Reviews: The Conversion Bureau
The Conversion Bureau
The Conversion Bureau is the most vital, exciting, controversial, and powerful subgenre of MLP:FIM fanfiction in existence. The Conversion Bureau stories had a humble beginning as a simple wish fulfillment story. It was not a particularly good start, but the idea encapsulated within it was one of the most powerful notions known to man - to illuminate the human condition through the creation of an Other to act as a mirror. Since then, the many, many Conversion Bureau authors have expanded the original conceit - that an alien universe called Equestria breaks into our own cosmos and begins to irrevocably change the destiny of Mankind - in countless ways. Authors have sided with the alien ponies, or against them, used the scenario to explore the very depths of human emotion and experience, as well as to tell exciting and powerful stories of adventure and wonder. Originating from the fantasy backdrop of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the Conversion Bureau stories have taken that world into the realms of science fantasy and even hard core science fiction. Stories comedic, dramatic, horrifying and filled with wonder and awe have derived from the premise of the Conversion Bureau. Factions and enemies unique to the genre have been invented. Tropes and memes unique to it have arisen. The subgenre has inspired music, poetry, sculpture and more. Always controversial, always questioning, The Conversion Bureau without question is the home of the most intelligent and unusual writers that fanfiction has to offer. Vastly unappreciated by the mainstream of fanfiction readers, the Conversion Bureau stories are the crown jewel of pony stories, pushed aside because of their power to disturb and enlighten. The many brave authors of this most magnificent of subgenres, who dare to write stories that thrill the soul and challenge the mind, dare to explore what it means to be human through the guise of ponies. They are determined to disturb you, the reader, to force you to think, to consider what being human means, what it is worth, and whether or not it truly is worth anything at all. Conversion Bureau stories are the bad boys, the dark horses of the fanfiction world, and in their curious texts I guarantee you will find both joy and anger, wisdom and fun, wonder and horror in equal measure.
An evil twin of a beloved show
Some people have compared the TCB pony's to mirror universe versions of the pony's we all know and love. A comparison that is sadly accurate in no small amount of stories. I would also say that the TCB could be considered an evil counterpart to the show itself. While Friendship is Magic espouses ideals such as tolerance, and accepting others in spite of their differences, a good amount of TCB stories encourage genocide ether aimed at humanity or aimed at the pony's. Its almost like while Friendship is Magic uses the ideal of friendship to keep going, The Conversion Bureau survives off of the raw hatred of the writers, weather its for the fic itself, for humanity, for the ponies, for one of the many authors in the genre, or for something else involved in the whole mess. Its really disgusting how so many authors see the pony's as superior to humanity while the pony's themselves are embracing some of the worst aspects of humanity. You have your imperialism, your genocide, your extinction of native cultures and your smugness all in one easy to despise package. Their is a morality lesson in hear, and its that when you put a 'pro-human extremist' faction like HLF into a setting, you should make sure that they aren't right about their main point, because its clear that the pony's are in fact out to wipe out humanity in a good deal of the stories they appear in, and sometimes we don't even get to see pony's that favor humanity to at least give us the impression the HLF's views are anything other then 100% accurate. I would normally hate an organization like the HLF due to their natural prejudice, but the very worst of these story's somehow manage to above and beyond the call of 'unsympathetic' protagonist and actually make me want to cheer on the mooks. Honestly even with the few gems hanging around in this mine field I can't help but feel that the TCB is just one of those mistakes that would have been better off no made.
I, for one, welcome our new Draka overlords!
I was an ordinary newbie troper surfing the trope pages some time ago when I stumbled on a trope page for a certain fanfiction. I'd never read one before, and I didn't know a thing about Bronies or the show. I thought I was one tough reader. From heavy-handed moralising and political pundits, I could take it. And I thought there was nothing I couldn't stomach; from John Birmingham to Colonel Tom Kratman. I used to think Brave New World was the most horrifying thing I'd ever read. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a collection of stories that I believe would invariably offend anyone, anywhere. Simply put, the Coversion Bureau is one of the most sexist, callous, hateful, one-sided Author Tracts this side of Mein Kampf. Forgive me for playing Godwin's Law entirely straight. To really understand the impact of this 'thing', imagine a situation in which one civilization thinks itself superior to all others, and decides it has to stamp out all traces of different ones. What am I describing? Germanization of World War II-era Poland? American cultural imperialism? A Maoist cultural revolution? No- it's a freaking My Little Pony fanfic. Let me elaborate, if this wasn't clear enough already. You're human? You Bastard. You've ever been a member of any religion? You Bastard. You've ever used technology? You Bastard. You oppose brainwashing, and stand against an insidious Assimilation Plot? You Bastard. You're a man? You Bastard. (Oh, and men commit 98% percent of all crimes) This all makes complete sense, in an Insane Troll Logic sort of way. It's also the most staggering example of genocide, or xenocide, if you want to get that specific, in all media. And the hate fics aren't much better. Going from one to the other felt like reading propaganda from the ultimate showdown of Black and Gray Morality. And it's a pretty damn dark shade of gray. The ponies get the worse end because the humans had no real choice in the matter. Hate to break it to you, TCB authors, but You Are What You Hate -human. How someone can be racist against one's own species, I don't know, but somehow, TCB does it. It sickened me. I left TV Tropes many moons ago because of it. I couldn't stand the mere reminder of it.
Sweet Mother of Davros...[JDR's fics]
...Where can I begin? Let's start with the good qualities this author has. She can hook people. She can get them interested in a story. She can write well, and she can write a lot. She is also a very good artist. Now for the actual criticism. The author is fixated on her worldview, and has an extreme intolerance for anything that even hints of contradicting it. She cannot take criticism, and deflects all significant questions or simply ignores them. She is inflexible, and unwilling to admit that she might be wrong. In her stories, she constantly proyects her own troubles into them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way she has these problems "solved" -by having her characters drink a vial of "Potion" that magically whisks any personality problem they might have, and moving to some magical place where nothing bade ever happens- is more than slightly disturbing. The ponies in her stories are out of character, which is standard fare on TCB fics, but they are so far off the mark that it's not even funny. The ponies here are seemingly incapable of evil -even to defend themselves- which not only makes them into a species of Mary Sues, completely ignores canon ellements, such as Trixie, the Flim-Flam brothers, Diamond Tiara and Prince Blueblood, and even the mane cast on occasions. On the flipside, humanity is constantly portrayed as an entire species of greedy, violent barbarians full of fanatism and hate, which is quite impossible since if it were true, we would have wiped ourselves out a multitude of times in 40000+ years of history. Quite literally everything bad in her stories stems from humans. The HLF is human, the PER is composed of former humans, the pony jerks are descended from a former human... the list goes on. And let's not even start on the subject of her Celestia, who screams God Mode Sue so loud the martians can hear it. However, the true epitome of her attitude is the story Ten minutes: Aftermath. In it she completely diregards the personality of the main human character, makes the main conflict of the original story moot, introduces an unnecesary romance, and strips away the feeling of struggle that made the original so great. And that is why I so despise her stories: There is no struggle against the dark, no final moment of resistance, no finest hour. And who likes a story like that?
The Conversion Bureau: AAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH!!!
THAT PLACE WHERE PONIES BECOME HUMANS HA HA OH WAIT
Disregard the title of this, I'm just going to have to examine the 'verse. Which I despise...but hey. The original fic makes a few glaring mistakes. Characters are OOC. There're two flat OCs that we barely care about, if at all, and some mediocre, that is, neither good nor bad, writing. Blaze will admit that it's kinda shitty, and I agree. It's not too bad, but it's definitely nowhere near good. Then comes Chatoyance. Dear. Lord. Chatoyance. It's like every single thing that annoys me about fanfiction rolled into one author. But I can't just say that, I have to explain why it's so obnoxious to me. For starters, Chatty's got an ego the size of a tanker and enough self-righteousness to outclass your standard Spess Mehreen. She seems to think that her own vision is more in-tune than Faust's own damn show. And that's no good. Seriously, there are a thousand and one reasons why that's an absolutely terrible mindset to write with, not to mention the fact that she believes herself to be so far above criticism that just mentioning the fact that you don't like her stories will get you fucking crucified. The writing itself is passable. I mean, they do meander, and the prose gets really flowery, but it's okay. But the universe is poorly made. There are so many unaccounted-for flaws in this place that it makes no logical sense. Things are painted black and white, as though a situation like this would be so easy to solve. Because humanity would totally be willing to succumb to genocide unless willing to change your bodies into that of my litle ponly, amirite?! Then we have the characters. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, gets in on the Fantastic Racism. Celestia's a ridiculous God Mode Sue. The villains are more sympathetic than the fucking protagonists. There is something fundamentally wrong with this! Reading it leaves a taste in my mouth that's worse than Mountain Dew. If this sounds like an incredibly negative and harsh review, then you're right. It is incredibly harsh, and negative. And kind of harsh. I wouldn't even be this damned scathing if it weren't for the author's attitude...but oh well.
Alright, Let's Un-bias This ****
There's been a bit of a bias about this series on tvtropes. I'm here to break that bias. This story is actually well written, the content is thought provoking, and some parts of it are actually fun to read. But be advised, definitely not for anyone who is so "pro-human" that they would want to kill the author. True story.
There is one main problem with most Conversion Bureau fics
The ponies are portrayed as being perfect whereas in the show they have the same flaws and other characteristics as humans so that people watching the show can relate to them. Sure, the ponies in the show are mostly nice to each other and have few problems, but this seems to be due to their culture and their effective government rather than their natures. Most humans are also mostly nice to each other in day to day life and human evils usually occur on a larger scale, like pollution by corporations and needless wars conducted by governments, or are due to lesser sins like apathy and greed. These lesser sins are present in ponies in the show as well, and the only reason they're not present in these fics is, I suspect, because of the authors' misanthropy and desire for Wish Fulfillment. I'm certain that many people will find them entertaining for these reasons, but the simplicity of the themes and lack of purpose beyond escapism and indulgence in misanthropy in most of these fics means that they're not good art.
The thing about the Conversion Bureau series is that despite its unfortunate tendencies, it is theoretically a fascinating situation. Although often written in an extremely ham-fisted and self-righteous way, the Conversion Bureau universe represents some truly ripe narrative possibilities: It's a union of two very different worlds and the clash of their cultures and philosophies. It focuses on a 'war' pretty much unlike any other - one fought almost entirely with propaganda and beliefs rather than guns or bombs. It has a diverse set of factions with plenty of room for expansion. Given each faction's stated goals, any or all of them could be convincingly portrayed as sympathetic or even good. Furthermore, I would argue that as much as some of the fics in this series may upset people, the fact remains that you DO care about them. They get an emotional response out of you, and make you re-examine your own opinions on the nature of humanity. Even if you out-and-out disagree 100% with everything an author says, most of the time you feel pretty strongly about it. And there's something to be said for the fact that they can get that reaction from you. That being said, there are some stories in the Conversion Bureau universe that examine the scenario more 'fairly' and can be a fascinating read. I HIGHLY recommend Railroad Seven-Three if you have any interest in TCB at all. It presents a fairly detailed and sympathetic look at both sides of the Conversion argument, with a special emphasis on people who would feel that Equestria had absolutely nothing to offer them despite being 'paradise.' There are others obviously as well - Ten Rounds is iconic for its Take That approach toward the original fic's misanthropic attitude, as is its spiritual successor Ten Minutes. In conclusion, The Conversion Bureau has got an awful lot of crap in it - but if you're willing to wade through it, there's definitely some value to be found.
Humans Are Bastards: The 'Verse
Well, what can I say that the title of this review doesn't? Oh yes, let's start with how the Mane Six are portrayed in the original fic. They are seriously OOC; each and everyone of them somehow become hardcore xenophobes, even Pinkie Pie. There are other issues, such as how the moral issues are completely ignored. But there is not enough space to go into detail here. The fics by Chatoyance are, in my opinion, the worst of this abominable series. They are laden with flowery prose that edges into Purple Prose territory. But that is the least of these fics' problems. In addition, the show's canon is pretty much ignored and a huge amount of fanon and Fan Wank used in its place. In addition, the ponies and their supporters are almost always shown as being heroic, even if they are doing decidely unheroic things. Finally, and most glaringly, the author's views on GLBT issues, environmental issues, technology, etc, are delivered with the grace and subtlety of a rain of anvils. All in all, The Conversion Bureau and most of its spinoffs, especially those by Chatoyance are more or less tracts about how Humans Are Bastards and Humans Are Morons and how humans suck and how Earth is a Crapsack World. And these messages are as subtle as two fully loaded freight trains in a head on collision. Finally, most of them carry the unfortunate message that genocide is okay.