Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 225: The Magic Never Fades Away

To read the story, click the image or follow this link.

I am certain there was something I was going to say up here... but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was.  Oh well, it'll probably come to me in the morning; if you all behave, maybe I'll even share it when (/if) I remember it.  Until then, enjoy a classic-style OMPR review, courtesy of yours truly.  Get it below!

Impressions before reading:  This was presented to me with the admission that it "may be a deathfic, but I remember it fondly."  At first glance, it sure looks like a typical immortallity angst fic; I'll be interested to see if there's more to it than meets the eye, or if it's a feels vehicle that's showing its age.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  An elderly Twilight visits her friends' graves for what, she suspects, is likely to be the last time.

A few thoughts:  In a way, it's kind of impressive how much of this fic (published early during season two) has been retroactively debunked by almost five years of advancing canon.  That's not a criticism of the story itself--one can hardly blame the author for failing to accurately mirror every turn the show would take--but it does make this story fascinating as a time capsule.  Not only is there the obvious "unicorn Twilight" bit, but stuff like Rainbow Dash dying young (becoming a Wonderbolt on her deathbed, in point of fact) permeate the story.  Those, alongside not-jossed-but-also-increasingly-improbable-feeling stuff like Twilight's fear that Celestia wouldn't approve of her lesbianism; not to get off on a tangent, but given the social trends in the western world, I wonder how long it is before the myriad "ponies are terrified of being outed, lest they be rejected by their community" stories which this fandom has produced start feeling incredibly dated.  Twenty years?  Ten?  Five?  Are we already there?

But again, none of that's a strike against the fic.  Sadly, the thematic content of the story simply doesn't hold up.  This is, as I feared, essentially a "feels fic:" a story that piggybacks on the reader's emotional attachment to a predesigned character to produce a quick and easy reaction.  In this case, the reaction is intended to be sadness, followed by a sense of uplift.  For readers who haven't, say, read 225 Fandom Classics (not counting 6-Star Reviews, Mini-Reviews, Royal Canterlot Library stuff...), these can be fairly effective--but for any but the beginning/inexperienced reader, its a formula that's too familiar to have much impact.

It doesn't help that the writing is pretty weak.  Lots of sentence fragments of the sort that arise from editing a line incompletely, homophone mixups, punctuation slips, and the like await here.  The former are the biggest issue, in terms of reading experience; I (and most readers, I think) can read around the occasional to/too slip without being drawn too far out of the story, but sentences that have to be re-read just to understand them make it hard to get invested without being yanked right back out by the editing.

I'll admit that the story and I didn't get off to a good start, as it opens by quoting a decent-sized chunk of song lyrics at me (Google informs me the lyrics are from Avenged Sevenfold's Second Heartbeat).  I'm glad I at least didn't listen to the song before reading the story; as it was, I was merely annoyed by the (admittedly only a few lines of) plagiarism, whereas if I'd actually familiarized myself with the song first... well, I'm not going to cast aspersions on anyone's taste in music, but I think a song which consists mostly of guitar riffs and throaty screaming doesn't really set the tone for a fic about Twilight tearfully reminiscing.

I'll give the story credit for having at least some sense of reserve about its emotions, though.  While the prose tinges purple at times, it largely resists the urge to resort to cliches in its physical descriptions (no single tears here!).  Said descriptions are generally proportionate to the situation at hand, and if those situations are engineered to evoke the emotion of the moment, then that's still something.  I also thought that the final scene, despite feeling like a non-sequitur at first, was a very appropriate, very sweet note to end on.

Star rating:

I will say this in defense of The Magic Never Fades Away: there are a bunch of stories in this fandom which approach the tragedy of death (not to be confused with the stories which approach the comedy/adventure/badassery of death) with a lack of awareness which is frankly disrespectful.  This story is not one of them.  But it's still not particularly well-written, and it's essentially a couple of emotional reactions to something the reader is expected to provide for themselves, packaged into the guise of a story.

Recommendation:  For a beginning or inexperienced reader who is actively seeking "the feels," this will press the emotional buttons you're expecting.  Those outside of that specific group will probably find the manner in which those buttons are pressed to unconvincing to work for them, however.

Next time:  The Mane Makes The Pony, by MerlosTheMad


  1. I'd say that aspect's already dated. I don't think it's a great fit for the setting in the first place, as a tonal matter, though I guess arguably better in plain logic terms than it was ~S1 when assuming something like two thirds or more of the population is lesbian, asexual/aromantic (or I guess just old-maiding), or poly was basically a requirement (or imagine that there were a ton of invisible stallions, I guess)... Heck, I'm pretty sure I've seen more than a few "subversions" with ponies coming out as straight and that being a scandal.

    One thing I still remember on that front--and highlighting just how played out that particular theme was even at the time--is when years ago Bad Horse remarked that you can't have a twist to your story be Braeburn coming out as gay, since that's basically what his character was always used for.

  2. Dated or not, it's never been a good fit, as Icy Shake said. But young writers especially need to use fanfic to explore themselves and their own experiences; it's just a shame those experiences don't fit in a world like Equestria.

    1. That's an important point, but one which can be allowed for. Specifically, that's what AUs are for. Kinda ties in with what Chris was saying about Godzilla last week, though: an Equestria that's (generally) homophobic (/whateverphobic) probably looks different in other ways, too.

      Or of course there's the Our Town approach of having it be an isolated or hidden thing rather than part of the dominant milieu.