So why should you read FF from a fandom you have no interest in based on canon you've never heard of? Well, in this case, because they're all absolutely brilliant. (There's other reasons - like, oh, the strange unworldly beauty of a perfect story written in a fandom so rare that only eight people will ever read it. Plus, you know, authors really have to be driven to write in such tiny fandoms, and sometimes what's driving them is genius. Think on it.)
Small fandoms are love, folks. Trust me on this. And read on.
Best FF That Proves That the Right Kind of Friend Can Always Think of Something Gripping to Do, Even When You're Stuck up a Tree with Distressingly Poky Branches. Priorities, by penknife. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent/Ford Prefect. Sort of. But, for me, this verges on gen; Ford always struck me as omnisexual, after all, and game for anything - ideally, something fairly perverse and sticky. (Well, OK, not the first time I read the first book, but I was nine. "Sexual" was not a word then in my vocabulary, except as translated "something boring that appears in a surprising number of otherwise interesting books." Although, oddly enough, I read I, Robot at the same age, and picked up on the slash in it to a degree that has, to this day, made Donovan/Powell my original OTP.) And this (I'm back to the story now) is so mild and subtle Douglas Adams could have written it. The story is bitty, but it's perfect in characterization and tone and just generally so in line with canon that I suspect Penknife of channeling Adams himself. Well, if he'd also had an interest in guy-on-guy porn, magical school kids, and mutants, which is actually sort of a horrifying thought. So. Moving right along - the great part about this story is what isn't in here. The more I write FF, the more I realize how hard it is to include just the bits you need and pare off all the extraneous bits. Penknife did brilliantly at that with this one, cutting out the explanations (totally unnecessary and unlikely to make sense in the Hitchhiker's universe anyway) in favor of pure, delightful dialog. And, you know, menacing towel-ripping spidery things, but surely that goes without saying.
Best FF That Proves Herman Melville Should've Spent Less Time Staring at a Supposedly Whale-Shaped Mountain and More Time with a Certain Tattooed Gentleman. Way, Way More Time. Taniwha, by norah. Moby Dick, Ishmael/Queequeg. OK, first: how much do I love MMWD that I had to choose between several of her stories for this category? But of course I had to go with this piece. It's Moby Dick, people: the original Big Gay Book Featuring a Very Symbolic Whale (And Did I, Herman Melville, Mention the Gay? Many Times, Actually). But now: new, improved, with added Queequeg and gay! (Which doesn't even seem possible, but turns out to be.) And, best of all? This story was written for meeeeee*. (The book itself was not. Had it been, I would've said to Herman, very sternly: "Fewer and better whale butchering scenes, Herm. And when I say 'better,' what I mean is 'even less than fewer.' Get me? Whereas feel free to throw in all the gay you can lay hands on.") So my love for this story knows knows no bounds; every time I visit it, I spend a few moments being quietly but thoroughly happy. And then I read the story, and I'm really happy, because it is, well, the first part of the Big Gay Book, but from the point of view of Queequeg, also known as "the most interesting character in the book by a margin too high to calculate." Ever since I first read the Big Gay, I've wanted to know more about him - what he thought, who he was, how he ended up sleeping with (canon, my friends!) an American schoolteacher. And now I do. Because I am totally convinced that this is what Melville would've written if he'd a) been in control of his novel or b) been less distracted by the shiny glories of dead whales. For me, this is canon now. After you read it, you'll think so, too. Bonus: if you've never read Moby Dick, not to worry; you can get this just fine without it.
Best FF That Proves You Should Never, Ever Turn Your Back on Furniture. And If That Means You Never Sit Down Again? Trust Me, After This You Won't Want To. Wings, by stiletto. The Wishing Chair, Chair/Chinky. OK. I already know that there are two reactions in the reading audience right now. Many, maybe most, of you are saying, "Wishing Chair wuh-huh?" For you, I say: it is a children's book, actually a children's book series, by Enid Blyton, who had a really unsettling effect on my childhood. Unsettling, at any rate, when I try to read those stories as an adult, because subtext? Oh yes, my dears, but not the good kind. Still, I read everything the woman ever wrote, including the books out of print and the books never published in my country, and that has to mean something. Even if it mostly means that I tend to talk a lot more about lashings of ginger beer than any American or anyone of my age should. So, quick summary of the canon: children's book. Magic. A chair that grows wings and flies. A disturbing pixie thing named Chinky. Insipid children. Got it? Let's all now move on to the second prevailing reaction, which is, "Oh my god no no no eeee my brain my eyes oh god my precious internal organs all turned to ash and salt at the very thought, damn you. The pain...it is too much...dying. Dying, now - my sight grows dim. Alas, woe, dead." This comes, obviously, from those familiar with the series. My first message to that bunch is: get over it. I did. Yes, I died at the very thought, but I returned from eternity and read the thing, because nothing comes betwixt me and my FF. And you know, when you get past the horrid-bad-wrong-ness of it all, the story is actually...rather amazingly good. And it really puts the right frame around the disturbing subtext of the Blyton canon, you know? Read. Marvel. And while you do, try to avoid swearing purity and chastity in all things for the rest of your life, because that never works out well.
Best FF That Proves That Love Is Really the Key to the Universe. Well, Given Certain Vaguely Creepy Definitions of Love. Artificial Devotion, by katie_m. Galaxy Quest, but not the movie - the made-up TV show the movie was about. Oh. And the pairing? Let's just call it gen, shall we? So, OK, wow. This is FF for a canon that doesn't even exist. Fandoms don't get a lot smaller than that. And yet this piece patches holes in the show so perfectly and neatly that I kind of wish there really was a show, just so I could read more stuff like this. Or, hey, I'm not picky - I'll take RPF (like Livia's phenomenal and previously recommended Habitation). Or how 'bout the future of the Thermians? I'll go for anything. As long as it is as good and funny and downright brilliant as "Artificial Devotion," which shakes out and totally remakes an ancient SF cliche. (Basically, early SF writers' unfortunate answer to the puzzler, "We need girls to keep the guys happy. But what could females possibly do in space? Or science? Thinking is right out, and that leaves...huh. Wowee geewhilikers, that's a poser!") katie_m has a gift for seeing from unusual points of view, for telling the fascinating stories lurking just out of sight in a canon, and in this story, she writes very true to form indeed. She shows us Tawny Madison as a real person and her job as a real job, and it is utterly convincing and right and good and...and I just get wibbly thinking about it, obviously. So my advice: stop listening to me; I've got no sense left in me now. Go read these stories, instead. Because...wow. Just, wow.
* I haven't forgotten about Pirates, by the way, MMWD. My ability to write it would be greatly facilitated if someone would release a single decent version of it on DVD, or, alternatively, if Opera a la Carte or someone would come back to LA sometime this century, ideally with Pirates of Penzance in tow. Working from the script, I'm finding, is not quite the same. But it progresses. Slowly. I did give up on the idea of not recommending your story until I finished mine, though, because - really. I'm not out to deprive people.