Friday, June 17, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 168: The Party Hasn't Ended

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

General reminder: if you're interested in doing a guest column for me, I need those by next Wednesday!  If you're still on the fence, I could use a couple more, and you've got all weekend to figure out something interesting to say, or some interesting story you want to talk about.  Details are in the link at the top of the page!

But for now, here's some Chris-created reviewage.  Head down below the break to see my thoughts on Butterscotchsundae's The Party Hasn't Ended.

Impressions before reading:  Five genre tags (Adventure/Comedy/Dark/Romance/Sad) isn't usually a good sign, nor is six character tags--right off the bat, it has me worried that this is going to be an incoherent muddle which lacks any sort of thematic coherence.  Also, given how much of the author's oeuvre appears to be clop and/or title-gag fics, I think I can be forgiven for being a bit leery of the "Romance" and "Comedy" elements, respectively.  But that's just stereotyping; there's no reason people can't write smut and "dumb humor" fics and broader-appeal stuff, after all.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Pinkie finally confesses her love for Rainbow Dash, Dash's reaction is... unenthusiastic.  But in the magical land of Equestria, a broken heart and some old wounds being re-exposed isn't just drama fodder, for there is something which feed on despair and loneliness...

Thoughts after reading:  Well, chapter one starts off with a lengthy quote from a Norwegian trance band, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

I'm really not sure what to say about this story as regards the comedy elements, because there's a lot here that seems like it should be funny, but is played completely straight and given no comic exaggeration.  This is a story where Pinkie and Dash literally fly out of Equestria's gravity well and have a little heart-to-heart in space before coming back down to create a super-Rainboom... and yet, it's clearly intended as a dramatic/romantic moment, rather than an absurdist one.  It's a story that shows or implies no fewer than seven ships--all gay or lesbian, for added improbability--and while it seems to be self-aware about their introduction toward the end of the fic, it remains a fundamentally serious story which just happens to center around an improbable and mostly story-irrelevant smorgasbord of equine lust.  It's a story which fits in two distinct Cupcakes references, both used for drama.  In short, it's a story which tries to maintain a serious atmosphere, and a sense that the stakes at hand are high, while simultaneously showing an unhesitating willingness to make a joke of the world itself (rather than, say, make a joke within the context of a non-absurd setting).

I also took issue with the romance itself, though admittedly for reasons which largely fall into the "Chris isn't a shipper" category of complaint--and I'm not even talking about the "Pinkie has always been madly in love with Dash, it makes perfect sense if you just read between the show lines" complaint (though that applies too).  The problem is that, essentially, disaster strikes Ponyville because Dash doesn't love Pinkie--and the only solution to this is that Dash decides to/learns to love Pinkie.  In other words, it's a hostage plot: Dash needs to act in order to save Ponyville, and the ransom is her romantic intentions.  In this story, it's true, it turns out that Dash was in love with Pinkie all along (that's not really a spoiler, as it's revealed pretty early on; one thing I appreciated about this fic was that, although it played coy with some of the characters' feelings/backstories, it mostly spit them out in a timely manner), but this doesn't change the way the stakes are initially set.  This is not exactly an unheard of thing within the world of romantic fiction (pony- or non-), and as such probably isn't going to much bother the shippers of the world... but for other readers, I suspect there's some discomfort to be had from the early chapters' portrayal of the girls' interactions.

Where I'll give this story some credit is in keeping me guessing as to its general direction; there are significant elements of traditional romance, dreamwalking, action, and childhood-trauma-exploration blended together here in a mix which forms the structure of a cohesive story while leaving the reader guessing where, specifically, the next step will go.  The major beats of each of those elements are pretty predictable, it's true, but the juggling act helps keep the interest level up.

The writing, barring a few missing commas and the occasional punctuation issue surrounding quotes, is a strong point, with Butterscotchsundae showing a knack for letting Pinkie's thoughts (and punctuation!) creep into the narration without making a mess of the story, and with word choice and construction both definite pluses.  Dialogue is a bit more of a mess, although to be fair, much of this ties back to that first paragraph;  take a passage like this one:
"Gummy," [Dash] whispered, "You loved her too, didn't you?" Tears dropped from her eyes as she watched Pinkie's pet start to nuzzle and lick his mistress's ear and cheek. "But... she's gone, Gummy. You can't bring her back... She's gone... away. Forever."
On one hand, this is a ridiculous, Shatnerian bit of writing (and it's not an isolated incident; the chapter I took this quote from has 55 ellipses in 5000 words, almost all in dialogue), paired with some blatant stock imagery in the narration.  On the other... well, in places like this, it's hard to believe the author intended the scene to be taken entirely seriously.  If that's the intent here, though, then I'd say it failed: in context, this is a relatively dramatic moment, and in any case, it's hard to see what's supposed to be funny about it; passages of the precise quality of the one above are so often used seriously (even in published fiction!) that there's little ridiculousness to be mined from such non-exaggeration.  A parody has to exaggerate, after all; too often, this story simply repeats cliches without expansion.

Star rating:

I found this story to be less of a muddle than I feared, but also a distinctly non-enjoyable work.  Not unenjoyable, mind; with the exception of a few bits of the romance (and one seriously fridge-unpleasant depiction of the royal sisters at the end), nothing here made me really regret reading this story.  But mostly, what I felt was a mild bemusement throughout.  There's a lot going on in this story that doesn't make sense if you try to take it seriously, isn't funny if you're looking for a joke, and isn't conducive to inspiring much from a reader in general.

Recommendation:  For PinkieDash shippers, this still wouldn't be an awful choice; the romantic elements (conflict, uncovering the past, confession, etc.) are liable to suit you well, and they're the focus of this story.  Still, I'd only really recommend it if you have a high tolerance for nonsense situations and actions played straight.

Next time:  Living Forever…, by Whateverdudezb


  1. This is one of the earliest stories I ever read, and it's the reason I became a hardcore PinkieDash shipper. I've been telling myself I need to reread it, but even through the goggles of nostalgia, I know it's severely flawed, which is probably why I haven't. :B



      IS IT.

      WHY YES IT IS.



  2. Gotta say, Chris, you missed context here big time.

    I read this story long ago -- I remember not NOT liking it, but not LIKING it either. It was sort of there, and I could see why people would love it.

    Thing is, this is a classical work. This comes from the early times of the fandom, and it was one of the first (if not THE first) big Pinkiedash fic. A lot of people, like PP up there, got into the ship because this fanfic alone.

    Quality-wise it's probably mediocre (again: I read this long ago, when I didn't really have that much of a bar when it came to judging fics) but it ain't a parody, and the whole "I don't get if this is supposed to be a comedic moment" bit is you being fooled by the tags.

    Nothing in here is parodic -- it's just that all parodies tend to reference this kind of, well, "scholar" work. This is not just a mountain of clichés, it's what MADE those clichés. I'd say it certainly sounds way more melodramatic than I remembered, but nah, nothing that is not an obvious joke is a joke in here. When they go to space, you're supposed to think it's extremely romantic and dramatic.

    Only through the glasses of time and experience do we realize that was actually a little dumb? But the fandom was young, and we were just starting. The overuse of tags is another sign of it -- the standard for fanfiction hadn't been created yet, simple as that.

    Am I justifying its mistakes? Nah. But I do think context plays a big part in this fanfic. It also explains the weird tone, and how some scenes seem absurd and supposedly comedy-ish, when they really aren't. The fic is transparent, it's straightforward -- it's not trying to subvert or be sutble or criticise or satire. It's just what it is. The subversions would come later.

    Certainly not re-reading it any time soon, though. This fic is like Allegrezza, as I told to PP: the first time you read it, when you're young and full of hope, it blows your mind. Then you read it again, when you're not so full of hope. And it doesn't blow your mind. It just blows, period.

    How much greener the grass is, with those rose-tinted glasses, as they say.

    (But the butterflies, they flutter by, and leave us on our arses, as they ALSO say.)

    1. Good to know! The author's other stories probably fooled me, there--s/he wrote a fair chunk of parody. And to be fair, many of the cliches this story "made" go back long before ponyfic. But it's good to have some context for how the author intended stuff like that fly-to-space bit to be read.