Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 109: The Haunting in Ponyville

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

Being sick is no fun.  Above-the-break blurbs are fun.  Therefore, no blurbery today.  Review below, though, just like you'd expect: my thoughts on JasonTheHuman's The Haunting in Ponyville.

Impressions before reading:  I've read a couple of the author's other works, and in both I found that the writing was, if not memorably amazing, a good fit for the story itself.  So, hopefully I'll get to see more of that.  I'm not sure what to expect from the combination of dark, SoL, and comedy tags, and the description doesn't give me much more to go on... so I guess let's just jump in!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The month before Nightmare Night is a busy time for Bon-Bon--ponies need their candy, after all.  The last thing she needs right now is a poltergeist... so of course, that's exactly what she gets.

Naturally, Lyra is ecstatic.

Thoughts after reading:  The writing is, indeed, pleasantly readable throughout.  JasonTheHuman has a knack for keeping his language clear and simple without becoming dull, and that serves the paranormal portions of this story well; throughout such mysterious goings-on as their are, it's always easy to keep track of what's happening, where, and to whom.  That's something a lot of mystery stories struggle with--how to separate mystery from lack of clarity--and it's nice to see a good balance struck here.

The story itself is also pleasantly light.  Even at its darkest, this story is never even slightly gory, nor even tonally removed from the show.  The ghost's goings-on become more serious as the story progresses, but even as it moves from "annoying" to "spooky," it never delves into bleak grimness.  Instead, the story mostly plays as a narrative-heavy comedy, using Lyra-the-roommate as a regular foil (her and Bon-Bon's dynamic here is typical of the fandom's general interpretation of both, though I was pleased that any references to Lyra's human obsession were kept understated) and introducing plenty of zaniness for Bon-Bon's seriousness to play off of without making a joke of the world itself.

Pacing was a bit of an issue, however.  Chapters are usually spaced between several hours and several days, and given the author's tendency to end chapters on cliffhangers, discovering that three days have passed and nothing has changed makes the story seem disappointingly static outside of the bits and pieces the reader is actually privy to.  It also felt like it interrupted the poltergeist's pattern of escalation; it's not that ghosts can't take a little time off between events (they often seem to, in stories), but the oddly-placed and -sized gaps tended to diminish the connection between events.

One thing I really appreciated about this story was that it didn't feel the need to go out of its way to explain every little thing.  A couple of times, a character even appears to be about to reveal what's "really" going on, or to give some crucial backstory, only to shrug and say "I guess I've got no idea after all," which seems to me to be a pretty natural reaction to what seems to be a ghost.  This is a story about the unexplained causing trouble (or some much-needed excitement, depending on who you ask), and keeping the focus on that sense of mystery, and the characters' banter and even their daily lives, serves it well.  I did find the ending a little disappointing, delivering a pseudo-stinger of the type I've never much cared for (and have never found funny), but the journey to get there is pleasant nonetheless.

Star rating:  

Jumpiness and ending notwithstanding, this is a light, somewhat seasonal bit of show-appropriate spookiness.

Recommendation:  This would be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a bit of light reading which doesn't require a lot of digging, but can still hold up to inspection.

Next time:  Newsworthy, by _Medicshy


  1. Ghosts. Neat.

    This post actually got me thinking, though, about something vaguely related. Has anyone ever asked you to make a blog post about a specific topic before? I suppose here it would fall in the "ramblings" category. Is that a thing? Because I've been wondering lately about good ways to weave lore into stories without throwing off the pacing or making it feel like an out of place infodump, and I would be interested to hear what you have to say on the matter. It occurs to me that you might already have an article like that on your blog somewhere, but serve me a deep fried hand grenade if I know how to find it.

    Anyway, it seems easier to add lore into really long pieces, what with them naturally being slower and more weighed down with side-story girth, but I mean with shorter stories where you want to keep up the energy; ones where you don't have a spare 10 chapters to stuff a whole nother book of backstory inside your book. How do you make sure to fit in all your interesting imaginings to assure the readers have all the information they need to understand how deep and angsty you (and your characters) are without interrupting their immersion in the main story, itself?

  2. I agree completely with your opinion in this one. And hey, Newsworthy! I remember liking that one a long, long time ago. I wonder how it holds up nowadays. I know that I still enjoy the sequels.