Friday, April 20, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 59: Dinky Doo's Father Revealed

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

Walgreens had a 75% off sale on Easter candy.  I'm now the proud owner of two large bags of Peeps.  As such, I am a very happy man.

Hopefully this next story will contribute to my good mood, rather than detract from it!  Below the break, my review of Dinky Doo's Father Revealed, by Roy G. Biv.

Impressions before reading:  Not too much to go on here: the story promises to reveal who fathered Dinky, the unicorn foal whom fans often consider Derpy's child, but doesn't say much else about itself.  The description does promise a "happy Derpy Hooves/Ditzy Doo and Dinky Doo story" though, which sounds fine to me.  The fic is tagged shipping, but I don't know what to make of that going in--it could just be because the story's about finding out who Derpy is/was in a relationship with.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Dinky starts being taunted at school, she asks her mother why she doesn't have a father.  Ditzy's explanation starts her on a quest to find out what happened to the stallion her mother loved.

Thoughts after reading:  Let me start out by observing that the "absolutely not grimdark" tag is a lie.  At least, any story which contains casual cold-blooded murder and an explicit (if small-scale) eugenics program, as the second chapter of this one does, qualifies as such in my book.  So if you chose to read this story, be aware of that going in.

But really, there are a lot of dark or disturbing elements to this piece.  It's clear from Derpy's backstory in chapter one that the asylum "farm" she was confined to is an all-purpose holding facility for anyone who doesn't meet Equestria's definition of normal.  Along with those suffering serious emotional or developmental difficulties, the facility apparently houses ponies whose only "specialness" is a physical disability.  It seems like "The Farm" is an all-purpose dumping ground for anypony who is considered "undesirable."  As the wholesale quotation mark abuse I've engaged in in this paragraph suggests, the way things are handled seems to me incredibly creepy and morally suspect.  It's clear that most of the ponies who go to the farm never return; Ditzy may have made it back to the outside, but it sure looks as if The Farm is intended to be a place where "problem ponies" are sent to be forgotten.

The story had a number of problems maintaining internal consistency.  For example, a mute character is in different places said to have been speechless from birth, and to have lost his voice in a flood (which seems an odd way to suffer irreparable damage to the larynx, but never mind that).  Ditzy's intelligence level appears to fluctuate at turns from that of a normal adult to a young child's level; although in some places she's shown to be able to fully function in society and to be able to write at a high level, at other times it appears that she can't grasp the distinction between genetic and induced trauma, or is unable to learn new words despite repeated exposure.  These kinds of inconsistencies dotted the story.

On the subject of Derpy, she's presented in her "word salad" variant here: she's unable to speak normally, instead substituting similar-meaning or -sounding words for what she intends (and tossing in a few dozen "muffin"s along the way).  As I already said, it's difficult to guage what her intended intelligence level is, but I'm guessing from the description of her condition as being a result of Foal Alcohol Syndrome that she's supposed to be at least slightly mentally handicapped.

Spelling and punctuation were quite good throughout the story, but other elements of editing were lacking.  There were occasional cases of tense slippage (especially in the second chapter), and phrases were frequently misused or miswritten; Ditzy having a "slimmer of hope" near the start of the story is a characteristic example.  The author also frequently conflates connecting words; using why when that would be correct or vice-versa, mixing up in and on, and so forth.

One thing which I did really like about this story was the pony puns.  The head of the asylum being named Mare Blucher got a laugh out of me, though I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for wordplay.  The tone of the story is quite serious throughout, and I found the occasional bit of textual levity a welcome break, and one in keeping with the spirit of the show.

As for the shipping element... there are two parts to that story.  Presumably, the tag was mostly included because the story is about Ditzy and her lover, and the first chapter details how they met and fell for one another.  If the setting was as dark and unsettling as could be, I had no major problems with the romance itself.  On the other hand, the second chapter brings into play a frankly bizarre addition to the pony milieu: it supposes the existence of combination secret societies/gay bars throughout Equestria, which can be contacted and entered via a secretive underground railroad-type system.  As a casual and tangentially related addition to the story (it has no impact on the main plot that couldn't have been provided just as easily by Ditzy having family or friends living in or near Fillydelphia), it was such a major, shocking invention on the part of the author that it left me stunned.  Roy G. Biv also uses this opportunity to tell the reader that at least half the main six are lesbians, though really I was too caught up in the underground same-sex clubs to be bothered by that.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

This is a very strange piece of fanfiction.  Told differently, I think it could have been a sweet story about a foal looking for her father, or a dystopian tale of how the different races of Equestria keep their respective lines pure of perceived defects.  But trying to blend these two themes (I think the second was unintended by the author, but frankly it's unavoidable as written) creates an uncomfortable mess of a story.

Recommendation:  I could see people reading this for the sheer weirdness of the premise, but that's about it.  One might be able to read only the first chapter and think of it as a bittersweet story of love and loss, if they were able to overlook the social and societal implications of Ditzy's confinement.  But as a whole, I can't recommend this story.

Next time:  The Vinyl Scratch Tapes, by Corey W. Williams


  1. "One might be able to read only the first chapter and think of it as a bittersweet story of love and loss, if they were able to overlook the social and societal implications of Ditzy's confinement."
    This is why did when I read this ages ago. I got about halfway through the second chapter before wishing the author hadn't written a second chapter.

  2. If I remember correctly, this was originally a one-shot, (and the ending was different as well from what I read in the comment sections). That might explain why there's a huge gap in tone or whatever there was.

    I only read the first chapter (because it was originally a one-shot and that's all I needed) and honestly, I really couldn't tell you what I thought about it besides being unmoved. It's rather forgettable.

    I suspect though, that the things you have in quotes are to tone down the true nature of "The Farm". After all, Derpy is writing this to Dinky, and she's only a kid. At least if that was intentional on the author's part, otherwise, I've got no explanation.

  3. I stumbled across the first chapter and hadn't known about the rest. Read that way, it wasn't bad; no murder (that I remember) or sex clubs (I think I'd remember those). I didn't read The Farm quite so harshly, more as a home for ponies with special needs. Not that that is necessarily a good thing, but I think I see where the author was trying to go and it wasn't ill intentioned. A bit clumsily attempting to grab at the heartstrings, and although I'm okay with some forms of word-salad Derpy, this one didn't ring true to me. If you're desperate for more Derpy, might be worth it, but I'd give it a pass.

  4. I hadn't even realized there was a second chapter. Honestly, when I read it through, I got the impression that the farm was less a place for them to go and be out of society's way than a sort of adult care home that tried to help their residents become independent citizens, but I might have read too much of that into it.

    My real issue (since I only read the first chapter, I'll take your word on the weirdness of the second) was the fact that... well, okay. People get into bad circumstances. However, it seems to me that a child shouldn't be old enough to ask "why don't I have a dad" before you ever make a trip home to see them. I mean seriously, that's just messed up. I was surprised more wasn't made of that, though maybe I've forgotten some sort of mitigating detail.

  5. Personally, my biggest problem with this story was how ponies managed to do hoof-based sign language. I wanted this elaborated. A significant portion of the gestures in ASL have to do with fingers and the shape of the hand, rather than just the motion of the hands themselves. How does this translate to a species that doesn't have any digits at all?

    Wouldn't it make more sense to just tap out Morse code or something? Or write?

    ... I think way too much about this stuff.

    1. It must involve facial expressions too. Or something.

  6. On the other hoof...Vinyl Scratch Tapes! This should be interesting, one way or the other...