Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 223: Vanilla Twilight

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

My little sister is visiting this week!  Should be fun times; her only precondition for coming by for a few days was that I had to buy her cheese curds at the county fair.  That seems eminently reasonable to me, insofar as cheese curds are delicious and I was going to be buying them for myself anyway; why not get a bunch, and pretend that she's going to eat all the extra?

Also, review below.

Impressions before reading:  I mean, it looks like a by-the-numbers main-six shipfic from the description.  I do take a little hope from the fact that it's got a sequel which says it's about Dash getting "the perfect opportunity to admit her feelings for Twilight;" that would seem to suggest that maybe this is a bit slower-paced and more ambiguous than I would otherwise assume.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When anxiety keeps Rainbow Dash up late into the night, she decides to visit the also-awake Twilight.  Together, they share a special experience.

Thoughts after reading:  To the story's credit, it's not an "and then they kissed" fic.  You know the kind I mean; the ones where getting the two main characters to mash lips and say "I love you" is the story's entire raison d'etre, and every piece of the narrative is designed to inexorably draw the story to this predetermined endpoint.  But even if Vanilla Twilight resists this particular call of the cliche, it's still a vehicle that's shot through with a lot of staple fiction, ponyfic, and shipfic elements, consistently played totally straight and underdeveloped.

From fanfic classics like "visit each of the main six in turn" to shipfic standards like Dash abruptly (and frankly, inexplicably) transitioning from "hang out with Twilight because literally none of her other friends are available" to an endless series of "why am I feeling so flustered?"s, there are a lot of hoary old tropes being trotted out here.  And unfortunately--and especially in the case of the shipping tropes specifically--there's very little done with them.  In particular, the way Dash's concern about not having an SO is foreshadowed, but her attraction to Twilight appears to be abrupt and unexpected, would seem to suggest that Dash is latching on to the nearest warm body out of semi-conscious desperation.  And yet, the fic plays this as a straight "discovering her true feelings" bit.  Frankly, a lot of the back half of this feels like classic "for shippers only" material; stuff that requires the audience to have a pre-build-in desire to see the promised ship sail in order to find coherent, never mind believable.

And yet, there are a pair of saving graces to this story, that elevated it from "typical fanfiction" of the "typical shipfic" subgenre, to something that I found enjoyable to read.  First of all, there were the hints of worldbuilding, kept topical and not too overemphasized; some of the stargazing talk, for example, stayed very light and low-key, with just enough to it to make it feel like an organic part of a larger world rather than a thoughtless toss-in.

Second, and to me more significant, was the language used.  Vanilla Twilight has a lot of frankly elegant descriptions, and while I'd usually find those a poor match for Rainbow Dash's PoV, here I found that they paired nicely with the introspective nature of the opening, and more broadly of her wrestling with her newfound feelings.  Take this passage, where Dash approaches Twilight's library (note the pre-Tirek, pre-alicornification publication date) late at night, upon seeing a lone light shining from it:
She navigated the tangle of wooden limbs with practised ease, having crashed through them far too many times before. As she approached the shifting light, it slowly became clear exactly what it was. A single candle sat on the balcony, twisting in the wind but never fading. It cast a warm, glowing light against its surroundings, including the lone mare beside it.
This actually does a nice job of avoiding inappropriate word choice, while still lending itself a more graceful flow than most RD fics would opt for--and one which remains appropriate to the story being told.

Star rating:

This is a story that doesn't bring much new to the table, and which doesn't do much to sell its central appeal outside of its particular niche.  But despite that, it's got some very nice, and occasionally simply gorgeous, writing.  And it's only fair to point out that for its target audience, there's not a lot negative to say here.

Recommendation: If you have a pre-existing interest in low-key TwiDash, this is an easy story to recommend.  If you're hoping for the author to do anything to set up, justify, or otherwise pressage that TwiDash, this is an equally easy pass.

Next time:  The Last Pony on Earth, by Starscribe


  1. "Character falls for closest warm body" is, I think, the hallmark of writers who are inexperienced with romance, lonely, and/or in love with the idea of romance. Been there, done that. :B

    1. Do you know of any examples where that's done mindfully? Where the author/story (if not the characters) knows that "closest warm body" falls closer to sad or pathetic than romantic? Or even, I guess, any that are more like character pieces about settling.

    2. I think I'm more likely to write that story than to read it. c.c

  2. Hmm... I've liked me some Twidash plenty of times, but for all that it sounds like there are elements external to that which would add to the experience, transitioning from the "I want to be with someone" angle to assigned twue wuv "why am I so flustered?" A.S.S. is warning me to stay away.