Friday, February 6, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 69

Real life is kinda kicking my butt just at the moment, which means I'm not even close to finished with the next Fandom Classic.  It's not even that long, by longfic standards; I'm just not finding any time to read!  Luckily, I've got a few short fics that I can type up some short impressions of (and even that is something I seem to be having a great deal of trouble making time for).  Anyway, get some reviews below the break.

The Importance of Proper Diplomacy when Engaging Rival Governments for the Purposes of an Official Treaty, by Exilo

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight travels with Celestia to the Griffin Kingdom--the first time Twilight has ever gone, and the first time Celestia has come in a thousand years, since Equestria defeated the griffons in war.

A few thoughts:  I really liked the idea of this story, and there are some wonderful moments.  Exilio clearly put a lot of thought into the worldbuilding surrounding and infusing this story, and the varying ways that little bits of culture and behavioral expectations are sprinkled in is the highlight of the story.  Unfortunately, Twilight's voice as a narrator is pretty weak, bouncing between strangely stilted and questionably casual.  The result is things like a (surprisingly touching) description of a griffon opera/tragedy being immediately followed by Twilight gratefully thinking "At least I don't feel like a wuss" when she sees that everyone else is touched, too.

Recommendation:  If writing isn't a big issue for you, this is a definite recommendation based on the strength of the culture, history, and civilization-building on display.  But if regular word/structural errors or weak character voicing bother you, the appeal will be somewhat diminished.

Honey Pie, by Deistar

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Scoots and Sweetie eat honey pie.

A few thoughts:  Despite the lovey-dovey picture, this isn't a shipping story.  It's not much of an anything story, really; it's mostly about ponies having a picnic and talking, and while some of what those ponies talk about has the potential to lead somewhere, little is done with any of it.  Scootaloo's internal monologue is also more than a little wonky, but she and Sweetie sound pretty good when they speak aloud.

Recommendation:  This is about 5k words of fluffy non-event.  So, while it's probably not going to be worth seeking out to readers looking for a story, it might be if you're interested in simply spending some time with the characters.

Spiders and Famine, by BewhoUr

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Applejack calms down Applebloom when the latter is panicked by a spider in her bedroom.

A few thoughts:  This is mostly a vehicle to deliver a moral... but frankly, it's kind of a weird moral.  Basically, it's casting worrying about spiders as an Equestrian version of a first-world problem, and while it's not done in a mean-spirited way or anything, I've never really been fond of the idea of first-world problems.  Yes, there are people who would be grateful to have your new iPhone even though it's the wrong color... but that's not the reason why you shouldn't get so worked up over your new iPhone being the wrong color, and that kind of argument often gets perverted to shut down legitimate grievances (actual quote from someone I know, a couple years back: "I don't get why gay people can't quit complaining about not being able to marry.  It used to be that black people couldn't even vote!  Gay people have it easy compared to black people.").  The fic itself has some editing issues, but nothing that impedes on readability.  And in any case, if this story's basically all in the service of delivering a lesson, then it's fair to say that it delivers that lesson well, all my fussing about the moral notwithstanding.  And besides, I can kind of see "don't complain unless you have it worse than anyone else" being an Apple family standby, if I squint at it right.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for a bit of flash fiction about the Apple Family's ethic, then this might scratch that itch.  If you're the type of person who's going to think too much about the message and then get annoyed, then this probably isn't for me you.


  1. Maybe it all comes down to proportional response? Like, "feel free to complain about any problem you have, so long as you keep a sense of scale"? I mean, that is basically how we already differentiate complaining from whining. I'm the last person in the world who'd say that anybody doesn't have the right to voice their grievances, but I do still think that people who get genuinely enraged by a lack of sugar at Starbucks are worthy of mockery.

    That said, as a cultural value, I do find the concept of accepting your lot in life and never seeking to improve things to be utterly abhorrent. That way lies stagnation.

  2. I've always felt the concept of "first world problems" should be applied internally, and never externally. Our problems are our own. If you're the one who realizes, hey, this is stressing me out, but it's not that important in the grand scheme of things, you'll make yourself feel better and maybe even go out of your way to help someone with a "real" problem. But if someone is whining about not getting a car for their birthday, and you come along and go, "GOSH WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT YOU SPOILED BRAT HASHAG FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS", you've shamed them, put them on the defensive, inured them to criticism and overall accomplished nothing constructive. Change has to come from within.

    Meanwhile, I could have sworn Honey Pie was a story about Pinkie falling in love with a changeling or something. o.O What am I thinking of? #firstworldproblems

    1. What am I thinking of?

      You're thinking of this Honey Pie, by SPark.

    2. Okay, thank you, I'm not just being crazy this time. :D

  3. It so happens that I read Honey Pie the other day, too. I'm a bit of a sucker for character pieces, which is probably why I liked it so much. As you touch on, the writing is a bit off at times, but I found it nicely atmospheric. (I don't like it quite as much as the other story with that name, though...)

  4. The biggest problem I've always had with the term "first world problems" has less to do with its meaning and more with its wording, because it suggests that the sort of petty concerns we groan about don't exist outside the so-called "first world"... even though they do. I'm pretty sure they have things like traffic jams and crummy weather and poor cell phone reception and stupid internet arguments and stubbed toes and grumpy servers in the so-called "third world". It's a continuation of this idea of the "third world" as a bunch of starving masses that live in mud huts, when the reality is way more complex than that.

    That said, like PP said, I don't have much of a problem with people applying the term to themselves; that's pretty harmless. Although I still wish the term was something more general like "petty concerns" or "pointless bickering" rather than this first world/third world nonsense.

    1. As a member of the "Third World" (which is a term as relevant as the Berlin Wall, by the way), I can safely say that "First World Problems" are anything but, and that people complain just as much about that kind of stuff here.