Music – Instrumental MLP Fan-songs

Sorry for not having a fanfic review ready today. Not only was my week a mess, a programming project consumed all of the leisure time I’d normally use for re-reading an old favourite fanfic.

Instead, I decided to spotlight some instrumental music which came out of the My Little Pony fandom that I really enjoyed and didn’t want to risk losing track of if something ever happens to my backups.

…because, after all, if the music has no lyrics, it doesn’t matter what you think of the fandom as long as it’s good.

Why Am I Pinkie Pie (download) by DnBeanie
Inspired by a fanfic of the same name by Hoopy McGee, this is a bouncy instrumental EDM pop song that I just keep coming back to.
On a more intellectual note, what draws my attention is how it uses its simplicity. From when the beat starts up to the last 15 seconds, the entire song runs off the same regular, fast paced beat and it’s not technically complex. Basically, a beat, an accompaniment line, and a melody line. Likewise, before the melody comes in, the accompaniment manages to feel anticipatory, simply by the progression it uses and its unbroken nature.
As for the main melody, it’s bouncy like Pinkie Pie, but has a more serious air to it which I’m assuming is intended to follow the nature of the story, where a human wakes up as Pinkie Pie and doesn’t know how it happened or why.
Friendship is Magic (Orchestral Arrangement) (tindeck) by Evening Star
When I want something catchy, with a majestic feel to it, yet which isn’t “on” all the time like Sogno di Volare, this is what I turn to.
It makes me think of reading an epic. At first, the music is soft and light, like a morning sunrise in a small village. Then, it picks up and adds a sense of adventure as the heroes set off on their quest. The music then flows back and forth between the swelling, impressive passages which make the world sit up and listen, and the soft, light explorations of the heroes’ character, without which the story simply wouldn’t work.
Octavia (bandcamp) by Evening Star
Like the previous example, this track (named after a background character who plays the cello) flows back and forth between the personal and the worldly, but this leans more to the personal side.
If that was an epic “tale of a world”, like Lord of the Rings, then this is the personal study of a character whose life has been marked by “forays into the wider world”.
WoodenOverture by Tsyolin
This eight and a half minute track is an orchestral medley of four excellent songs (originally with lyrics) by WoodenToaster. While the originals have more of an electronica element, this version uses excellent samples of classical instruments and I love each on its own merits.
I recommend this both on its own merits and as a sampler of some of the catchier melodies I’ve encountered in MLP songs. Also, if you like this, you might want to try StormWolf’s orchestral cover of Nightmare Night.
Diffraction (soundcloud) by StormWolf
Now back to the more modern genres for a bit. This is a frenetic europop track that does incorporate some vocal samples, but not in any way you’d be able to distinguish from other examples of the genre. Appropriately, it was StormWolf’s contribution to an album themed around the speediest character in the series.
While it’s catchy on its own, I have a soft spot for europop and trance songs which make good use of the piano, with other ones I love including DHT’s techno mix of Listen To Your Heart, the intros to Drift Away (Sven-R-G vs. Bass-T) and Because The Night (Cascada), and the piano accents in Reaching the Sky by Atomix and Vamos A La Playa (Dan Winter Edit) by Loona.
Lesson Learnt by StormWolf
This is another frenetic pop piece and the reason I mention this one is that it reminds many people of the Touhou games. (Here’s the Phantasm Stage from Perfect Cherry Blossom for comparison.)
This particular song in inspired by an incident when the occasionally neurotic main character blows a situation way out of proportion and goes a bit nuts as a result.
Nightmare Night 8 Bit Style by Lukspups
While I’m on the topic of of songs which evoke feelings of games, I should also mention this cover of WoodenToaster’s Nightmare Night.
Aside from enjoying the sound of it, I just have a certain fondness for music which sounds like it could have come from a Castlevania game… in this case, the main melody tracks where tracks which sound sound like the might have originated in a Castlevania game.
(Filmore from Actraiser is one that has that effect even more strongly. I’m one of many who misattribute it to Castlevania if it’s been too many years since last seeing the track metadata.)
Gypsy Bard (Full Orchestral Instrumental) by BassBeastJD
I’ll close this list out with a song I’ve already mentioned in passing.
The original version of this song is from a fan-made edit of MLP sort of like an Abridged Series, in which the lyrics give the impression that the singer is putting on a mask of cheerfulness because it’s the only thing that keeps her from crumbling under the weight of her life’s tragedies. All the while, the tune is unfailingly bouncy and cheerful.
This version varies the pacing and styling quite a bit in an attempt to make up for the lack of lyrics by moving some of that weight and gravitas into the melody.
The use of ambient sounds in the beginning to allude to the events in the lyrics is a nice touch, I enjoy the song, and I’d certainly recommend it to others.
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Free Installer Creators for All Eras

Since my list of installer-construction resources has grown so huge, I thought I’d move it out of my list of DOS/Win16 programming resources into its own post. After all, it extends all the way up to the modern era and it was sort of taking over.

I’ve cleaned it up a bit and I also added a mention of NSIS version 1.x, which is still available if you want to replicate the old “WinAMP Installer” feel.

The Resources:

HJ-Install
A freeware installer builder for Win32 that’s been around long enough to be on one of my 1998 shovelware compilations.
It’s free for commercial use, but I’d try an appropriate version of InnoSetup or NSIS first. HJ-Install’s 138KiB base overhead is two to four times theirs and they’re more featureful.
Info-ZIP
The open-source DOS self-extractor stub and Zip-modification tools you’ll need to build your own free-for-commercial-use self-extracting archives for DOS.
InnoSetup 1.2.16
The last release of InnoSetup which can target Windows 3.1. Open-source, but requires Borland Delphi 1.x to build.
InnoSetup 2.0.19
The last release of InnoSetup which supports WizardStyle=classic. Open-source, but requires Borland Delphi 2.x (and nothing newer) to build.
InnoSetup 5.4.3 (non-unicode version)
The last release of InnoSetup which can target Windows 9x. Starting with version 4.x, InnoSetup supports Pascal scripting for full customization. Open-source but requires Borland Delphi to build. (Delphi 2.x-5.x or 2009, if the requirements are the same as the latest release.)
MS Setup 2.0 (mirrored from conradshome.com).
According to the included LEGAL.TXT, the 2.0 version of the installer bundled with early releases of the Windows 3.1 SDK is effectively freeware. (Just don’t sell it without combining it with “another software product which adds substantial value”.)
NSIS 3.x
The Nullsoft Scriptable Install System. As long as you don’t use the Unicode true directive, it supports Win32 targets all the way back to Windows 95. (According to the features list and the changelog for the most recent minor version as of this writing, which is 3.02). Open-source.
NSIS 1.98
Use this open-source tool if you want the distinctive “WinAMP installer” look. Open-source, but I’m not sure where the source is.
Open Watcom C/C++‘s installer
If you don’t mind your installer stub being under a “publish the source, even for private uses” license and having to figure out how to build it yourself, OpenWatcom C/C++ has a nifty, powerful, single-file installer which runs off a .inf file and can target DPMI-extended DOS, Win32, and, assuming it hasn’t bit-rotted, Win16 via Win386 (Watcom’s 32-bit extender).
V8Power
The DOS utility similar to dialog which FreeDOS uses to build their CD installer out of batch files. Open-source.

Tips:

  • Different major versions of InnoSetup can be installed on the same machine without stepping on each others’ toes.
  • While UnZipSFX from Info-Zip can be compiled to support a post-extraction command, doing so disables support for extracting to locations other than the current working directory.
  • NSIS 3.x can be used for cross-building Windows installers from Debian-family Linux systems (eg. Ubuntu) via the nsis package.

…for Info-ZIP Self-Extractors:

  • Before installer builders started to support single-file output natively, a common solution for downloadable installers was to wrap their output in a self-extracting PKZIP or WinZIP archive, but no “free for commercial use” option I’ve found supports automatically unpacking to a temporary folder, running an installer, and then cleaning up when it exits.
  • Info-ZIP and ARJ both offer fully open-source ways to produce self-extracting archives for DOS, but, according to Maximum Compression, ARJ loses out to a good Zip compressor and, from what I remember, the only significant advantage it held over Zip back in the day was that PKZip’s support for split archives was a mess.
  • Info-ZIP lets you build DOS self-extractors from other platforms. Just grab the UnZipSFX stub from a DOS copy of Info-ZIP, concatenate the Zip file onto the end of it, and then run zip -A using your native copy of InfoZip to fix up the offsets in the Zip file.
  • You don’t strictly need to fix up offsets to make the UnZipSFX stub work… it just keeps it from complaining and ensures that you retain compatibility with external extractors like PKUNZIP.EXE which aren’t smart enough to compensate for offsets rendered invalid by prepended garbage.
  • Shareware distributors who had enough money to pay for an archive tool, but lacked the money to buy an install builder or the skill to write one would use a self-extracting archive with custom banner text.
  • You can customize the second line and beyond of the UnZipSFX banner text by setting an archive comment. Info-ZIP supports editing archive comments while I couldn’t find a way to do so using p7zip.
  • The zipnote command for editing archive comments is very picky about its input data.
  • Zip compression can be optimized by either generating the Zip file using 7-zip/p7zip or recompressing it using advzip from AdvanceCOMP. However, advzip will strip the comment if you set it before optimizing the compression.
  • While some FreeDOS versions of 7-zip include a DOS self-extractor stub, you don’t want it because it requires an external DPMI host.

My Recommendations:

Target OS Desired Experience Installer to Use
Anything .msi WiX
Windows 2000+ 64-bit era InstallShield NSIS with ExperienceUI or UltraModernUI
Win2K/XP era NSIS with Modern UI [1]
InnoSetup
Windows 95+ Win2K/XP era NSIS with ModernUI [1]
Late Win9x era NSIS with InstallSpiderUI [2][3]
Early Win9x era InnoSetup 2.0.19 with WizardStyle=classic [4]
Borrow Open Watcom C/C++’s installer
Windows 3.1x Single EXE or split archive InnoSetup 1.2.16
Open Watcom C/C++’s installer may be usable like this. [5]
Can replace system files
MS Setup 2.0 [6]
DOS Only suits EXE Downloads Use Info-ZIP‘s self-extractor [7]
Good for EXE Download or CD Image Borrow Open Watcom C/C++’s installer
Wait until I have time to write my planned installer kit.
Only suits CD Images Write an INSTALL.BAT using V8Power [8][9]
Suitable for Floppy Images Use Info-ZIP‘s self-extractor [7][10]

Footnotes:

  1. Included with NSIS
  2. CAUTION: I wouldn’t use InstallSpiderUI without first substituting replacement icons and wizard sidebars. The default sidebar art says “Powered by NSIS” at the bottom and I’m skeptical that the author created such a convincing knock-off of unInstallShield’s distinctive sidebar art rather than just yanking every bit of art he used from a copy of InstallShield.
  3. So far, I have only tested InstallSpiderUI on Windows 98 SE and am suggesting it for Win9x based on the fact that NSIS itself still supports Windows 95. Do your own testing!. Also, in my tests, SimpleBg silently refused to activate on a real Windows 98 SE machine, so this can’t be used to replicate early Win9x-era stuff.
  4. I haven’t found a way to achieve maximum authenticity by disabling the confirmation prompt InnoSetup displays before progressing to the screen-filling gradient background. If I find time, I may examine the source code to get a definitive answer.
  5. The source repository for Open Watcom C/C++ suggests that it should be possible to compile a version of the installer GUI for Watcom’s Win386 extender for Win16, but I haven’t tried it. That code may have bit-rotted.
  6. Microsoft’s “MS Setup” cannot bundle all of your files into a single archive, but explicitly supports installing off multi-floppy sets in resource-constrained contexts and, judging by the documentation, has much more comprehensive support than InnoSetup for performing installs which must restart Windows 3.1x to replace system components.
  7. The self-extractor stub from real-mode DOS versions of Info-ZIP can be added to a Zip file using a native build of Info-ZIP. Here’s how you’d build an un-split self-extractor on a POSIXy OS like Linux:
    #!/bin/bash
    NAME="testapp2"
    SFX_STUB="infozip/UNZIPSFX.EXE"
    FILES="testapp"
    ENDFILES="SETUP.EXE README.1ST"
    BANNER="Test Application v2.01
    By: Foobar Software
    
    Synopsis and/or company slogan here
    
    "
    
    # -- Configuration Ends --
    
    # Ensure relative paths are relative to this script
    cd "$(dirname "$(readlink -f "$0")")"
    
    ZIPNAME="$NAME".zip
    EXENAME="$NAME".exe
    
    # shellcheck disable=SC2086
    zip -rT9 "$ZIPNAME" $FILES $ENDFILES -z <<< "$BANNER"
    
    cat "$SFX_STUB" "$ZIPNAME" > "$EXENAME"
    zip -A "$EXENAME"
    rm "$ZIPNAME"

    Note that I’ve added two newlines to the end of the banner and taken advantage of the fact that files will be decompressed in the order they were added to the file to make SETUP.EXE and README.1ST the last two file names which the extractor will print to the screen before it exits. (At some point in the future, I might make a proper reader/writer abstraction for zipnote dumps so it’s possible to reliably combine custom banner text with advzip -z4)

  8. Without the need to worry about the awkwardness of manually unpacking, running the installer, and then deleting the unpacked temporary files, you’ve got a lot more freedom.Do as FreeDOS does. Put the pieces of V8Power which are relevant to your needs into a folder and call them from INSTALL.BAT or INSTALL.EXE to make a fancy, professional-looking install wizard. (Run the included demos and examples inside DOSBox to get an idea for which effects are portable and how to accomplish them.)
  9. If you still feel the need to compress the files to be installed, rather than distributing the whole ISO inside some more modern kind of compression like 7-zip, the UnZipSFX stub allows your frontend to specify a destination directory using the -d switch starting with version 5.5.
  10. Info-ZIP’s zipsplit tool doesn’t require you to swap floppies to make a multi-volume set the way PKZip did. The -r option will allow you to leave a specified amount of room on the first disk for your installer frontend. However, not having all the V8Power bits remain resident in memory means that you’ll either need to do all of your configuration prompting before you turn the job over to the Zip extractor or, alternatively, build your own GUI.

If I can find the time to finish it, I’ve started experimenting with using Free Pascal to write a DOS analogue to InnoSetup or NSIS which functions as a scriptable Zip self-extractor stub. (Though, unfortunately, it won’t be suitable for floppy sets (at least in v1.0) because of how much storage overhead I’m incurring from depending on DPMI, unzip code not intended to be an SFX stub, and Turbo Vision.)

Given that my goal is to use this sort of thing for nostalgic retrocomputing, I may even use the copy of Delphi 1.x on my Borland Delphi 2.x CD to to write a fork of 16-bit InnoSetup that can better mimic other nostalgic Win16 installers. though I’ll probably wait and see if the Win16 efforts by the Free Pascal crew reach a point where I wouldn’t be sharing new source that depends on a proprietary compiler.

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Fanfiction – Ascend

This time, I decided to go for something full-length, but My Little Pony… because that’s just the mood I’ve been in recently.

Ascend by xTSGx

This one’s noteworthy because it beat canon to something that evoked quite a bit of fan controversy, but did it in a way which was self-aware and amusing: What if Twilight Sparkle became an alicorn?

In the My Little Pony setting, Celestia and Luna were originally portrayed as “gods in the literary sense” and, when Twilight Sparkle became one, it was seen by many as a sign that the quality of the series was falling in the wake of Lauren Faust moving on, merely as an excuse to pump out more merchandise.

In this story, it’s played in a much more appropriate setting: One morning, Twilight wakes up to find herself with wings to complement her horn. Naturally, her imagination runs away with her, she panics, and her plan to keep it secret sets the stage for Murphy to try his hand at comedy.

(And, importantly, it’s a novella-length “What if?” dedicated to the concept, rather than a sudden change in canon which usually has to time-share with normal episode-to-episode conflicts.)

Right out of the gate, her first solution is to reverse-engineer changeling magic to hide her new wings… and, sure enough, what should arrive in the mail just after she succeeds, but a subpoena to appear before the committee investigating the events which led up to Queen Chrysalis’s failed invasion attempt.

To quote Spike, “Looks like that implosion’s gonna happen sooner than I thought.” followed not long after by “Oh, come on! That’s so contrived!” when he tries to tell Princess Celestia anyway.

That said, aside from that one lampshaded contrivance, this is the polar opposite of those stories where events just keep getting drawn out through liberal use of the idiot ball or a refusal to just @#$%ing communicate. Instead, any mistakes which move the plot along are either of the “I might have made the same mistake in her situation” variety or the “Oh, Twilight. Why you gotta be so you?” variety. That helps to keep things satisfying.

The end result being a narrative in two phases:

For the first half, it fits its Slice of Life tag beautifully, with the vast majority of the narrative following Twilight interacting with her friends on what they see as an ordinary day. Events just sometimes lead some of them to discover her secret.

Shortly after the mid-point, that then changes when Twilight’s deception is revealed in the most public way possible. The second half is then dedicated to the aftermath of Twilight’s ascension coming out… a country populated by a species that produced the Flower Trio.

Humour-wise, it ranges from fairly typical humour (such as the thing that’s bubbling up within Twilight turning out to be a burp… in addition to the expected panic) to genre-savvy, trope-aware jokes which sometimes lean on the fourth wall without breaking it. (Including some “Spike voicing the readers” moments in the middle of the range, such as when Twilight rebuffs Spike’s efforts to prevent another Lesson Zero, and he grumbles about how he should just take a vacation and see how long it takes for a “Ponyville Exclusion Zone” to be established.)

Of course, my favourite joke has to be the history of the term “alicorn” that Twilight rambles off while trying to collect her wits after Rainbow Dash discovers her secret.

On the other end of things, I’m not a big fan of the dream interludes. “Flashing forward” to Twilight’s visions of how things could go wrong in the middle of something I’ve been primed to want more of just makes me want to skip past them… especially since each one’s significance to the primary story arc could be summed up in a paragraph or less of “after Twilight woke up” text.

That said, there is one exception. I love the joke which ends the dream sequence in chapter 9. So you don’t have to read the entire dream sequence if you don’t want to, here it is:

Pinkie looked somberly at the purple alicorn.

“Twilight, there’s something I have to tell you.”

“W-What?”

Pinkie grabbed hold of Twilight and faced her.

“It’s eight o’clock in the morning and you’re listening to Everfree Radio.”

As for the mentioned subpoena, the pacing of the story is such that Twilight actually going to Canterlot is an “on the horizon” thing for the vast majority of the fic. That said, the story does have a tonal thread of “Equestria is a real place with real politics” that surfaces occasionally… as evidenced by a scene where Twilight has to head off an argument between Rarity and Rainbow Dash over who’s the bad guy in one MP’s fight with the Cloudsdale Weather Factory. I’m neutral on that.

The story is complete at 61,412 words, with an incomplete sequel half as long. I’d rate it at a 4.2 out of 5. (4.3 if you edit out the interludes so they don’t disrupt the flow of the story.

 

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Fanfiction – Needless Gender Confusion

Needless Gender Confusion by Sarah1281

This is another crackfic oneshot, because I still haven’t had time to take notes on anything longer… specifically, it’s a Naruto oneshot which was probably inspired by the variety of reactions in the Naruto fandom to the “By the way, I’m a boy.” “No way! You’re prettier than Sakura-chan” reveal.

The basic premise behind this 1,334-word fic is that Haku is a girl… pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl… and Zabuza is as confused by that as you are, except we get to laugh as his frustration mounts in a very Abbot and Costello-esque fashion.

Again, it’s hard to write a long review for such a short fic, but here’s a brief quote to give a taste of the character of the story:

“With long hair, I could pose as a girl!” Haku realized.

“You are a girl,” Zabuza felt the need to remind her.

“That’s certainly an advantage I have, then. Because – no offense – you really couldn’t pull cross-dressing convincingly off,” Haku said honestly.

As crackfic oneshots go, I’m not sure whether I’d give it a 4.5 or a 5 out of 5. I need to re-read more of them to regain my sense of perspective.

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Fanfiction – Uhhhhh ok

The last week has been a mess for me and I didn’t have time to prepare a review of a full-length story. However, I don’t want to leave you with nothing, so here’s a oneshot I’d been saving to include in a list-form post:

Uhhhhh ok by Ringmaster

This deranged little comedy explores a simple hypothetical: What if Shinji Ikari decides to help Rei Ayanami learn about her emotions… by playing a prank where they act like Beavis and Butthead.

It’s just a single 1,216-word scene and it’s one of those things that gets its power from the reader imagining it as they read, so it’s hard to say much more about what actually goes on.

That said, as far as crackfics go, it holds a special place in my heart and I’ve re-read it at least four or five times over the years. A top-notch crackfic oneshot through and through.

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Fanfiction – Dreaming of Sunshine

Now for something I should really dig through my archives and re-read more of: Good self-insert fanfiction.

In this case, Dreaming of Sunshine by Silver Queen.

The story starts when our heroine gets reincarnated as Nara Shikako, twin sister of Nara Shikamaru.

On the whole, the story’s strength is finding a balance between novelty and the strong currents which drive canon events while also doing a good job of making the OC main character an interesting person to follow and explore in her own right. For example:

She winds up on Team 7, but only after she concludes that displacing Sakura from her “destiny” is the best of a bunch of sub-optimal options. (Others she considers include dropping out, which the culture would make as attention-getting as refusing a lottery prize,  and going into the medical corps, which wouldn’t give her the self-defensive training she desires.)

She saves Haku and Zabuza, but in a way that follows naturally and in an unremarkable way from the simple detail that she has different skills than Sakura. (Unpredictable, but obvious in hindsight… like all good writing.)

At the same time, it has an excellent balance of “This is an OC who watched Naruto” and “This is her life now, and her old memories have faded”, which leads to foreknowledge noteworthy in-the-large by how consistently the individual events draw minimal attention.

That said, it really feels like the first novel or so worth of text is significantly better than what follows, so I think it’d be best to review the story in two parts:

For the first novel worth, it’s got some really elegant twists to its writing, such as the way she gets Naruto to stay interested in playing Shogi with her, and some memorable but characteristically unassuming-yet-sharp quotes like this one:

To a civilian bright, blinding orange wasn’t an appropriate colour for a ninja. Therefore, it was actually a perfect colour for a ninja. Oh, sure, it stood out like hell in a forest, but the fact was, most of our time spent hiding wasn’t among trees – it was among other people. The best ninja is one you can’t tell from a civilian.

It confounded their expectations. A tall guy dressed head to toe in black carrying a small armoury? Ninja. Small, loud blond kid in orange? Are you kidding? Ninja were invisible not because of jutsu (most of the time) but because they looked just like normal people.

(Also note the clever way in which that quote counters the fanon cliché that the orange Naruto wears is part of some plot by the villagers to get him killed by only selling him “kill me”-coloured clothing.)

I don’t want to make this review too quote-heavy, but it also has the most elegant explanation I’ve ever seen for the Naruto-verse’s schizo-tech.

It does have the occasional flaw, such as the OC drawing attention to the difference between short names like “Suna” and “Konoha” and formal names like “Village Hidden in the Sand” and “Village Hidden in the Leaves” because the author didn’t recognize that “Suna” is a shortening of “Sunagakure no Sato” (Japanese for “Village Hidden in the Sand”) and likewise for “Konoha”. That said, it’s quite uncommon for me to find a fanfic based on a Japanese source which has this few mistakes like that.

However, after the first novel worth of it, the insight, snark, and clever world-building really fade away, leaving a story which feels decent, but not exceptional. If it weren’t for Shikako’s occasional acquisitions, discoveries, and creations in the field of sealing, I’d probably have lost interest for the same reason I lost interest in Detective Conan. (The subplots I actually cared about progressed far too slowly.)

According to TVTropes, this fic has “attained legendary status among the Self-Insert Fic community” for how well it achieves this balance of familiarity, originality, and insight. (specifically, through the mixture of snappy dialogue and having the OC remain focused on her inner struggles while mostly relegated to the role of observing canon events) That said, I seriously wonder at what point in its development that status was earned, because I only see that within the first part.

Still, I certainly do agree with that assessment for that first bit. When putting in the effort, Silver Queen is very good at fleshing out what canon tells you of the Naruto setting in ways which you then want to mix back into your headcanon and Shikako definitely feels like an engaging character.

All in all, I’d give the first part a 4.7 out of 5 and the rest a 4.0 out of 5. Read it up to when the anime filler arcs come in, then decide for yourself whether it’s still interesting enough to keep going.

Admittedly, I still have about a third of it left to read, but, given how long the story is, given how long it’s been since my impression changed, and given that I don’t see how future chapters could significantly affect what I’ve written so far, I’m willing to risk having to revise this review as I continue to work my way through it.

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Fanfiction – Preliminary Recommendations of Very Long Stories

This time, I’m going to try another experiment: There are several fics that, while good, are very long. I’m not sure when I’ll find time to read them all the way to the end, but it doesn’t seem fair to leave them unmentioned when I’ve already read and enjoyed at least twice the amount of text that many completed fics would have.

So, here are three very long fics that I’m still working through:

Living an Indoctrinated Dream by Aberron
Length: 1,088,123 words (and counting)
Fandom: Mass Effect
My Progress: chapter 53 of 89
Let’s start off with a do-over/Peggy Sue fic… one featuring The Illusive Man.
What makes this fic special is threefold: The characterization, the degree to which the author is willing to flesh out the cast to show off said characterization, and good use of intrigue.
Aberron really writes an interesting and sympathetic Jack Harper and pairs him up with a cast of original characters (both major and minor) who are enjoyable in their own right. (Such as the daughters he winds up having and the minor mention of one of their friends… a volus who’s a hardcore extranet MMO player.)
I wasn’t taking notes while reading it, so I don’t feel comfortable writing a full review, but it was quite engaging and I didn’t stop at chapter 53 because I lost interest… I stopped because, as is typical, I burned out on it after multiple days of spending my leisure time doing nothing but reading the same fic. I’ll come back to it sooner or later.
Probably a 4.5 out of 5 rating, but a final verdict will have to wait until I’ve caught up.
Re:Gamer by Akallas von Aerok
Length: 421,851 words (and counting)
Fandom: Naruto, Re:Monster
My Progress: chapter 76 of 115
First, I should be clear in saying that I’ve never read Re:Monster, so I don’t know how much of the fic is the author’s original creation and how much is just taken from the source material.
That said, coming in from the Naruto side, it’s certainly interesting and entertaining… and that’s usually the point authors fail on when copying too heavily from canon.
Again, one I didn’t think to take notes on. The gist of the story is “Take Re:Monster and substitute Naruto as the main protagonist” and, given Naruto’s canonical goals (become Hokage, protect his precious people), it fits surprisingly well.
This story, I temporarily stopped reading not because I burned out on it per se, but because I was only mildly in the mood for a Re:Monster story to begin with and other events in my life distracted me with more appealing options. I do still plan to come back and finish it when I’m in the mood again.
I’d rate this at 4.0 out of 5 and it shows no signs that my verdict will change when I read further.
Dreaming of Sunshine by Silver Queen
Length: 684,229 words (and counting)
Fandom: Naruto
My Progress: chapter 63 of 143
First, let me admit that this fic is actually the reason I don’t have a normal review this week. I am working on a review… I just can’t complete it until I catch up… so, here’s a summary of the relevant bits of the draft:
The story is a self-insert, but one novel enough that TV Tropes claims it’s got quite a bit of fame in the fandom.
As a concept, the main character is Shikamaru’s twin sister. She’s smarter than in her previous life (which causes a moment of emotional distress when she realizes that), but not as brilliant as her brother. Her memories of Naruto as a work of fiction have faded, and she lacks any kind of special SI powers.
What results from that is an entertaining story which I can certainly believe to have earned acclaim.
For one thing, It does the most impressive job I’ve ever seen of coming up with explanations for oddities in Naruto canon that you then want to add to your own headcanon.
More generally, Instead of stomping all over canon, it’s a story as much about the heroine’s inner struggle as her outward actions. She becomes a ninja… because it’s her only chance to possibly gain sufficient self defense skill after she paints herself into a corner career-wise.
In relation to canon events, she walks a tightrope where she makes the details novel, while the broad strokes seem to remain unchanged… and that fact worries her to no end. At the same time, she has some delightfully snarky mental MST3K-esque reactions to canon people, places, and events.
So far, I’d rate it as a 4.7 out of 5 because it gets all the technicals very right, but I’m still likely to only ever read it once for some inexplicable reason. (Compared to NGE: Nobody Dies, which I read as it was coming out, re-read a few years ago, and am considering re-reading again, despite it being nearly 600,000 words long.)
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