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Road Essays
FF3366: orphans going offroad to rural places

FF3333: orphans in rural places along Blue Highways

FF3300: orphans left in rural places along interstates

FF00FF: orphans in the city by way of the cornfield

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FF3333: orphans in rural places along Blue Highways: 02/14/19

FF3333: orphans in rural places along Blue Highways

If I were to point to the origin of the road narrative spectrum, to the type of narrative that made me question the conventional approach to road narratives(especially road trip stories), it would be this one: the orphan in a rural place along a Blue Highway.

In the rural setting, I found a sharp dichotomy: either people trying to leave their small town setting or people coming trapped there. In both examples, though, the rural place was of greater importance than the road or the car, where as in the traditional readings, the goal is always framed in relationship to the big city: as somewhere to leave from or somewhere to go to, and often both (New York to Los Angeles, being the quintessential road narrative by this model).

Two books that fit into the category are The Boneshaker by Kate Milford (2010) and Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez (2017).

Starting again with the traveler, we have the orphan. Orphans are lone travelers either by choice or by circumstance. They can be literal orphans, as Dani is in Because of the Sun. Or they can be the only one left standing, such as Natalie in Boneshaker.

Here we have a rural setting. For Natalie, Arcane is her home. She doesn't want to leave and doesn't have any reason to leave. Her reason for leaving, for the ghost town, is to protect her town from Dr. Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. For Dani, Columbus, NM is her new home after the death of her mother. She's been sent to her aunt, her only living relative. It's a huge change from the big city she's used to.

Finally there is the route. Dani's way into and out of Colubus is via two Blue Highways: 11 and 9. They come to a crossroads, just like the one outside Arcane, Natalie's home. For Dani, these roads while allowing her to go to school and into town, mostly serve as reminders of her newly imposed isolation as well as her family roots. Arcane's crossroads are a point of magic, a beacon for magical creatures, good and bad.

Note the placement of the spectrum, being close to crossroads between horror and realistic fiction

These two examples begin grounded in realistic fiction but drift into fantasy as their narratives progress. Because of the Sun uses elements of magical realism, brought on through heat exhaustion, to connect Dani to her past. Boneshaker by the midway point is fully horror in the style of Something Wicked This Way Comes with a town under attack, invaded by an evil traveling medicine show. Natalie is happens is the only one with the magical abilities needed to defeat the invaders and rescue their home.

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