Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 118: Pirates for a Day

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

I accidentally put the sequel to this story in the "Next time" bit at the bottom of the last Fandom Classics post, but it would be silly to review a sequel before a main story, wouldn't it?  Well, exceptional cases notwithstanding, anyway.  I may come back to Eternity sometime, seeing as it's quite a popular work in its own right, but that's for a later day.  Incidentally, remember that you can see what the next few Fandom Classics I have scheduled are here (or via the "Fandom Classics by Star Rating" link at the top of the page), and you can always send me suggestions for what I should review next.  As of typing this sentence, I have well over 100 recommendations, so I'm in no danger of running out anytime soon, but that doesn't mean more aren't welcome!

But that's for the future.  For the now, let's talk about Dawnfade's Pirates for a Day.

Impressions before reading:  I have mixed impressions of both the character and author, in this case.  Pipsqueak is one of those characters I've never seen the appeal of, though I don't actually have anything against him and he's been the main character in at least a couple of stories I really enjoyed (and at least one I really hated, but that was already touched on two posts back).  Dawnfade, meanwhile, has written two stories that I've read.  Of one, I said "I don't think it's a very good story,"... but of the other, I said "It's the little things... that elevate this from 'generic sadfic' to 'potentially cathartic,'" which I certainly intended as high praise.  So really, this story could go either way!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Pipsqueak and Dinky play pirates together.

Thoughts after reading:  That one line pretty much sums up the whole story: this is slice-of-life in its purest form, a snapshot of two foals playing which includes several events and a unifying theme, but little in the way of arc or growth.  That's not a bad thing, in and of itself, but it does mean that this is a fic which doesn't "do" much, and which isn't likely to leave much of an impression on a reader.

The simplicity of the story does mean that the quality of the writing is put in a more premium position--when there's not a hook-y plot to engross the reader, it falls to the technical construction to keep the story engaging.  Unfortunately, this isn't a strength of Pirates for a Day.  The narration tends toward the grandiose without variation, and while a bit of purpleness might be appropriate for descriptions of the adventures children imagine for themselves, the effect is lost when it extends to the rest of the story.  Character voicing is a bit suspicious as well; Dinky and Pipsqueak's vocabulary is near-identical, to the point where Dinky even speaks of her "mum," and both ponies occasionally eschew contractions in odd or unnatural-sounding spots.

More strictly technical issues are also in play.  Although spelling and punctuation are essentially perfect in this short story, tense shifts back and forth at various points in the story, including in the very first paragraph.  When I see technical issues in the first or last paragraphs of stories, I admit it particularly bothers me--everyone makes mistakes, including in editing, but surely the very first (and last) thing a reader sees is worth being extra-careful to get right, isn't it?  But regardless, this was not a one-time issue.  Inappropriate word usage also popped up occasionally, mostly tied to attempts to sound flowery--referring to a tree as a "monolith," for example, paints a mental image much at odds with what the author was actually trying to describe.

The one thing this story does really well, and which I'd like to take a moment to commend it for, is avoid becoming overly focused on being adorable.  "Kids playing pretend" stories all to often become tryhard affairs, ramping up the lisps, cuteness, and platitudes in an attempt to elicit a reaction from the reader.  This fic, while it's certainly cute, is cute in a natural, this-is-what-kids-playing-actually-do sort of way.  It feels a lot sweeter than that other kind of story as a result, at least to me--trying too hard is almost always worse than underselling in deference to realism, but Pirates did neither, instead finding a comfortable middle ground of sweet but not cloying.

Star rating:

This isn't a particularly bad story, really.  But it is a very unambitious, vanilla tale.  It would be one thing if it were a perfectly-executed example of such--a kiddy-friendshipping amuse bouche--but there are some issues with the construction and execution here.  Not enough to ruin the story, but enough that I wouldn't call it anything more than "not a particularly bad story."

Recommendation:  If you're in the market for a couple thousand words of cute-but-not-cutsey, this will deliver.  If you're looking for the kind of story that gives you an immersive (or just compelling) reading experience, or even just for one you'll remember, this probably won't deliver.

Next time: The Monster in the Twilight, by Georg


  1. Man, I completely forgot What's-His-Name was British...ish. Obviously he wasn't a character that stuck with me very well.

    And I've always found that whole "slipping in and out of different tenses" thing curious. It seems like a really weird problem to have, but when I write I do it all the time too! Sometimes I have to go back through entire pages to correct the tense I was using to the one it should have been, and sometimes when doing that I get confused about which tense it should actually be! It's like a cruel real life version of that joke about the teepee and the wigwam.

    Anyway, this story sounds... fine. I feel like one star looks worse than it should in this case, explanation of your star rating system notwithstanding, but I guess that's how life goes. You can't have all the stars! Then there wouldn't be any left for anyone else. C'est la vie.

    1. *looks at name change*

      OK, now I see it. You're Chicken alright

  2. Aww, I liked this one. :( But then, I'm highly invested in Dinky and Pipsqueak interacting for any reason.

  3. Hype for Monster in the Twilight, it's one of my favorite AUs.