Friday, September 18, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 125: Felt Heart

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

A social studies teacher at work showed me the greatest edutainment video ever.  Do you love stupid puns?  Do you have only a tenuous grasp on why the American colonists wanted independence from Britain (hint: because the brits were evil)?  Did I mention the puns?  Like, every-proper-noun-levels of punning?  Then check out Pups of Liberty: The Dog-cleration of Independence, post-haste!

The history may have been... questionable, but I like the animation style.  And those puns, man, those puns.

If you're looking for an actual story, though, head on down the break to see what I think of Tchernobog's Felt Heart.

Impressions before reading:  "Rarity ships all of the main six, including herself" doesn't sound like my kind of story--and if the coverart is accurate, going three-for-three on inter-Elements pairings, which in my experience is a pretty tough sell outside of dedicated shipping circles.  The fact that it's also tagged "comedy" gives me some hope going in, though--playing a premise like that for laughs might be a good way to keep the story accessable.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After overhearing part of a conversation between Celestia and Luna, Rarity divines that giving one's would-be lover a doll shaped like oneself was once a (pre)dating tradition.  Enthralled with the romanticism of the concept, she decides to try making a doll of herself for Twilight Sparkle, but remains too uncertain to confess her love so openly.  So, she decides to make a few more dolls for her friends, to disguise the gesture... and to, perhaps, urge on some would-be romance she thinks she's seen blooming.

Thoughts after reading:  Yup, this is a "pair off all six with one another" fic.  Leaving aside questions like "what are the odds that all six of the girls are lesbians" as being the necessary price of admittance to reading, these kind of stories always stain my credulity because of how small they make the world, and the characters, feel.  I have plenty of friends; most of us have never fallen in love with one another, and these kind of stories often end up carrying the suggestion that true friendship's endgame is invariably romantic.

That all isn't likely to bother readers who are willing to accept the premise without question, and anyone who's ever been part of any fandom ever can tell you that those people--shippers--are a not-insignificant portion of any fandom.  But for the rest of us, this story doesn't do anything to sell, or even explain, its pairings.  AJ and Dash are already dating at the start of the story, and Pinkie x Fluttershy and Rarity x Twilight are essentially taken as givens, awaiting only the ponies themselves realizing that they love one another.  Whether that bothers you or not is probably going to be key to your enjoyment of this story.

Because there's a lot to like about this, otherwise.  For starters, the characterization (again, leaving aside any questions about the ships themselves) are strong throughout.  Pinkie, especially, is portrayed with a perfect mix of madcap logic and ineffable silliness.  Rainbow also struck me as mixing self-consciousness and lack of foresight in amusing, in-character ways, but each of the ponies was well-handled in this regard.  The characterization also is the primary source of humor in this fic--there aren't a lot of jokes, but there's a fair bit of ponies acting silly or overdramatic, in ways which fit their personalities perfectly.  This ends up being crucial to the story, as Rarity's plan is, to be polite, nonsensical.  By casting it as Rarity behaving in an idiotic, shortsighted manner, and then selling that through her own dawning realization that she's done something that didn't realy make sense outside of her own head, Tchernobog makes that feel like a bit of in-universe foolishness, rather than a gaping plot hole.

That aside, the plot is driven by a series of over-conveniences; the story kicks off with Rarity happening to pass by the Princessess' chambers at precisely the right moment to overhear them discussing this obsolete tradition, and there's repeated reliance on such contrivances throughout.  Some of this is clearly for laughs, but the majority is played straight, used unironically to advance the plot.  A certain amount of convenience is perfectly acceptable in a story, of course (indeed, it would be hard to write something which didn't have anything convenient to the plot occur!), but an over-reliance upon ponies happening to be in the right place at the right time, or assiduously avoiding obvious questions which would bring the story to a climax two chapters too early, or the like... after a while, these things collectively begin to grate.

The writing is something of a mixed bag.  On the downside, there's a lot of telly phrasing throughout (there are an awful lot of attributions like "...Applejack asked, not seeing Rainbow's point," for example), and occasionally, attribution is missing altogether in places where it's not immediately obvious who's speaking.  On the other hand, not only is the editing perfectly clean, but the narration brings great touches of the characters' voices whenever the story is using their PoV ("Pinkie's eyes widened as Mrs Cake called from below.  She'd gotten distracted with the hugs, and had forgotten about the cakes! And the Cakes!").  In addition, the occasional bits of poetry in this story are invariably well-rendered and have easy flow and rhythm, which is always a big plus for me.  In an author's note at the end, Tchernobog says he's got no talent for poetry; if that's true, then the pre-readers and editors he thanks were every bit as valuable as he claims they were.

Star rating:

The unexplained mutual romantic interests which had me nervous going into this fic ended up being just the most obvious part of my larger issue with this story: things happening because the narrative demands they happen, rather than because they are the sorts of things that one would expect to happen under given circumstances.  A lot of readers will grant stories plenty of leeway in this regard, especially when it comes to romance; for that sizable group, this story will probably succeed.  For those readers who find excesses of the same a more sizeable flaw, this probably won't.

Recommendation:  This is a good example of an "if you like that kind of thing" story: for shippers, I would heartily recommend this to anyone looking for a pleasant mix of humor and admissions/realizations of love.  For non-shippers, this could still be a choice for those looking for something with strong character-based humor, but overall is less likely to impress.

Next time:  Hiatus, by Vargas


  1. A better rating than I was expecting. Never read the story itself, but I recalled this author's last fic reviewed here was a one-star.

  2. Yup, sounds like Bad Shipping, so I don't mind that you're giving it...

    Wait, three stars? Whaaaat? Chris, are you getting soft in your old age?

    1. "sounds like Bad Shipping"

      There is another kind?

    2. Priority, Same Day, Next Business Day, Date Definite by Date Scheduled. There are lots of quality shipping options if you look around a bit!

  3. It;s bad enough that a story might strain your credulity, but to stain it? I don't know if brain bleach would help, but there's a hefty supply of that stuff around the fandom.