Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 6

I'm going to change the layout of the Ponyfic Roundup very slightly from now on. Although I'll still aim to mention about five stories each time, I'll be singling out one that I feel is the pick of the lot. That doesn't mean all the others are bad, necessarily – and in any case, your tastes may not agree with mine – but simply that this was the fic I most enjoyed in the selection. Anyway, on we go!

Pick of the fics

Height by PoweredByTea
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Adventure; 10,382 words; Jan 2014; Teen
You've probably gathered by now that I'm a big fan of FlutterDash friendshipping, so here's some more of it! A lovely story, told in first person by Rainbow, in which Dash's attempts to convince her friend of the glories of high-altitude flight lead to an unlooked-for adventure. There's also a very amusing short epilogue in a radically different style. The Teen rating is a little cautious. 9/10

Other stories

End of the Rainbow by Deathscar
Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Twilight
Tragedy/Sad/Slice of Life; 5,324 words; Apr 2012; Teen
The title makes it fairly obvious what the premise of this story is: the death of Rainbow Dash and how her close friends deal with it. An okay story, though it's a shame it wasn't proof-read a little more as there's some irritating tense-mixing. The pacing is a bit strange, but the story is better later on. The (nearly) last line is the best thing about this one. 6/10

Never a Rainbow by NorsePony
Applejack and Fluttershy
Sad/Alternate Universe; 2,001 words; Jun 2012; Teen
This interesting little one-shot explores the consequences, not of Rainbow's death, but of her never having been born in the first place. Equestria has become a very different place without the colourful pegasus, and the ripples have affected everypony, including AJ and 'Shy, to a great extent. Pretty well written, and worth a look. 8/10

the rebellion! [sic] by tunderchaser
OC and Other
Romance/Sad/Adventure/Alternate Universe; 2,886 words; Jan 2012; Everyone
This is misclassified: it contains only OCs. More to the point, it's among the worst non-troll ponyfics I have ever read on Fimfiction. Full of misspellings, tense-mixing, exclamation marks, unexplained weirdness and bad pacing. A pony gets upset when another pony falls in love with her sister, so tries to take over the world and destroy "Pony Ville". Well, naturally. Gets a point for being (intermittently) amusingly terrible. 1/10

Sun Princess by Skywriter
Applejack and Winona
Sad/Slice of Life; 1,709 words; Jul 2013; Everyone
To end with this week, and to cleanse your brain if you're reading through these in order, we have a fascinating short. I don't think I've ever read a story told from Winona's point of view (though in third person) before, but Skywriter does a very good job of it. The partnership between Winona and Applejack has obvious parallels with another couple. A shame that the ending is a little bit forced, but otherwise it's a solid piece of work. 7.5/10

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Episode review: "Inspiration Manifestation" (S4E23)

Rarity losing it once again
TV-Y shows are "not expected to frighten younger children". Clearly terrifying adults is fine
We're now getting very close to the end of Season 4 now, and what a ride this latest season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has been! For this episode, we see another writing collaboration, this time between Corey Powell and showrunner Meghan McCarthy. Both these women have come up with some classics over the years, so I had high hopes for this episode. Did it live up to expectations? You know what to do by now: read on and find out!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 5: Special Edition

I wasn't planning to do a Ponyfic Roundup this week, but I have a specific reason for this. In the previous four Roundups, I've posted potted reviews of five stories each time. Here, I'm going to deal with just one. And on this occasion, I won't confine myself to my usual short paragraph. You'll still get that, but I will go on to discuss my feelings about the story in considerably more detail than usual. Since there will be significant spoilers in that section, I'll keep it under a break-cut. And so:

Fallout: Equestria by Kkat
Mane Six, CMC, Spike, Derpy and OC
Dark/Crossover/Adventure; 620,295 words; Sep 2013; Mature (Gore)
KKat's story (actually much older, but I use FIMFiction dates) should have been a disaster. A vast, sprawling, post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy game crossover – with pastel ponies. Told in first person, at that. And yet she has produced an extraordinary piece of pony literature. It doesn't all work – the writing takes a few chapters to settle down and there are some irritating stylistic quirks, especially the overuse of show quotes – and it's arguable whether it should have a Sex tag too, but it's so much better than it has any right to be. Yes, it really is worth the time it will take you to read it. 9/10

All right; this is where you should leave me if you're going to read the story and don't want to be spoiled. I'm using a break-cut, but that won't work on RSS readers etc. So consider this a spoiler warning on its own! Okay, here goes:

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Episode review: "Trade Ya!" (S4E22)

The Orthros glomps Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
The Orthros and the pegasi in a... wait for it... dogpile
This post is a little bit late (and somewhat shorter than usual) because of my Easter break, but here I am again with another My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode review. This time, the ep under discussion is "Trade Ya!", written by Scott Sonneborn. He was making his second appearance as a writer for this show, having made his debut with the interesting but uneven "Somepony to Watch Over Me" a few weeks ago. What could he pull out of the bag this time? Only one way to find out: follow me past the break!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Happy Easter!

I'm taking a few days' break now, so the review for E22 will not be up until the second half of the coming week. Remember, there won't be a Ponyfic Roundup on Wednesday either. I don't know how you're going to cope without me for all this time. Ahem. Anyway, have a good Easter, and I'll be back with you before long! :)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Ponyfic Roundup no. 4

And here we go again! Before I forget, let me mention that there probably won't be a Ponyfic Roundup next week: I'm taking it as my Easter break! I do intend to return, though, since I'm rather enjoying these things. I've even set up a Calibre library purely to keep track of ponyfics; it only contains around 40 stories so far, but I'm sure it'll end up being a great deal larger than that! Anyway, without further ado, here are this week's five stories:

Autumn of love [sic] by TokusatsuKuuga-RX
Applejack and OC
Romance; 1,057 words; Nov 2013; Everyone
I'll admit it: I read this story because it had a 1:38 like:dislike ratio and I wanted to see if it was really that bad. And... yes. It is. It's a shipfic in which "a young Alicorn named TokusatsuKuuga-RX" (yes, really) falls in love with Applejack. It's actually quite an achievement to break so many ponyfic rules a fraction of the way into such a short story. The formatting is weird, too, with some highly distracting line breaks. It doesn't get zero, though, simply because it's actually been spellchecked. 1/10

A Filly's Guide to Not Making Headlines by Bradel
Applejack, Rarity, Twilight, CMC and OC
Comedy/Slice of Life; 8,218 words; Jun 2013; Everyone
Newly-crowned Princess Twilight Sparkle needs to learn something about international diplomacy – so Rarity (with the dubious assistance of the CMC) sets out to teach her. This takes a little while to get going, and the CMC themselves don't entirely convince, though Rarity's characterisation is excellent. Lots of fun later on, though, and some clever wordplay (with griffons!) is a bonus. An odd decision to call an in-story newspaper the Equestria Daily, though! 7.5/10

This is a Story You Will Never Read by Cynewulf
Twilight
Slice of Life; 3,865 words; Feb 2013; Everyone
Yes, that Cynewulf: the FIMFiction story approver! This is something a little different: you might call it "observational slice of life", a subgenre for which Twilight is a good choice of lead character. The descriptions of Twi's thoughts aren't always entirely smooth, but I think that's deliberate: she's a pony whose thoughts (especially in her unicorn days, as here) were sometimes rather choppy. One intrusive real-world reference in a pony's name. I don't think I'd want to read fics like this very often, but as a reflective change of pace this is interesting. 8/10

Welcome Home, Scootaloo by Lovepugkate
Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo
Slice of Life; 1,015 words; Mar 2014; Everyone
Let's be honest, you can probably guess the basic plot of this story once you've noted the title and the featured ponies. It sticks with the "Scootaloo is an orphan" headcanon that has been strained a bit recently, and there's nothing here that will make your eyes widen with surprise. But considering this is Lovepugkate's first fanfic, I think it's a decent one. A few typos, but it's a cute little thing and I have a terrible weakness for cute Scoots fics. 6/10

When It Was In Color by Kajuaru (author known as Mister McMuffin at review time)
Rainbow Dash
Sad; 1,146 words; Oct 2013; Teen
A "what if?" story which deals with the aftermath of Rainbow failing to get into the Wonderbolts. It's fairly well done: not perfect, but the flow is okay and the idea is quite interestingly explored. It has a satisfying ending, too. I did feel that one significant plot point was rather out of character for a certain pony (not Dash) and that its ramifications weren't explored sufficiently. There was the odd typo, but this is worth a glance. The Teen rating isn't really necessary, though. 6.5/10

Monday, 14 April 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #4: Twilight & Shining Armor

MLP: Friends Forever comic, regular (A) cover
Clearly ascension to alicornhood also bestows the gift of dancing ability
All right, then: it's time for My Little Pony! What do you mean, it's always time for My Little Pony? You're right, though... here we (well, I) present a review of the fourth in the Friends Forever series. This comic gives us the sibling team-up of Twilight and Shining Armor. Rob Anderson's only previous outing was the reasonable but not brilliant Spike micro, but both Amy Mebberson and Heather Breckel have lots of past Pony. After the break, let's see whether this latest FF issue does the job.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Spamming my own fanfic again :P

Rainbow Dash at the Cloud House
Rainbow Dash contemplates... well, something
My copy of Friends Forever #4 is on order, and a review will be along when I get it. In the meantime, here's something else I wrote recently: the first chapter of "Where They Understand You". This is planned to be a medium-length story explaining just why Rainbow Dash moved to Ponyville on her birthday. It starts off a long time ago, back when she and Fluttershy were still at school. It's Teen-rated, but that's for stuff that may be included later; this first chapter is suitable for everyone. I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Ponyfic Roundup no. 3

It's Wednesday, so it's time for Ponyfic Roundup! Actually, I'm not going to promise to post these things on a strict schedule, since life does have a habit of getting in the way. But since I'm able to do so this time, I thought I might as well. You've probably got the idea by now: these are potted reviews of stories I've read on FIMFiction. As with the previous two Roundups, I've selected five stories to write about.

Almost Beautiful by Donnys Boy
Twilight and Rarity
Romance/Slice of Life; 5,663 words; May 2013; Everyone
Someone recommended this nicely crafted shipfic to me, and I'm glad they did so. Twilight/Rarity isn't one of the most common pairings (yes, yes, I know I've just written for it myself!) but Donnys Boy makes a very good job of this. It's slightly wordy, but I think that's fine for a Twi-centric story. There's the very occasional word choice that feels slightly awkward, and a mildly fudged analogy near the end... but the story itself lives up to its title. 8/10
 
Fluttershy is Free by Jordan179
Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and [can't say; major spoiler!]
Slice of Life; 10,464 words; Jan 2014; Teen
Jordan179 (who, full disclosure, I know very slightly) has constructed a detailed chronology of FiM within which he's written several fics. This is the story of what happened when Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy went to see the butterfly migration referenced in "Dragon Quest". Dash is about to discover something deeply startling about her close friend. Excellently written and explores a truly fascinating theory I haven't seen suggested by anyone else. A story where "mature themes" is actually an accurate term. 9/10

For Those We Left Behind by Drakmire
Twilight
Sad/Slice of Life; 5,514 words; Jun 2012; Everyone 
A real tear-jerker for some readers: I didn't go quite that far, but I was certainly moved. Twilight receives word of the death of her mother and travels to Canterlot to try to piece together more about a mare she never really knew. There's a wonderfully written conversation at one point which perfectly captures the curiously strained, brittle feel of a post-bereavement conversation. Canon has rendered this Alternate Universe since it was written, but don't reject it on that score. 8/10

To Make a Spark by Chris
Cadance
Adventure; 4,298 words; Oct 2013; Everyone
This is the story of Cadance's ascension to alicornhood: it accepts the lore introduced in Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell that Cadance began life as a pegasus. From there, Chris weaves a lyrical, slightly mystical story (appropriate for the future ruler of the Crystal Empire, I suppose) that feels almost like a fairytale in places. I thought the ending was slightly less strong than the superb middle, but it's recommended, and not just to Cadance fans. 8/10

What Happened? by CrystalFeather
Mane Six and OC
Tragedy/Sad/Dark; 1,725 words; Oct 2013; Everyone
Fluttershy is rescued from a prison by her friends, but she has lost something terribly important to her. In this first-person narrative, we see how this loss affects her. This is one of those fics where a potentially very interesting idea suffers from an undeveloped and rather rushed story. (The grammar etc is decent, though.) None of the three chapters are over 1,000 words, which gives it a disjointed feel. There are also problems with the setup, especially concerning how Fluttershy was captured in the first place. 4/10

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Equestrian Family Values

A little something I posted on my FIMFiction account and thought I'd reproduce here. Consider the Mane Six in terms of what we know about their families:

Applejack is ferociously loyal to her family: she still lives on the farm with her two siblings and grandmother. As "Simple Ways" underlined, she's certainly not a mare who'd be short of suitors if she wanted them. But family (and the farm, which for AJ is really part of her family) come first.

Pinkie Pie had a rather dull, grey childhood, but still keeps in touch with her sisters in particular. "Maud Pie" made it clear that there's a lot of love in that family, even if it's not always shown in a particularly extroverted fashion.

Twilight Sparkle doesn't seem to see her parents very often, but the little evidence we have suggests that they get on well enough. Despite the number of ponies who fell out with Twi at Shining Armor's wedding, her parents weren't among them.

Rarity's closest relative is, of course, Sweetie Belle; the sisters have certainly become that little bit closer as Sweetie grows up. She's rather less keen on her parents, probably because they're so obviously not in the social class she aspires to, but she can at least tolerate them.

Rainbow Dash's family life is rather more of a mystery. Leaving aside her adoptive sister Scootaloo (though I'll come back to her in a moment) the only probable relative we've ever seen was the rainbow-maned stallion in that brief Equestria Games announcement flashback.

And Fluttershy has nopony. She is the only one of the Mane Six who is utterly devoid of known relatives, blood or adopted. Even in her flashbacks, we've never, ever seen her at a childhood home or with her parents.

Note the progression here: the earth ponies are the most family-inclined, followed by the unicorns, with the pegasi the most distant. I have a hard time believing that that's a complete accident on the part of the writers. It also just happens to fit Scootaloo's position as the other pony whose blood family we've never once heard mentioned.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Episode review: "Testing Testing 1, 2, 3" (S4E21)

Rainbow Dash argues with Fluttershy
Pinkie? Can we have an Epic Rap Battle of Equestria over here, please?
Including this one, there are now just six episodes remaining of Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. After last week's relatively underwhelming offering, could veteran writer Amy Keating Rogers produce something special? Her record so far in this season – she brought us both "Pinkie Pride" (with Jason Thiessen) and "Filli Vanilli" – gave cause for optimism. This was a Rainbow Dash episode, though, and those have never been entirely predictable in terms of quality. Join me after the break!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

February IDW comics sales figures: better late than never!

MLP:FiM comic issue #16, cover B
Which grin is scarier, Bookworm's or Pinkie's?
I know I said a while back that I probably wouldn't keep on doing these posts, but I did have a little bit of feedback saying that the stats were useful. With that in mind, here's a look at what happened in February, thanks to Comichron's numbers. And yes, I know it's already April; I'm just forgetful, all right? :P But I think we can rest assured that the future of IDW's My Little Pony comics is pretty safe in the near term at least. Main-series issue #16 came in at no. 73 (up 7) and sold:
26,942
copies, which is a fall of just 1.9% on last month. Given that February was a worse month for comics sales all round than January, I don't think there's the remotest need to worry about that one. It's still easily IDW's best-selling comic, after all. And as it happens, the second-placed IDW title was a My Little Pony one as well: it was the Hundred Penny Press reprinting of main-series #1. This came in at no. 95, selling:
21,957
copies. I'm particularly pleased by this figure, since presumably most long-standing fans will have at least one copy of issue #1 already. Of course some of us will have bought the Hundred Penny Press edition as part of a variant covers collection, but I would have thought that there'll also be a fair number of actual newcomers in there. And Pony also snagged third place in IDW's rankings, with Friends Forever #2 sneaking in at no. 99 (down 1) with:
20,676
sales. That's a fall of 11.5% over the series' first issue, but I don't think that's a bad result at all. Remember that FF #1 got pretty poor reviews on the whole (including right here) and that some people were rather put off by the start it made. So for the second installment to still break the 20K barrier is highly encouraging. (In case you're wondering, X-Files: Conspiracy #1 was IDW's best non-MLP comic, with 15,576 sales.)

Taking a quick look at the graphic novels section, we can see that My Little Pony Tales Vol. 2 debuted at no. 8 with 2,874 copies sold; that's the book which includes the Luna micro, so I'm not surprised it's been popular. Lower down the list, the second main-series anthology sold a further 904 copies. All in all, it's been another solid month for the comics, and with luck the March figures will keep things going along nicely. I'll try not to be so late with those!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Ponyfic Roundup no. 2

Since I published my first Ponyfic Roundup a week ago, I've kept up my reading fairly well, and so here's another batch of five stories with their potted reviews. The format is the same as last time's, since it seemed to work reasonably well. Please don't read these posts in the expectation of getting long, in-depth reviews, because that's not my aim; such things aren't hard to find if you want them. What I'm hoping to do here is to give you just enough detail to give you an idea whether you might enjoy a fic.

There are no long stories this time round; that doesn't mean there won't be in a future roundup. I do prefer shorter fics on the whole, but I'll read a longer one from time to time. Off we go, then!

Daring DONE! by Aragon
Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Celestia, Luna and Twilight Velvet
Comedy; 5,538 words; Dec 2013; Everyone
The "exchange of letters" format for fiction needs to be handled very carefully to avoid it becoming clich├ęd and predictable. Thankfully, Aragon gets it right. Technically, this story has become an Alternate Universe fic since it was written (most of it was done by Oct 2013), as "Daring Don't" makes it impossible to reconcile with canon. But don't worry too much about that; just enjoy the hilarious tale of what happened when Rainbow Dash found out just who really wrote the Daring Do books... 8.5/10

My Beloved Sister by Deil Grist
Celestia
Sad; 1,516 words; Jun 2013; Everyone 
The 1,000-word minimum on FIMFiction discriminates against poetry like no other type of writing, so I'm always pleased to see some. It's quite nicely constructed, with a suitably epic feel most of the time – although just occasionally a line does get distractingly pedestrian. Unfortunately (for me) it's one of those stories in which Celestia apologises to Luna – the poem is set while the younger sister is still banished to the Moon – and implies that it was all her (Tia's) fault. I'm afraid I find that quite annoying, and it knocks this down to 6/10.

Naked Singularity by Cold in Gardez
Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy and Celestia
Comedy/Random; 10,524 words; Mar 2012; Teen (Sex)
Twilight is embarrassed when her attempt to write a romance novel goes wrong. However, when she's advised to write what she knows, she has a wonderful idea. The result is that Twi comes up with a new book that's... well, that would be telling. But it's screamingly funny, especially the extracts from Twi's novel, brilliantly imagined, well written and nicely paced. NSFW in places, but certainly not tacky. There's an irritating 550-word advert for CiG's other (unrelated) fics at the end, but the story itself is so entertaining that it's worth 9/10.

The Old Stories by Thanqol
Mane Six, Celestia and Luna
Slice of Life; 9,277 words; Aug 2012; Everyone
Here we have something intriguingly different from the norm. Each of the Mane Six tells a story – in her own style – about the long-ago age when Celestia was still making the Sun. The mythology is convincing and the stories are well linked but nicely distinct. A final, Luna-based chapter is the weakest part, and there are one or two real-world place names ("Reichenbach Falls", for pony's sake?) which do jar a little. Fascinating and recommended all the same. 8/10

Somewhere Only We Know by PatchworkPoltergeist
Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack
Sad/Alternate Universe; 4,721 words; Aug 2012; Everyone
The basic concept of "What if Equestria is just a dream?" is well-worn, but I've rarely seen it explored as beautifully as here. Dash is an old, tired carriage pony, whose friends have been sold away from the stable. She only sees them now on her rare trips into town – and fate has not been kind. In her dreams, though, Dash is free, soaring into a clear blue sky. The occasional stylistic quirk, and it should probably have had a Human tag added, but a deeply moving tale with strong echoes of Black Beauty. Please, please don't simply watch the Rainbow Dash Presents of this story; that would do it a grave disservice. 8.5/10