Friday, March 18, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 125

Let's start with a little housekeeping: in my last set of mini-reviews, I commented on the fanfic Lilies of the Field.  After the review, though, I was the author pointed out (very politely, I might add) that he'd revised the story the week before I posted my review, and that what I'd reviewed was the defunct version!  I've since read the current version, and modified my comments appropriately.

Head back to round 124 to see my updated opinions.  And then, if you still haven't gotten your fix of fanfic-commentary, click down below the break to see a few more.

Twilight Sparkle Solves Love, by Biplane

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rarity drops in to visit Twilight, only to discover that she's solved the ineffable mystery of love.  Mathematically.

A few thoughts:  This is basically a one-joke story, and even at under 2k words, I had had my fill of it by the time the story ended.  The ending, by the by, was of the "gag tangentially related to the story, concluding nothing" variety.  With all that said, it's not like the one note the story executes on is unfunny in and of itself, and there are a few amusing lines (I enjoyed some of Twilight's discarded theories of love, for example), but really, this is very much a WYSIWYG fic.

Recommendation:  That's "What you see is what you get," by the way; I don't know offhand if that's a recognizable expression/acronym (acropression?) outside of the US.  But yes: this is a story for reading if the titular joke sounds funny to you, and for skipping over if you're looking for... anything else at all, really.

If Horses Had Gods, by Ponky

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight asks each of her friends if they believe in God--and what "God" means to them, in the first place.

A few thoughts:  This didn't really connect for me, because the author's POV on the matter was too clearly applied.  Don't misunderstand me, it's clear Ponky made a serious effort to portray a variety of beliefs... but it's telling that the closest he comes to showing an atheistic view of Dash's teen-nihilism.  Or, take Pinkie's chapter (seriously, go ahead and take it; it's only 55 words, and then you'll have the context for what I write after this parenthetical ends.  Ready?  Here we go!): can you imagine that chapter being written exactly identically, but with Pinkie's "yes" changed to "no?"  The point is, this story is unambiguously written from a Judeo-Christian theistic viewpoint.

With that said, it's fair to note that it's a broadly inclusive Judeo-Christian theistic viewpoint, which only touches on the idea of an omnipotent creator/arbiter of morality, which (wisely) leaves any specific moral or religious icons/beliefs out of the picture.  Still, it's not exactly hard to parse the author's take on religion through the characters' words, and since the story is ultimately nothing more or less than the main six talking religion, it ends up feeling less like a character or worldbuilding study than a projection of one person's religious views onto some pre-existing personalities.

Recommendation:  This probably won't offend anyone who broadly agrees with the author's theistic views (people who don't are on their own to determine whether or not they'll be offended; I suspect I've given enough context so far for them to make good guesses about how they'll react), and readers looking for some simple, unchallenging reflections on belief (i.e. get ready for another rehashing of the teleological argument) will probably find it right up their alley.  Those averse to authors projecting their own understanding of religion onto horses probably don't need me to tell them that this is not the story for them.


  1. See, and that last point is precisely why I want to read that story.

  2. It's a shame there wasn't really an atheist's perspective in that second one, but what was there is all consistent with the kind of people I've come across. The 'show me on the doll where the bad idea touched you' kind of atheist is pretty common. As much as I completely understand where they come from and why, I still tend to give them a slap for being dicks.

    But, of course, the fact that it's all stuff I've seen before also makes kind of pointless for me. I wouldn't mind if such a story was actually going somewhere with it, but it isn't.

    But in the end, what's to be offended about?

  3. Not offended, not impressed. I've seen this exact same thing too many times in different guises for it to get any reaction other than an eye-roll and a sigh.

    There are so many bizarre and fascinating religions in the world, yet here, in a bizarre and fascinating fantasy world, all that is portrayed are vague and amalgamated "cosmic muffin" concepts of god. Boring rather than offensive.

    1. I dunno, that cosmic muffin sounds pretty bizarre and fascinating, like a quick bread shoggoth with hyper-dimensional flavors beyond our ken! I like banana nut and blueberry, personally

  4. I'll step in here to say I was the one who approved "Lilies of the Field" for Equestria Daily. I had a lot of the same issues as you did with the original version, so I spent a couple weeks working with the author to improve it. The four main things we worked on were doing a better job of demonstrating emotion, bringing out the flower symbolism more, better defining her relationships with her friends, and making the tragic events more relatable. On that last one, yeah, the original felt far too coincidental for people to relate to it, especially the second one. I thought making the tragedies something far less specific, the kind of thing that could happen any day to anyone, and just by bad fortune, so that there's nobody to blame, would connect with readers more. It still struck me as very coincidental that they happened in conjunction with the canon events they did, but it's really toned down from what it was. In particular, the second one—it was almost laughably contrived , and while now still tied to an improbable event, it's a canon-defined one, though one that necessarily couldn't happen in real life, so there will automatically be some distance. And on that point, I had to defer to the author some. He's writing something from experience. I won't presume to say what, because it's not my place. But he felt like he needed to accentuate the astronomical odds against it more than just having these happen on a random day. It's what he wants it to be, and at some point, I can't begrudge him that. It's gotten significantly better, and while it's probably always going to speak more to the author than anyone else, I thought it was a good story.

  5. Judeo-Christian? Maybe you should take a note from Ponky and try being more inclusive of our Muslim friends, cislord! The PC term's "Abrahamic" :p

    1. Quit mansplaining, you neckbeard!

    2. OMG, you DID NOT just imply that I'm a man! I'm a genderless, pumpernickel breadkin. And I'll have you know that my mold is natural and not something to be shamed under your arbitrary, outdated and privileged standards of beauty

      Goddess, I'm seriously panic attacking right now! WHERE'S MY HUGBOX?!!

    3. OMFmuffinG! So that's why you were all about the Cosmic Muffin! (May he/she/it/hrz live forever!) Sorry about the lack of trigger warning, Prof!