Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mini-Reviews Round 16

Not every review can be filled brim-full the incisive, piercing clarity which I bring to my longer-form musings on fanfiction (read however much sarcasm into that sentence you see fit).  Sometimes, time, circumstances, and interest dictate a more casual overview.  This is one such time.  Click down below the break for my thoughts on a few stories which I recently read.

1)  Epic Unicorn History: The Beards of Harmony, by PresentPerfect

What it is:  The epic tale of six beard-bedecked ponies (who may seem vaguely familiar), led by the already-legendary Star Swirl the Bearded, as they set off on an epic quest to save the fledgling nation of Equestria from an unknown but almost certainly epic foe.  Epic.

A few thoughts:  Only the first of a planned seven chapters have been published so far, but the story does a good job in its first installment of balancing comedy, parody, and legitimate adventure.  I should also mention that I pre-read for this story, so my opinion may be biased.  That notwithstanding, the first chapter handles character introductions deftly, bringing the dramatis persona together without ever feeling like a chore.  Also, there are a number of excellent humorous lines and asides which the author generally manages to work in without turning the entire story or setting into a joke--no mean feat when you're writing a story about hirsute expies of the main six.  I don't read many incomplete fics these days, but assuming he doesn't poop out on this one (don't you poop out on this one, PP!), I think there's a lot of promise here.

Recommendation:  Those who fear incomplete fics... this is an incomplete fic.  But readers who want to get on at the first stop will find a lot of promise here; promise of both comedy and adventure, without selling either short.

2)  Pick-Me-Up, by Enter Madness

What it is:  Twilight finds a pick-me-up spell labeled "bad idea, don't do."  No points for guessing that she tries casting it anyway.

A few thoughts:  This is a well-written story which has some very funny bits.  Unfortunately, I can't say that I found the story as a whole particularly interesting.  It's not bad, mind, but there just isn't a lot going on here, frankly.  Twilight casts the spell, starts acting like she's on an acid trip, and then the rest of the fic is spent following her and the ponies following her as they run around town; that's a fine premise, but it's not enough to carry the story by itself.  And while, as I said, there are some very funny bits ("[Twilight] could see each individual blade of grass on the ground or leaf on the trees and know exactly how they all felt.  She could hear their cries as they were trampled and eaten, but even in her state, she knew she could not save them.  It was the way things were meant to be.  She shed a single tear for their plight.  ¶Spike caught up with Twilight, who was staring fixedly at the ground and muttering something under her breath.   ¶'Twilight?' he asked.  'Are you... apologizing to the ground?'"), there are also a number of scenes which drag, brick jokes which fall flat, and sexual innuendos which aren't really funny enough to justify to me their inclusion.  I will give full credit, however, for resisting the obvious route with the story's ending.

Recommendation:  This is, again,  a well-written story with some very funny bits.  I found that the ratio of funny bits to unexceptional passages skewed too heavily towards the latter for my tastes, but that's not to say those funny bits weren't there, and readers willing to accept that will probably find this unobjectionable.  Also, anyone who finds references to sex and drugs inherently amusing will no doubt consider there to be a lot more "funny bits" than I do.

3)  Words., by Dsarker

What it is:  Prince Blueblood has a series of flashbacks, moments before battle.

A few thoughts:  This is one of those stories that never sold me on its central premise, in this case: Prince Blueblood is a stoic but noble-hearted soldier, beloved and respected of his men, and prone to brooding silence because of his poor way with words.  If you can wrap your head around that (the fic does nothing to explain this characterization, I'm afraid), then the story does make interesting use of tense shifts between the in-the-present scenes and the flashbacks... but I can't wrap my head around that.  Plus, there's the whole smashing-griffon-skulls-with-a-mace thing, but since it was essentially used as an assumed backdrop, I didn't find the introduction of wholesale mortal melees into Equestria to be nearly as jarring as Blueblood's characterization.

Recommendation:  You know, I can also see a lot of people tripping over Octavia's characterization, her big secret near the end, the whole afterlife thing that the story introduces... I'd only recommend this to people who are more interested in writing quality than in characterization or story concept.  The writing is of quite good quality (and not merely in terms of editing), though, and that's something.

4)  Everypony Dies, by a3V

What it is:  Pinkie makes a spelling error when promoting Rarity's cloth-dying competition.  Panic ensues.

A few thoughts:  Ah, joke's-in-the-title fics; I can't seem to quit you.  In fact, my reaction to this story can be summed up by this meme--and you know it can't be a good sign when I'm resorting to memes.

The fact is, this is a 6k-word story of which all but the last couple hundred words are devoted to repeating the same joke over and over: everyone thinks Pinkie's telling them they'll die, when she's really telling them to dye.  It's not that that's a terrible joke, but it just gets repeated with minimal development, over and over and over.  Also, I didn't care for the ending--to say that "it was all just a dream" manages to be accurate, to give a sense of why I didn't like it, and to not really spoil the "twist," so I'll go with that for a description.

Recommendation:  I strongly recommend this to anyone who wants to see the single titular joke played without significant variation for the entirety of a story.  Hey, nothing wrong with enjoying a repeated gag!  But for readers who suspect they'd find that unenjoyable... you're probably right.


  1. Another Present fic? But I just added one of those to my queue the other day! Eh, guess I can't really complain about something good, but I'm gonna need to make more time for fanfiction if I'm gonna get through all these. I won't be reading this one until it's completed, though

  2. I said I wouldn't read any more title-is-the-plot fics, but I did.


  3. Regarding Words., the author said, "If you haven't noticed, I don't read many FiM fics. I don't watch the show, either. I haven't seen Equestria Girls. I haven't seen Season 3."

    Problems with characterisation and backdrop most likely stem from there.

    Link to quote:

    1. I don't like the fic itself, but I totally buy his reasoning. S1 was great, S2 was spotty, but fun... everything has been trash since unless the mere presence of ponies is enough to amuse you.

      There is something about Faust's opening season that makes people want to be creative--something it lost at time progressed. He writes because he wants to write, and why the hell not?

    2. The assertion that he doesn't watch the show suggests that he's never seen it. I could understand skipping season 3, and especially EQG, but why would you make fanworks for a property you're unfamiliar with? I have to assume it could only be done third-hand, through consuming other fanworks, which he also doesn't do, or at least not when it comes to fanfiction.

      I sort of have no respect for this guy, and I'm going to have to think about that feeling for a while to fully understand it.

    3. So it's either he should see and like all of it or he should write no fanworks for it? Who put you in charge of what fans can and can't do? You can make fanworks for the bits that you have seen and liked; you're not contractually obligated to refrain from writing appreciative stories for the first few seasons just because you haven't seen the later seasons.

      That's grossly unfair and unjustifiably authoritarian of you to dictate what people can and can't do with the source material. If you'd phrased it as a recommendation for if he wanted to reach out to a larger audience, that would have been enough to make your point.

      If he's not interested in anything after season two, that's his business. At least he's said as such, so you can't even complain of his misleading people.

      It's fiction, not history, and fan-based fiction at that. You can pick and mix on your own without being compelled to follow everything canon. That's what AU fics and fanon discontinuity are for (see TV tropes for that last one if you're not familiar with it).

    4. Present Perfect, Ah'm a callin' you out!

      "The assertion that he doesn't watch the show suggests that he's never seen it." -PP

      Dude, seriously. That's a horridly blind and illogical assumption. Just three lines later he also says that he hasn't watched season three. Now, just take all of two whole seconds to consider the ramifications of that position, I hope you would realise that the statement would be meaningless is he hadn't watched the show at all. No, taking the time to state that he hasn't watched season three directly implies that he has seen seasons one and two, otherwise the call for specificity is nonsensical.

      Further, language is important; this, I think, you should know. He did not say that he has never watched the show, he says that he doesn't--present tense. That cannot be taken to mean that he has not watched it in the past, yet this is the baseless assumption you have made in your reply.

      It's a basic function of respect: don't put words in people's mouths, don't diss a man based on things he didn't say. Thinking in it won't help if you haven't shown the respect necessary to establish what his base position actually is. Faulty in, faulty out.


    5. Anon, that's clearly not what Present was saying. He misunderstood, thinking Dsarker didn't watch the show at all, rather than just not watching newer episodes. He even said he understood why someone might not watch them, so it's not like he's setting some barrier to entry. He just doesn't understand why someone would write fanfiction for a show they'd never seen, as he'd assumed was the case here, and that he lacked respect for the guy. What's so unreasonable about that? I respect the right of people to believe whatever they want, but I'm not gonna respect them as a person if they're wearing a Che Guevara shirt. Doesn't mean I think they shouldn't be allowed to wear it

    6. "I don't like the fic itself, but I totally buy his reasoning. S1 was great, S2 was spotty, but fun... everything has been trash since unless the mere presence of ponies is enough to amuse you."


      Well, fuck you, too.

    7. To clarify the referenced phrase: while I have watched all of Season 1, and most (all but four or five, I think) of Season 2, I have watched only small portion (2 or 3 episodes, with the Crystal Empire counting as two) of Season 3, I have not watched anything further from it.

      While I have, now, read some fanfiction of show, I still do not read overly much.

      In regards to characterisation of Blueblood and Octavia, that comes as a moderate-to-long running thing. It is the only shipping that I do, that pair, and originated as part of Not Worth A Bit, where is developed better. Technically Blueblood characterisation comes from old shame fic previously written in year of 2011.

      Characterisation made sense in such, and I liked Blueblood - good character idea. Then continued on. If you look at fics of mine, will notice Blueblood very good. Different from show (except in Not Worth A Bit) for deliberate reason.

      Backdrop is come from game played with many friend. Not in sense that same setting. Only in idea that Griffons fight ponies, and in relation to glorious history of warhammer (not mace. Very different from mace.). Is also from idea 'How ponies use sword against armour of proof? Is useless to cut, is useless weapon!', thus use of warhammer.

      Anyone who argues use of proud longsword is fool. I explain why.

      Longsword has many use in battle. Longsword is almost two arshin in length, is use for cutting, bashing, stabbing, etc. In hoof of pony, is not use for stabbing or bashing, because of hold of pony. Only use for cutting.

      You cannot even cut through armour. Last time people try cut through armour, is called harnischfechten. Does not work. Since then people with longsword against armour stab or bash with pommel of sword. Other people use warhammer instead.

      I advise, you listen. Warhammer open armour well enough for soldier of fighting to survive, warhammer open armour well enough for you in story. You practice many time, you carry warhammer, next time someone try to procure from you life, you impale on glorious warhammer. In this way, you defeat enemy.

  4. oh shit D:

    CHRIS IT'S NOT EVEN DONE what are you doing ._. thank you

    no poopin

  5. So many comedy fics I favourite later end up here and have Chris say, "Yeah, it's alright I guess, but I didn't like it much." Is it that I'm easily amused? Or is it just that I don't read things with a critical mindset?

    1. Comedy is a critically subjective art form. Some jokes don't work for some people, but others do. I'd just take it as your view of comedy meshing well with the work.

    2. That works. I'll go with that.