But meme reciprocation would violate many of this LJ's founding precepts. (Pretentious? Why, yes. Thank you for noticing. But, confession: I didn't articulate most of them until I'd been doing this a while, so really they're more like "summaries of what I've found works for me." It's just that using the other phrase makes me feel like my parents got value for my college education, so I'm staying with that.) So I was happy to see that greenet added "If you so wish" to the reciprocation step of this particular meme, which introduced a brand-new (well, novel, at any rate) concept in meme lifecycle: birth control. And I'm all for birth control.
It's generally a lot of fun for me to do memes of this kind; because I almost never can, they never get old. (Yet another argument in favor of meme birth control, let me note: fewer but better and more lovingly-reared memes.) Naturally, presented with one I could actually do, I wanted to do it well.
Unfortunately, I couldn't. Not really. One of the steps of the meme required the poster to tell me something she'd always wondered about me, and let's face it, if you've been reading this LJ for a while, you just don't have any burning questions left about me. I mean, you're all very, even painfully, aware that I love reading, babble incessantly, and grow reactionary and irrational when discussing English usage. What else is there to know?
Well, possibly, what I'm going to recommend next. Which is what greenet went with. Specifically, she said:
Your five newest favorite stories/fandoms/characters?**
I wanted to answer that. But, unfortunately, I just don't work like that, not exactly. The best I can do is offer her the five stories I most recently added to the Big Scary Master List (Unsorted). Some of them are actually fairly old. (And some of them I'd read long before I added them to the List; browser crashes and memory lapses play hell with my consistency on that one.) So today I'm posting a non-themed set. Or if there is a theme, it's that some of us still like memes, actually.
It's going behind a cut for two reasons.
First, this isn't going to be the greatest set ever. One of the reasons I take such a long time to recommend stories is that I need time to deal with them, to articulate what I think about them and why. (Seriously. Lots of time. Two nights ago, I finally figured out what was wrong with a science fiction short story I read years ago, before I'd read even one piece of FF. I've been thinking about that since I read it, considered the problem thousands of times before I solved it. "Slow but steady" is my motto. Sort of by default.)
Second, she did say five. That means this set is going to be longer than usual, and, let's face it, my entries are already way longer than the average post. Sheer mercy for your friends lists, then, argues for a cut tag.
Best FF That Proves That Infinite Loops May Make Computers Crash but They Only Make People Stronger. Well, and Crazier, but in the Stargate Universe, Everything Is Crazy-Making. A Million Days, by Tallulah Rasa. Stargate: SG-1, gen. Everything Tallulah writes is fantastic. (Seriously; even her story notes are fascinating. It's a universal injustice that she doesn't have a LJ.) This story is yet more proof of that. (And I knew that the first time I read it, months ago. Yet it's one of the latest entries on the List. I dream of method but mostly practice chaos.) For me, this can be summarized with three words: practice makes perfect. See, in this story (which is an AU of a specific episode), time is broken. That means entropy doesn't exist; you can't progress toward decay if you can't progress at all. That, in turn, means the characters are eternally refined without being ground to dust. (Which makes this the Platonic Ideal AU. All AUs are about the essences of the characters, but this one is only and absolutely about the essences of the characters.) That sounds way better than it is for the people actually in this story, because, you know, human beings don't do so well without time or causality. It's no surprise that Jack loses his mind, given the circumstances. But the thing is, it's temporary; he gets it back. Because this is the Platonic Ideal AU, so Jack reverts to his base state, his essence, after a while. And that state happens to be a sane one. (Seriously. If Jack had crazy at his core, he'd've been raving long before we ever met him.) Even better, in my opinion, is what this story shows us about Daniel, about his depths - he can still surprise the person who knows him best, even after years of cycles - and about his strengths. But best of all, at least for me, is the relationship between Jack and Daniel in this story. Because, again, we get the absolute essence of it. Wonder what that is? Read this. You'll know.
Best FF That Always Leaves Me Worrying About Math Emergencies. Is Any Country on the Planet Truly Prepared for a Riemann Hypothesis Crisis? Drift, by Merry, aka merryish. Numb3rs, gen. Now, this is the weird part about doing a set of the most recent entries on the Big Scary Master List (Unsorted). Normally, I wouldn't recommend this story right now, and not because it isn't good. It's great, actually. But I don't know the fandom - this is the first story I've read in it, in fact - and I don't think I'm likely to anytime soon, so I was a little blown away by how much I loved this story. See, I have a hard time warming up to fictional characters; this is one of the reasons why I love FF so much. (I suspect it's also why I'm so happy with hard SF, where the main character is often the author's cleverness rather than the cardboard creations cavorting on the page. Not, I hasten to say, that any good hard SF is like that, especially the recent stuff; if I ever did a set of non-FF recs, there'd be a ton of modern SF, and I think it would impress even those who don't find science babble inherently seductive.) But that means that the first stories I read in an unknown fandom generally leave me cold; if I get into the fandom, I go back to the first stories I read after I'm actually comfortable with the characters. This, though - wow. I felt like I knew these guys, and also like I could write stories about them based on nothing but this story. (I couldn't, of course. That feeling is a dangerous fallacy fueled by thefourthvine's Canon Knowledge Law, which states that those who don't know the canonical universe believe it to be equal to all the FF they've enjoyed in the fandom, plus or minus 5%.) I loved the snapshot of a family that is, yeah, probably fucked up, but still good, and who here can claim to have a completely un-fucked-up family? I just - really loved this. It felt like comfort fic to me. But normally I'd let that impression sit for six weeks or ~sixty stories in the fandom, because I feel weird recommending something in a fandom where I can only name two of the characters, and even then only their first names. So - hi! This is me, way out on an unfamiliar limb. I blame you, greenet.
Best FF That Is Really Going to Make Things a Lot Worse for Those of You Who Are Already Afraid of Mushrooms. The Taste of Apples, by auburnnothenna***. Stargate: Atlantis, gen. (Though I for one think that's somewhat open to debate.) Earlier today, I told Auburn that she seems to be finding different SGA bunnies than the rest of us; she's getting Leporidae Atlanticus intensicus, while the rest of are spending our time with A. lightica or A. briefiansus. (Except me. I keep getting ideas for series based on genre fiction. With luck, the crack psycho-medical team working on the problem will find a cure before I'm forced to write "Genre Atlantis: The Haunting of the Ancients' House.") The way she described an Atlanticus intensicus encounter, it sounded sort of like being taken hostage by a proselytizing Mack truck. So she may not be enjoying this, but I'm loving the results. "Taste" is actually the lighter of the two fantastic, long, plotty stories she's recently posted, both of which support a thesis I formed about four minutes into my relationship with SGA: you can write anything in this fandom. It's better even than due South from that perspective. Here, Auburn is dealing with some of the classic topics of speculative fiction - Gestalt entities, other v. self, first contact, telepathy - and doing an incredible job with it. This story sort of reminds me of the work of Theodore Sturgeon or Greg Bear, only this? Is much better. (And not just because there's characters in this. I can tolerate the character-free zone that is gold and silver age SF, but I still recognize that it's a problem.) And, OK, I wasn't going to warn for this at all, but I feel a certain responsibility here. So let me say this: I'm not promising you a happy ending, exactly. If it's any comfort, though, it's more than halfway to one. And I see a happy sequel hiding under the eaves of the last chapter, although of course I may be hallucinating. If I'm not, it would be a service to the nation if those who knew Auburn chained her to computer and prodded her with beef jerky sticks until she wrote it. Not that I am suggesting anything, mind you.
Best FF Featuring the Most Disturbing Use of Grape Jelly I Have Ever Heard Tell Of.**** Chopsticks, by liviapenn. Ocean's 11, Rusty Ryan/f, Rusty Ryan/Danny Ocean. What, you thought I could let takethehouse walk by without first sucking it dry? (Yeah, sorry, bad metaphor; that one would've worked better for the AU O11 challenge - Vampires Take the House, or Maybe Just a Couple Guys in It.) Of course not. I've been whining about the lack of Oceanverse FF since, well, since there was a whole lot less of it than there is now. So I've been slowly chewing (Look, this isn't my fault - it's Rusty's. His food fixation is infectious. But, fine, I'm sorry. I'll stop with the eating references.) my way through the challenge entries, and mmmm. Whoops. I mean "Yay." And this story is a total yay; we look in on Rusty and Danny back when they were just running jobs on half the politicians in the eastern U.S. and the FBI, simultaneously, with time off for fast food and sex games. In other words, before their lives got complicated. In other other words, before Tess, and prison, and Rusty fucking every member of his Hollywood poker group. ("Yeah, sure, the poker lessons cost," I hear him saying. "But they come with great side dishes, um, Shane.") Wait, wait, that last part didn't happen. And I guess, technically, this replay of Abscam, with added copsex and added twist in the tale, didn't, either. But it should have. It so totally should have. And did I mention I love it?
Best FF That Proves That in the Future, Everyone Will Need a Medical Ethics Refresher Course. Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died, by Samantha Henderson, who I suspect does not have a LJ. Real person fiction, gen. I can't get into real-person fiction, but that doesn't apply if the persons in question have been dead for quite a while. I suspect it's because it's hard for me to see historical people as anything but characters; someone whose world was so far removed from my own might just as well be fictional. And certainly the Jane Austen of this story is taken through a number of, well, let's just say "fictional" situations. Deaths, actually. But, despite the deaths, I would not describe this as sad; "clever," "engaging," and "impressive" are the adjectives I'd go for. I admit it's sort of amusing to me to see what is very much a fan fiction story appearing in an original, professional fiction context, but it's also very pleasing, because this is so well done. And make no mistake; this is fan fiction. It's lovingly based on knowledge of the canon - which, in this case, is Jane Austen's life, plus a couple of other things that I won't spoil for you - and it explores things that did not and could not have happened within the canon. So, yes, I love this story, but I also love that someone got paid for writing fan fiction. Plus, come on. Who doesn't love Jane Austen? (If you say, "I don't," well, there's nothing I can do but pity you.) Who doesn't secretly believe that Cassandra was just a little bit creepy? Who doesn't want to see the AU in which Jane Austen conquers the world? (And, so that you aren't disappointed - that last one isn't in this story, but I think after you read it you'll see how it could be.) This story is lots of fun for all kinds of reasons. And don't worry too much about the deaths. I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I tell you she really did die. But it wasn't like this, so you can smile your way through the story with a clear conscience.
* I believe the meme originated with nute, though I'd welcome a confirmation of this. And I've seen it - with "If you so wish" intact! - in several other LJs since, which proves that the meme species as a whole is only strengthened and improved by birth control. Now all we need is the LJ version of Margaret Sanger.
** I'm working on a response to the characters part of this, too. If I post it, it will probably go up at the Other Journal; it won't have recs in it, so I don't know that it's right for this LJ.
*** Oddly enough, auburnnothenna, this post was already under construction when you said you'd enjoy being recommended by me. I want you to know how much willpower it took for me not to reply, "And you arrrrrrrre! As I type this!" No one else has ever said that a rec is as good as feedback. This mild case of synchronicity has been entertaining me all day. Mostly proving, I guess, that I'm fairly easy to entertain, but still: wheeeee!
**** And I've encountered grape jelly in a sexual setting. More than once. (Note to impressionable young readers: for the love of god, don't try it. Grape jelly is disgusting anyway, but when you add in various bodily hairs and fluids, you've got a recipe for a lifetime of eating disorders. And we won't even talk about the sheets. Yick.)