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Literature / The Saga of Tuck

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Take your average group of teenagers in any high school drama - you've got the cliques, the bratty cheerleaders, the testosterone-crazed jocks, the outsiders who are too normal to be cool, the geeks who are too far out for even the normals, the freshmen who want to fit in, the recently-transferred students who want to do the same... and then you have Tuck and his friends. He's the high-school nerd who's particularly skilled in various manners of weaponry and martial arts through necessity, whose family is equally so, who alternates between roleplaying, computers, and going out on week-long hiking trips with friends, not to mention skilled enough to take care of a number of computer jobs, but still runs up against the aforementioned cliques and jocks on a far too regular basis.

Oh, and lest it seem still rather ordinary, it turns out that his girlfriend has a few quirks, and when she decides to Mind Screw the entire campus with him on Halloween, he seems far too good at being female... and that's just the start.

The Saga of Tuck is a long-running, generally-acclaimed work of fiction by Ellen Hayes, exploring just how a teen would react if suddenly his life, and gender, were turned upside down in so many ways. Published periodically online since 1997 (which is when the storyline is set; a little over a year of story time has elapsed in a dozen years), it's an excellent look at how normal - and yet how very strange - a teenager's life can become. The 'Valentine's Day' episodes are a continuation of the main story after a two-and-a-half-month (as of #142) Time Skip, while 'Tuck Season' is an Alternate Continuity story set in the 'Seasons of Change' shared universe.

This serial novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Afraid of Needles: Justified in that Tuck just loathes anything conclusively medical.
  • Alternate Continuity: Seasons is a shorter (in comparison to the main story) story of Tuck's summer vacation where instead of babysitting as Valerie the whole summer, Tuck goes to a stereotypical (in transgender fiction) petticoat discipline boot camp. Hilarity Ensues as Tuck is not even close as how characters behave in other petticoat discipline stories.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Most of the characters are the nicest folks you'll ever meet...until you threaten one.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The series began with a relatively light, comic tone, though there had always been a more serious undercurrent. This took a much darker turn after Tuck mysteriously begins developing breasts; while it grew lighter again for a time, later events took the series into some very deep and murky territory indeed, and many fans stopped reading - while the quality of the series remained high, it was too different for some who preferred the lighter stories. Currently, the series is on an upward swing, following the grave events set in September and October 1997.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The main character and his friends wind up pulling off many of these, but the best ones eventually got their former school principal to commit assault and battery. And remove himself from the job.
  • Coming-Out Story: Averted. Or, the entire story to date could be seen as partially one loooooooong coming out story... including Tuck coming out to himself. But this is arguable. And argued.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tuck's family: they seem to be suitably geared and capable of warding off whatever trouble they might run into, up to and including a nuclear war. At least, when on their own terms.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Tuck's karma winds up with him surrounded by a dozen cute girls at a moment's notice, capable of masking himself as female, and able to hold a job he excels at without even trying...
  • Dad the Veteran: The protagonist's father, Bill Tucker, joined the Marines during the Vietnam War to get away from an abusive pastor who had the rest of his family under his thumb. He saw heavy combat, losing several close friends, and would suffer Past Experience Nightmares following the war. Despite this, he remained (in his own words) a 'Leftist Gun Nut' who made sure to teach his children wilderness survival, basic military tactics, and proper gun usage, mostly in case things went sideways. After talking Tuck down from his late-night suicidal impulses following a break up, Bill discusses his wartime experiences with Tuck until sun-up, deeply impressing his child.
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Nickerson, also a Sadist Teacher - hard to figure which fits best.
  • Door Stopper: 7 megabytes and over a million words.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Just about everyone has something hanging around, though it doesn't show most of the time.
  • Hermaphrodite: After all that gender-bending work, Tuck discovers that xie is actually a chimera, with both XX and XY chromosomes in hir body and ovotestes.
  • High-School Hustler: while several of them have moments like this, Debbie is the one who fits the trope most closely.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: mostly averted. Travis is attracted to Valerie, but it's revealed that he thinks she's transgender, either post-op or on her way, which would make him straight but unprejudiced (so far as he knows). Later on, Jill, then Pam, try to date Tuck/Valerie, but Jill is only interested in Tuck.
  • Kick the Dog: Principal Nickerson, who tends to put students in detention or completely suspend them for mental breakdowns.
  • Mama Bear: Tuck's mother, when Tuck is in that Convenient Coma, scares everyone except possibly her husband.
  • Meaningful Name Yeah, Tuck means something in the transgender and transvestite communities. It's a verb.
  • Mind Rape: Extremely hard, extremely fast. Thankfully, not permanent, though.
  • Muggles: At one point Tuck refers to a group of female underclassmen as a separate species "Homo Mundanus". Tuck and his (male) friends are extremely contemptuous of the majority of the people that surround them at school.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • just what did Travis do as a favor for Lisa?
    • Also possibly the previous babysitting job/incident Mike had with Tuck; it's mentioned a few times.
    • Averted other times, perhaps, as the author likes coming up with them. Examples are the panties found under Brian's desk; the shocking of a parent, the refrigerator painting, the missing air compressor (never explained, but then nobody who mentioned it knows what happened either)
  • Past Experience Nightmare: Unlike Tuck, who has nightmares about school bullies, Bill's nightmares are mostly from his wartime experiences.
  • Police Are Useless: The belief of Tuck's family - who like to take matters into their own hands, except when they don't.
  • Punny Name:
    • Also Meaningful Name, really. A crossdresser named Tuck? Get it? Get it?
    • Every chapter title is a Punny Name.
      • Only the ones written from Tuck's POV; the other ones are named after Pink Floyd songs.
      • One hundred and twenty six titles. All (we hope) at least subtly different.
      • There's at least one repeated title.
  • Sadist Teacher: Principal Nickerson, as well as Mrs. Vangormer, though the latter hasn't been explored.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Made all the worse by the fact that the main character has to choose between two aspects of himself.
  • Shown Their Work: On technology, on gender issues, on virtually EVERYTHING related to the series. The author knows her stuff, has done the research, and this shows strongly.
  • Shur Fine Guns: Averted; whenever the Tuckerspawn are practising on a shooting range one of their activities involves clearing jammed guns.
  • Signed Language: Tuck is fluent in ASL because he had communication problems when he was a child, so his family and Mike learned it as well. Comes very handly to secretly talk in plain sight without listeners and to befriend a deaf girl in Seasons.
  • The Mafia: If you screw with Tuck or members of his groups, you do not come out smelling like roses. Lampshaded in various uses of the term "Omerta", meaning roughly, 'you don't go to the cops, you come to us'.
  • Unreliable Narrator: almost all the story is written from the first-person limited viewpoint of Tucker himself. And Tucker doesn't understand a great deal about human-human communication protocols.
  • Wacky Homeroom: to a degree, though both the previous year's and this year's homeroom teachers try (and partially succeed) at keeping things stiffly unwacky.