I have recommendations from 2009's Yuletide rare-fandom fanfic exchange, only six months late!
These are all stories that I think are (a) very good and (b) able to be enjoyed people who don't usually read fanfic. (Note that there were a bunch of stories that are probably just as good but I didn't know or remember the canon well enough to be sure, so if something's left out, it's not necessarily a slight on it.) I'm arranging them in order of my guess at the number of people who will be familiar with the source. (The links are partly auto-generated and follow the format of story name, author, and then fandom.)
First, my favorites:
- Killing Elvis - David Hines (hradzka) - Alien series (1979 1986 1992) :: Absolutely hilarious epistolary fic involving research scientists, office politics, and alien taxidermy. Set in the Alien-movies verse but requires no knowledge of canon whatsoever. Very highly recommended. Mature (curse words, off-screen violence), 7200 words.
- The October Incident - neko_chelle (fivefootnothing) - National Public Radio RPF :: "It's This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our program of course, we choose a theme and bring you a variety of different stories on that theme. Today's show: In the Land of the Living, stories of the October Incident, the zombie apocalypse and what happened afterwards. We've reached Act Three of our program: A Place at the Table. Moravia is a tiny town in Idaho, population two-hundred and eighteen. And that's pre-apocalypse numbers. But over the course of eighteen months, right from the very beginning of the apocalypse, Moravia's living citizens have received a few unorthodox gifts. Producer Sarah Koenig filed this report." --Sweet and spot-on. General audiences, 1135 words.
(Honorable mention to "Wait Wait Don't Eat Me", written to the same prompt, which was actually linked by Wait Wait Don't Tell Me itself; it's just a show I don't listen to.)
The rest follow behind cuts, because there are many:
Computers (2): Oregon Trail game; Lovelace and Babbage web comic
- And Then We Shot the Ox - coltsbane - Oregon Trail (game) :: Reasons why Yuletide is awesome, number 548 in a series: because someone takes the Oregon Trail game and makes amazing, standalone, creepily-understated brilliance out of it. Teen and up, 3053 words.
- Lovelace and Babbage vs. The Christmas Death Spider From Beyond The Atlantic - nextian (cosmogyral) - The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage :: Do I need to say more? General audiences, 1281 words.
Mythology and fairy tales (6)
- The Queen Sent Messengers - sallyislike - Fairytales, Rumpelstiltskin (Fairy Tale) :: Minor-character POV take on Rumpelstiltskin, fresh and thoughtful. Teen and up, 2066 words.
- The Tale Of Ragnell - Ankaret - Arthurian Legend :: I hadn't encountered the story of Gawain and Ragnelle before, but I enjoyed this backstory in its own right and then looked up the rest. General audiences, 2164 words.
- Lord Wolfe and the Ape-Leader - who_la_hoop - Fairytales :: A silly, affectionate, almost-over-the-top pastiche of Regency romances, with a dash of fairy tales. General audiences, 32401 words.
- Tsubame ni Naru Toki (燕になるとき) - Hokuto - Greek and Roman Mythology, Metamorphoses - Ovid :: Procne, Philomela, and Tereus in modern Japan. In haiku. Not, of course, in the least bit happy, but impressive nonetheless. Teen and up, 470 words; story warnings for rape and graphic depictions of violence.
- Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Duckling - innocentsmith - Fairytales :: Summary: "It's her life story, and she has some issues with it." Scenes from the life of an interracial adoptee. General audiences, 5113 words.
- But That's Another Story - rosemaryandrue (Rosie_Rues) - 12 Dancing Princesses (Fairy Tale), Wild Swans (Fairy Tale) :: Lovely post-tale snippet. General audiences, 902 words.
Movies and music (3): Grosse Pointe Blank, Wallace and Gromit, "Thunder Road"
- Complete Blank - rivkat - Grosse Pointe Blank :: Summary: "Martin is going to have a perfect wedding if it kills ... well, everyone but Debi. And Marcella and Bart." Absolutely spot-on. Teen and up, 4159 words.
- Eh By Gum! - BluWacky - Wallace and Gromit :: It's a Wallace & Gromit short film, except in words and from Gromit's POV. Summary: "In Which a Man and a Dog become Master Confectioners; Copious Tea Is Drunk; The Nature Of Evil Is Elaborated Upon; and Someone's Goolies Nearly Get Burnt Right Off." General audiences, 5337 words.
- Chances - zeldadestry - Thunder Road (Song) :: I love "Thunder Road," but this drabble is the only story of the several this year that made me sit up. Not rated; suitable for general audiences.
TV (4): White Collar, Leverage, The Middleman
- Yin - therienne - White Collar :: A collector of other people's valuable things has opened up his home for a sale, attracting quite the variety of attention. Here's one angle on the resulting events . . .
- Yang - therienne - Leverage :: . . . and here's another. Both general audiences, 6000 words.
- Deck the Tree with False Blossoms - ishie - Leverage :: This is what happens when they try to pull a con without Sophie. Spot-on character voices, a great deal of fun. Teen and up, 2688 words.
- The Mirrorball Malefaction Misapprehension - gwyneth rhys (gwyneth) - The Middleman (TV) :: Highly Middle-icious casefile. General audiences, 4945 words.
- The Deceivers - hangingfire - The Culture - Banks :: Terrific Special Circumstances story featuring Sma and Skaffen-Amtiskaw. Teen and up, 4242 words. (Disclosure: I beta-read this.)
- Spinning Tales - Scintilla10 - Bridgerton series - Quinn :: Adorable snippet of Colin & Penelope post-canon. General audiences, 1468 words. (Disclosure: I beta-read this.)
- A Room With a View - hollimichele - Temeraire - Novik :: "Wellington looked at her for a long moment. "I think is is entirely possible that you are the third-most-troublesome dragon in all England," he said. "I think it very likely." // Perscitia was, at first, quite offended at this, but then it occurred to her that with Temeraire and Iskierka gone to New South Wales, technically this meant that she, in fact, was the most troublesome dragon in all England. And there was something rather flattering about that; England, she considered, needed troubling." Sheer brilliance. General audiences, 5493 words.
- His Master's Harshness - tree - Ibis Trilogy - Ghosh :: Backstory for a minor character; can be read without any knowledge of the book (as I did) as a beautiful piece of historical fiction. General audiences, 1654 words.
- Rule Number Three - Sweeney Agonistes - Dark Tower - King :: Adding another layer of meta to the Dark Tower series in a way that I, at least, find a comfort. Not rated, 2636 words.
- The Huli Jing - Amanuensis - Master Li and Number Ten Ox - Hughart :: Another great casefile out of Yuletide for this canon. Teen and up, 3475 words.
- Advent - Raven (singlecrow) - Oxford Time Travel universe - Willis :: Verity-POV story with some really lovely touches; she goes back to work part-time after they have a baby and learns more about the nature of time and time travel. General audiences, 5146 words.
- The Battle of Carthage: A Previously Unpublished Account of the Zombie War - Deifire - World War Z - Brooks :: A darkly-comic Christmas tale with zombies. Readable without knowledge of the source. Teen and up, 3332 words.
- Gifts of Love - Isis - Alexander McCall Smith - The No1 Ladies Detective Agency series :: Adorable casefile. General audiences, 5011 words.
- I Cannot Promise - Grevling - Robin McKinley - Deerskin :: Beautiful, appropriate epilogue to the book. General audiences, 1377 words.
- Snow Day - incapricious - Phantom Tollbooth - Juster :: Summary: "A brief look at the Lands of Wisdom on a snowy winter's day." Terrific humor with just a touch of wistfulness. General audiences, 774 words.
- In Most Directions, Water - Senri - Young Wizards - Duane :: Unusually and gorgeously sensory look at Nita & Kit. Teen and up, 1362 words.
- All Our Scattered Leaves - marycrawford - Lord Peter Wimsey - Sayers :: Summary: "A selection of letters and diaries on the eve of the Armistice." Precise and wonderful character voices. General audiences, 2911 words.
- The Sceptre at the Feast - Nineveh_uk - Lord Peter Wimsey - Sayers :: Summary: "From boy to man, Peter Wimsey follows the progress of his nephew through the years." General audiences, 2784 words.
- Good Fellowship - Regan_V - Lord Peter Wimsey - Sayers :: The Shrewsbury dons debate who should receive next year's research fellowship. Nicely characterized, good feel for the academic setting, and excellent use of canon. General audiences, 1532 words.
(A lot of good Wimsey/Vane fic this year, as there often is; this was me being selective, truly.)