Monday, May 13, 2013

Overarching Topics are for Sissies

Welp, I was going to try to tie everything in this post into some neat little theme or other, but I kept finding other things I wanted to talk about... and any connections between them all were really tangential... and ellipsis lists need to have at least three items or they look stupid...

Anyway, click below for a little bit about a lot of things.  There's probably at least one item in here that's of interest to you!

On PP's blog post:

On Friday, I posted a guest column by Present Perfect in which he made some controversial statements regarding the responsibility of the fandom to push the boundaries of the show.  And by "controversial," I mean that nearly everyone who commented, myself included, disagreed with him.

Now as part of the Las Pegassist dealeebob, he got to post a guest column, but I made sure to include language to the effect that I wouldn't post anything that I didn't think was worth posting.  Moreover, PP asked me to look it over when he sent it in, to see what I thought.  Although I didn't agree with him, I thought he made an interesting argument, and posted what he sent me as-is (as-was, whatever).

I think there's inherent value in being exposed to intelligent opinions counter to one's own, and while I may not have agreed with PP's conclusions, I definitely thought they were intelligently conceived and presented.  I was very happy with his post, and was equally happy with the way that the people who commented disagreed civilly and substantively.  It's always nice to see people discussing or debating a point without resorting to name-calling, personal attacks, or the like.

In conclusion, you guys rock.

On anti-critical culture:

As you all know, if you have any idea what this blog is about, I am very much pro-criticism (I'm using the word in the sense of "analysis and judgement," obviously).  I realize that the world of ponyfiction, and of fanfiction generally, is skewered heavily towards positivity, but there's nothing inherently antithetical about criticism and positivity.  So it bothers me when I see anti-critical thought taking root in the community.

Now, only once or twice has anyone posted anything particularly vitriolic about me on this blog itself, but I occasionally see the snide or angry comments that pop up re. my reviews on fimfiction, /mlp/, and the like (almost never from the authors whose works I was discussing, interestingly).  It doesn't really bother me--people say things on the internet, and I've got a thick enough skin to ignore it.  But I do worry that this kind of thing discourages other reviewers; who wants to put a lot of time and energy into something if they're just going to be called names, after all?

I don't know if there's anything to be done about that.  I just look at the culture of authorial positivity that exists in most fandoms, including this one, and I think about how many people have been encouraged to try writing something for the first time because of that atmosphere.  Why can't ponyfiction have an air of critical positivity, too?

On other reviewers:

Well, I don't know if there's anything I can do about that culture bit personally, but if nothing else, it'd be nice to see a little more reader-oriented reviewing in this fandom.  There are a few dormant/defunct fanfic reviewers whom I know of, like Ezn and InsertAuthorHere, and a few new or budding ones that I've been introduced to, like Not Worthy and Admujica.  But I'm sure there are some reviewers out there that I simply don't know about!  If you are/know of anyone who does reviews on a regular basis, please send me an e-mail; I'd love to be able to post a compilation of review blogs.

On grammar:

I read a story about the role of grammar in society today which I thought was fascinating (mostly what I got out of it was that not using apostrophes is a turn-off on dating sites).  You should read it, too.

To me, using poor grammar in one's writing is like playing an untuned piano--maybe it's good enough for when you're just goofing around by yourself or with a couple of friends, but it's not something I'd perform on, and that being the case, it's not what I would want to practice with, either.

On EqD pre-readers doing everything wrong (again):

So, for those of you who missed the latest round of pre-reader attacking, here's the short version: an author got e-mailed a rejection, but was accidentally also forwarded some internal discussion where the PRs joked about banning the story for not being a Waiting for Godot parody, and laid out the Cliff's Notes of what they didn't like about the fic bluntly and without elaboration.  A surprisingly large group of people took this as confirmation that the PRs are biased, arrogant, elitist... you get the idea.


Look, it sucks for the author to see that internal commentary, sure--but how does it prove, well, anything?  I take shorthand notes on the stories I review, and somewhere between reading and posting, a highlighted passage and a "wtf no" turns into "this fic suffered from poor characterizations for all of the canon characters, such as..."  The fact that it started with "wtf no" doesn't make it any less true.  I really don't see how a PR grumping about a story in (supposed) privacy has anything to do with the veracity of the PRs' opinions themselves.

Look, it's not like these guys are perfect, but can't people at least hate them for things that aren't hilariously asinine?

(DO NOT POST: Okay, super-secret EqD pre-reader cabal, I stood up for you guys.  I held up my end of the bargain.  Now, hurry up and figure out a system for getting some new six-star stories; I'm down to my last half-dozen or so!)


  1. I occasionally see the snide or angry comments that pop up re. my reviews on fimfiction, /mlp/, and the like (almost never from the authors whose works I was discussing, interestingly).

    Well, of course. If your story gets a fair and honest criticism from an individual (like, for instance, Chris here) and you get angry over it, it makes you look like a butthurt ass.

    ...Unless said criticism comes from the EQD pre-readers. Then you'll find a whole group of people who will be happy to indulge you in your whining and tell you not to think about the unfair criticism from those arrogant, elitist snobs who don't know good literature when they see it.

    ...Don't ask me how that works.

    As for other reviewers, I'm afraid you're the only one in this fandom that I've found (and I've only found a couple) that I like. Your criticism is always fair and you make an effort to clearly delineate between what's an actual error with the story and what is your personal opinion. The other critics I've found didn't seem to know how to delineate between the two, just critiquing anything they didn't like and coming across as rather unpleasant. But perhaps I haven't been looking hard enough.

  2. I was gonna whine, but I love you for that last section. :D

  3. You could start reviewing the stories that have high view-counts on FiMfic, but aren't on EqD. I would love to hear your thoughts on popular stories like My Roommate is a Vampire.

    1. For whatever it's worth, I'm gonna support this. It'd be nice to see more recent fics, and I think it's time for Chris to make his own list.

  4. There's always the 5-star fics. Some are quite good. I've gotten the impression that the pre-readers want to bring back the star-rating system though (keeping my fingers crossed!), so it may not come to that. I just wish I'd kept a record of what stories I didn't 5-star

    I kinda wanna read that e-mail and those snide comments you mentioned. I don't recall any negative comments here, to be honest

    That review blog compilation sounds like a great idea! Unfortunately, I'm having difficulties managing my free-time at the moment (I've seriously gotta make room for my OD&D project), so I won't be getting to them right away. I'll probably just read one or two of Ezn's tonight, so sorry other reviewers :(

    1. Reviewing five-star 'fics could be a pretty massive undertaking for Chris, though, speaking selfishly, I'd love to actually have a chance of appearing on his "to be reviewed" list. Never managed to crack that six-star barrier, alas.

    2. True. Maybe he could limit it to only the comedies, since those are the best fics anyways

      Ooh, Twi Just Wants to Read! (or is it Get Lost (In a Book)?) looks interesting! I may have to add that to my queue of stories I'll get around to one of these months

    3. Yeah, it's "Get Lost (In a Book)." I'm not really sure how that title mixup on EqD happened.

    4. Darned if I can't just up and agree with this.

      Of course, a lot of my fics are edging up on two years old now and I'm not entirely certain I want Chris reading them. <.< Not to mention my most popular one was shipping, so that won't go over well...

    5. Oats, I want to tread very carefully here, more for the sake of the author in question. But I'll explain as much as I can.

      When we give a verdict and any supporting information, it's in an email chain including the original submission information and any other comments pre-readers may have chipped in on whether they've read the story, if they had a hand in reviewing it for the author, etc. The actual judgment often includes a "Don't send" part that is a brief, blunt summary of issues, a clear statement of the verdict, and then a "Send" part that contains the feedback meant for the author to see. Sometimes mistakes are made where the "Don't send" part also gets forwarded to the author, and sometimes the entire email chain is inadvertently forwarded. It's rare, but it happens, and it'll happen again. Authors are often more angry at these blunt assessments, but to their credit, they have not revealed the email addresses in these chains, and (mostly) not the pre-reader's names.

      In this case, I had rejected a story, and the entire chain got forwarded. It was very innocuous. Two pre-readers made a quick joke at the story title's similarity to "Waiting for Godot," but weren't poking fun at the story at all, since they hadn't read it. Then there was my brief "Don't send" assessment, which also stated it had nothing to do with that piece. I'm not sure why the author got so mad at that, but he did. Sometimes, these authors cool down, apologize, and do put in the work to revise their stories. I don't know yet what this author will do. But it apparently got to be a bigger thing than he wanted it to be, because he deleted all of his blog posts on the matter, then expressed displeasure that someone else posted a cached copy. It seems he'd rather let the matter go at this point, so I'm not going to belabor the point. No doubt you could find the repost if you went looking, but I'm not giving any more information here than Chris already has, because I'm not going to help people find it. For the author's sake, let it go.

    6. Could be worse, Present. You could be me. I also have stories on EqD that I am terrified will one day find their way into Chris's review pile somehow. My most popular work, it... Well, it has an audience, but it's very much an acquired taste, let's say.

    7. ...Hell with it. I may be a second-stringer, but by gum I like attention!

      BRING IT ON CHRIS if and when you decide to sift through 5-star fics, that is. :B

    8. Oh, yes, if Chris is going through five-stars, I've got a couple of nuggets that'll get thrashed, too...

    9. Kavonde, you are an evil, evil person. First you dress my favorite pony in plate mail - which was awesome - and then you have her confuse epic fantasy with swords-and-sorcery. AARGH! It's like you wrote that specifically to piss me off

      *sigh* I've been reading too much Grognardia. Oh, and 5-stars for that fic

    10. The day I found out how the 6-stars on EqD worked -- that is, that it was something one had to nudge the editors about, and that there were specific number requisites -- I looked at my story's entry and found that it had the necessary rating level, but was two short of the needed number of ratings.

      That turned out to be the week they did away with the ratings.

      It's a mild disappointment, on a par with going to my local comic shop and finding out at the same time that they were having a 'free t-shirt for the first 100' thing, and that I was visitor #103 (metaphor based on a true story).

      Finding this blog yesterday was the first time I've actually regretted missing that 6-star mark... so yeah, if the 5-stars were to become targets, I'm among those who would be tickled the proverbial pink.

  5. What? I actually read an article before Chris posted a link? Shocking. But it's true, I just can't help but grade people mentally by their grammar, which is a little daft since I was truly awful not so long ago.

    (Go on, ask Chris how bad)

    Anyway. Anyone who is just itching to have their say on the pre-reading situation might want to head on over to TwilightSnarkle's blog post: (I have no idea how to do links on here, so...)

    On reviewing, I honestly don't know where I could do it regularly that would be worth posting. I'm hard pressed to imagine than many people would much care what I thought.

    1. Also, you reviewer and author types might enjoy this:

    2. Links are done like this <'a href="url of whatever you're linking too">word<'a> (just remove the single quotes). As seen here.

      And nice Dan Brown piece, that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do a true parodic review.

  6. Other review blogs... hm. I can't say I've ever gone out looking for any, but I don't know of others. Here's what I appreciate about this one: A lot of reader recommendations are simply lists of "here is what I like." If any analysis is done, it's pretty minimal. Here, we get a long, thought-out commentary on what was done right and wrong. In the end, you can look at the star rating and take it or leave it, but at least it's justified. And you can see if the individual points made are things that bug you about stories or not, and go into a story forewarned about whether it'll mesh with your personal tastes.

    And to the point about grammar: There are certain pre-readers that are more sticklers about it than others. As one of the grammar police, I do get some flak that I take that too seriously. But I have never rejected a story on grammar alone, unless is was so bad that I was spending my entire time commenting on nothing else. And it's also how you present yourself. People will stop reading a story or enjoy it less if they feel that the grammar is too bad. People don't stop reading because the grammar is too good. (Except in cases of overly purple prose or bad characterization, but those are different things.) Grammar is one of the easier things to fix, too. It's much easier to learn how to punctuate dialogue correctly than to write a convincing characterization of an OC. This is really the low-hanging fruit, and if an author isn't willing to put work there, he's unwilling to put in work anywhere, he's unreasonably intimidated by grammar for some reason, or both. I liken it to going to a job interview at a prestigious law firm wearing jeans and a ripped t-shirt because what you wear has no bearing on your actual qualifications. Yes, in some ways it's superficial, but it also shows that you care enough to present yourself well and that you care about how you present the firm to its clients, and that says something.

    1. If someone shows up to their interview at my firm in a ripped t-shirt and jeans (or ripped jeans and a t-shirt), it means they are a lunatic and someone needs to have a talking-to with reception about who they buzz through the security doors. I suppose that situation corresponds to a submission where the description itself is rife with errors.

  7. I ran into another person doing fanfic reviews a couple of days ago. Well not much actually. As far as I can tell, she's only got two. Most of her focus goes into readings it seems, but it looks like she might throw in more reviews in the future.

  8. Hi Chris I do know of one other fimfic reviewer though he hasn't posted anything in few months.

    here's the link to his review blog.