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Road Essays
FF6666: orphan going offroad towards home

FF6633: orphans going home along the Blue Highway

FF6600: Orphans looking for home on the Interstate

FF33FF: orphans in rural places surrounded by cornfields

FF33CC and FF3399: rural orphans in the maze and labyrinth

Road Narrative Update for December 2018

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FF6666: orphan going offroad towards home: 01/04/19

FF6666: orphan going offroad towards home

Next in the orphan neighborhood of the road narrative spectrum is the off road path home. Or it's the home in such a remote place as to not have a clear path to it.

Books I've reviewed that fit this category are: The Care and Feeding a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas; Instructions by Neil Gaiman; Rust 01: Visitor in the Field, Rust 02: Secrets of the Cell, Rust 03: Death of Rocket Boy, all by Royden Lepp; and The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige.

These six books are either science fiction or fantasy. They all begin with a lone traveler who is set apart from everyone though circumstance or personal determination. In The Care and Feeding... Stella Rodriguez though part of a family ends up orphaning herself (albeit temporarily) through her grief and her out of control "feeding" of a black hole. In the first three Rust books, the focus is on the Rocket Boy who is perhaps the last of his kind, a child soldier cyborg or android. He is a literal orphan trying to make a home and a purpose for himself with this family on a failing farm in the middle of nowhere. The protagonist in Instructions is unnamed but walks alone. Amy in The Wicked Will Rise is separated from her mother while trying to free Oz from a magical dictatorship.

In the road narrative, the destination can also be a starting point or even a fixed location — a place the protagonist wants to leave but can't — or a place of apparent safety, where travel might be in response to a tragedy.

For Stella, home is no longer home after the death of her father. But she still lives there, even if he does not. As she pours her grief into the black hole, though, home becomes less and less like home until she is forced to accept his death to save all the other things and people she holds dear. In the first three Rust books, home is this dusty farm house and barn in the middle of a landscape that bears resemblance to the 1930s dust bowl, but through flashbacks, the damage to the landscape is implied to be a result of the war.

In Instructions, home is both the starting and end point, being a very British tale. But since he was already living in the United States when he wrote this, I'm counting it.

Finally there is Amy who finds herself (and much of Oz) suddenly home in Kansas after a major battle goes poorly. It's an unexpected and unwelcome return home.

Finally there is the path taken. When there is no discernible road or path, nor obvious obstruction (as the cornfield provides), then the journey is an offroad one. I take this designation from the delightful graphic novel Off Road by Sean Gordon Murphy

Stella's journey is completely offroad, will primarily staying at home. Her journey is a reality altering one as the black hole eats all the things she hates. Soon there is not much left of the universe beyond Stella and the home.

The traveler in Instructions is shown through Charles Vess's illustrations going through a variety of paths, some on and some off road, with the journey becoming more fantastic until it is finally time to turn around and head home. Gaiman's text as well suggests the journey is as much metaphorical as it is literal, thus fitting into the offroad category.

The Rocket Boy in the Rust series can fly and often does. His arrival was by air. There is a road leading away from the house and barn but it is rarely shown as being used. When in volume 4 danger strikes, it comes overland across fields and hills just as the Rocket Boy had done earlier.

Finally Amy's travel to and from Oz has been an offroad one. In Dorothy Must Die she arrives via tornado (cyclone) as Dorothy had previously. Her return trip is a more magical one where one minute she was in Oz, losing a battle, and the next she and the battlefield are now back home in Kansas.

As the books I discussed show, this category is still firmly established in the fantasy and science fiction genres, but the categories are moving towards horror which forms a gap between the fantastic and realistic.

Works Cited


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