Meanwhile, deep beneath the Earth’s crust, in the subterranean volcano lair of the Seattle’s Angels FiMfic Rangers, alexmagnet, Pav Femur, and Nicknack plan their next move.
“So... it’s, like, Thursday. Where are we at?” Alex asks as he reaches across the coffee table to grab the remote and shut the TV off, eliciting groans from both Pav and Nick.
“When are they supposed to go up again?” Pav asks with as little effort as possible.
“Wednesday,” says Nick.
“Yeah, last Wednesday...”
Pav swipes a bottle of beer from the table and cracks it open with his ham hock-like fists. “This weekend is April Fool’s, right?”
“Well, yeah, I guess.” Alex grabs his own beer and gives it to Pav to open. “Thanks, but, what’s your point?” he asks as takes the bottle back.
A knowing look enters Nick’s eye as smile crosses his lips. Pav notices and nods his head. “That’s right. We use April Fool’s as a ruse to draw attention away from our delayed reviews.”
Nick grabs a third beer from the table. “It’s genius.”
Alex rubs his chin. “Hmm, yeah, I suppose that could work. We can probably come up with some April Fool’s stuff in less than a day, and then that gives us another week to get these reviews done.”
“It’s settled then,” says Nick as he gives Pav a thankful nod.
They all lean forward and clink their bottles together, shouting in unison, “Procrastination!”
ONE WEEK LATER:
“So... it’s, like, Thursday. Where are we at?”
As someone who's been in this fandom for a while now (not since it started, but before Season 1 ended), I've noticed something weird about the [Slice of Life] tag—no one uses it right because it's a very difficult thing to classify a story as. A good [Romance] story is going to follow the characters' lives as they get to know one another. A good [Dark] story is going to show how someone's life is dark, dreary, and generally unhappy. A good [Sad] story is going to be the [Slice of Life] of someone who's having a bad day, or week, or month...
So believe me when I say that Fluttershy's Terribly Busy Day is one of the stories I read that could have totally fit the [Slice of Life] tag. I'm not saying that Sanctae should add it though; it is a [Sad] and [Dark] story in its own right. But what I like about this story is how, at first, it appears to be a story set in the background of another story. Like, it's obvious that there's something else going on, but Fluttershy, in her usual Fluttershy-ness, wants no part of it. Instead, she goes about her day and, all is fine and dandy.
It's an interesting take on storytelling, and it's done in a matter that doesn't make me wish the author had shown the "important" part of the story. Really, Sanctae makes Fluttershy's day-to-day life the important part of the story. My only real issue I had with this story was that at certain times, the narration got a tad hazy—especially the blink-and-you-miss-it conflict resolution near the end of the story (I try not to put spoilers in this thing, but I think the ending of this story could've packed more punch if handled differently).
Still, Fluttershy's Terribly Busy Day is a decent story, and well worth the time commitment you'd put into it if you pick it up. At the end of the day, that's all that matters, right?
Well, Alex is in this round, and naturally that means that one of the fics we review is tagged [Dark].
Which begs the question: why aren’t I abusing my position to push my own agenda? Oh right, because I’m lazy.
But enough about our personal vices for now. We’re here to talk about good fanfiction. Is Fluttershy’s Terribly Busy Day good? Spoilers: yes. Why? It’s confusing.
Not in the sense of being lost during the read; you might start to guess at the ending before you’ve finished. Not in the sense of being unable to figure everything out after the end; we’ve covered bigger headscratchers here in the past, and besides, true to form in this genre of story, there’s a large reveal that helps to put all of the pieces together.
That right there is the key: the pieces. For a fairly quick read at 4,000 words, this story is so dense with its puzzle pieces. So many of the lines herein are odd, foreshadowing in nature, half-explained, or even contradictory. Why doesn’t Fluttershy care for westerlies? Why was Applejack upset with her? Why hasn’t the laundry dried yet? Like a 4,000-piece puzzle, these oddities start to snap together and build a picture—the start of a cloud here—the beginnings of a windmill there—these smaller elements start to combine into a landscape. It’s such that at the end, when we’re given one last, big reveal, we know much. It’s not simply a reveal that “the butler was the murderer” and thus the mystery is over and we can go home. We know the butler’s life story, his itinerary for the heinous day, and his aspirations for his daughter at boarding school. It may take some time to assemble every one of the pieces, but it’s all there for you, if you take the time to put it together.
It’s for that economy that I appreciate this story. Telling a story with a hundred thousand words and opaque language can be simple and straightforward, if a large investment of time and emotion. But to write 4k where there is perhaps one singular ray of clarity, and yet so much can be divined from the text, is impressive for the author, not to mention a treat for the reader.
Being busy could be fun when you spent the time with friends.
Ah, [Dark] fics, what’s not to love about stories that often go in a completely different direction from canon, or display undertones not found in the show? Nothing, that’s what. Now, contrary to what Pav said, this fic was not actually suggested by me, though I was quick to approve it. In fact, Casca, our resident Fluttershy fan, was the one who originally said, “Hey, this thing’s pretty good.” Being the skeptical guy I am (and not a fan of Fluttershy fics), I didn’t exactly have high hopes for Fluttershy’s Terribly Busy Day. Little did I know just how good it was going to be.
Don’t you just want to punch her in the face?
All right, so let’s get into the meat of this review. What makes Fluttershy’s Terribly Busy Day so good? Well, for starters, it’s well-written, flows smoothly, has a strong narrative voice, and does an excellent job of capturing Fluttershy’s personality. However, that’s not what makes me love this story. No, its main strength lies Santcae’s ability to not tell us stuff while still telling us everything we need to know. In the world of fiction, this is known as “showing”, and, if you have any experience writing, or working with writers, you’ve likely heard the phrase “show; don’t tell” before.
In an effort to not make this a lengthy discussion about show vs. tell, I’ll just say that this fic is an excellent example of how to use telling to your advantage, by drawing attention to the things you don’t tell the readers, and leaving them to fill in the gaps themselves.
On its surface, Fluttershy’s Terribly Busy Day is a somewhat light-hearted journey through a day in the life of Fluttershy, but underneath lies a much darker and more sinister story. As you peel away the layers and read between the lines, you start to realize there is so much more to the story than we’re being told, and that’s the beauty of it. This is a fic that rewards its readers’ attentiveness, and allows itself to grow into something far darker than you would have imagined had you only read without truly understanding all the subtext and unwritten truths.
Short though it may be, Fluttershy’s Terribly Busy Day is one of those fics which will stick with me a long time. This is [Dark] done right, though it’s not the only way to do it right. So, if you have any love at all for [Dark] fics, or you just like being rewarded for reading between the lines, then give this fic a chance. I promise you won’t regret it. Unless you do, in which case... I don’t promise that.
There's a lot to be said about Twilight Snarkle. He helped form the fanfic review community in this fandom back when it started. He's been one of the three people who have helped me with my own stories since the beginning. He wrote the fandom's only bearable Sonic crossover, and he took it and made it good.
So, I'll sum his writing with a statement of, "When he wants you to feel an emotion, you will feel that emotion."
Kindness is one of the earlier stories from the fandom that technically never got canon-rolled, since the author set it in an alternate universe to begin with. It deviates from the show by asking, "What would happen to everyone if Twilight Sparkle didn't stick around after the first two episodes?" I like the idea of Twilight being the glue that holds together the main six ponies, and that they didn't really hang out all that often before she showed up, and Kindness does a good job at showing how Fluttershy would probably end up.
So, did this story hold up over the past two years? Yes. It's well-written, and any sort of discrepancies it has with the show would be more than forgiveable. Similarly, one of the critiques of it that I heard a while ago was "Princess Luna's sudden appearance," but… I don't really notice it. It's a short fic, but a poignant one, and I highly recommend you read it.
Jeez, poor Fluttershy. Second story in a row where her life is a shit salad. Don’t worry; you’ll always be “10/10, would snuggle” in my book.
*snuggles her protectively while glaring at Alex*
Originally written back in the summer of S1, Kindness is a bit of a blast-from-the-past. Having defeated Nightmare Moon, Twilight Sparkle returns to Canterlot to continue her studies under Princess Celestia. Game over, the end. The six Element-Bearers go their separate ways. We rejoin Fluttershy a few years after the events of that adventure, and... yeah. She could be better.
When I first saw the episode Cutie Mark Chronicles, even though I was swept up in a great episode and S1 hype in general, a small cynical part of me couldn’t help but agree with Spike’s assessment at the end. “Their friendship was all predestined? You and your future friends might be looking at the same rainbow? I’m a sucker for this new show’s idealism, but c’mon.” Even if idealistic, though, the evidence speaks for itself. After a recent conversation with a friend about density and free-will in FiM, he pointed out that cutie marks are a form of destiny; it’s hard to imagine an alternate universe where RD earned a cutie mark in adventure fiction, as that would create such a drastically different pony. (Magical Mystery Cure even seems to strengthen this argument, seeing how even receiving different cutie marks can’t suddenly instill a sense of fulfillment into the ponies.) Since the acquirement of the Mane Six’s cutie marks was tied to this single triggering event, we can really see the thread of destiny running all throughout their lives, from their cutie marks to Nightmare Moon, all the way to Twilight’s ascension and beyond.
So here then, is a sharp derailment from destiny, and it definitely shows in the narrative. Fluttershy, Element of Kindness, complete with the necklace to prove it, is alone. There’s really not much that I can say here without spoiling; the vignette is largely a character study of Fluttershy via this AU version of herself. Suffice it to say, she’s not particularly fulfilled, and she has some choice words on the matter. In the end, facing a “nice mares finish last” viewpoint on her reality, she begins to question her kindness. I’d make a joke about “if a mare is kind in the forest and nopony is there to see it” (because she’s a tree, get it), but that would be mood-killing.
As I said, unfortunately I can’t really elaborate much on why I recommend it, for risk of spoiling the vignette and not doing it justice. At a quick 2.6k though, it’s a fast read, emotive, sometimes forcefully so, yet genuinely tugs at sympathies. If you’re looking for an excuse to want to give Fluttershy a hug, look no further.
“Sometimes, it just takes a little Kindness.”
I had not read Kindness before, and even though it’s quite old, I’d never even heard of it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I did read it. To be quite honest, I didn’t expect very much. Kindness was written waaaaaaaay back during the yesteryear of our post-Season 1 bliss, a time when, to be frank, everyone’s standards, as well as my own, were lower. I’ve often found going back and reading things I liked then has left me somewhat disappointed, finding out that they were never very good to begin with. So, I’m quite happy to say that Kindness is in fact very good, and has remained very good even through the passage of time.
Time is the nostalgia killer.
Much as Pav has already said, it’s difficult to talk about what makes Kindness good without giving away its incredibly short plot. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first. I read the first third or so and wondered why Nick had suggested it, thinking it was just another feelbad fic with nothing new to offer. But, as soon as Luna shows up, everything changed for me. I absolutely loved her voice, her demeanor, everything about her. All of it came together so well that it altered my opinion of this fic quite rapidly.
Now, I do have to say that, while very emotive, and often done in a very real way, some of the “heart-wrenching” stuff is a bit hamfisted. One part in particular felt somewhat... forced, I suppose you could say. But overall, Kindness is a sadfic done well, and, even more impressive, it was written during a time when sad!Luna fics were all the rage and it still managed to be unique.
That’s the other thing about Kindness, its backdrop is one I’ve never actually seen before, though I’ve no doubt it’s been done since. It’s an interesting alternate reality that creates a decidedly more weepy world, a world that I would actually like to see explored more. Though, I doubt that will actually happen. Anyway, as short as Fluttershy’s Terribly Busy Day was, Kindness is even shorter, and once again became a Fluttershy fic that I didn’t absolutely hate. So yeah... go read it.
There are a lot of strange fic ideas in this fandom. I mean, hell, if you think about it, we're all writing fanfics about My Little Pony, and that's pretty strange in and of itself. So, I'm a jaded sonuvabitch when it comes to this fandom and "novel" ideas; with the volume of fics I've read, preread, and reviewed at this point, not a lot fazes me.
So, I won't really say that Space Captain Pinkie Pie really struck me as an original fic premise. I've read "pony space race" before (though the one I read was between griffins and ponies). Heck, even Spacegirl touched on a lot of the elements from Space Captain Pinkie Pie. Still, on its own, it tells a story of the main six ponies, going about on fan-made adventures. It's got their characterization well-done, and really, that's all you can ask for in fanfiction.
I'm a tad iffy on if I'd recommend this to someone, to be honest. It's 90,000 words long—that starts to hit on "opportunity cost" levels of length, where you could probably read a published novel instead (like the first Harry Potters, or 1984). I wasn't a big fan of the writing style on this, either—a little dry, in terms of a trip that took the better part of a day to traverse; also, the story emulated the show, so a lot of the humor was hit-or-miss for me.
So, it's good for a fanfic. That's probably the best thing I can say about this story, and I encourage you to at least make up your own mind about the first few chapters.
I could say a lot of things about terrycloth’s longfic comedic adventure. Lots of nitpicky things. I could complain about the tonal shift part-way through, when it shifts from episodic/slapstick hijinks into primarily a pony-vs.-nature survival adventure (with comedic elements). I could gripe about a few too many recycled jokes/references from the show, especially early on. I could whine that certain plot elements, while sometimes foreshadowed, still felt like they were coming out of left field in an unsatisfying manner, elements of the ending included.
I could also list some of the items found within this story, which I had to whittle down to minimize spoilers: sustainable lunar space travel, pillow forts, cake-based counterspells, public-key cryptography, songs (plural!), alternate realities clones, slug pits, cybertech, ancient prophecies (of doom!), and ramp physics.
One or more of these elements may not go exactly according to plan.
Space Captain Pinkie Pie is fun and creatively artistic. It takes plenty of risks by continuously upping the ante on a chapter-by-chapter basis, or throwing wild curveballs that you’d never expect to see with a premise like, “Dashie, let’s throw a party with the moon ponies!” (Not all of those curveballs are Pinkie’s fault, even!) Risk does come with failure at times—and “where” is a question that must be answered on an individual basis—but it can also result in great triumph. There were plenty of moments herein where I was laughing through a facepalmy punchline, mirthing at an apropos-of-not-much plot element that seamlessly wove itself into the plotline, or spamming a number of my friends with quotable lines.
It was for this—not simply the humor, but the fun—that I truly enjoyed this fic. Striving for literary excellence is well and good, and has its time and place. But on a site like this, of hobbyists practicing a trade for naught but entertainment for themselves and their peers, isn’t fun a massive reason behind why we’re all here? Fun for the audience, obviously, but it’s also a delight to see a story where quite clearly the author himself was having fun. Stories like this can quite often be a very refreshing gust of air, just when everything starts to feel a wee bit “same-y.”
Just, y’know. Remember to pack sunscreen.
“Pinkie Pie, I’m taking you to the moon!”
Let me count the ways Space Captain Pinkie Pie has made me laugh, but not really, because that would literally take all day. Seriously, I love this fic more than you could possibly know.
So before I start with the actual review, I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret: I hate Pinkie. I hate her so much, and I’ve only grown to hate her more as the show progresses. To be fair, she has a few moments where I actually like her, but for the most part her wall-to-wall silliness just wears thin after about the first eight and half seconds of her being on-screen. Even more than Fluttershy, I hate every episode about her. Even with the awesome Trainspotting reference, I can’t stand watching the Baby Cakes episode. It’s literally painful for me. So, it’s no small thing to say that a fic about Pinkie Pie may be one of my favorite fics of all time.
One of these days, Pinkie. One of these days. BANG. ZOOM. Straight to the Moon!
In what is possibly the longest [Adventure][Comedy] I have ever read, Space Captain Pinkie Pie manages to simultaneously be one of my favorite adventure fics, as well as one of the funniest comedies I’ve read on FiMfic.
In a bid to find herself on the Moon, and possibly throw a moon party for the moon ponies (on the Moon), Pinkie manages to convince Rainbow Dash to fly her to the moon. Yes, Rainbow Dash is literally going to fly straight up to the Moon. It’s gonna be a long flight. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned. Who would’ve thought that rapid acceleration would cause friction with the air and ignite Rainbow Dash in a glorious ball of fire? Apparently not Twilight, or anyone else for that matter. After much deliberation, and a lot of research, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Twilight, and a few others, try again. To avoid any more spoilers, I’ll leave the rest unsaid. Suffice it to say, the ponies’ journey to the Moon is as hilarious as it is exciting.
There are two things that Space Captain Pinkie Pie does exceptionally well, and that is: comedy and adventure. And hey, wouldn’t you know it, that’s the two genres it claims to be! Let me clarify a bit. SCPP does something which I think many authors, myself included, struggle to accomplish: capture Pinkie’s character as it is meant to be. Often I find that authors misinterpret Pinkie as being a completely random character who is more or less off in her own world all the time. However, I would argue that Pinkie is far more grounded than people make her out to be and is in fact one of the more well-rounded characters, especially with regards to Season 1. So, I was very happy with SCPP when terrycloth managed to capture that so well.
The other thing it does well, as I said, is it really captures that sense of adventure that is sometimes hard to firmly grasp. You really get the feel that what they’re doing is a first for their kind, and it harkens back to the early days of the Space Program, and the feeling that you get (or at least I do) when you look up at the sky and realize just how much is out there that we don’t know about. Space Captain Pinkie Pie is a very rewarding adventure story, and it’s damn funny to boot. However, unlike the other two fics this week, it is not short, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, I promise you that it is well worth your time. Even if you’re like me, and you hate Pinkie Pie, you will love this fic.
Pav wipes the non-existent sweat from his brow. “Phew, we made it through another round, guys.”
Nick nods grimly. “Yes, but at what cost?”
Pav shrugs. “Like $6.50 I guess. I mean, that’s how much the beer was.”
Nick turns out his empty pockets and opens his wallet. A single moth lazily flutters out.
“At least we got through unscathed, and no one realized that April Fool’s was just an excuse to buy us more time, right?” Alex says. “So, I guess that means we win... or something.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” says Pav.
“Now we just gotta decide who’s going to write the intro and outro for this week,” says Nick. “I’m way too busy doing stuff, so it can’t be me.”
“Same,” says Pav. “I’m busy doing, y’know, whatever it is that I do.”
They both turn to look at Alex. He groans and rolls his eyes.
Special thanks to Lhmac, AugieDog, Phazon, and Cassius for the recommendations we’ve used thus far.