Wednesday, May 30, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 72: Eso Si Que Es

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

I was listening to some Gordon Lightfoot earlier, and I suddenly realized that, to the best of my knowledge, nobody's ever made PMV of The Pony Man.  Normally I let the non-fanfiction portion of the pony fandom do its thing without my commentary, but somebody needs to step up to the plate here; we don't need more hip-hop and dubstep stuff!  Give us some Lightfoot!  While we're talking folk music, I wouldn't mind seeing an Alice's Restaurant PMV, either.

After the break, my review of WTFHIW's Eso Si Que Es.

Impressions before reading:  As with the other happy Luna winners, I've read this story.  I remember that I liked it well enough, but didn't much care for the ending (spoiler alert: there's two blank pages, then a meme/joke unrelated to the story in any way).  I do have a weak spot for punnery though, so I admit that I'm partial to the title (even if I didn't much care for the "Luna in socks" meme).

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Luna and Celestia spend a night chatting, catching up on some letter-writing, and just enjoying each other's company.

Thoughts after reading:  This story occupies what I found to be a slightly uncomfortable middle ground: there's no driving force behind it, yet it isn't exactly a character study.  Honestly, reading it is an experience akin to watching one of the more archetypal Seinfeld episodes: it's a story about nothing.

That doesn't mean that nothing literally happens, or even that the story isn't enjoyable in its own right.  But it doesn't have any sort of plot worth mentioning, relatively little of what does happen develops the characters, and lengthy asides whose only function within the story is to be entertaining in their own right fill this already short piece.

The biggest selling point for this story is clearly the writing.  On a technical level, I have no complaints regarding the piece (okay, when I converted it to put it on my e-reader, some of the paragraphing got messed up.  That's not a complaint aimed at the author of course, but it is a complaint nonetheless).  The vocabulary is not particularly advanced, but it's clear that the language used was chosen deliberately, and the linguistic precision which pervades the story make it a pleasure to read, even when the content does not rise to the same lofty standards.

Sadly, the content was often a comparatively weak point.  To put it bluntly, the story consists of a whole bunch of disparate elements that never combine into a cohesive whole.  The princesses chat about some ponies Luna has met recently, then do some stuff, and none of it ever connects to anything else.  A loose and sprawling story is a difficult beast to tame, and here it comes off muddled and unfocused.

That said, there were some individual highlights.  The ending of the piece (not the meme, but the end of the story) is sweet, but is subtle enough not to draw attention to itself.  WTFHIW manages in only a few words to convey an impression of the state of Celestia and Luna's bond, and the ongoing work to mend the rift formed a thousand years ago, which is made more powerful by his apparent trust in the reader to understand the implications of the thoughts and words he uses without resorting to heavy-handed aesoping or flat-out telling the reader how they should interpret the sisters' interactions.  A few other scenes were entertaining in their own right (though Luna's description of two bickering siblings didn't really work for me; joking about sexual innuendo/accusations has its place, but it didn't fit the tone set in the rest of the story), but in the end they were just that: scenes.  There's not much of a story here, no matter how one looks at it.

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

While the excellent writing ensured that I never felt like I was wasting my time with this story, there's not much to recommend it beyond the quality of the prose.  The entire piece is a rambling, disjointed muddle.  That might be forgivable if it accomplished some larger purpose, such as developing one or more characters or setting events within the larger world in which the fic takes place, but neither occurs here.

Recommendation:  The story is enjoyable enough to read thanks to the writing quality, but there's not much to it.  I'd recommend it only to readers willing to tolerate a story without any larger point or purpose, but for those I suspect it will be found perfectly adequate for what it is.

Next time:  The Sock Swap, by ProBono


  1. One of the worst things a story can be is forgettable. A great story is one that manages to sink its hooks so deeply into a reader's mind that they walk away a little wiser, and the memory will remain for some time to come. A terrible story will make the reader more than a little spiteful at its existence, but they will still remember it for its awfulness.

    This fic makes the mistake of being utterly forgettable. It's telling that, when the "Happy Luna" fics came up on this blog, I could remember the others features here, but not this one.

    The story isn't terrible; in fact, it's technically well done. But there's no meat to the narrative. It's Happy!Luna done just as emptily as Sad!Luna. "Tonight I Shall Be Laughter" made Luna happy while also providing a wonderful story. "Sock Swap" based itself around a meme, but it still had a structured story to support itself with.

    I re-read this two days ago, just after you posted your last review, and as I am typing this comment I cannot remember a single thing. I haven't touched Sock Swap since the "Happy Luna" contest ended, but I can still remember key scenes and a few jokes that made me smile.

    I can't wait for "Sock Swap." Now that the Ponies-In-Socks meme is over and done with, I can't wait to see if the story can hold up at all.

  2. Generally, I'll take a badly written story I can get my teeth into over well written prose with no emotional investment any day of the week. I wouldn't even class this is well written prose though.

    Sure, it was well constructed and well polished, but it was also safe, which is just bland if you're not careful. Sometimes safe is fine, if the premise drags you in so that you don't really notice what you're (or at least ) reading. I mean, that's probably why I can usually stomach a little dodgy writing, I don't even notice it once I'm engrossed in a story and waiting for the next twist. There weren't any twists here. There was nothing to draw me in. Some stuff happened, then the end, and the blandness of the text stood out.

    Of course, I equally accept that these authors were writing within specific boundaries, but I can't let that stand as an excuse.

  3. I have a big, happy grin on my face right now.

    Why? Because this is exactly the kind of review I was hoping to receive on this story after I wrote it. Damn shame nobody called me on it until now, and it’s even more of a shame that it earned a 6-star rating in the first place (I down-rated it myself a couple of times, but it seems that some EqD staffer cleared the additional ratings from the same IP at some point, which is why it currently sits at 4.8). I thought that the title would have been enough to give it away that this story was nothing special, but it appears that I was quite wrong. I mean, come on . . . Eso Sí Que Es? Sure, folks were going to see the S-O-C-K-S pun, but what about the phrase’s common meaning, “It is what it is?” Chris, you’ve done a near-perfect job describing exactly what it is: “. . . a rambling, disjointed muddle.” If you’d thrown the word “silly” in there as well, and—as pg13fresno notes above—“forgettable,” then I would have called it a perfect description. ;-)

    Since I’m one of those types of people who feel it necessary to (over) explain myself, I’m going to go ahead and do just that. Anyone who isn’t interested in the slightest can stop reading here.
    Like Memories, this story was the result of an earwig; that is, a concept needling at me to the point of distraction. However, Memories was its own earwig in that the story itself demanded to be written (a good thing), while the Happy Luna event was the earwig in Eso’s case (good? Not so much). I ended up sitting on the Happy Luna earwig for nearly a week, finally convincing myself that I could bang out an entry for the event on its deadline day. Challenge: accepted.

    I originally started writing something considerably more weighty, but that narrative started taking an unnecessary turn for the maudlin and I ended up scrapping it. Then, for God knows what reason, a line from another unfinished (non-pony) story of mine popped into my head: “All's right with the world when one can spare the time to thoroughly enjoy a fish.” Since Celestia and Luna would have gotten no enjoyment from a fish in the same context that line implies, they would “spare the time” instead, in the form of a nice little slice-of-life story where they could just be sisters for a while. Considering this type of Celly/Luna interaction is something I’m absolutely dying to see in-show, I thought I’d picked a good track.

    Now, if I’d started on this story the week prior, I probably would have come up with something genuinely good. But no, I ended up starting fresh with the submission deadline looming while I was growing increasingly punchy, and worst of all, I allowed myself to get lost in the prompts. When I got to editing (such as it was—you were entirely too kind on the technical aspects, Chris. Luna’s overuse of the word “quite” and some very badly worded paragraphs throughout are making me cringe), it dawned on me that I’d written a silly and weird Luna-in-socks fic without a plot.

    Still punchy but feeling clever, I figured I could at least get a couple of snarky laughs out of readers by changing the title (it was “Strawberries, Socks & Snapshots” at one point), followed by an ill-timed 4chan moment before exporting, uploading, and kicking the link to Midnight. In all honesty, I was shocked that the story was being rated as high as it was when it went up. And yes, I played up the silliness of it all in the post’s comments, only to roll my eyes at it a few times further down the road and down-rate it when it crossed the 6-star line.

    Anywho, one can’t walk away from a train wreck without learning a lesson or two, so what have I learned from all this?: 1.) No more releasing earwig stories without giving them proper attention to make them into actual stories. 2.) No more contests or events unless I can spare the time to fulfill the requirements of point 1.

    1. In your defence, I've tried to move on and read Sock Swap, but I just can't do it...there really are worse things than being forgettable.

    2. The technical elements here are only subpar by comparison to your other stories, I think. Granted, that's the most relevant yardstick for an author, but not so much for a reader comparing the story not to Memories of Those etc. or what have you specifically, but to 6-star stuff generally. Other than that, I think you've hit the nail(s) on the head with your self-criticisms. Thanks for all the insight into this story.

      P.S. Do you know what future review people ask about more than any other except Past Sins and Fallout: Equestria. Luna's Goodwill Tour. So, I guess go write some more? No pressure or anything :)

  4. Lack of focus is the problem here, because nothing really happens. Plus the sock part was weird due to the princesses' behavior (I swear that the someone switched their coffee with 'the green fairy').

    And Chris your request has been denied, this world does not need more music videos (one of the five secondary abominations of mankind).