Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 169: Living Forever…

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

I forgot to plug it on Monday, but there's a new Rainbow Dash Presents!  And it's of a particularly good story, this time: Blueshift's The Star In Yellow.  If you like that brand of parody (and, somehow, weren't already aware that it had come out), go check it out.  Then, come back in here and read my review of Living Forever..., by Whateverdudezb.

Impressions before reading:  This sure looks like one joke, stretched out to 4500 words--and a joke (Twilight mourning her dead friends, only really right there and doing just fine) that doesn't seem all that inherently funny to me to begin with.  So... yeah, I'm not feeling very positive about this one going in.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After Twilight mixes up a few pages, her Official Guidebook of Equestrian History ends up stating that all her friends have passed on, leaving Twilight to deal with the terrible strain of immortality alone.  Naturally, she's not going to hear the end of that anytime soon.

Thoughts after reading:  This story surprised me right off the bat: it's not about Twilight being ridiculous, it's about (some of) her friends being ridiculous while she plays the grumpy straight mare!  Thankfully, that wasn't the only surprise here: Living Forever, I'm pleased to say, has more going for it than I'd feared going in.

Before we talk about the good, though, let's start with the bad--specifically, the writing.  In an apparent attempt to make the writing sound more dramatic (the better to set up Twilight taking the wind out of Celestia and company's reflections on her immortal angst), this story is full of grandiose turns of phrase, especially in the early going.  Unfortunately, these aren't well-executed, and the end result is a whole bunch of LUS, coupled with a tendency to repeat temporal markers (e.g. "Currently though, the lavender alicorn's monarchal status did not presently occupy her mind").  Things calm down on that front (at least, somewhat; the problem never disappears altogether) after the first quarter or so of the story, once the rug has been properly pulled out of the angsting.

But that brings us to the other issue on display here: pacing.  Simply put, this story spends far too long setting up.  It's more than a thousand words before the premise (i.e. the bit I put into the summary) is revealed, and all of that thousand-odd words is just setting up that single joke.  Likewise, the main six's introductions start off okay, but quickly begin to feel forced; every pony needs an entrance and semi-unique spin on why they've come, for no better reason than for the sake of going through the Stations of the Main Six.

But where this story pays off is toward the end, when the girls ask why "a little mix-up" would lead to Twilight's history book saying that they were all dead in the first place.  From there, the story goes in a pleasingly thoughtful direction.  That's not to say that there's a great deal of depth to it--the story is pretty explicit about the whats and whys, Twilight literally spelling out to her friends (and the reader) the purpose of her little writing experiment.  But it's an interesting twist on a pair of fandom standards: the weight of immortality, and the inapproachability of the (pseudo-)deific.  

Speaking of the ending, there's also an author's note which spells out the intent behind this story a little more clearly.  Interestingly, s/he sees the story as having a twist ending... but the "twist" envisioned is never explicitly spelled out, and the story can be read with a heartwarming metaphorical conclusion (rather than the author-intended literal one) without sacrificing any comprehensibility--or heartswarming-ness, for that matter.  I don't see this ambiguity much affecting anyone's enjoyment of the story, positively or negatively, but I always find it interesting when the story a writer writes isn't necessarily the one that the reader reads.  Regardless, it's still a sweet, and appropriate, note to end on.

Star rating:

This is a story that doesn't leave a lot (of import) to the imagination, and which gets off to a disappointingly slow--and poorly-written--start.  But... it does have a pleasantly unforced payoff, and a thoughtful-if-not-particularly-thought-provoking conclusion.  It's definitely not a story that leaves a sour taste in your mouth, nor which ends on an off-note, and while that doesn't retroactively justify some of the missteps in the opening, it's also fair to say that those missteps aren't, broadly speaking, the fic-ruining kind.

Recommendation:  The author describes this as a "counter against all of those depressing stories about an immortal Twilight grieving over her friends who have passed on."  If that's something that appeals to you, this manages that without devolving into soapboxing or other unbelievability.  If passages like the one I quoted in the second paragraph are going to drive you batty, then this probably isn't the fic for you.

Next time:  Insomnia, by Pale Horse


  1. I can't tell you happy I am to have RDP back. That series is one of my favourite things to have come out of this fandom.

  2. I loved RDP's take on the story. More of a re-telling than a parody. The end was actually emotionally effective, working on more than one level. Really nice work.

    As for this story... yeah. There seem to be levels to the Immortal Angst genre. First, of course, is the straight-forward sad fic. Next, is the one this fits into, the Make the Rest Immortal fix-fic. Next, Immortal Rarity is Sad When Sweetie Bell kicks it. And then the second fix-tier of immortality hand-outs, and so on until the immortal ponies are all shoulder-to-shoulder in a Malthusian nightmare of a world.

    Makes for a lot of avenues to explore, though.