So, without further ado, I'll begin in the universe of The Professionals, since I can reach the first zine in question if I stretch...just...so...
Title: Journey West
Author: Maiden Wyoming
Format: Stand-alone fanzine novel
Awards: Huggy Award for Best The Professionals Novel, given at ZebraCon 13
Year Published: 1997
Warnings: Slash, graphic violence, not for the faint-hearted
Availability: Not currently available, although until recently was advertised as available through Oblique Publications at The Waveney Zine Shop (might be worth an inquiry)
I read fan fiction about The Professionals before I ever watched and came to love the series. Journey West was not the first story I encountered from the CI5 universe by a long shot, but it has left such an impact on me that I now cannot think of the series without also thinking of this tale. Recently rereading this work, which is set in 1995, impressed upon me how timely and current its plot remains: an older Bodie and Doyle, brought to the United States, are abandoned to the machinations of domestic terrorists who plan to use the two operatives to strike against the nation by kidnapping the children of the President and thus controlling the Commander-in-Chief. Bodie and Doyle must walk a dangerous line between resisting the terrorists' plans and appeasing them long enough both to remain alive and to form alliances in the most unlikely of places. The resulting tale is dark, gritty, starkly violent, and often surprisingly poignant.
Maiden Wyoming manages to accomplish a number of delicate tasks in this remarkable work. First, she ages the characters in a meaningful and believable way, giving them credit for years of experience and training while also allowing them to recognize that they are no longer young. In fact, as the story progresses, they find they are quite vulnerable indeed, and the grim realities of this lead to some of the most moving passages in the novel. (A favorite line involves two youths identifying Bodie and Doyle from decade-old photographs: "But...they're supposed to be such hot shit. The big guy looks like he's about to fall over. The little guy's limping like my grandpa." Of course, both prove to be "hot shit," despite their wear and tear, almost immediately, but they also come face to face with their limitations and mortality in the process.)
Second, she revisits some classic themes from the series and brings them into even sharper, more dramatic focus: CI5's apparent abandonment of the "expendable" partners once they have served their purpose, Bodie's concerns over what he perceives as his own amoral nature as opposed to Doyle's inherent morality, the ongoing conflict between personal loyalty and professional duty. Maiden Wyoming captures the characters of Bodie and Doyle, their voices and thoughts, beautifully, highlighting their tragic flaws as well as their determined courage.
Third, she introduces new elements to the universe, including the backdrop of U.S. politics and Wyoming society (with a healthy dose of Native American culture), compelling but not distracting original characters, and a sexual element that develops with the story from a first-time slash scenario to a more mature gay relationship. These elements are secondary to the novel's basic sense of primal urgency as we wrestle with the kind of animals we are or can become when everything we know has been stripped away and all that remains is a no-win situation. The author's answers are drawn on a grand scale with unapologetically bold and bloody symbols. With its attention to the psychological, the spiritual, and even the supernatural aspects of the partners' peril, Journey West is a book not only about Bodie and Doyle's post-series future, but also about transcendent issues of life, death, and love. The West serves as a powerful metaphor for the unexplored frontier Bodie and Doyle face in their proverbial dark night of the soul.
"What are you going to do?" Amanda asked.
Bodie folded his arms across his chest. "Well, luv, the way I see it, we have two choices." A tiny muscle near his left eye started to twitch. "We can do as our masters say, nick the kiddies and perpetrate the horror show of the century."
"What's the other choice, Bodie?" Ray asked.
"I die," he said. "You tell Paul Nicks about all this and blame everything on me. Amanda, you back him up, and Ray here will walk free." His arms swung down. "Think that's what we'll do," he said brightly.
And far more quickly than Doyle could react, Bodie had spun around and run up the stairs to the third floor bedroom. The slam of the door sounded like a death knell.
Doyle pounded upstairs, howling out Bodie's name. The door was locked, but three frantic kicks caved it in. Doyle started to rush in, but the sight of Bodie's leveled handgun, aimed at him, made him stop short.
On the floor at Bodie's feet lay all the remaining ampoules of antidote, smashed.