Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 98: A Joke Too Far

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

Do you ever have one of those days when you decide to make a nice fruit salad to enjoy over the next few days, but by the time you get finished slicing the pineapple you're already ready to be done making any effort and it's dinner time anyway, so you end up just eating an entire fresh pineapple and going to bed?

No?  Just me?  Huh, okay then.  Anyway, more reviews below the break--go on down to check out my thoughts on ZOMG's A Joke Too Far.

Impressions before reading:  Barely a month old as this review goes up, this story's rather more recent than most of the stuff I chose for Fandom Classics reviews.  The guy (girl?) who suggested it made a convincing case, though: it was one of the first stories to camp the feature box for over a week (since the algorithm was changed such that that could happen), and since publication has managed to rack up nearly 12,000 views, and another 2000 likes.  Clearly, something here's drawing in readers... and hopefully it's not just the eye-catching cover.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Celestia introduces Cadence to Luna, the recently-returned Princess of the Night makes a dubious assumption about their relation.  Seeing an opportunity to tweak her mentor, Cadence decides to run with it.

Thoughts after reading:  I can do this review in two phrases: 1) this is a scene, not a story, and 2) the joke's in the picture.  That out of the way, let me expand upon those ideas a bit.

This fic begins in media res, but rather than use that to some sort of effect, it appears to simply be an excuse not to present the setup.  Which, on one hand, is probably a good thing; there's one idea here, and it doesn't really bear expounding upon.  However, since the premise raises some obvious questions (why does Luna think Celestia would lie about being Cadence's mother?  Why does Celestia find this upsetting, rather than amusing or merely surprising?) which are never addressed, it gives the impression that what's being read is merely an excerpt from a larger piece of writing in which there is, presumably, some sort of narrative arc.  The only hint of such comes at the end of the story, and while it's a nice touch, it's not even hinted at until late, and clearly secondary to the "Luna is confused" joke, so it doesn't really provide a sense of completeness when it resolves.

"The joke's in the picture" is, I think, pretty self-explanatory.

Now, there are a lot of stories on FiMFiction--and in fanfiction generally--about which one or both of the statements I made in my first paragraph could apply.  And despite the obviously negative way I'm framing both, I don't have any problem with the fact that these fics exist, or even that they're common.  But neither of them are things I would go out of my way to highlight, even in cases (like this) where the joke is reasonably funny and the writing is, if overwrought, at least solid.

Ultimately, this is a harmless bit of pablum.  Some stories can be (or rather, seem to be) that while containing greater depth or artistry than a passing glance might reveal--for a visual arts comparison, Norman Rockwell comes to mind as an example of someone whose kitschiness belied his talent and artistry.  This, on the other hand, is more like an average sample from one of EqD's drawfriend posts: technically proficient and unobjectionable in terms of content, but meant to be briefly enjoyed, then moved on from.

Star rating:

To be clear, I bear this fic and others of its general type and quality no ill will; A Joke Too Far clearly has no loftier goals than to present its scene/joke competently, and it manages just that, and that's not a bad thing.  But "vapid by design" is still "vapid," and although this story is fine for what it is, it never rises above "what it is."

Recommendation:  If "Celestia's flustered that Luna thinks Cadence is her daughter" sounds funny to you, this isn't a bad way to spend a few minutes.  I'd have trouble recommending it to anyone as something to specifically seek out, though.

Next time:  Yes, Apple Bloom, there *is* a Santa Hooves, by Lucky Dreams


  1. No, but I often get the urge to just eat a whole pineapple. Fresh pineapple is amazing. :O

    I'm surprised by how much I like Yes, Apple Bloom. I hope you like it, too.

    Also, and I'm not just talking about "joke in the picture" stories, but have you noticed that anytime an evocative or just particularly good piece of artwork comes out in this fandom, someone immediately writes a story about it, and they tend to end up featured? This leaves us with a lot of pablum, some of it very bizarre. I just feel like this is a trend lately.

    1. I've noticed it too. It's happened a few times recently. Pegasus Mating Dance springs to mind. It's the same principle by which fics are given dramatic readings or adapted into audio plays.These fics are the equivalent of adapting a still image or comic in the same manner (although a comic with dialogue can also be given a dramatic reading).

      The problem is, well, you know what they say. A picture's worth a thousand words. Too often, these "joke's in the cover art" minifics accomplish nothing that couldn't also be achieved by just glancing at the image they're derived from, which would probably be faster, too.

      This is where I differ from Chris. While I, too, believe it to be ultimately harmless, I wouldn't recommend this fic to someone looking for this specific story idea. I'd link them the image. Because despite all the advantages of literature that the author could've taken advantage of, the fic is no more substantial in context, content or humour than the image upon which it is based.

      The only real differences between the two is that the fic is more time-consuming than the image, and it introduces confusing elements like Celestia's anger or Luna's arbitary skepticism.

  2. Not surprised. I took a peek at this one and figured even you would have trouble finding much in the way of good things to say about it.

  3. I am slightly disappointed to this day that they managed to write a story about this before I did. I loved the idea in the picture and thought there was a fair bit of potential for comedy there, but I couldn't put it together into something satisfying before this story went up... which didn't end up putting it into something satisfying either, but removed my desire to try.