This week's Friday Five is courtesy of Tanya Brown, co-head of the Fanfiction stream at Nine Worlds. Tanya has been reading and writing and critiquing fanfiction for over a decade, having looked afresh at it after the first of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies. Off the back of our previous Fanfictional Friday Five, Tanya volunteered to share a few more recommendations of great places to begin with fanfiction... Without further ado, over to her!
Last year at the Nine Worlds convention, I gave a presentation in which I attempted to demolish the myth that fanfiction 'reduces every relationship to sex'. A lot of fanfiction does feature romantic and / or sexual relationships: but so does a lot of published fiction - and not only in the 'romance' genre. Like any other genre, fanfic can include a romantic or erotic relationship without it being the focus of the story.
If you're not in the mood to read romance or stories with explicit sex, there are plenty of fics that are well-plotted, well-written and don't feature sexual relationships. I've recommended some of my favourites below. They're all based on Marvel's Cinematic Universe, and as long as you've seen the Avengers movie you shouldn't find any unfamiliar characters. (As a non-comics fan, I wonder how much extra texture I'm missing!) These stories were posted before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so some have been Jossed. All are ten thousand words or less, and all but one are rated G for General Audiences.
Contrary Advisor by oak. A SHIELD post-incident wider consequences analysis: how can the physics of Avengers be explained without incurring 'the tortured screams of the physics team'? Was Loki really an idiot, or was his true goal something other than the conquest of Midgard?
This fic reminds me of late-night conversations in convention bars: that blend of informed speculation and wild invention. It's a great example of fanfiction that explores plotholes and inconsistencies in canon. There's a sequel, 'Show Your Work', in which Analyst M'Zangwe proposes a hypothesis about the management of Stark Industries, and suggests an explanation for the Black Widow's interpersonal skills.
The Hip and the Dead by hollimichele. In which Steve Rogers, post-Avengers, moves back to hipster-infested Brooklyn. At first it seems as though Brooklyn's hardly changed since the Forties: Steve's neighbours are obsessed with nostalgia, dress in thrift-store finds and shop around for organic produce that tastes of actual food. Then Steve is invited to a 'D-day anniversary party' with a bunch of cosplayers, and begins to think he's been deceiving himself. I like this story because of how it shows Steve, who may as well be a time traveller, 'throw[ing] himself into 2012 as hard as he can... it's not home. But it's nice.'
And I'd also like to recommend the remix, Captain America versus the Kids These Days, by zeen. Remixes are another fanfic phenomenon: fanfic of fanfic, if you like. In this remix, zeen tells parts of the story from the viewpoint of a minor character in the original, growing up in the MCU as a normal person and a Big Name Fan. (He even writes Steve / Bucky fanfiction.) Each story stands alone: together, they're delightful.
User Since by rageprufrock. It's canon, in Avengers, that Phil Coulson is a fan of Captain America. In this story, Coulson's the founder of Howling Commandos HQ, the biggest and best fansite for all things Cap. Coulson's fellow fans -- who only know that he worked in law enforcement in New York City -- mourn his death in the Battle of New York, and decide that a suitable memorial would be to ask Cap himself for 'a few words ... to bring to his graveside'.
'User Since' is one of a handful of fics that grab the attention of an entire fandom -- perhaps because it's about fandom, and online friendships, and the way that (in the real world) actors and writers sometimes go above and beyond the call of celebrity to do something exceptional for their fans. Iron Man 3 played the 'superhero fandom' theme for laughs, but 'User Since' and 'Captain America and the Kids These Days' offer a more serious and sympathetic view of fandom.
The Sky and Everything Beneath It by jibrailis. Captain America is happy to help the nation. Steve Rogers wants to get out of your hair.' This story features a post-Avengers Steve Rogers who's at a loose end. He's missed out on seventy years, and reckons he's owed a bit of leave, so he sets off on a road trip. En route, he rediscovers America, and realises that he's not alone. I liked this story when I first read it because of Steve's loneliness and its resolution: rereading after Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier, there's a certain comfort in the team's closeness.
Average Avengers Local Chapter 7 of New York City by hetrez. Yet another story about Steve Rogers in the 21st Century. 'Average Avengers' is a story about ordinary people in the MCU being amused and impressed and inspired by superheroes: it features Tumblr, local activism and Scabby the Union Rat. As Gavia Baker-Whitelaw writes in her exploration of Cap's liberal credentials, of course Steve Rogers 'is the one Avenger who can realistically inspire a fanfic about service industry union strikes'. This one is rated Teen, and, although a little more romantically inclined than the other stories, the relationship is integral to the plot - not the focus of the story.
If you want to read more fanfic that isn't simply about two (or more) characters getting together, it's easy to find on AO3. You can search for stories with a rating of General Audiences (G) or Teen (T) if you want to avoid sex and violence. The 'relationships' tag will indicate whether there's a romantic / erotic relationship involved: typically, 'Steve/Tony' would mean a relationship, while 'Steve & Tony' would indicate friendship.
Are you a fanfiction reader or writer? What other non-relationship-focused works would you recommend for new readers? Or are you (like me) someone that's just discovering fanfiction and looking for the best place to start? Fire away with questions and answers in the comments!