Monday, January 2, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 25: Crimps and Prance

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

The first 6-star review of the new year, and the second story in a row by Conner Cogwork!  My thoughts about the Cheerilee-centric Crimps and Prance, after the break.

Impressions before reading:  The previous story by this author was a classic case of "what could have been" for me: a cute and funny fic that never got hammered into a presentable shape.  So I'm feeling a mixture of hope and trepidation coming into this one.  Hope because I know that Conner can spin a great yarn; trepidation because I don't know whether this story has received the polish necessary to really shine.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  It's only one month into the school year, and Cheerilee is already burning out.  When her friends Lyra and Bon-Bon recommend she go with them to a new dance club, she initially dismisses the suggestion.  But then again, maybe a night spent getting back in touch with her younger side is just what she needs...

Thoughts after reading:  If I may quote the third sentence: "Granted, the occasions where every little pony spoke up all at once with ten or so different subjects at the same time were much worse, but usually a silence like this meant that, the majority of the class either had not been paying attention, or were otherwise, afraid to draw attention to themselves."  Commas, commas, every, where!  As with Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent!, this story is filled with technical errors of every flavor.  Incorrect punctuation, misspellings, homophone errors, inconsistent (and sometimes frankly bizarre) capitalization, etc.  I regret to say that this is just a mess.

It really is a shame, because once I'd hacked my way through the nigh-impenetrable thicket of grammatical distractions I found the story hidden within to be one I could keenly relate to.  The particular vulnerability which teachers have to aging too quickly is one I'm quite familiar with.  Trying to find the right balance between the professionalism required to perform one's job to the best of one's abilities and keeping one's social life (and mental state) healthy is a constant struggle.  Although the compromises and crises with which I'm familiar bear little resemblance to Cheerilee's, I understand very well the battle she's fighting.

The plot is simple, straightforward, and thoroughly predictable.  Although this isn't an episode-style story, it sticks to most of the conventions of story arc established by the show.  But what's important in this story is not so much what's going to happen (just from reading the summary, you can probably already guess the broad strokes) but the journey to get there.  That journey is, for the most part, entertaining and enjoyable.

I've never been much of a dancer, but I do know a thing or two about music.  And I certainly know a thing or two about the kids these days (good lord, did I really just use that phrase?) not playing my kind of music.  Although I found most of the descriptions of dance moves dull to read, I'm sure that more kinesthetically inclined readers would enjoy them, and I thought the musical references were used well.

Unfortunately, the story does more than reference.  At one point, Cheerilee hears a techno remix of a classic 80's song.  This is presented in the text as a perfect fusion of modern beat and the musical stylings with which she grew up.  Had that been the entirety of the presentation, I'd have happily gone along with it.  But instead, Conner links to an actual techno remix of said song.  Now I'll admit that the original wasn't exactly a masterwork in a musical sense (though I'm still fond of it), but I thought the song he linked to was just terrible.  It really broke that part of the story for me; instead of imagining a seamless blend of retro and modern club music like I was supposed to, I was wondering how Cheerilee could even stand to listen to it.

Of course, my opinion on the quality of the song may well be in the minority.  But that's kind of the point; in writing, if you say that (for example) Octavia plays a beautiful sonata on her cello, then all of your readers will dutifully imagine her doing so.  If you link to a cello solo on youtube and tell the reader that that's what she's playing, then the reader is now judging that piece by their own personal standards.  And since taste in music is very subjective, you'll almost certainly alienate some of your readers if you then say that that song was so hauntingly stunning that it moved everyone who listened to tears.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

This could have been a wonderful story about the difference between growing up and growing old.  Instead, it's a mess.  It's really a shame, because with some fairly minor work this might have been a real pleasure to read.  But it's just not fun to slog through something that's in such rough shape; despite the resonance which the story has, I can't honestly say I enjoyed reading it.

Recommendation:  If you are a big Cheerilee fan or a child of the 80's, you might want to consider this.  I wouldn't bother unless you're the sort of reader who can overlook constant mechanical flaws, however.  Also, I strongly recommend that anyone who's got fond memories of 80's music does not click the youtube link; your mileage may vary and all that, but I suspect fans of the original song will end up highly disappointed by the remix.

Next time:  Spacegirl, by Sunshine Smiles


  1. Yet another reason to never use music links in your stories. Do you hear me, authors? Never. NEVER! Stop doing it!

  2. I was reading a list of tips on writing fanfiction, and the author suggested adding music links, and I thought it was preposterous. Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels that way

  3. I quite agree. To do so would be tomfoolery of the highest order!

    ...everybody gets one, right?

  4. I guess I'm one of those people who can just ignore small grammar mistakes when casually reading. I really enjoyed both of Cogwork's stories and would recommend them to anyone who isn't bothered by grammar mistakes.

  5. "...I was wondering how Cheerilee could even stand to listen to it."


  6. I read my fics on an ipod touch offline. (I use Instapaper. Best damn app ever made; download it.) I don't click the links, but I can imagine the music playing. I first experienced this in Pen Stroke's "Changing Octaves" where Octavia watches a musical performance. I couldn't hear the music, but he describes it in a way where the link is pointless.

    Pen Stroke's most recent fic, Little Sugar Shop of Horrors, also uses links to music. This fic, on the other hand, is a crossover, and uses the songs directly from the source material. This way you can keep up with the songs as they're sung in the fanfic. It's done rather well because the narrative in the songs is short enough for most readers to keep up with the singing. I didn't have the link for the first song, as I was offline. I didn't need it, though; I knew the song. The second song was fuzzy in my memory, so it was hard to follow. That's when I used the link on my computer. There were no songs after that, I believe.

    The same happened in this story. I had no internet, so I didn't hear the music. Once I finished reading, I was curious how the song went. I thought it was some amazing remix of "Safety Dance," but I was sorely disappointed with the music. I'm with Chris on this one: I have no idea how Cheerilee would be able to dance to that. The fic was really good, otherwise. It's one of my favorites without the music. I try to ignore the comma issue.