Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 55: See the World They're Living In

Writing news: I'm finally back working on the last chapter of Where They Understand You. I want to get this done before too long, because it has one of my favourite last lines. (The rest of the fic is total garbage, obviously. :P ) Anyway, this week's Ponyfic Roundup is another spotlight, this time on one of the early classics of the fandom. As usual, it's taken me years to get round to it, but as TPrower (probably my favourite blind commentator) would say: let's get to it!

Anthropology by JasonTheHuman
Lyra and Bon-Bon
Comedy/Adventure/Slice of Life/Human; 130K words; Dec 2011–Jul 2012; Everyone
(The character tags are highly misleading: there should certainly be an OCs tag, and probably a couple more.) Lyra is driving her roommate (Bon-Bon) crazy with her obsessive study of the mythical "humans" – and she's convinced there is a conspiracy of silence that goes right to the top. The first third of this story is good fun, but after a major twist it becomes much less intriguing, not helped by rather flat OCs. The ending is also unsatisfactory, clearly anticipating a sequel which never happened. No classic then, but still worth considering as an inoffensive, undemanding read. ★★

More, with spoilers, past the break.

The first part of Anthropology is the best section of the story. Although the whole "Lyra lives with Bon-Bon and is obsessed with humans" setup is very old now, it was a fresher approach three years ago, so I won't criticise it for that. There are some nice touches that I hadn't been expecting, such as Lyra's (rather worrying) home experiments in finger creation. I also enjoy the sequence in which Lyra is sneaking around Canterlot Castle during the Grand Galloping Gala.

The fic goes downhill at the point where we leave Equestria and join the human world – in this case, our own Earth rather than any Equestria Girls-style mirror dimension. Although I quite like some of the scenes in which Lyra has trouble adapting to things humans take for granted, like cars and paper money, it does start to drag a bit after a while. The pace only really picks up again near the end, when Discord makes his presence felt.

Ah yes, Discord. This whole aspect of the story doesn't really feel right. We never get a proper (or, indeed, any) explanation for his escape from his stone prison, and he ends up being defeated by the Power of Friendship. Which would be fine had most of the friends Lyra's collected during her travels (Randall and co) ever even met. Would Nightmare Moon have been defeated if Twilight had never met Applejack before the final confrontation? Not a chance. It just doesn't work.

Possibly part of the difficulty here is that most of the human characters are, frankly, dull. I just don't care very much about the likes of Andrea and Paul. Given that the central part of Anthropology isn't really ponyfic at all, this is a fairly major problem. The humans, even Lyra's human family for the most part, don't come across as very interesting people: look, what would you do if a bunch of colourful ponies suddenly appeared in New York? I rather think you'd be a little bit more taken aback than these guys.

Two things stop this story becoming a chore to read. First, JasonTheHuman's prose style is very readable. It's rather forgettable, and nobody's going to point to it as an example of beautiful writing, but that's fine: it doesn't get in the way of the story and you don't hit too many bumps. There's also a nice vein of humour running through the fic: consider Lyra's unimpressed views on The Last Unicorn. All this means that Anthropology is the ponyfic equivalent of an airport novel – but, just sometimes, that's what you want in a story.


  1. TWO stars? That's it, I'm taking away your... your... opinioning license!

    Okay, I might be being swayed by the hype. Anthropology is one of those giants of ponyfiction that can be mentioned in the same breath as Fallout Equestria, Past Sins, etc. etc. but seriously, I love this story. It's not in my all-time top list, but the writing style really took me back in time to the childrens novels of my youth and gave me some real fuzzy nostalgia. I'm also a total sucker for any kind of fish-out-of-water story. ^^

    Incidentally, did you know ahead of time that Lyra was originally a human? I didn't, that came as a complete shock to me. For most who read it and aren't spoiled, that's a "Luke I am your father" moment :)

    1. Two is average, remember, not poor -- and Anthropology is quite a high two. That puts it not far behind Past Sins, which was a lowish three.

      And no, I didn't know that particular twist. No idea how I'd avoided that spoiler all these years!

      Oh, and I don't have an opinioning licence. I'm a freelance, a mercenary, eking out a precarious existence where I can, always on the run from the Fanfic Police...