainly from the inside out. It's obvious that Macedon likes to be meticulous about his characterizations. So much so, in fact, that I don't doubt there are some who read "Talking Stick" and get too bogged down. I found myself skipping paragraphs at times. Peg's contributions move along more briskly, and in the final co-written installment her influence is obvious.

The Talking Stick/Circle series is the cheesecake of Voyager fanfic. Dense, subtly-flavored with characters of all species and personality, executed with flair and attention to detail, and much too much to take in at one sitting. It would be a good Voyager fic for those not well acquainted with the series; remove the Star Trek characters and rewrite a little, chop off the 441 k of wandering leading into it, and this could be a decent science fiction novel. But, if you prefer the fast food of adventure, full of punch and short sentences and heavy reliance on canon, you may wish to check the shorter works of Macedon and/or Peg before deciding to attempt the whole cheesecake. [15]
I think I'd still name this epic as my favorite fanfic in any fandom, and this story made me a hardcore J/C shipper. I read this over again when preparing the rec. I didn't mean to, but I glanced down on the screen and the story sucked me in all over again.[16]
And, you know, Voyager is my least favorite Star Trek series, but I loved his other work, and so I decided to try the eight part "braided novel" he wrote with Peg Robinson, Talking Stick/Circle. And was in awe. The story is too sprawling (in the grand sense) in scale and reach to reduce to a mere synopsis; let us just say that this is Voyager unfettered and red in tooth and claw, such as Paramount with its nice tidy pander-to-the-demographics mentality could only dream of producing. This is what the show could have been if they had allowed the characters to be real, flawed, but still courageous people. This is what the show could have been if they had allowed it to actually deal seriously with issues instead of platitudes. The writing is awesome, the characters and plot will grip you, and if it doesn't make you think, you have no brain. There are not words to describe the awesomeness of this series. When I read it, I stayed up all night to read the whole thing despite having to work in the morning because it was just that incredible.

Among the many issues that the TV series ignored or glossed over that this series does not:
1) the fact that Chakotay is an Indian from a tribe that has somehow managed to keep its identity as a tribe despite the fact that the Federation has screwed it over almost as much as the US did back in the white settlement of the West.
2) the fact that Janeway and most of the Starfleet officers, enlightened and culturally sensitive as they may be, still carry the backpack of privilege, still look at the world through that lens.
3) the fact that the Maquis are not Starfleet, and have their own identity and pride, and that is very different from Starfleet identity and pride.

4) the fact that religion isn't just a nice bit of local color for the Indian character, but a true and deep faith.[17]
This is one of the most amazing works of fiction I've ever read. It's long, very long, so if you're thinking of reading it be warned on that score; but quite frankly I'm just in awe of the whole thing!! This pretty much has everything I could ever want out of a J/C story and more - other than that I honestly don't know what to say[18]

References

  1. Diavolessa. Macedon's Taberna, Redux. Website updated June 5, 1999. Archived copy at the WayBack Machine. (Accessed May 11, 2009)
  2. alt.startrek.creative, October 1998
  3. from "The Learning Curve": Hypertext, Fan Fiction, and the Calculus of Human Nature (1999)
  4. alt.startrek.creative, March 1998
  5. ASC March 1998
  6. ASC March 1998
  7. ASC March 1998
  8. ASC March 1998
  9. comment by schlock alt.startrek.creative, October 1998
  10. comment by CB TREKS at What's the first story you ever read here?, October 6, 1996
  11. comment by schlock at What's the first story you ever read here?, September 19, 1996
  12. ASC March 1998
  13. 2008 comment at Crack Van
  14. Your Mileage May Vary: Recs, via Wayback: 2009. (Accessed 10 April 2015)
  15. Cream Cheese, Hold the Vinegar: Review of Talking Stick/Circle, Voyager fic, Archived version, December 11, 2001
  16. "Where No Fangirl Has Gone Before..." Archived from the original on 2019-04-24. 
  17. "Fic Rec: anything by Macedon, now available on AO3". Archived from the original on 2019-04-25. 
  18. LauraJo's Fanfic Favourites