Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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recs: fics that make you think

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: | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
Tags: crosspost, recs: other fandoms, recs: queer as folk, recs: smallville, recs: star trek voyager, recs: stargate atlantis, recs: x-men movieverse
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