Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 208: The Centerpiece of My Collection/The Collection of My Centerpiece

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

The NHL playoffs start today, so reserve a comfy spot on your couch: the first round is multiple games every day, so you're going to be there a long time!  And if you don't already have a rooting interest, consider my Minnesota Wild a viable ponyfan pick.  Why, you ask?  Well, they are basically Carrot Top: the team.  Consider:

1) They've tried their best, but they're not quite there,
2) They kicked a puck and say it's just not fair,
3) [They're] A simple team living simple dreams.

So I'm high on the Wild in a way I haven't been in years, if only because "a rumor that's not quite as it seems" would seem to promise that our record of postseason futility against the Chicago Blackhawks will finally come to an end when we inevitably meet them in round two.

So, hockey talk over; let's talk about fanfics!  Click down below the break for my thoughts on Geldon's The Centerpiece Of My Collection / The Collection Of My Centerpiece.

Impressions before reading:  This is an old fic; it's listed as the 972nd fic ever published on FiMFiction, and that came at least a few months after it was first published on EqD.  It (at least, the first part, which was originally written as a standalone (hence the two titles)) also floated around in .jpg form for quite a while, and I remember it being widely spread in the fandom's early days.  I recall liking it when I first read it--this was before S1 was even finished, I believe--but it has been a long time, and I don't know that the fact that this fic has fallen off the radar, relatively speaking at least, bodes well.  Well, we'll see.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  (The Centerpiece of My Collection): An ancient Spike tells a young filly how he acquired the most important item in his hoard: a stunning statue of a pony from his youth.

(The Collection of My Centerpiece) Nearing the end of his life, Spike decides what to do with his precious statue.

Thoughts after reading:  As is often the case with early fandom works, the writing in this story is not strong.  This starts at the level of editing (several word errors crop up, e.g. "milleniums), continues through sentence structure (run-ons abound; "There was no subterfuge, Spike respected Rarity too much that, he had explained his intention to her from the very start"), and all the way up to story construction (telliness is an issue endemic to both chapters, but it's especially noticeable given that the first opens with a five-paragraph long ramble amounting to a list of facts about adult!Spike).  This isn't terribly surprising; although there are a few early fandom works that still hold up well in this regard, there are more that clearly would have benefited from some of the editing resources (and, in many cases, experience) that came in subsequent years.

But if it's true that there's little to praise about the writing here, it's also worth saying that a re-read reveals that this isn't a story that gained a bit of fame solely because it was early out the gate.  Where both chapters/stories (I'm going to refer to them as "chapters" from here on, for simplicity's sake) shine is in having clever core premises; especially in the case of the former chapter, "twist" might be too strong a word.  Even though it's set up as one, it's also the emotional core of the story, and it paints a nicely sympathetic and human picture of Rarity and Spike as individuals.

Another point in the story's favor is its short length.  As both fics are built around a single key idea, the fact that the author confines himself to just a few thousand words, rather than try to stretch out the drama, is a definite plus.  And yet despite that shortness, there are a few additional interesting ideas sprinkled around both chapters.  The author's ability to do this is, admittedly, aided by the tell-y, exposition-heavy writing, which is not a strength of the story, but it's fair to say that this particular effect is a positive one.  It could also be argued that the lack of verbiage obscures some of the fic's more powerful secondary ideas; Spike's ability to see long-departed friends in the second chapter comes to mind.  Some readers are sure to find that the quickness with which it pops up, is addressed, and then is moved on from robs the scene of some of the power it should have had.  Personally, I found that preferable to an overdone and probably over-maudlin display of the same, but I'm certainly not going to disagree with anyone who says that that bit (among others) probably could have borne a bit more fleshing out.

All the same, it's probably fair to describe this as an "idea fic:" it centers on one core concept/reveal, and does little else besides provide a framework with which to display that idea.  That's not an awful thing to be, especially when the core idea isn't a bad one to begin with, but it does make it less of a story than... well, an idea.

Star rating:

This fic may not have retained all its lustre through the years, but it's still got a smart premise which fits its characters--particularly in their S1 iterations, but honestly?  It still works even today.

Recommendation:  This is a great fic if you value concept over execution, and probably one not worth bothering with if you don't.

Next time:  Changeling Courtship Rituals, by Codex Ex Equus


  1. Ugh, this reminded me of another fic that I'd thought you'd reviewed ages ago, but I can't find the review or even remember the name of the fic. I just recall an older Spike making friends with a filly who ran away(might've been a descendant of one of the Mane Six), and I think he cooked. Wish I could remember more, 'cause this is really bugging me now. Guess I can point out your mistakes to get my mind off of it

    "...and I'm that came at least a few months after it was first published on EqD." Either you're missing a word or you should've cut "I'm"

    "This starts at the level of editing (several word errors crop up, e.g. "milleniums)..."

    "The author's ability to do this is, admittedly, aided by the tell-y, exposition-heavy writing, which is not a strength of the story, but it's fair to say that this particular effect is a positive one." So many commas! You couldn't have used an em dash or parentheses to break things up a little?

    "It could also be argued that the lack of verbiage obscures some of the fic's more powerful secondary ideas..."

    Man, it's been awhile since I've done that!

    1. You wouldn't be thinking of An Old Coot, would you?

    2. I misread the original comment as "I think he cooked her, and was definitely not going to get And Old Coot based on that. Luckily, DannyJ didn't forget how reading comprehension works!

      Also, I'll go clean up this post a bit. I swear, every time I try to edit a post, I miss a couple obvious mistakes, and then add a couple more while I'm at it!

  2. Speaking of "Beyond Her Garden," you should really listen to the Lenich & Kirya cover if you haven't already. It brought me joy.

    I remember reading this, but FimFiction says I haven't, and I don't remember where else I would've. Definitely not on EqD, because back in the day before I was on FimFic, I tracked my favourites by putting links to EqD pages in a big document, and it's not in that old document either. I also definitely wouldn't have seen it on 4chan or its pony spin-offs.

    Where did I read this?

    1. Where indeed, DannyJ?

      Where indeed...?

      (cue spooky X-Files music)

      In all seriousness, perhaps it was as an independent google doc? I remember Fallout: Equestria spent a long time on deviantart before it was moved to fimfiction.

  3. I wouldn't have figured you for the type to quote fandom music, but that was well appreciated. :D

  4. The Wild will a chance provided they don't play in a game seven.

    1. Okay, but maybe he'll average out with Minnesota's historically perfect play in game sevens to give us a 50-50 chance.

      Of course, that's assuming we can even beat the Blues in the first place. You know, if you'd told me going into last night that we'd outshoot them 2-1 and that Dubnyk would post a .923, I'd have felt pretty dang good...

  5. Or that Coyle would have an open netter in OT or that the key save would be made by Parise... Sometimes the hockey gods just don't want your team to win. As a Sharks fan, I definitely know how that goes. Hopefully you guys will be able to bounce back in game 2.