One could argue that we are currently mired in the age of fan fiction: that the cultural merchants working out of the big media conglomerates have given up all pretense of supplying us with fresh new visions and have instead become reliant entirely on taking other peoples’ ideas and rearranging them in such a way that they can pretend that they’re anything other than lukewarm leftovers. This comes after decades of fan fiction that was and is truly by and for fans, people who wrote about their favourite pre-existing characters and settings without any pretense of eventually changing all the names and selling it to a book publisher or being hired into some Hollywood brain trust, but entirely out of love and maybe some other more complex emotional reasons. Those sorts were exploring this charted territory for us, and the Internet age allowed them the kinds of exposure they never would have had in the zine and local convention era, taking fan fiction from the realm of the few to a mass audience.
Among the fan fiction authors in the last two or so decades of the Internet, there stands one out among the masses, one who took the form in thrilling, provocative, and strange new places: Peter Chimaera. First appearing in the heady days of 2003, Chimaera worked on a sporadic schedule, but in almost every instance gave us gold, the kinds of flash fiction reinterpretations of well-known franchises and stories (and even some less well-known ones)—video games, animation, comics, and even live action—that could be reread over and over again and provide new enjoyment and new insight every time. These are stories that defy the standard rules of writing, and especially of writing fan fiction, in order to deliver something with a unique, personal vision. There are recurring motifs throughout Chimaera’s oeuvre, where characters often face tragedy and loss; some are consumed by the abyss of violence and despair, while others overcome adversity and demonstrate the true tenacity of the human spirit. By putting these themes into the contexts of well-known series and characters, he makes it clear that these struggles are universal across all times and in all peoples, if you’re a superhero, a space marine, a warrior battling ancient evil, or even a bus driver.
Peter Chimaera, although still writing some fan fiction in more recent times, has seemingly moved on to selling more of his own original fiction, the obvious next step in a literary career. For us, though, his fan fiction tales will remain foremost in our hearts, and so today I have decided to rank what I think are the ten essential Peter Chimaera stories. Many of these have, in their times, become well-known among the denizens of the Internet, who have paid tribute to his works with live readings and even in song, so I’m sure everyone has their own personal favourites; I hope that my selections showcase the variety and the evolution of Chimaera as a writer, and the myriad of ways he has delighted readers for almost fifteen years.