Kita, for 'Komodo.'
It's not often that one finds a story that is, to all intents and purposes, flawless. But that's what I felt I'd found after reading Kita's 'Komodo.' A dark and beautiful interweaving of surreal dreamlike psychodrama, and all too real violence, this is Angel fic at it's most edgy, bloody, and poetical. I'd be the first to admit that until I read this story, I wasn't a great Angel fan- we don't get the series over here, and so I was expecting the somewhat bland, one-dimensional Buffy love-interest styles I was used to from BtVS. How very wrong I was! Komodo is one of those rare stories that leaves you feeling like you've seen a characters insides, a terrifying insight into what makes them tick. Suddenly, Angel is heroic, textured, and three-dimensional to me, all because of this fic. Anyway, onto the story itself. Sex, violence, demons, blood, some of it inside Angel's head, some of it frighteningly real, show the reader just how thin the line between man and demon really is- if indeed it exists at all. The imagery is breath-taking, the plot will make your hair stand on end, and setting it all off is a final exchange with Lindsay ('gentleness...') that was wonderfully insightful. This is dark fanfic at it's best.
Where to find it: On Kita's page at Slashing the Angel.
Puca, for 'Plastic Bag' and 'Viral Misery.'
I've read both these stories over and over again, and I still get that choking in my throat, that pricking in my eyes, that shiver down my spine that you know means: 'that was a total mindfuck in the best possible way.' I love Puca's writing style, which is wholly lyrical and original, and at the same time reminiscent of the beats, with it's easy incorporation of both the everyday and the supernatural. It's hyper-realistic, gritty, and dreamy at the same time, with a yumcious black humor all its own. 'Plastic Bag' is as dark as they come, seen through the eyes of an anonymous observer, and all the more horrifying for the low-key matter-of-factness that that lends it. How much of Oz is the wolf? And what if that confrontation with Willow over Tara had gone very differently...? 'Viral Misery' is another great, very dark, Oz fic; which also features Giles, my favourite ex-Watcher at large. Be warned that this will break your heart. Oz comes stumbling back to Sunnydale to the only person who can help him... but magic can't fix everything, and a promise is a promise... Continues the masterful melding of the natural and supernatural that Puca excels at.
Where you can find them: At 'Beneath Freak Transmissions,' Puca's must-visit site.
Jennifer Oksana, for 'Touch Me Fall'
Remember 'Who Am I?' Remember Faith parading around wearing Buffy's skin? Or course you do. Add lust, love, questions of identity, and a dash of some of the hottest most lyrical POV writing around, and you've got 'Touch Me Fall', a beautiful fic which explores Faith's love/hate relationship with Buffy, the need to posess, and the boundaries of skin... oh, and it's also hotter than hell. 'Touch Me Fall' integrates stream of consciousness flawlessly with the blend of unique descriptives and textured prose that is a hallmark of all Jennifer's work. Go read it now, and gulp and pant. Oh, and while you're at her site, check out the heap of other great stories Jennifer's written, including the infamous Scully/Spike series, and some more great Faith stuff.
Where to find it: Jennifer's site, right here.
Rowan, for 'Wolfself' and 'The Strangers Portrait.'
I find myself growing more and more enamoured with the character of Oz, and egging me on are beautiful vignettes like 'Wolfself' by Rowan. Just how much the beast inside a werewolf effects ones actions and thoughts is something that's been left shrouded in ambiguity by the show, and so the concept of the beast under the surface is left ripe for the picking in a piece such as this. Oz is a man of mystery- we know there must be more going on inside, beyond his trademark stoic expression and laconic observations, but what, exactly, is that 'more'? Rowan's answer is delightfully dark, true to character, yet shudderingly original, all at once. 'The Strangers Portrait' is a wonderfully original, plot-driven, Gaiman-esque story, that explores the idea of identity, appearance, vision, and the contrasts between the freedom from self-examination that such blindness gives you, and the unchanging trap it snares you in... All contained within the simple idea of 'Spike gets his portrait painted.' Features the best portrayal of an average person confronted with a monster, without being patronising or relegating said person to a cardboard cutout, that I've read for a long while.
Where you can find them: At 'Winter', Rowans yummy site.
Mark and Insomnitic, for 'My Little Glass Shoe.'
Now, I'd be the first to say: 'I hate songfic! Especially when it intersperses lyrics between paragraphs of story!' Of course, that makes me a hypocrite, since I've done it myself... Now, 'My Little Glass Shoe' is the exception to this prejudice of mine. Written in concise, image-conjuring POV, it melds more seamlessly than any fic I've ever read the thin lines between pain, pleasure, devotion, sex, violence- love and hate- and all in a few short paragraphs. Slayer healing, impermanence, marks and memories all come together and are expressed through blade and brand and Faith, our narrator. Secret wants that can't be spoken out loud, and the Cinderella complex turned on it's head. Go read it now!
Where you can find it: At Lollipops, Mark and Insomnitic's site.
Elizabeth, for 'Achilles Heel' and 'Safety in Numbers.'
Ah, Elizabeth. She's a great writer, and has the gift of writing with a very personal style- much like Te, you can identify her stories just by the 'voice' in which they're written. 'Achilles Heel' is a lovely fic which does something that's almost impossible these days, with the glut of Spike/Buffy fic around- takes a fresh look inside the characters heads, and translates it into a fic that's quite simple, plot-wise, but so beautifully written, and so fresh in the way it interprets the characters, that you're caught and drawn in. Irresistable POV narration, and dreamlike yet disarmingly real love scenes, as well as a great S/B banter and a sense of fun, make this fic a must-read. Elizabeth has also written one of my favourite fics of all time-it's non-Buffy, but if you've seen 'X-men: The Movie', you'll be into it. It's called 'Safety in Numbers,' and it's so perfect and dark and heartbreakingly lovely, it'll, well, break your heart :-)
Where you can find them: Ficorama, Elizabeth's own site.
Jacob Milnestein, for 'Noir Yesteryear - Borrowed Haloes.'
Where to start? This story has been on my wish list for the best part of a year now, and I never get tired of reading Jacob's work. Part of the Noir Yesteryear series, a complex story arc that involves Miracleman, Philip Marlowe, and a vast milieu of other characters from classical and modern comics and literature, Borrowed Haloes nevertheless also works well as a standalone for those who haven't been keeping up with the series. First, let me rave about how this is 'Noir' in the most classic way- Raymond Chandlers books, and his hardboiled detective character, Philip Marlowe, have always been favourites of mine, and here we have the dream team-up-- Marlowe investigating a mysterious murder, committed by, you guessed it, our two vamps-of-choice, Spike and Dru. Jacob's already a published writer, so it'd be a bit redundant for me to praise his descriptive skills, but what the hell, I'll do it anyway. His style is a driving hard-edged hybrid of Chandler-esque action prose, and spare but punchy description. His horror is made all the more horrific by carefully concise word choice, knowing what to leave out, and an impressive knowledge of the realistic nasty bits of the human condition (corpse gas, anyone?). Spike and Dru are beautifully characterised, and all the more fascinating (and monstrous) for being seen from an outside perspective- little touches of normality in their behaviour are constrasted very effectively with their innate demon nature. Go read this now, and get sucked into a world where the natural and supernatural exist side by side, until the delineations between them blur. Check out the rest of the series- and the rest of Jacob's stories (which feature a huge variety of rarer fandoms)- while you're at it.
Where you can find it: Fonts of Wisdom, under 'Stories from the Shadows.' Also, check out Jacob's first published novel 'Love Amongst Strangers.'
Bluebell, for 'Kissed', and 'Blackened'.
Why they won: Chock-full of sex, death, and subtly disturbing imagery; Bluebell's fics will draw you into a world of exquisite apocalypses of her own design. 'Kissed' is the sequel to 'Blackened', and both stories offer an original glimpse into the world of vampires, and a new spin on the 'Willow gets vamped' idea. Bluebell's style is an image-laden gothic dreamscape, drenched with an uneasy subtext of dark 'family' imagery. I'm reminded of Neil Gaiman by the feeling of twisted childhood innocence here-- the reader is disturbed by the forcefulness of the 'evil' POV they are made to assume. The lines between the demons and angels are blurred. Characterisation, especially of the newly vamped Willow; is subtle and powerful. All in all, brilliant and bloody visuals, and a true sense of dream-like horror pervade both fics.
Where you can find them: Strangely enough... right here.
Kyuuketsuki Ouji Spike, for 'Chemical Burn', and 'Horobite Iku Minzoku'.
Why they won: Because Kyuuketsuki has an uncanny talent for swiping the reader out of the (comparably) mundane Buffy universe, and whisking them into a vivid, condensed and disturbing setting all her own. 'Chemical Burn' is a prime example of this. Through concise but evocative, and somehow almost steel-edged prose, we are taken into a Buffy-verse which resembles nothing ever experienced on the series; yet which is still uncannily true to the characters. Ideas which would seem far-fetched if written down in simple summary become totally believable in K.O.S hands. A deep black irony pervades the whole piece, and the ending will leave you with a strange mixture of sadness, joy, and perturbment. You won't forget this one in a hurry. As for 'Horobite Iku Minzoku'... well, can we say 'fic-envy'? I really wish I'd thought of this one myself. Delicately cruel imagery, bird's blood and aged skin; beautifully eerie armageddon images; death, poetry and loveliness. The pale rider comes, in a subtle and understated (and blackly humourous towards the end) manner.
Where you can find them: At Spike's Haven, KOS' own site.
Mala, for 'I'm Not A Nice Guy'.
Why they won: All Mala's writing, which runs the spectrum from light through to darkness, is well written, and well characterised. Especially spot-on are her Spike POV fics, which manage to convey the unpredictability, and seesawing human/demon nature of my favorite villain, Spike. The one I've selected, 'I'm Not a Nice Guy', is a masterfully done piece of fic, that thoroughly disturbs the reader by combining exquisitely horrific torture imagery, and a very, very dark portrayal of Spike; with black humour and a twist at the end. The readers expectations are turned inside out, as the vampire is portrayed to us as an irredeemable monster, yet still attracts us; in a sort of twisted alchemy of sex and death.
Where you can find it: From Slayer to Killer, Mala's site.
Seanan McGuire, for 'Romano Drom'.
Why they won: Because 'Romano Drom' is one of the most charming and original pieces of BtVS writing I've read. Without utilising any main characters, Seanan conveys to the reader the traditions, the grief and the humanity of the Rom, Jenny Calendars people-- a section of the BtVS universe who are often relegated to one-dimensional nasties in fiction. Here, in the space of a few paragraphs, the Romany, and Jhanna are given humanity, family bonds, and a deep sense of realness. The sense of quiet mourning that pervades the piece is more powerful than any overblown melodramatic angst. A lot of research into gypsy customs has obviously gone into the piece, and it pays off with images of black eyed women, the wandering, unshriven dead, and vivid traditional rites.
Where you can find it: Right here.
Rebecca, for 'Inevitable'.
Why they won: Hmmm... what can I say about this one that won't give it away? Buffy, Spike, a park, humour that's blacker than night, and sheer evilness. Needless to say, I liked it. And all written of course with Rebecca's clear, concise, but still image-conjuring style. Great, original, and I really wish I'd thought of this idea first... Unfortunately I can't tell you anymore without revealing too much, so you'd better go read it now!
Where you can find it: At Love's Bitch, or The Buffer.
Sandra Schimmel, for 'In the Elegy Season'.
Why they won: One of the very first 'dark' pieces of fiction I remember reading. An elegant, chilling, almost minimalist piece of writing-- in the same way that a shiny metal meat locker is 'minimalist.' Stark and beautiful, from it's unsuspecting first paragraphs, right through to it's exquisitely icy and horrifically unexpected denouement. Like K.O.S's fic, this piece creates a microcosmic future vision entirely separate from the show, yet entirely believable all the same, due to the skill of it's writer. I've re-read this fic again and again, and still the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I get to the last sentence.
Where you can find it: At Love's Bitch, or The Buffer.
Zero, for 'Ride', and 'Lost The Plot'.
Why they won: Zero is an author with a talent for combining the supernatural and the natural world flawlessly. She brings life to victims and vampires alike, challenging the readers moral centre with the disturbing realness and humanity of both her monstrous protagonists, and their food source. Especially great is her POV writing of Spike-- a combination of human and demon, vulnerable, emotional, attractive, but ultimately still a killer. In 'Ride' (another member of my fic-envy club for stuff I wish I'd thought of myself) the mundanity of a young hitch-hiker, a roadside diner, and a roving vampire twist and turn; as revelations are made and the reader finds themselves looking at the mirror from the other side... Meanwhile in 'Lost the Plot', Spike chats to a young girl-- but the conversations blackly humorous conclusion is not what you'd expect... again, Spike's humanity, and his demonic nature are put in stark contrast with one another in Zero's talented hands.
Where you can find it: At Zero's own site.
(Note that most of these fics feature Spike. This is because most of the fic I read is Spike fic. However the 'Noir' award is for fic featuring any character, as long as it's well-written, original, atypical or dark. So feel free to nominate or send me non-Spike fic.)
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