I usually despise top 10 lists for a very specific reason. It’s hard to pick number one. You find something you enjoy about every single thing on the list, and then it becomes hard to choose. At one point in time I considered The Matrix to be number one on my favorite movies list. Then it was Iron Man. Then it was Toy Story 3. Then it was The Avengers. Then I realize I forgot great movies like Ghostbusters, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or The Big Lebowski, and then think “screw this, I love ‘em all.”
But I do see necessity in a Top 10 list as a guide. Things like, “I want to get into horror movies, it is a good thing there’s a top ten list here.” Substitute sitcoms, or cars, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Today I was thinking about my own fanfiction and how I really need to work on it (pitiful, I know). And then I thought of how long Hey Arnold fanfiction has been around on the internet, let alone fanfiction.net. Today we talk about the latest and greatest, or someone's new project, and as a consequence we only scratch a mere month worth of a fanfiction archive that spans over a decade.
What about all the old fics out there sitting around on the fanfic archive. Then I thought, “wow, it sure would be nice to have a top ten list of that, to really get people thinking about the classics.” So I have set out to make a list. The criteria is simple: The fanfic has to be finished. I must not have seen it mentioned on any forum or site in the past year. It cannot be my own fanfiction (to eliminate that whole self serving bias thing.). I must not have been friends with the author while it was being written. Finally, it must be available on fanfiction.net.
So here is the/my list:
#10 - The Opposite of Denouncements by Osmalic
This fic is: Character Building
This consists of a single scene between Mr. Simmons and Helga. It is extremely short, clocking in at only about a thousand words. But it calls into question something about Helga's future that not too many fanfics really broach. And the best part is, this does it by using one of the most unlikely characters, but it all makes sense. It really is a charm to read.
#9 - Peace that Passeth by Lambogod
This fic is: Psychological, Dark
This is one of those great stories that starts out as a typical Hey Arnold fanfic, but then begins to devolve into something more sinister. And I love sinister.
Helga is sixteen years old and on a whim she asks Arnold to the junior prom. There are seven chapters corresponding to a weeks worth of time. I think the best explanation to this story is that things are not as they seem. There are currents underneath the surface of the story that just whisper to you every now and then and say “something isn’t right in Hillwood.”
Peace that Passeth is very deceptive to the reader. You will not have it all figured out until the ending. And maybe even then you’ll have to read it again because it has several layers underneath. I can still read it today and find subtleties that I didn’t realize before.
This story can be summed up in one question: “What do you do if your entire life collapses around you?”
#8 - Bibliophilia by Skyhiatrist
This fic is: Sad, Character Building, Underappreciated
This fanfic on the surface is about Phoebe and her escapist tendency to collect books. It is set in a future where Helga didn't get Arnold. The scene shifts gently about half-way through the story, and that is where the real impact happens. What is going on with Helga will break your heart, and Phoebe's conclusion will mend it back together all at the same time.
Stay for the tenth to last paragraph. It's a doozy.
#7 - Missing Pieces by Poison Ivory
This fic is: Dramatic, Suspenseful, Romantic
Missing Pieces starts off with the most unlikely encounter between Arnold and Helga in the most unlikeliest of places. Helga is a writer, Arnold is an archaeologist. By coincidence they are both kidnapped under different circumstances, and end up together in a small cell. What unravels plays out like a really good Hollywood movie.
The most striking thing about this fanfic is that you do not expect it to dive so deeply into Helga's psychological makeup towards the end. The climax of the story makes all the build up worth it. Oh, and Curly flies an airplane.
#6 - Crazy For You by Poison Ivory
This fic is: Romantic, Erotic, Redeeming
Helga and Arnold meet at the wedding of Phoebe and Gerald. In most fanfics this would immediately be the basis of a happy or tragic conclusion to the unrequited love that Helga feels for Arnold throughout the Hey Arnold series. But this fanfic doesn't follow that formula to the letter.
Instead, what you discover between Helga and Arnold is that at one point in time they shared a brief and very passionate romance between the two of them. It was a spark that died out all too soon though, and what we get to read is the aftermath of that. It is a painful reunion for both of them and it shines through every word, even to the ending. But that isn't much of a spoiler. The ending works. It is gentle and it makes sense.
The one word I can come up to describe this fanfic is "appropriate." The steamy four paragraph sex scene helps too.
#5 - Beyond Endurance by Silent Witness on behalf of "Anonymous"
This fic is: Brutal, Tragic, Important
I will be frank with you about the topic of this fic; it deals with child abuse. Also, no one knows the name of the real author of this fanfic other than Silent Witness so it truly is one of the most unique fanfics on this list, if not the most important.
It takes place after the events in Hey Arnold and centers around Helga and Arnold. No, it is not a pairing fic. I've been sitting here for a while trying to think of how to praise this fanfic, but I can't. Not because it is a bad fic. On the contrary, it is a very well written and very powerful fanfic. Beyond Endurance takes you to the darkest facets of the human experience and holds you there, forcing you to deal with pictures and thoughts that we all too readily dismiss because we like living in a happy world with bunnies and rainbows. This is a place where you really do not want to go so that last few sentences really isn't praise. This is more of a disclaimer of what you will experience when you read it.
So all I can really say is that this is an important fanfic that you should read. Because child abuse exists.
#4 - Something Wicked by Heidi Patacki
This fic is: Supernatural, Creepy, Romantic
This is one of the few Hey Arnold ghost stories in the archive. If you're into urban exploration or just plain old supernatural stories you'll like this one a lot.
Helga and Curly are both really good friends. They decide to visit an old abandoned insane asylum on All Hallows Eve. Arnold tries to stop them of course. The resulting story will thrill you, and then touch your heart in the end. It even has some Curly/Rhonda goodness thrown in there in order to make things interesting.
On the creepy scale, this story is something that the faint of heart can read. It's a good 'ol clean ghost story that will send chills up and down your spine, but it isn't gory at all. Highly recommended if it is Halloween and you want a change of pace from the normal Hey Arnold fanfic faire.
#3 - Blue Oceans by Jae B
This fic is: Epic, Romantic, Dramatic
I admit to being a little biased on this one. Jae B is a friend of mine. In my defense, I met him online through a mutual friend after having read Blue Oceans, so I think it still qualifies with the rules I established.
Very few Hey Arnold fanfics can claim to be novel length, and this is one of those fics. The whole of the story takes place in the not too distant future, with Arnold and Helga, then happily married, meeting up with some old friends for dinner at Big Al's. The result is a fic that delves into the past of Helga and Arnold. Their relationship with each other, their happy times and their heartbreaks.
There are many different arcs to this story that I must say it is in some ways unclassifiable. It is also a "stream of concious" style story, where the scene changes are not always solid. It can be confusing at times, but once you get the hang of it, the diamonds really start to shine brilliantly.
I lost sleep over this fanfic, and you will too.
#2 - Christmas in Brooklyn by Heidi Patacki
This fic is: Romantic, Haunting, Tragic, Tear Jerker
This is one of the few fanfics that had me to the point of tears. I think it will do the same to you if you let it.
Helga is a business tycoon who "has everything," superficially of course. Her husband is a cheat, she has no relationship with her family, and is generally unhappy. What's worse? She still loves Arnold, whom she has not seen in years. By chance she meets an old woman on an elevator who asks her a simple question: "It's almost Christmas. Have you been good this year?"
Then the elevator cables snap...
At its core I think this story is about realizing what you have lost, what you have left behind, and then doing something about it, only to discover that you really can never go home again. But that's okay because there are always chances for redemption.
The changes that occur to Helga throughout this story, and the tragedy that unfolds at the end make every chapter worth reading through a second time. The author really brings out what we all like about Helga's character. Her duality; That little girl that tugs at your heart strings from behind her tough woman exterior.
And it all works really, really well.
#1 - Ribbons/Hair/Never/There by Heidi Patacki
This fic is: Emotional, Dramatic, Human
If I had to pick one Hey Arnold fanfic that follows my favorite fanfic writing mantra of "here's some characters, now lets take them apart," it would be Ribbons/Hair/Never/There. It follows the events that unfold after Helga and Arnold meet at Eugene's wedding in California, ten years after they split apart. Arnold is harboring painful feelings over losing Helga, and Helga is keeping a secret that would shatter the reality that Arnold has built around himself.
This story is eleven chapters of character dissection, as Heidi Patacki slowly takes Arnold apart through an incredible story about an unlikely and unconditional love, forgiveness, as well as coming to terms and living with ones past. Parts of Ribbons/Hair are very painful to read because they force you to feel the full force of Arnold's emotions. The net effect to this is that you can feel the powerful conclusion. At no point does the story drone on or deviate into a million and one side stories that would make it a waste of time to read.
You really are getting one of the most thought provoking and redeeming Hey Arnold fanfics if you read this one, which is why it is number one on my list.
Honorable Mention - The Golden Ankh by Tsukari0504
This story is: Tragic, Romantic, Supernatural, Unavailable
Okay, I am breaking one rule here so I can’t give it a numerical place. So it gets honorable mention. This fic is not available on fanfiction.net. In fact it isn't available anywhere on the web. I am placing it on this list because I don't know how many people remember it, and I don't want its memory to fade out.
At one point in time there was a story by Tsukari0504 called The Golden Ankh. It was loosely based on Egyptian mythology as perverted by The Mummy Returns. This turned out to be a great choice on the part of the author, because in three chapters she had woven a very complex story that almost doesn't even make it as a Hey Arnold fanfic.
Chapter one and three are set in present time with Helga and Arnold. Helga still wants Arnold, and unknown to her, Arnold wants her, so the two of them are locked in an orbit around each other, never quite realizing that they are both in love with the other. That is until a very mischievous Egyptian goddess with good intentions intervenes on their behalf. It turns out that Helga is the re-incarnation of Nefertiti and Arnold is the re-incarnation of her closest Meiji (royal guard), and her lover. For thousands of years their love has gone unrequited and the deity isn't going to stand for it anymore. They deserve better, right?
The most amazing thing about this story is that chapter 2 wasn't even a Hey Arnold fanfic, which was very sneaky, because chapters 1 and 3 literally bookend the main event in chapter 2. The impact chapter 2 has on the conclusion to this fic makes it is very truly a Hey Arnold fanfic, and one that will be missed.
This was not an exhaustive list. There are so many good Hey Arnold fanfics out there that I really had a hard time pulling some of them off the top ten. But, you know, these things take time. Hopefully for those of you who have never really “hit the wayback button” on fanfiction.net and looked farther back into the archive, this will spur you to do so.
There is gold in them thar hills.