I promise that the next set will feature mostly uplifting and cheerful stories, and also possibly some exceptionally perky baby vomit. (And now I never want to hear you complain that I don't give you things to look forward to.) I also promise that these are stunningly good stories that will repay reading even if you don't know the basics of their fandoms. (Except the third one, but everyone knows the basis of that fandom.)
Best FF That Proves That It's Basically Impossible to Make Small Talk with Daniel Jackson. Although, If You Ever Meet Him, I Still Suggest You Try; It's Bound to Be Entertaining. Almost a Statesman: Teal'c and the Jaffa of the Alpha Site, 2003-2004, by katie_m. Stargate SG-1, gen. This story is just - just amazing. Because, OK, I've hardly ever even found a story in Teal'c's voice, and the ones I do find are often so not right that even I can tell. (Which, given that for all I know Teal'c could talk like Shirley Temple on helium, means those things are pretty damn far out of character.) So a story that's narrated by, no, written by Teal'c's son? Brilliant or disastrous. There's no middle ground. So we're all very lucky that Katie M. has "brilliant" in her box of writing tools. (I'm guessing she keeps it somewhere between the nifty clicky eraser shaped like a pen and the cuneiform stylus - and, yes, I do plan to steal her writing toolbox if I ever get the chance.) But this story doesn't just have a fantastic Rya'c voice and a fantastic alternate future; it has a whole bunch of other wonderful aspects that are, frankly, going to make us all really tired of synonyms for 'fantastic' before we're done. (Hence my need to engage in toolbox theft.) Because, see, there's Teal'c, who in a lot of FF is more of a "This Spot Reserved for the Jaffa" placard than a character, but who is real and human here. And there's the rebel Jaffa culture, which is just fascinating. And there's Rya'c, who proves that certain things are definitely inherited. Most of all, though, there's a look at what it means to be both ahead of your time and the catalyst of change - in other words, different. I'm guessing you don't have a lot of personal experience with Goa'uld symbiotes and staff weapons, but you can probably key in to 'different' pretty well. I mean, you must be fairly different, right? You're reading a LJ devoted to media smut. And you're seriously considering reading gen. (Do it! You won't regret it!) That, yes, makes you a bit different. But not as much as Teal'c is. And because of the bummer warning up above, I have to point out that Teal'c, in this story, seems fairly happy to be the odd Jaffa out, and happy with his life in general. Possibly eighty years of slavery to a false god improves your perspective on certain aspects of life, which is something to keep in mind as conversation fodder for the next time you sit next to a really whiny chatterbox on an airplane. Plus, hey, Teal'c's got SG-1. And the false god is probably sorry he (Teal'c) was ever born. So, really, his life does not suck, and this story shows that, too.
Best FF That Will Make Your Family, No Matter How Dysfunctional and Non-Traditional and Humiliating to Visit Malls with, Look Staid and Nuclear by Comparison. Involuntary Bodies, by Anna S., aka eliade. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike/Xander Harris. I freely admit that this story is probably a lot cleverer and sleeker and more intricate than I could possibly know or appreciate, because it's probably an AU based on some specific episode or season or something that I haven't seen. But you know what? I appreciate this story a hell of a lot as it is. It's just - wow. Amazing, and I submit myself as evidence that you don't need to know anything (about, well, anything) to know that. This is set somewhere in the last three seasons of the show (as it features Dawn). And it's about life in Sunnydale after you subtract Buffy, Angel, Willow, and Giles (none of whom dies, for the record). What's left? Well, either the leftovers and the unwanted, as Xander thinks, or the heart and soul of the group, which is pretty much what this story proves, as they're sort of smushed into the world's least likely family. Because, hey, even if your parental figures are undead, robotic, or Xander, love is what makes a family. Or, no, wait - actually it's love and commitment. (First and foremost, commitment to not getting all above yourself. Or glowy.) And, yikes. I just wrote sentimental prose worthy of an off-brand greeting card and I don't even have it in me to be sorry. That's how amazingly good this story is; it leaves me sub-Hallmarkian and without a hint of shame. The author says in her notes that this could have been twice as long, and oh how I wish it was. This is one of those rare pieces of FF that leaves me wanting a whole series of novel-length stories, and even then I don't think I'd be satisfied. So, really, how can the greeting-card thing matter much? And, hey, silver lining: perhaps I can get a job at Hallmark. I think I'd be very good at producing schlock to commemorate events unique to modern lifestyles. Bonus: this is actually a damned happy story. Happy ending and everything. So read this, because, well, you might need it.
Best FF That Inspired Me to Write a Story Summary That Is Basically a Compressed and Not Even Remotely Funny Rant. I Therefore Advise Everyone to Go Directly to the Story, Which Is Excellent. And Totally Free of Suicide, I Promise. Growing Up, by sheldrake. The Chronicles of Narnia, gen. Someday I am going to write a list of a hundred (or so) things fandom has done for me, and somewhere in the top twenty will be this entry: "Turned my lingering discomfort with certain aspects of Narnia and my dismayed sense of betrayal at the ending of the series into a seething festering spewing ranting hatred of C. S. Lewis who I hope to god is even now coming face-to-face with his characters in Writer's Hell." And if you think that's strongly worded, well, you just haven't read the right FF yet; I'm sure I can get you all ranty and hostile with just five well-chosen recs. Possibly less. Probably less. Those who were traumatized by the last one will be pleased to note that this story involves no death of any kind - oh, well, except the deaths which happened in the canon, which as we all know involved every human character except one. And the funny part is that Lewis makes that character's survival sound like a bad thing. Yes, thank you, Professor; you managed to convince at least four generations of little girls that growing up was evil and lipstick and dating were unforgivable sins. Why this man isn't the subject of at least as many women's studies dissertations as Barbie I will never know. (Note, because this entry sounds so vituperative as to verge on insanity: I actually still quite like some of Lewis's writing for adults, and even certain of the Narnia books. I just think the warping of children via entertaining literature should've been left in the hands of Roald Dahl, who was seriously twisted, yes, but also kinky, which helps quite a lot.) We should all just be grateful that there's FF to make it up to the characters somewhat; as you may have guessed from the tenor of the hysteria above, this is a sympathetic view of a much older Susan, which makes it a rare collectible FF even before you get to the comparison between Susan and Lucy, then and (sort of) now.
Best FF That Suggests That a Scalp Squeegee Would Be a Thoughtful Gift for the Bald Man on Your List Next Holiday Season. If the Local Weather Is Inclement. And the Bald Guy Has a Sense of Humor, or at Any Rate Doesn't Own a Gun. Fathers, by katallison. Due South, gen, or maybe really mild Benton Fraser/Ray Kowalski if you squint in the right place. And, OK, yeah. I know that some people react to the uttering of the name "Kat Allison" with a combination of instinctive flinching ("Those're the marks 'Executor' left on me. And right here? That's from 'The End of the Road,' back when I was a FF newbie. Can still feel it something wicked when it rains.") and signs of the cross ("Get thee behind me, you brilliant and depressing writer!"), but I love her. Which means, well, yes, I flinch - hey, I've read all her stuff and I'm not immune to classical conditioning - but then I dive right into whatever new thing she's written. She writes such real, perfect fiction that she routinely leaves me slack-jawed with astonishment and gasping in envy. And, yes, OK, sometimes hurting, but it's a good hurt, really. And it's from pain without angst, which is one of the toughest tricks out there, and most of the local supply of which can be found in Kat's toolbox. So, anyway, some people are already fleeing for the hills. I know that, and I don't blame them at all. But the rest of you really, really need to read this. Apart from anything else, it is honestly not that painful. (Yes, that's what comes after all that build-up. Believe me, it's better this way.) If someone is dying in this story, well, that's happening off-screen and anyway it's no one we know. And this isn't really about death; it's more about carrying on. Also, of course, about fathers, both the literal and the figurative, which makes perfect sense; the canon is just rife with daddy issues. (Well, can you think of another way to describe Fraser's relationship with his father?) And this is Kat's writing we're talking about, so stunningly good goes without saying.