• Member Since 25th Feb, 2013
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Titanium Dragon

TD writes and reviews pony fanfiction, and has a serious RariJack addiction. Send help and/or ponies.

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Read It Later Reviews #89 – All The Good Things, Simulations, The Banach-Tarski Dragon, Foreign Thoughts, Ponies All The Way Down · 5:52pm May 9th

I actually wrote this the same day as I finished up Read It Later Reviews #88. It’s been a long time since I actually got ahead on review sets. It’s crazy! What’s next, me actually publishing another story?

Today’s stories:

All Good Things by Coronet the Lesser
Simulations by Monochromatic
The Banach-Tarski Dragon by CCC
Foreign Thoughts by GAPJaxie
Ponies All The Way Down by ObabScribbler

All Good Things
by Coronet the Lesser

Slice of Life
3,368 words

Princess Twilight Sparkle has overseen peace and prosperity throughout Equestria for as long as ponies can remember. During a quiet evening, Twilight tells the tale of her many adventures to her latest student and how she remembers her friends long passed.

But she can't tarry too long, for she has a long-overdue meeting to attend.

Why I added it: I like stories about immortals.

Writing slice of life stories is often tricky. They have a certain sort of appeal to them, but at the same time, their lack of adherence to conventional story structure can lead to problems, as you have to be clever in how you create a climax in a piece like this.

I liked what this story tried to do, but I feel like the execution on it didn’t quite work.

The story starts out with Twilight talking to her latest student, who talks to her teacher about her past friends. Her student wants to know what happened to Twilight’s old friends, and Twilight tries to impart some Deep Wisdom on her student.

It’s all very nice.

We then get to see what has become of the immortals – the retired princesses and Discord. And it is here that I think the story loses its way. It shows them living their lives as people (though this is always a bit awkward, as people’s headcanon about what Luna and Celestia are like without being in charge of Equestria is often very discordant) but it feels like it spends a bunch of time doing that in a bit that is meant to be funny, but which ends up feeling tonally dissonant from the rest of the piece, which is more hopefully melancholic. And this bit takes up a fair bit of the piece, before it resumes what felt like the initial thrust of it at the end.

It needed to illustrate its point, and I feel like it got all the pieces in a pile, but I don’t think that they ended up assembled in a manner that quite satisfied me.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

by Monochromatic

Romance, Comedy
11,251 words

Twilight Sparkle regrets botching her romantic confession to Rarity. As a joke, Rarity proposes a simple and elegant solution: break up and try it again.

She just wasn't prepared for Twilight to agree to it.

Why I added it: Monochromatic is a good writer.

After five years of dating, Twilight and Rarity are having a playful conversation about Twilight’s original confession of love that had gone… shall we say, less than swimmingly.

So, as a joke, Rarity suggests that they break up and then do it all over again.

Twilight seems reluctant to embrace the idea, but after some thought, she agrees to it. A fake breakup, followed by a new and improved confession.

I have to say, this story started out a bit rough and frankly, rather slow. The initial conversation goes on for a while, and then they debate the reason for the fake breakup, and then the actual fake breakup happens…

And through this, they have set up a little safe word system, where they can “pause” the scene and discuss it. (Twilight has opinions about the stalkerish tendencies of romance novel protagonists).

Honestly, I almost stopped reading this story before it even got to the meat of it, almost halfway through the story. It’s not that the idea wasn’t amusing, but it was a lot of setup, and honestly, it didn’t really do it for me – it felt a bit tepid, too flat. Much as the idea of this story amused me, watching fictional characters play even more fictional characters, it didn’t really feel like it was accomplishing much beyond being cutesy.

The story only really takes off about 4,000 words in, as the elaborate fake confession setup happens. It is only here that we start seeing hints that more is going on here than some silly story, and I was happy to see these clues get dropped. Indeed, the only reason why I kept reading was because I caught the clue, and I would have frankly been very disappointed if it wasn’t going where I thought it was going.

And it did go there, and I was glad for that.

The problem is, there was little drama in it. Almost none, in fact. The brief moment of drama that might have given us some dramatic tension for the rest of the story was immediately defused, and while it was probably realistic for Rarity to interrupt things there to clarify, the result was that the story didn’t really feel like it had anything beyond the shippy cuteness to it, and so it ended up feeling a bit emotionally flat.

And while there’s something to be said for cute shipping stories, one of those things is “ten thousand words is quite long for that to be your only major emotional note.” The spots of humor here and there did mix things up a little, but it didn't end up feeling like it was enough to me.

I’m sounding pretty harsh here, I know. I did like bits and pieces of this, and Rarity’s giddiness is cute, and Twilight certainly has her moments. But it felt very cute and fluffy, without much emotional crunch.

Recommendation: There’s people who like fluff, so if you like that, and like RariLight, this might be up your alley, but I’d have a hard time recommending it to anyone else.

The Banach-Tarski Dragon
by CCC

Slice of Life
4,071 words

The Banach-Tarski Theorem describes how to split a sphere and re-arrange the pieces to make two spheres of volume equal to the original sphere.

Turns out it works on dragons, too.

Why I added it: I liked changeling, which was another story they wrote, and because I am a big enough nerd to know what the Banach-Tarski Paradox is.

Twilight tries to duplicate an apple using a spell based on the Banach-Tarski Theorem. Instead, she accidentally duplicates Spike.

The two Spikes seem okay at first glance, but it quickly becomes clear that while their bodies may have been duplicated, their personalities were halved. And one of them is causing problems…

Unfortunately, this story didn’t really do a whole lot for me. It was all very straightforward, and didn’t really feel like it did anything tremendously difficult from many other stories about accidentally duplicating someone and splitting their personality into different halves. Indeed, it feels like just about the most basic possible execution of that story, and didn’t really feel like it had a huge amount to say about Spike, and the plot felt just kind of bare-bones. The central reason for one of the Spikes being disgruntled is introduced and resolved in a single section in the middle of the story, and there wasn’t really much meat to it on the whole.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

Foreign Thoughts
by GAPJaxie

Alternate Universe, Slice of Life
1,986 words

Celestia has an important lesson to teach Twilight -- she cannot bring harmony into the world until she finds it inside herself.

Why I added it: GAPJaxie is a good writer.

In a world where Equestria is very, very Japanese, Twilight sits and shares a meal with her mentor.

“Harmony,” Celestia said, “is a foreign country.”

And so it begins, for, you see, to Twilight, foreign things are not good.

Are they?

This is a dense little piece about ethnocentrism. In this alternate universe, the unicorns are clearly dominant, with Princess Celestia on the very top. The unicorns are very reluctant to do things in another way, or even make accommodation for those who are different. They have a particular culture and a way of doing things, and they see no reason why they should change the way that they are to accommodate others. This results in others being de facto excluded from polite society.

They eat in a certain way, and to eat in another way is seen not only as rude, but as outright barbaric - like how we would see someone who, instead of using a fork and knife, instead just sticks their hand into their food and eating it with their bare hands, or lowering their face to the table to eat straight off the plate.

This is a well-structured and highly compact story, featuring a powerful reflection; in the first half, Celestia speaks to Twilight about what Harmony truly is, but Twilight is upset by the lesson. In the second half, Twilight and Rarity share a meal, and Twilight uses Rarity as a sounding board. The Socratic method is used, not merely in the sense of asking questions to talk down to someone, but in asking people questions to try and decipher one’s own beliefs and motivations.

Twilight Sparkle is used as a vehicle here to show why people may struggle with these things, even unwittingly – something that made some of the readers of this story uncomfortable. And yet, it is what makes the story work. She is familiar, and yet alien; she has retained her inquisitive nature and good heart, but she is struggling because she is being shown that she has been unthinkingly doing things that go against her inner nature, because she has simply never questioned it – a lesson which can also be applied to the audience at large.

Above all, it is very efficient; it clocks in at under 2,000 words, and yet, manages to get its message across in a pretty potent way.

Recommendation: Recommended.

Ponies All the Way Down
by Obabscribbler

Drama, Sad, Slice of Life
2,433 words

Sweetie Belle waits for Rarity to return from a trip to Canterlot. She is desperate for her sister to come home - and desperate for her to stay away, too.

What a mess.

Why I added it: ObabScribbler is a good writer.

Sweetie Belle is very happy to see her sister, but something is clearly wrong. The cheerful filly is desperately trying to impress her big sister, and is clearly fearful of her absence, in a way that goes far beyond her normal level of attachment.

This is a story about mental illness, and how it can affect a family. It’s definitely not a pleasant story. The way that Sweetie reacts is pretty heartbreaking, and the choice it presents Rarity with – and the sacrifices she may have to make as a result of learning what is going on – has a strong emotional tenor to it.

And yet, at the same time, I walked away from this thinking, “It’s over?”

Of course, in situations like this, it never really is over. Life goes on, but stories don’t.

It’s always awkward for me responding to works like this, as while I liked the emotional tenor of this piece, at the same time, it didn’t really quite feel like a story to me, but more like a story fragment from a larger piece – even though it is a complete piece.

Something bad is going on, feel sympathy!

And I do, but at the same time, while it did have a conclusion, and something did end up happening, I didn't feel a strong cathartic surge as a response at the conclusion of the piece, which is usually the purpose of such works - you bring the audience down, and then make them feel catharsis at the end.

This, however, did not do that, and I think it may have been deliberate - trying to leave the reader in a muddled sense of loss, as the situation is bad and the "resolution" is really "coping". Which I suspect was the purpose of the piece - problems like this often do not simply disappear - but at the same time, it ultimately felt a bit unsatisfying. The point of view character is feeling a bit mollified, but Rarity is feeling worse.

Why is this? Even as I post this review set, I am trying to come up with a reason why I feel so ambivalent about this piece. There's nothing inherently wrong with leaving the reader with a different emotional state than the expected one; indeed, stories with twists deliberately do so, and I like those. And there have been plenty of stories that ended in darker emotions that I liked - some of my favorite stories have sad endings, or even dark ones.

Part of it might just be that there isn't much of a difference in emotional tenor here; the resolution doesn't really feel like it has much contrast with the rest of the piece. The piece is all channeling a single set of emotions of loss, fear, and sadness, and the ending feels like it has that same mixture of emotions, with Rarity having them as well. Or maybe the feeling of catharsis I'm supposed to feel at Sweetie Belle being given something more than a bolt-hole didn't end up connecting with me because my emotional connection to Rarity is stronger than it is to the POV character, and as an adult I'm too aware of just what Rarity is having to give up here to feel the necessary catharsis.

Or maybe it's just hard to sell me on stuff like this. :fluttershyouch:

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

All Good Things by Coronet the Lesser
Not Recommended

Simulations by Monochromatic
Not Recommended

The Banach-Tarski Dragon by CCC
Not Recommended

Foreign Thoughts by GAPJaxie

Ponies All The Way Down by ObabScribbler
Not Recommended

Ah, there’s the TD we all know and remember!

I actually read more stories than even this, having re-read a number of things, as well as caught up on a few incomplete stories. I do love reading and thinking about stories. I should do more of it again, as I was very remiss in doing so while I wasn't writing reviews.

It seems like making reading stories more work would make me read more of them, but not so much.

I'm weird like that.

I'd like to thank all of you who verbalized (well, textualized) your appreciation for my return to being active on the site. It gave me the warm and fuzzies inside to hear it.

Number of stories still listed as Read It Sooner: 240

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later: 689

Number of stories listed as Read It Eventually: 2299

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Comments ( 9 )

Great, now I have to follow another geek. :derpytongue2:

My Broken Symmetry novella is so overly-nerdtastic I actually had to plan it in advance (which I never do even for long stories), and then I had to go back in and add a couple of diagrams so readers could have a chance at following the events of the story (at the end).

Hmm. Now I'm curious what the science/math-geekiest stories on Fimfiction are. I've written at least two of them.

There's always Bad Horse's Displacement, which is one of those displaced stories, except the person is displaced as semiotic psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.


Now I'm curious what the science/math-geekiest stories on Fimfiction are.

Something by Pineta, I'd assume. The odds are in his favor if only due to volume.

Oddly enough, I've actually read that one, but I don't know if I'd call the soft sciences "geeky" per se.

I was in a grad program for clinical psych PhD students once and they were frightened by Bayesian statistics. Like, that was the "hard class" everypony had to pass. The one where you apply Bayes rule. The one that's (to me) even easier than the other kind, which is also pretty easy.

I appreciate the review despite you ultimately not recommending my story . The tonal shift was a problem I had in the initial draft. I was very much trying to avoid my story falling into the sad category, thus the interjection of comedy and the moments with the other immortals. I understand though your point in relation to it potentially detracting from the rest of the piece.

Still thanks for the review!

I am so glad you got the subtext I was going for. :twilightsmile:

a lesson which can also be applied to the audience at large.

The story was controversial enough (fire in the comments) that I was worried I'd been too obtuse. But I think what you got out of the story was exactly what I intended, and that feels good.

It's always tough managing stuff like that. I got the point you were going for - the story was showing that she missed her friends but that she had new friends, and that life went on, and they were happy and there were good times, it wasn't ETERNAL IMMORTAL WEEPING. It just felt tonally weird the way it ultimately ended up presented.

To be fair, I think part of why people got so upset was precisely why the story worked - Twilight Sparkle is a character that the audience identifies with, and here, she's got some ethnocentrism in her. Because that is them/the person they sympathize with, that means that the lesson applies to them/those around them. That made them angry, because, clearly, they don't every behave this way.

Alas, they are far from Harmony. :trollestia:

It gave me the warm and fuzzies inside to hear it.

Have you seen a doctor about that yet? May be a bit hard to get an appointment right now so since it doesn't seem to be life threatening maybe hold off for a while.

Joking aside I am happy to have you back doing these. I always enjoy your reviews of stories. Maybe someday I'll even read the ones I put on my Read Later shelf... .

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