Monday, September 15, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 71: Life on the Frontier

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

For those of you who aren't keeping track of such things, this month's writeoff will have entered the voting phase around the time this post goes up.  If you want to do some reading and/or voting and/or reviewing, check out the entries and see what you think!  Or, if you're just here for me to tell you what I think, check out my review of Starwind Dood's Life on the Frontier, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  On one hand, I've got a soft spot for Carrot Top, and romantic comedy seems to be the genre of romance I'm most amenable to (at least, when it involves actual comedy and not just painfully awkward-to-watch mini-disasters unfolding one after another).  On the other hand, potential buffalo/pony shipping always seems kind of creepy to me--isn't Little Strongheart going to grow up to be ten times Braeburn's size?--and the fact that the description sounds more like a stream-of-consciousness trailer than an actual summary/introduction is a little worrying.  We'll see if either of those get addressed in the fic.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Carrot Top's job sends her to Appleloosa for a year, and Derpy and a reluctant Dinky tag along.  When she gets there, she finds a charming young stallion... one whom a local buffalo has her eye on, as well.

Thoughts after reading:  About the nicest thing I can think to say about this story is that most of the things which it fails at, it fails at with a sort of charming earnestness.  There's a lot of obvious effort in this story, and there's an undeniable appeal to seeing the product of long labor.  Past that appeal, however, there's not a lot here to recommend.

The problems start at the technical level.  The writing is exposition-heavy, full of strange word choices, clunky, and frequently is absurdly redundant (Examples of the narration literally telling the reader what they just read, such as "'Sorry, some ponies haven't really gotten over the incident awhile back,' Apple Bumpkin sighed, apologizing for the nature of some of the less friendly ponies in town," are astoundingly common).  The dialogue generally feels stiff, though part of this is through problematic voicings, both unavoidable (it's not the author's fault that Little Strongheart doesn't use contractions, but without careful handling it's easy for her to sound robotic and unnatural) and self-inflicted (writing a young character with an over-advanced vocabulary, as Dinky has here, is a task fraught with peril for even the best of authors).

As for the plot... it's mostly an excuse plot, in the sense that it kicks off with little and less explanation for the obvious purpose of providing a conflict, but then it's frequently ignored in favor of digressions into crime-fighting, family-reuniting, acusations-of-going-pony-fighting, and the like.  While some of these digressions could make interesting additions to the story, they are mostly introduced out of the blue, resolved in their entirety, and then forgotten or ignored for the rest of the fic.  The effect is of a series of vignettes from Carrot Top's year in Appleloosa, but the fic is constructed as an overarching narrative.  The fit between these ideas is poor, and the result is a lurching, uneven mess.

Also, I still think pony/buffalo shipping is a little disturbing, just from a size-comparison standpoint.  It's also awfully creepy in this case, because it's established in an early chapter that Little Strongheart is underage (at least, by pony standards), which... well, I don't mind a kid with a crush, but the fact that this doesn't seem to bother anyone in the story except to briefly make Carrot Top conscious of her own age didn't sit right with me.  That wasn't the only problem with the shipping angle of the story (though most of the rest probably falls under the purview of "if you're a shipper, you can probably swallow this; if not, good luck"), and in many respects the romantic angle of this story hews closely to formula, when it's not being jerked abruptly ahead or discarded for entire chapters in order to bring up, resolve, and discard some side-plot.

Star rating:

This story wasn't actually as unpleasant to read as I probably made it sound, though it's true that I didn't enjoy it.  I think the best way to describe it is "exactly what the average person would expect from an MLP fanfic."  That's not much of a compliment, but at the very least Starwind Dood succeeded in creating something that was recognizably a ponyfic, and which someone with few expectations and a high tolerance for poor writing could potentially enjoy.  That doesn't count for much in the context of me reviewing it here, granted, but it's not nothing.

Recommendation:  That said, I still can't think of anyone I'd recommend this to.

Next time:  The Assumption of Applejack -or- Appletheosis, by Blue Print


  1. I should definitely write something with Golden Harvest in it.

    I'll give that some thought :)

  2. I don't think I've ever heard of this story, and I can see why. <.< And it's a shame, because it's got one of my favorite background ships.

    Braeburn has always been one of my least-favorite ponies, based entirely on his annoyingness during Over a Barrel. If he's written as perky yet put-upon, morose because he's shouldering more than his burden of running a new town (see also RedSquirrel456's Prince of Dust) but trying to remain externally upbeat, then I can deal with his presence. Beyond that, I appreciate him solely as shipbait for Carrot Top, and that's thanks entirely to this image. A hopelessly normal pony like her (again, headcanon based off an old image) deserves a catch like a hunky cowboy, don't you think? See this is why shipping is amazing, Chris.

    1. Present, I hate to break this to ya, but Carrot's a mare; that ship would never float

    2. booooooo

      Actually, I have a story idea based around that joke, not that CT deserves it.

  3. This doesn't seem like an especially well-known "classic".

    Admit it, Chris. You just chose this because it has Carrot Top in it.

    1. I chose this because it was recommended to me, thank you very much!

      ...And because it had Carrot Top in it, a little, I guess.

  4. "potential buffalo/pony shipping always seems kind of creepy to me--isn't Little Strongheart going to grow up to be ten times Braeburn's size?"

    Putting aside any issues I have with "Over the Barrel" or any that occur in this fict (which I have not read) of the presentation of Braeburn and Strongheart, the size difference is problematic for the two characters to have a romantic relationship how exactly (or for that matter, any amorous inter-(sentient)-species relationship)?

    1. She gon' squish him. :B

      On a side note, am I crazy, or is this your first post here in a long while, Bugs? :O Did you go somewhere? Even if you didn't, it's good to see you around.

    2. Even if their romantic relationship doesn't lead to a sexual one, think for a minute about what your life would be like if you were married to someone with the general size and body shape of a hippo. The sheer logistics of sharing a house, hobbies, a LIFE with someone that different in size is tough to imagine (I have the same problems with Spike shipping, at least for those who assume he's going to grow up to be a *big* dragon). Relationships between little people and the normally-sized IRL give a hint of just how many obstacles there are to living with someone half your size; it's manageable, certainly, but there are challenges. Now multiply that by an order of magnitude, and that's pony/buffalo.

    3. That's what I thought and I don't buy it. Sex and leapfrog are not necessarily part of a romantic relationship. Even if they were in this case, years of Pokemon breeding (and knowledge of horse and bison mating) tell me that Braeburn won't become flatter than a pancake. So, I'm still baffled on what exactly is disturbing about Brabeurn and Strongheart being lovers.

      And to answer your second question, sorta. I didn't leave, I've just seen my free time plummet since I've been working two jobs. Can't do much as a result.

    4. Chris, lots of physical things can make a relationship difficult, just as much as a size difference. A partner with disabled/missing body parts (arms, legs, eyes, etc.), for example. Yet, (to go back to ponies) it would be wrong to say the pony with the wheels in "Rainbow Falls" shouldn't be engaged to another pony because there would obstacles dealing with his situation. Or for that matter, an earth pony to marry a pegsaus (after all, only pegasi can walk on for clouds and earth ponies don't have the magic to make them do so like a unicorn, or reach things that are high up for that matter).

      I guess what I'm saying is that I find anything that suggests we have to be with people who are physically close to ourselves or worse, that we should avoid developing romance with others that have certain kinds of physical differences to be even more troubling than whatever supposed 'creepiness' occurs from living with something ten times one's size.

    5. Sorry this doesn't contribute to the conversation, but Bugs' comment really makes me want to read a serious, high quality shipfic about Wheely Bopper. C'mon, Present, you know you wanna write that

    6. So, I'm still baffled on what exactly is disturbing about Brabeurn and Strongheart being lovers.

      Well, then there's the "we can't really tell how old Strongheart is and she looks kind of underage" aspect. I mean, you could go either way with that. And speaking entirely personally, I hate her design. I think she looks creepy, and despite being an ungulate as well, she's not as pony-like as, say, a zebra to bypass my dislike of pony/non-pony relationships.

      pony with the wheels in "Rainbow Falls"

      Wait, what?

      a serious, high quality shipfic about Wheely Bopper. C'mon, Present, you know you wanna write that

      The best I can do right now is friendshipping with Wild Fire (because you know they'd be friends). Also, linking to the writeoff version because the one I published is gone somehow. :(

    7. Bugs is referring to that Make-A-Wish kid

      No time to read that story right now, but I'll do so after work

    8. OH

      Duh. I was thinking about Jinx from Leap of Faith and wondering if I'd missed her. :B

    9. Crap, I was wrong. Bugs said Rainbow Falls, but that character was in Trade Ya. It's been eight months, so I don't remember who he's talking about

      Just read your fic, by the way. I enjoyed it. Kinda wondering what happened between those two