I know I'm not the only one the Lord of the Rings movies led into the darkness of fan fiction. Some days, in fact, I suspect I have approximately the entire population of the western hemisphere for company. Lawyers looking for new class action lawsuits should probably check into this; New Line and Jackson have a lot of money, and there's been a lot of pain and suffering and lost work time as a result of their recent behavior, if you see where I'm going with this.
Ah, the memories of my LotR era...back when I thought I had to know the canon to read the fan fiction. (Seriously. I felt guilty because I was reading FF even though I hadn't read, for example, The Lays of Beleriand. Ha. Now I know that I was unusually well-grounded in the canon just 'cause I'd read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.) When I thought fan fiction was a bad habit I'd be getting over any - day - now. (Turns out not to be the case.) When I believed that the only way to find stories was to go to an archive and click on link after link after link, and as a result, I bookmarked maybe one story a month. (Note to newbies: archives are really best left to the advanced FF reader - in other words, someone who is already insane.) When I was ashamed of fan fiction, and my reading thereof, and therefore would never participate in a conversation about it in a public place, let alone start a LJ just to chronicle my consumption of it.
Those were the days, my friends. The days when I was innocent.
It's nice to know, looking back, that I was innocent once.
It's also nice to know there was a time when I was a single-fandom girl, when I would page impatiently past recommendations that weren't in my fandom, that didn't involve my pairings.
But, really, it's nicest to remember the day when I moved on.
See, the movies lured in a lot of people, yes, but they also triggered the first documented instance of the Orlando Bloom Effect (bad slash follows Bloom as night must follow day, and those who read said slash cannot be true to any fandom, at least not without losing their freaking minds). In the dark days following the release of Fellowship of the Rings, bad LotR fan fiction accumulated online like dollars in Peter Jackson's bank account.
And, when I gave some consideration to the matter, I realized I didn't actually enjoy most of the pairings of the fandom, either. Hobbits remind me of puppies; even the vaguest hint of hobbit sex leaves me twitching and nauseated and telephoning my HMO for therapy authorization. Legolas reminds me, as I have said many times, of a My Little Pony or something - shiny, pretty, and intended only for little girls. (No offense to those who love him; clearly, you're just seeing something I'm not, which is, believe me, nothing new.) And I have to believe that Gimli and Gandalf are totally asexual, because if I don't, well, the resultant mental images will prevent me from ever reaching orgasm again. So, as far as the Fellowship goes, I'm left with - hmmm. Boromir. And Aragorn. And as fun as those guys are, spend a month or two with the Man Who Will Be King and Is Really Conflicted About That* and the Man Who Is, Dammit, Definitely Going to Die, and you're ready for the industrial vats of psychotropic medications. Seriously. These guys have angst and doom dripping out their ears. Or, if the story is rated NC-17, out of other bodily orifices.
So there came a day when I realized I needed to find an alternative to the damn LotR fan fiction, ideally before the damage - and the SSRI dependence - was permanent. In an alternate universe, I stopped reading FF altogether, started doing good deeds, saving the world, and focusing on the needs of others. In this universe, I began...branching out.
Cue the scary music.
-Helpful Links for the LotR Newbie-
If you don't know the canon, you can fake it with: The Encyclopedia of Arda. This is book canon, but it should work fairly well if you haven't seen the movies, either. And it's incredibly detailed.
Where to start: I'd actually suggest starting with PWP in this fandom. Seriously. See, the thing is, Tolkien and Son pretty much covered every damn thing that could reasonably happen in Middle Earth in the canon writings, and what's left for fan fiction writers to do, plotwise, is fairly, um, scary. It's best not to know. So the best fics tend to be meditations on character, and those are mostly either gen or PWP; I think the PWP ones would be easier to get. (Because, hey, who doesn't get sex? It's the universal fandom!)
I'd start with these NC-17 stories:
Silence, by cinzia. Boromir/Aragorn. A wonderful use of sex to show character. Lovely foreshadowing, excellent scene setting - a PWP that shows why people read PWP.
Westering and Midwinter, by Gloria Mundi, aka viva_gloria. Aragorn/Boromir. Another example of excellence in PWP, with a wonderful, in-depth look at the main characters. In my opinion, the guys here are closer to book than movie standard, and the overall style of this story is in some ways reminiscent of Tolkien, so this is an excellent one to read if you haven't read the books.
Bound, by Tricia. Aragorn/Legolas. The easiest way to break into the canon, I think - this is a PWP that requires no prior knowledge of the characters. I don't think you'd even need to know the characters' names to read this one.
Then I'd move on to gen:
The Care and Feeding of Hobbits, by Baylor. The subtitle of this story is "Ruminations on the Little People by Boromir, Man of Gondor," and that pretty much sums it up. The most impressive thing here is that Baylor manages to be touching and sweet without being cloying. And she sure does nail hobbit personalities. In fact, if you knew nothing of this canon at all, you could read this and come away with an understanding of hobbits at least as good as the one you get from reading The Hobbit.
All That You Can't Leave Behind, by Mary Borsellino. This is another story that takes a good look at hobbits and the Fellowship's hobbits' relationship with Boromir. This is gen, of course, so we're not talking about hobbit sex. And this story isn't perfect - it needs some proofreading, for example - but it does capture all three characters very well.
* Movie canon, of course. Book Aragorn is never conflicted about anything; he marches to the beat of his own destiny and it's damnation and boot nails for anyone who gets in his way.