A Primer for Reading Torchwood Fanfic
(when you haven't seen a single episode of the show)
I'm still a shiny new n00b in this fandom, as I really only started reading it in any consistent way in December 08. That means my guided tour is necessarily focused on the parts of the fandom I’ve found so far.
Normally, in a primer like this, I’d try to include some recs of good gen stories which feature the team doing their thing, so that readers can get a sense for the dynamics of the show. However, I don’t yet have enough stories of that nature in my bookmarks. As a result, this is really more of an introduction to Jack/Ianto than the fandom as a whole.
If you know of good gen team stories, I’d be very grateful for links! If there are factual problems with anything in this primer, please let me know.
What the heck is this Torchwood thing anyway?
Torchwood is a spin-off of the classic sci-fi show, Doctor Who. (Trivia note: "Torchwood" is an anagram of "Doctor Who", which pleases the fangirl in me immensely.) If you don't know anything about Dr Who... well, you've obviously been living under a rock for the last forty years.
In short: a time-travelling demi-god, called the Doctor, mooches around in time and space having adventures. He has a tendency to pick up Earth people as companions. One such companion is Captain Jack Harkness (not his real name -- look it's complicated, just think of this show as a kind of anything-goes tilt-a-whirl and you'll be okay). Jack is a 51st century Time Agent (think James Bond in space), with pan-sexual appetites and his flirt switch permanently stuck at the "on" setting.
During a typical Dr Who adventure, Jack catches a bad case of immortality, gets separated from the Doctor, breaks his time-travel device, and ends up stranded back on Earth in the 19th century. While waiting around for the Doctor to show up and rescue him, Jack starts working for Torchwood. Ironically, Torchwood was originally established to try and capture the Doctor, as he is considered Enemy Alien Number One.
After a century or so of hanging around, Jack ends up the leader of Torchwood Three, whose day-to-day mission is to protect the Earth from aliens and other such nasties. Torchwood follows the exploits of the team at Torchwood Three (click on the thumbnail below to see who's who).
And to give you a sense of the look and feel of the show, here are some songvids:
TW Jack/Ianto, 'Set the Fire to the Third Bar' by sol-se (songvid)
This is the songvid that made me want to watch Torchwood, and it's been a fandom entry point for a lot of other people too. It's just gorgeous, stands alone without canon knowledge, and makes me bleed for Ianto, left behind when Jack follows the Doctor.
TW Jack/Everyone, 'You're So Damn Hot' by Melina (songvid)
So, when I said Jack was pansexual, this is what I meant!
WHO-TW Various Pairings, 'Papa Don't Preach' by fan_eunice and greensilver (songvid)
This is the infamous mpreg songvid that is every bit as cracktacular as the show, and it's glorious.
TW Various Pairings, 'The Sex Has Made Me Stupid' by CailenBraern (songvid)
This show really is all about the sex!
I could go on and on about the other things you need to know... like the fact that Jack and Ianto are canonically "dabbling", not to mention playing naked hide and seek in Torchwood Three's Hub, or that the team has a pet pterodactyl, or that alien-induced pregnancy is canon, or... look I could continue for hours. This show is a crackalicious dream in which the fanfiction practically ends up on the screen every episode. Rather than do that, I'll point you to some overviews in the next section below. If you want more detail about the characters or premise, they have it, and if you'd rather skip straight to the fic and find out about the team that way, just scroll down the page a bit.
For an awesome n00b's guide to Torchwood/Dr Who, check out copperbadge's excellent overview and list of must-watch episodes: The Newbie's Guide, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the... Bomb.
Then there's the Torchwood Overview by medie on crack_van
This has a general run-down of the show's premise (although it expects you already know Doctor Who a little), and pics and character outlines for the Torchwood crew as of mid-way through season 1. There are also links to the major fan communities and other resources.
You can find most of the big Torchwood communities linked on the crack_van overview, so I won't repeat them here, except for the newsletter.
The fandom newsletter is torchwood_three. Newsletters are a wonderful resource, and this one is updated reliably and has a range of stuff linked. However, I've found the hit-rate of good stories to be horribly low (which is nothing to do with the newsletter mods, obviously). There is an awful lot of emo porn and schmoop and songfic out there, which is not to my taste. *shudder*
In my opinion, this is a fandom in which it's worth finding a reccer or three that you like and letting them wade through the verbiage for you.
Where do I find the recs already?
- torchwood_house is a reliable source of good Torchwood fic, in a variety of pairings, timelines and genres. I've spent many happy hours reading the recs!
- There’s also the Torchwood tag for recs on crack_van.
As is always the case with the Van, there are a large number of recs, but the quality varies widely depending on the taste and interest of the reccers.
- Rec_room's Torchwood tag
My recs! There's a focus on Jack/Ianto, and on timetravel stories.
- stasha2g's Torchwood tag
I'm still finding the good reccers in this fandom, but stasha2g recs often, and also links to interesting fandom resources, like canon timelines and genrefinders posts.
ETA: People have provided some more resources:
- norah's (formerly makesmewannadie) Torchwood rec tag
- wildestranger's Torchwood rec tag
- demotu's Torchwood Recs
- foreverrhapsody's Torchwood tag, which has meta as well as fic recs
- copperbadge's tw_fic recs
- the recsrainbow Torchwood tag (a listing of reccers)
- and more recs and stuff in comments
Okay, so now give me some stories to start with!
Here is a sampling of some of the wonderful stories in this fandom. I've chosen the stories that have been recced far and wide, and work fairly well as stand-alones.
TW Jack/Ianto, 'Get Loved, Make More, Try to Stay Alive' by dsudis (NC-17)
What a beautifully done timetravel romance. I'm such a sucker for this genre, and Dira Sudis has done a glorious job here -- long, character driven, with several enjoyable twists. This is probably the best known story in the fandom and for good reason; as it's kinda AU due to its future setting, it requires very little canon knowlege to work.
TW Jack/Ianto, 'A Matter of Time' by demotu (NC-17)
Epic-length timetravel extravaganza, in which Ianto ends up in the future and meets not one, but two Jacks. Action, adventure, sex, and some interesting timetravel stuff. This is a fantastically enjoyable read.
TW/WHO Jack/Ianto, 'The Doctor And Mr. Jones' by sam_storyteller (R)
This story starts with the question: Who is Ianto Jones, and comes up with an intriguing answer. The result is an enjoyable action/adventure story by one of the very best writers in the fandom. In fact, starting off your journey by reading sam_storyteller's entire back catalogue would keep you entertained for many hours.
TW Jack/Ianto, 'Try Your Best (Think About It Later)' by out-there (NC-17)
AMTDI is a classic of fanfiction, and here we have one of the best so far in the Torchwood fandom. This is a hugely readable aliens-make-them story, in which Ianto is possessed by a sex-hungry alien that kills off its sex partners; fortunately, Jack is not so easy to kill.
TW Jack/Ianto, 'Moving In' by ukcalico (NC-17)
Calico is one of those authors you've probably heard about, and her work is just as hot as people say. This is a brilliantly done seduction scene between Jack and Ianto, with every line filled with a bittersweet tension, because we know more about Ianto than Calico's glorious Jack.
TW Jack/Ianto, 'Lost and Found' by Kaneko (PG-13)
This is such a gorgeously written piece, in which Ianto is compulsive about running rift experiements while Jack is gone off with the Doctor. Funny and poignant.
TW Jack/Ianto, 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit' by derryderrydown (NC-17)
Ianto accidentally travels back in time, and meets an earlier Jack. Great use of period detail and very enjoyable.
TW/WHO Jack/Ianto, 'Pocket Watch Boy' by mhalachaiswords (PG-13)
This has been recced far and wide, and for good reason. It's non-human Ianto, and it's long, plotty and beautifully done.
So there you have it: the timetravelling, cracktacular, sexathon that is Torchwood. Come and join in the fun before season 3 starts airing -- I have a feeling things are only going to get more awesome from here!