Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 64: Synchronicity

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

I've been watching the old Battlestar Galactica recently, and I'm really enjoying it.  Oddly, I find that one of the things I like most about it is also something I really enjoy about MLP: the total, unironic sincerity of the show.  Granted, in Battlestar Galactica they're being totally, unironically sincere about the absolute rightness of the military, the incompetence of civilian leadership, and the like, but dang it, this is the kind of show you don't see anymore: the kind where the villain is literally just Snidely Whiplash without the mustache, and yet he's not a parody, or a deconstruction, or anything else.  He's just a cartoonishly evil dude who's sincerely cartoonishly evil.

All that said, I don't know if I'd recommend it per se (think a hyper-militaristic version of the original Star Trek, in terms of plots and production quality), but I'm having fun watching it.  Now, with TV reviews out of the way, let's get on to fanfic reviews!  A Hoof-ful of Dust's Synchronicity, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  I read this a while back.  I remember being disappointed in the shipping, but enjoying the rest of the fic.  Let's see how well that impression holds up.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After a sleepover, Twilight and Rainbow Dash investigate a spooky story which is supposed to have more than a grain of truth behind it, and discover that there are things that lie beyond rational explanation.

Thoughts after reading:  Well, let me walk back what I said in my impressions a little.  The shipping here was actually pretty unobjectionable--on its own.  What did bother me was how it fused with the supernatural story to which it was attached; here I was less impressed.

The problem is that the ghost story which is at the center of all the action is used simultaneously as a light-horror backdrop, and as a parallel for Dash and Twi's relationship.  These two needs prove to be not terribly compatible, and the result is that the spookiness is mostly lost (not a big deal, by itself, as there's more to this story that just dark ambiance) and that the shipping feels tacked-on in relation to the supernatural aspects.  The well thought-out history on display here paints the generic, little-explained (in other words, totally normal) shipping in a harsh light by comparison to itself.

That history was a high point, though.  Although the story has a tendency to become very digressive (a lengthy discussion on comic books comes to mind), these bits are often interesting in their own right.  Drawn-out and more than once totally irrelevant, yes, but still interesting.  Moreover, there are some nice touches of worldbuilding here: the way that the author fills in and uses pony race relations is natural, not ham-fisted, and adds some nice depth to the story.

Moreover, A Hoof-ful of Dust clearly has an ear for folklore.  The legend which drives the plot, in both its initial presentation(s) and later revelations, is a very well-crafted example thereof, and the cultural alterations its seen add to that sense of realism.  Not only that, but this isn't just classic tale-telling painted over with a thin veneer of ponyness; the way that the legend is so well integrated into the setting really impressed me.  The setting and worldbuilding are the biggest draws here, and both are very well executed.

Star rating:

The shipping in this story is only a step above what I would call "typical fanfic shipping," and the fact that it doesn't always play nice with the rest of the story makes it look worse than it arguably is for the non-shipping reader.  But despite that, there's still a lot to recommend here.

Recommendation:  Speaking of "a lot to recommend"... fans of shipping who are looking for a little more depth and worldbuilding than usual in their TwiDash will definitely want to check this out.  Beyond that, people without an inherent interest in the romance may still enjoy it for its setting-creation and the author's sense of folklore, as long as they can handle a lot of digressions which range from fascinating to "merely" palatable.

Next time:  A Dream of Dawn, by Starsong


  1. "... the cultural alterations it's seen..."

    Almost didn't leave a comment this time, but then I saw that. I don't think I've ever corrected someone for that mistake before—it's usually the reverse

    Wish I had more to say here; makes me come across as a jerk (well, more of one than I really am) when I only pop in to point out your mistakes

    1. Well, I'll just leave this here, then:

  2. Yeah, the comics scene was a really odd spot, as I recall.

  3. I haven't read this story, so I can't say whether this was the author's intent or whether it was effective, but I enjoy writing or reading scenes that may seem to be irrelevant but just go toward establishing characterization, especially in shipping stories. As Chris alluded to, many fanfiction romances skip any sort of preamble to the relationship and just assume we care about it. Sometimes, this type of scene that does nothing more than showing the characters as being compatible and having a good time together really helps ground the romance as believable. I much prefer demonstrating that the characters work as a couple instead of the usual blushing and stuttering leading up to the kiss, then final curtain.

    1. Absolutely agreed, but I want to add that, while such scenes don't have to move the plot forward, I think they're even better when they also fulfill that function. It's especially fun to realize later on that they were setting up something important right under your nose!

  4. Oh yay, Dream of Dawn! That's one of the ones that I recommended. Next classics review should be an interesting one. It's not often that this series covers something I've already read.