Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 199: Statistics

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

We're now well into the part of winter where my lips are just one giant wad of chapped, bleeding unpleasantness.  Hourly applications of chapstick have minimal effect.  This is Chris at his least kissable.

You know, in case any of you were hoping to kiss your favorite reviewer anytime soon.  Give me another month or two, and you'll be happier.  No promise that I'll be any happier about strangers from the internet tracking me down IRL with the express intention of making out with me, but hey, one happy person is better than none, right?

...I've got no good segue for that.  Head below the break for my review of xTSGx's Statistics.

Impressions before reading:  I've already got this fic upvoted, and when it was inducted into the RCL, I wrote of it, “This uses an original device to good effect, and that is exactly the sort of thing I love for us to feature.”  I'm feeling pretty good about this one going in, is what I'm trying to say.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  1000 years of Celestia's solitude, told through numbers.

Thoughts after reading:  It would be easy to underrate this fic.  "It's just a gimmick stretched to the 1000 word limit," one could say, and that wouldn't technically be wrong.  But it would miss a lot that raises this above a mere gimmick-fic, and makes it something worth recognizing.

First, and most obviously: there actually is a story written into those numbers.  It's the story you expect, granted--this is a fairly traditional take on Celestia's reaction to Luna's banishment--but the numbers chosen and their ordering form a coherent, cohesive narrative.  Moreover, the way the ending ties back to the beginning gives this just enough connection to make it feel like a single idea expressed through a variety of supporting details, rather than a bunch of semi-connected but ultimately unmoored data points.

Second, there's the pacing of the work.  You wouldn't expect a glorified list of numbers to have "pacing," but xTSGx clearly put some thought into the ebb and flow of dramatic vs. lighter ideas.  For example, rather than dropping the potentially immersion-damaging "three suicide attempts" on the reader like a bombshell, the author eases into the idea by prefacing with things like "fifteen psychologists seen to try and stop the guilt I feel," laying a groundwork while building up to the key number of that set.  Besides that, there's an easy flow of concepts, moving from personal to national to governmental and more, with smooth transitions between concept groupings.

As for the numbers themselves?  They're all admirably "right enough"--that is to say, they're at least in the ballpark of reasonable, enough so so as not to strain credulity.  In fact, the only thing that really stuck out to me on that front is the implication in one number that Equestria had radios for at least a century prior to the time the show's set in.  But the numbers themselves?  All pass the smell test.

Meanwhile, the repetition of form has a deliberately numbing effect, helping to instill a sense of the weight of history which is entirely in keeping with the theme of the story.  Punchy or dramatic numbers are used at regular intervals to keep reader interest from waning, which admittedly dulls the effect somewhat, but (coupled with the short length) helps keep engagement high.

Star rating:

Although this is structurally a one-trick pony, Statistics shows how to use a trick to good effect, rather than subjugating storytelling and interest to concept.

Recommendation:  The only crew I can think of that might want to avoid this are readers who have a reflexively negative reaction to stories about Celestia mourning Luna's banishment.  If you've read too many of those and can no longer work up the ability to care... well, fair enough.  For other readers, though, this is a short but effective use of an unconventional storytelling technique which carries a bit of emotional heft to boot.

Next time:  The Eagle Has Landed, by CyanBlackStone


  1. Chris is becoming a nymphomaniac and can smell numbers. It's time to take him to fifteen psychiatrists. D:

  2. Ugh, fine! Come to TrotCon this summer and I'll make out with you. You'd better be cute, though, or else you're gonna have to buy me a few Peanut Buckers first (you might want some too)

    Normally I'd add this story to the queue based on that rating, but I've already read it! Not often that happens

  3. What makes you think I want to make out with Present Perfect?