Monday, December 12, 2011

6-Star Reviews Part 18: The Truth About Pinkie Pie

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

Many people have tried to explain Pinkie's "Pinkie sense" and 4th-wall-breaking tendencies with some combination of science, magic, and asspullery.  Here, we have a story that purports to give us the long-sought answer at last!  After the break, my review of Batty Gloom's The Truth About Pinkie Pie.

Impressions before reading: I remember enjoying this a lot when I first read it.  Since then, I don't think I've heard of it again.

I have, however, heard of Batty Gloom since then.  These days, he's probably best known as the guy who collaborated with Pen Stroke on Past Sins.  Leaving aside discussion of the massive fandom/hatedom that fic has spawned, he remains unarguably one of the best-known pony fanfic authors out there.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Pinkie Pie's friends have always wondered how she can seemingly defy physics, but her recent behavior has pushed them all over the edge.  They finally confront Pinkie Pie, intervention-style, and demand to know just how she got her "freaky powers."

Thoughts after reading:  The reason stories with meta- elements are so hard to pull off is that they undermine their own integrity.  Calling attention to the fourth wall may be good for a quick laugh, but it encourages readers to dismiss the story by calling attention to the fact that it is a story.  Poorly executed meta-stories quickly collapse under the weight of reader apathy.

The Truth About Pinkie Pie combats this impulse by making its meta- elements the focus of the backstory, using them to support the integrity of its main character rather than to undermine her.  This story gives Pinkie Pie the real-world knowledge to explain what she is and where she came from, but then goes the extra step and uses that information, and her access to it, to explicate what we observe in the show itself.  And it does this all without ever discarding its own premises for the sake of a joke--clearly a difficult thing to resist, if the reams of lesser meta-humor stories are any indication.

The "story" consists almost entirely of Pinkie telling her friends who she really is and where she came from; as such, there's not much to say about the story outside the story, so to speak.  It exists mostly as an excuse for Pinkie to tell us her backstory, and it serves perfectly well in this role.

The writing is mostly good.  Applejack's accent is over-written, and she appears to occasionally slip from southern/southwestern American dialect into a northern Irish voice ("You mean tah tells us that you started off as one o’ them stacks o’ papers?”), but the other characters are voiced well.  Spelling and grammar is mostly good, with one exception: punctuation coming out of quotes is inconsistent.  Batty often uses a period where a comma is needed.  Also, he uses a single space after periods.  Yes, I know, that's standard nowadays (it's even required in some forms of writing!) and it seems most fic authors these days do, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  Back in my day, periods got two spaces after them, and that was that.

Using modern spacing rules may incur the ire of my inner curmudgeon, but the plot more than makes it up to him.  Evoking a keen nostalgia for the golden age of animation, this story feels almost like a tribute to the bygone era when cartoons were still fresh and exciting, when convention hadn't reduced most most shows to either mindless retreads or cynical deconstructions.  Given that MLP is one of the few (only?) shows today which capture that feeling of innocence and excitement, it seems a remarkably appropriate vehicle.

Finally, the story does include links to a few TVtropes pages which the author directly references.  Personally, I could have done without; I'm not a big fan of out-of-story distractions when I'm reading.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

A few technical errors and other distractions aren't enough to detract from the heart of this story.  It's warm and fuzzy, yet self-aware (in almost every sense of the word) without ever being cynical.  That's one hell of a balancing act to pull off.

Recommendation:  I'd suggest this story to anyone, but especially to those of you who, like me, grew up when Saturday morning cartoons were still dominated by Bugs and Daffy, Roadrunner and Coyote, and Tom and Jerry (and not the new, crappy Tom and Jerry, either).  One of the reasons MLP appeals to me is because it reminds me of those shows in ways other modern cartoons don't.  This fic evokes that same feeling of nostalgia in me, and I love it.

Next time:  Party of None, by Sparkler and Quill


  1. I am sorry, but this double-space nonsense irritates me to no end. Double-spacing after periods was only introduced because of the fixed-width fonts used by mechanical typewriters in the 70s. These days we have variable-width fonts, so it only makes sense to do it if you're writing in Courier.

    It leaves holes in your writing and damages your flow.

  2. Yes, I know that there's no practical reason to double-space after a period in modern writing. But there's also no practical reason to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. I don't have a source handy, but I was taught that the practice is a holdover from Roman-era Latin, in which there was no punctuation between sentences and the capital letter was necessary to show where one idea ended and another began. There's also no reason one can't end a sentence with a preposition (as Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas explain in their excellent book, The Grammar Bible), but it still looks odd to me when I see people end sentences with "above," "with," or "towards." What can I say? I fear change.

    In any case, I appreciate your opinion (well, I guess it's not really an "opinion" if you're objectively right and I'm wrong...), but the double-space rule was drummed into my head far to soundly for me to ever really acclimate to current convention. If it's any reassurance to you, I didn't hold it against Batty Gloom when reviewing this story--after all, what's to hold against him if he didn't do anything wrong?

    1. yeh end thare iz know reazon to uze speling eether!!!!!SPeling iz 4 luzerz.

      trolololo! >:D

    2. Capital letters help maintain the integrity by making the barriers between thoughts easy to identify. They work with punctuation to increase the readability of a work.

      There are definite reasons for not ending a sentence with a preposition. The rule can be more accurately phrased as "Don't separate a noun from its preposition". This is important because English noun declension has lost most of its unique noun forms. To identify the purpose of a noun in a sentence one must pay attention to its preposition or its context. Most nouns do not wear their functions on their suffixes anymore. The rule isn't IMPORTANT, but following it can dramatically improve readability.

      Double spacing after a period, though... That's completely useless unless you're using a fixed-width font.

  3. Sorry to just jump in here, but frankly, I've always been of the opinion that double-spacing after a period is sensible and looks much better. Single spaces after sentences make the sentences run together. A double space is the tiny touch that visually creates the near imperceptible pause between one sentence and the next, one idea and the next. Without that pause, without that indicative structure, we might as well just eliminate periods altogether and use an unending tide of semicolons, since that's the sort of uninterrupted stream of words that using only single spaces visually portrays.

  4. Brohoof for double-spacing after a period. (Not that I do it in comments, natch.) The backlash against that boggles my mind.

    1. It's mostly because it's useless. If YOU like doing it, that's cool, keep doing it.

      Personally, I detest the rule because it screwed me out of a job many years ago. I had to pass a typing test to get an interview, but the double space after each period on the sample I was given looked like a proportionally larger single space, so I just did a single space. I'm a decent typist, I can do 60~70 words per minute with 95% accuracy, but because of that fucking rule I failed the test miserably.

      So, more power to you, but I am never going to follow the rule unless an employer demands it.

  5. First anon here again. I guess it's a matter of taste and what you're used to. Personally, I hate double-spacing because it leaves holes in text. I feel that sentences are perfectly separated enough with periods, capitalisation and a single space.

    So do it if you really want to. I'm just making the point that it's not so much a case of "this used to be a rule, but it's now be phased out by modern whippersnappers" as "this was a workaround for use with an obsolete device which got misinterpreted as a rule by everyone's teachers".

    Double-spacing is not typographically correct, but you're free to do as you please on the internet.

  6. I have to say that you and I have a TOTALLY different opinion on this fiction.