Monday, December 1, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 83: Forever Young

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

Hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving!  If not, consider pulling a "take two" this week; it's not like there's ever a bad reason to get together with the people you love and overeat.  Okay, I'm sure there are plenty, but you know what I mean.  Late Thanksgiving is better than never-Thanksgiving!

Speaking of things you're all thankful for, how about some reviews?  Don't deny it, you know you love them.  Get my thoughts on Hyperexponential's Forever Young, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  I read this one a while back, and was unimpressed.  However, it's always worth re-reading when one sits down to review; sometimes, a story has aged better than you thought it would, or something that you managed to miss the first time jumps out when you start prying the words apart and makes the tale fit together.  I mean, that doesn't usually happen, but it has happened enough that I'm at least hopeful that this will wow me on take two.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Discord will live forever, and Fluttershy will die eventually--or rather, she will if somedraconequus doesn't do something about it.  So he does.

Thoughts after reading:  Discord is a difficult character to write well, it seems to me.  He's constantly moving, constantly joking (verbally or visually), constantly doing, and it's tough to convey that in text.  Unfortunately, Discord fell flat for me here; with only a couple of exceptions in this 4000 word fic, all at the very beginning, he's stoic, staid, and remarkably lifeless.  In fact, he acts much more like a self-absorbed version of Celestia than like a quick-witted trickster, and when he's the central character in the story, that's a problem.  To be fair, he's mostly shown in "serious" situations in this fic, but the fact that the single most vibrantly active character in the show is presented in so sedate a manner is a serious issue.

Characterization is, in fact, the biggest issue throughout the story.  Fluttershy seethes at Discord over a casual (though admittedly character-defyingly crude) jab at Celestia; she guides extended conversations with all the self-assurance of a debate moderator; she self-narrates with Shatnerian dramatics.  Rarity, meanwhile, is essentially reduced to a mouthpiece for the "right" views on the justifications for choosing or refusing immortality.  Mouthpiece characters grate with me in any case, but doubly so when there are significant gaps in their logic (note that this isn't a problem when a character is a character and not a mouthpiece, as errors or things they overlook could be, well, in-character), and trebly so when a character has a distinct personality overwritten by those mouthpiece duties.

On the plus side, the prose is clean and easy to understand, though several writing decisions struck me as distracting, notably a telly timeskip at the end of the fic.  Honestly, this story could have been much longer, and probably would have benefited; it would have given the author more time to explore the main characters' attitudes and personalities without rushing straight to points and counterpoints they had to argue/explain, and the decisions they had to make.  Especially given the weight of Discord's ultimate decision, the fact that there's basically no lead-up to it, coupled with the fact that his explanation for it sounds like nothing he's ever said (voicing-wise, that is, not thematically), rob it of any punch.

Star rating:

Interestingly, several other people whose opinions I trust have read this recently, and there seems to be about a significant split between reviewers who love it (including Loganberry and PresentPerfect), and people who, well, don't (such as Bradel).  For what it's worth, I'm pretty firmly in the "don't" category.

Recommendation:  If morality plays are your thing, and you aren't too concerned about how well-reasoned that morality is, this may well appeal.  But if you're going to be put off by Discord, Rarity, or Fluttershy sounding and acting precious little like Discord, Rarity, and Fluttershy, Forever Young probably isn't the right fic for you.

Next time:  Do Changelings Dream of Herding Sheep?, by John Perry


  1. > Next time: Do Changelings Dream of Herding Sheep?, by John Perry

    Sometimes your definition of "Fandom Classic" leaves me baffled. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. ;)

    1. Chris is long overdue (eighteen months!) for reviewing another one of your stories, and that's the most popular one he hasn't already done. Ergo, "classic"

    2. That sounds more like the definition of a "John Perry Classic." :P

    3. A John Perry Classic is an honorary Fandom Classic by default.

    4. I continue to work primarily on the "popular/influential/well-known stories which are recommended to me" paradigm. Blame your legions of relentless fans, John!

  2. As far as I can tell, Loganberry is the only other person, not just reviewer, who likes this story. :( Everyone else I know of who's read it has thoroughly hated it, and it's like we didn't read the same story or something.

    Of course, considering I read this right after both Discord: End of Empires, which had great Discord writing, and Dearest Fluttershy, which is about Discord dealing with Fluttershy's death, I might very well have set myself to really enjoy this story when I otherwise shouldn't have. But I dunno, it makes me feel like I missed something.

    1. It's okay, PP. We still love you. Anyway, if the RCL crew all agreed on everything, it's sort of make the whole job boring / redundant. To badly paraphrase George Orwell, "One view bad, five views good."

    2. I mentioned Forever Young in the fanfic rec thread on UK of Equestria and two other people commented, both of whom loved it. (One actually recommended it while I was writing my own rec post!) I didn't actually realise, until reading this today, that it wasn't generally considered a good story.

      Generally speaking, poor characterisation is right up at the top of things that stop me enjoying a story. And Fluttershy is my favourite pony, so a 'Shy-heavy story carries an even greater risk. But nevertheless, this one all came together for me in a way that it clearly didn't for Chris and some others.

  3. This doesn't sound like my kind of story. Even if it didn't have questionable characterization. However, such a split public opinion about it seems to make it even more compelling than if it was strongly one way or the other.

    Word of the Day: Shatnerian.
    Ha. I love it when something someone does becomes so iconic, that they're name becomes a new word. Shatnering, Blueshiftian, Mulligan. Love it!

  4. Blueshift should be used as a verb, describing a point in a story where an absurdist twist occurs, but still fits in with the narrative so far.