Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 25: Outside Insight finalists, 1/4

As I said quite a while ago, I'm reading all the finalists in the EqD "Outside Insight" contest that was held in the summer. I'll be posting my thoughts on them here, in the usual Ponyfic Roundup format, then re-assessing before producing a final ranking. There were 22 fics in the final (not including mine!) so I'll do four special PRs, covering five or six stories each time. As always, enjoyment is my primary criterion for a good score: a wonderfully-written piece that leaves me cold will do less well than one with a few mistakes that captures my heart. Here's the first batch.

Pick of the fics

Queen of Queens by JawJoe
Chrysalis and Changelings
Dark; 15K words; Aug 2014; Teen
This first-person look at Chrysalis's life was one of the (surprisingly few) stories where I had a "This is great" feeling all the way through, despite the (deliberately) basic style of the opening section. The world-building is superb for such a short story, the characters are utterly convincing and the author has the confidence to leave certain things unexplained and assume (correctly) that we'll understand it's not just an oversight on their part. Why not a 10/10? Two reasons: one, those song lyrics. Even from this good a writer, one line in particular felt shoe-horned in. Two, not enough actual ponies. Even so, essential reading and 9/10.

Other stories

Au Naturalligator by TantiMount
Gummy, Pinkie Pie and Other
Adventure; 6K words; Aug 2014; Everyone
Writing a Gummy-centric story is not taking the easy path. I didn't really have an idea of what the alligator's narrative style would be, so (to my surprise) I found myself not worrying about whether it fitted with the show Gummy. There are some oddities (since when did going from Ponyville to Manehattan involve customs duties?), the odd word choice is iffy and I wasn't entirely convinced by some aspects of the underground section. The story could also do with sharper pace early on, though the ending was extremely cute. 5.5/10

Let Them Eat Grass by Cloudhammer
Comedy/Slice of Life; 2K words; Aug 2014; Everyone
You'd think sheep would be ill-suited to a really short story, and you'd be... well, half-right. Set in the time of Applejack's parents, as far as we can tell, this is the story of the great ovine revolution... that wasn't. It's amusing and light, which made a nice change of pace from some of the serious-minded fics in the list. Not a great deal to it, though, and I found the ending a little on the dull side. As such, 6.5/10.

Old friends by Bad Horse
Philomena and Celestia
Slice of Life; 2K words; Aug 2014; Teen
Whether you like this tale of the Princess's phoenix trying to understand how death and rebirth apply to ponies depends to a great extent on whether you can cope with the (deliberately) simplistic language. I couldn't, not really. It's clever, but I felt that the style got in the way of the story to such an extent that it really didn't work. Some of the phrasing is memorable ("smells like thunder and lonely") but it doesn't all work ("Hot light is hot" – memetastic). Interesting, but hard going to read, so I didn't like it that much. 5/10

Pride by InquisitorM
Tragedy/Dark; 13K words; Aug 2014; Teen
The protagonist here is Osvald the griffin (so spelt), who finds his life spared after a failed raid on ponies' farmland: the setting certainly is a long way from the cosiness of Ponyville. This is Equestria under a harsh, unflinching gaze that shows us some things most of the country's inhabitants would probably rather not think about. It's very well written and (to use one of Osvald's favourite words) interesting in that the author refuses to do the readers' thinking for them: the question "Is Osvald the good guy?" simply doesn't have a Yes/No answer. I applaud that, but sadly I just didn't like Osvald or (most of) the ponies all that much and, as such, I admired this fic rather more than I enjoyed it. 7.5/10


  1. Nothing controversial so far :P

    Still, it's always nice to know there is another sane person capable of accepting that Osvald isn't intentionally right or wrong. Some of those comments were nuts...

    1. I hope you're not expecting anything too controversial! I will say that "Old friends" is not the lowest-scoring story among the finalists, though...