Saturday, 6 August 2016

Ponyfic Roundup and stories vs literature

I read a lot of My Little Pony fanfic. This is pretty obvious, given that I'm well into my third year of Ponyfic Roundup (PR), but it goes beyond that. I know that there are quite a few people out there, including some considerably more accomplished than me, who no longer read MLP stories for fun, but only to review, pre-read, proofread or edit them. I am absolutely not one of those people, and I suspect that affects how I write my PR reviews.

Fundamentally, I want to enjoy the stories I read. That doesn't mean that they necessarily have to make me happy – it would be hard to apply that adjective to JawJoe's Queen of Queens or RBDash47's Home, and yet I gave both of those stories five stars. No: what I mean is that I want to be satisfied emotionally in some way when I read them. It's just not enough for me that a story has beautifully crafted prose.

I've wondered once or twice whether this may be why I tend to get on better with Royal Canterlot Library fics than with those in The Royal Guard. (I'm aware there's considerable overlap.) I'm sure I'm reading too much into this, but it can seem that that TRG sees fics as literature while the RCL sees them as stories. I don't mean that TRG-inducted fics are all style and no substance, but maybe that group sometimes sees fics being consciously "feelsy" as a negative, whereas the RCL doesn't – and nor do I.

I've never really understood the complaint that a story is "obviously going for the feels". Why on earth shouldn't it? If you read a fic, are conscious of your emotions being manipulated, and yet still come out the other end moved by the story it tells, then it's a success. Look at My Little Dashie, a story that is hardly great literature but is entirely unashamed about what it's doing right from the start. I may not like it, but one hay of a lot of people do.

Now consider Fallout: Equestria. This is far from being the best written story in the fandom. Its early chapters especially are choppy, it shoe-horns in far too many show references, it has those silly power-ups... and yet it gripped me, made me laugh and on occasion emotionally shattered me. As literature, there are plenty of stories on Fimfiction that surpass it, and which do so with some ease. As a story... well, just look at the size of its subfandom. It gets to people.

So, when you read a PR review, bear in mind that all other things being equal – which of course they rarely are – a fic that has a fascinating story to tell, yet does so in a rather plain manner, will often win out over a fic which is superbly constructed but feels like little more than a writing exercise. Remember, I started PR not as formal reviews but simply as a way to let this blog's readers know which fics I'd read and whether I liked them. The same applies today.

8 comments:

  1. "I know that there are quite a few people out there, including some considerably more accomplished than me, who no longer read MLP stories for fun, but only to review, pre-read, proofread or edit them."

    Bwhah? I hope they're getting paid!

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    1. I believe Pascoite has mentioned in the past that he no longer reads ponyfic purely for fun. (My apologies to him if I'm misremembering.) He's not the only one, either.

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  2. Man, we must be doing something right, I thought the RCL was the pinnacle of fandom literary pretension! :V

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    1. It could just be that my reading tastes are really, really odd. :P

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  3. http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20111022173909/mlp/images/thumb/6/65/Luna_Puzzled_S2E4.png/791px-Luna_Puzzled_S2E4.png

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    1. It was meant to be referencing the scene "Fun? What is this.. fun".

      ;)

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