Anyway. It's apparently been making me all slumped and possibly even emo, which eventually led to this conversation:
Me: Alas, my latest potential set also has an unlinkable story.
BB, looking worried: ...Did you just say 'alas'?
Me, swooning dramatically: ALACK. WOE.
BB: Okay, this needs to end right now.
Me: *dons black turtleneck, begins soliloquy to handy skull*
BB, wearing the "placating the crazy person" expression I know so well: Look, why don't you do a small fandoms set? They can all be from Yuletide, and that won't be friends-locked.
Me: YES YAY NO MORE TURTLENECK.
BB: Thank god. You were depressing the dogs.
(Note: for the record, I don't think I was actually depressing the dogs; any downness that can be cured with a can of fishy glop is not true depression.)
Best Beloved was absolutely right, on all scores. I don't recommend small fandoms nearly enough, as proven by the agony I experienced whittling this set down from the original short list of eleven (to give you some idea, the usual short list has four stories on it; I don't usually keep looking after I've already found what I want). And I didn't actually succeed in getting all the way down to four, either. Um. One to grow on?
I had so many possible stories to recommend - and so much difficulty with the winnowing process - because small fandoms just make me deeply giddy. (Pretty much all fan fiction makes me giddy, yes. It may be that I need to take more deep breaths, yes. But we're focusing on just the small-fandom-related giddiness here, thanks.)
Don't get me wrong - I love love love seeing what big fandoms do. It is, for example, delightful to see the way ideas spread, mutate, mate, and eventually give birth to crazed AUs in which Rodney is a salmon and John is a Viking. (Note: because my imagination failed to come up with an AU concept crazy enough that I could be sure it hadn't been done - god, fandom, I love you so much - those words were selected via random URL generator. I know of no actual salmon/Viking AUs, so please do not head over to sgastoryfinders and ask for the link. And be grateful I didn't use the randomly-generated AU involving John as no-bake Kahlua Christmas balls; that could only have ended badly.)
But with small fandoms - especially really small fandoms - you just have the pure essence of fan fiction: one writer, one source, mano a mano. It's like boxing. Only, you know, with a lot less risk of permanent brain damage.
So, here we have the results of five writer-on-canon bouts that the writer definitely won. And, oh, thank you, small fandom writers (and Yuletide mods): you have restored my will to recommend! (And lifted the cloud of gloom which I was apparently bringing into the household, so Best Beloved thanks you, too.)
The One That Features Sex with Gazelles. Well. Okay. Really, It Just Mentions Sex with Gazelles, but It's Not Like You Wanted to Know the Details, Am I Right? In the House of Dust, by kindkit. Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh/Enkidu.
I still remember reading this story during the Annual Yuletide Glut. (You know. The thing where you wake up on New Year's Eve with only a vague memory of where you've been and what you've been doing, a serious headache, a suspicion that some members of your family are probably mad at you, and a conviction that a whole bunch of people recently had sex right near you. And you totally haven't been drinking.) My mouth dropped open, my heart exploded, and I fled to the comments page and left incoherent feedback. (All Yuletide feedback is incoherent, I find, especially after the first dozen or so stories. Someone needs to do a study on the mind-altering affects of Yuletide, seriously.)
And, see, as it happens, I am a hardcore Gilgamesh/Enkidu shipper. (As far as I can tell, so were the original authors of the Epic of Gilgamesh. B.C. slashers for the win!) But you don't need to be - you don't even need to know who Gilgamesh is - to read this story, because kindkit tells you everything you need to know in the story notes. (Note that you will be spoiled for the story of Gilgamesh by reading this. But, frankly, the thing's been around for more than two millennia; I think the spoiler space is way over the horizon on that one.)
What's it about? Well, I'm going to try to avoid going all literary analysis (I think that's one of those things you're not supposed to try at home, right?) on you, here, but: clay! Writing! Immortality! And the not-so-much immortality! There are so many lines on this one that make me want to scamper around in circles until I collapse in a delighted heap, but I'm not going to quote them. Instead, I'm going to say: get you to this story. It is gorgeous and perfect and filled with much deeper thoughts than I ever manage to think. (Also: Enkidu/Gilgamesh OTP SQUEEEEE!*)
The One That Makes Me Wonder If Maybe My Car Is Cheating on Me. Screenwriter's Blues, by minim_calibre. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Neil Patrick Harris/Toyota Camry, Neil Patrick Harris/pretty much the whole world, Harold Lee/Kumar Patel.
Do I need to explain to you why you need to read this? Not if you've been paying attention. I mean, it's the adventures of Neil Patrick Harris and his stolen gay love interest, who is a car. And there are strippers.
...And, okay, I need to interrupt this story summary for an announcement: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS IS A REAL PERSON. I went to check IMDb to see if got the names right, and the credit for "Neil Patrick Harris" was, well, Neil Patrick Harris. He was playing himself in this movie! Okay. Okay, probably you all knew that. But why didn't you tell me? (Best Beloved says he also came out recently. Where the fuck have I been?) If I had known this, it would've added a whole new layer to my nuanced understanding of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (which currently stands at "Bad shit happens to some stoned hungry guys. Hee!").
Of course, knowing that Neil Patrick Harris was not just some guy they made up for the movie would've probably prevented me from reading this story; apparently my celebrity squick doesn't work retroactively, though, because I am still totally in love with this. Because, come on: it is about a guy and his car. (Actually, someone else's car, but the heart wants what it wants.) It is about true love. And it, all by itself, is a perfect justification of the use of second person narration in fiction. What more do you want? (Also: REAL PERSON OMG.)
The One in Which Character Death Is a First Principle. The End and Other Stories, by kaneko. Dead Like Me, Rube Sofer/Mason McAdam.
Okay. I don't know this fandom at all. (I know there's a dead girl, but that can be said about so many fandoms. Although I think usually dead girls in other fandoms don't have quite the same inclination toward sarcasm, nor are they usually as active.) But I adore this story. The pairing is actually kind of a secondary thing for me, here; I love the world this story is set in, the characters, the whole concept (a crisis in the world of the dead, which seems, as portrayed here, to be a lot like life, except the jobs are shittier and your extracurricular obligations involve touching other people's souls in a way Barbara Cartland would never write about). This whole thing is - it's just really fun. I dug up the link recently, to recommend it to someone (who, as a reward, informed me that the main character of this show is killed by a toilet seat), and I was compelled to re-read the whole thing, because it makes me smile that much.
And I'm not sure why, really. This should be a sad story in a sad fandom, and instead it's funny and mostly light, with interludes of stress and cooking and sex and just the faintest hint of tragedy. Perfect, really. And I'm not going to go for the obvious thing here ("just like life" blah blah blah "deeper meaning" blah); I'm just going to say that this is a death story that makes me very happy. (Also: Wow, is there a worse way to go than getting killed by a toilet seat? I would not want to have to write the eulogy for that one, let me tell you.)
The One That Proves That My Childhood Wish to Live in a House with Secret Passages and Rooms and Dungeons Would Probably Not Have Worked out All That Well in Reality. Oh, the Pain of Disillusionment. A Maze of Twisty Passages, All Alike, by Merry, aka merryish. Vorkosigan series, gen.
You know, it occurs to me that it's kind of strange that the Vorkosigan series is a small fandom, since it seems like 75% of all fans have read at least a few of the books. (Which is a good thing, because you need to know at least some of the universe for this story to work for you. It's also a very right thing, because in many ways I think Bujold would write even better fan fiction than she does novels, but that's a whole other deal.) But when the stories that exist are as good as this one, it kind of makes up for it, you know?
One of the things that's weird about small fandoms for me is - okay. I enjoy stories about minor characters in large fandoms, but not immensely. But in small fandoms, I really love stories about the supporting cast. It's almost as though stories in really small fandoms are more like remixes (in the Remix challenge sense; I don't mean derivative, not at all) of the canon than traditional-style fan fiction - they're recutting and refining and switching up the points of view and revealing the other side of the canvas and just generally revealing the canon.
So my point is, this is a Vorkosigan story that is not really about Miles. Oh, Miles still causes the problem - Miles is the epicenter of trouble in the Vorkosigan universe - but Ivan and Gregor deal with it. How awesome is that? Ivan gets to reveal unexpected competencies, and Gregor gets to reveal unexpected skills, and they work pretty well as a team, and it's just way cool.
Also, it's funny. There's disappearing corpses and head injuries and clubbing first, asking questions later, and while that would not precisely be a recipe for happiness in real life (for one thing, I like my real life to be as corpse-free as possible, even if the corpses do choose to stay put), it is totally a recipe for joy in the Vorkosigan universe. (Also: No one says "That idiot Ivan" even once. I didn't know you could do that!)
The One That Will, Guaranteed, Make You Never Want to Look at, Let Alone Eat, Fruit-Flavored Ice Cream Toppings Ever Again. Second Verse, Not Exactly the Same As the First, by julad. Askewniverse, Dante Hicks/Randal Graves (and Jay/Silent Bob).
I remember seeing Clerks for the first time; at the end, I said to Best Beloved, "I think Dante should've ended up with Randal." So what if I had to wait a decade? I got the ending I wanted, and here it is.
Oh, sure, there's plot in this story (as much as there was in the movie, anyway), and there's banter, and there's humor, and, you know, all kinds of good stuff. Wheeee! But the really crucial point, the one I keep coming back to, is: YAY OMG I GOT THE ENDING I WANTED. (Capslock of glee totally necessary to convey the headiness of my emotion.)
And, I mean - I can't really say anything more about the story. If you watched the movie and you're a slasher at all, you'll want to read this, and if you like humor you'll probably want to read it no matter what, and if neither of those categories applies to you, let me know and I'll rec you something as a substitute. There you go.
So instead I'm going to talk about one of the weird aspects of small fandoms, which is that sometimes a story will basically close out a small fandom for me. I finish reading the story, and instead of thinking more more more, as I typically do with great stories, I just sort of sigh happily: Perfect. Done now. (Not literally done, of course; I typically scroll right back up and re-read the story immediately. But replete, if you see what I mean: totally satisfied, because with the addition of this story, the canon feels complete to me.) Resonant's Higher Education is one example of that kind of story. And this one is another. I've read other stories in this fandom, and I'm sure I will again, but the Clerks canon became complete for me the minute I finished this story.
(In other words: I GOT THE ENDING I WANTED OMG YAY!)
* I have just had my brain flattened by what is possibly the worst crossover idea of all time: Gilgamesh x Highlander. No, seriously - what if he kept the immortality flower and started the whole there-can-be-only-one thing off? I, I am just so very tempted, and - please, someone please convince me it is a terrible idea to write this crossover of badness (featuring a fandom I don't even know). Very very quickly. (Or, ideally, link me to where it's already been written. Surely it's already been written?) Fannish intervention! Stat! This is my cry for help!