Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 45: The Land Before Time

A while back, I reviewed some stories published in the first month of Fimfiction's existence, July 2011. This time, we're going even further into the past and looking at the first six fics to receive Equestria Daily's long-abandoned "6-star" rating. Since most of the stories aren't on Fimfiction, my headings for each story will depart a little from the usual format. For example, I'll decide on the appropriate character tags for myself, and EQD has slightly different genre tags from Fimfiction. I'll also be reviewing the stories in chronological order, though I'll still nominate one as my "Pick of the fics". Finally, there won't be the usual Everyone/Teen/Mature age-rating field, since EQD doesn't use that.

(This is a one-off, by the way. I don't intend to review all the 6-star fics that still exist online; I have too much else I want to read, and besides, Chris has done it very well already, over here on One Man's Pony Ramblings.)

Junior Speedsters Forever! by Pacce
Rainbow Dash and Gilda
no genre tags; 13K words; Jan 2011
Well, here it is: the very first 6-star story, from more than four years ago. It gives the backstory of how Rainbow Dash came to know Gilda and, actually, it's quite a bit better than I was expecting. The relationship between the two principals is interesting, the writing is reasonable, there aren't too many typos, there are some rather nice old-gen references and we even get a brief Derpy backstory – not bad considering that when this went up on EQD, the newest episode was "Call of the Cutie"! It has its problems, notably the excessively long letter that provides the story's climax, but it's better than many a more recent fic. In its day this was both remarkably good and remarkably long. It's no longer either of those, but Gilda fans especially should give it a look. Very nice cover art, too. ★★★

Ponies Discover /co/ by Slywit
Mane Six
Normal/Comedy; 15K words; Feb 2011
I'll confess that I groaned when I saw the title of this one. Yes, it's metafic (of a sort) in which the ponies chance upon a "scroll" from the 4chan board where the fandom was born. To be fair to it, this isn't just a collection of memes past and present – there is some actual story in there too. Some of the references still work, such as the Applejack "silly pony" song; some don't, such as a thankfully-forgotten candy-related meme. This is written like an episode, to the extent of having the credits pasted in after a "cold open", which is jarring these days. Packed with typos in the last third or so, and it's just too much like watching someone else's private jokes for me to enjoy this. Probably fun for the really old guard; for the rest of us, it's a period piece and little more. ★★

Chasing Rainbows by Phoe
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Shipping; 3K words; Mar 2011
Actually a sequel (to Fluttering Heart), but this stands alone well enough. Fluttershy confesses her feelings to Dash, but Rainbow doesn't react as she'd hoped. There's not a lot to this story, and the pacing is a bit too fast for comfort at times, but it's cute and inoffensive. The existence of its prequel reduces (though doesn't entirely solve) the eternal fanfic problem of Suddenly Shipping Syndrome, and there are some genuinely affecting sections. The writing isn't too bad, either, and FlutterDash fans might well find it an interesting, if quick, read. ★★★

Bubbles by anonymous
Derpy and OCs
Sad; 3K words; Mar 2011
Surely the most famous anonymously-written story in the fandom, this is a tear-jerker of a Derpy backstory fic. It's written from Derpy's POV (though in third-person) and does represent her as having learning difficulties, but I don't think it belittles her in that respect. Rather, it gives us her limited view of what the reader will come to find is a larger and sadder story than Derpy realises. I could easily see some people hating this story and finding it a bit on the emotionally manipulative side. I don't take that view: I find it moving and strangely beautiful. It takes the Pick of the fics award for this week. ★★★★

Memorial by Buxton
Sad; 2K words; Mar 2011
Yes, two sad Derpy-POV stories in a row. In this fic, Bright Eyes (as she's called here; I don't think I've ever read another Derpyfic that's used that name) makes her annual pilgrimage to her mother's grave. A straight comparison with Bubbles has only one winner, and it's not this story – Derpy's voice isn't as well captured, for one thing – but I do quite like it, even so. It's a gentler story than its predecessor, and the ending isn't particularly memorable, but I do find Derpy's friendship with Apple Bloom rather touching. ★★★

Constellations by The RPGenius
Normal; 4K words; Mar 2011
The only one of this week's stories that is on Fimfiction (here), the premise of this fic has dated badly. It's about the returned Luna (S1 Luna, of course) coming to terms with ponies' feelings about her night. It's very, very tell-y, and indeed it seems to be written as though being recounted by a storyteller. It also has minimal dialogue. Luna is given an idea which is very interesting, especially in the light of... later Lunar developments, and this provides some interest. I don't like the ending, though, which just seems silly. ★★


  1. Going back only 4 years in this fandom feels like doing cultural archaeology. It's touching to think that the authors of those fics had no idea that people would still be reading and commenting on them today.

    1. And now I'm wondering which of today's fics will still be being read in 2019! I suspect the fandom, though smaller, will still be large enough for there to be well-known stories, but who knows? After all, you look at the most-viewed fics on Fimfiction over the past year and (after sifting out all the clopfics) it's Aragon's "A Hell of a Time", which I thought was only fairly good. So what do I know? :P

    2. Well, most viewed is certainly not a good measure of quality. I mean, just look at fimfictions' top ten most read.

    3. Of course; "My Little Dashie" is Exhibit A. But what I think is good isn't the same as what anyone else thinks is good, and the (sad?) fact is that an awful lot of people love "My Little Dashie". A particular shame, as its author has written some much better stories since.

  2. Yes, once upon a time before she was canon, "Bright Eyes" was a third option to "Ditzy Doo". "Bubble Muffin" is, sadly, a more modern contrivance. :B

    1. "Muffins" (spelt out, not just a picture) is used in at least one official place (the pony Game of Life), so I suppose I could tolerate that. "Bubble Muffin" is just annoying, though. I've also seen "Bubblecup", which I think is a carry-over from a G3 pony.

    2. Bright Eyes is from MLP Tales, too.

    3. Hmm. Maybe I should refresh my knowledge of old-gen Pony.

      And maybe I shouldn't. :P

    4. Because you didn't watch the legend that is "Over Two Rainbows". The cartoon that makes "So Many Different Ways to Play" look like a Nobel candidate. :P