Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 39: Thrown Abroad

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

It's funny; my most recent story, Wyrmlysan, has only gotten a fraction the story views and favorites of my next-most recent story, To Make a Spark... and yet, I've gotten about ten new followers on FiMFiction since I put that story up--that's about the same number of new followers To Make a Spark brought in after its first couple days, and that story had something like ten times the views in that space of time.

I'm not sure what, if anything, that means, but I'm sure there's something interesting to be made of those numbers.  But rather than try to parse that, let's talk reviews!  Click down below the break for my thoughts on Niaeruzu's Thrown Abroad.

Impressions before reading:  It seems I've been hitting a lot of changeling fics over the last month or three, in my reviews of the long-form and mini- variety.  I haven't had much in the way of changeling comedy, though, so this will be a nice change of pace in that regard, at least.  Tally ho!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Cast from his hive for (allegedly) single-hoofedly sabotoging their invasion of Canterlot, a lone changeling finds itself lost, hungry... and on the outskirts of Ponyville.

Thoughts after reading:  Some stories have a fairly consistent writing style, while others don't.  All things being equal, a consistent style is generally a positive: it enhances the cohesiveness of the narrative, and ensures that the reader isn't distracted by sudden or unexpected changes in the way the author writes.  Writing style is a tricky thing, though, and what works in some places doesn't always work in others.

In this story, Niaeruzu's phrasing and construction are quite consistent (good, in and of itself), but not always a good match for the story itself.  The writing is dry, tends towards over-explaining, and lets in more than a hint of the protagonist's voice despite the third person narration.  This proves to be a great mesh for some of the more comedic moments ("He was vaguely aware of some loud noise.  Oh yeah, he was screaming.  That sort of thing happened when involuntarily flying at high speeds, he remembered."), but this story isn't a straight comedy.  It's built as a gently comedic slice-of-life, and it's in the latter area where problems arise.  Dry becomes boring, humorous over-emphasis becomes pointless repetition, and the overall effect transitions from "self-aware but not meta-humor" to "dull ramble."

There are also some issues, especially in the later going, with visual humor which fails to translate well to the written medium (I'm thinking specifically of a scene involving Winona and the changeling "off-screen" while Rarity and Applejack have a conversation in the "foreground").  Visual gags are difficult enough to pull off in a written medium, but the laconic, slightly sardonic prose is an especially poor fit for that kind of joke.

The story itself makes good use of its premise to both mock and, later, subvert the ponies' gullibility, and despite how it dutifully moves through every single one of the main six in turn, none of those scenes feel completely tacked-on.  However, the sheer length of time spent on everything between the protagonist's first foray into Ponyville and that subversion proves a drag.  The fact is, not a lot happens during that stretch from a plot perspective, and while there's ultimately some payoff for the main six's involvement, that same payoff could have been had in perhaps half the verbiage without much difficulty, to the benefit of the finished product.

This is also sometimes a problem with the worldbuilding surrounding the changelings.  While the author's vision of the race is interesting enough in its own right (not to mention a good fit with the story) there are times when Niaeruzu's desire to insert some bit of lore or headcanon comes at the expense of the narrative's direction, slowing down or bringing to a halt the proceedings to impart some barely-relevant or obvious-in-context information.  That said, I did find the additions to usually be interesting in their own right; I just wished they hadn't been clogging up the story proper.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

This fic is more than a little hit or miss, but there are some lovely gems scattered throughout, both in terms of the humor and the conception of changeling mores and attitudes, specifically and racially.  It may grind to a halt or build itself around untenable setpieces more than once, but if nothing else, the premise is a solid one, and even such flaws as this story does have can't obscure that.

Recommendation:  As noted, this one as a very appealing light-comic premise, and readers who don't mind a bit of over-explaining and rambling (and if you mind rambling, what on earth are you doing here?) may find this to be worth a look.  I wouldn't recommend it to folks who are put off by unevenness in either comic effectiveness or pacing, though.

Next time:  Mood Wings, by Tchernobog


  1. I've already stated my dislike for changeling fics earlier in this blog, and this one seems like it's full of a lot of other stuff that I find off-putting. So yeah, won't be reading this one.
    And that's one reason why reviews are so great. I was just saved a good chunk of time that I would've otherwise spent getting all frustrated and stuff. Thank you Chris! :D

    Word of the Day: Untenable.

  2. This one's actually coming up in my audiobook list soon, so it'll be interesting to see if that changes anything for me. :)

  3. Oh hey, I somehow managed to stumble across this! All of the criticism is spot-on, and I'm glad you liked it. Actually, I'm even honoured to have my fic mentioned as a fandom classic!
    Funny thing is, this story is the first full story that I ever wrote where I actually paid attention to different things. First off, it was only grammar and spelling, considering English is not my native language, and it became a little bit more and more with every chapter, hence why not everything really fits. Its popularity got really out of hand, though.
    Regardless, I'm a bit more skilled now, and I'm thinking of rewriting this story in the near future, so it's less terrible. All of the infodumping screwing up the narrative was probably the most jarring error, which is the one thing I'm going to try and fix the most.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the review! Whether you rewrite the story or not, it's always good to hear that one has grown from the experience of writing it; for a fanfic author, it seems to me that that's what matters most.