Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 110: Newsworthy

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

I know I've missed a couple of updates recently, and I'm really hoping that that's all over with now.  Unfortunately, real life continues its relentless press upon my time and attentions; I'll see what I can do about that.  Below, though, you can (finally!) check out my review of _Medicshy's Newsworthy.

Impressions before reading:  This is a pretty darn old story (started just after season 1, if I remember right), and I read it at the time.  While I remember the general plot and recall enjoying it at the time, but I also know that I quit following the sequels pretty quickly after that.  I'll be interested to see how this holds up four years later.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Ink Well, newspony for the sensationalist National Equirer, is sent to scoop the mares who "destroyed the Grand Galloping Gala" by his editor.  Soon, though, he finds out that the stories he writes have more impact than he realized... and that there are larger forces at work in the world of Equestrian news magazines than he'd ever guessed.

Thoughts after reading:  My biggest problem with this story--and the problem, as best I remember, that eventually got me off the sequel train-- was that it got dark, but in an inconsistent way.  Grim, violent, or just generally bleak fanfics I can get behind, at least in principle, but only if those elements are used in a well-supported way.  That is to say, there needs to be some explanation, some connection to get me from "Equestria" to "[insert whatever here]."  That kind of support is something I found missing in this story.

What starts out as a goofy slice-of-life story eventually turns into a conspiracy/adventure, and from there starts adding more than a little violence, torture, and general pain.  Things like professional hitponies and an (attempted) arson/murder combo--both of which are treated quite seriously, rather than in a "cartoon violence" way--mark a dramatic shift from the story's opening, but it's the continuous return to running gags, kid-friendly aesops, and the like which really make this problematic: these things drive home how out of place assassination attempts are in a world which, otherwise, hews close to canon.

That said, those elements are saved for several chapters in.  The early going has a pleasant slice-of-life style to it, and does some nice things with the seeming hyper-credulity of Ponyville's populace (at least, from season one).  And even when things start getting grim, the effect is more "several wildly inappropriate punctuations of violence" than anything else.  Although I found those moments very disconcerting, they didn't ultimately stop me from enjoying the fic.  And although the grand conspiracy may have felt tonally out of place in the respects emphasized above, it's nominal operations (about which I can't say much without getting into spoilers, but obviously they center around the news magazine industry) is a deliciously appropriate mix of absurd and villainous.

The story is also filled with various subplots, many of which are quite entertaining.  Some, such as Rose's fragrance-making, end up tying directly into the main storyline, while others end up being true asides, but almost all are interesting in their own right, and add to the overall atmosphere of the fic without dragging down the pacing.  Indeed, they end up helping to space some of those "punctuations" I mentioned earlier, making them a bit easier to read past.  The only sub-plot I wasn't particularly enamored with was a vague attempt at a love triangle--well, love angle, I guess--which was seemingly dropped partway through the story in favor of a more straightforward pairing-up.

Voicing is variable throughout; while most of the characters' speech patterns come through most of the time, a curious mix of inappropriate informality (e.g. Twilight telling Dash to "Cool your jets") and heavy exposition occasionally rear up to mar their believability.  The latter is particularly noticeable in Rose, who often serves as both the story's vox populi and moral compass, among other things.  It's in these two roles, however, that she often finds herself making sweeping statements which feel uncomfortably un-dialogue-like.

But through it all, I must admit I found that the story kept my attention remarkably well.  Even on re-read, Newsworthy manages to mix looming mysteries with quick-payoff dilemmas in a way which keeps the reader moving forward.  And those mysteries and dilemmas generally offer a fine payoff; whatever issues I had along the way, I won't deny that the author put a perfect bow on the story by the end (albeit a big bow; the last chapter clocks in at over 20,000 words), and more widely, on almost all of the major story elements.

Star rating:

This is a very pleasant story, building from low key to mystery/adventure, which makes a few significant tonal missteps along the way.  If you can see past that, however, there's a lot here to enjoy.

Recommendation:  Readers looking for a good "mixed story" should give this a shot, though those put off by moments of excessive darkness probably should avoid it.

Next time:  All the Mortal Remains, by Cold in Gardez


  1. Ah good, I'm glad you've joined me in occasionally reviewing EQD-only fics. :)


  2. Macabre elements in pony stories always seemed odd to me. Obviously stuff like that clashes with the actual show, but people always seem to try to tie it in anyway. It feels... I don't want to say disrespectful. More like incoherent, or angst-y. It's as if they're saying, "My dark, brooding mindset is so important that I'm going to force it into this lighthearted children's cartoon whether it makes sense or not." I've seen very few stories that could do it right. Even if they try to rationalize it by setting it in an alternate reality or something first, it still feels out of place. If they want to write a grim story so much, why not just write something original instead of using someone else's ideas and characters and entire world?

    I guess that sort of thing happens all the time with fanfiction, but if something weird happens a lot, that doesn't make it any less weird. And I still don't understand why people do it!

    Also, Chris, didn't you get guest writers to write up posts for you in the past when you were too busy to do it yourself? What ever happened to that?

    1. Macabre elements and such are all about exploring certain ideas. It's more a product of the fandom than a product of the show itself. It also has a lot to do with worldbuilding and characters.

      Like, if you think about the concept of cutie marks, you might end up wondering what would happen if a pony got a cutie mark with a special talent he doesn't want. Or what if his talent is something horrible? That's a lot of ground for something dark and gloomy. It's just about exploring parts of the show that the show itself is never going to tackle. Worldbuilding.

      Plus, some people like dark stuff. And when you are a fan of the show, chances are you're a fan of the characters -- and you want to see how they would react in a dramatic environment, for example. It's all about tastes. The bigger a fandom is, the more dark fanfics appear, because soon you have a lot of show-like fanfics, so where's the variety?

      It's like shipping, in a sense. You like two characters, you would like them together, but the show ain't gonna give you that. So you write it, and eventually include things that the show is not gonna talk about either, to make it more interesting, and more of an exploration.

      So eh, not disrespectful. Just a will to explore darker parts that might or might not be hinted by the show. Or maybe just wanting to know how the M6 would react in a zombie apocalypse or whatever. Dark and grimdark are not my thing, but I certainly see the appearl.

      For some people, gloomy and drama and darkness and sadness equals quality. Nothing wrong with that, it's just about tastes. I don't feel that way, so I mostly write comedy exactly for those reasons (and even I feel like writing something dramatic and unshowlike now and then, even if I do it just for the sake of making fun of certain concepts).

    2. My complaint wasn't that dark stories shouldn't be written, so much as it was that when people try to tie it into the show's canon, it doesn't work. It's the same thing with shipping as well, like you said.

      If someone wants to write up a gritty scenario where Twilight messes up a spell like always, and starts a zombie pony apocalypse, then I imagine that it could be okay (if it was written well) as an isolated story, but when they say something like, "After the events of [insert latest episode title here], Twilight decides that the only way to [insert plot device here] is to bring the dead back to life," then it becomes really hard to take it seriously. It sounds like a joke prompt. Like if you were to describe it to someone out loud, they would laugh at it.

      It's like building a house on top of a balloon animal. That foundation is ridiculous! For that to make sense, Twilight—and every other pony in the story—would have to have simultaneously developed a very morbid split personality. It doesn't matter how long the house takes to build, or what level of quality it is; if it can't support itself on the most basic of levels then no one is going to buy it.

      The only reasons I can think for someone to do something like that are either, like I said before, they're trying to force their head canon into someone else's head canon, or they're pandering to some specific audience who places graphic descriptions and moody dialogue over the story's integrity, which never sits right with me. In either case, whenever I read something like that, it just doesn't work, and I still don't understand why someone would ruin what could be a good story with a rotten core.

  3. Oh, that next one's in my "favourites"! Lookin' forward to that review

    Was gonna suggest you do some guest posts, but I see SeeVee beat me to it (that was really fun to say)

    1. "SeeVee beat me."

      "SeeVee beat me sweetly neatly."

      "SeeVee beat me sweetly neatly with a box of buttered BBs."

      That is fun to say! I have a extension in my browser that can read selected text out loud, so even better.

  4. Mortal Remains has been on my RIL ever since it came out. It's almost unfair how long I've put it off. I guess next week's review will be what finally pushes me to go ahead and read it at long last.