Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 147: In Memory Of

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

For the past week, I've been helping seventh-graders do research for an essay they have to write about a famous historical figure, and to streamline that research, each of the kids has a sheet they're supposed to use for each source, breaking down the notes into categories like "Education," "Career," and so on.  With that as context, here's a conversation I had yesterday:
Student: "This book doesn't have anything I can put in 'Historical Setting!'" 
Me:  "Really?  There's nothing in there about what was going on in the world while Henry Ford was alive?" 
Student:  "No." 
Me:  "..." 
Student;  "...Well, except for World War Two."
Yeah, except for that.  But enough about historical footnotes like WWII; let's talk about something important, like fanfiction!  My review of Obselescence's In Memory Of, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  This looks to be a "Twilight's dying, and writes Celestia" fic.  I've seen a number of stories with that premise, most of them from the first couple of seasons--the "one last letter" thing seems to have fallen off once Twi stopped writing to Celestia at the end of every episode.  Based on what I've read of Obs's in the past, I'm expecting this to be more than just dying pony angst; hopefully, I'm right!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A series of letters from Twilight and Spike to Celestia, as Twilight passes her 65th birthday--and starts behaving a little oddly.

Thoughts after reading:  It turns out, this is a multi-epistolary look at Twilight slowly succumbing to memory loss.  That's a difficult premise to write well; it would be easy for such a story to feel trite, blunt, or both.  In uncertain (or worse, uncaring) hands, it could easily be downright disrespectful.

Luckily, the author uses a light emotional touch most of the way through.  A letter format naturally provides a certain amount of narrative distance, and rather than fight that, Memory wisely uses that distance to its advantage.  The loss of memory is one of the most inherently emotional subjects a story can tackle, and this is at times a heartbreaking tale.  But though the content of the letters may be depressing, the tone and style is rarely character-breaking maudlinity; rather, a combination of concern, apologetics, and between-the-lines-ing is used to convey the tragedy of the unfolding situation.

A related point in the story's favor is how well it sticks to the conventions imposed by its narrative style.  As I've mentioned in other reviews of epistolary stories, the number one thing such a story must do is be convincingly epistolary.  In other words, the content of the fic must be limited to what the character writing the letter might reasonably decide to put into a letter.  And in this respect, Memory shines.  Although there's a fair amount of narrative convenience in the specific material mentioned, this can be justified easily enough by the letters presented being merely a relevant subset of all those Spike and Twilight sent Celestia.

There is a bit more in the realm of "revealing mistakes" toward the end of the story than my credulity could bear, it's true--mostly in the form of crossed-out mistakes and slips-of-tongue-pen.  Part of my annoyance was that the mistakes/misspellings weren't all particularly believable ones, though perhaps other readers will find that less noticeable than I.

As far as characterization goes, this story was a bit of a mixed bag.  Fast-forwarding a few decades from the show gives one a broad latitude to have personalities change and evolve, but I still have trouble buying that (to pick the obvious example) Rarity and Twilight stopped speaking to one another for the better part of a year over a relatively minor dustup.  To be fair, this and other such events are portrayed in such a way that they can be read as symptoms rather than writing errors, with varying ease--this is certainly the intent, in any case.

But beyond that, there's little to complain about.  The writing is of exemplary quality (and doubly so for a story from 2012--well-known fics from the fandom's earlier days, I've noticed, sometimes lack the editing acumen of later works), and the story paints a clear picture despite the constraints of its style.  Beyond that, it could probably be called "mood fiction," in that its purpose is more to paint a series of tones than to have a strong narrative arc, but regardless, it is solid in both construction and purpose.

Star rating:  

This is a well put-together fic, but even beyond the technical and design quality, it does an excellent job of presenting a realistic picture of the early stages of dementia.

Recommendation:  Readers looking for something sad but not manipulative should definitely give this a try.  Fans of mood fiction in general will probably also like it.

Next time:  Flash Fog, by Kwackerjack


  1. Aw yeah, when was the last time we got more than three stars? :D

    1. 3rd of June 2015, with "All the Mortal Remains" by Cold in Gardez.
      I find it amusing that all 6 four-star stories of 2015 was reviewed in the first half of that year.
      If the trend continues we might only have to wait a month for the next 4-star story.

    2. #136, The Star in Yellow, by Blueshift back around Thanksgiving.
      Hopefully we're looking at a better run for a bit, especially since I'm optimistic on a couple in the queue.

    3. That is true, presuming that 25th of November is around Thanksgiving.
      For some reason it isn't on the "fandom Classics by Star Ratings" list.
      I share your hope and the fact that only a week later another 4-star came is a good sign.

    4. That is true, presuming that 25th of November is around Thanksgiving.
      For some reason it isn't on the "fandom Classics by Star Ratings" list.
      I share your hope and the fact that only a week later another 4-star came is a good sign.

  2. Looking forward to seeing your reaction to Flash Fog.

    Also, I vaguely remember hearing about World War 2. I guess it does have some historical significance if you squint just right. Nothing big, but enough to pad out a school report.

  3. Oh, I'd also say this: Henry Ford, 1863-1947, plus the unneeded support of "Model A and Ford's later career," a section from his Wikipedia article. There's a slight chance that World War II isn't closely related to most of his importance, and in fact that if anything the directionality of impact would go the opposite direction. But it's hard to elucidate why exactly that would be . . .

  4. Flash Fog, eh? This one will be interesting. Not least because at last there's a long story I've actually read!

  5. Try both World Wars and the Civil War, plus a couple wars with France and Mexico, the Boxer Rebellion, the Banana Wars, and we may have acquired 13 new states and a few territories to boot! Oh, and if you look outside the U.S., there's also the creation of the Soviet Union. The Jews even started making trouble over in Palestine towards the end of Ford's life

    That student could completely ignore World War II and it'd still look like one of the most active periods in history