muccamukk: Milady with her chin on her hand, looking pensive. (Musketeers: Thinking)
[personal profile] muccamukk
In a new post, list ten fic that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be the “right” works, or even all the same pairing or fandom, just the fics that have touched you or that stuck with you somehow.

I picked this up from an excellent and thoughtful list by [personal profile] intrigueing, and when I first started to think about this, I joked in their comments, "I mentally tried to do this list and MORE OR LESS came up with a list that was wall to wall smarm and h/c tropes. I think we all already know that about me, so..."

But then I started thinking of the list I'd done off the top of my head, and how it was actually kind of an odd result.

They're all or almost all fic that I read when I was in college or in the period closely surrounding. They're almost all fic I read before I myself got serious at writing, or at least good at writing. Maybe it's because I started thinking of one of those stories and then that led to associations from the same period, but I tried to think of fic that I sort of had the same feelings about from more recent fandom years and more or less drew a blank. Which is weird, because it's not like I don't still love fic, but maybe leaving an impression needs someone more impressionable? It's possible I'm doing this wrong.

So the following is a list of ten fic that left an impression on me probably in terms of the way I think and feel about fic both in relation to canon and in relation to my own writing. They're stories that helped me sketch out the boundaries of what fic could do, or at least what I wanted it to do, and what I wanted to do.

The list is also almost entirely gen centring on male friendships. Largely because that's what I was reading at the time, though I was reading and writing m/m slash and some het as well, so idk. I think part of it is that my discussion of my tastes in explicit fic is a whole other post, and that post is not one I'm like to actually write. But I guess a lot of these also cut to interactions I like in a way that fic that make those interactions sexual do not. Or something?

The list is posted in the order that I thought of them. The links go to AO3 where I can find them, rather than to where I originally read them. I have not reread the stories in order to make this list because I wanted to catch how I felt about them then, without my current PoV complicating my feelings.

It's also not entirely a positive list. All of the stories on it are well written, but a couple of them crystallised for me what I did not want, or stayed with me because they really bothered me. This is probably not a done thing, but eh. It's all old news by now. It's not a rec list, in any case, as much as a reflection on fic.

There will be discussion of depression and sexual violence. I'm going to cut the longer posts for those just want to see the titles.

1. Phoenix Burning by Yahtzee (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy/Angel)

Summary: At the end of Season Five, Buffy plunges to her death. Then she is resurrected -- 350 years in the future.

What Stuck With Me and Why: I hadn't even watched much of the show when I read this, probably the first few seasons, but it filled something in me that I really needed to read then. It's about depression, and loss, and trying to find who you are when everything you ever loved has been stripped away, and also trying to decide if there's any point living like that. It's about new beginnings. This is more ground down than we ever see Buffy in the show, but there's still this diamond of will in the centre of her. A story about how crushingly difficult it is to keep going, and not just in an epic way, but in a day to day mundane life kind of way. Needless to say, it spoke to my history of depression pretty hard, and the dream sequence near the end where she sees everything she's lost and finds peace with it but also takes it with her to move forward was simultaneously a punch to the stomach and a revaluation.


2. Outside these Walls by Jael Lyn (The Sentinel, Jim & Blair)

Summary: Set in Cascade, with the usual cast of characters, but most would consider it an AU.

What Stuck With Me and Why: I actually had to stop reading fic for a while after I read this because it dismantled some canon and almost all fanon. I don't think that's what the author meant to do, especially since the sequel just drops back into fanon tropes and is... not great. But the AU is that Jim and Blair didn't meet until five years after they did in canon, and everything went completely differently. Which is in almost every fic a tragedy, because almost every fic has Jim unable to survive without Blair, and Blair career floundering without Jim (or both of them dying), but this was about how they are individuals who can negotiate life on their own even under, in Jim's case, absolutely crushing difficulties. The point of their friendship is not that they need it to survive like a some kind of parasitical co-dependency, but that it adds something to two already strong people. Yes, Blair in this story helps Jim, and Jim advances Blair's career, but they both could get along on their own. The relationship has value for its own sake, not because either of them NEED it. There's a lot of fic in this fandom that I like because it's about figuring out how to love someone without resenting them when you're basically handcuffed to them for the rest of your life, but this one I think was what showed me that the co-dependence wasn't at heart what I wanted. Or, if I wanted it, I wanted it to be underlined and shown as an obstacle, not a goal. It's also about ethics in science, burgeoning trust and has some nice iron woobie scenes, so, you know.


3. Lovely by Martha (The Sentinel/Stargate: SG-1/Cthulhu Mythos - Lovecraft, Jim & Blair, Jack & Daniel)

Summary: Daniel Jackson goes looking for peace in the aftermath of "Absolute Power" and "The Light." Unfortunately, he goes looking for it in Cascade, Washington -- The Most Dangerous City in America.

What Stuck With Me and Why: There are a LOT of TS/SG-1 crossovers, and I'd read quite a few of them by the time I got here. Part of this fic is that Martha is one of the best emotional roller coaster horror writers out there. She can absolutely gut the characters and put them back together again, and I like that kind of thing. This is also one of the first crossovers I read where the characters who meet each other don't like each other. Crossovers are often an excuse to have our favourites hang out and have a party and possibly sex, and it kind of falls into the geek fallacy about how all I like all my friends so all my friends should like each other, no matter how terrible an idea inviting my mom's church sewing circle and my death metal band friends to the same picnic actually is. This story is good people in extremis, who are all hard edges and who don't get along, and it's as easy to see why as it is to see the angles where they would like each other. Again I think it's relating to people forming relationships around obstacles and overcoming differences. Or even not overcoming them, but negotiating them in a way that isn't instant report. Both sets of our heroes have every reason in the world not to trust each other, and they have to work with that. It's pretty great.


4. Home is Where the Heart is by Kimberley Rector and Martha Wilson (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules & Iolaus)

Summary: Hercules has a problem: Iolaus is dead and Hercules can't find his shade in the Underworld.

What Stuck With Me and Why: For #4, I went this one, no retrograde, no this one, no retrograde, no idk! It was difficult. Since Retrograde by Wilson deals with the same crossover feelings as Lovely though, let's go with Home Is Where the Heart Is. Is it's not like I didn't know "Presumed Dead" was a huge narrative kink of mine. I read Star Trek tie in novels The Entropy Effect and Ishmael like five hundred times each because of it. And, you know, Christianity. Anyway, I think while reading this fic I was really impressed how hard it was to pull off really solid emotional ups and downs, and how small things can be a huge emotional pay off if they're set up well. It is also one of my first examples of picking canon apart at the seems and replacing it with something else that I liked more. I don't often like fixit fic because it can come off as author on board telling me what I should or should not like about the canon, and even when I don't like the canon that's being changed, I also don't like being lectured about my taste, and it can be too pat. But this story isn't neat or pat, and it runs with how the changes would ripple out, and sorts through the implications. And it's full of hugs and is funny as hell, and I love it.


5. The World at Large by Cherry Ice (Stargate: Atlantis, Aiden Ford, background McKay/Sheppard)

Summary: Aiden Ford is aware that he is not the easiest of men to know.

What Stuck With Me and Why: I wonder if anyone remembers this fic beyond me. A lot of this list are pretty big names, but this one after I finished reading it, I just went... "oh." And then shifted the way I think about pairings. The premise is that Ford, though he keeps it to himself, has had close gay friends, and therefore doesn't especially give a shit that his teammates are having wild monkey sex, or whatever the hell. And it's a nice look at Ford and has a Col. Sumner moment that I appreciate (I liked Col. Sumner!). But when I was writing the rec, I called it a "slash" story because of the background pairing, even though it had nothing to do with the story really, which was about Ford. At the same time, I'd written a fic wherein Sam Winchester was married to a woman, and called it "gen" because it was about the woman, and not especially the relationship. And I looked at both stories and sort of squinted, and thought, Welp. There's heteronormality for you. Or something of that kind. I probably didn't know that heteronormal or hetrocentric were words. Anyway, it's a neat little story that challenges some pigeon-holes Ford got jammed into, and some my brain had apparently made on their own.


6. Monsters by March Hare (Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle/Cthulhu Mythos - Lovecraft, Holmes & Watson)

Summary: What if the impossible cannot be eliminated?

What Stuck With Me and Why: This stuck with me for two reasons. One is that it has a long boring set up for what is two exquisite scenes of h/c pay off. I've reread it many times, and to be honest I only read the last three scenes when I do. In its way, it's something of the opposite of #4 above, where all the careful build up makes the reunion scene so much more powerful and perfect. This has the one grand gesture and fall out so perfectly written that that's all that you need. The rest of the story is pure fluff to justify it happening (from the PoV of my narrative kinks, anyway). It's the soda pop to Home Is Where the Heart Is's fine wine, but damn it hits the spot when you need it. The other reason this story stuck with me is that I once recced it and mentioned that I liked another of the author's stories as well, though it was a bit Mary Sueish, and the author not only showed up and picked a fight with me for calling her Mary Sue a Mary Sue (she'd travelled back from the future, cast aside all Victorian conventions with no consequence of any kind, and both Holmes and Watson were madly in love with her) even though I'd also said it was a great story that I'd stayed up all night to finish, but then she wrote a fic about how I was wrong. It was impressive. I was impressed.


7. The Captain and the King (AO3) by plasticChevy (The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R Tolkein, Boromir & Aragorn)

Summary: AU story - Saruman believes Isildur's Heir is carrying the Ring, so he sends his orcs to capture the Men of the Fellowship. Aragorn and Boromir are taken prisoner at Parth Galen.

What Stuck With Me and Why: This one again for two reasons. One it's such a great Boromir Lives AU, that mixes films and books, and deals with a lot of the political fall out and includes all the characters and some great OCs, and deals with guilt, and loyalty and disability. I followed it when it was a WIP and was totally hooked. There was SO much loyalty and h/c. New chapters were an absolute highlight for me. As with #4, it's a real way to pick apart a universe and change it to something else without being judgy or picking on the old universe. And then the author blew the ending. And it became a different kind of feeling: sort of an object lesson in not letting your fixation on a character overrule the logic of the universe, and to consider what might seem like grand romantic gestures might actually mean. I still can't believe that someone with such a great understanding of the characters would actually do that, and never reread the epilogue.


8. Invasion by Astolat (Aubrey-Maturin Series - Patrick O'Brian, Jack/Stephen)

Summary: Napoleon invades Britain.

What Stuck With Me and Why: Forewarning, the impression this story left was not a positive one. M&C was my first big LJ fandom, and this series was the rock star of it at the time. I think pretty much everyone was looking forward to the new instalments of a series of AUs (Jack and Stephen in Space, Jack and Stephen get married, Jack and Stephen shoot each other in a duel, et cetera). It was also my first slash fandom both as a writer and as a reader of romance (as opposed to porn, which I'd figured out rather before that), and I was riding high and either participating in or ignoring the frequent shoddy treatment of female characters that came with slash shipping in the day (and indeed still does, at times). And then I hit this story, which is so well written, with a well-researched historical AU plot, and consequences for everyone, and it stopped me dead. It calmly and reasonably subjected the canon love interest of one of the characters to a brutal gang rape (off page) in order to make her fear sex and impel her already-promiscuous husband into the arms of his BFF. And I was like, Wow. I'm not okay with that. Though I didn't actually say anything at the time, which I probably should have, but it's really stuck with me.


9. Postscript by Rebelcat (Starsky & Hutch, Starsky & Hutch, Starsky/OFC, Hutch/OFC)

Summary: Set a year post series. The primary story thread is centred on a case Hutch is working on, involving the hunt for a serial killer. Secondary threads include Starsky's future as a cop, the relationships both men have with each other, and with the women in their lives, and how all of these impact each other.

What Stuck With Me and Why: I also read this one as a WIP, and think I made a small contribution to it via suggestions in comments. Anyway, mostly I love it because it's a story of how a friendship can stay true even when everything else changes. A lot of fic is about reattaining or hanging onto the status quo so that the relationship can just stay as it always has forever, and we can all feel comfort in that. No matter what happens, Starsky and Hutch stayed partners and best friends and lovers and whatever keeping the streets of Bay City safe. This is a story set in a universe where that isn't true, and our boys have to figure out how to make all this work when they're no longer working together, and when they have other people in their lives and OMG a baby on the way how did that even happen? And I love it. I love watching them realise that no matter what comes their relationship is worth whatever time and effort it takes to sort it out. I also love that the women are different, and each have their own personalities and view points, and aren't always okay with their significant others living a grand homosocial romance with someone else, and that doesn't make them bad people. It's a really satisfying "What happened next" sort of story. Plus it's very funny and has an exciting plot with like train crashes and shit.


10. Written by the Victors by Speranza (Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Sheppard)

Summary: Caroll, Franklin R. Atlantis Revisited. New York and London, Routledge, 2011.
Chapman, Denise. Several Kinds of Genius: The Life of Rodney McKay. NY: Harper Perennial, 2015.
Croft, Rosalind. City of Spires: A Memoir. Toronto: The Mercury Press, 2009.
Dugan, Paul. A Political History of Atlantis. Oxford: OUP, 2012.

What Stuck With Me and Why: Another negative take away. This was my second round of Mixed Feelings about Male-centric Fic. I loved the idea of this fic, the collected history in documents, and the feminist point of view, but it was absolutely fascinating to watch it at the same time shoot itself in the foot by interweaving those with the author's pet slash pairing (which to be fair was the fandom's mega ship). And by treating one of the show's woman as someone without courage or conviction, and the other as some... political third wheel who ended up in a loveless dynastic marriage. And well, everyone ended up in a monarchy ruled by a genetic master race. So. But it I kept thinking about that fic, because it was really well written, and the documents felt so convincing that it took me until I saw the vid (which showed McKay reacting to Teyla with what was actually a reaction shot to a Wraith) to pin down my unease. And it's not like the author MEANT any of this, but in doing so many things at once, and in trying to balance all those contradictions, the combination of good writing and unintended subtexts really got to me. This is how you can get so distracted by the lights in the distance that you trample the flowers along your path.

Date: 2015-05-27 06:17 am (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: lightbulb moment (@ inspiration)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
This is fascinating. I wonder if I have ten stories that have stuck with me that I can discuss in this much detail--probably, but I'd have to think about it. Hmm. Possibly more would be porn. :P Which is more awkward to discuss at length unanon!

Date: 2015-05-27 09:27 pm (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: Wonder Woman poster (kneeling with sword) (+ evil phone sex)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
Haha. Fair enough! I might do that.

Date: 2015-05-27 01:39 pm (UTC)
genarti: ([avatar] thinkyface)
From: [personal profile] genarti
I'm really loving seeing people's responses to this meme, especially when they come along with thoughtful commentary like this. And now I have a bunch of old fic to read that I either missed at the time, wasn't in the right fandom circles to see at the time, or possibly read and forgot.

But I really love a lot of these thoughts about the things fics were trying to do, and the things they did by accident, and the lessons that can come from both.

Date: 2015-05-27 07:55 pm (UTC)
intrigueing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] intrigueing
Hey I think negative-sticking-with-you fics are totally legit. In fact, a "Ten Fics That Taught Me What I Definitely Don't Want" meme sounds pretty interesting. I can remember so many Sherlock Holmes Holmes/Watson fics loaded with those kind of wow this is so not okay with me tropes as that Aubrey-Maturin story you describe that drive me up the wall.

And I definitely still have a collection of "most of this fic is blah, but I love re-reading this if I just skip to the good bits!" fics. I don't know about other people, but for me it makes a difference for re-reading flawed fic that I first read when I was just getting into a fandom, and re-reading flawed fic that I discovered after refining my tastes and expectations and getting familiar with the fandom's tropes.

Date: 2015-05-27 11:42 pm (UTC)
intrigueing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] intrigueing
I think one of the things we've gotten over a bit since the '90s is the need for characters to say that they've never known what love meant until they met their current partner.

And thank god.

I feel you on the increasing pickiness over time. Though actually for me, while I always get increasingly picky about avoiding certain tropes and cliches and increasingly critical and nitpicky about the specific way some storyline is done, in some smaller and samey fandoms I do get less and less picky about writing quality over time -- I prefer poorly-written good ideas to well-written irritating ideas.

Date: 2015-05-28 01:40 am (UTC)
intrigueing: (spider-fail)
From: [personal profile] intrigueing
Some things are, "Oh, this again," while others are, "YAY! This again!"

LOL of course!!
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