Monday, July 7, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 60: What You Can Imagine

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

The Tour de France is underway, and there's already some good news: Mark Cavendish is out of the race with a dislocated collarbone!  Okay, it's bad news that he's hurt, but that's hardly a career-ender, and it's good news that he's gone; his whining and hypocrisy (on the subject of what is or isn't appropriate contact in a sprint, not on anything non-sports-related that I know of) make him incredibly unlikable to me, and when he's racing I almost don't want to watch flat stages because I don't want to risk seeing him win.

Okay, enough cycling talk.  My review of Darf's What You Can Imagine, after the break.

Impressions before reading:  From the description, this appears to be based on another story by another author--both since deleted, so I've got nothing to compare it against.  The vague coverart and lack of tags don't give me much to go on, but the description sounds like it could be an interesting take on the difference between fantasy and reality.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  There is a nondescript building which one can only find if they're invited by someone else who knows how to get in, and where dreams--really--come true.  A first-timer comes in, not sure what to expect...

Thoughts after reading:  This actually falls into more of a "concept sci-fi" category than anything else, and in fact, it reminded me at various points of several sci-fi shorts I've read in the past--specifically, I got more than a whiff of Philip K Dick off of this.  And that's by no means a bad thing.

It's clear that the author was trying for something "literary" with this piece (darf says as much in the description), and while this does occasionally lead to some prosaic excesses which don't so much create a tone or mood as they do needlessly call attention to themselves, the effect on the whole is far more positive than negative.  Likewise, a few spellcheck errors and run-on sentences belie a well technically constructed story; there's little to complain about here on the surface level.

Where I started to run into issues was with the use of Equestria as a setting.  To me, this feels very strongly of a story that should be set in Earth's not-too-distant future, and while the author certainly did enough to ponify the setting, I'm not convinced that the concept is well-used here.  It's not even a matter of it not "feeling" like Equestria (though the psychopath(s?) and swearing did have that effect)--it's that the particular questions this story asks about what "real" is would resonate much more strongly in a non-fantasy setting.

If one accepts that, though, then the rest follows, as it were.  The cast of characters here are a pretty straightforward bunch, but darf uses that to his advantage, letting them play to their full hammy (but not comic) strengths to create entertaining conversations (as an aside, I highlighted several really great turns of phrase as I read) without distracting from the ultimate question the fic poses.  That question is one that's been asked many times before in stories, and more than once in basically this same way, but it's still a well-executed example for all that.

Star rating:

This is a good, but not arrestingly unique, short story.  That it happens to be a ponyfic is, I think to its disadvantage, but to its credit, this isn't a deal-breaking issue.

Recommendation:  Fans of classic sci-fi short stories in the "big question, no answer" genre should definitely try this on for size.  Fans of pleasant dialogue and scene-setting might also give it a go, but those sensitive to predictability or good use of Equestria might want to pass.

Next time:  Best Young Flier, by Bookplayer


  1. I think this raises the obvious followup question: would you care to share the really great turns of phrase?

    1. e.g., just for you:

      "The pony's voice was thick with an accent the colt couldn't quite place. It sounded not too far away, but foreign all the same — not in the way a camel from the Far East sands might struggle with everyday words, but slick and greasy, like someone who had picked up the Equestrian language in a mail-away catalogue he had stolen the subscription for."

  2. I felt cheated by the lack of an ending. But "not arrestingly unique"? I disagree.

  3. Every darf story I've tried left me feeling like it was well written, but I was unsure of what I'd just read. This one sounds like par for the course.

    1. Same Love's pretty straightforward, if a little long. Also, while it's apparently named after a song (or rap, I'm not sure), you don't need any prior familiarity to enjoy it—I hadn't even heard of that track before reading this fic, nor have I listened to it since

  4. I'm pretty sure I've read this stor some timeago. At the time I thought... Well I think I didn't know what to think.

    On a completely unrelated note, I got a new job recently and my new boss's name is Lyra. Thing is, she pronounces it Lee-ra. Everything I've ever known is now thrown into question.

    1. It took this fandom a good two years to get me to stop saying Lee-rah.

    2. Speak for yourselves. I'm English. I can speak proper!