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PresentPerfect


Fanfiction masochist. :B https://ko-fi.com/presentperfect

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Jun
20th
2013

Fic recs June 19th · 2:39am Jun 20th, 2013

Getting a few of these out of the way ahead of paired writing contests. Oy!

Also, two more Illya Leonov readings and then it's on to Past Sins! Yay. :V

The Archer and the Smith by Sharaloth
Reading by Illya Leonov
Genre: Fantasy Epic
What. A great. Story. This is seriously one of the best pieces of fanfiction I have ever had the pleasure to read. No wonder I’d always heard so much about it. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, the characters are vibrant and appealing, and the themes are handled lightly, even when the story is being overt about its purpose. Of course, I was most charmed by the setting, a medium-fantasy post-apocalyptic Equestria whose origins and true nature are left as an exercise to the reader to suss out, with just enough clues to provide a full foundation. References to the world and its history are grand in scope; the feel of the entire story is epic despite its length. This is the kind of fantasy that is regularly lauded by fans of the genre, the kind that has always been already-written and never coming-out-soon. And it’s not too far from ponyfic either, given that we get to watch a deep friendship and more budding between the titular characters over the story’s course. What I liked most about this, though? For once we have a story that takes Lyra’s fanon personality and treats it seriously, giving it a purpose. The description links to a pair of images, of which one is probably my absolute favorite piece of Lyra fanart, which inspired the story. You may want to skip those links until after you’ve read it, for the aforementioned art will spoil the surprise in the story. (Also, a much larger spoiler is hidden in the character tags, so don’t pay those much heed either.) And there must be something very compelling about medieval smithing stories, too, for this is at least the third I have read and enjoyed (a ponyfic called Sword, Hammer, Stallion springs immediately to mind, along with a trilogy of novels whose author I can’t recall, the first being The Anvil of Ice, and the third of which I never finished). Maybe it’s getting up close and personal with a trade that is equal parts back-breaking labor and artistic expression, watching its practitioner pour their body and soul into work painstakingly shaped for a specific purpose. Sharaloth certainly has a tremendous way with words that suits well here. I will point out one thing, let’s call it a flub: the ending scene. I was rather not expecting that. I honestly anticipated the story to not go into the fight, and to just leave off with a message of hope that Lyra would succeed in her task. This is not to say the action scene was bad — if anything, I would hold it up as an example of how to keep action moving — though the POV within it seemed a tad fluid; it just wasn’t what I would have done, I suppose. It hardly ruins the story. In short, The Archer and the Smith is an excellent work of epic fantasy and a near-perfect story. If you have not read this yet, you are sorely missing out.
Highly Recommended

Pinkie Pie’s Balloons by Pav Feira
Genre: Children’s story
This was the winning entry of the Hearth’s Warming Care Package that was sent to Kiki last year. It just so happens that I was able to finally meet the author at Trotcon 2013, and went through his stories, so I wanted to plug this one since I’ve read it before. Though this wasn’t my favorite of the HWCP entries (that being Chris’s Going Up), I think Pav really captured what I myself was unable to: the spirit of what one should do in writing for a child. The story progresses in a gentle sort of way, using light repetition to drive home the main idea as Pinkie slowly sinks into melancholy. You’ll doubtless be able to see where it’s going, but then you are also (I assume) not ten years old. The resolution is completely satisfying regardless. Being the winning entry, this was illustrated, and I recommend reading the text version, which still has the illustrations but is slightly less busy to look at. Also, marvel at Pav Feira sneaking a blatant reference to The Room into a children’s story. What a jerk. :V
Recommended

Pinkie Pie Is Dead by Chromosome
Reading by WhoLandon
Genre: Noir Mystery
Yes, I signal boosted this once, but it’s finished now so I can review it and these are my reviews and you can’t tell me what to do because you’re not my real dad. :V The short version: if the title turns you off — if you can’t stand the idea of reading about one of the mane cast having been killed — skip this. If you can stomach the concept, however (and let it be known, I’m not a big fan of the premise myself), you’ll find it to be a wonderfully crafted noir story with a lot of twists, turns, and rage-inducing red herrings. This was an experiment in noir style, which Chromosome nailed perfectly: his narrator is self-loathing, moody, looks upon the world with scorn and is filled with the need for revenge. The characters react to Pinkie’s death in sometimes surprising ways, but never out of character. Best of all is the detective’s relationship to Pinkie, the reason the investigation is personal. The revelation of the killer and the final attempt to capture them is one of the most out-there things I think I have ever experienced, and you’ll just have to read it to believe it (and no grousing if you don’t finish after the reveal, I’m warning you). The ending is full of feels, be warned, but you may end up hating the author anyway. You might also not want to read this right after Pinkie Pie’s Balloons, as I just realized that would cause major tonal whiplash.
Recommended

Heretical Fictions by Skywriter
Genre: ...Really hard to pin down
Okay, so the subtitle is “Twilight Sparkle Reads ‘Eternal’”, though it should really be “Twilight Sparkle Reads All of Your Fanfics And You Should All Be Ashamed”. And that’s what we’ve got here: a world where fanfics are read by ponies, and affect them in various ways. Twilight and Celestia have a talk about Eternal (which is causing all sorts of waves in Equestria), and take its lesson to heart. Honestly, this kind of makes Eternal into far more than it really needs to be, but at the same time, it feels like a reward for having slogged through that mess in the first place. There’s a lot of good comedic moments in here, most of them delivered by a Luna who is a clever melding of Canon and Anachronistically Awkward, and most of the rest by a great side character. I take a certain amount of umbrage both to Mr. Wells’ use of underlines for book titles and use of “to-” as in “to-night”. This may be Celestia’s mind, but it’s nevertheless distracting. Readers may also balk at the sheer amount of author headcanon happening in this — shades of the Descendant’s writing — but it is for the most part explained well enough that one should be able to work their way around it. Still, this story has a reference to Moonbeam, and I can’t not love it for that. It’s a good slice of life fic, just a brief exploration of an idea that lands us somewhere by the end. I’ll have to read the sequel later.
Recommended for people who read (not necessarily who liked) Eternal

Princess Luna Likes Coffee by Bradel
Reading by Scribbler
Genre: Monologue
FD: The whole reason I read the previous story was to read this one, which the author asked me to look over. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t on my to-read already. So. This is meant as a companion piece to Heretical Fictions and another work of Skywriter’s which I’ve already read, A Short Story by Twilight Sparkle. (That one was fun but severely meta, for the record. And I think it’s also a companion piece to another story, so there’s a lot to read here, I guess is what I’m saying.) What caught me immediately was the horrible mangling of Shakespearean English in Luna’s narration. Using thee and thou as one would use “you” to mean “one” introduced me to a whole new form of mental anguish I have never before experienced. Given that “one” is actually used in this way later, it also boggles the mind. So that’s execution; what the hell is this about? Not much. Luna basically rambles about all the wonderful new things she can experience since coming back from the moon. And despite the setup in the title and the part that’s actually about coffee, there’s no “Luna is currently hopped up on caffeine joke”, which I had kind of been hoping for. It’s been done, yes, but just something like a continual drawing back of the conversation to “Have I ever mentioned how much I love coffee? Coffee is really great!” would have given the reader something to bite onto. As it is, the final line is thoroughly mystifying to me, unless it’s meant as an Eternal reference, at which point I have to say, okay, this is based on way too many other fics. In short, I did not like it, but the author has said it’s staying as-is, so there you go.
Not Recommended

Report PresentPerfect · 1,132 views · #fic reviews
Comments ( 17 )

Hmm. Debated a little whether to respond to this privately or publicly. First of all, though, I want to thank Present for looking at my story for me. He did it as a favor, and whether or not he liked it, I appreciate that.

At the end of the day, I'm very happy with the piece, though I guess it's not quite as generally palatable as I'd initially assumed. It's exactly what I set out to write, and aside from a few issues (like initially using Shakespeare's subjunctive 'beest' rather than the proper middle English subjunctive 'be', and the thou/one thing which is a fair cop on consistency—I'll be changing the one 'one' over shortly, though I suspect Present would prefer if all the 'thou's went the other way instead), aside from those issues I really can't see revising it, because from my perspective there's not really anything to revise. So I'm just going to have to accept the fact that not everyone likes what I'm writing.

:twilightoops:

(And again, thank you Present)


ETA: No, I take it back. I even stand by the use of 'one'. There's a difference in usage between Luna asking the reader to view things from her perspective and her commenting in general about the qualities of coffee. In the latter, it's not a participative request, it's an observation that pertains as much to her as to the reader.

See? this is what I mean. I am, perhaps unfortunately, very happy with how it came out.

Yeah, too bad the plot of Archer was terrible; everything else about it was fantastic. Your idea of cutting off the last scene would've done it wonders, but I can't help but prefer my own idea of giving the reader an actual reason to care about Lyra's well being.

This is kinda my problem with any story where the main conflict is people ponies killing each other. When the consequences of failure are death, the it's going to take a whole lot to convince me to believe that the characters might actually fail. For that matter, Lyra herself never really seemed to care either.

This is part of why it's been so hard for me to get into fantasy literature. Ah, well, maybe the sequel's better.

Ah, The Archer and the Smith. My first introduction to that particular author, and I have been quite pleased with all of Sharaloth's other stories as well. Most recently I've been working my way through Harmony Theory, and wow have I been enjoying it.

I still think The Archer and the Smith is exceptionally dull. The characters are lifeless and have no motivations or emotional content, the dialogue is heavy-handed and stiff, the plot is meandering and uninspired. It has no redeeming features unless world-building alone gets you off.

This one was the focal point when I realized how little I agree with most folk's reading tastes. I expect I will never understand why anyone likes this.

1155678 The only real issue I have is with the idea that Luna was ever 'on' the moon—or was intimately aware of the passage of time, for that matter. There's nothing in the show to imply it, yet the fandom seems to assume it wholesale. It's ridiculous and I can never see past it.

1156063 Hmm. Fair enough. All canon says is that Celestia "banished her permanently in the moon", and going by visual evidence (the removal of the shadow on the moon) it's entirely reasonable to think that this has some change-of-state meaning beyond the simple relocational meaning fanon accepts.

That said, I'm personally fairly comfortable with the fanon interpretation on this, but I concede that a more abstract interpretation seems to be better supported by canon, on review.

1156068 I think the more important factor goes back to Cold in Gardez's blog post some time ago: Stores about ponies are stories about people. Any entity that could live in total isolation for an entire millenium without being utterly broken, mentally, is not an entity I can empathize with in any way. It would be utterly alien to anything even approaching the human condition.

Conversely, for Luna to be an emotionally empathetic character (as displayed in Luna Eclipsed), that imprisonment would have been the single greatest act of torture since the curse of Prometheus. As Christopher Hitchens said, at least you can get out of North Korea by dying. I'm not willing to accept that from FiM, and I simply don't think that most people have thought that through.

For the record I hate the underlines too. I wish that whatever part of my brain is in charge of telling me that things are okay to change would let me change them. Thanks for the commentary!

1156063
I hate that bit of fanon. I don't understand what is so hard to understand about sealing evil in an object and locking it completely away from the world. My guess is near total lack of imagination and literalism.

1156063 1156068 It really isn't the only fanon interpretation, though, just a common one. I've read plenty of fics that had celestial banishment be an "in" state rather than an "on" state (the Lunaverse stories springing immediately to mind considering yesterday's update).

That said, the recently concluded comic arc adds a bit of support to the "on" side of this, as well as suggesting that however Luna/Nightmare Moon was there, she's wouldn't have been alone.

1156150 I'd be interested to read that comic arc... just not interested enough to pay for it.

1156086 1156149
I guess for me, I've always laid this down to the difference between Nightmare Moon and Luna. Yes, forcing anything with a human-like mind to endure a thousand years of isolation would result in some bad stuff. Vernor Vinge doesn't quite touch on this idea in his books, I don't think, but he dances close on occasion and it's one of the bits that's always made me enjoy him. But I've always seen Nightmare Moon as the thing really sealing Luna away, into something like a thousand-year semi-consciousness. And the idea of Nightmare Moon enduring a millennium of boredom doesn't really bother me, all that much.

Then again, I also don't particularly care whether characters have human-like minds. Plenty of interesting work has been done on that front, too, by people like the late Iain M. Banks, and I also find that sort of stuff quite compelling. But that's more of a piece with the fact that I think speculative fiction ought to speculate, and that doesn't really pertain to what I've written in this particular instance.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

1156142
Change them, you dip. :V There aren't many and it's an easy fix.

1156395
Rest assured that it's not the ease of the task that's stopping me. I've actually been there on the editing screen with my cursor poised and couldn't go through with it. It's an art thing, I guess. The piece wants to be out of standard. I'm afraid I can offer no better explanation. For the record, I've done it for other pieces, so I don't know why this one is different.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

1156558
Well, I could understand it more if it was words and not formatting. c.c But I do know the feeling.

Now stab that feeling in the heart. :V You'll be better off for it.

Archer and Smith I'll have to check out, even though it's full AU.

As for Pinkie Pie is Dead, fics where a mane character dying is the premise, not the ending, sit better with me since I can take the canon disassociation right away instead of having it sprung on me.
Although the references to "Private Rocky" were jarring since I was partially convinced it was taking place in Pinkie's head, since Rocky is the name of an imaginary friend and "Private" is not a police rank, it is a military one. Just the kind of mistake Pinkie would make. And I am slightly disappointed this did not pan out.

As for Heretical fictions. It is a perfect micro version of the way I view Eternal.
These stories contain great sentiments that are unfortunately presented less than ideally by their authors.
Do so love the sentiment though.

1156149
No it's when she said in the premier that is had been so long since she had seen their sun loving faces. This means that she was aware of the passage of time at least. Though I agree. She was spiritually imprisoned within the moon, not physically on it's surface.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

1156769
You know, I had the same thoughts about Private Rocky the first time he was brought up, rank aside. <.< I should've said something.

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