Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 228: "Princest is Wincest," It Said

The author didn't use any cover art, so here's a visual representation of my feelings about authors not using cover art.  Also: to read the story, click the image or follow this link.

Work is too much work; I feel like I've got no time for the important things in life, i.e. reading MLP fanfics and writing those suckers up.  Somehow, I forgot what the start of the school year actually entails.  You'd think after all these years, the fact of the impending time sink wouldn't sneak up on me like that... and yet, it does.

But now, on to my review of the OMPR-award winning (in the category "Most Improbable Title for a Fic that Chris Actually Dedicated a Fandom Classic Review To," narrowly edging out Brony Hero of Equestria) "Princest is Wincest," It Said, by cleverpun.

Impressions before reading:  I admit I was a little leery when I saw this title in a recommendation e-mail, but there are a few things here that reassure me.  First, it's written by cleverpun, who I know can write well--and who, as far as I know, doesn't write anything cruder than I'm liable to find appropriate in a non-Mature, non-Sex-tagged story.  Second, the recommendation claims that not only does it have plenty of humor, but also that it's got a little more to offer beyond that: it promised that the story would also offer "a bit of history" that is "more serious than you expect."  That all sounds good to me; let's give it a go!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  While out one night, Luna discovers the titular bit of graffiti.  Unable to parse its meaning, she decides to ask her sister about it.

A few thoughts:  To start, let's talk about the style of humor on display.  For purposes of examination, here's a quote from early on:
[Night Guard] Razor opened her mouth, intending to loose a devastating counter-insult. Several scathing triumphs of wit formed in her head, and “your mom is old” was quickly shortlisted by multiple neurons to volley at Empty Sky. 
She glanced back at the princess, and her mouth slowly, reluctantly clamped shut. She would save it for the barracks, where the other night guards would be able to witness her impressive comeback.
Over and over again, cleverpun demonstrates the ability to contrast dry tone with crass content, in a way which doesn't leave the final product feeling overly crude.  There are plenty of grandiose descriptions which manage to feel weighty despite their brevity (a rare thing in fanfiction; most of the time, grandiosity is achieved, if at all, through sheer weight of verbiage), which allows the punchlines and reveals to feel... if not quick, then at least quick enough.  Coming in at a hair under 5k words, Wincest doesn't seem overlong, which is one of the marks of a good comedy.

There's also a nice contrast between dialogue and narration, with the latter distinct between characters and snappy in contrast to the text surrounding it.  The author wisely alternates between longer prose passages and snappy, sometimes nearly tag-less back-and-forth dialogue as the comedic needs of the story dictate, letting the pace ebb and flow in time with the rhythm of the humor.

But, as promised, there's more than just humor on display here.  Okay, not a whole lot more; this is a comedy first and foremost, and on the whole the thing is less "deep" than it is "less shallow than you were expecting."  Nevertheless, after getting a perfunctory (but appropriate in context) chat about the ineffectiveness of absolute censorship, the story does take a surprisingly personal turn for its two protagonists.  When conversation turns to Nightmare Moon... again, "deep" may not be the right word, but there's a certain level of thoughtful sincerity here that gives the story a bit of an emotional center which light comedies sometimes lack.

By contrast, the second chapter/epilogue is... fine.  Don't get me wrong; taken on its own merits, there's nothing really wrong with it.  But it's a single joke, which is pretty obvious once it gets rolling, and a lot of it is just waiting for the inevitable reveal.  In other words, it's a pretty mundane piece of humor, and it it would be a perfectly unobjectionable if one-note scene on its own, it nevertheless feels like a letdown after chapter one.

Star rating:

That sense of letdown at the end notwithstanding, this is a remarkably enjoyable short story, with just enough to it to make it memorable.  In my notes, I highlighted plenty of descriptive passages which were interesting, enlightening in regards to character, history, or both, and didn't put up any roadblocks to the humor (the description of the room in which Celestia and Luna dine together, and the window therein, is a particular highlight in this regard, and that description by itself could practically be its own excellent minific).  There's a lot to enjoy here, put together in a package which highlights its own best features.

Recommendation:  Don't be scared by the title; this is an excellent choice for fans of both laconic humor and its more pompous cousin, and its risque-ness is purely conceptual.  I guess that might make it a disappointment for readers who actually want to read about princest, but... look, the story makes a solid case for me not judging you for that, so I won't.  But once you're ready to read an actual story, consider this one.

Next time:  ...But the Kitchen Sink, by Dubs Rewatcher


  1. So, I think I need to disagree with this as far as the second chapter goes. I think that it's a key part of the story which justifies a long setup in the first chapter. Frankly, the first chapter falls into slice of life far more than comedy, and as you say, the actual arguments/depth look better than they are due to favorable framing from the title. So a real comedic payoff is something of a reward for going through the whole thing--which, though it has a conflict, is pretty darn s-o-l, centers around a philosophical argument in which one character is clearly (and in this case I think correctly) meant to be interpreted as correct, and includes at least two pretty long (if well done and appropriately integrated) descriptive segments.

    And justifying the comedy tag, can't forget that.

    That said, I think it might have been better to do without the last sentence, maybe even the last paragraph, of the first chapter, conditioning on the second chapter being included. Now, I thought that last sentence was the single best thing in the first chapter, but it functioned to do the same thing as the second chapter, but less so. If you do have the second chapter, it's redundant.

    1. I think that, if I were writing this story today, I would have left the Comedy tag off. The story certainly involves humor, but a lot of it is extremely subdued. One could also make a case that the humor is not the focus of the story.

      I suppose whether the tag is misleading or not depends heavily on one's sense of humor, and that is too subjective to predict.

  2. This story was an odd one. So many aspects of it were a tenuous balancing act. Comedy and drama, verbosity and deadpan, a vulgar title and a subdued story, even the attitudes of the main characters.

    But these quirks also made it fun to write. I could have done better, certainly (like, why did I mention Celestia's muffin so many times? And why doesn't Luna put up a better argument? And--).

    Perhaps, these quirks also made it a more engaging read, for those who liked them. The comments run the gamut, and many readers liked or disliked the story for exactly the same reasons. Every thing you mentioned as a positive, someone has listed as a negative, and vice-versa. XD

    Thanks for the review! :raritystarry: I can always count on your criticism to be detailed and fair, and this was no exception. I still have trouble pinpointing what I did right with this story (and others), and so the more criticism, the better.

  3. Oh gosh, next week's story is one I've actually read. And it's that one. This should be fun!