Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 77: Twilight Sparkle Earns the Feature-Box

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

Alpha House returns this weekend!  Man, I loved the first season of that show, and I'm pumped for S2.  If you like (US) political comedy, you should check it out.  Of course, it's just my luck that I'm helping run a musical contest on Friday and Saturday, but that just means I'll have to wait a couple more days before I get to dive back in.  Ah, good stuff.

And, hopefully still on the subject of "good stuff," click down below the break for my review of Skywriter's Twilight Sparkle Earns the Feature-Box.

Impressions before reading:  I remember there being a bit of a stink about this story when it was published, but I didn't read it at the time, and (beyond the obvious, i.e. what's in the title and description) I don't really know what it's about.  From what I do know, though, I'm conflicted; "metafiction about Twilight writing a story that gets into the feature box" doesn't sound good to me... but on the other hand, Skywriter's an author who has written a number of stories which I really love.  Color me trepidatious going in.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight publishes her own story to the Canternet, and has an... experience with The Readership, culminating in a Featuregasm.

Thoughts after reading:  Meta stories tend to fall into two broad categories: those that improve the more one thinks about them, and those that get worse the more one thinks about them.  The former includes barely-meta stories where consideration is needed just to parse the meta-meaning, and many-layered stories where it's almost impossible to understand everything that's being done on a single read-through.  The latter includes lowest-common-denominator "humor" stories, and stories with little or no subtext (or rather, where the "subtext" is more obvious than the actual text; "supertext," if you will").  I found Feature-Box to fall firmly into the second category, for essentially the second reason.

Twilight (and Spike, in his follow-up chapter) act out sexual parodies of an author submitting their story to FiMFiction/EqD.  That's literally the entire story, and I found that very disappointing.  There isn't any subtext, nothing that rewards the thoughtful (or even just the keyed-in) reader... just the story publication/sex parallel, devoid of any commentary or meaning.

That's without getting into the matter of the characters, or the choice to tell this joke as a ponyfic with Twilight/Spike as the protagonists.  Simply put, there's no reason to set this story in Equestria, meta- or otherwise; Twilight even obliquely comments on how nothing that happens makes any sense, even to her.  Writing a story about Twilight getting featured on an unnamed FiMFiction without knowing what that is is certainly an interesting concept, but when nothing's done with it beyond, "hey, isn't that wacky?," it's wasted.  Then there's the matter of characterization; while I have trouble saying that Twi or Spike were out-of-character, that's only because their character was basically irrelevant to the story.  Couple that with the issue above, and I'm left wondering why this stars Equestrians at all, never mind those two characters specifically.

On the positive side, the anxiety of hitting submit is something that the average reader of this fic is likely to be able to relate to; most fanfic readers have at least thought about writing something for themselves, even if they haven't published (or even put down in ink computer pixels) anything.  But beyond that sense of "heh, yeah," which accompanies seeing those thoughts and fears sexually parodied. there's just nothing here.

Star rating:

To be fair to this story, I thought about it--probably overthought it--and that's a mistake.  But I have tremendous trouble understanding what, beyond the transitory recognition that "yeah, getting positive feedback on a story is kinda like that," is the appeal here.

Recommendation:  If you're in the market for some very accessible, comic-sexual playing with the concept of ponyfandom authorship, this is a quick, light read that might be up your alley.  But anyone looking for anything else will be disappointed.

Next time:  Roll for Initiative, by Prak


  1. Oooh, burn! Chris vs. Skywriter, round one FAITO!

    I know darn well that I read this story when it came out, in the midst of the featurebait fiasco, and before the banning of metafics, but I find it marked unread, despite being upvoted. There's a vs. post in my future...

    1. Pretty sure this would be round 3?

  2. I just noticed this post is labeled "Part 76", just like the previous Fandom Claasics post.

    1. It's such a lovely number though, wouldn't you agree?

  3. Hey, I liked it enough to favorite it long ago. You just can't go into it trying to read too deeply or you hit bottom, just like Pinkie Watches Paint Dry and Shipping Sickness.