Friday, June 6, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 55: Fiddlesticks!

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

This is a long weekend coming up, but one I'm really looking forward to.  The end of the school year means crunch time to get everything all gussied up and to put bows on the lot, but at the end of that road lies... well, summer!  Plus, I'll be spending Sunday at MLP-MSP--if you're going to be there, say hello!  Sadly, I'll miss the first two days (see: crunch time, end of school year-induced), but I'm still looking forward to checking out one of these "con" thingamabobs.

For now, though, click on down below the break, where I've put together my thoughts on Tigerhorse's Fiddlesticks!

EDIT: Review now comes complete with title!  What a deal!

Impressions before reading:  Hey, a romance-tagged story about Vinyl and Octavia!  Yup, this is definitely some uncharted territory right here!

...Actually, Octavia in disguise as a hillbilly fiddler is some pretty uncharted territory, at least to the best of my knowledge.  Color me interested.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Octavia's visiting her honorary family in Ponyville... but unfortunately, it's on the same day that Vinyl's in town to give a performance.  Given a choice between acknowledging that she has more interests than just classical music or going to extreme lengths to hide, she chooses option B.

Thoughts after reading:  There are a lot of VinylxOctavia fics out there which seem to exist for no purpose other than pairing up those two (something which, I suppose, could be said about a lot of this fandom's more popular pairings, but never mind that).  This story has a different but related problem: it tells a story at best unrelated to that romance, and more often seemingly directly at odds with it.

The thing is, the author tries to have his cake and eat it too on the "are they friends or enemies?" front.  They're carefully established as being friends, and yet their interactions are described solely in negative and/or antagonistic terms right up until the romance train leaves the station at the end.  They honestly don't seem so much "jocularly antagonistic" as they do "actively antipathetical towards each other," and that makes the story's end a hard sell.

Moreover, it draws attention away from the two strengths of this story: the low-key comedy, and Octavia's backstory.  The former is helped along by a well-written Applebloom and Babs Seed, whose energetic incompetence hits the sweet spot between too adult and annoying, instead landing right on childishly funny.  But even when they aren't around, Tigerhorse shows a knack for situational and dialogue-based humor of the pleasant chuckle variety (distinct from the "gut-busting laughter," "think about it, then chuckle," and "if that wasn't so funny, I'd be really upset" variants, to name a few).  The latter contains some unusually good writing about music (i.e. only once did I grumble to myself "that's not how learning to play an instrument works!" which, for me, is pretty darn good).

Moreover, it contains one of my favorite parts of the story: an extended folk-verse from whatever the pony equivalent of the Ozark tradition is.  Granted, it did create some focus issues--the point is nominally Octavia's fiddle-playing, but the fully-transcribed lyrics steal the scene--but they also make for an excellent bit of culturalia.  And on that same note, the portrayal of AJ's family in the fic does a nice job of making them more than generic southern stereotypes; it shows a degree of cultural awareness (right through to the myth elements of Octavia's costume inspiration) that I found very enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't revolve around that, using Octavia's desire to hide from Vinyl to frame her story.  Instead, Octavia's history and tribulations combine into some sort of super-extended framing device for their budding relationship.  The two parts don't really have much coherence as a whole, and the end result reflects that.

Star rating:

There's a lot of pleasant comedy and culture-clash stuff here to enjoy, but the ill-defined and forcibly romanticized relationship between everyone's favorite (?) musical ponies makes the impetus a bit shaky, and the last couple of pages a disappointment.

Recommendation:  VinylxOctavia fans should definitely check this out; those with an aversion to the same should equally definitely stay far away from this fic.  For the rest of you, there's some nice humor and heritage creation here, and readers particularly looking for either might find this worth a look.

Next time:  Project: Sunflower, by Hoopy McGee


  1. Chris! You forgot to title this post! XD

  2. Yeah, you actually forgot to title this post. That's a new one!

    Anyway, I hope you have a good time at the con. I didn't picture you as one of those "con guys", to be honest, but I guess this is your first one? They can be really fun, as long as you don't mind people.

    As per the story, I particularly liked it, but then again, I like Octascratch, so you can guess my tastes aren't that good. As you said, the humor was good and Octavia's past was interesting, althugh the way her relationship with Vinyl is handled...

    ...Well, I really liked it, but then again: Octascratch. Still, this one went right into my favorites.

    1. Second, actually; I went to GenCon once... when I was five.

      So yeah, "not a con person" is probably a pretty accurate statement. Still, this one's close by, so I figured I'd give it a try!

    2. Was that the Origins one? Either way, I'm jealous. The only thing I got to see at that age was some stupid Super Bowl :(

  3. There are many reasons I'm predisposed to not liking this story.
    I even tried listening to a reading of it, but ended up quitting that somewhere in the beginning. So yeah, going to pass on this one.

    Word of the Day: Culturalia.
    What is this, another made up word?

    1. I'm not 100% sure, but I think I stole it from Horizon. Go bug him if you don't like it!

  4. Yes, this is exactly what I thought. As ScratchTavia fics go, this one's so far my favorite, but it's sure as hell not because of the shipping. I'd put University Days ahead of this on that front. But everything else was really fantastic, for all the reasons you pointed out.

    God, I need to read Allegrezza. :|

  5. Lots of good moments in this one, but it did need to have the shipping bits edited out. As a pure comedy and Octavia-backstory it would have been wonderful.

  6. I'm not that much of a shipping fan, at least so far as I don't actively seek it out, but I didn't really find the shipping elements that intrusive. At the very least, even if they're what ends the story, they didn't feel like the point of the story to me. It felt more like it was about Octavia's shenanigans and developing backstory, and you're right, those are the best parts of the fic. So I didn't really have any major complaints.

    He said to the surprise of no-one.