The more astute of you might have noticed that for the last week or two, there's been a clopfic in the "Coming Attractions" queue over on the right sidebar. Some of you may be shocked and outraged, and I hope you read the rest of this post before storming off to less controversial areas of the Internet; others of you may breathe a sigh of relief, and can finally stop haranguing me to get it included in the Vault.
I worried for a little bit about the best way to include Romance Reports here. Should I do it on a Monday, with a 'regular' fic on the same Friday? But I didn't like that; I felt it devalued RR, and RR is not a fic to be taken lightly for any reason.
Romance Reports first came to my attention over at the Pony Fiction Archive, which I also run, albeit in a much more administrative, hands-off manner than the Vault. I was cleaning out spam from the reviews in the explicit section, in an admin interface that showed all the site's reviews on one screen, and I kept noticing reviews for the same story ID, everything from "MOAR PLEASE" to "Its beauty lies in the fact that it feels more like some kind of miniature, sexual bildungsroman" (who the hell says something like that about a clopfic?) to multiple people writing huge, thoughtful essays on why they loved this story.
Alright, I'll play your game, I thought, and loaded up the story, skimmed the first chapter; it was good. Really good. Interesting characterization for Luna, something fresh I could get behind. Well-spotted characterizations of the rest of the cast we know and love. It felt realistic, like it was cadged out of some young woman's diary as she began to discover out her own sexuality (and I immediately began to wonder about this "SleeplessBrony" person and what made him or her tick).
There's a term that gets thrown around in the less savory circles of the Internet: "PWP", meaning "Porn Without Plot" - included in story summaries and descriptions to let the prospective reader know that the story at hand is pure smut, not even really a story per se, containing no redeeming literary or emotional value whatsoever. Romance Reports is the exact opposite, Porn With Plot - or really Plot With Porn would be more appropriate, because we're treated to an actual story, with humor and character arcs populated by fully-realized characters who actually learn and grow (that's what she said), and it just so happens that a fair amount of the story revolves around sex. More accurately, around mature, intimate relationships.
Personally, I'm not interested in your average Porn Without Plot clopfic. I don't have anything against those who write them and enjoy them - I'd like to think that's made clear by the fact that the PFA welcomed such stories with open arms, alongside its less mature fare. There's just nothing there for me, topped by something in my mind popping up and going, "You, uh, realize you're reading about horses doin' it, right?" And anyway, I'm in the ponyfic game for stories like I'm featuring in the Vault - clever, well-turned prose that makes you think and feel. I take my work here at the Vault very seriously, and I hope it says something that I've selected a "clopfic" as this week's feature, and spent hours over the last few weeks proofing and formatting (you might notice it's not the shortest story - again, not your usual clopfic).
As another data point for those of you on the fence about it - my girlfiend hates clop, hates its very existence. Merely referring to it can be enough to make her leave the room, if one catches her in the right (wrong) mood. Understand my intention is not to criticize her, far from it - I respect her views and opinions on the matter, for they are no less valid than anyone's - I simply wish to set the scene, as it were. Even given her feelings about clop, and how frustrated she was that I would dare read such a thing, I read aloud a few choice passages to her (admittedly from the less cloppy sections), and she couldn't help but laugh and admit that yeah, that was pretty good.
If you're still not convinced, you could go read any of the hundreds of glowing reviews Romance Reports and SleeplessBrony have received at the PFA and FIMFic, or my interview with him that will be posted tomorrow morning.
So, yes, I know it's a "clopfic" - but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you dismiss it as such, and I strongly encourage you to give it a shot.