Sunday, 31 August 2014

Well then

You Really Bug Me, which I gave 8.5/10 in PR 18, has been rejected by Twilight's Library. Their decision, I guess, but I think BronyDad has got a really rough deal here. I don't care that the fic has a 98-0 thumbscore – I've disliked super-popular stories before – but I do think that this tale felt really pretty show-like. Yes, I'm unashamedly biased towards cute Fluttershy/Rainbow friendshipping stories, but I still feel this one's worth the time it takes you to read just under 2,000 words.

Friday, 29 August 2014

BUCK report: Friday

(L) Manchester Central by night; (R) The SSC in full swing
All right then, here we go with my report for BUCK 2014, which sadly seems almost certain to be the con's last iteration thanks to spiralling costs. I travelled up on the Friday morning, and the journey was uneventful. Didn't see any other bronies on the way, which was a slight disappointment. As I couldn't check into my hotel until after 3pm, I had to lug my rucksack around for a while, but I'd been careful not to overpack it, so it wasn't too bad an experience.

First task (after eating) was to get to Manchester Central to pre-register for the Summer Sun Celebration. This didn't go all that smoothly at first, as I was told (politely but firmly, and against what had been advertised) that only those who had premium tickets for the con proper could pre-register. I was too tired to argue, so walked away grumbling under my breath. Then I had a stroke of luck: bumping into Hurricane, Nekky and Coastie purely by chance in the city centre. They told me that Standard ticket-holders were now being allowed to pre-register.

So, I trekked back to Manchester Central and this time got my SSC wristband. Then it was off to the nearby Central Library's café for the inaugural meeting of the Fluttershy Club. With an attendance of about 40, twice as many as expected, it was a little bit unwieldy and we didn't get far beyond saying hellos, but at least it was there. I had to leave early to get the train to Bolton to check into my luxurious five-star Travelodge. (Actually it was fine, though the surrounding area was a little on the grim side.)

(L) Alliminaro's fine OC plush; (R) Pinkie Pie and Party Cannon
After a bite to eat, it was back to Manchester Central for the Summer Sun Celebration! The nearest thing to a rave I'm ever likely to go to, and a rather surreal experience. Most of the con vendors were in operation in the lobby, so there was a good deal of merch-buying going on. I snagged a Fluttershy cushion for £15, which was something you're not going to find in your local Tesco Extra. (More's the pity.) It was actually very useful when I was feeling a bit chilly sitting at a metal table in the huge main hall!

The opening act was Prince Whateverer: not bad at all and pretty enthusiastic, if a bit metal for my tastes. I was mostly there for the next guys: Acoustic Brony. Only the second time (and the first in Europe) that they'd belied their name by being backed by a full rock band, and my word it was good! We got several show songs ("Babs Seed" and "Helping Twilight Win the Crown" among them), we got my favourite "I'll Fly Higher"... and yes, we got "Loyalty".

After that, it was Mic the Microphone. Starting to get a bit heavy for my tastes now, though I really enjoyed "Nightmare Night". I stayed on through his set and General Mumble's, but by the time we got to Icky things were just sounding like noise to me, so I went back to the hotel. I was a bit sorry not to stick it out for the others (Lavender Harmony, Addictia, The Living Tombstone and HMage) but if I had done, I'd have missed the last train to Bolton by about two hours!

(L) Programme for the SSC; (R) Manchester Central's main hall
All in all, I had a pretty good time, and it wasn't nearly as intimidating as I'd feared. We are, after all, pony fans, so we don't do "intimidating" very well on the whole! Acoustic Brony was easily my favourite act, but until it all merged into noise I enjoyed the others as well. I was pretty tired by the time I got back to the hotel (no thanks to Northern Rail's inability to provide enough trains) but I was looking forward to what Saturday might bring.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Ponyfic Roundup Awards Two (PRs 11-20)

It's awards time again! I'll stick to the same format that I used for the first awards post: one gold, one silver and three bronzes. It was quite hard picking out the best stories this time round, though I really didn't have much doubt about my one-two. The period was one of thinnish pickings at first: all five of my prize-winners come from the second half.

Ponyfic Roundup Gold Award

In the Place the Wild Horses Sleep by Lucky Dreams (PR 20)
OCs, Luna and Mane Six
Adventure/Human; 3K words; Jul 2014; Everyone
This just blew me away. A genuinely excellent children's story. Please, please don't pass on it because it has a Human tag attached. It's one of those tales that, once read, you will never forget. I love it fiercely, and that's why it gets the Gold Award this time.

Ponyfic Roundup Silver Award

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Blueshift (PR 19)
Lyra and Bon Bon
Slice of Life; 6K words; Jun 2014; Everyone
Blueshift's fic is really unlucky not to get the Gold. It's a fabulous story of LyraBon friendshipping, which pulled my emotions this way and that without ever feeling overly manipulative. Blueshift's stories are generally very good: this one is good even by his standards.

Ponyfic Roundup Bronze Awards

And We Are Not Yet Saved by Grey Heather (PR 18)
Chrysalis and Changelings
Slice of Life; 1K words; May 2014; Teen
There are far too many mediocre changeling fics about. This is not one of them: despite its extreme shortness, it tells the well-worn story of Chrysalis after the S2 finale without feeling like yet another re-tread.

I Wish I Had Met You Yesterday by 8686 (PR 20)
Daring Do, Twilight and OCs
Sad; 22K words; Feb 2014; Everyone
I've never been one to treat "Show, don't tell" as an inviolable rule, and stories like this are why. It's a very talky story in places, but that works. Read this if you're interested in seeing another side to the Daring Do mythos.

Old Friends by RBDash47 (PR 16)
Sad/Slice of Life; 2K words; Mar 2014; Everyone
I'm a big fan of "restrained emotion" done well, and that's exactly what this is. It's too short even to qualify for EqD submission, but who cares? There's really no reason not to spare a few minutes of your time for this.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Oh, and about the comic...

...yes, there will be a review of the Applejack/Rarity Friends Forever. I have no idea when, but it'll certainly be before the next comic comes out. For now, suffice it to say that I really enjoyed it.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Well, there's some nice news to come back to!

I had a wonderful time at this year's BUCK, and there will naturally be more to come on that in the nearish future. But I returned to find something that rather took me by (pleasant) surprise: my entry for the Equestria Daily Outside Insight contest, the songbird fic I called "We Who with Songs Beguile", has made the final! I really didn't expect that: 23 stories did out of the 109 that were entered, and mine was one of them. I'm still processing this.

Also, I got a review from InquisitorM, which I understand is something feared throughout the land. And... it wasn't all that bad, really. A 6/10 and an "it's just so bloody readable" from this guy is quite hard won, as I understand it. (He knocked off some marks because he "generally like[s] more meat on the bones", which is fair enough.) This may never happen again, so I'm going to revel in it. *revels in it* You see? :P

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 20

Well, whaddaya know? This is my 300th post for Louder Yay. A huge thank you to everyone who's read, commented, suggested, complained and otherwise contributed. You're pretty awesome.

Another plug before I get going, to another blog that mentioned this one. That's One Man's Pony Ramblings, written by the mononymic Chris – the author of "To Make a Spark" (recommended in PR 3). Chris has been terrifyingly prolific in his reviews: writing detailed comments on every six-star fic from EqD's old days is just a fraction of his total output. Anyway, back to my much shorter reviews, and I'm happy to say there's another absolute star this week.

Pick of the fics

In the Place the Wild Horses Sleep by Lucky Dreams
OCs, Luna and Mane Six
Adventure/Human; 3K words; Jul 2014; Everyone
Written for the "Most Dangerous Game" contest, in which authors had to take a horribly overused fandom trope – Human in Equestria, for example – and make it work. Lucky Dreams nailed it with a wonderful (and indeed wondrous) children's story, something this fandom really ought to have more of. This is not a flawless fic – the coloured text annoyed me and the middle section isn't quite as tight as the start and end – so why I am I giving it full marks? Quite simply, because I just plain loved it. It has atmosphere, warmth and heart to spare. I grew up with Puffin books of short stories; it's the highest compliment I can think of to say that this story reads as though it came from one of those. Never mind the MDG contest, this stands on its own merits as a modern ponyfic classic. 10/10

Other stories

I Wish I Had Met You Yesterday by 8686 [sic]
Daring Do, Twilight and OCs
Sad; 22K words; Feb 2014; Everyone
In some weeks, this would have walked Pick. It's a fascinating and touching tale about the pony who makes Daring Do's public appearances. ("Daring Don't" appeared while the fic was being written, but 8686 doesn't stutter in that regard.) It should probably have a Rainbow Dash character tag, too. The Sad tag is fair enough, but don't be afraid of this: it's not unremittingly bleak by any means. There is a bit of shipping (between OCs) if that bothers you. A good example of how tell-y stories can work. 9/10

Seashell by Winston (known as 'wdeleon' at time of review)
OCs, Rainbow Dash and Twilight
Romance/Slice of Life; 22K words; May 2014; Teen
Extracts from the diary of a military stallion from the nearish future, who (at first) is posted to a distant spot. Sounds dull? It's not. Some fantastic worldbuilding is allied to a nicely restrained storytelling style. A devastating war haunts the past of most characters, though we don't find out what happened to some of them. Some interesting symbolism as well. Would have benefited from more proofreading in the last few chapters, though. 8.5/10

View by ThunderChaserCreate
Mane Six and Spike
Sad/Dark; 2K words; Feb 2014; Everyone
The description for this short is simply "A creature watches the daily goings on of Ponyville from a small hole far above." The mystery, of course, is who or what it is. Since I can't give that away, I'll simply say that the story has a rather odd atmosphere and that it's probably not a tale you'll read again once you've worked out the mystery. That said, what is there is quite original. Feature-recced by Twilight's Library; I didn't like it that much, but it was still quite solid. 7/10

Winter of our Hatred by Joural
Dark; 1K words; Jan 2013; Everyone
More or less, the creation myth of the Windigos. (Or are they Windigoes? Argh.) This is simultaneously fascinating and frustrating: it would make a wonderful prologue to a really beefy Windigo-focused story, but as it stands, it feels a little lacking. The prose shades to purple at times, but that's not a huge problem with mythology. I still have mixed feelings about "foalishness", though. 6.5/10

Monday, 18 August 2014

Book review: Rarity and the Curious Case of Charity (G. M. Berrow)

Rarity and the Curious Case of Charity (G. M. Berrow) front cover
"This woman's writing is like a pony's walking on her hind legs: awesome"
It's been much too long since I've reviewed one of G. M. Berrow's My Little Pony chapter books – and as she's a VIP at BUCK this year, it's about time I did something about that. So, here we go with the fourth in the series, starring everyone's favourite drama queen and fashionista extraordinaire, Rarity. The cover design is pretty much in the mould of the others in the series: rainbow, stock vector, metallic bit, blah blah blah. Let's see what's inside!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Comic review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic issue 22

IDW MLP:FiM #22, Cover A
This is officially Cover A, in spite of not saying so on the front
The first half of this two-issue arc was pretty solid and gained an 8/10 score from me. Nothing stupendously amazing, but it told a fun story in a reasonably well realised Manehattan with an unusual subset of the ponies we all know. So, is this second comic going to be one of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic classics, or will the story end up being a dud? Follow me past the break to find out!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Manchester awaits!

My BUCK 2014 tickets
Having a separate processing fee for each ticket seems a little off, though
You may remember that last month, I was pretty clear in my mind that going to this year's BUCK was out of my reach. Well... things change. An unexpected piece of financial good news has led me to reassess the situation, and it's turned out that I can make it after all. I must admit that I've cut it fine – yes, that date is correct; I only actually bought the tickets earlier today – but it's all done and dusted now.

This doesn't mean that I'm going to throw any criticism of BUCK out of the window. On the face of it, this year's venue and schedule don't look quite as exciting as last year: from a personal point of view, the lack of a Pony Pub Quiz (because the bar area will be used for the inevitable CCG tournament) is a major disappointment. The performers at the Lunar Eclipse don't seem quite as much my thing, either.

However, this time around I won't be a complete novice at going to conventions, and that has a considerable effect. It should mean that I won't waste time wondering what on earth to do, plus I'll also know more people than I did in 2013. The selection of VIP guests is also great: G. M. Berrow, Heather Breckel and Dave Polsky are all brillliant invitees. So I'm pretty optimistic that I'll enjoy this.

Oh, and yes, I have indeed bought a ticket for the Summer Sun Celebration. I was really unsure about that, as this year's line-up seems more hardcore than 2013's, and that isn't my thing. But as it's not a huge amount extra, and as it may never happen again, I thought "What the hay?" and went for it. I won't be able to stay till the end (trains) but I hope I'll at least find it an experience worth having.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 19

Before I begin today, a very warm welcome to anyone who's reached Louder Yay via the City of Doors blog. (And to others, please do have a look at that.) I try to post a Ponyfic Roundup every Wednesday, life permitting, and the calendar now tells me that it's about time I did another one. Some intriguing stories in the mix this time around, although I didn't have too much doubt about my pick of the week on this occasion.

Pick of the fics

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Blueshift
Lyra and Bon Bon
Slice of Life; 6K words; Jun 2014; Everyone
Disclaimer: I've met Blueshift (once, at a meet) and he's a nice guy. This story's position is fully deserved, though. A description beginning "When Lyra finds her old pet fish in the back of the freezer..." may fool you into thinking that this is silly comedy. Don't you believe it. Nostalgic, comic, sad and hopeful by turns. Pretty much impossible to fault, and so it gets – yes – 10/10!

Other stories

The Bet by King of Beggars
Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Lyra, Bon Bon and Carrot Top
Comedy; 2K words; Jul 2014; Everyone
A fun short in which Rainbow is determined to win a bet, but the world seems determined to thwart her. One of those stories which is deceptive in the amount of stuff going on. Button Mash has a great (uncredited) cameo. Loses a mark or so for using "greeted" as a straight synonym for "said", one of my pet peeves. 6/10

Equestria in Human by ocalhoun
Random/Human; 1K words; Feb 2014; Everyone
Oh, for Celestia's sake, how on earth am I supposed to review this fic? Okay... see that title up there? That's what this is about. Literally. Yes, I know. It could have been a little more rounded, even at this short length, but it works reasonably well as a quick bite of weirdness. 6/10

Perfect for Me by The Equestrian Gentlecolt
Twilight and Twilight [sic!]
Comedy/Romance; 28K words; Dec 2013; Teen
Twilight clones herself to keep up with her busy schedule. Trouble is, she starts to realise just how well she gets on with herself. A hugely enjoyable subversion of the usual shipfic stuff, with the only real blemish being a slightly unsatisfyingly vague ending. Read the extra content (linked from within the story) even if you don't like the sound of it at first. It's worth it. Really. 8.5/10

Return of Evil Belle: The Eviling by Akumokagetsu
Rarity and Sweetie Belle
Comedy; 1K words; Jan 2014; Everyone
Another installment in the Evil Belle series. This time round, the filly criminal mastermind is up against a real adversary: her big sister trying to get her to go to bed! Perhaps not quite as funny as the other two EB stories I've read (see PR 10 and PR 11), but the amusing turns of phrase should still be enough to raise a smile. 6.5/10

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

New story by me: "We Who with Songs Beguile"

Fluttershy and Mazarine look at each other
This actually looks somehow very disturbing...
Yes, folks, I've written another story. I don't know what's come over me lately. This one is something a little different, though: it's my entry for the Equestria Daily Outside Insight contest. I don't have any illusions about the quality of my competition there, but it was an intriguing prompt and I couldn't resist it. The prompt? "Write a story about ponies from a non-pony's point of view." So here it is!

We Who with Songs Beguile by Loganberry
OCs, Twilight and Rarity
Comedy/Slice of Life; 3K words; Aug 2014; Teen
Fluttershy's songbird choir is renowned throughout Equestria, in demand by ponies everywhere. Looked at from the other side of the perch, though, it's not always the life it's cracked up to be. If you want to hear the real story, straight from the bird's beak, Mazarine is your jay. Though you may have to set aside most of an afternoon... (Set during latish S3.)

Whether you like the story or not, I hope you'll at least acknowledge that I've tried to do something a bit different with this one. Give it a look!

Monday, 11 August 2014

The B-word: Why it's fine to be a brony

If you look at Louder Yay's little "ABOUT LY" section, tucked away in a corner of the screen, you'll see that I've written this:
Vague thoughts and ramblings from a British brony
 It's that last word that I want to dwell on here. When I first came into the MLP:FiM fandom, in the spring of 2012, I wasn't entirely comfortable with using the word. There were a number of reasons, but one of them was that I worried that it tended to imply the sort of fan for whom My Little Pony really is everything, the type of person who really didn't have any other interests at all – and that's not something that I wanted to be a part of.

The other main problem was that I didn't really like the word itself, given the way it seems to imply that only male fans can be bronies. You know and I know (now) that this isn't the case at all; that large swathes of female fans actively choose to be known as bronies and dislike being called "pegasisters" instead; but I didn't know that back then. Many otherwise neutral mainstream media outlets still don't, it would seem.

Now, though, I'm much more comfortable with the word, to the extent that I actually feel rather irritated when I read a piece arguing that "we" (the fandom) should drop it entirely in favour of something else. Quite apart from the fact that it would be impossible to enforce, is there really a better term out there? "Fans of MLP:FiM from outside the show's target audience" isn't going to fly; bronies it is, and bronies it will stay.

As for reacting to criticism of the fandom? In a lot of cases, the best course is simply "Don't". If a writer is spending a whole piece telling us that we're all pathetic manchildren, evil child stalkers, active bestialists, incapable losers or any combination of the above, they're probably not likely to react even to reasoned argument. They're not going to go away, so it might be better if we spent our time on more interesting things.

I understand how hard it can be to hold your tongue when you see a writer who says that they wouldn't trust bronies with their kids. (Goodness knows what they'd make of those bronies who have their own kids.) It's a very emotive charge, for obvious reasons, and so naturally it's upsetting. But if a writer won't allow any form of disagreement with their point of view, why do they enable comments at all?

The one place where I might make a slight exception is if a writer has made a clear error of fact. For example, claiming that cons like BUCK were originally aimed at little kids, or stating that there's explicit fanart on the first page of Google results for pony names. Both of those are demonstrably untrue. But it's so easy to get off the point and start giving opinions. If you do correct facts, only do it if you can link to a strong source proving you right.

What we have here is, I firmly believe, a fundamentally good and decent fandom. There are bad bronies who've done bad things. We shouldn't shrink from calling those people out any more than we would if we came across them outside the fandom. But that's a far cry from saying that what we're part of is an utter cesspit of moral depravity and filth. No. It's really not. No more than any other subset of this strange and wonderful thing we call life.

Bring a brony doesn't magically make you a better person. It doesn't give you a free pass to hurt people by word or deed. And nobody should be pushed into identifying as a brony unless they freely choose to. But if you want to call yourself a brony, if you like the idea of being part of this crazy group of people, then go right ahead and do it. Do you have anything to be ashamed of? No? Then you have nothing to be ashamed of by calling yourself a brony.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 18

Time to get back into the world of ponyfic! Three stories were in the running for my overall pick this week, which was pleasing. I don't think I'll bother with a long intro paragraph this time, so let's get galloping:

Pick of the fics

And We Are Not Yet Saved by Grey Heather
Chrysalis and Changelings
Slice of Life; 1K words; May 2014; Teen
A really rather remarkable shortfic dealing with the aftermath of "A Canterlot Wedding" from the perspective of the vanquished changelings. Excellently written, with good insight into both Queen Chrysalis and those she leads – or, perhaps, led. An interestingly ambiguous ending, too. 9/10

Other stories

As a Mother by The Descendant
Sad/Slice of Life; 7K words; Apr 2014; Teen
Many years hence, Celestia has a new student, who asks her to tell of the War of the Witches. Initially reluctant, the Princess agrees, and the story she tells is a moving one. Written in very flowery language which may put off some readers, but with some haunting ambiguity. Excellent worldbuilding, too, especially for such a short fic. 8/10

As You Fancy, Minister by The Usurper
Fancy Pants and OCs
Crossover/Slice of Life; 10K words; Mar 2014; Everyone
A My Little Pony/Yes, Minister crossover? My life is complete! Fancy Pants takes the Jim Hacker role, and considering that the author is not actually British, they make a very good stab at this. The story starts a little bit iffily, but the characters grow into it well, and by the second half you can really feel that Yes, Minister atmosphere. A shame that an otherwise nice story has basic errors in speech tags and a few errant Americanisms. 6.5/10

Tiny Wings by DeadParrot222
Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo
Sad/Slice of Life; 36K words; Jun 2012; Everyone
One of the older ScootaDash friendshipping stories around, but still among the best. The story follows the two through many years, and their friendship develops in a convincing, interesting way. One slightly surprising violent scene, but I don't think it warranted a Teen rating. Might even have rated a 9 if not for slight overuse of "the mare", "the filly" etc, and an irritating stylistic choice right at the end. 8.5/10

You Really Bug Me by BronyDad
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Comedy/Slice of Life; 2K words; Jul 2014; Everyone
Rainbow Dash, having been dragged along to the butterfly migration by Fluttershy, is determined to make things more interesting. So, she challenges her friend to a contest to see who can catch the most of the insects. Her opponent is a little tougher than she'd bargained for... a really nice friendshipping story for this fantastic pairing, and one with a lovely, sweet ending. 8.5/10

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Twilight's Library double success!

Time for me to do a little more shameless self-promotion... within the last 24 hours, I've had word that both the stories I submitted to the Twilight's Library group on FIMFiction – "For an Angel to Pass" and "This Fragment of Life" – have been accepted. Needless to say, I'm very happy about this. I've only ever submitted three stories to that group, and this means that they've all made it past the reviewers. (The other one was "Clouded Minds", quite some time ago.)

Oddly enough, I wrote my two new inductees within ten days of each other, although they're very different in tone. Here's a little bit more detail for you, in my usual format and with descriptions instead of reviews:

For an Angel to Pass by Loganberry
Angel, Fluttershy and Rarity
Sad/Slice of Life; 2K words; Mar 2014; Everyone
I know few of Ponyville's inhabitants ever really came to terms with the idea that a gentle pegasus mare should form a lifelong bond of friendship and understanding with an irascible pet buck. It was strange, I'll admit, but it worked – and we always knew that it was right. I didn't like to think about the march of time, about what the passing years might mean for a rabbit. Now, though, I have no other choice. As memories crowd in, the future looms before me, demanding an answer.

This Fragment of Life by Loganberry
Twilight and Rarity
Romance/Tragedy/Random; 2K words; Mar 2014; Everyone
Rarity knows her way around the landscape of romance and heartbreak, and that includes being there to help out when a friend's relationship falls apart without warning. She can deal with the fact that it's Twilight who's sobbing wildly on her shoulder, even if it is a bit on the damp side. She's rather more taken aback when she discovers just who the new Princess has been getting herself involved with...