Friday, October 6, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 231: Ditzy Doo's Dismally Derpy Day

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

So, that thing I was writing?  It's here!  Well, almost: behold... Breaking Away: The Alicorn Amulet Collaboration!

Only the first chapter has been published as I type this, but the plan is for one to be posted every day.  The basic premise is that Twilight has figured out that the Alicorn Amulet can be destroyed by getting a bunch of ponies to successfully resist its temptations, and each chapter is a different author's take on one pony's attempts to do just that.  When my chapter comes out I'll talk about it in a little more detail, but in the meantime this is something that I think will be worth following; it's got a good mix of authors you've heard of and respect (Titanium Dragon, FanOfMostEverything, and of course the organizer cleverpun himself, just to name a few), plus some names you might not know... yet.  I haven't read all the chapters, but the ones I have do some pretty neat things with the premise.  Plus, you know, I'm in it.  So if any of that is selling you, consider checking it out!

But if new ponyfic isn't your thing, how about old ponyfic?  Head below the break for my review of CLAVDIVS CAESAR's Ditzy Doo's Dismally Derpy Day.

Impressions before reading:  I'm sure that I read this circa 2011, when it went up on Equestria Daily... but I'll be darned if I can remember a single concrete thing about it.  In my defense, it was over six years ago... jeez, time flies.  Anyway, without even a solid idea of whether I liked it or not, I'm pretty much going in blind!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Often, when I come back and look at early-fandom stuff like this, I end up making some comment about it having "typical early-fandom flaws."  By that I mean things like LUS, a compulsive need to include each of the main six when several of them are irrelevant or superfluous, and other things that... well, that you were disproportionately likely to run into in fanfics from the S1 era.  But the S1 era wasn't all bad!  And this story manages to feel, in many ways like a product of its time, while still being a pretty darn enjoyable fic.

A lot of that feeling comes down to character portrayals, and personally, I think this story is a pretty darn good distillation of several canon characters as they appeared near the start of the show, before seven seasons worth of stuff had had a chance to start shifting them from their initial portrayals.  Pinkie sticks out particularly, in a good way; her bubbly enthusiasm is just plain fun to read, and while the characterization here might not hold up today (I'm pretty sure Pinkie's learned what introverts are at least twice, now), it feels unmistakably on-point for its time, capturing her exuberance in textual form without resorting to memery.  Likewise, Big Mac and the rest of the major main six characters are vibrant and, more importantly, talk, act, and feel just like you'd expect them to.

As with any good S1 fanfic, it also introduces a few tertiary characters--there weren't all that many name ponies back then, so a pair of bullies were necessarily worked up out of whole cloth.  In their specific case, there's not a lot of resolution to their role in the story, but I'm willing to forgive it based on their highly entertaining dudebro dialogue.  More broadly, though, this is a story that makes a lot of additions to characters' backstories, hobbies, and the like.  A certain amount of willing acceptance is required of the reader, but never to the degree of forcing one to "just go with it" when "it" is something nonsensical.  In truth, I found myself more bothered by the (occasional, mild) swearing; the story being fairly light in most regards, it felt a touch too far afield for me, tone-wise.

It's also worth talking about the writing.  CLAVDIVS CAESAR's  great strength is clearly dialogue, and the voices of the various characters come through clearly without a bunch of overwritten accents or the like (AJ has her "ah"s, if that's the sort of thing that bothers you, but this is by no stretch an incomprehensibly overwritten version of her).  The narration, by contrast, is... good, mostly.  The one issue I had was that it seemed to inconsistently try to capture Ditzy's voicing, sometimes reading almost stream-of-consciousness ("Ditzy never pretended to 'get' fashion, it was full of endless complexities that sailed clear over her head like Rainbow Dash on a double espresso, but everyone could agree that flowers were pretty, right?"), while at other times feeling a bit more removed.  It does hew strictly to her PoV, though, which ameliorates that problem somewhat--at least it's clearly from Ditzy's perspective, if not always in her mental voice.

The story itself does have some hint of romance, as the tagging indicates, and a fair bit of mostly-conversation-based comedy... but it is, first and foremost, a slice-of-life fanfic.  This is the tale of Ditzy's unusually bad day, and while it could easily have been tweaked to emphasize the romance and/or humor, the author chose to play this as a very SoL piece.  While I don't object to that decision in the abstract (indeed, I don't know that I'd have enjoyed a heavier shipping focus in this case), the result is a fair bit of padding.  Derpy Day is full of scenes with only minor importance from a narrative standpoint, and while some are quietly excellent (the reveal of what Ditzy's cutie mark means particularly struck me in this regard), the result is a 12k story that feels like it could have been much shorter.  Ultimately, it's a fluffier piece than you'd think from that length, and would probably have been stronger with a few thousand fewer words... but I find I can't begrudge it those words too much, as the sense of fluffiness is more feature than bug.  There are a lot of things going on in this story that aren't terribly important, when all is said and done... but that's deliberate.  What really matters is whether those things are enjoyable in their own right, and with only a couple of exceptions, I found the answer to be "yes."

Star rating:

I guess I'm not surprised I didn't remember this story, given that it's basically an unusually long fluff piece.  But it's also a really good example of how to write fluff without belaboring one or two jokes well past their expiration date, and of how to write something simple and low-key that's still fundamentally enjoyable--not just tolerable, but enjoyable--to read.

Recommendation:  Readers who don't enjoy "simple and low-key" won't get much out of this, but anyone who appreciates vibrant characters and who would enjoy a meandering but never dull trip through Ponyville should consider giving this a try.

Next time:  Dr. Rainbow Dash, MD, PhD, etc., by FrontSevens


  1. This was one where I didn't remember much concrete (did it involve a flood and floating on a rooftop, or something along those lines, at some point?), but I remember how it made me feel, and the review matched up with that pretty much perfectly.

  2. The flood and floating on a rooftop was probably from "Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day", by uSea.

    1. Yeah, I think you're right--darn those similar titles!

  3. Like you, I could swear I've already read this, but I was surprised to find that's not the case! :O I wonder if I was thinking about uSea's fic, re: above.