Thursday, 27 November 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue #25

IDW MLP:FiM comic #25, cover A
Price's A cover just beat out Richard's B for me
The latest arc in the My Little Pony main series, "The Good, the Bad and the Ponies", is a two-part Cook/Price/Breckel affair – and so will be the following one, apparently. I have somewhat mixed feelings about that: these guys have produced some wonderful comics over the time they've been doing it, but I am getting a bit irritated with their clear lack of interest in the pegasi. Fluttershy especially, of course, but Rainbow Dash doesn't tend to get much love, either. Is it better this time round? Let's see.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 32

Like an idiot, a feature I would really love to be added to FimFiction slipped my mind when Knighty asked for suggestions the other day. To wit: I'd like to have a small memo space (50 characters would be enough) by each story on my "Read Later" list, so I can remind myself of why I added it. For example, noting the identity of the person who'd recommended it. I do have a "Notes" column in Calibre, but this would be much more straightforward.

But back to the task in hoof. This week, as usual, there are five stories under consideration. It's not the most exciting edition of PR for those who like to see either astounding brilliance or astounding incompetence in their reading, but I'd imagine at least one or two of these will suit most tastes.

Pick of the fics

A Teacher with No Class by Kavonde
Blueblood, Cheerilee, CMC, Diamond Tiara and Dinky
Comedy/Slice of Life; 5K words; Aug 2012; Everyone
The author of An Outsider's Perspective (PR 27) had a hit with this Blueblood comedy in 2012. A special guest speaker comes to talk about government to Cheerilee's class... and it's the Royal Pain himself. This is lots of fun for most of its length, but with a twist near the end into a very different type of story. A few small quibbles (even in a 2012 fic, do we really need a description of the CMC?) but certainly worth a tea break. 8/10

Other stories

Dictated, Not Read by device heretic
Twilight, Celestia and Others
Sad/Slice of Life; 3K words; Jun 2012; Everyone
The author has apparently long since departed FimFic after some before-my-time drama, but at least they left us this. (Yes, and Eternal, I know...) Twilight's latest letter to Celestia is a little out of the ordinary, as she discusses a disliked Hearth's Warming gift from long ago. Really rather affecting. The only reason this doesn't score higher is that Twi's bitterness towards her parents seems a little over-the-top for her, especially in the circumstances of the story (vague because spoilers). 8/10

The Light in the Darkness by zaptiftun
Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie and Mane Six
Slice of Life; 5K words; Mar 2012; Everyone
A RainPie hurt/comfort friendshipping story. Dash comes home of an evening to find Pinkie in a dreadful state after a nightmare – one which bears a (deliberately) close resemblance to a certain infamous Pinkiefic of yore. A few typos and overlong paragraphs, while an our-world reference feels odd, even for a Pinkie story, but it's not disastrous. Does show its age, but not always in a bad way. 6.5/10

That Familiar Pain by Nightroad
Fluttershy and Twilight
Sad; 2K words; May 2013; Everyone
Fluttershy is always sad when Mother's Day rolls around – but this year, she's going to tell her wife (unicorn Twilight) just why. That's actually my main problem: it doesn't convince that Fluttershy, seven years into that relationship, would not have told Twi something as important as this. A comment about Rarity's mother is also unbelievable. Deliberately written without any direct speech, which mostly works but does feel forced at times. Still, quite readable on its own terms, so 5/10.

A True, True Friend? by Blazewing
Spike, Luna and Mane Six
Sad/Slice of Life; 9K words; Apr 2014; Everyone
Spike has finally had enough of not being invited when the Mane Six go to have fun, and ends up talking over his feelings with Princess Luna before confronting Twilight. It's a little sledgehammer with the "Spike deserves better" message in places, while the resolution is awfully convenient and drags on slightly, but it's still worth a look, especially for fans of the little dragon. 7/10

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Not-actually-new story by me: "By the Seashore"

"By the Seashore" cover picture
This was taken in northern Scotland, believe it or not
I never actually got round to posting about this little story when I wrote it. It's a simple, hopefully gently amusing, friendshipping piece which plays around with a notion stemming from something mentioned almost in passing in a show episode.

By the Seashore by Loganberry
Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Other
Slice of Life; 1K words; Sep 2014; Everyone
Harry the bear is vacationing in his favourite spot: a nice, quiet beach. Fluttershy decides to pay him a visit and persuades Rainbow Dash to accompany her – but why is it so important for the two of them to go digging around in the sand before they reach Harry's place?

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Accolades and aspirations

Haven picked up second place (out of ten entries, of which at least eight were serious attempts) in the Weekly Contests flash fiction contest. I'm quite pleased with that, since I did wonder whether my decision to go all-out with the coloured text might count against it. It also maintains my record of never having actually won a ponyfic writing contest of any kind. :P

Meanwhile, We Who with Songs Beguile was accepted into Twilight's Library, the fourth of my stories to achieve that status. I would have been quite disappointed if it hadn't been accepted, actually: it's not a work of staggering genius, but I think it meets all TL's requirements well enough. And it did hold up decently against some very high-powered competition, which is more than I've managed before!

I'm currently working on a short story (I know, amazing, isn't it?) for the Hearth's Warming Heart-Warming Contest organised by The MLP Fan Club!!!! group. Yes, that's how they style themselves. I'm rather attracted by the idea of writing something simple and cute, since I don't often go down that route with ponyfic. I've never entered a contest in this group before, so I don't know what they like, but we'll see!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #11: Spitfire and Rainbow Dash

MLP Friends Forever comic issue #11, front cover
The foals are based on G1 ponies: Melody bottom left, Heart Throb bottom right, etc
Been a while, hasn't it? You can blame that on the autumn cold that's been attacking me. I know there's already another comic out after this one, and I will try to catch up. Anyway, here's Friends Forever issue #11. Yes, it's written by Ted Anderson, so if that's a red line to you then I'll see you next time. For the rest of us, this RainFire team-up (hey, better than SpitDash!) brings a new artist to the scene in the shape of Jay Fosgitt. This'll be a fairly short review on account of my health, so let's go:

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 31: Special Edition

Way back in the summer, I started to read what (if it's ever finished) will be a quite enormous cycle of 12 books by "Imploding Colon", one of shortskirtsandexplosions' alt accounts. Austraeoh is the first book in the sequence. It has over 15,000 views and a votes ratio of +1,297/-46, but does it deserve such a stellar following and reputation? It took me months, but I did finish it:

Austraeoh by Imploding Colon
Rainbow Dash
Random/Adventure/Alternate Universe; 213K words; Oct 2012; Teen
The sum total of the description for this story is "Rainbow Dash flies east." The rest only becomes clear as the story progresses. It's a highly episodic story, with only a thin (though important) thread of connecting narrative. Scenes vary between imaginative and dull, gripping and annoying. At its best, the world-building is fascinating. Horribly overblown language early on thankfully settles down, but sadly the proofreading doesn't: far too many typos and weird word choices. (My favourite is a character "strolling icily".) Not even close to the greatest fanfic I've read, but worth ploughing through if you like world-building and episodic adventures with OCs – and have a high tolerance for Rainbow Dash. 6.5/10

All right. Now for my more detailed thoughts: these will contain lots of spoilers. If that doesn't matter to you, read on...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Austraeoh review coming up on Wednesday

I'm no longer doing the "Awards" posts every ten issues of Ponyfic Roundup. They seemed pretty pointless given that I score fics, and nobody seemed to care for them anyway. Even me. So, instead, PR 31 will be a special devoted to one fic: Imploding Colon's 213K-word story, Austraeoh. Those of you who want to see me rip shreds in a famous and highly-rated fic will get partial satisfaction, but don't expect a total evisceration. More on Wednesday!

(Also, I now have the Rainbow/Spitfire Friends Forever comic. Review of that coming this week, too.)

Official Season 5 teaser trailer released


Oh yes it is! The above video was released today on the official MLP YouTube account, also confirming release for spring 2015. The video is spoiler-free, so you're safe watching. The one intriguing line is "But nothing can prepare her [Twilight] for what comes next." And here's why I have a speculation tag on this post! Of course, you could argue that every season could justify a line like that – there's always something weird going on – but I wonder, I just wonder, whether there might be something really big and startling happening in S5.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

New story (of a sort) by me: Haven

This one is a little unusual: it was written for Contest #11 in the Weekly Contests group on FimFiction. This one was a flash fiction contest: the maximum word count was 100, the prompt was "Lighthouse" and the extra challenge was to use coloured text. I may have gone a teeny bit overboard with the last one, but none of the colour was added entirely gratuitously. Ask me why such-and-such a word is such-and-such a colour and I'll have an answer. Anyway, here it is: spot on 100 words, not counting the title:

Haven

It’s not always fun being famous, you know.

Sure, I like ponies to admire me – what pegasus wouldn’t? But if it burns too brightly, a star becomes blinding to look at. 

You want me to explain? Well... back in Cloudsdale, there’s this big lighthouse. Only inland lighthouse in Equestria. I worked there when I was just out of school. Didn’t stay long. Couldn’t...

It’s at the top of the Weather Factoryyou know why it’s there? Simple: to make sure weak fliers stay safe around rainbows. 

I learned something important the hard way up there: that lighthouse works both ways.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 30

My goodness, PR 30? I really didn't expect to make it this far! Anyway, a little sidetrack before I start: The Royal Guard over on FimFic has a ponypower shortage. This isn't a group that I've ever had anything to do with personally – Twilight's Library is more my thing and I'm iffy about reports I've read that TRG can be too concerned with technical minutiae, rather than how good a read a story is. (And that's me, typo-whinger extraordinaire, saying that!) But it would still be a shame to see it go under.

All right, on to this week's batch. It's a strange week when the winner is a Human fic, while a story widely accepted as one of the fandom's all-time classics is relegated to an also-ran position. But I can only tell it as I read it...

Pick of the fics

A Brush with Beauty by Burruku_Pansa
Pinkie Pie and Applejack
Human; 6K words; Jun 2014; Everyone
That rare thing, a properly good Human story – written, unsurprisingly, for that "Most Dangerous Game" contest (that I wish I'd discovered in time!) a few months back. The description makes the human protagonist seem about as boring and grey as possible, but you'd be surprised. As you read, it gradually becomes clear that his life is far from normal. Shifting perspective comes as a surprise, but there's a good reason. 8/10

Other stories

An Angel Lost by Mayhem Darkshadow
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Sad/Slice of Life; 5K words; Jul 2013; Everyone
A story with a +95/-3 score, written by a well-known name? Has to be great, yes? Actually... no. It's by no means awful, but this hurt/comfort story of Rainbow Dash trying to help her best friend after the tragedy alluded to by the title doesn't really gel. It badly needs proofreading, for one thing, while Fluttershy coming out with a long, descriptive monologue while apparently barely able to function in everyday life simply doesn't work. I'm not personally convinced by 'Shy's boozing, either, even in these extreme circumstances. 5/10

Every Little Bit by The Descendant
Rainbow Dash, Spike, Twilight, Rarity and Scootaloo
Slice of Life; 18K words; Sep 2013; Teen
Rainbow Dash offers a kiss as a charity auction prize, but is humiliated by a roomful of mouthy teenage colts. As usual for this author, it's well written and Spike is particularly interestingly portrayed. His relationship with Twilight is interesting, and some may feel an (apparently unintentional) TwiDash subtext, too. Unfortunately, the auction scene is overlong, while the colts' distasteful behaviour grates a little too much with my own notions of Ponyville society for me to truly love it. Highly recommended for Spike fans, though. 7.5/10

Rainbow Dash Watches Clouds by Ezn
Rainbow Dash
Slice of Life; 1K words; Aug 2012; Everyone
Yes, this is a little piece by the author of FimFic's Writing Guide, so it's a relief to find that it's decently written! I can't really think of a great deal to say about it: it has a nice atmosphere to it and is pleasant reading, but it evaporated from my memory rather as a cloud dissipates in the summer sky. Insubstantial but containing some nice imagery. One for when you have a few minutes to spare and want something that doesn't demand too much deep thinking. 7/10

Sunny Skies All Day Long by PhantomFox
Celestia and Mane Six
Slice of Life; 9K words; Apr 2012; Everyone
Probably everyone at least knows of this fic, which has been winning awards for over two years now. Celestia, fed up with all the bowing and scraping, disguises herself as an ordinary pegasus and spends the day in Ponyville. This is undoubtedly one of the more "episode-like" stories out there, and it's a pleasant enough read. What it isn't (any more, at least) is exceptional. Bits and pieces of characterisation feel a little off, and there are a surprising number of small typos. Worth reading, but it surely wouldn't be considered a classic if written today. 7/10

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Film review: Rainbow Rocks

Rainbow Rocks title screen
I guess they still have to get their heart shapes in there somewhere
It's Rainbow Rocks review time! As was the case with the first Equestria Girls film, I wanted to wait until I'd seen the thing in an official screening before writing this – but having now seen it at the cinema, I can get cracking. The hype before the film came out was much larger (and more brony-targeted) than the first time round, and there was a lot less hostility from the fandom at large. That was a double-edged sword, though: could Rainbow Rocks live up to expectations? Spoilers from here on in!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 29

In honour of Bonfire Night, I present... a completely non-special edition of Ponyfic Roundup. :P It's back to the usual format after the slew of EqD contest entries I reviewed last week. Since I do this in large part for myself (which is a good job, looking at my blog's recently-diminished view and comment count!) I'm once again confining myself to short stories. No real standouts this week, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Pick of the fics

Our Weary Daughter, Rest by HoofBitingActionOverload
Applejack
Adventure; 2K words; Jul 2014; Everyone
Applejack is travelling – utterly alone – along a forgotten, dusty road. Why is she doing it? Where are her friends and family? What, indeed, is her final destination to be? The writing is good enough that the answers to these questions do slowly become clear as you read. One or two minor typos apart, it's nicely proofread, too. An interesting stylistic touch is that there is no dialogue whatsoever: it's all description. I can't say this moved me quite as deeply as it clearly has others, but it was still worthwhile. 7.5/10

Other stories

Clock is Ticking by InfantHorizon
Twilight and Rainbow Dash
Tragedy/Sad/Dark; 4K words; Aug 2014; Mature (Gore)
Yes, it's a gorefic. Not usually my sort of thing at all, but I thought I'd give it a go after the author made major revisions to their (apparently terrible) initial version. Twilight wakes in a dark room, accompanied only by a ticking clock. Turns out the pony responsible for her torture is a diseased Rainbow Dash. The science doesn't make a whole lot of sense and I had serious problems with the characterisation, but the writing is smoother than usual for this sort of story. Even the gore quotient is manageable until about the three-quarter mark. In the end, though, it still reads like a gorefic first and a ponyfic second, and I can't really enjoy that. 3/10

Sprinkles by Corejo
Pinkie Pie and Twilight
Comedy/Slice of Life; 3K words; Nov 2012; Everyone
A cute little fic by the author of Reading Rainbow (PR 23). Pinkie decides to teach Twilight how to bake, and Twi is confident she can do it. Thanks to book learning, naturally. Er... no. But Pinkie does end up teaching her friend something even more important. Not a particularly deep or meaningful story, but it's rather heartwarming and just right if you want something short and undemanding. 7/10

Styx Enterprises by JLB
Diamond Tiara and Others
Dark/Comedy; 3K words; Oct 2014; Teen
Filthy Rich has a problem with his latest contract deal. He also has a problem – as usual – with his wayward daughter. However, it's the identity of the two visitors that really matters here. Quite an interesting black comedy, albeit nothing all that original in terms of its subject matter. The prose is a bit choppy and rambly at times, though, and a certain amount of tense-mixing is present even after revision. 5.5/10

Twilight the Book Worm by Derpator
Twilight and Rarity
Random; 2K words; Aug 2014; Everyone
Rarity goes to get a book from the library... but Twilight, in an effort to get even closer to her beloved volumes, has transformed herself into a book worm. Yes, I know, it does sound almost like a Blueshift story... but unfortunately the quality of this one doesn't quite match up. It's quite fun, but there are too many unconvincing bits: for example, would Rarity be caught dead with a book called Fabrics 101 or Twilight simply give away Owlowiscious? The ending is abrupt, too. 5/10

Monday, 3 November 2014

Well, there's a nice Monday surprise

Front page of Twilight's Library just now. Which explains where the sudden little bump in new readers for This Fragment of Life has come from, seeing as it's not the newest story of mine. This is probably the answer. Yes, yes, I know that having a fic featured on Twilight's Library like this is not quite the same as winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, less still having the entire staff of the Royal Canterlot Library down their keyboards quills on the grounds that they will never again encounter a story of such unquestionable brilliance. But for me, it's quite a big deal. :)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Rainbow Rocks at the cinema

I went to see Rainbow Rocks at the Worcester Vue cinema this morning, in company with seven or eight others. We were the only people in the auditorium apart from one family (three people) several rows in front. Unsurprising, as the film's already been out for a week and it's half-term so there was more scope than usual for families to visit on weekdays.

And... I really enjoyed it. Yes, like many people I'd already seen the film through other means, but seeing it in the cinema made a big difference. Especially with the sound: a proper cinema surround sound setup really helped with the music. And given the importance of music to the movie, that was a big thing. I'd absolutely recommend people go to a cinema screening if they can.

And yes, there'll be a full review at some point in the next few weeks. I can't promise exactly how soon it will be, but there'll definitely be one before Christmas. Hopefully much sooner than that.