Of course, I immediately snapped, "I still do rec fic." And I was entirely correct. But it seems that some actual recommending of actual fan fiction might go a long way toward proving that.
And, possibly because it's been long enough that I have forgotten a hard-earned lesson, I've decided to start with everyone's favorite thing: an extra-long set of shorter gen stories!
Um. I don't hear any actual cheers. Or even any polite clapping.
That's - no, that's perfectly all right. I'll settle for a "Well, it's better than nothing." Can I get one of those, at any rate?
Fine. See if I care. I'm going to do it anyway. Let me just see if I can ... hmm. You, um, press some buttons, right? It's kind of been a while. But I'm sure it's like riding a bicycle. Although, of course, I can't actually do that.
Ah, well; unlike riding a bike - which, seriously, I have never understood how you're supposed to learn that, since you have to be able to do it just to sit on the damn thing - it's probably best to learn by doing. Shall we begin?
The One That Reminds Us That Batman Is Not Just a Mysteriously Sexy and Seriously Broken Crimefighter in Need of Several Successive Lifetimes of Therapy. He's Also a Skilled Nurturer of Those Qualities in Others! Squandered My Resistance, by Petra, aka petronelle. DCU.
Perspective is a major kink of mine, and this story hits my kink just about as well as anything ever has. (Okay. Except An Instance of the Fingerpost, which hit my kink for something like 500 densely printed pages and still left me wanting more.) The perspective, in this case, is Jim Gordon's, and if you know anything about the Batman canon (and I do mean anything - like, if you know who the Robins are, and how the first two retired, that's enough), you know more than he does here - only a bit more, though, because the man's no idiot. So it's not like we're learning any new plot in this one; the change in perspective is the story. And it's amazing what that change can do.
Jim Gordon is a good man. But he accepts the unacceptable, or what should be unacceptable, because, see - Robins, whatever else they are, are kids. (Dick Greyson was age 12 when he started as Robin, as you'll know if you're even vaguely familiar with All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (and if you have a sense of humor at all, click on that link, people - you don't need to know anything about comics to marvel at this truly stunning train wreck), also known as Who the Fuck Are These People in the Batman and Robin Costumes and How Did They Get out of Arkham Asylum?) Hands up everyone who thinks that it's a good idea to put kids in spandex and send them out to fight vicious criminals and psychotics, often in the company of someone only marginally saner than said opponents. All right. Frank Miller, seriously, put that hand down. And, oh my god, do not even tell me where you have your other hand. Okay. Anyone else have a hand up? No. And Jim Gordon's hand wouldn't be up, either. But he still accepts it - and not only that; he uses it, uses the Robins. And this story explains that. Which you will grant is amazing.
The other amazing thing about this story is that it's interstitial. All the action takes place off the page; it's like this is the text that happens in the space between the panels of a comic book. So, really, all we see is a series of conversations. But you don't need to know a thing about the canon to understand what's happening all around these conversations. This is the written equivalent of the kind of play where you hear the shots and the body fall, but you never see anything on stage but the characters' reactions. Except that in this story, we don't hear the shots. But it's impossible not to hear the body fall.
No, wait, I was wrong. There's a third thing that's amazing about this story, and that thing is Jim Gordon himself. Because on the Worst Jobs in Fiction list, Police Commissioner of Gotham has to rank in the top 50. And Commissioner Gordon is just a guy, a decent guy in an awful job he does because he can. That, to my mind, makes him as interesting as Batman, but it's rare that anyone, canon or fan fiction, actually shows that. Petra does. And that? Is totally amazing, and I love her for it.
The One That May Actually Make You Grateful for Adolescence. Who Knew That Was Even Possible? Slouching, Forever, by Torch, aka flambeau. Good Omens.
And now let us speak briefly of Torch, who has evidently recently ascended to the next level in her mystical pursuit of fictional perfection; in fact, I suspect she may be close to achieving union with the fictional godhead. If you cruise by her house, I bet you'll find her all swathed in robes and sitting in a lotus position, meditating. And then, once in a while, she'll leap up and go over to her computer and type stories like this. She calls them snippets, but oh my god. In almost all of them, she's turned the canon inside out, shaken out its pockets, and found a whole new universe inside, and I - I'm kind of scared of her, actually. What if she has other powers? What if she can change the universe or something?
I'm just saying, maybe we should wonder if there's a reason that Lance Bass came out recently.
Anyway. This story is maybe, maybe my favorite of all the "snippets" she's done recently, although it's kind of locked in a three-way tie with Over the Hills and Far Away and Suburban Consumption Rituals. (Which was written for meeeeee! And that just proves that Torch has mystical powers, because, as anyone who has ever gotten one will tell you, I give the shittiest fic prompts in all the universe. Only a very few, highly cherished writers have ever managed to make one of mine work. And yet - Torch took one of my prompts - and did - well, this.)
Of course, I've spent all this time talking about Torch because I can't really tell you anything about Slouching, Forever, except that you need to have read Good Omens to get the story. (But, well, you need to have read Good Omens, period, no exceptions, so I'm hoping all of you have.) If you have, get clicking. (The other two snippets, by the way, are SGA, and I can't tell you anything but that about either, except that they are just fucking amazing, so if by some chance you haven't read Good Omens yet, head for the other ones. And then get your butt to a library or bookstore and do some light reading about Armageddon.)
The One That Proves (Yet Again) That the Ancients Are Not Our Friends. In Fact, Just As a General Rule, I Think It's Best Not to Trust Those Who Think That Superior Power Makes Them Superior Beings. Uncanny Valley, by Sarah T., aka harriet_spy. Stargate: Atlantis.
I. Here's the thing. I secretly kind of believe this story. I've seen dozens of fictional explanations for Why John Is Weird (But We Love Him Anyway), and many of them made me want to do highly intimate things with the author. And most of them really worked. But this one works maybe the most of all of them, and - well, it doesn't make me want to do highly intimate things with Sarah T. It makes me want to take her hostage until she writes a fix-it sequel to this. Because the fix is hinted at, and I believe it's coming, but I want more. I want an ending with puppies and sparkles and love and very probably some pie. In general, I need stories with explicit happy endings way more than I need or even want stories with explicit sex, and for this one - well. I want "And they lived happily ever after" in writing. Signed by the author. And notarized. (Doesn't have to be in her own blood or anything, though. I'm no fanatic.)
You know, I'm kind of amused that I'm writing this whole "This gutted me but in a good way" writeup for a story in which no one dies and no one is, like, raped or tortured or drained by the Wraith or just anything like that. All that really happens is that two people eat breakfast. But, you know, in fiction, especially when it comes to making people honestly ache for a character, less is more. You really want to turn the knife? Don't give me star-crossed lovers killing themselves because they each think the other's dead. Don't give me all the death, loss, torment, and abuse you can pack into 57 chapters. Give me one loss, one loss of something essential, and then make the characters - and me - live with it.
(I'm also amused that I didn't rec the other SGA gen story that seemed to fit in this set because I was like, "Nah. Don't want people to think all gen is depressing." But, really. It's not! Even this story isn't, actually! It's just - it hurts. But there's a happy ending on the far horizon, and - okay, screw it, that's never going to work. How's this: the last story in this set is the perfect antidote. I'm offering the pain and the cure, people. What more can I do?)
The One That Proves That You Really Can Get Used to Anything. But You Might Not Want To. All His Funerals (Back in Black Remix 2006), by Punk, aka runpunkrun. X-Files.
This is such a small story in terms of word count. And it's in a fandom that I, despite all my efforts, still don't understand at all. But it doesn't matter - you can read this no matter what you know about the canon, as long as you know something about serial fiction. Because this is, yes, a gorgeous story about how one person gets used to a very particular kind of loss, but it's also a great meta commentary, because we've all been through this, I think, in one canon or another.
(I realized this at the end of X2, which I saw with my mother and Best Beloved. My mother knows nothing about comic books and had never heard of the X-Men before the first movie. And my mother is, by the way, the queen of being spoiler-free. As in, she saw The Phantom Menace and had no idea that Anakin was going to grow up to be - spoiler warning, people! - Darth Vader. And that Darth was Luke's father. Anyway, at the end of X2, she was all upset, and Best Beloved and I were stunned that anyone could be upset by that ending. Because knowing comics mean you develop the same attitude that Scully has in this story.
And, wait. Did I just spoil the story (or X2) or not? I can't tell. Um. If I did, someone let me know so I can cut-tag it; even if it is a spoiler, I don't think it'll have any effect on your enjoyment of either, but I aim to be polite. My mama - okay, she didn't give a shit about my manners, but my internet mama raised me right. Admittedly, my internet mama was Usenet, so she mostly did it via a constant stream of very clear examples of what not to do, but still.)
But here is the coolest part of this story - cooler even than the meta commentary. This is Punk remixing one of her own stories, and how insanely excellent is that? I would so love it if other folks who have been writing a while did this, because I've read the original of this story, and it is just. Um. Not the same. At all. Whereas the remix is brilliance. So the two stories together are the most perfect example in the world of how Punk has changed as a writer, and I would love to see that same demonstration for other people. So if any of y'all are, you know, bored or anything - well, just don't say I never give activity suggestions along with my recs.
The One That Gives a Whole New Meaning to the Phrase 'Body Dysmorphic Disorder.' The Kingdom of Heaven, by c_elisa. X-Men comicsverse.
This story contains spoilers for a certain development in at least one iteration of the X-Men, uh, "plotline," for lack of a better word. (Sorry, but I have no idea how many X-Men books/movies/universes/parallel dimensions/other assorted thingies have this development, and I lack the software equivalent of the TARDIS crossed with Hal, which is what it would take for me figure that out.) I'm not at all sure I can discuss the story without mentioning that same spoiler.
See, in some Marvel thingies, there's a cure for mutant - wait. I can't really say "mutation," since that doesn't really convey the right meaning. So is it mutantism? Mutancy? Oh, hell. Let me rephrase. In some X-Men thingies, mutants can be cured. I don't know if that actually counts as a major spoiler, because I know it and I haven't kept up with the X-Men since that one year when Wolverine appeared on the cover of every single comic book in the world, including - I swear - independent small-press romance manga and single-issue graphic novels about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, but, hey. No matter how common the knowledge is, it's a spoiler for someone; after all, my mother made it 1999 without knowing that Darth Vader was Luke's father.
In this story, Dr. Hank McCoy (Hank, by the way, is the Beast, and my favorite X-Person by many leagues - seriously, the man is intelligence, class, and kindness personified and turned blue and furry.) observes someone taking this cure. And it's not just anyone; it's someone like Hank, someone who is a visible mutant. Hank, see, he's blue and furry all the time. The first thing anyone who meets him knows is that he's a mutant; that's not true of your average X-Entity. (Which is part of what makes Hank so fascinating - see also Nightcrawler. Marvel does have a way with the blue folk.)
This story says everything there is to say about the cure on both sides of the debate, and it also says so much more about some much larger issues (that might even deserve to be Issues) that are very much a part of our reality. Seriously. I don't want to pretend to be a Great Cultural Analyst, nor do I want to spoil this story, but - you should read this. Even if you don't know the fandom, even if you don't like the fandom, even if you don't like the concept, this story is worth a read. And if you've ever participated in one of the fandom and disability/race/religion/etc. meta rounds, well, you certainly will not want to miss this. Oh, also - if you cannot stand stories in first person, read this. This story has to be in first person, can only work in first person, and for that alone - plus the sheer heady joy of being in Hank's head - it's worth a read.
So there's something here for every fan, basically. Except maybe those who are looking for a little light and giggle-inducing reading involving the undead; I would like to direct those people to move (please form an orderly line; no pushing, no shoving, plenty of story for all) to the last recommendation.
The One That Proves That, Looking at It from a Technical Perspective, the Wizard of Oz Should Have Been a Zombie Story. Big Damn Zombies, Sir, by shrift. Firefly.
This is another fandom I don't know from Adam, Eve, or in fact the entire garden of eden. I mean, Jayne - that's the guy with the hat, right? I see him in vids, acting dim or showing the ethics-free brand of cunning. He's generally comic relief in vids, except he also occasionally seems to do the thing that no one else could quite manage to, even though it really needed to be done. But, hey, I don't know him at all, so I could be totally wrong there.
My point is that obviously you don't need to know diddly-squat about Jayne or Firefly to enjoy this story. Because, see, what happens here is that Jayne turns into a zombie, and mirth ensues.
Now, wait. You need to understand just how weird it is that I am recommending a story about zombies as comic relief. Because, okay, I admit it - I'm afraid of zombies. I was not the happiest person in all of fandom when zombie stories got popular for a while there, because I'd be reading a story quite happily and then suddenly Daniel Jackson would be lurching around calling for brains. (But I never did see, say, zombie Aragorn, so I have much to be thankful for. Believe me, I'm quite aware of it.) And I would have to flee the story, or possibly the room, for a while.
But this story is funny even to a certified zombiephobe, because - I just, I can't explain it. It just is. I avoided it, for obvious title reasons, for quite a while, and I so should not have, because Shrift proves that zombies can, in fact, be entertaining to have around, providing they are made from the right sort of character. Or, more specifically, providing that the right sort of characters are standing around commenting on the zombie, because it is the dialog that makes this story. And that includes, but is not limited to, the dialog that goes, "Braaaaaaaains."
(I do feel the need to state, just for the record, that there is nothing amusing about zombies. They are a major imaginary scourge against which our planet has no defenses. Garlic does not work on zombies, people. Think about it. And in the next election, make yours a vote against the zombie menace. And don't forget to ask your politician of choice what he's doing to prevent the zombie takeover!)