Monday, November 19, 2012

6-Star Review Part 116: Tilt

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

A simple suggestion, if I may: I'd like to propose that, henceforth, any author who wants to write a second-person story be required to read this first.  I'd like to think it would result in far fewer trainwrecks cropping up on FIMfiction, but maybe I have too much faith in the ability of those authors to get the joke, or understand how it might apply to their own writing.

After the break, my review of the definitely-not-a-second-person-adventure, Passport-Clean's Tilt.

Impressions before reading:  This is one I've read before, and I enjoyed it immensely.  But despite lacking the tag, this is very much a "random" story, and random stories don't always hold up well to inspection.  Still, look at that cover art!  How can you not want to enjoy this?  It's Trixie... on a pinball!  Making a "this is serious" face!  The fact that the image has nothing to do with the story itself beyond the fact that both contain Trixie and pinball does nothing to damper the smile that image brings to my face.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Applejack is determined to beat the high score on the family pinball machine, which has mocked her ever since the Apples purchased it.  Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and it isn't by chance alone that "G.A.P." has held the top spot on the game for so long...

Thoughts after reading:  Actually, to call this "random" is a bit of an overstatement.  There's a clear, structured story, filled with consistent, developed characters here, which is hardly the hallmark of a random story.  It's just that the story also centers around a magical pinball machine (seapony-themed, complete with SHOO BE DOO-ing out the wazoo) with a mind of its own, and the increasingly unlikely interactions with it to which various ponies are driven.  So, you can see where the term applies.

Perhaps "incongruously dramatic" would be a better word, because that's mostly what's going on here: an inherently silly situation presented with unflinching sincerity.  From AJ's initial determination to beat a pinball game's high score to Trixie's declaration that she will right all wrongs and solve all ills by playing "the most awe inspiring game of pinball any pony has ever witness[ed]," Tilt does a nice job of using its increasingly absurd premise not as a comic crutch, but as the basis for a surprisingly well-developed story.  A story that just happens to be based on ponies playing pinball, which gives it a nice patina of comedy, but doesn't overwhelm the action.  Like a normal random story (which I realize is an oxymoron) though, it does rely heavily on credulity-straining events as story drivers.  I never found these to be anything but amusing and of the non-immersion-breaking variety, but they're there nonetheless.

From a technical standpoint, the only complaint of note is excessively sparse punctuation; there's plenty of run-on sentences crying out for commas here, among other things (for example, "awe inspiring" from the quote above really should be hyphenated).  Otherwise, word choice is quite good, and character voices are rendered quite nicely on the whole.  Trixie especially demonstrates the same over-the-top melodramatics which she does in the show, something many writers seem to struggle with.  This Trixie is neither under-written, nor reduced to a mere third-person one-note joke; a Bob Dole caricature, if you will (now that I think about it, a Trixie x Bob Dole crackfic would be... well, it would definitely be something).

And it's not just Trixie's voicing that rings true.  Passport-Clean uses her very well as a character, deftly avoiding many of the traps into which authors fall when writing about her.  In this story, she's unambiguously brash, arrogant, and otherwise full of herself, yet the author manages to broaden that characterization without dismissing or devaluing those defining characteristics at all.  Her backstory was an especial treat: thoughtful, but not needlessly angsty or maudlin like so many Trixie backstories are.  The other ponies are equally well-written, though none of them (even poor AJ, the nominal protagonist) are particularly nuanced.  Although the ending was a bit trite for my tastes, one thing I greatly appreciated was that, although there was a lesson, it didn't toss anypony's characterization out the window.

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

Although this is an unquestionably ridiculous piece of fanfiction, it's real strength lies in the fact that behind its unquestionably ridiculous premise lies a thoughtful (if still comic) story.  Tilt is funny, yes, but there's more to it than just sprawling jokes.

Recommendation:  This is not a story for anyone who's going to get caught up in the logistics of pony pinball, suspiciously convenient magic spells, or other such insertions/contrivances, obviously.  For pretty much any other reader though, I'd say that it offers a nice mix of comedy and quality characterization.

Next time:  Naked Singularity, by Cold in Gardez


  1. Or maybe people should stop writing their 2nd person ficts like first person narratives and also avoid certain things in them like ******* Fluttershy. I think there's been only one 2nd person I've liked, and it helped because it wasn't about pony sex (something I am never in the mood for). That and I don't like someone else telling me how i feel, when I read a story.

    Also Trixie getting smacked with the giant ball would have worked better for me but maybe that's just pent-up anger of the fact that she's going to be in another episode (and a really bad one by the looks of it).

    1. Is it me, or does it feel like almost nobody who comments on this blog even likes the show anymore? Or is it just the episodes that Chris chooses to highlight? Granted, the Trixie episode has almost zero chance of pleasing anybody, but I'm not going to condemn it until I see it.

      Also, last week's episode wasn't the greatest, but it was a good one.

    2. I absolutely love the show! Too Many Pinkie Pies was one of my favorites (not sure how much of that is due to Best Pony bias). I was pleasantly surprised to see Dave Polsky return, as he's one of my favorite writers. Odd that so many dislike his episodes

      Bugs, maybe you're just in a bad mood 'cause you thought of clop fics. They have a tendency to incite rage

    3. The show is okay, but I love the fandom.

      Do you know how rare it is to find a fandom as active as this one is? One that constantly and consistently offers constructive criticism? One that actually takes the concrit well?


    4. @pg13fresno:

      I was thinking the same thing.

    5. I'll easily admit that the show is taking a huge nosedive for me. S2 was more miss than hit, and the finale was awful.

      It's not that I've forgotten that it's a cartoon written for small girls, it's that the writers don't respect the audience any more.

      As for older things, too often the fanbase has battered any love I've had for characters into oblivion. I try to ignore it, but it's very hard not to be turned immediately off by anything even mentioning Trixie's name. I think that's why Bad Horse's The Detective and the Magician resonated so well with me. It wasn't just well written, but it was an intelligent use of Trixie's actual character from the show.


    6. "S2 was more miss than hit, and the finale was awful."

      Amazing, because I'm actually of the opposite persuasion. Outside of a couple poor episodes, I actually liked the second season more than the first, and the finale was good. Not great, but still good. Still, to each their own.

      Agreed on Trixie, though. So many stories have resorted to cheaply pasting over her many jackass tendencies and arrogant behavior in the show that it's very hard to read anything staring her anymore. That's what makes me actually like stories like "Tilt," since it keeps her mostly in-character even in the midst of an incredibly random story.

    7. Sessalisk, comments like that always sit weird with me. While I can understand the sentiment, I'm also reminded of those rather unsavory folks who're almost exclusively into the fandom and don't care for the show at all. It makes me want to get into the person's head and get a better idea of what exactly they mean

      I feel like I should explain myself a little more. As I said, I love the show. I'd watch it even if everyone else thought it was crap (ignoring the fact that I may not've been aware of it if it weren't for fan works). However, I don't spend nearly so much time with any show as I do with ponies. I just can't watch reruns for hours on end, every day, for over a year. Of course, I don't do that with MLP either. I'm watching PMVs, listening to music, analyzing the show's chronology and other ridiculous crap. Once in a blue moon, I'll even read a fanfic. Without the fandom, I might not even watch new episodes on a regular basis. It'd just be another, albeit quite good, show

      To the extent that a person means something along those lines when they say it's more about the fandom, I have no problem. But it bugs me to no end that there are "bronies" - and I don't know how they can call themselves that - who don't care for the show, either not watching it or only doing so to fit in. These are often those people who espouse "love and tolerance" as if it were the be-all-end-all of bronydom. To say one's a brony because they agree with the show's "message" ... it's just infuriating

      Sorry, I got a little off-track there. This fandom can get my humors all out-of-whack sometimes. Perhaps a phlebotomy would help...

    8. Inquisitor, my bro.

      Season 2 gave us a lot of good stuff I wouldn't do without, but I have a feeling I will always be a season 1 purist, perhaps to my own detriment. Season 3 certainly has yet to give that a run for its money so far...

    9. Dave Polsky and more equine behavior are back, so I'd say we're off to a pretty good start. But yeah, as much as I enjoyed Season 2, the first one was just magical. Though I wonder how much of my opinion has to do with me marathoning the whole season 'cause I joined late

    10. I enjoy the show a lot, and I enjoy writing about it even more.

      In light of the "My Lil' Vinyl" fic that's currently in the FIMFic feature box, though, I will now be completely open about the fact that I really kinda hate the fandom most of the time.

    11. @ ProfessorOats

      I am not a brony. I am a person who loves reading shit and loves it when people put the time and effort into making shit that is good to read. I love it when people help other people *make* that shit good to read, through constructive feedback and critical reviews like on this blog.

      I have been in many fandoms and I have never been in any where people have pushed themselves to excel as much as this one. I have never been in a fandom where people were so diligent when it came to improving their own work. There are always a few entitled jerks, and there are rule 34 fetishists, and there are people who can't take criticism of any sort, just like in every fandom, but the overall attitude is so conducive to good writing that I can't help but bask in its awesome.

      That is what I love about this fandom.

      The show could be about cactus porn, and I would still love you guys if you kept the same attitude.

    12. Ah. Fair enough. There's nothing wrong with liking the fandom alone, especially for such good reasons as you've listed. My problem's more with the people who aren't in it for the show but call themselves bronies. Actually, that's more of a minor annoyance. The real problem would be when such a person has the gall to suggest another fan isn't truly a brony because they've failed to "love and tolerate," as if that's what this fandom's about

      Ugh, I need to learn how to articulate my thoughts better

    13. @ProfessorOats

      What Sessalisk actually means is that by being part of this fandom, she can make lewd and grossly inappropriate jokes with me.

      True story.

  2. Admittedly, what got me to read this one was my love of pinball. In fact, the thing that makes me miss arcades the most is being able to pop down on one of the good machines and school those whippersnappers on how to play a mean pinball. But other than that, this story has one of the best versions of Trixie I've seen in a long time, and I loved the pragmatism of the moral.

    Overall, this was a good one.

  3. Where did that bit about 2nd-person fics come from? Because it led me to expect that this was 2nd-person and that you were going to destroy it, but neither of those things happened and I am confused.

    This at least sounds like my favorite kind of random fic. And you're absolutely right about that image.

  4. I hate you so much, Chris. Because of you, I'm reformatting Fallout: Equestria so I can read it later. Do you have any idea how big of a pain that is? Maybe I should just skip that step this time and read the story straight. Kkat at least double-spaced after periods

    Oh, and then you spring THIS story on me? This is my favorite kind of fic, but I can't read it because I have to finish FoE first! Why couldn't you have rated it 3 or even 2 stars so I wouldn't have to read it? Do you have any idea how big that thing is? Do you think I have time to read something so immense?

    Well, I am happy to see Naked Singularity's coming up next. I actually read that back in March and rated it 5-stars. I still miss the star ratings :(

    1. Ugh, damn the lack of an edit button!

    2. Ooh, I completely forgot to leave the obligatory "yay Naked Singularity" comment! I completely agree with you on that one. :D

    3. Hooray for concordance! I wasn't sure if this was one of those things where everyone would disagree with me and I'd be left questioning my juvenile taste. Yes, I am very insecure. Don't judge me!

      Well, go ahead and judge me for using two exclamation marks in one paragraph. I am too

  5. Holy carp on a stick! You're doing Naked Singularity next!? That's mind-blowin'! Looking forward to that. I did an audio reading of that story. 'Twas much fun.

    I haven't read this Tilt business, but you've sold it to me. I'm going to read it right after I finish typing this comment.

    1. Ooh, a dramatic reading? I've been thinking about doing one of those for Memories of Those Friends Who've Gone Before Us. Not quite the same thing, but I thought it was a shame I couldn't find a single reading of that story

  6. The Onion: truer than most of the 'real' media.

    May it go on forever.

  7. I read this fic when it first came out and loved. I'm a big Trixie fan and this story was probably the closest I've seen anyone (even myself) get her character. She's over-the-top but in a fun way and the story avoids the "sad" Trixie pitfall.

    Such a fun read and that image is one of the cutest I've ever seen!

    "Naked Singularity" eh? Yeah, that's one's going to be glorious.

    And to the commenters above, about loving the fandom more that the show, to each their own but I've been digging the heck out of the new episodes and can't wait for the Trixie one in one and a half weeks time! Yay!

  8. Thank you, Chris! I have hated every fanfic portrayal of Trixie that I've read and eventually just started avoiding any that featured her. I would never have enjoyed Tilt if it wasn't for this review.