Friday, February 26, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 152: Arachnophobia

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

Spiders!  I'm rather fond of spiders, myself; while I definitely do not endorse them crawling all over me, I generally try not to kill them when I see one around the house.  Sure, a house with no invertebrate guests would be ideal, but given the choice between a few spiders and a bunch of whatever-those-spiders-are-eating, I'll take the spiders every day.  Based on the title of today's review, though, I'm guessing we're not in for a tale of eight-legged appreciation.  Head down below the break for my thoughts on Dennis the Menace's Arachnophobia.

Impressions before reading:  I'm not very optimistic going in; any story where the description includes the phrase "Just a little fun story to keep my skills sharp" is... well, it's certainly setting my expectations.  To be clear, I don't have a problem with people writing "fun little stories," but when the author is already dismissing the quality of his story ("just" anything can hardly be read as anything other than a dismissal) before I've even seen the first sentence, I can hardly hold out hope for greatness.  I'd love to be wrong, but that's why we call these "impressions" and not "inarguable facts," right?

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Luna gets a pet tarantula.  Celestia is not a fan.

Thoughts after reading:  Honestly, there's not a lot to say about this; Arachnophobia is a collection of character assassination jokes, meme humor, and stock comedy wrapped around the premise I put in the summary, and divvied up over the course of several chapters into something that's closer to a series of chronologically ordered scenes wrapped around a single concept than to a story with a complete arc.  I'm going to spend a couple of paragraphs diving into that a little deeper, but honestly, that one sentence is probably sufficient to tell you all you need to know when deciding whether or not this is a fic you want to read.

That said, the tone does change noticeably as the story progresses, with each of the six short ( 1000 words each) chapters showing significant variations.  Chapter one, for example is basically just a thousand words of "Celestia thinks comically over-dramatic thoughts about spiders," while chapter six is probably best described as a collection of non-sequiturs, mixing comic staples with fandom callouts while abandoning all but the barest pretenses of plot.  What is a constant is the writing quality: sentence structure is simple and direct throughout, with an emphasis on clarity which makes even rapid-fire, tag-light back-and-forth dialogue easy to follow.  This isn't a story with gorgeous, evocative prose, but the writing is a good fit for the story itself, and is excellently constructed within that context.

But with that said... the thing the prose is perfectly correct for is very lowest-common-denominator.  There is an undeniable shock value to having Luna talking about Celestia's "ass," or for that matter to jokes about Celestia's posterior in general.  There's a certain amount of playing-against-expectations in casting Celestia as the sort of incompetent ninny who hurls herself through windows when startled.  And references to abacuses and bananas are certain to evoke a "I recognize that thing" reaction in the story's target audience, and there are unquestionably plenty of people who enjoy that reaction.  But that's different from saying that this is a good story.  In the end, there's nothing here to recommend to people who aren't looking for the easiest of easy jokes, and nothing here I could point to and say "this makes the story more than the 'just a...' which the author's description warned me it would be."

Star rating:  

One of the big things I look for in stories that I rate highly is the ability to appeal to people outside of their target audience.  That doesn't mean that everyone should like said story, but that even people who aren't fans of the genre should be able--whether they actually do or not, they should be able--to come away from reading it feeling like the story has something to offer them.  I simply can't imagine anyone enjoying this story unless they were specifically looking for some character-destroying random comedy, and there's nothing to the story beyond that surface-level offering.  That's not the worst thing a story can be... but it's also explicitly not the sort of thing that I would ever consider a "Fandom Classic."

Recommendation:  I should think the audience for this would be pretty self-explanatory, but if not, go look at the examples of what this story has to offer that I provided in the last paragraph of the review.  If those sorts of things sound like something you'd like to read about, then by all means, enjoy this fic, and don't feel the least bit guilty about doing so.  But if the very idea of those things doesn't get you grinning, this is almost certainly something you won't regret passing over.

Next time:  Twice as Bright, by Cloudy Skies


  1. Chracter assassination is an art on itself. I've seen it done really well, and seen it done badly. This is not an example of "well-written", I'd say. Didn't feel as the character showing a face we hadn't seen before, it just feels as if forcing memes down our throats is the same as humor.

    I checked the last chapter of this story -- mostly because of your description of it -- and it had one joke that I liked. The rest just came off as... Well, it's as if the author hadn't really tried to come up with any joke. It all feels like it's been written a thousand times before.

    When a joke or funny scene is so trite the reader knows how it's gonna end from the very moment it starts, then it's not well-written. Style-wise, this story is exactly as it should be, but yeah. Lowest common denominator indeed.

  2. And yet, this is exactly the kind of story that tends to become a fandom classic. <.<

    1. How does something get classed as a fandom classic, anyway?

  3. Never read this and probably never will now, but I wonder how much of the attention it got was because DtM's previous fic had been the immensely popular My Roommate is a Vampire. I don't like that fic much either, but clearly a whole lot of people did.

    1. ...This explains both why this story got popular and why it's bad. :|


      Looks like someone's got a bitch mode :p

    3. This blog needs upvote buttons :P

  4. My first thought was Small Town Charm by Cold. I'm not a big fan of spiders either, but I can tolerate them after a few solid wacks with a rolled-up newspaper.

  5. I also mixed this up with Small Town Charm when I first saw the review title, but apparently I have read and favourited this story. But I don't remember it at all, which is odd, because I rarely forget stories I've favourited. Though, in fairness... this is nearly three and half years old, and I probably haven't re-read it since it was published. It has been a while.

  6. > the thing the prose is perfectly correct for is very lowest-common-denominator.

    That is a Dorothy Parker-worthy backhanded burn right there.