Monday, November 23, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 107

Two mini-reviews in a row?  Yup!  Turns out the last week has kicked my butt pretty handily.  The good news is, it's almost Thanksgiving!  I could really use a few days off, frankly; work hasn't been bad, it's just been a lot.

But before we go on, let's talk about the latest episode, The Mane Attraction... ah, who am I kidding.  I'm just here to post screengrabs of Carrot Top!

Carrot Top is a huge fan of the Countess.  She was even willing to put aside her long-standing grudge against the Apple family long enough to cozy up to Pinkie's friend, if it meant getting a ticket to the show. 

The scene of everypony getting hoofsies is odd; it cuts away to AJ just as Carrot's about to get stamped, and when we cut back, the pony who was behind Carrot in line is already bounding away with her cheek stamped.  I mean, I assume Carrot got her hoofsie, but we never actually see it.  

Poor Carrot.  Not only did her hoped-for laser lights show/electronica concert abruptly turn into an acoustic two-song set, but after getting there early to grab a seat in the front row, she picked the wrong side of the stage!  The only thing she'll be able to see from where she is is the back side of the piano.  Also, people who wave around their lighters cell phones horns at concerts are the worst.  Friggin' unicorns.

Alright, alright.  On to some actual reviewing!  My thoughts on some of the stuff I've recently read, below the break.

Yes, It Matters, by RealityCheck

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  In the aftermath of the changelings' failed invasion of Canterlot, Fluttershy asks if it would matter to Twilight if she was one herself.  If you aren't sure what Twi's answer is, re-read the title.

A few thoughts:  After I reviewed GaPJaxie's Would it Matter if I Was? (which, for the rest of this post, I'll be referring to as Matter, for simplicity's sake), I got a few recommendations for what follow-ups/parodies/take-that's of it to read.  At first I wasn't going to read any of them--I disliked the original, so why would I want to read more explorations of the same premise?--but I eventually decided it might be fun to see what other authors have made of this tempest in the teacup that is FiMFic.  So today, we're doing all Matters-fics!

Anyway, this story: as the title makes clear, this is one big "take that" at the original's answer.  On one hand, I found that clarity refreshing compared to the original; RealityCheck is blunt and forward with his premise--and with the fact that the two focus characters are there to provide talking points, rather than to behave anything like Twilight or Fluttershy--where the original unconvincingly tries to portray itself as something other than a one-sided argument, which at least makes this piece feel less insulting to one's intelligence.  On the other hand, this story does an even worse job arguing its central point than the original did.  The fact that Twilight's arguments essentially mirror those for Japanese internment during WWII make... well, it's not like there are a lot of people praising the Japanese internment these days, are there (EDIT: apparently, I spoke too soon...)?  The ending was pleasantly uplifting, which I both appreciated and didn't expect, coming on the heels of Twilight making the case for broad-based racial profiling.

Recommendation:  This story will probably appeal most to people who read Matter and came away saying... well, saying "Yes, It Matters."  It's not for anyone who doesn't already know what their opinion is, however, nor for anyone looking for a terribly convincing exploration of the question.

What Matters More, by Palm Pallette

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  In the immediate aftermath of Matter, Twilight's other friends come to talk to her, and try to get her to calm down a bit.

A few thoughts:  This story really suffers for being a direct sequel to Matter; while it tries to be a light, slightly cheeky comedy fic, putting it in the context of "Twilight is actually having an existential crisis" makes her friends' actions seem less amusing, or even misguidedly antagonistic, than actively cruel.  Moreover, the way it casts Fluttershy's actions in Matter doesn't really gel with the presentation in that fic at all.  I imagine that if I'd had a bit longer of a break between reading original and sequel, the sheer disconnect between how she's portrayed in each work (in one, as a Socratic debater and master of emotional manipulation; in the other, as a conversationally uncertain emissary of her friends, who's managed to completely misrepresent her own point) would have struck me less, but any story which tries to sell itself as essentially "chapter two" but is a tonal and event mismatch with its "chapter one" is flawed in its own right.  There are also a surprising number of basic editing errors--spelling mistakes, uncapitalized letters, and the like--which, while they don't ever impede comprehension, do make the reading experience a markedly less pleasant one.

Recommendation:  I suspect this will appeal more to people who read Matter well before they came across this, and who only remember the basic gist of that fic.  For them, the disconnects probably won't stick out as much as they did for me, and this might come off as a gently amusing, stakes-lowering bit of comedy.  I don't recommend reading it soon after Matter, though, and neither can I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read that fic first.

Do It Mattered If I Is?, by KitsuneRisu

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Fluttershy tries to ask Twilight the same question as in all of these fics... except she's really, really bad at it.

A few thoughts:  The Random tag certainly applies here, as the story flits from mocking Fluttershy's incompetence to an extended rant about Twilight's pent-up need to kick evil's tush, and on to... well, the ending, which nicely parodies "evil plan" speeches.  That kind of jumping around isn't my favorite sort of humor, but this is a well-executed example of it nevertheless: each "joke" is played with enough variation to not feel completely undeveloped, and though there's no sense of building towards anything larger than the constituent parts (e.g. a coherent narrative), those parts stand individually as entertaining entities.

Recommendation:  Unlike the previous two, this story can be enjoyed with only a cursory knowledge of Matter; while I wouldn't recommend it to someone who'd never so much as heard of the source fic, simple awareness of it and its premise is all that's required to read If I Is?.  With that conditional, I'd recommend this to fans of Random stories, but would advise readers looking for coherence, logic, or internal consistency (in both events and style of humor) not to bother; you know who you are, and this fic isn't for you.

Rainbow Dash's Super-Awesome Self-Insert Figures Out If It Would Matter, by Ponichaeism

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The Equestrian literary landscape has, of late, been flooded with story after story on a single theme: two ponies debate the relevance of one of them being a changeling.  So pervasive is the trend that even Rainbow Dash has written her own such story, and unfortunately for her friends, they're about to be subjected to it.

A few thoughts:  Let me start by saying that this is a shining example of metafiction done right: this is a story, not about Matters, but about the furor which that story inspired... and to my surprise, that meta-commentary is neither lazy nor incoherent.  Instead, the author uses an Equestrianized equivalent to comment on the way in which the original story touched a nerve, and on the eventual results in a manner both unambiguous and, despite that, story-appropriate.  A big chunk of this story is taken up by a retelling Rainbow Dash's story, and here I'm of two minds; on one hand, the reactions of the other ponies are consistently hilarious, and their asides, pleas, and snark give the story a delightful buoyancy.  On the other hand, Dash's story is classically awful, and slogging through longer passages sometimes felt like a chore; if her story could have been abridged or simply shortened, I think it would have made for a better reading experience.  With that said, even her story has its moments; amid her various homophone mixups and malapropisms, I was as puzzled as the rest of her friends were by her use of the phrase "A few goo mansion," but Twilight eventually figuring out what she actually meant was the highlight of the fic for me.  What can I say, I love stupid punnery.

Recommendation:  This is commentary on the Matters phenomenon itself, rather than on it or any other specific story, and as such I'd recommend it to anyone at least familiar with the state of FiMFic during the summer/fall of this year.  Within that subgroup, readers with a low tolerance for deliberately poor writing may want to give this a pass, but fans of gentle, friendly fandom commentary--and of (for me, at least) literal laugh-out-loud reactions or horror and dismay--will want to check it out.


  1. Dammit, you found one I missed! And you liked it? D: Now I have to read it, curse you!

  2. Just noticed Round 103 was listed under Fandom Classics instead of Mini-Reviews

    I hear you on work. I'm getting real sick of being there. It's only been 58-hour weeks (that I'm being paid for, anyway), but I've been having trouble keeping up on free-time stuff. Doesn't help they've been telling us "last Saturday" for several weeks now... I wouldn't be surprised if I'm working this weekend, too