Character: Simon Tam
Pairings Included in Manifesto: Simon/Kaylee Frye, Simon/Inara, Simon/OFC
Blurb: Firefly has a pretty spectacular fandom for such a short-lived show, and all nine main characters (as well as the diverse array of supporting characters) deserve the love showered upon them. But Simon's always been the one I'm most interested in.
My fascination with Simon is twofold. The first is that he starts out as a classic fish out of water, and...he deals with it as best he can, like most people would. He doesn't fit right into this new world, adjusting to "being forced to the ass-end of the galaxy, get to live on a piece-of-garbage wreck and eat molded protein" with ease like so many a fictional character before him. He tries so very hard--offering (awkwardly) to help with an early caper, (awkwardly) trying not to step on his new crewmates' toes, and mostly not complain too much--while doing everything he can to help his "moonbrain" sister, River. Over the (short) course of the series, he manages to get his bearings somewhat. He sheds the shiny suits for more practical sweaters, swears just a little, and plans his own heist. He grows a bit more of a backbone, punches Mal pretty handily, and, by the end of the movie, finally gets the girl, too. And the whole arc feels like it belongs to a real person.
Like his creator, the generally godlike Joss Whedon, I'm drawn to Simon's utter, uncompromising, and total, blindingly devotion to River. TV and movies are replete with every kind of sibling relationship, even strong and solid ones, but I still find the relationship between the Tam siblings a standout. His dedication to River, and to making her well, is evident in their every interaction. And she, in turn, tries so hard to be the sister he once knew. They both have to adjust to the fact that she will never be quite the same--and they do so together. The textures of their relationship are tactile, and so, so worth watching.
Simon gets a bad rap in fandom sometimes, whether for seeming one-dimensional, or for prioritizing River over any romantic relationships, or simply for not being as obviously fascinating as Mal or Inara, or fantastically badass as Zoe or Jayne, or enigmatic as River or Book, or sweet and funny as Kaylee or Wash. Which is a pity, because there are good fics to be found featuring the good doctor. Firefly is one of those fandoms (like Glee or Harry Potter) where you can find pretty much anyone shipped with pretty much anyone else (although Shepard Book is generally exempt from that rule). So there's a fair amount of slash (mostly Simon/Jayne and Simon/Mal) to be found alongside the het. What's interesting to me about this fandom is that many of the best fics--like many of the best moments of the series--tend to be gen, or at least primarily so, with the ensemble gathered.
This is not, of course, to say that there's a dearth of good het to be found. Simon is most often shipped with Kaylee, as they're canonically paired, and utterly adorable in an opposite-attract way. (You can read an excellent ship manifesto of them here.) There's also a lot of "Tamcest," which is what it sounds like, and which I generally avoid for squicky reasons. You can also find Simon/Inara, who connect over their similar backgrounds and abandonment of that world. Simon/Zoe pops up, usually in a hurt/comfort context (though rarely as Zoe and Wash are mostly shipped together), and there's plenty of Simon/OFC in prequel fics.
Fic Rec #1: Lots of Practice
Why This Must Be Read: Short, simple, sweet, and in character. Unabashed fluff, but fluff that fits right into the series.
Fic Rec #2: Blood and Oil
Why This Must Be Read: For one things, it's HOT. I love this one-shot sketch that sets our couple in an established relationship, and rather than throwing up barriers, shows how Simon and Kaylee could just work together.
Fic Rec #3: Natural Beauty
Why This Must Be Read: This has got to be a missing scene from the episode "The Message." It is canon in my mind.
Fic Rec #4: The Fish Job, Easy Tickets, and Back Stories
Pairing: Simon/Kaylee, Zoe/Wash, Mal/Inara, River/various
Link: Starts with http://mal4prez.livejournal.com/679.html
Why This Must Be Read: Starting with "The Fish Job," this epic-length fic series picks up where the series left off (going AU pre-BDM) and follows our Big Damn Heroes as some nefarious forces go after them. Mal's memory takes a big hit, Inara takes a few big leaps, River grows up (or tries), and Simon and Kaylee fumble into each other's arms. There's a hell of a lot else going on besides the shippiness here, but if you're in the mood for a long read, this is the one to commit to.
Fic Rec #5: My heart's racing, and I'm not used to that being a good thing
Why This Must Be Read: This fic does a nifty job of capturing just about every facet of Simon Tam, including the his relationship with River and how it colors everything else in his life. It reads like a deleted scene, right down to his interactions with Kaylee and Mal.
Fic Rec #6: Away from Convenience
Why This Must Be Read: Pre-series AU. Simon and Inara band together in his search for his sister. They of course end up on Serenity anyway. Though not overtly romantic, this fic nicely traces what these two have in common while allowing them to stay entirely in character.
Fic Rec #7: Safe in the Difference
Why This Must Be Read: Going AU after the episode "Safe," this fic is a short study on what life might have been like if the Tams had found a place on Jiangyin. You can of course see the appeal in staying on Serenity versus in a backwater village that burns witches at the stake, but it was never clear to me that being on the move would ultimately be safer than staying in that kind of village. This fic takes that and sprints with it.
Fic Rec #8: What The Eye Don't See
Why This Must Be Read: A bit of fluff, a bit of smut, and a lighthearted post-BDM take on one of the movie's happy endings.
Fic Rec #9: Simple
Why This Must Be Read: Just what the title says. Kaylee meditates on Simon, and a few other things, but in the process she figures out what makes Simon tick, and how they might fit together.
Fic Rec #10: One Foot Wrong
Why This Must Be Read: Kaylee has her flaws, too, you know. Simon adjusts, and moves forward.
And two bonus recs, because I started with about 30 that I wanted to recommend and could only narrow things down but so far.
"A Story to Tell," by bgoodg. Post-BDM, Zoe and Wash's daughter grows up amid Serenity's crew.
"Very Civilized," by Thistlerose. Simon, Kaylee, snowballs, and fluff.