Friday, March 13, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 101: A Simpler Time

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

It occurs to me that, sometime probably within the past year, the number of reviews I've written have collectively exceeded the ability of one person to read in a single day.  Archive-bingeing through everything I've written about things other people have written about ponies is now unavoidably a multi-day commitment.

...I don't know how to feel about that, honestly.  It's kind of neat, I guess?  Either way, let's stretch the length of that hypothetical binge out a little further with the addition of DJLowrider's A Simpler Time.  Review below the break!

Impressions before reading:  While the comic above got a smile out of me when I first saw it, I admit to some trepidation here: it's basically just a ponified meme, and a) that tends to translate better to comics than stories, and b) it makes me worry that this is just another "the joke's in the title cover art" fic.  On the other hand, fics that fall into trap b) are generally barely over FiMFic's 1000-word minimum, and this one, while still short, is comfortably longer than that.  Maybe I'm worrying about nothing.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Twilight comes across an old lobster costume of Rarity's, she realizes that the two of them met once, many years ago.

Thoughts after reading:  Well, my second concern was only partly realized.  While the story clearly exists for the sake of having the comic scene written in it, there's an actual story frame here.  However, it's mostly an excuse to get filly Rarity and filly Twilight to play Star Wars unnamed sci-fi story.  The story surrounding that is servicable, but pretty transparently perfunctory.

It's also worth noting that that surrounding story is firmly in the realm of slice-of-life.  The comedy tag on this one strikes me as pretty superfluous.  That said, "comedy" is a pretty broad tag, and it's not like I was bothered by the author using it; I only mention it because the comic/cover actually had me expecting a significant humor aspect to this story, and that never materialized.

Dialogue is a bit of a mixed bag.  On one hand, DJLowrider manages to keep Rarity and Twilight distinct and recognizable throughout, which is always important in dialogue-heavy stories.  Less positive, though, is their tendency to narrate or over-explain--"Let me just put up my 'closed' signs in the shop below" is the sort of thing one simply doesn't say in a friendly conversation, because your friend would never be confused about where that 'closed' sign is going, or where the shop (that she literally had to walk through to get here) is relative to where they're standing.  There's also the fact that, beyond the odd "mommy," the girls sound almost identical to their adult selves as fillies.  I'll take that over excessive cutesiness any day, but young Rarity and Twilight were never terribly convincing as youth.

Perspective shifts rapidly and without warning between Twilight and Rarity once the story comes to its flashback.  Although it's never difficult to follow, it is a bit odd to see the narrative PoV drift back and forth.

Lastly, there's the issue of meme-ery.  Here, I was actually pretty impressed by the story; while the author throws in plenty of callouts, even beyond those promised by the cover ("do a barrel roll!," "let's blow this thing and go home!," etc.), none of these are character-breaking or nonsensical in context.  You'd think that wouldn't be much to ask, but I've read enough meme-based fics to know better.  In any case, the way that those references are used here might be distracting to those who find such things distracting by definition, but is unlikely to bother anyone else--including me.

Star rating:

As I semi-regularly like to remind everyone, a one-star rating from me is meant to denote anything up to and including what I would call "typical fanfiction."  A Simpler Time, beyond perhaps being better-edited than average, is something I'd consider perfectly unobjectionable, but not particularly laudable beyond that.  It's a classic example of something that's fine for what it is: nothing more, nothing less.  That's not a bad thing to be... but it's not something I'd consider an exemplar, either.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for something cute and inoffensive, you might want to give this a try.  If you're looking for anything more than that out of your reading experience, however, you probably won't find it here.

Next time:  The 63rd Rune, by Alextrassa


  1. Ohhhh snap, it's time for Alex, bitchezzz!

  2. Hold up... Why do Rarity and Twilight even know each other at that age? Shouldn't there be an AU tag in there?

    1. I'd assume the story frames it as them having had a brief encounter in childhood which they later forgot about for its inconsequential content, only to be reminded in the present by the discovery of the costume. Hardly anything requiring an AU tag.

      Hell, the show itself has pulled this kind of stuff before, what with the sonic rainboom, and Pinkie and Applejack turning out to be related.

  3. Yes, I liked this one too. The good ones tend to stick in your mind and pop up every time you see a keyword, like Lobster :)

    (Unfortunately, so do the bad ones...)

  4. Oh boy, the gender swap fic. No, not that one, the other one. There were two really big ones I remember and I think you already covered the other one.

  5. Oh, excellent: next time, it'll be a fic I've actually read!