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For reasons too involved to get into up here, I've been thinking about prostate cancer recently. And, in my thinking, I've decided that (should I ever end up getting prostate cancer), I'm going to insist that everyone refer to me as having "ass cancer." I realize it's awfully juvenile, even for me, but I know that--for me--it would make the prospect a whole lot less scary. I mean, how can you be scared of ass cancer? I don't even care if it's not, strictly speaking, an accurate label. The point is, prostate cancer is scary. Ass cancer? I could beat ass cancer.
On more or less the precise opposite of that note, click down below the break for my review of Dawnfade's Vinyl and Octavia: University Days.
Impressions before reading: This fic combines two things I have no inherent interest in: ScrachxTavi, and teenification (the practice of using an established setting, such as Equestria, as a backdrop for a high-school or college drama tale). Both of those are things I don't hate, though. Well, I don't hate the idea of teenification vis a vis MLP, anyway--plopping a high school into Middle-Earth never failed to get my blood boiling back in my LotR fanfic days. Anyway, point is: I'm not terribly optimistic going in, but there's nothing here screaming ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER, either.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: On their first day of class at university, Octavia--a budding cello prodigy--and Vinyl Scratch--a boisterous DJ--butt heads. And yet, they soon find that they aren't as bad as the other thinks.
Thoughts after reading: I have read several stories in the past which I just didn't "get." Stories which, for the life of me, I couldn't imagine the appeal of, at least, not to anything resembling a broad spectrum of readers. Stories which were so far removed from my interests that I couldn't see the horizon of appeal over the curvature of my own tastes.
This is not one of those stories. I "get" the appeal of Vinyl and Octavia shipping (based on their fandom personalities, which are what we get here): it's a classic "opposites attract" angle, plus music is an easy thing for many people to relate to. I understand the appeal of teenifying popular pre-existing characters: many, probably the significant majority, of fanfic readers are in high school or college, and there's a dual draw there: not only does it make the characters more relatable, it also gives them an easy means to explore the same issues and questions that readers that age have. These aren't things that I have any real interest in in a story, but I have no problem understanding why lots of readers do.
This extends past story concept, and into the construction and characterization of the fic itself. For example, large parts of this story are about characters texting one another back and forth. Now, I happen to think that dropping modern cell phones into Equestria is a supremely lazy decision, and one which doesn't match the world's aesthetic whatsoever. But it's appealing to a large block of readers precisely because it's something that's an integral part of their world. I would call this--and many, many other things in this fic--a poor story decision, but a good way to appeal to a certain subset of reader. Characters are likewise related in terms more amenable to interpretation as "teen fantasy" than "actual person:" Vinyl and Octavia's psychology teacher's methods are more "unrealistically ill-considered" than "professorially whimsical," but to think of him that way is to misrepresent his role in University Days: he doesn't exist to be a strong character, he exists to fill in the universe around Vinyl and Octavia while parodying how students think of their teachers.
Even with the most liberal reading of those choices, though, this is ultimately a very dull story. When a reader picks up this fic, they already know that Octavia and Vinyl are going to fight a little bit at the start and then fall in love; the only question is how soon, and how far the story follows their relationship (speaking of love: at one point, this story links to a side-story/continuation which delves into their lovemaking in graphic detail. It's very clearly marked as such, but just for the sake of repeating it: don't read that unless you're looking for straight-up clop). That's not a horrible thing by itself, but one of the downsides of having characters built to fill roles rather than to seem real is that they rarely surprise the reader. Despite the regular challenges which Vinyl and Octavia (and a few of their classmates) face, there's remarkably little tension in this fic.
However, there was a fair bit of light, unobtrusive comedy, which had the much-needed effect of keeping the narrative from bogging down in a bog of
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
I didn't particularly enjoy this story. I don't think it's a very good story. But it's a story that I think a lot of people would enjoy reading, and that's not exactly a terrible thing to be.
Recommendation: If you are in high school or college and feel like some light comedy and easy-to-relate-to situations are your sort of thing, give this a look. I think it would especially appeal to those who don't do a lot of reading for fun--predictability is a product of experience, after all, and I could see this being a good gateway story. But for older and/or veteran readers, or just for those who are looking to break beyond the most familiar of confines in their fiction, I don't recommend this.
Next time: Apotheosis, by Daetrin