But, really, do we even need an explanation for the popularity of this trope? (Note use of litgeek vocabulary! I can be taught!) No. No, we do not. When something spurs stories this wonderful, we do not analyze or complain or indeed retain higher brain functions of any kind, although those of you who know me will recognize that complaining is pretty much a brain-stem reflex in my case. We simply feel the love. And show the love. For the authors, I mean. And also for the concept, because I just purely love Things That Never Happened stories.
So should you.
Warning: Before you read further, know that Things That Never Happened stories can explore some, um, challenging territory, and by challenging I mean "really fucking depressing or disturbing or just 'oh my god please give me sedative-hypnotics, and give some to the author while you're at it.'" For example, character death is often one of those things that didn't happen, and while the character's continued existence is usually inarguable, imagining it is still fairly grim. When this occurs, I advise going with the coping mechanism suggested by the story title and chanting, "Never happened never happened never happened" while moving briskly to the next entry, but if that isn't going to work for you, or if you are having an especially bad couple of days, maybe you'll be wanting to give most of these a miss for now.
Warning the second: Things That Never Happened stories usually make a lot more sense if you're familiar with the canon. It sort of helps to know what did happen, in other words, before you read about what didn't.
Best FF Whose Cool Life-Event-Related Chapter Headings It Took Me Forever to Notice, for Reasons Best Not Explored in Detail. Five Pictures That Were Never Taken, by Annie-Lee (or just Annie, and Annie, if you read this, feel free to tell me which one you prefer), aka out_there. Sports Night, assorted pairings and gen. I love this story. I love it because it's the perfect adaptation of the "never happened" concept for this fandom. I love it because it encompasses all the emotional extremes you find in the canon and encapsulates a lot of what I find most appealing about the show. And I love it 'cause of all the stories that are behind these pictures, the stories you know without even needing to be told them, the points you get even though they're never explicitly made. Seriously, this story proves that you don't need to be able to see the picture for it to be worth a thousand words, and I bet you hoped I'd get all the way through this summary without mentioning that aphorism, but you must've known you were doomed from the start. Added bonus: there are several fantastic Sports Night TTNH stories out there, but this is the only one I've found to date that doesn't leave me wanting to ingest massive quantities of psychoactive chemicals. Or maybe radioactive ones. Know of another? I'd love to hear about it.
Best FF That Makes Me Want Snow. No, Need Snow. Which Sucks, Because I Live in Southern California, but Don't Let My Pain Interfere with Your Enjoyment of the Story or Anything. Four Things That Didn't Happen on Christmas Eve, by penknife. X-Men movieverse, assorted pairings and gen. This is all about turnings not taken. For some reason, I find the last segment the most fascinating - and I mean seriously fascinating; the day I read this, I couldn't stop fantasizing about an AU in which Magneto v. Charles Xavier would be totally overshadowed by Caged World Death Match: Telepath v. Telepath. Seriously. I sketched out changes to major canon events and a timeline and everything. Because, see, there's a reason Jean Gray had to become Phoenix, and die an irritating number of times, and, like, get new powers and keep the old, or lose the old, or whatever the fuck happened to her. It's because the good guys don't need two telepaths, and the bad guys can't have even one without unbalancing everything. What difference does it make if people can control storms or fire if there's someone able and willing to control the people themselves? And, see, if Jean went evil, then Xavier would have to say goodbye to all of humanity or start breaking his own code of telepathic ethics, and, see - OK. I'm obsessed, and I admit. But all four segments are good, and I defy anyone with a heart to read the third one without feeling wistful, and it's about to be December. Read, read, read.
Best FF That Made Me Use the Phrase "Pocket Universe" Five Times in the Original Story Summary. But I've Deleted Three of Those, and I Think You'll Be Glad I Did. Family Business: Five Things That Never Happened to Dick Grayson, by Lucy, aka cereta. D. C. Universe, gen. It never ceases to amaze me that people can write TTNH stories for the main comic book universes, because the comic books themselves do a pretty damn fine job of exploring every possible option and most impossible ones and at least 50% of the ones that leave you shrieking obscenities at the writers. But here we have five Dick Graysons that truly never were, at least to my knowledge, and if this story does not make you want to move to a pocket universe ruled by the author, then you have no sense. (Or possibly way too much. Too much to be reading this LJ, anyway.) And though I said you need to know the canon to be able to read TTNH stories, I don't want people to steer away from this one on that account. For some of these, you only need to know who Batman, Robin, and Catwoman are; for one, you'll need more Smallville than DCU canon. And every segment is worth reading on its own account, I swear it. Plus, you know, if you do get sucked into that pocket universe, you'll want to be able to fangirl the supreme ruler effectively.
Best FF That Teaches Us That, If Someone Offers You a Car, You Should Always Offer Him a Ride. Five Things That Never Happened to Brian O'Conner, by kelly_girl. The Fast and the Furious, slash and gen. And please note, folks, that this may be a temporary link; I think dirty_diana is hosting this, but I don't know for how long. Here, Kelly Girl rewrites five scenes from the movie to change Brian's life. The weird thing about reading this right after I saw the movie is that so many of these TTNH make more sense than the way the canon chose to go. No, really. I totally understand how the first one couldn't happen in the movie - and I'm glad it didn't. And I get that the second one wasn't going to happen, even if I'm convinced it was an unfilmed scene. But the third and fifth ones? Those make so much more sense than the way things turned out in the movie that I found myself briefly wondering if maybe what got filmed was some weird AU FF for the real script. Then I got better. But I still loved the story. And if you've seen this movie (or just read a detailed and highly biased description of it), so will you.