Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 164: Dying to Get There

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

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but if you're interested in physical copies of ponyfiction, check out this blog post of Corejo's.  He's putting together an illustrated printing of a cleaned-up version of the poem from Reading Rainbow, and unlike some of the other printing runs I've seen, the price on this one looks pretty reasonable (15-30 dollars).  More details in his blog!

But for the moment, let's turn our attention away from the realm of physical fiction, and back to screen-bound writings.  My review of Titanium Dragon's Dying to Get There, below.

Impressions before reading:  I remember when this story was released; a story that clearly pokes fun at the old (at least, old by sci-fi standards) "what if teleporting killed you every time you did it?" question, TD was either clever or lucky enough to release this on the same day that the Royal Canterlot Library promoted Blink--a non-comedic take on the same idea--and that synergy propelled a lot of initial attention.  I almost read it several times, but didn't... so I'm going in fresh!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The newspaper publishes a story claiming that every time a pony teleports, they're killed and an indistinguishable clone of them is created at the target location.  It's a completely ludicrous theory... and yet, Twilight's friends don't seem to see that.

Thoughts after reading:  To begin with: this story is not a parody, take-that, or any such of any specific story.  I was pretty sure it wasn't (fortuitous story-release timing notwithstanding), but just to be clear, this is a stand-alone piece.

This fic starts out strong: the premise is quickly and concisely laid out in a newspaper article filled with dry humor, and plenty of little touches of irony and humor near the start set an excellent tone.  There's a nice variety of comedy on display as well--an extended pony-name joke rests alongside funereal droleness, and neither feels out of place.

The rest of the story is a letdown, however--in relative terms more than absolute ones, but a letdown nonetheless.  The smaller part of this is from the formulaic go-to-every-one-of-the-main-six-in-turn setup, which (while a totally valid structure in and of itself) does feel very... well, formulaic.  A story structure which isn't inherently interesting demands a story which is, and while Dying to Get There largely delivers, there are times when the jokes stop and seemingly irrelevant tangents rear their heads.

This is the larger issue, because what is otherwise a humorous, thematically-consistent story will occasionally dive abruptly into non-sequitur discussions or revelations which don't advance the story, aren't funny, don't derive from anything in the show... which seem to exist for no particular purpose.  Take this exchange, where Twilight, after explaining to Dash why duplication magic is impossible (and thus, her teleportation must be travel magic, and non-fatal), casually adds that Dash doesn't have a soul, anyway:
     "Hey, wait. What do you mean by me not having a soul, huh?”
     “Nopony has a soul, Rainbow Dash. I thought everypony knew that.”
     “What?” Rainbow Dash fell back a step. “So you mean, if I die, that’s it? Like, I wouldn’t exist anymore?”
     “Er, I guess. As far as anypony knows.”
     Rainbow Dash’s eyes dilated. “So like, when you said you were afraid I’d broken my neck after that stunt, and you’d never see me again, you meant never ever? As in, not ever?”
     “Uh, yeah. That’s why we were so worried about you.” Twilight leaned forward. “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
     “I gotta go.” Rainbow Dash flared her wings and launched herself into the sky, leaving Twilight in a cloud of dust.
Other than a throwaway joke at the end of the story, this scene has no connection to anything else in the story.  It's not presented in a particularly comical manner, isn't a particularly realistic conversation to have (why does Dash suddenly start accepting Twilight's opinions at face value, after refusing to do so on the whole "teleporting kills you" thing just moments earlier?), and generally feels like a purposeless, out-of-the-blue insertion into an unrelated story.  This was the one that stuck out the most to me, but it's certainly not the only one; at least a thousand words could be cut from this under-5k story without materially affecting the plot, eliminating any of the comedy, or reducing character interplay.
That latter bit shows up, especially, near the end, and did a nice job of putting a bow an the story.  Moreover, it gives a simple but affirming "truest" answer to the question "how can Twilight's friends tell that the article is bunk?" which I quite appreciated.  That said, it would have hit harder had the question as I posed it been more explicitly the focus of the fic--even leaving aside the digressions, it's not clear until near the end of the story if the point is supposed to be "Twilight knows this article is wrong, and doesn't understand why her friends don't" or "Twilight doesn't understand why her friends don't trust her."  The latter is the stronger story, and is the direction the story goes, but that's not obvious at first.
Star rating:  

If you're looking for an in-depth philosophical argument about the nature of teleportation... well, maybe you shouldn't be browsing stories with the solo "comedy" tag, huh?  But as a bit of gentle ribbing of a sci-fi standby, this holds up well.

Recommendation:  Readers who don't mind (or indeed, who appreciate) random asides will probably appreciate this as a witty story with plenty of flourishes.  Those who prefer tight plotting or focus are more likely to find that their enjoyment tapers as the story progresses, though it might still be worth a read if you'd like something which is intelligent while being aggressively the opposite of the "weighty" fare it toys with.

Next time:  Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger, by Admiral Tigerclaw


  1. Ah, I remember this one! Read it almost immediately after Blink (might've read one short story between them), which I think really added to my enjoyment of the fic. You should've read it sooner

  2. Philosophical points aside, I like the idea of those little flashes of light that happen every time Twilight teleports to be her literally exploding instead of just moving around. It's a lot more satisfying that way.

  3. As I recall, this actually was a reaction to Blink, so make of that what you will. Though I did think that exchange you point out was pretty funny. I mean, what's not funny about Twilight casually denying the existence of an afterlife, which is obviously distressing to Rainbow Dash? :V

  4. The cover image was by far the best part of this story.

    1. Not sure whether that's a good or bad thing, but agreed.

    2. I'm still proud of that cover art.

  5. Man, get outta here. That bit about not having a soul was hilarious.

  6. That bit about souls was by far the most controversial part of the story; some people thought it was hilarious, others thought it was out of place, and it triggered a very, very long argument about souls in the comments.

    Which was doubly ironic as the next story I posted was about reincarnation.

    Anyway, it was a bit of dark humor that was hit-and-miss; accidentally causing someone else to have an existential crisis is funny in a dark sort of way. Part of the humor of that situation is also derived from everyone else thoughtlessly believing a newspaper article about Twilight and causing Twilight annoyance, and while Twilight goes around explaining that, no, she isn't killing herself every time she teleports, she thoughtlessly freaks out Rainbow Dash about something else without thinking about it.

    Anyway, I'm glad this got three stars from you. Thanks as always for reading and reviewing my story! <3