Because of that, my standards for high-quality fic have risen drastically over the years. But one thing seems to have remained the same: my love for detailed world-building. Any author who can take a concept and develop it so thoroughly that I end up living and breathing it, seeing it as its own reality, even dreaming about it at night? Those are the stories I love the most, the ones I never forget, and keep going back to over and over again. They are stories which do more than just explore the characters or follow a cunning plot, they are stories that feel alive... rich and immense with detail, background, meaning and future possibilties. They are stories which have created a reality all their own, one which when done well, can often feel more real than canon.
There are several authors I can think of off the top of my head who do this with ease:
1. Macx (aka Gryph) with her undisputed Fire & Ice series in the Knight Rider fandom
2. James Walkswithwind (aka zortified) with her enormously popular 'Centaur AU That Eats Fandoms', to which the world-building was so rich I came to love a show I'd never even heard of just through reading it. (To this day, I've never seen an episode of Houston Knights despite reading several hundred fics for it.)
3. Nix (aka crimsonquills) who continued the Centaur AU brilliantly into two new fandoms and gave it even more depth and richness.
4. Red Wolf (aka redwolf) whose werewolves Wolf and Declan have been part of my personal life for so long I've claimed Dec as my own perfect mate. Alas, too bad he's ficitonal. ::pouts::
5. TenthMuse1 who seems to excel in world-builing, even if her most popular one is a world I don't particularly like.
6. Jennifer Lyon and Suzanne Bickerstaff with their classic, beloved fantasy X-Files novels, The Magician Trilogy (in four books).
7. Sam (aka copperbadge)'s better-than-canon Sirius and Remus raising Harry Potter AU.
8. Domenika Marzione (aka miss_porcupine) who has taken the flippant world of Stargate: Atlantis and given it's military a voice and believability, as well a host of characters the readers keep looking for every episode despite them not actually being canon.
9. Susan Foster's Sentinel GDP AU, which while often unpleasant, no can deny has a life of its own.
and of course,
10. The entire Magnificent Seven fandom, who cooperatively brought to life the ATF AU based off of one tiny little fic by Mog.
And now the newest name to add to my list, Sanjuno Shori Niko (aka sanjuno), who's taken the original G1 of Transformers and built an entire culture from the dregs of canon. A culture that revolves around my favourite characters, the sleek and gorgeous Seekers: Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp.
The Nine Rings of Vos, A Transformers G1 Fanfic
by Sanjuno Shori Niko
Summary: The Seekers have a plan, one that spans the entire length of the war, and is now coming to fruition. Soundwave and the Cassettacons get caught up in the plot, and somehow cannot find it in their sparks to regret any of it. As for the Autobot and Decepticon factions, well, they are all just really, really confused.
Link goes to the main timeline of series that span over 50 stories and millions of years. It's fun, full of humour and love, and best of all... builds a world I can't help but love.