Monday, October 21, 2013

Fanfic Review: THE VINYL SCRATCH TAPES by Corey W. Williams

When I started to become interested in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I always had one overriding principle in the back of my mind:  DON'T get into MLP:FIM fanfic!  There is simply too much of the stuff to keep track of unless you're a "round the bend" brony.  However, Mark Lungo suggested that I look at "The Vinyl Scratch Tapes," arguing that its quality was very much in the tradition of the Disney Afternoon fanfics we enjoyed in the APA WTFB.  I couldn't pass up that recommendation, now, could I?  Nor could I ignore his request that I review the work in this space.


"Tapes" isn't for the MLP newcomer, as Twilight Sparkle is the only member of the "Mane 6" to "appear" (she speaks one line).  The main players here are a couple of "background ponies" who, as has been the case with more than a few spear-carriers, have been given character development, backstories, and more by MLP fans.  Prim 'n proper cellist Octavia and self-consciously "radical" disk jockey (isn't that an ironic job description for an equine?) DJ Pon-3, aka Vinyl Scratch, start their own radio talk show, leading to embarrassing moments aplenty and predictable but amusing oil-and-water gaggery... that is, until the duo are forced to cooperate to thwart the evil designs of the comically conceited (yet, thankfully, only marginally ept) Prince Blueblood, aided and abetted (in a manner of speaking) by the equally egotistical magician, "The Great and Powerful" Trixie.  The entire fanfic is presented as a series of transcripts of tapes of Octavia and Vinyl's show and Blueblood's fumbling attempts to compete with it.

The best thing about "Tapes" is the way in which it believably develops the relationship between these characters, all of whom (with the exception of Trixie, who has had major roles in two TV episodes) are essentially tabulae rasae that author Williams has free rein (see what I did there?) to present as he likes.  In the hands of less circumspect writers, this can sometimes lead to trouble, but Williams keeps things under control and clearly understands that, in a show like MLP:FIM, no character, no matter how unlikable, is entirely beyond redemption.  The only caveat is that one really needs to have some prior exposure to the series in order to fully comprehend all the "in-jokes" and offhand references in the scripts.  If you are willing to do the necessary spadework, though, there's a lot to enjoy here.


Mark Lungo said...

(Reads review, squees)

Thank you, Chris! I knew you would enjoy The Vinyl Scratch Tapes, and I'm glad you've chosen to share that enjoyment with the world.

One thing I'd like to mention about TVST is its emotional complexity. Yes, it's primarily a comedy, but it also has some sad and dramatic moments; the heroes can make mistakes, and the villains sometimes make valid points. And as Chris pointed out, the story is very much in the TV series' spirit of friendship and reconciliation. If you care about My Little Pony at all, reading The Vinyl Scratch Tapes is a very rewarding experience.

Corey W. Williams said...

Thank you for the review. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

I hope you enjoy season 3 just as much.

Which is going to happen soon, incidentally.

Chris Barat said...


I'm sure that Mark Lungo will be as pleased as I am at the news. :-)

I must admit that I have since dipped into some additional MLP fanfic, like the "Newsworthy" series. I try to pick my spots carefully, though.