• Member Since 3rd Sep, 2011
  • offline last seen 9 hours ago

PresentPerfect


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

More Blog Posts2409

Nov
15th
2021

Present Perfect vs. Pegasus Device · 10:10pm Nov 15th, 2021

This is from last month, but site author FabulousDivaRarity needs some help! The GoFundMe hasn't funded yet, so there's still a need!

This is interesting: A new fic reader called Story Rhyme, who isn't actually reading fics, but writing verse poems based on them and reading those instead. I kind of think this is neat! His first video is EbonMane's The Cough.

I don't usually do news before vs. posts, but it's been a while since the last regular blog and will likely be a while still until the next. I've got less than 100 videos left, though, and a good 20 of those are not Plagen Shiki! So let's talk about one of his readings in depth:

Pegasus Device, by AuroraDawn.


I feel like I'm coming full circle here, in some ways. Rainbow Factory was famously[citation needed] my first vs. fic review, and now here I am, nine years later, talking about the sequel that was every bit as successful as the original.

Of course, my response to Rainbow Factory was also famously[citation needed] controversial, being at first very positive before I was cowed into mellowing it somewhat. <.< I'm not immune to peer pressure, sue me.

But the things I liked about Rainbow Factory can be summed up as two notes. First, that AuroraDawn stands apart from other authors of early, classic grimdark fics by virtue of, like, actually knowing how to write? They clearly know what they're doing on both a technical and structural basis, and that shows in the sequel as well.

Secondly, I actually kind of liked the premise. Not that I thought "pegasi turn their foals into goop to make rainbows" was canon or anything. Just that, if something like that were to be true, it would be the pegasi who were doing it and not anyone else. They had a military history, Cloudsdale especially is a very insular community, it just makes sense. And in a strange way, I've always felt like the show held up that supposition.

The rest is, well, kinda dumb. A good effort, but, c'mon, look at that premise. It's inherently ridiculous.

Pegasus Device does little to separate itself from its predecessor. To wit, it actually starts right at the end of Rainbow Factory, with the "you have beautiful eyes" line Scootaloo delivers right before Rainbow Dash presumably murders her into rainbows. From here stems three major plot lines. The first, and weirdly least important, involves Rainbow Dash trying to maintain control over the factory while her predecessor, Dr. Atmosphere, tries to wrest it away from her. The politicking was kind of interesting, certainly not anything I expected from the story, but not any kind of draw.

Second, we get to see the inner workings of the factory through the eyes of the hilariously named Gentle Butterwing, who is randomy and quite suddenly selected for promotion from being a "lower factory" engineer to the "upper factory". There, she meets a number of ponies who've been slowly losing their minds as they grapple with the reality of just what it is they do at the weather factory, while also trying to maintain and optimize decades-old machinery.

Last and definitely not least is a story that seems at first like it's just going to be a rehash of the first story: A group of flight test failures being brought in to the factory for processing. A few of them die, but two foals, a colt named Corona and a filly named Cloud Cover, escape and spend the story trying to find a way out of the factory. And if any part of the story was notably strong, I'd say it was this one, though they all have their issues.

So what did I like? Well, like I said, the writing is good, the struggle between Dash and Atmosphere had a lot of tension behind it, and the foals' escape plotline, I kid you not, reminded me of a lot of the things I like most about Fallout: Equestria. Seriously, they're crawling through ductwork, trying to avoid blood-thirsty workers, and running into a group of special failures who've been secreted away to use as fuel to power the machinery because their colors are like, white and black and -- I shit you not -- clear, and thus no good for making rainbows. From there, they get sent on a mission to hunt down a ghost who turns out to be someone important, plus there's computer hacking. It's seriously FoE without being FoE.

Oh yeah, and there's the one very bizarre scene early on when Gentle is learning about her new job and the explanation her coworker gives goes into the nitty-gritty to a depth I never would have expected nor anticipated. I was somehow charmed by just how boring and normal it was, though. Like, if you ignore the wanton foal murder, that first chapter would fit in Admiral Biscuit's not-a-contest. Just a pony learning her job! Perfectly reasonable!

Also, bizarrely, the foals' story kind of kept my attention because of the short description of this story's own sequel. You know how you can see those in the box on the right when you look at a story? Well, sometime in chapter 2, I realized Cloud Cover's name was there, indicating she was still alive by the end of the story. That completely undercut my expectations, since, y'know, when foals escape being processed by the rainbow factory, it just means Rainbow Dash is gonna catch them and kill them later. But the foreknowledge that at least one of them was going to survive got me thinking. How will they survive? Will it be both of them, or just her? That thread ends on an anticlimax, but I'll talk more about that later.

Also, the "someone important" I mentioned was a nice little mystery. Not hard to figure out, but we're first presented this all-white mare who has the mind of a child and no real memories of anything. That quickly just... stops being a thing, after which it's easy to figure out she's Scootaloo. Then she just sort of tries to form an army to use against Rainbow Dash, and that wasn't nearly as interesting. But I'm supposed to be talking about things I liked, oh wait, I'm done, and everything else leaves something to be desired. Let's start with the goddamn philosophy.

Pegasus Device is an attempt to dive deeply into the setting of Rainbow Factory, not just the inner workings of the machines that pump stuff around to make weather, but also the reasons why it exists in the first place. This leads to a crapload of interminable scenes of ponies discussing at length things like justice, reputation, power, responsibility, and the difference between good and evil.

I'm normally not one for long philosophical discussions as it is, but this was a particular brand of galling because, early on, we're told by numerous ponies that everyone who works in the factory is insane. They say it about other ponies; they say it about themselves. We see, very clearly, that a number of Gentle's new coworkers are not right in the head. Like Contrail, an unfortunately major character who constantly laughs like a hyena and I hate him so much. (This is, admittedly, largely in part to Plagen Shiki's reading. I mean, it's good voice acting, really sold the part, but given how much screen time he has, it got real old real fast.)

So when Contrail's telling Corona about how the "killing foals for rainbows" thing came about long ago, was voted on by pegasi living in Cloudsdale, and exists because otherwise, the natural warlike tendencies of pegasi would lead to them tearing their own society apart, what is supposed to be my takeaway? Am I really supposed to think that he has a valid argument when he talks about how Corona killing his friend makes him no better than the ponies who work in the factory? Because he's fucking wrong, number one: killing for freedom is inherently more ethical than killing for goddamn rainbows.

Like, seriously. This is not The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, here. This isn't a utopian paradise built on the suffering of one person we're talking about; it's just a normal life with some pretty lights created by grinding multiple children in machines. Though there are some arguments near the end that it's all weather that requires sacrifice to create, they're clearly bullshit. Rainbows exist to give ponies hope. That's it. It's not worth taking multiple lives for, and that's what makes Rainbow Factory's premise so inherently ridiculous. As over-the-top grimdark, it works. As philosophical debate? Not so much.

The point being, when characters that are shown to be completely out of their minds are trying to argue anything, that would normally be a sign that the story does not want you to believe their statements have any validity. And yet. We just keep coming back again and again to the same talking points from the same ponies, spending far too much time with them, and watching the other characters fall prey to their crazed gaslighting. I mean, maybe it's perfectly legitimate for kids to cave when an adult seems to be arguing their point in a much more confident manner, maybe I'm smarter than the characters and can see the bullshit for what it is. But that was an awful lot of bullshit to have to wade through.

Also, I got sick of "the flock". Everything is done "for the flock". I don't recall it being driven home quite that hard in the first story. But like, in the first scene between Dash and Atmosphere, he tells her one of their researchers has discovered a method for extracting spectra from living ponies via blood transfusion. They could get the materials to make rainbows and sacrifice zero lives. And what does she do?

She tells him to shut the project down and have that researcher tortured.

That was when I knew I was really in for it. They're not just here to murder foals and make rainbows and they're all outta rainbows, they're strengthening THE FLOCK by removing THE FAILURES for the GLORY OF CLOUDSDALE and THE PEGASUS RACE. Fucking shut the hell up already, you crazy bitch, you just like murdering foals because this is a grimdark AU where you think your friends abandoned you and you have computers and TVs and shit. Goddammit, this story was way too long.

Also, I really hated the swearing. <.< Alongside your standard "buck" for "fuck", you also had "flock", plus "manure" for "shit", which just does not work as an exclamation. Seriously. Try saying it to yourself. See how angrily you can shout "Manure!" It just doesn't have the same effect. Oh yeah, and let's not forget "Oh my alicorn."

There's very little else I really want to talk about, but I did want to bring up that ending again. See, Rainbow vs. Atmosphere rather falls to the wayside for a back and forth between Gentle's storyline and that of the two foals. But when it comes back to the forefront by the end, it comes with a very interesting twist.

See, Dr. Atmosphere might be just as amoral and crazy as everyone else. But he's almost the hero of the story? I'm not kidding.

In the climax, which I will admit I didn't follow too closely, Scootaloo kills herself to take away Rainbow's surrogate sister as well as the failure she could never kill. This breaks the Rainbow Dash, and then Atmosphere, who's just been standing idly by is like, okay, kids! Time to go home! And they're like, "Fucking what?" and he's like, "No, seriously. We're done here." And he just lets them go.

This isn't a selfless act, not by half. He wants the factory for himself. One of the last things he says to Rainbow is that the two of them could implement that humane spectra-harvesting project and "rule the world". But the foals leave because he lets them, perfectly scott-free.

Then they go back to Cloudsdale and try to warn everyone about what happened, except there's a news broadcast where Atmosphere himself is explaining just what it was they were doing at the factory and how they're going to stop, moving forward, and make weather humanely. Despite his collusion in everything, he's able to spin the truth of the factory into "we were just doing it because tradition, but we've seen the error of our ways, and oh, we're definitely the villains here, don't feel sorry for us." And it becomes this massive reverse-psychology PR campaign that lets him get off scott-free and in control of the factory, just like he wanted. It's kind of brilliant, especially when you consider the Chekov guns set up in the first few scenes.

But ultimately, it does nothing to change the fact that, as much as I may or may not have liked the original story, I'm just not interested in seeing it continue. I don't care that Cloud Cover lived. I don't care what Atmosphere is going to do with the factory. I'm done. It's over. Go home.

2.5/5

Rainbow Factory did not need a sequel.

Comments ( 6 )
PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Can you believe that after I posted my Deltarune fic yesterday, I started a third one? No one needed this, but here we are. Enjoy horse words talk.

media.discordapp.net/attachments/753434497009057833/909962814523867136/thinkaurora.png

In all seriousness, thanks for the review. I'm happy with how the story performed and hope that time, life experience, and practice have all come together to improve my abilities not only as a writer, but as a story teller.

I hope you'll try one of the new stories out. Weather Worker's Song or Rainbow's Factory I think are some of my best works in the series, and they're short compared to the Pegasus Device stories. I'd be curious to see how much a difference you find 7 years makes. :)

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5607672
I have confidence you've only grown as a writer over the years. :)

also, omg, I love that XD

kits #4 · Nov 16th, 2021 · · 7 ·

> Rainbow Factory did not need a sequel.

Rainbow Factory didn’t need to be written in the first place. But, like cupcakes, it’s a great way to find people to avoid.

But what about a trilogy? I think Rainbow Factory was a self contained reasonable grimdark - the second one was awkward years where it wasn't really clear why it was happening - and then the third one was actually pretty good again with investigative journalism and casual racism.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer
Login or register to comment