Friday, December 30, 2011

6-Star Reviews Part 24: Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent!

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

It's kind of interesting to look at the stats this blog has generated.  For example, about two-thirds of the traffic to this site is from the US, and most of the rest is from Canada, Australia, and the UK.  Alright, nothing too surprising there.  But what nationality do you suppose represents the next most visits?  Luxembourg.  If you are reading this post and are a native Luxembourger, I only have one thing to say to you: do you think you could get me Frank Schleck's autograph?  I'm kind of a big cycling fan, and he's one of my favorite riders.  I assume that, given the tiny size of your nation, every citizen knows the Schleck brothers personally.

...On that note, and apropos to nothing, my review of Conner Cogwork's Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent!  Below the break, as always.

Impressions before reading:  When this story was first posted, I started reading it.  I gave up after a few pages though; I don't remember why, but I know I wasn't particularly enamored with it.

Since then, I've heard nothing but good things about it.  Several lists I've seen have mentioned it as one of the best fanfics this fandom has produced.  Well, lots of people like things that frankly are crap, but on the whole I'm inclined to guess that I'll enjoy the story a lot more this time around.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Rarity and Applejack find themselves invited to the biggest event this side of the Grand Galloping Gala, AJ discovers that she'll have to re-learn the speech patterns of an upper-class Manehattanite to fit in.

Thoughts after reading:  I'm going to guess that, when I first read this story, I actually gave up at after eight sentences: the length of the first 'segment.'  I can easily see why I would have.  I'm going to quote the text in full, so that I can demonstrate the problems:

Carousel Boutique was currently a seamstress's nightmare.

There was a reason for this. Not three minutes ago, the proprietor of the establishment had
[there should be a second "had" here] a visit from a very influential customer. Said customer had congratulated said proprietor on a commissioned piece that was made for an upcoming agriculture exhibition. They [should be he, as there's only one customer.  Yes, I'm familiar with the uses of singular 'they,' but my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style agrees with me that it's "unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers."  Given that the gender of the customer is only unknown in the sense that the author has inexplicably decided not to provide this information to the reader yet, avoidable use of the singular 'they' is certainly a mistake)] were [was, see previous] impressed enough, [there's no reason for this comma to be here] that they [he] wanted the proprietor to join them [him] at the exhibition, and showcase their [his/her.  It's not clear if we're talking about the proprietor or the customer here, since "showcase his/her wares" could apply to both in this situation] wares.

The proprietor had said yes.

Now the proprietor is
[tense slide.  Look back at the first sentence--there, we established that the 'present' is presented in past tense] wondering what in Celestia's great kingdom she's gotten herself into. Let's watch, shall we?

I'm also not a big fan of the last sentence; outside of meta-comedy, I don't usually want to interact directly with my narrator.  That, however, is an opinion.  The fact is that the first few lines are riddled with errors.  After reading something like that, why would I bother going any further?  I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of any authors who desire their works to be read to make sure their writing is as clean and mistake-free as human fallibility permits, but come on: at least get the first couple of paragraphs right.  They set the tone for the rest of your story, after all.

Of course, I did read further for this review.  I read the whole story, in point of fact.  Although the mistake rate was somewhat lower in the document as a whole than in the first few sentences, technical and grammatical errors of every description abounded throughout.  Honestly, I can't imagine that if this story was submitted to EqD today it would make it past the pre-readers.  For me, it was a huge distraction--every sentence or two, the author would slip up again, and now instead of focusing on the story I'm thinking about punctuation or tense or whatever.  An occasional mistake I can overlook, but this was such a mess that reading it was a chore.

As you can probably guess from the title, this story plays on Applejack's accent a lot.  Frankly, it's nearly impossible to read in places, and doesn't match her accent from the show terribly well.  "Ah couldn't rightly say no ta her li'l ol face, so ah baked up a bunch'a them t'is mornin'!" sounds less like the cowpony from the show that it does like Cletus the buck-toothed yokel from The Simpsons.  I know that the point of the story was that AJ had a thick accent, but that point could have been made a lot less bluntly (and more legibly).

On a more positive note, the plot could have come from an actual episode.  With a simple moral about being honest with oneself, and plenty of accessible but not pandering comedy to boot, the whole story arc worked very well.  Both AJ and Rarity were completely in character, and the OCs were fresh and believable.  I especially liked Pinkie's family (who I guess aren't technically OCs, but don't really have any canon personalities), who provided one of the funniest moments towards the end of the story.

Regarding the final message, I have to say I disagree with the idea that modulating one's speech is dishonest, either to others or to oneself.  This isn't a criticism of Conner's story, by the way--I really wouldn't be surprised if MLP did an episode in the future with the exact same moral--but I feel like I should comment on it anyway.  It reminds me of when I was ten or twelve, and we were cleaning the house because Grandma was coming over.  When I asked why we had to clean up just because of that, Mom explained that we didn't want Grandma to think that we lived in a pigsty.  My response?  "Doesn't that mean we're lying to her?"  Like young me, I think that this moral confuses dishonesty with basic courtesy.  Since the point is made in the fic that AJ's accent is barely decipherable to Rarity, even given all the years they've known each other, isn't it reasonable to conclude that most non-southern-twang-speaking ponies would find it literally indecipherable?  Wouldn't it then be nothing more than common sense to work on learning how to speak at conventions in an easy-to-understand manner?

Okay, I'm done over-analyzing the moral.  And as I said, I don't think that it's an inappropriate one for the story.  My only problem with the ending, in fact, was the omnipresent grammar difficulties.  I obviously can't quote the text here, but each of the last two sentences contains at least one technical error.  A bit of advice to all authors: if nothing else, get the first few paragraphs right.  But, if you can spare a moment after that, at least make sure the last sentence of your fic is grammatically correct.  It's the last thing a person reading your story will remember, after all.

Star rating:    (what does this mean?)

There's a good story buried under this mountain of improper usage and impenetrable dialectical rendering.  It's a pity that that story hasn't been edited properly (or at all, more likely).  As I said at the start, I wouldn't have made it ten sentences in if I weren't planning to write this review.

Recommendation:  If you like episode-style stories, and if you like Applejack, this might be worth a go for you.  But don't bother if you aren't prepared to wade through some writing that's only half a step above draft quality.

Next time:  Crimps and Prance, by Conner Cogwork


  1. Yay! Go go, Luxembourg!
    Unfortunately, am I not actually a native Luxembourger, just a resident Eurocrat (you always hear of Brussels as heart of the EU, but there's loads of institutions housed here as well), so you'll have to ask somepony else.
    Your chances are good, though, since I do know at least 3 other bronies around here, which is 50% of the population already ^_^

    Lame jokes aside, this is as good a time to say this as any other: These reviews are absolutely awesome. It's obvious you actually know what you're talking about when you analyse all these things, and definitely far above the internet average of "LOL this is amazing check it out"
    Not only do they point out possible pitfalls for my own writing, and single out the fics really worth reading, they are also actually fun to read all by themselves; which (considering the topic in question ^_^) speaks highly of your skills!
    I have no idea how long you'll keep this up for, but I'll certainly be sad when you stop... You definitely deserve more readers, that's for sure!

  2. I'm glad I read that before I became an editor for another story then. XD

  3. I find the way people write Applejack's accent to be incredibly irritating, especially as a southerner. The usage of "Ah" instead of I is the worst, I wince everytime I see it.

  4. I liked this one, but hte prose was not its friend. I think I could appreciate its moral because I am a minor in teachimg English as a second language. Being told and feeling that the way that you and your family speak is just plain wrong and inferior would be a pretty terrible feeling.