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Fanfic / In A Strange Land

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Doom comes to Hawkins, Indiana. Population est. 30,000.

It's two months after the defeat of the Mind-Flayer and a new monster has made it's way to Hawkins. Now ordinary people are acting strange and a plague of nightmares has descended on the town. No dimension is safe and the only people who can save the day still have to deal with finishing their science homework.[1]

A novel-length Stranger Things fan fiction set after Season 2 of the show, inspired by the works of Stephen King and H P Lovecraft. Notable for its strong character voices, historical detail, and Loads and Loads of Characters.

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Stranger Tropes:

  • The ’80s: Set in winter of '85 and it shows. Laser discs, the Apple Lisa 2 and tons of 80's music and movie references make an appearance.

  • Abusive Parents: Neil Hargrove.

  • Actor Allusion: According to Bob Newby the Hawkins AV Club never says die.

  • Addled Addict: Steve's mom abuses prescription sedatives.

  • Adorkable:
    • In keeping with the show the whole Party, but especially Dustin whose chapters are littered with references ranging from comics to Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, even when he's under stress.
    • Mr. Clarke is a big nerd who's first thoughts about finding out that alternate dimensions are real and filled with monsters is how it's going to effect various scientific fields. He's also a huge horror fan with almost every movie he references being horror. Imagine Mr. Clarke watching a David Cronenberg film.
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    • Steve has his moments- he's genuinely good at and enjoys playing D&D, secretly used to read comics as a kid, and suggests that the argument of whether to call El Jane or El is best solved by 'calling her Jane-El like she's from Krypton.'
      • The fact that he practically squees the first time he sees her use her powers (to lift a jar) and ends up nick-naming her Supergirl.

  • Adult Fear:
    • In spite of fighting actual monsters the teen's nightmares at Hawkins Lab are all these rather than being related to the Upside-Down.
      • Fear of being mentally ill without realizing and harming the people you care about (Jonathan).
      • Fear that someone you're in love with is actually just using you for sex (Nancy).
      • Fear of a thoughtless accident that leads to the death of a friend/the kids that you're supposed to be in charge of (Nancy and Steve).
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    • After successfully fighting the Aboleth Joyce and Hopper come home to the sight of Billy's car on the lawn and the door broken down. Hopper immediately assumes the worst.
  • Adults Are Useless: Averted. Hopper, Joyce, Kali and Mr.Clarke are all instrumental in killing the monster. Sam Owens passes along vital information and even some adults that aren't in the loop like Phil Callhan do something useful over the course of the story.

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Not that he feels bad for it for long but Hopper feels the Aboleth's projected loss as the same loss as a parent losing a child when Joyce destroys its eggs.

  • Alone with the Psycho: Played with by Nancy and Billy Hargrove in her kitchen -by the end of the interaction neither of them is completely sure which of them is the psycho, or if it's both of them, and Billy is enthusiastically encouraging Nancy to kill him.

  • Alien Geometries: Hawkins Lab becomes this when the Aboleth tries to trap Nancy, Jonathan and Steve there, with hallways too long to exist in the building and that always circle back to a single spot.

  • Always a Bigger Fish:
    • Happens to Billy Hargrove in the epilogue. He backs down from a potential fight immediately when it's four punks with no qualms about casual violence who fish him out of the trunk of his car instead of Hopper or Steve.
    • Happens to the Aboleth when Will's presence in the Upside Down alerts the Mind-Flayer that it's there. There's a reason it's been going out of its way to avoid anything related to Will Byers.

  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Played with. Adult characters note that the kids are much, much better at coping with the Upside Down than they are. Particularly true in Steve's case where he doesn't bounce back like the kids but lacks an adult's experience at dealing with his emotions.

  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Steve is obviously suffering from panic attacks and possibly some kind of post traumatic stress disorder with what might be depersonalization/derealization episodes.
    • Billy seems to have either antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder or both.
    • Steve's mother has a unnamed 'nervous disposition' that she self-medicates for that might be chronic depression.
    • El and Hopper both realize that not having any kind of normal development from age 0-12 is likely to leave El with issues.
    • Joyce has and is implied to have been briefly hospitalized in her teens for some kind of anxiety disorder.

  • Animal Motifs: People being like moths get quite a few mentions, mostly in the context of self-destruction but Dustin also remembers that some moths can effectively jam predator's sonar and takes inspiration from that.

  • Arc Words: "The supreme being of the Three-Fold World","Let the sunshine in, face it with a grin."

  • Ascended Extra: Mr. Clarke becomes a major factor in the story.
    • Reed- the guy that 'can't wait to see Nancy's movie in Season One has an expanded role.

  • Asshole Victim: Neil Hargrove. Reed.

  • Ax-Crazy: The monster is influencing people to be this. Notably Mrs. Pinbacker with an actual ax.
    • Billy Hargrove, though it's difficult to tell how much is the influence of the monster and how much is just Billy.

  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Steve. As always.

  • Beware the Nice Ones :
    • At least if you're an eldritch abomination from the Upside Down. In a Party full of Nice Ones it's the three most unambiguously kind characters- Dustin, Mr. Clarke, and Will who put the Aboleth out of commission.
    • Sam Owens presents himself as excessively amicable, mostly harmless, and an Almightly Janitor but his internal monologue points out that you don't end up joining 'CIA Black Ops thinking it's the Red Cross' and while his place on the chain of command is never explicitly stated the fact that he seems to have Ultimate Job Security within the CIA and appears to only answer to *one* direct superior who answers directly to to RAWHIDE and TIMBERWOLF- AKA Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush suggests that Doc Owens has serious sway.

  • Be Yourself: A major theme of the fic, along with figuring out who that self is.

  • Big Brother Mentor: Steve to Dustin.

  • Bi the Way: Jonathan Byers is attracted to both Nancy and Steve, even though he's not completely sure that he even *likes* Steve as a person. Comes to terms with the fact that he's tolerable by the end.

  • Blatant Lies: Steve only knows about Krypton because he's seen Superman 3. Obviously.

  • Book Dumb: Steve frequently comes off as a bit dense (thinks you can go straight to prison for anything if it's illegal- including slander and that psychic driving probably involves cars) but his thought process is as complex as any of the other POV characters and he's a pretty quick thinker. How many of his denser moments are Obfuscating Stupidity is unclear.

  • Book-Ends: The flashback to the D&D game the kids and Steve are playing starts in the first chapter and ends in the last.

  • Blood Oath: Nancy and Jonathan and Steve of the 'cutting their hands open' variety.

  • Break the Cutie: In the final chapters, it is all but outright stated that Steve's mom used to be a much kinder and loving person to Steve, but was mentally destroyed by finding out the real reasons that Steve's dad moved them back to Hawkins.

  • Brought Down to Normal: El's traditional ability to use her mind powers to kill Upside Down creatures directly doesn't work and causes her powers not to recharge. She figures out a way around this in Chapter 11.

  • Bully Brutality: It IS based on Stephen King, after all. Billy Hargrove opens a fight with Steve by clobbering him with a sock full of gym locks- a weapon that's commonly used in *prison*- and ends it trying to choke him to death.

  • The Cameo: While the DJ on radio 6.60 is never named, it's pretty clearly Grant Mazzy from Pontypool.
    • Nancy Wheeler's locker is next to someone named Ashley Williams
    • Keeping with the theme of tabletop gaming and fighting Eldritch Abominations, Dustin Henderson mentions an uncle that thought a cult was stealing his lawn gnomes and who got the entire family banned from Toronto. That's right. Ol' Uncle Henderson
    • John Rainbird from Firestarter gets mentioned twice in the last chapter.

  • Celebrity Paradox : Due to Canon Welding the fic explicitly crosses over with the (a?) universe of Stephen King with an appearance by The Shop and mentions of John Rainbird and The Dark Tower - but Billy and Steve both make pop-culture references to The Shining which means Stephen King exists in universe too...

  • Central Theme: Friendship and identity.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Early on, Max idly thinks to herself that Billy's car sounds "like a thunderstorm that rains douchebags". A few chapters later, Dustin is busy trying to revive his unconscious friends when he thinks he hears thunder off in the distance... only for Billy to show up in the driveway instead.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • How Steve cheeses a boss fight during D&D becomes vitally important at the end.
    • The Ariel file Dustin notices on Steve's Dad's computer.

  • Chick Tracts: The Wheeler's neighbor finds out that The Party plays D&D and starts bringing these over on game nights.

  • Childhood Friends: The Party obviously. Also Steve and Jonathan who were best friends from ages 7-10 before Steve finally gave into pressure from his dad and abandoned him for Tommy.

  • Childhood Friend Romance: Jonathan had a crush on an oblivious Steve when they were little kids.

  • Children Are Innocent: Steve seems to admire this about The Party, especially contrasted with his own adolescence, to the point that part of why he likes hanging out with them seems to be actually getting to *enjoy* things without worrying about if it's cool or adult or not.

  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The fight against the Aboleth in the Inbetween has this in spades. From Mike realizing how to Shapeshifter Mode Lock the monster to the other's realizing that they can will their signature weapons into being. But unfortunately *not* a rocket-launcher.

  • Cool Car : The author's note at the end states that the entire idea of the fic came from how a kid rich enough to be driving something that cost more than the average person makes in a year as their first car ends up having Steve's character development.

  • Crossover: Starts as an homage/pastiche of Stephen King but veers into true cross-over territory when Nancy, Steve, and Jonathan run into The Shop, AKA the Weapons Shop of Isher AKA The Department of Scientific Intelligence, the group responsible for the events of Firestarter and The Mist and who fail to stop the super-flu outbreak during The Stand.
    • Roethe and Subject Six are part of Project Arrowhead- the project to open gates to other worlds that resulted in the events of The Mist.
    • Diethyltryptamine-19 is the mind-enhancing drug developed by Project MK Ultra in Banshee Chapter.
    • Billy and Max moved to Hawkins from Santa Carla, California

  • Dark World: The Inbetween is nothing but dark. With all the Stephen King references in the fic it's possible that the author is assuming that the Void of the show is analogous to Todash Space - the dark dimension that characters travel through in The Dark Tower when they 'go todash' and that spawns the monsters from The Mist.

  • Death Seeker: A few.
    • Billy is this explicitly and only seems to come alive when there's the threat of physical danger.
    • Hopper mentions that he was once this and could easily slip back into it, trying to kill himself slowly with pills and booze.
      • Kali asks Hopper if he ever hated anyone enough that he would take poison if it meant that they would die and he all but states that the answer is himself. In the last chapter Hopper's POV reveals that the reason Diane left him was that she found him after he attempted to kill himself with sleeping pills shortly after Sara's death.
    • Hopper calls Steve out on having death-seeker tendencies in that he ignores his own well-being in favor of the kids and it's going to result in him getting killed.

  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: A slight deconstruction of Mom!Steve/Good Babysitter Steve Harrington. While Steve is still incredibly protective it's obvious that he's way out of his depth and struggling with personal issues that make his insistence on being a Very Responsible Adult incredibly emotionally draining and physically dangerous. Dustin mentions that The Party are closer to being his babysitters.

  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Due to taking place in the early 1980s.
    • Billy considers things that would range from sexual assault to possible manslaughter to be pranks to pull on someone that passes out at a party.
    • Steve thinks Billy might be 'queer for him' and not in the LGBTQ inclusive way.

  • Depraved Bisexual: Billy has shades of this- though he seems more interested in a person's capacity for violence than anything else. Dustin lampshades it, saying that the only thing Billy's in love with is beating the shit out of people.

  • Determinator: Pretty much everyone. How people deal with the need to be this is a main theme.
    • Steve is noted by multiple characters to be this- constantly throwing himself into danger for the sake of other people and never resting. It ends up taking a huge mental toll and the final fight with the monster sees him finally letting other people fight for him.
    • Nancy is noted to be scarily determined by both Jonathan and Steve. It gets them in trouble as much as it gets them out of it.
    • Dustin and Will are this in Chapter 11- both will stop at nothing to rescue their friends, even if they're terrified.
    • Joyce barely hesitates to take Hopper's gun when it seems like she's going to have to chose between shooting him and getting home to her sons.
    • Hopper, Joyce, and Kali fighting the Aboleth.
    • If you go for the magic rather than the mundane explanation of Bob's appearance, Bob Newby isn't going to let a little thing like being dead stop him from being a superhero and helping save Joyce and the kids.

  • Didn't Think This Through: Jonathan suspects that actually thinking something through before he acts could possibly make Steve spontaneously combust when Steve gives away the fact that they know El to Dr. Roethe, completely unnecessarily.

  • Dirty Coward:
    • It's pointed out that the Aboleth is basically the schoolyard bully of Eldritch Abominations, in that it only picks on entities it's pretty sure are incapable of offering any kind of resistance to it. Which makes it rather unfortunate for it that it encounters The Party, who despite being nominally outclassed in every way are nevertheless more than willing to fight back.
    • Billy Hargrove. For all he talks a big game about violence he never fights fair against someone who could actually beat him.

  • Disappeared Dad: Dustin's dad apparently 'went out for cigarettes' sometime after Season 1.

  • Dissonant Serenity: A hallmark that someone is possessed by the Eldritch Abomination is engaging in extremely odd, violent or unusual actions without demonstrating any kind of awareness that what they're doing is unusual. Such as an elderly neighbor of Mike's trying to murder the Party with an axe acting like she was just coming around to borrow a cup of sugar.

  • Distressed Dude: Steve and Hopper get the lion's share of being in distress. Will is notably the single safest person in Hawkins, for once.

  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Billy's POV during his fight with Steve gets noticeably sexual in how he thinks about violence- with Billy even thinking that Steve should fight back obvious pain by 'thinking about baseball'.

  • Dumbass Has a Point: Steve, pretty consistently.
    • He immediately assumes that Dr. Roethe was an ex-Nazi scientist as soon as Murray says she's German since you can just assume 'Germans that do mad science are definitely Nazis'. Even Murray has to give it to him.
    • Says that there has to be something hidden in the National Lab because there's no way a bunch of people who experimented on little girls would pass up an opportunity to screw over their co-workers. He's right.
    • Guesses that Nancy and Jonathan are going on an investigation vacation, since after the kids told Mr. Clarke about the Aboleth there's no way they were going to pass up a chance to tell 'their guy'.

  • Eldritch Abomination: The Aboleth a transdimensional creature that can create illusions, warp reality and whose presence causes the people of Hawkins to become hateful and violent before taking them over all together as a Puppeteer Parasite.

  • Emotion Eater: The Aboleth encourages guilt, misery and fear in the people it targets.

  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dr. Roethe is an ex-Nazi scientist with no compunctions whatsoever about experimenting on children or murdering teenagers to cover up her secrets, but she seems to genuinely view what she sees as Subject Six "toying" with Jonathan, Nancy and Steve as unnecessarily cruel, and sincerely regrets that they were about to be inflicted with Subject Six's powers while conscious.

  • Evil Counterpart :
    • Billy for Steve in regards to the Aboleth's influence, to the point that it haunts each of them as the other. Billy lacks any friends or support system and mostly gives in. Steve has the party and manages to No-Sell it's attempts.
    • The Aboleth to Kali, having basically the same power-set when it comes to reality-warping. She even calls it her 'evil twin'.

  • Expy : Billy's role in the story shares a lot of similarities with Henry Bowers.

  • Foreshadowing:
    • Most of the music foreshadows future events. None of them good.
    • In the transcripts that the teenagers recover from the lab, Subject Six repeatedly asks if she can play with Eleven if she does what her handlers order her to do satisfactorily. When they are trapped in a secret lab room with Six at the Shop, Jonathan remembers this and calls on her bond with Eleven to save their lives.
    • Also in the transcripts- Subject Six is asked to quote back a line from a book code and replies Each one, tripping on his toe/Will be here with mop and mow/Do you love me, master? No? a line spoken by enslaved air spirit Ariel in The Tempest- Steve and Dustin both fail a spot check and don't connect it to a file named Ariel on Steve's dad's computer until chapters later.

  • Family of Choice: These being more meaningful than blood relationships is a major theme of the fic, with both Steve and El fully accepting that they're part of one.
    "“Best kinda family is the one you choose yourself. Looks like you picked a good one.”

  • Fatal Flaw: Hubris for the Aboleth. It's so confident that it's unkillable and that the only thing standing between it and winning are El and to a lesser extent Kali that it treats everyone else as an after-thought. Cue a No Holds Bar Beat Down that spans three separate dimensions.

  • For Want of a Nail : Or rather, for not wanting a nail. If the heroes had done anything differently in Chapter 11- even Dustin taking more than a couple of seconds to rest- either the town would have been destroyed or the monster would have won.

  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The page breaks throughout the fic have messages from the monster hidden in Zalgo text, directed to the reader.

  • Freudian Trio: Nancy (Ego), Jonathan (Superego) and Steve (Id).

  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Joyce and Hopper are concerned about this happening to the kids.
    • Hopper is both relieved and upset by Steve's willingness to use his bat against a person in Jane's defense.
    • Even with their lives on the line Jonathan thinks that they can't let Nancy shoot a human being.

  • Genre Roulette: Starts as mostly a Coming-of-Age Story character study but eventually ends up straight horror.

  • Genre Savvy: At this point, pretty much everyone- but Dustin, Mr. Clarke, and Mike stand out for how willing they are to draw inspiration from movies, D&D and various other media.
    • Lampshaded by Mr. Clarke who thinks that maybe the army keeps failing because they try to use guns against the monsters from the Upside Down instead of D&D, earth science, and tactics from old horror movies.
    • Dustin and Lucas encourage Mike to make whatever the next boss in their D&D game is something easy because they'll probably have to fight it next year.

  • Gilligan Cut:
Dustin: Don't worry, I have a plan.
[Cut to next chapter]
Steve [worried]: This is a terrible plan.
  • Government Conspiracy: Murray is in this, so quite a few get a mention.
    • Real life divisions of Project MK Ultra such as Brenner working with Donald Ewan Cameron on psychic driving experiments during Subproject 68 and on Project Artichoke and Bluebird (CIA projects that researched 'enhanced' interrogation methods), and Owens being previously involved with Project SCANATE (aka the Stargate Project, an attempt to use remote viewing for gathering intelligence).
    • The Lab kidnapping Bill and Mary Martin and Sara Hopper

  • Guile Hero:
    • Dustin realizes that in order to stop Billy Hargrove and save his friends from the Aboleth he has to be this.
    • Will ends up saving the day once and for all by using his wits and tricking the Aboleth.

  • The Gunslinger: Mike gives this class to Nancy in the Inbetween. She shoots with her mind

  • Hate Plague: The first sign that the Aboleth is in Hawkins is people starting to become unnaturally murderous or self-destructive.

  • Heart Is an Awesome Power:
    • Jonathan feels inferior to both Steve and Nancy due to his being the quiet, thoughtful Non-Action Guy. It's only because he makes the attempt to understand Subject Six and connect with her as a person that they make it out of the Shop's lab alive.
    • Mr. Clarke readily admits that he doesn't know how to shoot or fight but that he'll help however he can. His information on how parasites function proves to be extremely important to figuring out the nature of the Aboleth and his ability to build a radio jammer saves the entire town.

  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Steve goes through one after finding out that his father did contract work for the National Lab and was part of faking the death of Subject Six aka Sara Hopper. It takes Dustin to knock him out of it.
    • Dustin gets his own in Chapter 11. After beating Billy in a fight, coming up with a plan that works perfectly, saving the town (and getting extra credit in the process) and just generally becoming the Determinator he goes back to get the others and finds that nothing he did woke them up. He finally shuts down.

  • Hidden Depths: Steve wants to come across as cool and unflappable, but he's surprisingly sensitive and smarter than most people give him credit for. While he's still always slowest on the uptake when it comes to complex concepts he generally proves to have good instincts and is actually a creative thinker.

  • Homage: As per to Stranger Things.
    • Most of the chapter titles are based on a H P Lovecraft stories.
    • To Stephen King to the point of being a Whole Plot Reference for IT.

  • I'm Not Afraid of You: Subverted by Will, who admits he absolutely IS afraid, but is going to what he has to to help his friends anyway.

  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Steve is still sporting one of these toward the beginning of the fic and his desire to be liked leads to him making bad decisions. His nightmare at the lab boils down to doing something stupid for approval and getting The Party killed. He starts to get over it in Chapter 10.

  • Insult Backfire:
    "Try proof-reading next time. It's only three words."
    • Jonathan calls Steve a 'competent asshole' Steve cheerfully decides to only focus on the first half.

  • Invisible Parents: As is Stranger Things fanfiction tradition, Steve's parents are rarely around. When they are his mother is checked out and his dad fluctuates between being disapproving and deeply disinterested.

  • Irony:
    • At one point, Mr. Harrington lays into Steve for his choice of friends, calling them a bunch of Gold Diggers who are just using him as a Meal Ticket and are a Toxic Friend Influence on him. This prompts Steve to flash back to meeting the friends his dad pushed him towards hanging out with who, despite their more 'appropriate' backgrounds, actually turn out to be a bunch of Gold Diggers who are just using him as a Meal Ticket and are a Toxic Friend Influence on him, and the friends Mr. Harrington disdains are True Companions to him.
    • The (possible) ghost of Bob Newby cheerfully notes the irony of his showing up as a supernatural presence despite having hated "spooky" stories when alive.

  • It Will Never Catch On: At one point, Steve rubbishes his dad's Apple Lisa 2 computer by dismissively stating that the only people who will ever want to buy "a $5000 typewriter" are nerds and rich assholes like his father who want to flaunt their wealth. You will, of course, note the irony that thirty-odd years after this scene is set, this character's thoughts on the subject of home computing and its likely irrelevance have been written, published and read almost exclusively on the many descendents of said $5000 typewriter.

  • Jerkass: Murray Bauman takes pleasure in belittling Steve and basically reveals that Nancy and Jonathan hooked up mere days after she and Steve broke up for kicks. He does seem to realise that he has crossed a line, however, and demonstrates a heart of gold by going on to reveal what True Companions they nevertheless are by revealing how Tommy and Carol tried to screw him over by getting him in trouble for Barbara's disappearance.

  • Karma Houdini : James Harrington seems to be this in the epilogue, clearing out and calling a Fixer from the Shop to take care of everything while basically making vacation plans.

  • Kick the Dog: Billy attacking Dustin.

  • Killer Game Master: Mike turns into one of these against Steve when Steve joins the Party's D&D campaigns, ostensibly because Steve destroyed an intricately planned campaign by summoning a horse to ride off a cliff and crush the Big Bad. In retaliation, Steve's character dies incredibly horribly in the next session. Never fuck with the DM, kids. In actuality, Mike later admits that he was worried that Dustin was getting too attached to Steve, but Steve would find an excuse to abandon the Party and break Dustin's heart, and so was trying to drive him away before this could happen. Steve also initially seems to believe that Mike is this towards the others, but this appears to be mainly because he doesn't understand the game when he's first watching them play.

  • Kinky Cuffs : When Joyce is hand-cuffing him for their own safety after the Aboleth tries to puppeteer him, Hopper thinks that "it's about as far from how he pictured getting handcuffed by Joyce as it's possible to get and stay on planet earth".

  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The end notes are all delivered by Mr. Clarke or Murray Bauman, directly.
    • With the monster dead the Zalgo text that serves as page breaks is replaced by Morse Code- the message? 'Hawkins AV Club Never Says Die'. Thanks Bob.

  • Like Father, Like Son :
    • Billy is unable to separate himself from the cycle of power and violence that his father taught him to the point that once Neil is out of the picture he starts mirroring his speech patterns.
    • Averted with Steve, who is noted multiple times to be doing everything he can to NOT be like his dad.

  • Loads and Loads of Characters : The Party, Hopper, Joyce, the Teens, Mr. Clarke, Doc Owens, and Billy Hargrove all have major POV chapters. Others with much briefer ones include Callahan, Axel, Kali, Mr. Clarke's girlfriend Jen, Reed, the Mind-Flayer, and Erica. Non-POV characters that get mentioned include pretty much every named character on the show and a couple from the tie-in novels.

  • Lonely Rich Kid: At the beginning Steve is extremely rich and extremely isolated. He ends up cutting himself off from his biological family with $400 to his name but surrounded by a Family of Choice.

  • Lovecraft Country: Or rather, Stephen King Country. The eclipse Mr. Clarke mentions is the same one featured in Dolores Claiborne and Gerald's Game. Mr. Clarke grew up in Haven Village, Maine the setting of The Tommyknockers, and mentions going to the movies as a kid at the Aladdin- the movie theater in nearby Derry.
    • With Mr. Clarke in his mid-late 30's he would have been a preteen in 1958- this might not be the first time he's been in a town being menaced by a Eldritch Abomination.

  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bob's appearance in Chapter 11 is explained away by Mr. Clarke as a hallucination brought on by an acute stress reaction but this is Hawkins...

  • MacGyvering: It's not Stranger Things without a DIY project at the end.
    • Axel made a bunch of grenades out of pipe, homemade thermite, and sparklers. Just in case Kali wanted to swing by the lab and burn it down.
    • Mr. Clarke and Dustin build a radio jammer that's essential to stopping the Aboleth from scratch out of scraps from multiple other radios and a TV.

  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Dustin think that he's crippled the monster only to find that everyone is exactly where he left them and nothing has changed- as far as *he* can tell. Cue a Heroic BSoD.

  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: If the Aboleth hadn't sent Billy to try to take out The Party Dustin never would have figured out how to save the town.

  • The Nicknamer: Quite a few.
    • Billy frequently calls Steve 'princess' and refers to Nancy almost exclusively as 'Snow White'
    • Steve nicknames El Supergirl.
    • Murray refers to Steve, Nancy and Jonathan as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and Velma, Shaggy and Scooby.
    • Axel doesn't refer to anyone by their name. He still calls El Shirley Temple, Mick gets Mickey Mouse, and he calls Billy Hargrove 'Tuff Turf'.

  • Not Too Dead to Save the Day : Bob Newby, superhero.

  • Obfuscating Stupidity: A couple of characters notice that Steve is prone to this, particularly Dustin who scolds him for doing a thing where he "acts dumber than he is" and Hopper who notes that he pretends to be 'sort of an idiot sometimes'. Likely ingrained as a defense mechanism along with his Stepford Smiler tendencies by his family and his time with Carol and Tommy rather than something he knowingly does.

  • One Steve Limit: Averted. While there is only one Steve there are three uses of James. James 'Jim' Hopper, James Harrington, and Steven James Harrington and at least three Bob's or Bobby's mentioned. Nancy frequently references background characters names with initials- indicating another person with the same first name.

  • Poisonous Friend: Tommy and Carol are this even beyond what they were on the show.
    • Steve paints an incredibly bleak picture of a 'friendship' with Tommy that was made up of almost constant pressure to be 'cool' that encouraged Troubling Unchildlike Behavior; smoking at ten, drinking himself sick but not being able to show it at thirteen, and being afraid that Tommy was going to tell the entire school that he was a loser if he hadn't had sex before High School- and that was always right on the edge of Tall Poppy Syndrome if he was exceptional in any way that didn't serve him being popular/helping them be popular.
      • Murray Bauman shows Steve witness testimony that shows the two of them coordinated their statements to the police to make it seem like Steve might have killed Barbara. It's telling that Steve doesn't know if they did it take heat off of Tommy or purely because they thought it was funny.
      • Steve mentions to Jonathan that Tommy and Carol wouldn't even buy him a coke without making him pay them back- something you can see happen in Season One of the show- implying that he was more Meal Ticket than friend.
    • Reed saw Steve as an Extreme Doormat that was easy to manipulate through praise.

  • The Power of Friendship: Dustin thinks off-handidly that maybe they can defeat the monster with the power of friendship when he doesn't know what else to do. That's pretty much what ends up happening.

  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "Faberge organics, dickhead."

  • Precision F-Strike: Mr. Clarke doesn't swear to the point that even his internal monologue tends to not use anything stronger than 'heck' - so the one "Oh, shit" when he encounters the monster for the first time comes off as one of these.

  • Putting on the Reich: The Shop is just as immoral as Hawkins lab and employs scientists that were part of Operation Paperclip.

  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Hopper and Mr. Clarke.

  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dustin delivers one to Billy, comparing him to other characters that have suffered abuse and making it clear that he thinks that Billy is just a sadist whose Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse.

  • Reality Ensues:
    • Learning that there are monsters, nearly dying twice, and deciding that you're personally responsible for a bunch of suicidally brave thirteen year olds takes a serious mental toll on Steve.
      • In the epilogue Hopper ends up in the unenviable position of having to explain to Steve that killing the Aboleth didn't fix the symptoms of 'psychic drain' because he's actually been suffering from PTSD, completely independent of the monster.
    • A bunch of teenagers in suburban Indiana in the 80's have no idea how to navigate even the possibility of a poly relationship or possibly even what it's called- leaving everyone various levels of frustrated and confused though they care deeply about each other.

  • Science Hero: Dustin and Mr. Clarke end up saving the town purely through their combined knowledge of earth science and radio technology.

  • Sherlock Scan: Steve gets one from Murray who tells him he has abandonment issues and it's a real 'Cat's in the Cradle' situation.

  • Shipper on Deck: Murray still seems to be shipping Nancy/Jonathan, judging by his immediate antipathy to Steve.

  • Shout-Out:
    • Doctor Brenner would like everyone to follow Standard Containment Protocols at all times.
    • At one point, Dustin enthusiastically gushes to Steve and his friends about this "weird British show" he caught on PBS involving a guy with a long scarf, his blonde assistant and a robot dog flying around time in something called a police box. More specifically, Doctor Who fans will recognise the story he describes as "City of Death".
    • Steve owns the infamous crop top from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
    • Billy and Neil both use the phrase 'take your medicine' in relation to handing out a beating- a phrase frequently used by Jack Torrance in The Shining
    • The Aboleth says that 'there was a hole here but it's gone now' a famous piece of graffiti from SilentHill2
    • In the final battle, Mike gives Nancy the character class of "gunslinger" even though, as he notes mentally, it's not a type which can be found in Dungeons and Dragons. It is, of course, a class in another fantasy epic of interest to a universe inspired by the works of Stephen King.

  • Shown Their Work: In regards to the 80's, parasites, the Vietnam war, Dungeons and Dragons, MK Ultra and radio science.

  • Simultaneous Arcs: The last chapter has everyone in different places (and dimensions) regardless of Dustin's plan to Never Split The Party .

  • Spanner in the Works: Once again, Nancy and Jonathan (with the added help of Steve) manage to completely ruin the day of a top secret US weird-science project, this time almost by accident. On hearing of this, Dr. Owens ruefully suspects that if they just abandoned the Cold War espionage games and dropped Nancy and Jonathan into Moscow "to see what shakes out", the entire Soviet Union would surrender within a week begging for mercy.

  • Stepford Smiler: Steve seems to have internalized that his main worth as a friend/son stems from being emotionally uncomplicated and undemanding. A big part of his arc is realizing that he can open up to his friends when he's unhappy and that they'll stand by him.
    • Both times Steve goes to his mom when he's upset she basically tells him to ignore it. The second time she explicitly tells him he should smile because he 'looks just like [his father] when he frowns'. The reader gets the impression this isn't the first time that she's said this.

  • Take That, Audience!: A couple of mild ones to people who think that Billy Hargrove is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold instead of a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. One even delivered by Billy himself as he mocks a frightened Nancy with the fact that some of the girls at school just think that "he's misunderstood".

  • Take a Third Option: El in Chapter 11. She can't save her friends while she's fighting the Aboleth even though she may be able to kill it once and for all. She takes the third option and uses her powers to Watch and drags The Party's minds with her into the Inbetween.

  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: Thinny's are implied to exist in-universe by Subject Six.

  • Trapped in Another World: The Party ends up partially trapped in the Inbetween.

  • Triang Relations: Appears to fall somewhere between a type 8 and a type 11 with Nancy as A Jonathan as B and Steve as C.
    • Seems to end on a Type 11, with no indication in Steve's PO Vs that he has romantic interest in Jonathan or even realizes that Jonathan's interest in him is anything other than platonic.

  • Troll: Murray Bauman trolls Steve relentlessly when the teens visit him for information.

  • True Companions: Everyone, by the end.

  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Nancy/Jonathan/Steve

  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Played for drama; one of the effects of the influence of the Eldritch Abomination is people barely reacting to or even noticing horrific and disturbing events happening right in front of them.

  • The Vietnam Vet: Both Neil Hargrove and Jim Hopper.
    • Neil was part of the helicopter crew that intervened during the My Lai Massacre and according to Billy's mom, was never the same after.
    • Hopper was part of the Siege of Huế, one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war.

  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Steve and Jonathan spend most of their time together sniping at each other.
    • Nancy characterizes Steve and Dustin's dynamic as a mix of 'brotherly affection and mild verbal abuse'

  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Steve desperately craves any kind of validation from adults due to his actual parents being emotionally distant and demanding, something that doesn't go unnoticed by Hopper.

  • What You Are in the Dark: Used word for word in Chapter 11 when The Party get stuck Inbetween.

  • Would Hurt a Child: Billy only hesitates to beat up Dustin because he thinks that Dustin is barely worth the effort.

  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Zigzagged, as it's more a case of wouldn't hurt specific children; it's made clear that the Aboleth is willing to feed on the young, as references to missing children throughout the story suggest, but for some reason it doesn't target Will or his friends. It's not out of benevolence or mercy, but fear; eventually Will realises that the reason the Aboleth is avoiding anyone connected to him is because it knows full well that the Mind Flayer is watching Will and his friends closely, and it's terrified of the Mind Flayer. So Will decides that the best way to ultimately defeat it is to attract the Mind Flayer's attention...

  • You Shall Not Pass!: Said pretty much word for word by Dustin when he's protecting his unconscious friends from Billy Hargrove.
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