Friday, July 3, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 116: Of Apples and Roses and Thick Purple Proses

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

Remember to pop over here and answer a few questions for me, if you're so inclined!

Also, remember to tune into the Tour de France!  Thomas Voeckler's team Europcar still has the same dark green jerseys, the only time trial is on the very first day, and Bastille Day will also be the first serious mountain stage.  What else do you need to know?  The race starts July 4th, bright and early in US-time!

...I'm going to be the only guy who cares again, aren't I?  Oh well; click down below the break for something that's probably more to your self-selected tastes: my review of RavensDagger's Of Apples and Roses and Thick Purple Proses.

Impressions before reading:  It's got a catchy description, essentially opening with "I'm a pretty boring pony... here's my only story worth telling."  What it doesn't tell me, though, is what that story actually is.  The combination of Romance and Comedy in the tags give a general idea, but even in broad strokes, I don't know where to expect this story to go.  But hey, if the intro catches your eye and gets you to read, then it's done its job, right?  Chapter one will presumably fill in the details.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rose's life could be better; she's struggling with crippling debt, her only "friend" in Ponyville treats her with malignant neglect, and she knows she's going to be completely outclassed at Ponyville's annual poetry-reading competition.  On the plus side, though, Big Mac's competing, too...

Thoughts after reading:  The "purple proses" promised in the title certainly came through; although I've seen violeter verbiage on occasion (this is still somewhat short of someone like The Descendant who, incidentally, is credited as a co-writer in the first chapter), there are no shortage of passages with writing like this one, where Roseluck and Mac kiss (no spoiler there; it happens relatively early on): "Roseluck found him gently massaging her mouth with his own. He began to utilize muscles she wasn’t even aware existed to convey his affection for her, his lips seeming to vibrate and fluctuate with every movement of her own. Speaking of her own mouth, she was putting a surprising amount of passion into her own oral ministrations."

Now, that style's certainly not for everyone, but I found that I generally didn't mind it; it may be purple, but it's also fairly consistent, and the language used is consistently accurate, rather than obvious thesaurus abuse.  What I did mind, though, was the disconnect between how miserable Rose's life is, and the comedy aspects of the story.

Now, I'm not one for what I think of as "sad, awkward comedy," i.e. the sort where you laugh at another's misfortune and embarrassment as they're presented in a fairly serious light.  As such, I feel like I'm not really the target audience for this story, and indeed, a lot of the humor falls flat for me; the opening scene, for example, features Rose "hilariously" damaging a century-old bonsai tree beyond repair because her friend keeps distracting her.  I'm not saying that lots of people wouldn't find that funny... just that it feels incredibly sad to me, which is rather the opposite of the emotion it's supposed to inspire.

The seriousness of the problems Roseluck faces also create tonal problems compared to the humor surrounding them.  The fact that Rose literally needs to win the poetry competition just to avoid destitution (this is a story that features outstanding medical bills, repo ponies, and a mortgage in arrears) makes the capriciousness of the event (both the fact of it, and the specific presentation of how it's run) feel... well, capricious, rather than silly.  There are a lot of ways to mix humor and drama, but making a joke out of the setting itself--or aspects of it--rarely works in something that's not straight comedy.  On the other hand, this does sell the romance reasonably well; Roseluck and Mac have a lightning-fast mutual infatuation, full of equally mutual conclusion hopping, but when the story is seemingly willing to make a joke of the world, that becomes easy enough to buy.

It also brings a fair bit of character destruction, unfortunately.  Applejack is the primary victim, reduced to an unbelievably angry antagonist.  Rose and her "friend," Raindrops, may not have a canon personality to build on, and Mac's presentation is inoffensive within the context of the story being told, but plenty of minor characters are reduced to one-note "jokes," including a particularly unfortunate appearance from Doctor Whooves, whose poem appears to be a thinly-disguised attempt to fit as many Doctor Who references into verse as possible.

And that brings us to the poetry itself, which is really a significant draw, here.  The poetry doesn't show as much range as I'd hoped for--those looking for a whirlwind through a variety of poetic styles won't find it here--the poems were generally funny, character-appropriate, and did a nice job reflecting both the writing abilities and mental states of their speakers.  Some of those poems didn't seem to translate well to spoken-word form, which is what they nominally were (specifically, one character read a poem with a slowly decreasing syllable count to each line--but "I guess/I'll take/A bow,/and re-/turn to/obscure-/ity" seems like it would be lost in a spoken, rather than visual, medium), but the vast majority of the poetry was exactly as good as it was supposed to be (ranging from "quite" to "not very"), and generally enjoyable to read.

Star rating:

I feel like this is the kind of story that will appeal to a narrow, rather than broad, spectrum of reader--but that kind of reader will probably enjoy it quite a bit.  I'm not that reader, but I can see the appeal of at least parts of it.

Recommendation:  Fans of no-questions-asked shipping, in-character poetry, and laughing at the misery of others should absolutely give this story a try.  If you're the type who actively seeks out of two out of three of those, you might still enjoy this.  Others will probably want to pass.

Next time:  Mortality Report, by Bad Horse


  1. Sweet, a Bad Horse fic I haven't read! Such a strange name for someone who's so good

  2. Yeah... poetry. I guess this can come off my short-list of things that I was probably never going to read anyway.

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  4. Thought for the day:

    Now that Whooves being a massive walking Doctor Who reference is canon, does his appearance in fanfics that aren't Doctor Who crossovers become more or less jarring?

  5. I'm not someone who minds purple prose either, provided it fits the context. For instance, I found that excerpt about their first kiss to be horribly clinical, using very precise, very clinical, and very emotionless word choice to relate something that is anything but. Character comes into play too, as does narrative voice. I could see a limited narrator in Rarity's or Twilight's perspective to get purple in the right situation, but not Rainbow Dash or Applejack, for instance. Without knowing how Rose is characterized in this story, I couldn't say whether it's a good fit, but the odds are against it. If that's an omniscient narrator, the excerpt stands out as even more emotionless to me, since none of the character's personality can come through in the language, so it's up to the narrator to feed me all the emotional cues, and there isn't much of that here.

  6. Hmm. I'm all for poetry -- there's not much about, and Fimf's word-count limit makes it a pain to publish -- but I'm less enamoured of the other two things. This looks like a "put on RiL, but possibly delete if I still haven't read it in a year's time" fic to me.

    Also, lots of us in the UK follow cycling these days, since we've oddly become good at it in the last few years.

  7. Writing poetry is fun. Reading poetry is less fun. Reading a story where someone in that story reads poetry has always bothered me. Reading a story where someone in that story reads something in which someone else has written poetry doesn't bother me at all though! I think it's because in that situation it feels a lot more like that character and I are on the same page.