Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 149

This week has been... a learning experience, let's say.  Working with 2nd-3rd grade newcomers (i.e. less than two years in America) is far different from middle school ESL, in basically every conceivable way, and I'm just doing my best not to drown.  This Thursday post is taking the place of both Wednesday and Friday, while I try to get my feet under me; hopefully I'll be a little more on-the-ball by next week, both at work and in my blogging.

Happily, though, this has been a really good week for me when it comes to positive reinforcement re. ponyfiction.  Titanium Dragon recommended two of my stories, which naturally brought out other people to say nice things about them as well.  With the exception of a few of the very best-known (and thus, most polarizing) fics, positive comments tend to beget more positive comments.  Couple with with my short story winning the most recent Writeoff, and I've been getting a steady stream of approval at a moment (well, fortnight) when I really needed it.  It's funny how sometimes, life gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

But enough about good news, let's get to the reviewin'!  Here're some mini-reviews to last you until Monday.

Pinprick, by SusieBeeca

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Sweetie Belle discovers her true passion... after discovering what "taxidermy" is, and being enthralled with the idea.

A few thoughts:  This is set before the CMC got their cutie marks on the show.  I mean, I would hope that's obvious... anyway, there's one really wonderful thing about this story, and that's the ending; a perfect mix of chillingly dark and naive, all at once.  The leadup, though, is a pretty standard juxtaposition death with "cute" narration for creepy (and mildly dark-comic) effect.  It's not poorly written for all that (though Sweetie's voicing and vocabulary do seem to vacillate a bit), but what I come back to is that this is a 1400 word story in which more than 1300 words are About What You'd Expect.  That's definitely not a bad thing--it's just hard to get as excited about all that as about the end.

Recommendation:  This is a short enough story (and generally solid enough, at that) that it's easy to recommend for fans of dark twists.  Don't come in looking for, say, some particularly deep justification of Sweetie's interests, though; this is a story aimed at the giggle-chills crowd.

Hear the Baby Laughing, by Aragon

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Aragon is forced to write a story by the Meta Dragon, a terrible beast which feeds on stories, and which forces him to write a tale which fits the classic mold for it to consume.

A few thoughts:  Aragon is best known for writing random comedies, and reading that description, you probably would guess that this is one of those random comedies.  It's not; it is, in fact, very hard to pin down just what it is.  A parody of fairytales?  A deconstruction?  A self-aware homage?  It has elements of all of these, but defies straightforward classification.

What it, is, undoubtedly, is rewarding.  This is the rare story that can be enjoyed with a minimal amount of thought, but which also rewards the reader for putting a little mental effort into the work.  Aragon calls Pratchett one of the key inspirations for this piece, and that shows through in (among other things) the way he manages to meld comic and dramatic elements, often with minimal separation.  I was especially impressed by how well those dramatic moments held up in light of the goofiness that surrounded (and at times, suffused) them; the buildup to, and payoff of, Shining Armour being established as the King (archetype) in this story was, for me, an absolute highlight, and the meta-awareness here feels exploratory and celebratory, rather than (as it so often is in lesser hands) merely masturbatory.  This is not to say that the story has no flaws--Aragon-the-character's snark probably could have been dialed back quite a bit without losing the desired effect, for one--but it did do the things which define it absolutely wonderfully.

Recommendation:  Fans of fairytales, and specifically of explorations/deconstructions/examinations thereof, should be sure to check this out.


  1. "It's funny how sometimes, life gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it."

    Just once, would be a start.

  2. "fairytails"

    Chris, for shame!

  3. Oh, you got the friendly TD dice roll, huh? I should be due for a critical hit sometime soon. I hope.

    1. Good luck! If your DM is using the tables from that the old Dragon Magazine published in the 80s, then you'll be pleased to know that it's entirely possible to decapitate a Titanium Dragon using nothing but an ordinary sling :)

    2. Does the sling have to have any ammo?

    3. Leomund's Tiny Hut, right? A close reading of the rules reveals that the author neglected to mention ammo. And since Lakofka and Gygax were buds, that article's official, so your DM has to use them if he wants his game to be real AD&D. The tricky part, of course, would be convincing him to use an old Ives rule from Alarums & Excursions that adds your damage adjustment to criticals. A girdle of giant strength would then allow you to decapitate the dragon on a roll of 89–00. Of course, I'd recommend using the Hammer of Thunderbolts instead of a sling :p

  4. "It is, in fact, very hard to pin down just what it is. A parody of fairytales? A deconstruction? A self-aware homage? It has elements of all of these, but defies straightforward classification."

    Tell me about it. Tagging this story was worse than writing it, because everything seemed to work. Adventure? Sure. Thriller? Right on. Random? I guess, though I dislike that. Sad? Eeeh, works in a way. Tragedy? Eeeeeeh, also works in a way.

    Pretty much everything goes, really. Freakin' nightmare. I eventually set for "Comedy" and "Drama" 'cause they seemed the most important ones, but geez.

    Also, glad that you liked when Shining Armor is established as the king. That scene was one of the highlights to me too, and NOBODY ELSE mentioned it after reading. I was wondering if it wasn't working or something.

    (Also, I like Aragón-the-character! I think he's charming and oddly attractive, in an extermely masculine way.)

    1. Often, when nobody says anything about a story element, that means it works. At least, that's what I've generally come to believe. And I totally believe this story was a pain and a half to tag. Glad you liked the review!