Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 28: How to Preen Your Chicken

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

Happy new year, everyone!  Good luck with your resolutions and/or hangovers, and I hope the former last longer than the latter.

Click on down below the break for my review of Drakkith's How to Preen Your Chicken.

Impressions before reading:  The fact that this story's description contains the line, "Warning: May Contain Feels and/or D'aww moments" has me worried going in.  In my experience, there's a very strong negative correlation between use of the word "feels" (or "d'aww") and actual emotional impact.  Then again, with a title like this, maybe I should just be glad it doesn't have the sex tag.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After a full day of flying practice, Dash discovers that nopony has ever taught Scootaloo how to properly preen her feathers.  Bonding ensues.

Thoughts after reading:  If I had to chose a word to describe this story, it would be "generic."  It is one of a great many stories which share the same basic premise: that Scootaloo is an orphan, and that Dash fills/will fill a parent/adult sibling role in her life.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that, as a plot point.  But the problem with using it as the plot is that there's no conflict there; no adversity.  All you have on that front is Scoot's need for an adult in her life, and this is generally (and in this case, specifically) not particularly emphasized, relative to the intended payoff.  Without adding some sort of complication (feelings of inadequacy on the parts of one or both ponies, a guardian/authority figure trying to intervene, etc.), all you have is, a scene devoid of any emotional impetus which the readers do not bring themselves to the fic.  And unfortunately, How to Preen Your Chicken brings little beyond an introductory preening scene and a title-only fandom gag to the table on that front.

Honestly, I'm struggling to think of much more to say.  This story has adequate writing, which tends toward the disconnected but is easy enough to read.  It belongs to the large and, among many readers, still-popular class of "orphan Scoot + caring Dash" fics, and is thoroughly typical of them.  I really can't think of anything which is particularly noteworthy about this fic.  Even its flaws--in addition to the above-mentioned lack of conflict and ramble-y-ness, there's also the overlong delay between when it becomes obvious what the reveal is and when the narrative chooses to actually reveal it--are completely and utterly typical flaws for stories with this particular plot.  This story is exactly what you think it is.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

I don't have anything very negative to say about this story.  How to Preen Your Chicken is pretty much the definition of "typical fanfiction" to me (well, it has better spelling than "typical fanfiction," perhaps), and while that's fine for what it is, this isn't a story I'd single out for... anything, really.

Recommendation:  If you have a particular affection for stories about Scoot and Dash bonding, then this will tickle that bone.  Otherwise, I suspect most readers will find this unremarkable, and ultimately unmemorable.

Next time:  The Games we Play, by AbsoluteAnonymous


  1. >Now, there's nothing wrong with that, as a plot point. But the problem with using it as the plot is that there's no conflict there; no adversity. All you have on that front is Scoot's need for an adult in her life, and this is generally (and in this case, specifically) not particularly emphasized, relative to the intended payoff.

    So how is this different from Sleepless in Ponyville?

    1. Sleepless in Ponyville did it with style. Its title also didn't make a "Scootaloo is a chicken dur hur hur" joke.

    2. There's the fact that the bonding doesn't go off without a hitch, with Scootaloo trying to hide her vulnerabilities because she thinks that Dash would respect her less if she were afraid. It leads to definite real danger, and features a bunch of other things going on.
      To say that it was the plot point of the episode is kind of glossing over a lot of what actually happened.

  2. One post into the new year and you've already made a typo. At least the first eight sentences were free of spelling errors :p

    I actually have a fanfic-related resolution this year: to read 140,000 words each week. My queue's gotten far too big - and My Little Denarians' sat in there far too long - for my liking. The time has come for action!

  3. I feel like I read this not long ago, but I'll be damned if I can remember anything about it.

    Also oh crap, Games We Play, I heard the first chapter of that a long time ago and the person never finished their reading. D: I need to finish that story!

  4. And this story is one of the highest-rated ones on FiMFiction, both by the current and previous methods for calculating that. It even spent quite some time at the top of that list, iirc.

    1. People obviously love their Scootadash.

      Word of the Day: ramble-y-ness.

    2. I imagine very few people who read this story would downvote it, but I'm at a complete and utter loss to account for the 2,000+ upvotes in less than half a year, and from an author with less than 200 followers to boot. How in the world did that happen? (I'm not trying to imply the story doesn't deserve it; I'm astonished that any story at all could manage these numbers.)

  5. Hmmm. This brings up the great reader divide to me. Some people really need a story, whereas others are looking for a window into another world. The Story people aren't hooked by fics that are just a look at the other world because the world is generally a boring, ordinary place. Why would people want to read about that which is ordinary? However, as is evident by the massive amount of upvotes on that story, there are plenty of people that just want to know more about the working of these characters and aren't looking for a overarching plot.

    I think both things are perfectly valid, but I'm always a little confused when people are astounded by the popularity of a slice of life that is actually just a slice of life. The answer seems self-evident to me. It's popular because that's what a lot of people really want to read about. They aren't looking for conflict. They want to see what makes these characters tick, and conflict isn't the only thing that reveals that.

  6. I read this but do not remember it at all. Yet I have no desire to reread it and find out what I forgot...