Monday, 30 June 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 20

MLP:FiM issue #20 cover A
I bought all four Andy Price covers in this arc
Well, what a ride this arc has given us! Although the signs from IDW Towers are that there won't be another four-issue arc for quite some time, I really hope that there will be one eventually. There are things you can do with four comics to play with that simply aren't possible in a one-shot or even a two-issue arc. Let's see whether the fabled Cook/Price/Breckel team have made My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comics as epic as the S4 finale.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 12

Well, I guess I might as well continue doing these. At worst, I can use them to refer to myself... Anyway. it should be fairly clear by now what sort of fics I like, but I will admit to the occasional surprise, Fallout: Equestria being perhaps the most impressive. So, here are another five for anyone who reads this to consider. A bit of a mixed bag this week.

Pick of the fics

They're, There... by FanNotANerd
Twilight and Spike
Comedy/Adventure; 30K words; Jul 2013; Everyone
Twilight's world is turned upside down when she realises that everypony is slowly losing their ability to read. Amusing to start with, but emphasises the Adventure much more later on. Should really have a Celestia tag, plus an OC one; indeed, the OC is a very interesting character. A few typos, ironically. 7.5/10

Other stories

The Enjoyable Morning Of The Sun Bearer by LoneUnicornWriter (author known as Fantasia Archsage at review time)
Celestia
Slice of Life; 1K words; Apr 2014; Everyone 
A collab with Pump It Up. This story does exactly what it says on the tin. It's Slice of Life in its purest form: quite simply, a look at how the Princess of the Sun spends a morning. No battles, deaths, monsters, disasters or nameless terrors. Indeed, nothing startling at all – which is the point. 6.5/10

Love Bunny by Twinkletail
Fluttershy, Twilight, Cadance, Shining Armor and Angel
Romance/Comedy; 4K words; Mar 2014; Everyone 
This gets really mixed reviews (+33/-19) and I can see why. It's potentially a hilarious story in the crackfic mould, but it really isn't as funny as it should be. I was also discomfited by some of Fluttershy's behaviour. The title is a bit of a giveaway as to what happens, too. 5/10

Rocketmare by Rust
Twilight and OC
Sad; 2K words; Apr 2014; Everyone
This story, which is told in the present tense, isn't even clearly a ponyfic until quite a way through. As the title implies, it's sci-fi. We're not really told where the technology came from, but it doesn't matter. Written in under three hours for a contest. A shame about one use of "plot", but otherwise nicely judged and bittersweet. 7/10

The Running of the Leaves by doctor hooves
Mane Six and Granny Smith
Slice of Life; 1K words; Nov 2012; Everyone
This story about, er, guess, has a terrible rating balance (+1/-22) but actually, I don't think it's that appalling. It's certainly not good, and the ending is a real "Er, what?" moment. There are also tons of typos, including ponies' names, and the author seems to delete comments (very rarely a good idea). But honestly, I've read worse. 3/10

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #6: Rainbow Dash & Trixie

MLP:Friends Forever #6 main cover
Blue is the colour...
It's been a little bit of a wait, but now I have the sixth Friends Forever comic to look at. I've generally found that this series has been slightly more child-targeted than the main series, though there's not always a lot in it. I suppose I can't complain about that: this is My Little Pony, after all! Writing duties are again handled by Thom Zahler, doubling up after last month's FF. The artwork is by Agnes Garbowska, who we last saw drawing the Spike/Celestia issue. Is it any good? Let's see...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 11

Okay, folks: this week we're back to the usual format. Five stories are listed, with one being singled out as the cream of the crop. Most of them are very short one-shots this time, but as it happens that isn't the case for the story I've chosen as this week's winner. This time round, there are no stunningly good or appallingly awful fics, but that's just the luck of the draw! Without further ado, then, let's get on with it.

Pick of the fics

Flitter by Nyerguds
Changelings, OC, Twilight and Celestia
Romance/Comedy/Adventure; 31K words; Apr 2014; Teen
The date is slightly misleading: most of this was done in late 2012. A really interesting concept, in which a changeling (not one of Chrysalis's mob) has taken the place of a dead stallion. Very funny at times, especially early on, but things get a little too serious for my taste in the later chapters. The bonus bits and pieces are worth a look. 7.5/10

Other stories

Brace Buddies by TooShyShy
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Sad/Slice of Life; 2K words; May 2014; Everyone
Something I found really refreshing now: a traditional cute short of the kind that may be old-fashioned but is also a good read. Rainbow and Fluttershy talk properly for the first time while in a dentist's waiting room. The very occasional awkward use of language, but still enjoyable. From a newish author who I hope will write more. 7.5/10

Evil Belle Takes Over Canterlot by Akumokagetsu
Sweetie Belle, Rarity, Celestia and Luna
Comedy; 2K words; May 2014; Everyone
A sequel to Evil Belle (PR 10) and just a little bit more fun if you ask me. The title explains what the unicorn filly is going for this time round. There's a very amusing confrontation (if that's the word!) with Princess Celestia, some spot-on language and, well, generalised silliness. 7.5/10

The Price by Vimbert the Unimpressive
Big Mac and Caramel
Romance; 3K words; Jun 2012; Teen
A short story in which Big Mac looks back at something that happened when he was barely more than a colt, something he still can't quite come to terms with. As the Romance tag suggests, there's some shipping here. That's done pretty well, though the kiss is telegraphed a mile off. Loses a little on purely personal prejudice for an unattractive portrayal of Granny Smith. 6/10

Stormy Monday by Bud Grazer
Lyra and Bon Bon
Slice of Life; 3K words; Mar 2014; Everyone
Fair warning to those who care about such things: Bon Bon's unpopular canon name of "Sweetie Drops" is used here. It's a decent story, though, which shows us how she met Lyra when she first moved to Ponyville. A light but interesting subplot involving Pinkie Pie. There are lyrics to a song, but it's less annoying than most fanfic songs. 7/10

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Pony music on Spotify? You'd better believe it!

If you have a Spotify account, then you might just be surprised at how much pony music is available through that service. It's not always easy to find stuff on Spotify if you don't know what you're looking for, though, so in this post I'll take a look at some of what's out there. As you'd expect from this blog, this is done with a UK focus, so please don't be too upset if some of these tracks aren't available worldwide! For simplicity's sake, I'm using HTTP links throughout, rather than Spotify URIs, despite the iffiness of the Spotify web player.

First up, we have official show music! That's right: the first of the two officially released albums of (sometimes extended) songs from the show itself is available via Spotify. Songs of Friendship and Magic contains the likes of "Winter Wrap Up", "The Smile Song" and "This Day Aria". The more recent second album, Songs of Ponyville, is unfortunately not available (yet?) and it's a shame that the one we do get lacks the second part of "Art of the Dress", but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, as Twilight once said.

After that, we're on to brony-produced music. As far as I can tell, only a small minority of fandom musicians are featured on Spotify, but there's some nice stuff if you dig around for it. Perhaps the most impressive artist to be found here is Aviators: you can listen to the Reflections of a Dream, Aeterno, From All Sides and Mirrors albums, the Acoustic EP and the Constellations and Red singles. Still only a portion of Aviators' substantial output, but there are some real gems here: "Open Your Eyes", "Someone Like Me" and "Heroes", for example.

Another big-name musician who has some stuff on Spotify is The Living Tombstone. Not all that much, but the Tombstone Remixes album and Manehattan EP are there. The "Nightmare Night" remix is probably the best known track here. On a very different stylistic note, there's Garrison Ulrich's Small Horses and Other Stuff folk-rock album, which despite the second part of its name is largely made up of pony-themed guitar ballads. I'm fond of "Time is an Adventure", which features Feather (yes, that Feather) and the 2014 remix of Ulrich's older "Wings".

There's not a great deal left (that I've found!) from really popular artists, but Replacer does have Cerulean Blue – sadly, just that one song. There are some nice orchestral covers by Walt Ribeiro of a few tunes: the show theme, "Smile, Smile, Smile" and two fandom tracks: "Rainbow Factory" and "Discord". The latter two really are pretty impressive. Finally, for this post at least, there's a selection from 60s-style band The Shake Ups: the In Ponyville: Mane Event album and a few tracks from the confusingly similarly titled In Ponyville.

I'd better stop here, before this post becomes horribly long. But please do let me know in the comments if you've discovered any other pony music lurking around on Spotify!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Ponyfic Roundup Awards One (PRs 1-10)

Fear not, I'll be back to normal with Ponyfic Roundup 11 next week – but it's struck me that, having had 10 PRs now, it's perhaps time to hold a little awards ceremony. Since I generally choose five stories for each Roundup, here I've chosen five out of the several dozen I've reviewed. It just so happens that five gained 9/10 ratings, so the shortlist was fairly easily determined this time. Three fics get Bronze Awards, one gets a Silver Award... and the winner gets the Gold Award.

Ponyfic Roundup Gold Award

Height by PoweredByTea (PR 6)
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Adventure; 10K words; Jan 2014; Teen
A lovely, lovely piece of FlutterDash friendshipping. Very convincingly told in first person by Rainbow. The experimental epilogue was a risk, but I liked it. This is now a firmly established favourite of mine. A very worthy winner!

Ponyfic Roundup Silver Award

Naked Singularity by Cold in Gardez (PR 2)
Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy and Celestia
Comedy/Random; 11K words; Mar 2012; Teen (Sex)
An immensely funny fic in which Twilight attempts to write an, ahem, "steamy" romance novel. The author has that gift for suitably cringe-inducing humour that fits Twi so well. Don't read in public, as your giggles may get strange looks!

Ponyfic Roundup Bronze Awards

Fallout: Equestria by Kkat (PR 5)
Mane Six, CMC, Spike, Derpy and OC
Dark/Crossover/Adventure; 620K words; Sep 2013; Mature (Gore)
KKat's story (actually much older, but I use FIMFiction dates) really shouldn't have worked. I avoided it for years because of its gory scenes. Yet it draws you in, the writing improves vastly after a slightly shaky start, and the post-apocalyptic world really does convince.

Fluttershy is Free by Jordan179 (PR 3)
Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and [can't say; major spoiler!]
Slice of Life; 10K words; Jan 2014; Teen
A fascinating, thoughtful look at a potential alternative background for Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash is mostly there as support while 'Shy's remarkable backstory unfolds. Quite unlike anything else I've read.

Forever Young by Hyperexponential (PR 9)
Discord, Fluttershy and Rarity
Sad/Slice of Life; 4K words; May 2013; Teen
This, fillies and gentlecolts, is how you write Discord/Fluttershy stories. Given  the date, ignore any conflict with the S4 finale. Extremely good characterisation and – yes – you may find yourself shedding a tear for Discord.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

UK PonyCon tickets on sale!

I'm back from holiday, so it's time to do a little catching up. The big news this past week has been the release of tickets for this year's UK PonyCon! This year, the convention will be held over the weekend of 11-12 October at the Mercure "The Grand" Hotel in Leicester city centre, a great location that's easily accessible by road and rail. There's lots of information to be found on the con's site, linked above, and specific ticket info is here. However, for convenience, I'll give the basic prices now:

Saturday or Sunday: adult £15, child £7, family £38
Saturday and Sunday: adult £25, child £10, family £60

"Child" means age 5-12; over-12s need an adult ticket and under-5s go free. "Family" means two adults and two children, or one adult and four children.

Tickets will be available on the door, and the prices will be the same, but if you purchase in advance then you'll get faster entry. The ticket link I gave above will tell you more, as well as details of how to buy advance tickets online.

Those prices look good to me! I know it's a smaller event than BUCK, but the combination of the much lower ticket prices and also cheaper travel has pretty much made up my mind that this year, if I go to one con, UK PonyCon will be it.