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people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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recs: fics that make you think
children of dune - leto 1
Okay, so of all the times to get curious about this, but I am, so there.

So I like stories that take narrative and structural risks--even when they fail, you can't help but admire the fact the author tried anyway, and I grade on a curve when the difficulty level is high, so I'm a lot more forgiving when I can see the author is trying something non-standard.

So, give me the stories you've read that were narratively/structurally/grammatically risky--unreliable narrators, time switches, unusual uses of pov and tense, experimental, whatever. It doesn't have to have succeeded perfectly, and it doesn't have to be the best thing ever, but it intrigued you to see what the author was trying to do and how it worked.

Posting a few--well, several--examples here of some of my favorites; I will be adding to this as I remember more, since from a glance at my rec list, there are several I need to re-read to remember what was unusual about them.

Irremission by dalaire - Star Trek Voyager, Tom Paris/B'Elanna Torres - this is a novel-length work written entirely from present incrementally back into the past. To start, dalaire is my major influence for story structure; she was the first author I ever read who not only played with time changes regularly, but also played with several different types, including present-->past and present/past/present/past, which is my personal favorite. Irremission is one of the first fanfic I read and was extremely influential in how I've structured fic using similar devices, most specifically Gladly Beyond in Smallville and New World Order in Stargate: Atlantis, along with a lot of others that are variations on that theme. I haven't since read a novel length fic that did this.

(i) forget by elizabeth - Smallville, Lex/Lionel - medium length of story combining unreliable narrator and randomized use of flashbacks combined with first person pov. This one is hard to give a structural definition--it's a story you walk out of intrigued and confused, and it took several re-reads for me to really appreciate what she was doing and how expertly she did it. Instead of using time to structure the story, she used theme, building using recent-past, far-past, and present scenes in no particular order to create the narrative. It's one of the few stories where the actual payoff is impossible unless you read all of it straight through because it literally makes no sense otherwise. It's also a story that couldn't be told in any other way and get the same effect.

Scenes From a Lesser War by [personal profile] amireal - Stargate: Atlantis, Sheppard/McKay - the story starts at present point a, then back to past point a, and moving forward through b, c, d, leaving off at past point z, which is the moment directly before present point a. This is breathtaking both in scope and in how expertly it was handled and the payoff with this was amazing.

Ame by Bishclone (wayback machine) - Star Trek Voyager, Harry Kim - the story is in the form of an unsent letter and moves thematically between past and present similar to but not quite like (I) Forget. I borrowed this structure for Almost to the End of the World in Smallville, but not quite with this kind of low-key, casual ease, like a stiletto sliding into the heart, quick, sharp, and gone before you realize how badly you've been hurt.

X-Manson by Dr. Benway - X-Men comics - it's a reimagining of the X-Men as a cult and written almost entirely in documentary and documentation form; a series of interviews, documentaries, and anecodotes threaded very lightly together in a frame of a former member of the cult watching the documentary on TV. It's mindblowing, amazing, and kind of terrifying.

A Place by Sandra (wayback machine) - X-Men, Logan/Rogue - the story is told in the style of a fairy tale post Mutant Registration, heavily stylistic and use of repetition and imagery to glaze over the horror of what happens to the X-Men when it passes. I love this one.

NSFW: Imaging the X-Men by 3jane - X-Men - this isn't quite a story, but there is a story there. It's structured as a photoessay taken by a mutant who is also a professional photographer, combining unusual pictures of various X-Men with the photographers comments and occasional snatches of interviews with each mutant. IT's utterly beautiful.

This Is How by Siarade (wayback machine) - X-Force, Cable/Domino - first person pov combined with semi-unreliable narrator and creative use of both inline flashbacks and present time structured both thematically and dramatically from Cable's pov. It's a deathfic, but I recommend it for the fact I read this when I didn't know who they were and still felt it. Again, the structure is highly relevant in how well this works as a story and how carefully the author built a love story as both a personal relationship and an entire world.

The Tale of the Shining Prince by illuferret (wayback machine) - Harry Potter - in the double structure of a fairy tale with an unreliable narrator and random changes in time with the heavy emphasis on style. It's beautiful and I've talked about this one a lot in my LJ as one of my favorites for how gorgeous it is.

Word of the day by mintwitch (wayback machine)- Queer as Folk, Brian/Justin - told in a series of short thematically inclined fics, it follows the progress of Brian and Justin professionally and personally, including use of documentation, and each story centered around the definition of a single word. The style is very minimal and the reader is given the bare amount of backstory told by the way the characters react in the present as context.

Breathing Amber by harriet_spy - Smallville, Lana/Whitney, Lex - okay, not only is this story chilling, it's also a masterful use of the very, very slow reveal, show not tell, and a narrator who isn't sane.

Sunburn by penelope_z - Smallville, Clark/Lex - this is difficult to describe because the entire story is based off of a single conversation about three quarters through. This is a masterful and brilliant use of show not tell and creepier because of it. The entirety is set in the present and everything is dependent on Lex's observations, which are both ruthlessly reliable and yet--not. Very short and probably requires a couple of reads just to be sure you read what you thought you did.

Wetwork by destina - Smallville, Clark/Lex - this is one of those I love because the author uses both deliberate misdirection in both the style and in the narrative to tell one story while showing an entirely differnet one. I completely forgot this one until just now when going through my recs, but it's a must-read.

The Box Room by Bishclone - X-Men Movieverse, Scott/Jean - flashbacks using an unreliable and potentially insane narrator combining a fractured and unreliable memory and overheard conversations around her to build a very non-linear and chilling story. This one is seamlessly done and horrifying and sad all at once.

Past Grief by thete1 - Smallville, Clark/Lex - okay, it's not like it's news that Te's a major influence in how I developed as a writer from Smallville on, and this story is one of the top reasons why. Te seamlessly combines present with flashbacks to the past and combines an unreliable narrator as well as a narrator who lies to himself in the narration itself, using show-not-tell to illustrate the discrepancy between what Clark thinks happened and what actually happened. It brought SV to a standstill when it was first posted and is the grandmother of pretty much every post-apocalyptic SV story out there, not to mention darkfic. Was extremely influential when I wrote A Handful of Dust and was cited by several other authors as a major influence, including Koimistress for her fandom-stopping fic Mercy.

The Story by Jessica (wayback machine) - X-Men Movieverse - this uses an outsider pov to tell a story about someone else in non-linear flashback form. The author combines what the character is told, what she overhears, and what she observes to build a narrative of of what actually happened as opposed to what is commonly believed, which is one of my favorite things ever.

A Mind Overbourne by [personal profile] astolat - Dracula 1931 (movie) - written as diary entries by Renfield during his time with Dracula, along with journal entries by the doctor treating him. Extremely unreliable narrator and uncertain use of flashbacks and a loss of sense of time. And unsettling as hell.

Recced by [personal profile] ct: Light Bending Backwards by spastic_visions - Dr. Who, Doctor, Jack

[personal profile] ct: The story is very nonlinear. The author doesn't stick with the same point in the timeline for more than a few paragraphs at a time, and since it's a story that plays with the idea of time travel, it'd be nonlinear even if the author had picked one character's timeline and stuck with it from beginning to end. The end result is that the doctor (and the reader) circle around what's really happening until they suddenly understand what's going on. It's an effective way to tell the story. I think that if the author had gone about it any other way, it either would have been fairly boring, or it would've been one sentence long. - link

Me: Using amnesia and extremely non-linear time jumps--and I mean non-linear both in the temporal personal and the temporal relative and the temporal absolute (did that even make sense? Dr. Who canon, people), this is seriously amazing and an example of show show show and not a tell to be seen. Two things for reading: one, forget absolute time and think of the timeline as experienced personally and it hits like a ton of bricks. Amazing.

And we'll stop there. I'll try to find links for the ones here and a few more--Smallville was extremely prone to take hard style and narrative risks and I know I have more in my rec lists that I just don't remember.

Okay, so I got many more responses than expected, making a short link directory to recs by specific people and the fandoms represented. You all are kind of awesome. Below cut, reccer's name, link to the comment, and the fandoms represented for now. So far, I think I have new reading for like, a while off of these.

Links in Comments

[personal profile] alchemise, link, Supernatural

cofax7, link one and link two, Stargate: Atlantis, Supernatural, and Stargate: SG1

[personal profile] evildrem, link, Highlander

[personal profile] green_grrl, link, Due South

[profile] ineptshieldmaiden, link one and link two, Star Trek Reboot, Merlin, Tortall, Twelfth Night, Narnia, and The Handmaid's Tale

janedavitt, link, Stargate: SG1

perverse_idyll, link, Harry Potter and Stargate: Atlantis

queenklu, link, Due South

[personal profile] rydra_wong, link one and link two, Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis

silviakundera, link, Popslash, Torchwood, Supernatural, Skins, Heroes, Harry Potter

soul_cake_duck, link, Generation Kill

[personal profile] telesilla, link, Stargate Atlantis

tricksterquinn, link, Torchwood and Dr. Who

trystings, link, Stargate: Atlantis

unovis, link, Highlander

wild_force71, link, Stargate: Atlantis

ETA: Yes, I still want recs. There are a million fandoms! We need more experimentation in fanfic. Encouraging this is a good thing. Will add them to this entry as time permits. Updated to all current comments with templemaker on LJ and [personal profile] rydra_wong on DW.

Quick thanks to templemaker for a current link to mintwitch's Word of the Day.

And of course, to everyone who dropped by to add a rec or five, because seriously, this? Is awesome.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/14162.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

I'm writing one right now where there's a narrative story that skips from A's POV to B's to C's to D's, and each of them has a totally different idea of what is actually going on, and then after each scene of the narrative story there's a scene that (I hope) illustrates the emotions behind the dynamics in the narrative. It is HARD, dammit. I have new respect for all the people you just recced.

Hi, hi, you don't know me but I've had you friended since I first started reading in the SGA fandom. Your topic is enticing me out of lurkerdom to rec several fics by a writer for whom I used to beta, someone I adore, both as a person and a kick-ass writer of extraordinary gifts. So, four narratively experimental fics by rinsbane, two in HP and two in SGA:

Mustard Seed, Harry Potter, Harry/Percy (and some others) - a fic shaped like a horseshoe. I'm not kidding. It starts in Harry's POV and moves backward in time until it encounters Percy's POV, at which point it starts going forward through the same timeline, eventually catching up and slightly exceeding its starting point. My love for this fic knows no bounds. It's technically brilliant, moving, beautiful, harsh, and erotic.

The Gnostic Crane, HP, Harry/Draco - written in future tense, poetic and economical, hot and heart-twisty. It shouldn't work but it does. There's also a brief leap into second person POV at the end.

And Glory Has No End, or: Clementine, SGA, John/Rodney - I don't know how to describe what this fic does with time (or emotion or memory or dream). It shuffles it. It jumps back and forth, into what is and what could have been. What wasn't. What is. It spans years. This fic just blows me away.

The Birdwatcher, SGA, John/Rodney, Last Man tag - again, it's hard to describe. It's told through hologram!Rodney's POV, or through Atlantis, in that future where everything is disintegrating into sand. It's like a dream state, but it's a computer's dream. Only it's Rodney and Atlantis' indistinguishable love for John. *hands* See, I told you: hard to describe.

rinsbane's HP fics are f'locked, but I believe her SGA fics are publicly available.

And for the heck of it, I'm going to include a fic I wrote, because I doubt I'll ever pull off something this audacious again:

The White Road, HP, Snape/Harry - told from Lily Evans' POV in the afterlife as she watches Harry's present and future on a magical TV, one version with Snape and one without, juxtaposing different timelines and incorporating lots of stuff from Deathly Hallows for purposes of subverting the text.

I love risky narrative strategies, even when they're not 100% successful. It's exciting to watch authors stretch their wings.

Thanks for the recs!

I just finished reading Mercy for the first time and...wow. I don't really know how to express what the heck I'm feeling. Back when it was posted, was there a consensus on what the ending meant? Or was it mostly accepted as ambiguous? Was the reader open to interpreting it however they wanted? Seriously, wow, what a gut punch. /o\

ETA: hee, I just noticed Mercy wasn't actually one of the recs and I had googled it myself. Oops!

Edited at 2010-04-27 07:45 am (UTC)

The ending was interpreted as ambiguous--as in, some people posted that it ended one way and then were completely shocked when others interpreted it in a different way. Cue lots and lots of discussion. *g*

There's SPERANZA's Scrabble which does both points of view SIMULTANEOUSLY and i know some people had a hard time reading it but I LOVED IT. SO FREAKING MUCH, HONESTLY. (Due South)


Eta: *facepalm* I knew that looked wrong...

Edited at 2010-04-27 09:00 am (UTC)

^ Yes yes! I was thinking of this one as well.

Not Based on a True Story by Isilya - Popslash - JC/Justin
4,300 words. So, this one blew my fucking MIND. Popslash AU in which... AU!Justin Timberlake is a popslasher trying to write a Howie/Nick fic where Howie&Nick are slashers, except he keeps writing in his own issues about former fandom mentor AU!JC. It's like meta fic wrapped inside meta, inside meta, with slash.

Electric Sheep by pokerkitten - Torchwood - Jack/Ianto with... complications
Complicated, crazy, but interesting robot!Ianto fic. Unreliable narrator, 'we only know what the characters know & they don't know much' style.

That I Could Travel Light by Kres - Supernatural gen
(20,000 words) Very neat unreliable narrator piece, set after Season 2's "Born Under A Bad Sign". A man wakes up with no memory and is told he is Sam. More than your typical amnesia fic.

And Indeed There Will Be Time by kaydee - Torchwood - Ensemble + Jack/Ianto
43,000 words. Really excellent plotty teamfic novella that skips back and forth through time. Summary: "In 1919, Harriet Derbyshire was killed while investigating the disappearance of Torchwood Four in Dublin. In 2009, UNIT pulls a dying man out of the Irish Sea with a one-word message: Torchwood. Martha joins up with Jack's team in Cardiff to track down the errant branch of the organization – before a time-traveling race of aliens can change the course of history as we know it." [note: The Jack/Ianto was a soft edge around the story, and poignant. and I especially liked Martha's emotional arc.]

leave your soul on the doorstep by shadowings - Skins - various pairings.
11,000 words. Apocalypse fic that's written out of order. Since it's such a jaded, chronically dysfunctional show to start out with, clearly there was no place to go except somewhere very dark.

Code of Hammurabi by kuwdora - Heroes - Peter/Sylar.
11,000 words. Set in an AU version of 3.04 'I Am Become Death.' In which Peter and Sylar are working together in a world Peter has altered a thousand times, struggling to find the trigger that'll stop the coming apocalypse. What intrigues me most is what remains unspoken - all the things Peter has changed that Sylar will never know, and how Sylar has let that concept of time & space go. There aren't a lot of special narrative tricks here, but the conceptual stuff interested me.

Bend Me by Odile - Harry Potter - Harry/Draco
9,150 words. In which the fourth wall is done away with and Draco is being horribly persecuted by the author, who persists in forcing a seasonal romance. This is just a lot of fun. Draco knows he's in a slash fic. He does not want ANY OF IT. A romantic comedy that doesn't want to be a romantic comedy, but ends up one anyway. I've seen people do this in fandoms before, but this is the one I've bookmarked. "The problem with this sort of story, Draco thought angrily, kicking savagely at the slushy snow, was that the author never adequately explained what the hell he was doing at Hogwarts over Christmas break anyway."

Oh my God, that last one sounds like something I would adore. Eeee! I'm so glad seperis asked for these recs. :DD

I was going to recommend Love and lust at Mutant High, but you wrote it!

Written by the Victors is one of my favourite SGA fics; it's the story of Atlantis' secussion from Earth, partly told through historical texts. one fo the texts is very impartial and careful; one is militarily baised, and so on. Interwoven is the prose of the story. It's brilliant, and now has videos and supplemental material as well!

One of Those Days All Week by mad_maudlin.

It's linear in the extreme, a long list of every thought that crosses McKay's mind for a sleep deprived 169 hours.

I personally loved the way the text was set up, if only because it so beautifully conveys the manic, exhausted state Rodney's in.

Your rec list looks a little long on the creepy, you know that? *eyes it*

Here's a pair of out-of-order ones, both by kaydeefalls, both originally my fault so maybe that should disqualify them? Anyway, Whoniverse:

The Myth of Fingerprints by kaydeefalls, Torchwood (spoilers through CoE). This fic is a gorgeously out-of-order exploration of what memory does as time stretches on long past what it was ever supposed to in a human being.


To Her Coy Mistress by kaydeefalls, Doctor Who (spoilers through Planet of the Dead). This was my help_haiti fic, so let's be clear that I am like WAY biased, but seriously. It took me a little while to realize what order it was in for one of the characters, and even longer for the other. And then I had to reread it, because the experience is very different depending whose timeline you're reading it on. Plus it's a wonderful portrait of a love affair. Oh, and bonus two other walk-on characters who are living in yet a third and forth subjective timeline.

I kind of feel like in Whoniverse the bar for experimental needs to be higher, just because it starts so timey-wimey? I dunno. :D

Thank you SO much! 1) These are amazing and 2) We had to reinstall Windows on a desktop three computers ago and I was never sure how much fic I had lost. I had completely forgotten about Imaging the X-Men and rereading that was a treat - thankyouthankyouthankyou!

I really really loved The Dog Days Are Over by hackthis. It tells the story from the POV of both protagonists simultaneously, and it just worked really well I thought.

Also 10 Items or Less which is (to quote the subtitle) a love story in bullets.

I was totally going to rec the first one by hackthis! Excellent stuff. I pretty much adored it.

You're missing M's Cowboy Days, which makes you think about colonialism and the myth of the Designated Hero, and so forth.

And any number of 's stories, which are sneaky in very interesting ways.

Also vee_fic's Six of One, an SPN story that spins off from canon in season 2, and challenges concepts of identity and family in ways the show doesn't, while bringing in a bunch of other characters.

Oh, and Auburn's Legion (SGA), for its complex structure (and terrible grimness).

Oh, oh, and troyswann's Willing, which is a Goa'uld perspective on early-season Jack and Daniel.

I wrote Eclipsed (novel-length Jack O'Neill/Paul Davis) from three points in time. Each chapter included a segment from 'Now', 'Then', 'Way Back When', running alongsde each other. Gradually, WBW caught up with and merged with 'Then' which in turn caught up with Now' so when the story ended, there was only one time left.

God know why I did it that way but I did ::g::

Read the Warnings by carenejeans -- funny, sexy meta. A remix in Highlander fandom. In the tradition of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, Carene wrote variations on a single scene with different ratings and (interpretations of) warnings. My favorite is "Bad Language."

Stuck in the Moment by Jay Tryfanstone, also Highlander, is a narration of the writing of the story being read.

Beautiful, both of them, and not long.

And a self-mention -- Fishy, Fishy, Fishy for one of the 1,000 word picture challenges. Three POVs, three different accounts of pursuit. The picture, now unavailable, was of three circling sharks.

Edited at 2010-04-27 08:57 pm (UTC)

Looks like your link to "Word of the Day" has been taken down, but it's available on archive.org here.

THank you! Fixing now.

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose by Synecdochic. SGA story which deals with grief and finding a way to be happy. Whether you'd call it experimental I don't know, but it did make me think? so.

The Cable and Deadpool Yuletide Special by David Hines. So very meta and so very awesome for it.

all your heart-melodies by thingswithwings. Lilo and Stitch fic which does amazing things with audience expectation of growing up.

A Virtuous Woman by pandarus. Reconstructs Ruby's identity. (SPN)

and ditto on Imagining the X-Men and X-Manson and Written by the Victors and Scrabble.

Oh and the first time I read a story that used the Groundhog Day structure. It was in The Sentinel, I think. And whoever came up with the 5 Things.

flesh mechanics by lise and kel. popslash. Justin Timberlake as a serial killer. Told in websites and stories and articles.

Edited at 2010-04-27 10:58 pm (UTC)

And whoever came up with the 5 Things.