Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 35: The Good Old Days?

I've decided to go ahead with my plan of posting some themed editions of PR during the festive season. I already have one or two other ideas in the works, but this week's theme is very simple: all the fics I review today were published on Fimfiction in the site's very first month of operation, July 2011. The received wisdom is that the general standard of ponyfic has improved since then, though my unscientific experiment produced somewhat mixed results.

Pick of the fics

Celestia's Teeth by Abalidoth
Celestia and Luna
Comedy/Slice of Life; 5K words; Jul 2011; Everyone
First up, this story needs an OC tag, as there are plenty of them. Anyway: Celestia is fed up with palace staff interfering in her life, and when a pony is hired simply to brush the royal teeth, it's the last straw. A gently amusing look at the harmless Trollestia we see in episodes like "A Bird in the Hoof", and if you can deal with S1-era Luna and "foaling" for "fooling", together with one irritating contradiction, you'll find that it's held up rather well. A nice ending, too. 8/10

Other stories

The Canterlot Conference by Rezo
Dark; 2K words; Jul 2011; Everyone
This is the most objectionable ponyfic I have ever read. A wildly OOC Celestia makes plans, along with Blueblood, to create more room for ponies by reducing the buffalo population. This is to be accomplished by a mixture of war and slave-labour camps. Yes, folks, what we have here is a ponified Wannsee Conference; Celestia actually uses the phrase "the final solution to the buffalo problem". A gratuitous reference to that old meme of Luna having trouble with technology somehow makes it even worse. And it's not even a trollfic. Quite solid technically, but I never want to see this fic again. 0/10

In Search of Bighoof by Lucres
CMC, Fluttershy, Cheerilee and Silver Spoon
Comedy/Adventure/Slice of Life; 9K words; Jul 2011; Everyone
Ah, for the days before Fimfiction's silly tag-conflict restrictions... the CMC are off on a Filly Scout trip, led by the rather unusual team of Cheerilee and Fluttershy, but Scootaloo goes missing in the woods and it's up to Fluttershy to track her down. After an uncertain start, this really grew on me. Too many little errors (eg "Applebloom" and full stops before closing quotes where there should be commas) but despite some clear "Stare Master" influence, it's a readable tale in its own right. 7/10

Longer than Diamonds by SPark
Rarity and Spike
Slice of Life; 6K words; Jul 2011; Everyone
SPark is still writing ponyfic, but this was her first story, and it's a pretty decent one. A considerably older Rarity is thrilled when Celestia is pictured wearing one of her dresses... but ponies' reactions aren't what she was expecting or hoping for. The author is a seamstress, so the sewing stuff is unsurprisingly very convincing. There's a prescient look at older Twilight, too, while Spike also plays his part, including in a very short epilogue not separated from the main chapter. Didn't utterly grab me, but kept me reading. 7.5/10

Porcelain Secrets by Nathan
Apple Bloom, Spike and Applejack
Romance/Comedy/Slice of Life; 5K words; Jul 2011; Everyone
Apple Bloom catches Spike in the act of rifling through Rarity's drawers (as in furniture, you dirty-minded lot!) and one of the unicorn's vases gets broken. This is largely ho-hum and unmemorable, with a lot of little errors ("Sweetie Bell", "Pinky Pie"), while AJ's ah-speak suddenly disappears for no reason late on. One thing particularly bothered me, though: a bizarrely non-canon idea of Applejack's disciplinary methods for her little sister. Pushes the Everyone rating a bit at times, too. 4.5/10

Trix and Stones may Break my Bones by Hipster Pony Raven Horn
Trixie and OC
Sad; 4K words; Jul 2011; Everyone
Trixie is summoned home to Hoofington when her brother (unintentional hilarity: his name is Flash) sends word that their mother is ailing. As she walks through town, she remembers... this seems to be quite popular with its readers, but I really didn't get a lot out of it. Although it was fairly well written, other than full stops before closing quotes, I found it all rather predictable, with what should have been a highly emotional final scene seeming rushed and even a bit dull. 5/10


  1. Celestia's Teeth is still one of my all-time favorite comedies.

    1. That's because you are a rational well-adjusted person. Only crazy people don't like that story.

      It's also the only one of these that I recognize.

    2. Same here, though I knew SPark's name from one or two other stories I have in my queue. One thing I also noticed was that there are a huge number of Ebon Mane fics in the very low numbers. I deliberately avoided those, given that I've just reviewed Tired.

  2. Hey, blasts from the past are always fun! I've read the first three from way back, so quick takes: Celestia's Teeth is still one of my favorites, The Canterlot Conference is still awful at the concept level, and while I don't remember much of In Search of Bighoof, I DO remember being grateful that the author had the restraint not to slap a stinger ending onto it.

    1. I've never DNF'd a fic (one advantage of mostly reading short stories!) but The Canterlot Conference came very, very close. I really should have twigged what was going to happen from the title and description; I suppose I was just feeling dim at the time.

      That aside, it was fun to do these, and I'll probably do another old-fic edition at some point. I was expecting a rather worse return on investment than I actually got, so that was mildly encouraging.

  3. I suppose it might be kind of unfair of me to pass judgement on "The Canterlot Conference" story without actually reading it. But undoubtedly based on what you said here, I certainly have no wish to read it, so I think that one is going straight on my "to be avoided" list. I just do not have the patience or the stomach for a story along those lines. If it had been written about a bunch of villains, and the Mane Six (or Celestia/Luna) had been preparing to stop them, maybe. But as it stands, I can't quite see the reasoning behind why the author felt the need to write it like that.

    1. Honestly, you're not missing much. While it's reasonably written, even on a purely prose level it's not outstanding. Read Celestia's Teeth instead, which is much more fun and far more in keeping with what MLP is about. :)

    2. Okee dokee (and a lokee), I'll make sure to head over there and have a look at that one in particular! :)

  4. I'd love to know what it is that I'm missing in these fics. Celestia's Teeth is another in a long line of highly recommended stories that I just can't seem to enjoy. It was proficiently written, but it doesn't feel like Celestia at all to me.

    1. "These fics" as in the ones I, specifically, recommend or as in those which have gained wider approbation? I'm guessing the latter, so I'll reply from that starting point. I liked Celestia in this, and felt she did feel at least acceptably close to her "A Bird in the Hoof" persona. I wonder whether she's changed a bit since then; certainly she doesn't seem to wander down to Ponyville for tea parties any more, which I can't help thinking is rather a shame.

      Incidentally, I read this story before I endured The Canterlot Conference, so it's not simply that I was desperate for a Celestia story to take away the nasty taste in my mouth!

    2. Oh, it's definitely me, Present. I very rarely like stories that are widely loved by lots of fans. There's no real right or wrong to it, but it's not like I'm somehow more learned or have better taste than everyone else. I'm just apparently looking for different stuff, and I have a very hard time finding it.

      Logan, it's not your picks specifically. I really respect people like you, Chris, and PresentPerfect. You hunt down stories and tell me with specifics why you like them. I just rarely agree when going to those stories myself, but it's not like I'm loving the stories you guys give bad marks to. It's not a matter of opposite tastes. I just really have a hard time finding pony fics that I find enjoyable.

      When it comes to Celestia in Celestia's Teeth, I can't think of any time in MLP where Celestia ever felt that she needed to hammer home a point in this manner. It would be fine as a background thing, but it's the story's main plot. Celestia isn't someone who makes others suffer to teach lessons. She's not a tough love kind of pony. She's nurturing and earnest, and teasing the Cake's for a second isn't the same thing as actively going out of your way to ruin your assistant's day. For me, at least. We all have different tolerances.

      But like I said, I don't really think the problem here is with your assessment of the story. It's pretty widely liked, so it has more to do with me and my narrowness. I don't really like to think of myself as narrow-minded, but it's a pretty inescapable conclusion.

    3. Celestia isn't someone who makes others suffer to teach lessons. She's not a tough love kind of pony.

      Now I come to think about it, I wonder whether the IDW comics Celestia influences me a bit. Here she is from the Celestia/Spike micro comic:

      "Sometimes I let Twilight take care of an incident that I could have cleared away easily. But I do not do this because I am cruel, or because I want to play a joke on Twilight... I do this because I am her teacher, and sometimes this is how she must learn."

      Admittedly that's still not quite tough love, but it's probably a little closer to it than we've generally seen from Tia in the show itself.

      On the more general point, I think it's probably true that I'm a fairly generous reviewer. Some little things annoy me more than they should (incorrect punctuation in speech; argh!) but for the most part I'm quite forgiving. Apparently my mean score is about 7, which doesn't surprise me. There are other things where I'm a lot pickier, as you are with ponyfic.