Sunday, 31 May 2015

Four things that irritate Logan in ponyfic

Since there's no new MLP:FiM episode this weekend, I thought I'd fall back on a tried and trusted alternative: whinging. My whinge this time is about fanfic. I've now been doing Ponyfic Roundup for more than a year, and certain things come up time and time again, even in some otherwise excellent stories. Some of these are plain errors: some are simply personal preferences. Anyway:

1. Royal Canterlot Grammar
Despite the plethora of guides freely available online, several of them aimed specifically at ponyfic authors, a very substantial number of people still make a complete pig's ear of this. If I had a dollar for every time I'd read "They cometh" or "We canst not" or "I beseech thou", I'd be... well, queueing up at the Post Office to change that big pile of dollars into pounds. But you get the idea.

2. FSBCQD
Full Stop Before Closing Quotes Disease probably has a snappier name, and one that works on both sides of the Atlantic, but I can't think of what it might be. "This is not how you do direct speech." The blogger pointed out. This problem seems much less common in stories by British authors, but I don't know why; I'm sure American schools don't actually encourage their students to do this.

Edit for clarity (31/5 14:55): I'm irritated by examples like the one in italics, where the full stop should be a comma and the next word should not be capitalised. When there are two legitimate sentences – as in "This is correctly written." The blogger pointed to the sentence in question. – then there's no problem at all.

3. "Ah-speak"
Writing Applejack's dialogue necessarily involves some compromises. After all, the show itself had AJ using "y'all" in the singular in its early days. I don't usually mind too much how an author decides to write her speech, but I do find the substitution of "I" by "Ah" spectacularly annoying. If you're writing her dialogue halfway decently, it'll be obvious it's AJ speaking without doing this.

4. Non-canon spellings
Okay, this one doesn't really irritate me (though inconsistency within a story certainly does). But really, where there is an official spelling ("Manehattan", "griffon", etc) what reason is there not to use it? "I prefer it" is no real answer: you could use the same argument to write "Applebloom" in all your stories, and that one irritates the hay out of a lot more people than me!

I could go on, but there are limits to how much I want to complain about ponyfic. Actually, that's a lie: I'm just too lazy to write any more now. :P

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 58: Just Ticking Over

Fact of the day: "any more", "for ever", "per cent" and "apple sauce" are all correct forms in British English. (In theory. Not always in practice these days, grumble grumble.) Anyway, another four-review week, since life refuses to calm down and give me more time to read about pastel ponies. All short fics, though I hope to have something a little bit longer for you either next week or the one after. A fic most of you will have heard of, too. Last week, I gave my first five-star fic for quite some while. This time round? Well... oh, just read on, eh? I'll be reviewing:

Part of a Pantheon by DannyJ
Scootaloo's Mind by mehperson
Who Needs to Talk? by Peter Yellowhammer
Angel's Promise by Starlight Shadow

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #30

MLP:FiM comic #30, main cover

I'm way behind schedule – again – so I'm afraid this will be a quick one. This is the first half of a two-issue arc from Christina Rice and Agnes Garbowska. The "Ponyville Days" festival is imminent, but an argument about where a historical marker plaque should be situated ends up tearing the town into two rival camps. It's a potentially funny setup, but in the event it's all a bit contrived, and I'm again slightly dissatisfied with Twilight. I don't think this is the best artwork Garbowska has ever produced, either. I really didn't recall much about this comic an hour after finishing it. Next issue may help, but so far this story feels rather meh. A high two. ★★

Monday, 25 May 2015

Episode review: S5E08: "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone"

Rainbow Dash impersonates Twilight Sparkle
It's almost like one of those creepy Pop sets...
Episode 99 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic broke the record for the longest-running Hasbro toy-based cartoon series. (Only the US record, I'm told: apparently a Japan-only G1 series ran for much longer.) It's probably fitting, therefore, that this ep was written by Amy Keating Rogers, who was on the show back in Season 1. Given that a) many fans have wanted more griffons and b) there's another mini-hiatus coming up, expectations were high...

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 57: The Heinz Issue

No, I'm not going to be reviewing lots of (or even any) stories featuring baked beans or tomato ketchup. Actually, I'm only going to be reviewing four fics this week anyway, since I've been absurdly busy for one reason and another. I think they make for a reasonably varied selection, though. In reading order as usual, they are:

The Princess of Books by anowack
P3 Project Episode 1: The Emergency by Bookish Delight
Her Final Flight by palaikai
A Voice in the Dark by Blueshift

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Comic review: Friends Forever #16: Diamond Tiara & Silver Spoon

MLP Friends Forever comic #16 sub cover
Jenn Blake's Sub cover: simple but effective
Villains month is over, and so we're back to nice, friendly My Little Pony characters like, er, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. Oh well, looks like there was an extra entry! This intriguing pairing (well, for Friends Forever) brings a new name to the IDW comics: Jenn Blake, who's quite well known for her pony art already, just not drawing a full comic. Jeremy Whitley handles the words, while Heather Breckel is the one with the colours. This comic looked interesting to me; was it? Let's see.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Episode review: S5E07: "Make New Friends but Keep Discord"

The mail pony in Discord's dimension
"No, I will not use the zip code. What's chaotic about a zip code?"
And we're back! After the seemingly rather pointless mini-hiatus, we have an episode that's been intriguing fans ever since its name was made public. This ep sees the return of Natasha Levinger to writing duties for the first time since the somewhat divisive "It Ain't Easy Being Breezies". Like that episode, this one is heavy on the Fluttershy. Unlike that episode, it's also heavy on the Discord. Past the break for the review!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

BUCK gets into gear: some early thoughts

The BUCK website is now up and running properly, with a little under a year until the UK's largest brony convention returns from its 2015 hiatus. It's still early days, and several key pieces of information are not yet available, but we do now know a few things. My thoughts at this stage, therefore:

The dates: 9-10 April 2016
The BUCK people said a long time ago that they were working on a spring date for 2016, and here it is. Unlike in previous years, this con will not be held over a Bank Holiday weekend. On the whole, I think this weekend is a good choice. It may be trickier for some to get time off, but the dates should mean lower accommodation prices (well, perhaps: see later) and less chance of Network Rail deciding to dig up every railway line within 50 miles.

It's being advertised as a two-day event, which was the case last year as well – as far as the con itself was concerned. What we don't yet know is whether there's any sort of separate-but-associated event planned for the Friday night, along the lines of the very successful Summer Sun Celebration (SSC) concert/rave/noisefest last year. As with a lot of things, the BUCK team are keeping their cards close to their chest on that one.

The venue: EventCity, Manchester
The city isn't a big surprise, as it's where BUCK's been held every year since its inception in 2012. From a selfish point of view, Birmingham would have been much easier, but I was never really expecting that to happen. The venue itself is new to BUCK: for the first time, the convention is moving away from the city centre and out to a purpose-built exhibition hall near the vast Trafford Centre complex.

To me, the venue is... okay, I guess. I'd personally much rather BUCK had remained in the city centre, but costs seem to have spiralled too much for that to remain practical. As with many retail parks, the Trafford Centre has excellent access by car but less good access by public transport. Buses aren't too bad, but there's no Metrolink service and the nearest station is over a mile away and has a dreadful service.

I touched on accommodation earlier, and this could be a source of awkwardness. As usual, BUCK doesn't have a "con hotel". There are four hotels around the Trafford Centre – three(!) Premier Inns and one Travelodge – but that's about it. The hostels and cheap family hotels many relied on last year aren't available. I suspect it's going to be even harder to do BUCK on a really tight budget than it was last year.

The VIP guest: Daniel Ingram
This announcement has been met with pretty much universal acclaim. It doesn't really need saying (but I'll do so anyway) that Ingram is hugely popular in the fandom, and it's a real coup for BUCK to have enticed him along. I have no idea whether there are likely to be any other guests from the official side of the fandom (it's much more expensive for UK organisers), but even if not, Ingram will be a big draw on his own.

Tickets?
Last year, weekend tickets were tiered £80/£195/£335. The Standard ticket was comparable to the similarly-sized ConFuzzled's, but the middle-tier 20% Cooler ticket was widely held to be overpriced for what it offered, being much dearer than a ConFuzzled Sponsor-tier ticket. BUCK isn't cheap; there's no getting round that. If it offers good value, though, most people will accept the hit to their wallets.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 56: Post-Election Ponies

Well, Mrs Miggins, at last we can return to sanity. The hustings are over, the bunting is down, the mad hysteria is at an end. After the chaos of a general election, we can return to normal. Assuming, of course, that by "normal" you mean getting back to reading about the manifold strange deeds of pastel-coloured ponies. Five short fics reviewed this week, and they are:

The Writing on the Wall by Horse Voice
Rarity Has a Book on Her Head by Majin Syeekoh
I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Closer-To-The-Sun
The Dragon's Riddle by horizon
Buck that! Bleep this. by Noble Thought

Monday, 11 May 2015

The BUCK 2016 website is alive!

Admittedly, at time of writing the official site doesn't exactly contain a wealth of detail. Almost none, in fact. Nevertheless, we can glean a couple of things. The convention is indeed happening in 2016, for one. That there will be VIP guests of some description. And (in the source) that Fluttershy is best pone. Which we knew already, but it's still good to have that confirmed. Will I go? I hope so. Right now, it's much too soon to say for sure either way.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 55: See the World They're Living In

Writing news: I'm finally back working on the last chapter of Where They Understand You. I want to get this done before too long, because it has one of my favourite last lines. (The rest of the fic is total garbage, obviously. :P ) Anyway, this week's Ponyfic Roundup is another spotlight, this time on one of the early classics of the fandom. As usual, it's taken me years to get round to it, but as TPrower (probably my favourite blind commentator) would say: let's get to it!

Anthropology by JasonTheHuman
Lyra and Bon-Bon
Comedy/Adventure/Slice of Life/Human; 130K words; Dec 2011–Jul 2012; Everyone
(The character tags are highly misleading: there should certainly be an OCs tag, and probably a couple more.) Lyra is driving her roommate (Bon-Bon) crazy with her obsessive study of the mythical "humans" – and she's convinced there is a conspiracy of silence that goes right to the top. The first third of this story is good fun, but after a major twist it becomes much less intriguing, not helped by rather flat OCs. The ending is also unsatisfactory, clearly anticipating a sequel which never happened. No classic then, but still worth considering as an inoffensive, undemanding read. ★★

More, with spoilers, past the break.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Episode review: S5E06: "Appleoosa's Most Wanted"

Trouble Shoes and the CMC at the rodeo
The CMC, demonstrating that Clowns Are Not Scary. No, really. Hey, come back!
We're up to episode six now, after which (for what reason I don't know) My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic takes a one-week break. The last ep before that mini-hiatus was the first of Season 5 to be written by Dave Polsky. Combining that fact with an episode featuring the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and adding in a return to Appleoosa (which has apparently lost its second L) and I was hoping for something that would give us plenty of fun. Did that happen? My (short) review answers that question.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Reduced activity for a week or so

I missed the fact last week that A Diamond and a Tether had been added to the Royal Canterlot Library. In fact, I only realised this when I was looking through the RCL archives and thinking about which of their inductees I might review in the near future. As you may recall from ADaaT's review last week (PR 53), I wasn't quite as impressed by it as the RCL judges were, but I think that's largely down to personal taste; I make no pretence that Ponyfic Roundup reviews are based on anything other than how much I enjoyed a story. I haven't come across an RCL inductee yet that I actively disliked.

Anyway, on to the meat of this post. I may not be quite as active as usual around here, or indeed the fandom in general, for a little while owing to Thursday's general election. Not that going out to vote is going to take up too much of my day, but I spend a faintly ridiculous amount of time reading various political geekery sites, worrying about the result (it's expected to be close), wondering whether the candidate I end up voting for – there are six standing in my constituency – has any sort of chance and so on and so forth. As such, I may not be spending quite as much time on pony-related stuff as usual.

Which all reminds me that I haven't really read a party-political MLP fic that's blown me away yet. I use that particular adjective because Moonlight Palaver (PR 28) is clearly based around politics, just not electoral politics. Actually, I haven't even read much featuring Mayor Mare at all, although I do have Thornwing's The Old Gray Mare fairly high up my RiL list. Slightly off to one side, I'm aware of GhostOfHeraclitus's Whom the Princesses Would Destroy, but the footnotes are a complete and utter pain on an e-reader, so I keep on putting that one off.

Also, going back to the RCL thing a minute, I am repeatedly impressed by how much thought the authors of inducted works put into their interviews. When I did mine, I just rambled on in my usual fashion, and compared to some of these guys it really shows. Ah well, it's something to learn from, and as a writer you always want to be learning so that you can improve. I suspect that the point at which you lose your thirst for learning is the point at which people might as well stop reading your stories, and that would never do!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Comic mini-review: Fiendship is Magic #5: Queen Chrysalis

MLP Fiendship is Magic Chrysalis comic cover

The Fiendship series has been pretty variable, but you'd think that a Chrysalis-focused comic by the Cook/Price/Breckel team that started IDW's powerhouse would be at least fairly good. And, glory be, you'd be right. This is considerably better than the other recent stories by this team, largely because of the way the changeling queen herself is represented. Her backstory fits her character, and the tone is suitably dark in places. The artwork is pretty solid, too. The last few pages aren't quite as strong, and for no obvious reason "pegasus" is used as a plural on several occasions, but overall I think this rivals the Sombra issue as the best of April's bunch. ★★★★