Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 154: Rarity Loses Her Innocence In a Poker Game

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

Fluttershy, what are you doing?  If you hold your cards like that, Rarity will have no trouble seeing them!  Sure, your head is blocking her field of view now, but as soon as you lean forward to bet, she'll hardly be able to help seeing your hand!

...Sorry, people not knowing how to hold their cards triggers my instinctive need to correct, and apparently that need applies to ponies, too.  Anyhoo, my thoughts on Mr.Numbers' Rarity Loses Her Innocence In a Poker Game, below.

Impressions before reading:  I am, to put it lightly, not expecting to be impressed.  This has every appearance of being a "joke's in the title" teen sex comedy, which... well, I suppose there's no reason something fitting that description couldn't be good, but they oh-so-rarely seem to be.  On the other hand, I only need look back to, uh, five days ago to find an example of a story I went into with low expectations, and came out loving.  So hey, first impressions can be--and are!--overcome.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  It's always a bad sign when writing issues rear their ugly head in the very first sentence (a misused semicolon, in this case).  In this case, though, the biggest issue with the story isn't the editing; although there are fairly regular punctuation issues, they don't significantly impede readability, and appear more to be a series of isolated incidents than one or more systemic issues.  No, the biggest issues are conceptual.

Unfortunately, when it comes to concept, there's not a lot to tell.  The story is divided into three chapters: the first is a couple thousand words of "the joke's in the title," the second is an extended jaunt of "hangovers are intrinsically funny," and the third is a classic chase/fetch quest sequence.  The first two are single concepts, stretched to a couple thousand words; both are fine within that context, but basically provide nothing of interest beyond their singular concepts.  The last chapter, on the other hand, is traditional string-out humor, and while it's solid enough in its own right, it's doesn't begin until over halfway through the fic; the setup here spans 4,000 words before there's any meaningful payoff.

Word choice is a recurring issue, specifically with inappropriate britishisms.  To be clear, I don't particularly care (and I doubt many readers do, though I suspect someone must) whether an author uses British or American spellings, as long as they're consistent.  In non-character-influenced narration (i.e. when the narrative voice isn't supposed to match or mirror a characters), I have no problem with British words and phrases.  But when that language creeps into character dialogue, that is where I take exception.  Stuff like Pinkie using the word "whilst" in casual conversation, for example, isn't just poor word choice; it's poor characterization.

Beyond that, there really isn't much to say.  This story delivers its three beats in very predictable manner, dutifully checking off the character archetypes at the start (Applejack is dumb!  Fluttershy is risk-averse!) without expansion or variation, moves through the stock drunk and hungover moments (I hesitate to call them "jokes," though "humor" is probably fair--after all, the simple fact of a character overreacting to noise isn't really a joke, per se), and ends on a one-off joke only tangentially related to the rest of the fic.  It is, in other words, about what a reader might reasonably expect from a story titled Rarity Loses Her Innocence In a Poker Game.

Star rating:

Sometimes, you get surprised, and other times, what you see is what you get.  And to be fair, "what you see" is far from awful: the cover and description promise general goofiness and an author with a reasonable command of the English language, and both of those are delivered upon.  But by the same token, this is a shallow, predictable story which stretches wafer-thin ideas to fill entire (albeit, not terribly massive) chapters; not cardinal sins in writing, perhaps, but not what I'd consider a "fandom classic."

Recommendation:  Readers who find drunk ponies funny in and of themselves might want to give this a try, if they're looking for something light and insubstantial.  Beyond that, I can see plenty of people reading it and not disliking it, but it's hard to actively recommend more broadly.

Next time:  Schemering Sintel, by N00813


  1. That's kinda bullshit that "whilst" is considered a Britishism. It's a perfectly good word that everyone should use. "Sussed" is another one, which I've only just learned is a Britishism. They can keep "loo", though

    1. If the MLP wiki transcript is correct (I can't check the video right now) then the one character who actually uses "whilst" in the show is Applejack, near the start of "Look Before You Sleep". I'd have given good odds against that!

  2. Apparently, when I reviewed this, it was still called "Rarity Loses Her Virginity" etc. :B Interesting.

  3. I'm normally fine with British spellings, of course. But there are some exceptions, foremost among which is writing Twilight's brother's name as "Shining Armour," which is simply incorrect. Worse still is when it's in a story where "Cadance" or (shudder) "Fleur dis Lee" is used; if you're going to go change the spelling of characters' names, why not actually correct them rather than just change from American to British spelling?

    1. Isn't "Cadance" literally the canon way to spell her name, though? Fleur is different because fanon named her, then canon changed it, then yaddah yaddah free choice. But Cadance was presented by saying "Call me Cadance, please" and the credits called her that.

      So like, you're not changing it -- "Cadance" is not a word ("Cadence" is), but it's her name.

    2. I think I was not clear in what I meant. I am saying that you're changing names (e.g., using "Armour"), I think it's far more justifiable to change theirs* -- from the clearly awful names transparently chosen for trademarkability, which in Cadence's case doesn't match either her full name (Mi Amore Cadenza) or the pronunciation of the nickname -- than Shining's.

      *With the exception of Skywriter's work, obviously, since he did the in-universe justification for the spelling, and I suppose anyone else who did the same.

  4. I wrote this in three days as a refresher from... Demesne chapters, I believe? After "The Bounty", which I wasn't really happy with, I decided I wanted a longer setup, and more slice-of-life aspects. I wanted it to feel more like the show's pacing, essentially. Where the story sort of drifted, but the drifting itself was somewhat pleasant.

    I'd consider its sister story Late Fees as a good basis of comparison. Back then I was terrified about trying to write straight comedy. So what I did was write something that was purely a comedy one shot, and it did fantastically well.

    Virginity Poker was me proving to myself I don't need to take myself seriously. That I could write something dumb and fluffy for the sake of enjoying what I was writing while still having a final product I wasn't terribly ashamed of, even though I wasn't revising it into oblivion. That I could write a chapter a day of something, and not be miserable about it. Because every now and again, my views on my prior works -- anything prior to my current point of time, not just prior to Virginity Poker -- borders on self-loathing. From the wrong side of that border.

    This was only ever meant to be an exercise in making myself enjoy writing more. I never intended it to be a 'fandom classic'. I think if you go into this expecting anything other than light popcorn reading, you're going to be disappointed.

    And I don't think I failed at that. I advertised exactly what it was fairly well, and you were offput. Then, you were offput by it being exactly what I advertised it would be.

    Because, at the end of the day, I'm the kind of guy who would enjoy having a job writing for Two and a Half Men, even though I'm trying to be more like Terry Pratchett.

    1. I think that's exactly the right way to look at it. The fact is that this is a light, fluffy writing exercise, and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with a story being that. I wholeheartedly agree that this could in no way be called a "failure."

      The question of "who, if anyone, would I recommend this story to in the context of the entirety of the ponyfic oeuvre?" is obviously a much different one from the question "should the author be ashamed of this story?" In this case, I think the latter can be easily answered with an emphatic "no."

      Thanks for sharing some background on the story; I'm also someone who tends to feel inordinately ashamed of anything I did more than a year or so ago. My review notwithstanding, I hope you don't feel the need to look back on this with loathing. For what it's worth, I certainly think you needn't.