Friday, February 10, 2012

Guilty Pleasures: Pony Fanfics You Shouldn't Love (But Do)

I hope you'll forgive me if my internet presence is pretty limited until Saturday--like so many, I'm trying to avoid episode spoilers, now that the most recent one's been leaked through iTunes.  In the meantime however, I've compiled some of my musings into something I hope is fit for public consumption.

Below, I've collected a few thoughts about stories which bring me a lot of enjoyment, despite a whole laundry list of reasons why they shouldn't.  Take a look:

We all have guilty pleasures in life.  Whether it's a food item, a book, a video game, a song, or whatever, it's not hard to come across something that you're embarrassed to admit you like.  Heck, for a lot of folks coming here MLP itself probably qualifies as a guilty pleasure, and fanfics based on it doubly so.

For myself, I don't feel a lot of guilt over liking the show, nor over reading fanfiction in principle.  However, there  are a few stories that, for one reason or another, I like more than I care to admit.  At the risk of destroying any credibility I may have, I thought I'd look at what it is I like so much about some of those stories.

Obviously, nothing below is recommended, exactly.  That said, maybe some of you will find that you share a weakness with me.  Or if not, you can laugh at my poor taste and feel superior to me.  Either way.

With MLP fanfics, there seem to be two broad categories of stories which I'm inclined to like more than the analytic part of my mind tells me I should.  The first is:

Stories which I read when I first entered the fandom

This one's only natural, I suppose.  The first few episodes, the first few fanfics, the first few whatever, they're kind of special.  They're new and exciting in a way that subsequent ones aren't.  So, it's perfectly normal for me to have a soft spot for the first stories that I read when I became a pony fan.  Like one of the very first stories I read, RagingSemi(nee HFPS)'s Severing.

The story's probably well-enough known that I don't need to summarize it, but here's the bare-bones version: Twilight needs to kill all the other Elements of Harmony to gain their power, all to complete some evil machinations of Celestia's.

I'm not a big fan of most grimdark, and OOC ponies is a real sticking point for me, so there's no logical reason I should even find a story like this tolerable.  And on top of that, like most of RS's early stuff (since I don't read pony porn, I can't speak to his later writings) was barely edited.  Yet, I did find it tolerable.  More than that, I really liked it when I first read it, and subsequent read-throughs have not substantially changed the way I feel about it.  What can I say?  In a strange sort of way, Severing is special to me, flaws notwithstanding.

Then there's the second group of fanfics I'm prone to over-appreciate,

Stories which combine something I already love with ponies

Again, this isn't exactly an uncommon weakness.  When you see a crossover with your favorite book, video game, or whatever, your first inclination is probably to be thrilled, not trepidatious.  Sometimes, that means you end up getting pumped up for a story that's just not that stellar.

Take XFizzle's Equestria Hockey League.  I love watching hockey, and here's a story about ponies playing hockey!  It's chock full of those stupid puns I love so much!  It seems like almost every background pony in the show at least gets a cameo in it somewhere!  What's not to like?

Well, if we're being blunt, kind of a lot.  Most of the jokes and references would go right over the head of a non-hockey fan (Trixie turning to face Ponyville's goalie and waving her stick in her face?  Hilarious if you know about the stink over what Sean Avery did in the playoffs a few years back.  Otherwise... not so much), more than half of the average chapter consists of play-by-play reporting of a hockey game (again, often fun and exciting if you're a hockey fan, probably pretty dull and incomprehensible if you aren't), and the writing I would describe as stolid and workmanlike.  On top of that, the characters are often reduced to caracature for the sake of a joke.  Sometimes (like with Trixie) this works for me, but when the main 6 are being used to deliver a particularly blunt Aesop about teamwork or whatever it can be downright cringeworthy.  But what can I say?  I love hockey!  All the jokes and references work for me, to the point where I'm able to overlook the weaknesses in the writing and the niche appeal of the story.

So, there you have it: the way to my fanfic-reading heart.  Feel free to tell me what terrible taste I have.  Or share what your own e-literary weaknesses are, if you're brave enough.  At the very least, as a reader you might want to take a minute to think about what stories you've read that you liked despite them not being terribly good.  Knowing you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, after all.

Now if you'll excuse me, EHL just posted season 2, chapter 2.  I've got some reading to do.


  1. That is uncanny. Severing is the very first pony fic I read too.

    I couldn't even remember the title of it until you brought it up.


  2. I remember reading Severing and rolling my eyes all the way through, so I'm glad I am not alone in regards to its quality. Strangely enough, the first three or four fanficts I read (or round 1 as I call it) I have no love or liking for (even during the first reading) expect for one that Chris will eventually be reviewing, which is my guiltiest. I'll mention it when he gets there. Yes, I know why I like it and why it's bad.

    As for my other guilty pleasures, I have too many (obviously) but rather than listing a bunch of fanficts, I'll list certain genres and themes that many of they come from:

    "What if Alternate Universes": Part of the joys of fanficts (for me at least) is to do things the show cannot do (within limits) and these are the exemplars of that ideal. So if a story gets posted where the sonic rainboom doesn't happen or Nightmare Moon wins (doesn't matter what time), I'll read it. Whether or not I will continue to do so depends on the content because there are some that are too awful even for me to enjoy.

    "Really silly and stupid comedies": This may seem like a broad term but I define this as fanficts with dumb scenarios and the main cast is out of character in order for the whole thing to work. To give an example, Andrew J. Talon's Beating the Heat. Yes, the idea that cast get in heat and want to be "mounted" is a dumb, out of character, and kind of sexist, but it still makes me laugh. Particularly for the idea that Fluttershy being in heat is enough to declare a national emergency.

    There's one other theme that I derive a number of guilty pleasures from, but I'm not going to mention it until the one I mentioned earlier gets reviewed because it would give that fanfict away.

    *Would you believe this is the third time I've tried to write this whole darn thing, seriously it's like the universe hates (or hates me more than usual).*

  3. I have a horribly guilty pleasure for incredibly bizarre ships and clopfics, like Airshipping is Magic or I wish I was a Tree. I just find the idea of satirizing that subject matter intensely funny.

    1. Airshipping Is Magic is AMAZING. Nothing guilty about liking that! :D

    2. Damn you...I'm going to have to read it now, just to see.

  4. I guess I kind of feel that way pretty much any time I read fanfics with any amount of shipping in them. Aside from love stories with OC ponies, they just automatically feel like crowbar jobs and I recoil somewhat.

    Truth is, I never stop reading because of it though. I just got very soggy eyed reading "Yours Truly" that went up on EqD yesterday. I'm a big soppy bear and I'll enjoy anything that evokes real emotion (other than irritation at the author!). That's why Fallout: Equestria was as much of a hit with me as it was. It takes a thing that long to wrench quite as many tears out of me as it did.

    So no fics that are guilty pleasures. Getting a grip on reading MLP at all still gives me grief. Make me giggle, LOL, cry or grin like a loon, and I'm happy.

  5. I find myself drawn to sadfics. Most are meh, but a good one puts me in a funk for days. Why do I do that to myself. Even worse, that's mostly what I write, and the 2 I've got on EqD had me in tears while writing them. I'm obviously broken.

    The first fic I read was "My Little Dashie." It had a big emotional punch, but.. Y'know what, it's not that well written, and it's full of plot holes. I've got no desire to read it again, though I thought it was great at the time.

    I'm probably in the minority here, but "Yours Truly" (mentioned above), fits in the same mold for me, though that's not to say it's bad. Both have incredibly simple plots that can be summarized in a few sentences, but are more about the emotions involved than what happens. "Yours Truly" was much better written, but the plot was still predictable and never surprised. So, I have very mixed feelings about it. Yes, it was tear-inducing, but I've read bad stories that also were, due to their strengths of premise.

    As a regular reviewer at Ponychan, I'm experienced at critiquing fics, and left a lengthy comment near the bottom of the first page. I doubt the author will ever read it. It's good. How good, I'm not sure. It definitely gave me a strong reaction, and that alone makes it memorable and earns it a spot in my list of recommendations.

  6. Hm. Guilty pleasures? Light-hearted shipfics. They still have to make some kind of sense to me, however, and can't just be like "Hey Rainbow Dash" "Hey Pinkie Pie" "LET'S BUMP UGLIES!"

    Allegrezza is probably at the top of my list for a good ship, though the author appears to no longer update the story, which is quite unfortunate.

    Sad fics are sort of an in-between for me. Some tear me up for days, like Simply Rarity and To Be An Alicorn, some have almost no effect, like My Little Dashie or Forever.

    To me, sad fics are like...I don't know, discount sushi. It tends to be cheap, of questionable quality, and I might (and probably will) regret it later, but it's generally worth the risk for the few times when it really pans out.

  7. I read Severing just recently, and I was rather impressed by it, doubly so because it's not even a proper document. I was ready to discount it whole-hog as I neared the end of the first chapter, then it hooked me, THEN it did the twist near the end. I do wish it wasn't so horribly written though, it's a marvelous concept.

    I'm not sure I have a guilty pleasure anymore (unless you count reading pony fanfiction). I would have said 'shipping' a while back, but anymore I'm pretty gung-ho about it. Not even mass star-bombers can shame me!

  8. Hope you don't mind:

    But I wanted to post something about "Trixie's Magic Bit" by Applejinx, quite literally the most sexually explicit piece of fiction I have ever read, nearly every chapter containing at least one scene of pony-on-pony intercourse, scenes that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.

    And while these scenes mostly served to remind me why I don't read porn--I learned more about equine reproductive anatomy here than I ever wanted to know--what's really gotten me all hot and bothered about the story is how astonishingly well Applejinx has taken the ponies we all know and love, added sexual components to them that seem perfectly extrapolated from each individual's character, and then sets out to explore how their various sexual proclivities would effect their relationships with each other.

    Now, right up front here, I want to admit that I'm a difficult reader. Maybe 90% of the stories and novels I pick up--and I'm talking professionally published stuff here--I put down again after a few pages. The pace is too slow or too fast, or the characters seem carved from cardboard rather than people I want to spend time with.

    And fanfic? Well, in the 13 months that I've been following Equestria Daily, while I've started about half the posted fanfiction, I've made it to the end of exactly four stories. But I like the pony show so much, I keep trying, hoping to find something that'll tide me over till the next episode.

    Well, it occurred to me back in February that, since the only pony blogs I read are yours and EqD, I'd never actually seen any clopfic. So, fully aware that anything I would turn up was likely to be every bit as horribly written as the few pieces of regular pornography I'd ever tried, I typed "clopfic" into Google.

    The second or third entry in Google's list was for, and clicking through, I found a link to the aforementioned "Trixie's Magic Bit." Ready to be disappointed, I opened the first chapter--

    And was just plain swept away. The maguffin of the story's title, for instance, is perfectly handled--Rainbow Dash finds a magic bridle bit in the ruins of Trixie's cart, and when she takes it in her teeth, she suddenly sprouts a penis; dropping the bit makes her penis vanish, and the omnisexual Dash decides that this is something she really needs to share with her friends.

    Even more amazing is how the first chapter makes me believe the hoariest shipping cliché in the fandom--Applejack's secret love for Rainbow Dash--and I will happily call the last few hundred words of that first chapter one of the most romantic things I've read in years.

    Because the sex scene we've just been through does what any proper scene in a story should do: it advances the plot and develops the characters. I can't think of a single gratuitous sex scene in this whole fic, actually, as each scene creates consequences that end up rippling through all of Ponyville.

    Now, yes, the author's prose clanks a bit now and again, and it took me nearly to the end of the story to appreciate what he was doing with Fluttershy. The Lyra/Bon Bon subplot didn't quite jell for me, and there's a scene with the two princesses that never connects to anything.

    But the way the character interactions of the first half of the story wind upward till a literally climactic midpoint when Trixie herself returns, and everything that gets unleashed in acts four and five: there's some powerfully good writing in here. And to top it all off, the promised happy endings do indeed arrive, each and every one of them well earned by our heroes.

    So skim the sex scenes--I did more than once--but the emotional content they generate and the changes they ring on our familiar pony characters make this a story well worth taking a look at.


    1. I've heard so much about this story, I'm going to have to read it now. :D Congrats on being willing to expand your horizons in reading that, and also for choosing Equestria After Dark: Your Quality Source for All Things Clop!

    2. Oh, there was no choice involved:

      'Twas the Fickle Fetlocks of Fate that caused me to fetch up against Equestria After Dark. :)

      Mike Again