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Spocks and Boromirs and Weasleys, oh my!

The wonderful seemag, in her recent (and extremely kind!) post, has spurred me on to continue my fan fiction retrospective with more recommendations. (For past reviews, including stories from the Enterprise, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Harry Potter, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Professionals universes, see my LJ's Memories section.)

To quote from her post,
I'm reccing at least five stories in various fandoms. If you see your name on this list, please rec five stories or five authors in your fandom (or a multitude of fandoms, if that's your thing), and let me know about it here in the comments (i.e., leave me a link).

So, without further ado, here are five works that have been waiting patiently on my "Hall of Fame" list, as it were, for special mention. In no particular order...

One in the Star Trek: The Original Series universe:

Novel: Unspoken Truth: The Romulan Commander's Story by Kathleen Dailey
Warning: some violence, non-explicit het sexual content
This novel, originally published in zine form but now available online with its equally brilliant sequel (Any Other Lifetime: Book II of the Romulan Commander's Story), has for nearly a decade symbolized to me the highest quality in fan fiction writing. I cannot overstate its influence on me, or the powerful desire I have to foist it on newcomers to fandom to show them "how it's done." Dailey begins with a simple premise: "What was the fate of the beautiful and enigmatic Romulan commander who was captured in the final moments of 'The Enterprise Incident'?" What she produces is a tour de force that ties together old questions of canon (Why was the Treaty of Algernon signed? Why was the Federation so far behind the Romulan Empire in developing a cloaking device?), offers gentle inside jokes to those in the know (with references to contemporary science fiction and fandom), and most importantly gives the readers vivid, rich, and fascinating glimpses into the behind-the-scenes lives not only of Romulans, but also of the Trek characters we know and love. The Romulan Commander herself is a compelling and complex character, but the series regulars receive substantial development, as well. It's a pleasure to find a carefully researched and plotted work that also gives the spotlight to such characters as Lt. Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and -- my favorite characterization of Dailey's -- Dr. McCoy. Dailey allows the reader to touch, taste, and feel her take on Trek history, and her epic interpretation is not to be missed. Incidentally, I credit this novel with teaching me at last to grok Spock.

Two in the Lord of the Rings universe:

Novel: The Captain and the King by plasticChevy
Warning: violence
I tend to be wary of "denial" fiction that simply explains away the death of a major character and then leads the reader into a field of flowers and butterflies. In The Captain and the King, plasticChevy has produced a definitive answer to such works by proposing a different kind of alternate universe, one in which Boromir survives his ordeal with the Orcs only to be crippled, used brutally by Saruman against Aragorn, and eventually returned to a Minas Tirith seething with cloak-and-dagger intrigue and danger. PlasticChevy manipulates a complex set of political situations and personal relationships with admirable clarity and obvious affection, while making Boromir's road to redemption far more difficult than we might first imagine. Nearly every character has his moment, including canonical characters lost to the movieverse, but at its heart the novel is a meditation on honor after shame and tragedy. The reader gets to see what made Boromir a truly great leader of men prior to the quest, and what has made him Aragorn's right arm ever since it, despite resistance from all quarters -- including, in one wrenching sequence, Boromir's own brother Faramir. If you enjoy this novel as I did, I highly recommend buying the zine form of this story, which includes remarkable illustrations and cover art. Also worthy of attention are plasticChevy's other Boromir works, "Where Dreams Take You" and the unfolding and often-updated sequel to The Captain and the King, "The Steward's Tale."

Short Story: "Perfect World" by Juxian Tang
Warning: violence, implied incest, character death
Juxian Tang's take on Boromir's survival is even darker than plasticChevy's. Tang's fiction is much like an Alfred Hitchcock film: powerful for its restraint, compelling for what it does not tell the audience, and deeply disturbing. This story has haunted me and led me to many rereadings. It is based on the premise that Faramir, married with children, discovers after a number of years that Boromir lives as a captive in a last remnant of Mordor. The Boromir rescued by Faramir is at once both deeply scarred and instantly recognizable as Tolkien's-via-Jackson's fallen hero. What follows is a brooding tale that's all the more powerful for being told through the innocent eyes of Faramir's older son. Tang implies much, including a generational link between the shared dreams of Denethor's line and an incestuous relationship between Boromir and Faramir, yet everything is below the surface, left to the reader. Other questions remain unanswered altogether. Had Boromir survived all those years, or was he brought back from the dead? What was the relationship between Boromir's return and Eowyn's death? What do the dreams mean now? I admit my taste for fiction runs dark -- toward sophisticated, psychological darkness as opposed to explicit and gratuitious darkness -- and this story is unrelenting in its satisfying delivery while still managing moments of real hope and true warmth. For more of Juxian Tang's interpretation of Boromir, I suggest these other similarly haunting stories: "Night Talk," "Never Again," and "You Cannot Protect Him," all found in the Lord of the Rings section of Tang's site.

Two in the Harry Potter universe:

Short Story: "Together, Alone" by Thevina
Warning: violence, character death
I have the great fortune of being privy to Thevina's fiction while it is still in progress. This leads me to a difficult quandary, though, because no matter how her last work has moved me, her next one always seems even better. Thus I never quite know what to recommend, because my instinct is to say "But wait until you see x!" Yet this story stands apart, not only from the rest of her work, but also from stories by other authors likewise focusing on the Weasley twins and/or the upcoming war with You-Know-Who. This story sets the pivot point for Thevina's alternate, or parallel, universe works, which take place during and after the final war with Voldemort. This particular piece is also noteworthy because it takes the Weasley twins seriously as three-dimensional characters and delves into what makes each of them half of a whole. The reader realizes that losing one's other self is perhaps the most grievous loss there can be, and thus can never consider "Gred and Forge," or the resolution of those who face the Death Eaters, or even the empathy of fellow students like Padma Patil quite the same way again. The final lines alone are worth reading the story, but the entire piece is of the same quality. Once you have seen this story, check out Thevina's collected works in both the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings universes.

Short Story: "Lost and Found" by Josan
Warning: implied past violence and non-explicit slash
I do not want this story to get lost at the bottom of the pile, because its vision of Snape, its economy of language, and its utter restraint in alluding to true horror make this a memorable piece. Josan has a particular vision of how Snape came to be as he is and how he would break if he were to be broken. Also lurking in the details are lovely glimpses into a post-Voldemort Hogwarts and the ways in which Dumbledore and his staff offer sanctuary and patience to the more brittle survivors of war. The descriptions of Snape's partial recovery and eventual rescue are elegant and precise, almost distant from the action in the same way Snape's soul is distant from his body. The ending provides a nice twist, but it's the journey there that is so well crafted and worthwhile. Snape is one of the characters I seek to read more about, and Josan's Snape is unique and unforgettable and, as the story implies, well worth the wait.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 2nd, 2004 01:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Eldritchhobbit!

I am so overwhelmed I didn't know where to begin out in this uncharted world. Imagine a person who has lived in an isolated village reading and re-reading the handful of available books. Now imagine that person moves to the city and is taken into a library, (or heck, a Barnes & Noble) for the first time! That is me on the internet!

Having read your journal for a couple of weeks now, I feel that I can count on your recommendations. At last, an identifiable starting point!

Dec. 2nd, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Estellye! It thrills me that my reviews might be useful to others, above and beyond being a nice walk down memory lane for me (and feedback for the authors). :) I'm pretty flexible about what I read, as long as I find the characterization and writing compelling, so I don't mind violence or sexual content or non-canonical material on principle. So I've put the warnings there on my reviews, just in case there's something you'd rather avoid! :)

I've tried to read widely, but there are always authors to whom I return again and again. If at any point you'd like a short list of five or six writers I love in any particular universe, just give me a yell. The same thing is true for stories, because I haven't yet been able to review all of the works I've found to be outstanding. Again, all of this is just my opinion, but I'm more than happy to pass along my favorites to others -- in fact, I found a lot of these myself thanks to recommendations from other readers! :) So please do let me know if there's anything in particular that you're looking for, and maybe I can help, at least a little.

There's nothing like sharing the good stuff when you find it! :)
Dec. 2nd, 2004 04:48 pm (UTC)
You are a dear heart. Thank you so much for recc'ing "Together, Alone."

I'm definitely starting on the Lupin and Arthur and Snape story tonight. Not shipping them, of course. Just lots of darkfic. ;)

Thanks again for talking to me today. My stomach has settled down, and Kurt is bringing pizza from a Peabody event. I'm seeing my doctor tomorrow, and I may ask him if there's a different anti-depressant that doesn't have the nausea side effects I've had.

My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
Dec. 3rd, 2004 04:11 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for recc'ing "Together, Alone." Well, my first thought was to go all "diamond ring commercial" about it and run into the middle of the square and scream "I love this woman!" but I decided that might be a little over the top, even for a fan fiction recommendation. :) Thank you for writing it. And for writing everything else you write (including that beautiful postcard I got yesterday). ((hugs))

Mmmm. Darkfic. ::drools::

I'm so sorry you're sick. Are you feeling any better? I surely hope so. And thanks for listening to me and for your thoughts and prayers. It really does help.
Dec. 2nd, 2004 11:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you a million times for reccing my story!!! I have no words - your review is the most wonderful thing I've read in my life :-) I'm so happy and grateful!!! Thank you!!!!!!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 04:19 am (UTC)
Thank you for your amazing stories! I've reread "Perfect World," "Night Talk," "Never Again," and "You Cannot Protect Him," in particular, more times than I can count. You really have a gift for showing just the right amount and then setting the reader's imagination free to fill in the rest. That's a very delicate thing to do, and you do it so well, and that makes your work all the more effective. (In fact, I get chills just thinking of this line from "Night Talk": "He is not... like me. You'll love him when you meet him. Please... be kind to him." Augh!) And your Boromir characterizations are remarkably convincing and multi-dimensional. As I said, thank you.

I'm just sorry it's taken me so long to give you feedback. At least you know who it was who friended you ages ago but never actually introduced herself! :) Thanks for friending me back!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 01:14 am (UTC)
Well, you must go and nominate some of these LOTR fics for the golden mushroom awards. If you have not seen them, they are great fun and have the best categories EVER for both slash and general (Hey- last year I got runner up for "most dramatic use of drowning in a fic! snort! There is also a "Coming Mr. Frodo! award, for -well you can just guess.)

It is a great way to get other people aware of good fics, and they are short of noms this year, yet there are many many good fics out there! C'mon! Look at the purdy categories! http://www.west-of-the-moon.net/gmagennoms2004.htm

You can even nom yourself! WHEEEEEE!!!!!

Also, Middle earth news is hoping to get others than hobbit writters to place update notices there. Spread the word! Why not get more people to read good fics!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 05:24 am (UTC)
What wonderful ideas! Thanks so much for suggesting them. And, as you may have guessed, I have more LOTR works I intend to review, so this will be handy then, as well. I really appreciate it!

Those Golden Mushroom categories are a scream! LOL!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 07:43 am (UTC)
Arn't they! But nominate fast- they close on the 5th!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 07:45 am (UTC)
Which means Sunday. And - hey look up! BAAAAAAAAD spelling!
Dec. 6th, 2004 07:22 am (UTC)
LOL! Thanks! :)
Dec. 7th, 2004 01:59 pm (UTC)
Just read PlasticChevy's fic and its sequel on your recommendation, and want to thank you for the tip. I still haven't unwrapped myself from the loveliness enough to send feedback to the actual author (I like to be coherent when I do that).
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, this makes my day! Thanks so much for letting me know. Isn't it great?!? I wouldn't mind if they made those stories into a movie, as well. But they'd have to bring back Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, and everyone to do it! I'm so happy to learn you enjoyed it, too. Thanks again for your reply. :)
Dec. 7th, 2004 11:18 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't mind if they made those stories into a movie, as well.

It did occur to me that the downside of a really good AU like this one is that the movies (and even the books) will seem "off" for me.
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:20 pm (UTC)
PS. I'm trying to mix things up a bit, but I intend to be reviewing a few more LOTR stories fairly soon, FYI. And I'll have all of them marked in my Memories section, as well. Thanks again for your kind feedback!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )