The fanworks themselves can be utterly amazing, and I gushed at length about a couple in particular. She suggested that she might look some up herself, and, while I have full faith in her ability to find archives of fanfiction on the internet, I have full faith in her ability to find archives of fanfiction on the internet.
Fanfiction is like any other sort of self-published work. Some of the stories are absolute gems written by people who know their craft and get other people to read them over for errors. Some of them are adolescent wish-fulfillment posted before the pixels are dry. As everywhere else, the latter outnumber the former rather spectacularly.
So here is my short, incomplete list of recommendations. These are not necessarily those stories that I love best, but those that I feel both stand alone as literature and are stronger and more interesting because of their context as fanfiction.
First, Strider’s Edge, by tumblr user Paratactician
It is the combination of Homestuck by Andrew Hussie, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. It is set in Oxford, and we are informed that most places mentioned in the story map to real places, though names have been changed.
Strider’s Edge kicks off with an A. E. Housman poem, the whole of which foreshadows the entire story, and only part of which is included in the text itself. The story itself is difficult to summarize without giving away all the important bits, but the one at the top of the story is “It was a Tuesday late in September when I went up to Oxford University.” The story follows the adventures of John Egbert as he grows up, meets new friends, falls in love, and is peripheral witness to several murders. The solving of the murders is not central to the plot.
One of the central themes is that all things are repeated: this is addressed explicitly in one of the interesting conversations about literary constructs that occurs in John’s Tutorials sessions, as well as being a central facet of the way the story is presented and integral to the fact that this is fanfiction.
Second, One of Our Submarines, by Luka Grindstaff
It should be no surprise to anyone that one of Luka’s stories ended up on this list: I adore Luka’s comic Kagerou so much that I am writing fanfiction of it myself.
One of Our Submarines is summarized as “Sollux Captor, recently drafted into the Service of Her Imperious Condescension, discovers a secret community of Helmsmen hidden inside the Imperial communications network. Meanwhile on Alternia, Karkat Vantas is up to his goddamn nook in revolution.”
Yes, it makes more sense initially if you have already read Homestuck, which it is a fanfiction of. It is also not complete yet.
One of Our Submarines explores what it would be like to be a sentient and formerly autonomous computer system, the horrors inherent in that transition, and storytelling entirely via chatlog.
Third, General Vantas Gets Hitched, by Jesse Hajicek
I probably link Luka and Jesse entirely more than I should, but I deeply admire both of them as writers.
It, as One of Our Submarines, is easier to get into as a story if you have read Homestuck. General Vantas Gets Hitched follows the titular General Vantas as he navigates the very alien human culture he finds himself in the midst of.
It is somewhat less an experiment in storytelling than the other two, as well, but where it finds real strength is in the characterization. All of the characters are quite plausible ‘what ifs’ if the main plot of Homestuck had not disrupted the characters lives the way it has.
Oh, and happy Independence Day, Americans.