As many of you may or may not know, I am not particularly fond of Fallout: Equestria. Anyone who chats with me might know that I complain about this I don’t like about it. Very frequently.
You know, no matter how much I bitch about it, I keep coming back to it. Why spend so much thought on something I apparently hate, apart from being just that petty and one-track-minded?
Wait, I answered my own question.
But to be more wordy, I think at this point it’s safe to say that I’m actually kind of a fan of the story. I mean, I read it, I discuss it, I enjoy fanart of it, I read fanfiction of it, and I’m even writing my own thing (just once I can decide what to happen in this chapter). Heck, the fic got me to buy the actual games. All of ‘em (except Brotherhood of Steel ‘cause I don’t have an XBox and apparently that game sucks)!
And I figured I could never bring myself to say that I seriously thought this story was bad. And reading that terrible Harry Potter fic lately has made me a bit more appreciative. I mean, Rose Potter makes Littlepip look like Marge Gunderson.
So I think I’ll use this blog post to talk about all the things in the story I actually like. Make no mistake, this isn’t exactly going to be a redaction of all the things I’ve complained about before, but rather a little alternative that I think I can keep backhanded comments out of. Also, this won’t be a list of things like “Well, I thought chapter 9 was the bee’s knees!” (Although it really was.) It’s easy to point out chapters, scenes, or jokes, but I want to get a better “big picture” look at the story.
So let’s begin. What did I like about this story?
1. Attention to Detail
One of the things that most readers of this story agree on is the strength of the worldbuilding. And I’m gonna have to agree there. There’s a lot of nice stuff built around the different locations, how they work, the folks that live there, what the places were before, during, and after the war and how they developed to how they are at present in the story. It does a lot to make the various locations varied and interesting and keep up a good sense of adventure.
In addition to worldbuilding, the author’s also very good at descriptions, with a flair for detail that really helps the reader to picture characters and places in their mind. Maybe this comes from the author’s background as an artist?
2. How to do a Crossover
One person I was talking to said he liked the stuff I wrote because it wasn’t just “pop culture reference in Equestria.” And that’s a good way of describing a lot of these crossover fics that just take a video game character and stick them in Equestria because magic portal or Twilight fucks up a spell or something. Maybe I shouldn’t generalize that approach as a bad one, but it doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.
Fallout: Equestria, on the other hand, went for a Fusion Fic approach, which I think works better. Rather than simply rip elements off and throw them in, it works them into the story, helping to build the world. It helps to give the story its own coherent identity, rather than an ill-fitting mishmash of two things that don’t really work. Ultimately, this approach is just more creative, and it also evokes more of a sense of wonder.
And by making it its own setting, rather than simply copying something else, it gave everyone else a sandbox to play around in.
3. The Protagonist is Gay
Okay, so I have complained about Littlepip’s frequent ogling moments, but that’s not really much of a sticking point. Murky ogles mares sometimes. That doesn’t bother me. So I’m going to chalk up whatever annoyances I have with Littlepip’s ogling moments to just being an extension of my dislike for the character. And that’s not what this is about.
But I think that it’s worth mentioning that a lot of gay characters in media are, well… look at Kurt from Glee (or rather, don’t). Essentially his entire personality and characterization is that he’s gay. He dresses fabulously, has a high-pitched voice, likes musical theatre, works at a fashion magazine… everything about him is a campy stereotype. And that seems to apply to a lot of gay characters in media, sad to say.
Littlepip doesn’t really have those problems. Off the bat, we know she’s a lesbian, and she acts accordingly, i.e. she looks at mares and she’s attracted to them and she gets a girlfriend she has sex with. But she’s not a walking stereotype, i.e. not super-butch and with some crazy hatred of everything male.
I’ve seen a few people comment that there’s no real reason for Littlepip to be a lesbian, like it’s a completely arbitrary story element. But I think that’s what makes it good, really. You don’t need a reason for the main character to be gay. As long as they’re well-put-together characters, it doesn't matter. I think that's the direction that LGBT characters in the media should take.
I also think it’s kind of a clever spin on this fandom's tendency for femslash.
4. Littlepip Being Petty
So if you’re aware of my complaints about the story and it’s protagonist, you’ll find the note “she’s a dick” coming up a lot. But actually, the parts about Littlepip I liked the most were the points where she was being petty.
You know, things like her pining after Velvet and feeling bad when she got together with Calamity, or that part where she felt a twinge of jealousy upon hearing that Homage had a girlfriend before her. These might not sound like endearing qualities, but they’re very human emotions that flesh out her character and make her feel more like an actual person. They inspire empathy, and the way Littlepip has to come to grips with them, suck it up, and accept it and learn to be happy for them despite her own desires is probably her best case of character growth.
It might seem like a small thing, but I think it’s the little things that make or break a story.
5. Setup and Payoff
From a simple storytelling perspective, Fallout Equestria’s strongest point is probably its plotting. The story is very good at that, setting up relatively minor-looking plot elements and then bringing them back in surprising ways. Some choice examples:
The megaspell in Silver Bell’s barn being used to wipe out the Goddess.
The crusader mainframe in stable 29 foreshadowing the one at the SPP.
The note about how the Black Book couldn’t be destroyed, with Spike’s fire only sending it to Princess Celestia.
It helps to give a sense of continuity and makes for some really neat, surprising moments. Like, “Oh snap, I totally didn’t expect that!” It’s just really nice to see things come together, y’know? It’s neat and gives us a payoff in an exciting and explosive (in some instances) way.
And the story’s filled with these. While reading, a lot of the time I didn’t think much of the flashbacks to the past, but I was mistaken, as they all payed off very well, sometimes in surprising ways. I know there are some people who didn't like the flashback stuff, but it's really a pretty neat (if depressing) story in and of itself.
6. The Author Clearly Loved the Source Material
This probably seems like a fairly minor point, but after reading some fanfics that pretty much just exist to bash other things (like some of those Harry Potter fics I mentioned in a previous blog post) it's just refreshing to see something where the "fan" in fanfic is realized. I never really felt like the story was really betraying the canon characters - in fact, it's practically deferential to them for most of the story, which really goes a long way to keep the story from feeling mean-spirited.
And let's face it, it'd be very, very easy for a story about Rarity dying in a toxic cloud to come off looking incredibly mean-spirited. But in the end, as far as the canon characters are concerned, it kinda doesn't.
This, again, might seem like a small deal, but it helps to keep the story from being overly-alienating, and with this kind of premise, that's a huge plus.
There are other things I could like. Like, there are characters and moments and stuff in the story I like, like SteelHooves, Red Eye, the meeting with Silver Bell, some other parts that are genuinely fun and creative, and some other things, but again, I wanted to look at some bigger picture overall things that I like, rather than a checklist of "this was funny and/or endearing."
Now, if only I can get my piece of crap written.