Saturday, April 1, 2017

Your Much-Anticipated April 1st Review

Hello and welcome to a very special April 1st edition of One Man's Pony Ramblings!  As you all know, I mostly write reviews of fanfiction around here.  But let's face it; there are a lot of ways to write a review, and I've been sticking with my particular idiom for over five years now.  It's time to branch out, if only for one day, and try something a little... different.

That's right, today only, we'll be experimenting with a RAGE REVIEW!  Surely, the ideal format to calmly and rationally discuss my feelings about a work of fiction.  But of course, a rage review is traditionally directed at an awful story.  Well, no worries there, either: I found a teen-rated gorefic (always guaranteed to be edgy!) written in 2012 (when standards were often lax) by an author who's notorious for taking his ponyfic personally (just look at his short bio for proof).  Should be a real trainwreck, alright.

So, head on down below the break for the most brutal takedown this side of an MMA ring!

[But first, if I may pause to be serious for just one moment: I'd like to preemptively thank both the author, and the RR folk, for being good-humored about me poking fun at their fic and their reviews, respectively.  I hope y'all will take this exactly as seriously as I did]

Now, onward, to my review of...

That's right: today's mess of a fanfic is The Carnivore's Prayer, by someone named "Cold in Gardez."  And, oh boy, did I forget to mention this is an all-OC fic?  Yeah, this is gonna be a fun ride.

Before we even start, I have to talk about the author's name: the phrase you're looking for is en garde, buddy.  French is an actual language, it's not just slapping a -z on the end of words and trying to phonetic your way through the rest.  I haven't even gotten to the fic itself, and already I'm experiencing a dreadful lack of awareness.  Like, would it kill you to do a little research, instead of just assuming you know what you're talking about?

The description is just edgy as all get-out.  "Oh, things used to be so nice then the Fire Nation attacked but then this dude did something AWFUL and TERRIBLE that I'm NOT GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT BECAUSE THAT'D BE SPOILERS ELL OH ELL!  Authors, don't do this.  Don't spend four paragraphs building up what a monster your Gary Stu OC is if you aren't at least going to tell me ONE bad thing he did.  Oh, and this sentence?
They made that choice themselves; they chose their fate.
I mean, could you get any more redundant?  No really, I'm asking.  Could you get any more redundant?  Could you...

Okay, okay, I'll stop, but only because I've still got... jeeze, almost 10,000 words to get through.  Strap in, boys and girls; this is gonna be a long one.

Discord may be bailing, but (un?)luckily for me, I'm prepared to stick it out.  For you.

So, the first four paragraphs of the story are just the long description again.  You know, in case you forgot to read them the first time.  Maybe you don't read real good and need to see words two or three times before they actually sink in and penetrate your skull.  Don't worry, Cold en Garde has got you covered.

After that, this is the first new sentence of the story:
His first memories were of the vast, cold, empty halls of his tribe's mountain home.
This screams "tragic backstory" so loud it almost drowns out my questions about who "he" is.  Author, wanna give us a name, here?  I'm gonna go with "Angsty McAngstface," seeing as how the very first thing he can remember is being cold and lonely.  Let me guess, the first birthday present he ever got was a swift kick to the nuts, right?

Eventually, we find out Angsty's name is actually Aquilas, but I'm gonna stick with Angsty.  If the author didn't want me to make up my own name for him, maybe he shouldn't have taken 260 words to spit it out.

Anyway, we find out that Angsty doesn't do well in school, presumably in a bid to make him relatable to emo teens--he "cared little for history or geography," and what do you want to bet those are en Garde's two least favorite subjects too?  He has a sister who he didn't claw to death when they roughhoused (good for you? the fic treats this like it's a big deal), and we spend a good dozen paragraphs or so watching those two play hide and seek.  Hey, you know what the opposite of exciting is?  Reading about someone playing hide and seek.

Then they talk about art, so that Angsty gets another chance to reiterate how he's too cool for (art) school.  Hey, you know who wasn't cool enough for art school?

That's right, Angsty here is literally one-upping Hitler, and we haven't even gotten to the part where he magically turns all the griffons (sorry, gryphons--apparently the way the show spells it isn't good enough for Mr. en Garde) into ravening monsters.  Then his sister tells him to talk to his father about something.  Here's the very next sentence:
Weeks passed before Aquilas found a chance to speak with his father.

Apparently dad was out "hunting."  You know, for an entire month, as one does.  Here's a true story: I went hunting once, for pheasant, and do you know how long I was out of the house?  Less than eight hours.  And that's including travel time!  The worst part is, there's no good reason why there's this weeks-long gap, other than because the author apparently doesn't know his way around a weapon nearly as well as yours truly.

But fine.  The hunting trip of the ancients has finally come to a close, and here's our first description of daddy McAngstface:
Regalan's chest was still smeared with blood when Aquilas found him. The blood would remain there for a while; like most adult gryphons, Regalan refused to clean away the evidence of his victories.

I feel like I have to repeat this: here we have an entire species that is so hardcore-in-ironic-quotation-marks that they cover themselves in blood and then refuse to wash it off, ever.  Guys, the Klingons called, wanted to let you know that you're taking this "warrior race" guy thing too far.  And the Uruk-hai are on line two.

So dad 'n' lad chat, and eventually we get to the author's central premise.  It turns out that there used to be a lot more griffons, but all the artsy ones died, because only the strong survive.  Artists, blacksmiths, anyone whose job isn't killing things, they just passed away of testosterone deprivation.  This, the story tells us (and will continue to tell us), is The Way The World Works.

Look, en Garde, I get it.  I really do!  I was fourteen once, too, and I thought all the super-libertarian survivalist stuff made sense, too.  But someday, you'll grow up just like I did, and you'll realize that this whole social and literal darwinism thing isn't how things work in the real world.  It's okay, author, I don't hate you--you just still have some growing up to do, is all.

Then the whole McAngstface family, dad, son, and daughter, go hunting together, and we get a long, needlessly graphic description of killing some seals with your own claws.  Pretty standard gore porn stuff; purely there to titillate, with no narrative relevance.  Here's a tip: if you can replace an entire scene with "they kill some seals," then everything else you've written is just masturbatory.  I can only hope not literally.

Next, we find out that one of Angsty's friends found a pony!  Go on, guess what he did to it.  Guess.

No, of course not.  Nor did it talk to the pony, nor did it watch the pony from a safe distance, nor did it try to make friends, nor did it do literally any of the things that a normal, sane individual might do.  Literally every grrihfoune ever lives by a philosophy enumerated in a NWA album and expressed with as much nuance and logic as a caffine-addled fourteen year old is capable of.  Guess again.

Now, if you picked "skinned that pony alive and brought its bloody pelt back to the tribe to be admired," then you've got just as sick a set of sensibilities as the author.

Here's the thing: a good darkfic isn't just a test of endurance to see how much blood and guts you can dump on your readers before they give up in disgust.  There has to be a message behind that violence, and a cohesive worldview.  Preferably one which tells us, the readers, something about ourselves.  And when it does toss out something graphic, it's best not to revel in that violence, but to find a certain narrative distance which allows the reader to process the horror of the situation without losing the larger implications.

Hands up if you think en Garde did that!

Congratulations, you're right.

Anyway, then I skimmed through a bunch of the story because I just got bored.  I assume that it was just more of the same murderporn and that Angsty didn't learn anything or have a chance to grow as a character.  I mean, I know this kind of story, and they're all the same: there's no development or nuance to 'em.  Really, it's like the author is asking you to skip ahead.

Okay, so picking up with the antepenultimate scene, let's see if I was right:
The few ponies who survived the massacre fled south, toward their ancient homeland.
And look at that!  Just like uncle Chris called it: more pony-killing, nothing else worth mentioning.  Good thing I skipped all that filler in the middle, or this review would've gone way too long for no benefit.

And then Angsty McAngstface murdered literally everyone else who'd made it to the end of the fic.  Because of course he did.

Okay, it's not like I'm surprised or anything, but I have to at least say this: author, ditch the Tragedy tag.  Do you know what a Tragedy is?  It's not just a synonym for sad: it refers to stories where the main character fails or falls from grace through a tragic flaw.  It's not for stories where your main character goes on a 10,000 word killing streak after you've established his edge credentials.

But as Dash said above, whatever.  Let's get to the rating and awards.

"Contemptuous" pretty well sums up how I feel about this fic.  It's bad, but the ways in which its bad mostly come down to the author being young and kinda dumb, and mistaking gory descriptions with no purpose for an actual story.  This is a waste of space, plain and simple.  I'll bet that when the author looks back on this once he's an adult, he'll cringe.  That's because he'll know better then than he does now.  I'd say "hopefully this is a learning experience for him," but somehow this story has gotten literally several upvotes, and multiple users left positive comments on the fic.  I guess it's true what they say: people on FiMFic will say nice things about anything.

Certified Flamebait Ribbon ~ Given with dubious honors to fics that contain content that many will find quite inflammatory and ignite arguments, dealing with sensitive and controversial topics.

A griffon literally skins a pony and parades its bloody pelt around like a trophy.  "Inflammatory" isn't a strong enough word for it.

Fluttershy's Scorn Award ~ Given to stories that portray any sort of unjustifiable violence or cruelty towards people/ponies/animals in a light or careless fashion.

Do I really need to explain this one?
Research Failure Award ~ Granted to stories where basic information (whether in regards to the show, or to a simple known topic) is explained and portrayed incorrectly, even when it could easily be researched or learned with very little effort on the writer's part. Note that this does not count for in-universe and "invoked" uses of incorrect facts; if a character states something untrue, and it is regarded in-universe by others as being untrue, for example.

A rare meta-example: using a french phrase in your penname without even bothering to look up the spelling is pretty [yay]-ing lazy, en Garde!

Crass Crossover Ribbon ~ Awarded with dubious honors to a story that utilizes a poor crossover premise. Ill-fitting crossovers, badly-executed crossovers-- either are qualified for this ribbon.

The author doesn't even acknowledge the obvious parallels between this story and Akaneiro ni Somaru Saka.


  1. Great way to kick off my favorite day of the year!

    "Cold en Garde"

    That was seriously the most autism-triggering thing you could've said. I kinda hate you right now, but it made this whole thing that much funnier

  2. When I saw the premise for the review, I was a tad worried. Surely big marshmallow Chris doesn't have enough rage for a Rage Review! Then I got to "the phrase you're looking for is en garde, buddy" and I knew everything would be okay. :D That last ribbon is perfect, too.

  3. Wow, perfect timing. Rage Reviews just changed their name and formate to Rave Reviews.

    Good on you for filling the void left by their change in style.

  4. "Cold en Garde"

    You magnificent bastard.

  5. A bold new direction for the blog. I approve. This will go down in Christory as a defining moment.