To read the story, click the image or follow this link
When it comes to TV shows, I actually don't really mind "Very Special Episodes" in principal. Sure, there's plenty of bad ones, but there's nothing about tackling a social issue head-on and in a particularly blatant way which precludes quality writing/humor/etc. What I don't like is being told one thing and then given another. One Bad Apple was a heavy-handed piece of anti-bullying propaganda, and I resent being promised something else far more than the heavy-handedness itself would have bothered me. Maybe that's petty of me, but I was irked.
I did dig the ersatz version of The A-Team's theme, though.
Below the break, my review of Cold in Gardez's Naked Singularity
Impressions before reading: Although the story's by an author whose stories I regularly enjoy, I skipped over this one when it was written. Why? For a petty reason (there's a lot of pettiness in this post, apparently): the comments and additional tags promise me a tale of Twilight being "adorkable," a non-word which goes far past being a pet peeve of mine; "seething distaste" would be a pretty accurate description of my reaction to seeing it in print, and the fact that it's used by someone whose writing ability I respect for any reason other than to annoy me is discouraging beyond words. Et tu, CiG?
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight tries to write a romance novel. Unfortunately, it's... not good, and it's up to her friends to contain any damage to her reputation which the story might cause if the public were exposed to it.
Thoughts after reading: First off: there are no "adorkable"s in the main text, I'm happy to report.
This story is definitely not explicit, but it's all about writing romance-in-quotation-marks, if you know what I mean. If ponies talking about sex, even in comedic generalizations, isn't your thing, this obviously is not a story for you. But if the very idea doesn't take you out of your comfort zone, there's a lot here to like.
Although comedy can take many forms, most of the humor here is ultimately based on parodic exaggeration. This story starts with a perfectly down-to-earth premise, then builds off of that in exceedingly absurd directions. Authors who lack talent, experience, familiarity with their subject matter, or all three are something that any reader (especially one who dabbles in fanfiction) has seen countless times, and over the course of Singularity, the tale moves from near-banality (though never dullness) to absolute ridiculousness, both in terms of plot elements and in the excerpts we see from Twi's titular attempt at a romance novel.
The parody aspect, though obvious from the start, becomes increasingly clear as the story progresses. The author takes barely-disguised shots at such distressingly common writing pitfalls as authorial self-insertion, wish-fulfillment as a plot device, tortured and/or cliche metaphors, and much more. The beauty of these is that, even as they become more and more over-the-top, it's easy to say to oneself, "yeah, I read a story like that once." In fact, the only real hiccups on this front come from excessive self-awareness; the line, "He rode her like a train departing Canterlot at 4:27 p.m. at a constant velocity of 35 kilometers per hour and making stops every 20 minutes in Manehattan, Fillydelphia, and Trottingham," for example, is a nicely exaggerated example of an over-extended metaphor... but the line continues, "but the train was actually a metaphor, and the stops were actually heights of passion..." which detracts from the joke by moving away from representation. Not even a completely clueless author would identify their own metaphors outside of a trollfic, after all (I hope--my faith in humanity prevents me from believing otherwise). A few other times, attempts at direct mockery like this, as opposed to actual parody, fell flat, but they were the exception rather than the rule.
But the story is more than just on big "take that" at bad writing. As I said, the story becomes increasingly ridiculous as it goes along, both as a whole and within scenes, as when an increasingly unlikely list of ponies starts showing up for a live reading which Twilight intends to attempt. The slowly but steadily increasing humor matches the rising tempo of the story nicely, and makes for a relatively short but well-paced bit of writing.
Characterization is definitely strong in this piece. The ponies are all exaggerated somewhat for comic effect--Twilight is even more clueless than usual, Dash is slow on the uptake even by her own standards, and so on--but all are immediately recognizable and vivid. For a story which often relies on the discomfort of its cast for humor, as this one does, clearly-defined characters are an absolute necessity (how else can the reader know what a particular character will find discomforting, after all?), and Singularity certainly succeeds there.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
Anyone who reads fanfiction (which, I suspect, encompasses most or all of this blog's readership) will immediately recognize and appreciate the many missteps which Gardez demonstrates through Twilight. But there's much more to this than a mere "how not-to;" the story about Twi's story is as solidly executed as hers is cringeworthy, and is genuinely funny in its own right.
Recommendation: As I said above, anyone who can't handle 10,000 words filled with lines like I quoted above should give this a pass. But for pretty much anyone else, and especially those who've suffered at the hands of bad fiction in the past, this is one worth reading.
Next time: An Old Guardpony's Last Duty, by BuffaloBrony