Fanfiction book club
May 7, 2014 3:39 AM   Subscribe

So fanfiction. As someone who's loved the idea but never gotten into it, what should I read?

I absolutely love that there are good, crazy people out there that've written about Snape and Dobby's true love or trying to reshape Supernatural into something decent #cough#

But I've never read any of it. And I want to. Not in forensic social scientist kinda way, not to 'assess literary merit', just because a lot of it has sounded like fun. What would you recommend? Even things that aren't 'well written', stuff that's stuck with you, that you feel should be read for whatever reason.

Bonus points if it's gender/genre/subjectmatter bending.

(also, I get that part of it the appeal was being embedded in that subculture, so totally happy to catch up on a show to start reading its fic)
posted by litleozy to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
A Trekkie's Tale

It's the origin story of the legendary Mary Sue.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:00 AM on May 7, 2014

In my experience, fanfiction is way more fun if it's for a show or movie or book or franchise that you already like. Good fanfic makes these things even better, and I've gotten into a few shows by way of fanfic, but by far the best starting point is if you watch or read something and find yourself thinking you wish you could see more of it (or you wish you could fix X and Y thing about it).

So... what shows/movies/books etc do you like? What would you like to see more of? That will help everyone come up with more targeted recommendations.
posted by forza at 4:15 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well part of the problem and benefit of fanfic as opposed to original fiction is that you most often need to have experienced the source matter to enjoy the fic. Some fic transcends this, but that's rare, and doesn't actually take advantage of fanfiction's unique qualities. I mean, this is like asking to read stories inspired by the bible without having any cultural grounding in biblical tropes - it can be done and enjoyed, but you're going to miss out on a lot of what the writers are trying to express.

This is a really long way of my saying: What shows, books, or other media would you like to read fanfiction of? Are there things you're a big fan of, or things (like SPN, which you mention in your question) that you'd like to read different/better possibilities for where the stories could have gone?

When I really, truly love something and think it's perfect, I don't want to read fic for it. It's the shows and books that left me inspired but dissatisfied that I really get into the fic for. Like Harry Potter, Stargate Atlantis, Merlin, lots of little sitcoms and cartoon shows from my childhood. But other people see a perfect thing and just clamor for more of it. Which sort of fic reader do you think you might be?

In case you're into the BBC Sherlock, I always recommend the one where John Watson is Death: Come and See. It's got almost everything that makes fanfiction a unique mode of cultural expression. It's a story about stories that is in and of itself a strong story. It takes inspiration from many different influences and expresses them in a format that wouldn't be feasible if the writer didn't know the reader would already have an understanding of many of the characters, but adds great depth to them that you'd never experience in the source material, either.
posted by Mizu at 4:22 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Since you don't specify a fandom you want to get into, I recommend browsing around Archive of Our Own. You can click around on tags that pique your interest. What I've found to be a good tactic is, once you find one story or author that you like, look at their other works of course, but also look at their bookmarks and see what they read. I've found some amazing things that way.
posted by tomboko at 4:59 AM on May 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

I've enjoyed Martian Manhunter, despite not knowing the Veronica Mars half of this Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover. I like stories that surprise me and this has some great twists. I found it through TVTropes' BtVS FanFic recs.

Mizu's rec reminds me of Susie Derkins' (of Calvin & Hobbes) own encounter with the personification of Death, Hello Operator, Please Give Me Number Nine, from Yuletide, found via MetaFilter. Here is the latest Yuletide collection grouped by fandoms.
posted by Tobu at 5:07 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:13 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, can we...? *ahem*
posted by tomboko at 5:20 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, there's also the technique of finding a writer you like and then following that thread to fandoms with other good writers, following their betas (that's fandom for editor) for writers they've also worked with, and so-on.

To start, I don't know that I've ever read anything by Copperbadge (aka Sam_Storyteller) that wasn't excellent. And there's Mefi's own The Whelk!
posted by Mizu at 5:33 AM on May 7, 2014

Like forza and Mizu say, it helps to know what shows/books/media you like. (Although to be honest, I got into Stargate Atlantis fandom before seeing the show, and I've read a lot of fanfic that surpasses the canon, IMO. And a lot of my first fannish seekings were part of my desire to read MORE about my beloved canon characters rather than fix things I thought were problematic or lacking or just plain uninteresting.)

Also seconding Yuletide for less well-known fandoms. One of my favorite old Yuletide stories is in the Aliens universe:
Killing Elvis
posted by pepper bird at 5:36 AM on May 7, 2014

Also! If you're interested in poking around Livejournal or Dreamwidth there are a lot of fandom-specific communities you can dig through for authors/fic recs, or people who rec regularly. dodificus is a favorite of mine.
posted by pepper bird at 5:43 AM on May 7, 2014

What people say about "finding a franchise you like" is probably the first decision you should make.

The second one is - how do you feel about reading erotica about those characters? I was all up in X-Files fanfic for a long time, but I wasn't quite as into the sexystuff as others can be, and in fact it kinda leaves me cold (reading porn about characters I've known about in other context feels weirdly voyeuristic to me for some reason). On the other hand, anything written well will suck me in, and if someone pokes fun at the whole sex thing I also love it (a guy I'm dating now won me over when he said that he'd once done a Doctor Who slash fanfic puppet show; I've only seen pictures but they are hysterical).

Archive Of Our Own is a good resource; there are a handful of other franchise-specific archives out there as well (The Gossamer Project is a huge X-Files archive, and A Teaspoon And An Open Mind is one for Doctor Who).

Individual recs:

Last One Standing. This is a mind-meld of Stephen King's The Stand and The X-Files; it took the author a couple years to write (she was releasing bits at a time and went into a few months' lapse at one point and I actually was one of a few people who offered to PAY HER if she would finish). She nails the feel of Stephen King's writing pretty well and fits X-Files' world into it too.

A woman writing under the handle Kipler in the X-Files realm was consistently good; the longer-form stories she wrote actually felt like they could have been actual episodes; her story "Genius" is probably her best.

David Hearne is another good one from the X-Files world; he sometimes got into weird crossovers (X-files and Hellblazer, or X-Files and Sandman), and he also does comedy pretty well.

Seconding Copperbadge (his Livejournal blog is also pretty funny, by the way); far and away two of his funniest bits are Close Your Eyes And Think Of England and Trying To Communicate. The former is an example of "Real Person Fanfic" - in which the fanfic isn't about the characters, but about the actors playing them. It's about David Tennant getting totally shocked to discover that there exists fanfic - and how John Barrowman and a couple of other actors then spend the next couple weeks teasing him by finding the smuttiest examples of fanfic to freak him out with. Trying To Communicate is a Torchwood story - in which an alien is a bit confused about which languages people on our planet use.

And here's something I wrote, since other people are sharing theirs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Arg, I didn't know that Gossamer doesn't allow links to specific stories, sorry! The ones I reference in my comment above:

BY KIPLER: "Genius."

BY DAVID HEARNE: "Bad Craziness" is the Hellblazer crossover, and "Glass Hearts" is the Sandman one. The "Comedy" one is called "They Can Mess You Up", and is a riff on the X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D.", in which he speculates on the entertainment/talk show reaction to the "movie" that the episode discusses.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on May 7, 2014

Colbert & Stewart RPF (sort of): "The Thing With Feathers" and "Silent"

Indian women's utopia: "Fifty Years in the Virtuous City"

Accessible either to West Wing fans or Dar Williams fans: "A Great and Gruesome Height"

Star Trek reboot: "Lunch and Other Obscenities"

Jurassic Park: "A Year of Women"

Dykes to Watch Out For: "Five New Love Truths You Need To Know"

The Handmaid's Tale: "Sisters of Bilhah"
posted by brainwane at 6:39 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who's more-or-less at the same point you're at with it, I'd recommend looking at the "Yuletide" and "drabble" tags on Archive of Our Own. Drabbles are short and often more willing to be quirky/cracky, and I find that a drabble striking me the right way is a good sign that I'll like the author's longer works. And Yuletide is fun, it focuses on unusual fandoms. For me it always feels more accessible to start with a list of 20 fics from a fun show I liked, rather than 10,000 fics from a show with a rabid fanbase.

And on the opposite end of the low-barrier-for-entry scale is Shoebox Project, which was one of the first fics I read, and which kind of ruined me for other long works because it's so great. It's a Harry Potter fic, about his parents' generation when they were at Hogwarts. Angst and plot hole filling and perfect characterization and lovely drawings.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:40 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

[I'm going to be a buzzkill here and suggest focusing on the "stuff that's stuck with you" and not make this a space for sharing your own fanfic per se.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:58 AM on May 7, 2014

I haven't read fanfic in a long time but one of my favorite authors was Daegaer. Fandoms include Good Omens, the Bible, various mythologies, obscure 19th-century boys literature, 90s anime, "Post-Biblical Jewish RPF"(!)...
posted by mskyle at 7:08 AM on May 7, 2014

I may or may not have gotten disgustingly sappy over this one: Everyday Love in Stockholm
posted by SamanthaK at 7:39 AM on May 7, 2014

Astolat's Supernatural fanfic makes me stick grimly with the show, damn her.

This would be much easier to answer if you told us what are your top five TV shows. Otherwise, Yuletide and searching by kudos/comments is your best bet.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:01 AM on May 7, 2014

Yuletide is an excellent start for finding stuff you never knew you wanted.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks so much for all the recs so far, some brilliant stuff to get reading :)

Completely get what you mean forza and Mizu and I'll list some shows I like below. Reason I asked this general (I know this means i'm coming into the fic cold which is not ideal) is just that as someone that's never really be in any fandom was curious about the fic first, then maybe branch out. Taking the horse arse backwards I know, but hey.

Things I love: Community, Game of Thrones, Prince of Tennis, Discworld, Cowboy Bebop, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Queer as Folk, In The Thick Of It, Red Dwarf, House of Cards (UK and US)

But, I know there are some fairly awful shows/ things which have spawned some amazing communities (Libertines, Supernatural) so if that fits, go for it.
posted by litleozy at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2014

No Reservations: Narnia is one of my most favorite things ever.
posted by jsturgill at 8:48 AM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Definitely check out the Yuletide archive: the overall quality violates Sturgeon's Law pretty comprehensively. You'll find Anthony Bourdain in Narnia, Goodnight Moon in outer space, and other gems. There should be a master link for the Yuletide Collections for each year, which you can then search by fandom, or maybe you can sort by number of bookmarks, which I find to be a good way to find the popular stuff. (Popular isn't always good, but it generally means something meets basic standards for grammar & spelling.)

While I concur with some of the folks upthread (Kipler! so awesome! nice to know she's still getting recs), I would suggest you start with a Recommendations Site.

I'm at work and we are heavily filtered here, so I can't give you URLs, but you can google up these sites pretty easily:

Crack_Van on Livejournal. It's no longer updated, and some of the links may be dead, but for a long time it was the best place to find recommendations for all sorts of fandoms. The reccers changed each month, so you got a wide variety of stories recommended: gen, het, slash, and uncategorizeable.

PolyAmorous Recommendations. Shrift and Nestra have maintained this site forever, and it's a deep and well-structured archive with tons of recs in hundreds of fandoms. Het, slash, gen, poly are all represented. The reccers tend to prefer short works, but not exclusively.

Another option is to find a writer you like on FFN or AO3, and then look to see what they like: FFN shows "Favorite Stories" and AO3 shows bookmarked stories. I've found a lot of good writers that way.

I'm going to throw out a couple of all-time favorites, not all of which are on AO3 or FFN:

Madeleine's Iron Man story "Obsession", in which Tony is not such a nice guy. Brilliant examination of the Tony-Pepper relationship and the ways in which it could go totally wrong.

Copperbadge/SamStoryteller's "Stealing Harry", in which Remus and Sirius steal Harry from the Dursleys when he's 8, and raise him themselves, with Snape's help. It's really sweet.

M's "The Kids Are All Right", a jaw-dropping faux-Vanity Fair article about Tony Stark and American imperialism. Might be hard to find now, I'm not sure if she's maintaining her site anymore, but it got a lot of press when it was released, so it might show up in the WayBack Machine.

Tripoli's "Mnemophobia", an AU of the return of Daniel Jackson (from Stargate SG-1) that does a much better job of dealing with the interpersonal dynamics and interstellar politics than the show did. Tripoli also broke my heart with "The Cost of Doing Business" (bring tissues).

KodiakkeMax's "In the Company of Ghosts", an AU of Farscape, in which a small change in the pilot results in a fascinatingly different storyline for both Crichton and Aeryn. I have beta-bias here: I edited that story, and it's awesome.

That'll have to do for now. Happy reading!
posted by suelac at 8:56 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Petunia married a biochemist, and Harry grew up reading science and science fiction.
posted by Sophont at 11:21 AM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Hah, yes, I was just about to mention Methods of Rationality, it's the only fanfic I read but it's like A WHOLE NOTHER WORLD, LIKE DAYUM.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:41 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fanfic is the best.

You mentioned liking Community, so you may enjoy Advanced Ambulatory Ichthyology. It's slash fic (Abed/Troy) but it really captures the tone of the show. They're one of the authors who I read pretty much everything they put out, whether I'm in the fandom or not.

I think the most interesting fandom to watch right now is the Teen Wolf fandom, particularly the Sterek (Stiles/Derek) shippers. The show has gone so far off the rails, so most of the work is 'fix it' fiction or pieces that ignore what's happened from a certain point. (For some people, that's season 2, others, season 3). You can find a lot of recommendations on tumblr, or you can sort Archive of Our Own by pairing and then by kudos, which will give you a pretty good sampling of the most popular fiction for that pair. You can do it for a series, too, or a specific tag.
posted by Torosaurus at 4:52 PM on May 7, 2014

You can't go wrong with No Reservations: Narnia (linked upthread).

elizardbits is right on the money with her recommendation to browse the Yuletide archives. (Previously, previously.)

One of my favorite Cowboy Bebop pieces is: Go the Fuck To Sleep (Black Dog Remix).
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2014

Now I'm home I can add the link to PolyRecs: here. Lots of great stuff there, folks.
posted by suelac at 7:39 PM on May 7, 2014

Oh Lordy, I've been reading fanfic for going on twenty years now, and I am immensely glad it exists. I welcome you to our merry band!

But as for recommendations, I think I can only point you towards the best thing I've read recently, which is "Anarchy in the UK". It's a multi-chapter work that is nominally an X-Men fanfic -- it uses the characters' names, personalities, and some of their backstories -- but does not have anything to do with mutations, superpowers, or the Marvel Universe. It's a surprisingly intricate "what if?" that posits "what if the Prince of Wales were gay? Like, for real, how would that be for people within the Royal Family, and how would that play out in public?" Oh, and that prince just happens to be Charles Xavier, who has fallen for commoner Erik Lensherr.

It's really well done. You can tell the author is a royalty watcher, a Downton Abbey fan, and someone who really understands the press, public relations, and the fame machine.

(Yes, it has hot gay sex too.)
posted by Asparagirl at 3:33 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll throw Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose in there as another thing that I and lots of other people think is worth reading - but also, with the proviso that while it is a good story in itself, it isn't going to have as much impact on the people who don't already have any investment in the character of Rodney McKay, and people who aren't really sure what a stargate is are going to be a bit lost when it comes to backstory.

I got into SGA through the fic, but was already an SG-1 fan, so that helps. The first time I read it, I started crying at the thunderstorm, but maybe I was having a bad day, who knows. Synecdochic's also written a lot of 'gender/genre/subjectmatter bending' stuff; flip through to the SG-1 section of her site for most of it.
posted by Lebannen at 4:08 PM on May 8, 2014

FWIW, I bounced off of Methods of Rationality. (which is kind of a difficult situation, because I know the author's dad, and he's always asking me if I've read the latest update.)

I've been reading HP fanfic for well over a decade. Vorabiza's secrets was a really good Book 7. Anna Fugazzi's Bond is subtitled "Yet another one of those Harry And Draco Are Forced To Be Together By Something Beyond Their Control And Then Stuff Happens Leading To Twoo Wuv stories. Because every HD writer has to write at least one.", but it's good. Gingertart's Fourth Deathly Hallow is a HP/(Doyle-ish) Sherlock crossover. Bil's On the Wings of Magic is probably the first fanfic I ever read....
posted by jlkr at 6:26 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the more esoteric forms of fanfiction is the MSTing, or mocking of other fanfic (or other written thing) through interspersed comments presented by other characters who are supposedly being forced to read the original.

Let's be clear. This is fanfiction. No matter how bad the original or how good the jokes (and often they're not good), it's still of a certain minimum level of nerdery.

That said, if this inescapable fact doesn't bother you, then by all means enjoy this MSTing of the Paramount press release introducing the character Seven-of-Nine to TV's UPN's Star Trek's Voyager, the first and still probably the best text MSTing I've seen.
posted by JHarris at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2014

Most of my favorite fanfics are Buffy-related and many are unfinished

But my all-time favorite fanfic* is probably Wide Sargasso Sea.

*Technically not considered a fanfic, but it totally is
posted by thivaia at 8:56 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Tumblr Harry Potter fandom has really gotten into headcanons - which are conceptually similar to fanfic but not always written in a narrative/story-like style. They often go far enough that you don't really need to know much about HP to appreciate the writing. I made a Metafilter post about this.

My favourite is The Postmodern Potter Compendium, which just finished an epic political saga based on (mis)understandings of mythology (the writer is a budding anthropologist and this is her creative outlet), and a close second is Field Notes from the Department of Mysteries, which is often very surreal.
posted by divabat at 2:30 AM on May 14, 2014

One of my favorite Community fics is The Tigers of Peace, which has been jossed now, but is still a very sweet story about Annie, Abed, and Troy trying to convince Jeff that it's a terrible idea to find his father.

Also, a couple of hilarious and adorable Community/Doctor Who crossovers: Sociological Factors in Modern Genocidal Psychopathy and Tea Time and Time Lords: A Primer.

I've got Doctor Who fic recs at my pinboard here, and some Harry Potter recs here. Though I did most of my HP fic reading pre-book 7 and long before I got a pinboard, so the recs there are weighted towards stuff I read after Deathly Hallows. I've got a ton of other fanfic recs at my pinboard, though fair warning that right now it is all Captain America, all the time.

I haven't seen this mentioned yet, but I think one thing to be aware of when you're reading fic as a newcomer is that writing styles and conventions underwent something of a shift from the 90s to the 00s. Fic you read for current fandoms is going to be completely different than fic for older fandoms like Queer as Folk or X-Files. Harry Potter straddled the line of that shift, but I think SGA and SPN were the first major fandoms to really feel like they left the 90s fanfiction style behind.
posted by yasaman at 11:40 AM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I once asked a similar question about Harry Potter specifically. You might want to check out the suggestions made there.

The one I liked most from there was Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness.

A lot of people like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. At the time it was suggested to me it was a long way from being finished, so I left it mid-way through and never went back. For my taste, there is basically far too much of it and it gets repetitive, but YMMV.

The James Potter series is pretty decent too.

If you are interested in fan vids, Born of Hope is an impressive Tolkien one, and Star Trek Continues is an impressive trek series. A few more examples are listed in this article.
posted by philipy at 12:13 PM on May 14, 2014

A friend asked me a similar question recently and here is what I said (and I actually read a lot of fic about shows that I don't watch--I'm more of an author person than a fandom person):

Okay! So I think the best thing to do is just give you some of my favorite authors and you can try them and see what you think. They're pretty much all slash since that's mostly what I read.

First, Helenish. She is totally my favorite fanfic author and maybe just my favorite author. Her stories are angsty and full of feeeelings but usually have a happy ending.
Her old stuff is here:
I think she wrote some of the best Harry Potter fic ever, but sadly not very much of it. I also love her Inception fic, which along with her newer stuff is on the Archive of our Own (AO3)--do you have an account? You can still read things without an account but it's nice to be able to save bookmarks.

Next: Resonant. LOVE HER. Her stuff is a bit lighter than Helen's and really well written. I love her Sherlock and HP fic
Old website here:
AO3 here: --I think she's uploaded everything there by now.
Her HP story Transfigurations is a total classic.

Toft tends to write sweet and funny stories, and I especially love her Mythbusters fic! (*ahem* if you are a Mythbuster, um, don't try this at home?)

Astolat is probably the most famous fanfic writer around, and for good reason. She has written in a million fandoms and they are all great. Recently she’s been writing a lot in Person of Interest, which is a show I don’t really watch but I love the fanfic for it. In fact that’s really how I am most of the time--I don’t usually get that much into the source material. In fact lately I have been obsessively reading hockey RPF and I do not have the first clue about hockey. ANYWAYS, Astolat. She also publishes real life books--not sure if I should publicly say her real name but memail me and I'll tell you. It's kind of an open secret but I think she prefers to limit exposure of the two names together.

Rageprufrock is hilarious and angsty at the same time, and *ahem* sometimes really filthy. In a good way. :-)
I especially like her Merlin stuff. (Yet another show I don’t watch)

Wordstrings's Paradox series (Sherlock) is amazing and dark and kind of fucked up.

There are like a million more, but that’s a start!

If you check out my AO3 account you can see who I’ve subscribed to and the stories I’ve bookmarked--that should keep you busy for a while!
posted by exceptinsects at 6:57 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

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