Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 82: Everything has a meaning, if only we could read it

I watched "Bats!" last night. Then I went back and listened to the song again. Yes, for fun. I'd watch this episode over the one that precedes it ("Power Ponies") any day of the week. I mention this because it's only fair to warn my readers that I may have a very strange sense of what does and what does not constitute a good story. :P Eight fics under consideration today, so let's get a move on:

Griffon it Another Try by Winston
The Next Edward VIII by Gabriel LaVedier
The Only One in Color by RazgrizS57
The New Crop by xjuggernaughtx

Orange Crystals by dramatic_spoon
Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Hyperexponential
The Language of Stars by ObabScribbler
The Cancellation of Prince Blueblood by Georg

Griffon it Another Try by Winston
Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and Gilda
Slice of Life; 3k words; Mar 2015; Everyone
Pinkie Pie doesn't exactly have a high opinion of Gilda the griffon, after what happened last time she was in town... but the time may have come to set aside past animosity and take a fresh look at things.
Written prior to "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone", this was an entry for this year's EFNW Pre-Con contest. There's nothing very startling here, and there's a slight tendency for characters to speak "in a [whatever] tone", but it's a cute little thing. Three stars, but only just. ★★★

The Next Edward VIII by Gabriel LaVedier
Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Cadance and Shining Armor
Romance/Sad; 3k words; Feb 2013; Everyone
Her majesty Twilight Sparkle addresses the nation
The main problem with this story is that the title gives too much away: the (overlong) speech Twilight makes at the end will ring bells for even moderately attentive students of 20th century British history. You also have to accept TwiPie as an established relationship with absolutely no setup. This is a curiosity more than anything else. ★★

The Only One in Color by RazGrizS57
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie
Sad; 17k words; Oct 2013; Everyone
When I was little, I came to understand the true meaning about a particular trait of mine. I don’t like to talk about it because it’s just something I find difficult to discuss. But it’s not like anyone could understand it anyway.
A warning: there's white-on-white text in this, though it's not hidden in any way. This is a really odd story dealing with Rainbow and Pinkie's first meeting, aged 12. It's interesting, well written and original, and even quite disturbing in places. The problem is that I just can't think of a way that this Pinkie could possibly turn into show Pinkie, most notably in her dialogue. Worth reading, but it frustrates me a bit. ★★★

The New Crop by xjuggernaughtx
Big Mac, Granny Smith, Apple Bloom and Blueblood
Alternate Universe/Dark/Slice of Life; 16k words; Oct 2014; Teen
With the Apple family deep in debt, Big Mac climbs into the ring once again to save the farm. Now all that’s between him and the two-thousand-bit winner’s purse is some unicorn named Blueblood. Things are about to get ugly.
The hardest story to rate this week, and in fact the hardest for ages. That's because it's a very well written fic (a Royal Guard inductee, and quite right too), but not one I especially enjoyed reading – my main criterion for the highest rating. The first-person Big Mac POV is a triumph: his narrative is utterly convincing and absolutely gripping. Granny Smith is very good, too. The reasons this Apple Family is so different from "ours" are explained, as (to an extent, eventually) is what's up with Equestria itself. Blueblood is an odd choice as Mac's opponent; the author has said he has a sequel in mind that would explain why he (Blueblood) was in the fight game, but for now I can't take account of that. So, why doesn't this get a five? Largely because I really, really dislike boxing. I found a fair bit of this story actively off-putting to read, and while those brutal sections were entirely in keeping with the brutal tale, I still didn't enjoy them. So it gets a four, but it's nevertheless a very fine piece of writing. If you can tolerate harsh boxing stories better than me, then absolutely you can add that fifth star. ★★★★

Orange Crystals by dramatic_spoon
Sombra, Other [Aunt Orange] and Mane Six
Random/Romance/Slice of Life; 2k words; Jun 2013; Everyone
Applejack and the gang go to Manehatten to see Aunt Orange and her New Coltfriend.
Written for a crackship contest – whoever would have guessed? :P Sadly, Aunt Orange/King Sombra isn't the barrel of laughs I was hoping it would be, and I've had to consult my notes to remember anything much about it. Also, "Applebloom". ★★

Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Hyperexponential
Applejack Rarity and Fluttershy
Comedy/Slice of Life; 10k words; Dec 2011–Jan 2012; Everyone
Applejack proposes an insane fundraising scheme for Rarity's charity.
That scheme being that Rarity and Fluttershy should have a mud wrestling contest. Bear in mind that this was written halfway through S2, as a couple of relatively minor plot points wouldn't work nowadays. Fairly amusing in an undemanding way most of the time, though a pig-POV section (yes, really) feels out of place. Unlike some reviewers, I loved this author's Forever Young (PR 9), but this isn't on the same level. One for an idle half hour. ★★★

The Language of Stars by ObabScribbler
Derpy, Dinky and Sparkler
Slice of Life; 5k words; Apr 2014; Everyone
When paying for damages incurred by her clumsiness leaves Derpy unable to pay for her daughter's birthday present, she must seek outside assistance.
A simple but touching story which might make a rather good Christmas fic, despite not being set at Hearth's Warming time. Derpy's love for Dinky is beautifully portrayed, but you have to forget your Earthly science at one point and accept that shooting stars are like, well, stars in magic Equestria. The ending isn't quite the one I was hoping for. A high three, even so. ★★★

The Cancellation of Prince Blueblood by Georg
Twilight and Blueblood
Comedy; 2k words; Oct 2012; Everyone
Prince Blueblood gets his proper punishment for his horrible crimes.
If I were writing two-word reviews for the Radio Times, this story would be described as "lightweight fun". It's undemanding, fairly silly and generally enjoyable. One odd passage about a pony's name that I can only assume refers to some long-past fandom argument, but otherwise this has aged fairly gracefully. ★★★

Next time on Ponyfic Roundup, stories reviewed will include kits' Twilight's List and Slavoj Zizek's Let Me Tell You About the Hole in My Face.


  1. A very fair review. I'm actually pretty please that I managed to hold the attention of someone who detests boxing. It's such a huge part of the story that I expected it to turn many people away. Actually, I'm pretty surprised that more people haven't told me they just couldn't accept the idea of the ponies boxing in the first place. It's a very awkward physical thing for them to be doing, even if the ponies are far more versatile in their cartoon world than any really pony would be.

    I originally intended that story to be a light-hearted comedy wherein Big Mac and Granny Smith would be secretly boxing by night to help fund the farm. AJ is out a little too often saving Equestria, and the bits are getting a little low because her labor is missing. Rather than make AJ feel guilty or conflicted, they decided on that.

    However, boxing is an ugly, dangerous sport, and the more I worked on it, the darker the whole thing got until I figured out that something as violent as boxing needed to be serious, and also needed to be outside of the normal Equestria. In our Equestria, neighbors help each other. I just don't see Granny Smith and Big Mac being in a tough situation like this on the show. Ponies would band together to help them out. So it was moved to this darker (literally) Equestria, where the magic of friendship is unknown.

    I kind of feel like I'm letting you down as a writer, though. I wrote an Equestria Girls (ish) fic when you don't care for Equestria Girl, and now a boxing fic when you hate boxing. Hopefully you like dumb stories about Pinkie and Rainbow trying to figure out if Applejack has an Apple Sense the way that Pinkie has a Pinkie sense because if I write anything else, that'll be the next thing on the docket. Well, besides finishing First Steps.

    1. I'm glad you thought so – and thanks for the interesting insight into how this story came into being. I really had to think hard about this review, as evidenced by the length of the thing. The fact that you did hold my attention impressed me a great deal – I'd probably have had trouble going above a high two for a merely competent story written in the same style. I actually felt a little mean not giving you a five for this, as it's certainly as good as stories I have given top marks to. If only I used different rating criteria...!

      I think any "ponies boxing" problem was probably lessened a bit by the AU tag. We've also seen ponies in the show in a "put 'em up" pose, for example Rainbow Dash encountering Discord in "The Return of Harmony". Not an actual boxing match, but still.

      I kind of feel like I'm letting you down as a writer, though.

      Heh, no need for that. You've written enough stories that I can pick and choose, so it's all on me here. For what it's worth, the others of yours on my RiL list right now are The Carrot Dog Fight (which has been there so long that I'll probably get to it pretty soon) and Second Birthday (because I liked the description). Both, unless there are some major surprises waiting for me therein, rather less heavy than The New Crop!

    2. Your reaction to The Carrot Dog Fight may depend on how you register the emotional tone. A lot of people thought of the story as comedy, though I did not. It's tagged only as Slice of Life. It's somewhat violent, as well, though not to the degree that The New Crop was. It's a story that's a little nicer.

      Second Birthday is just quick ridiculousness. I didn't think about it to hard. I just wrote it and hit publish. Not to say I don't love it, but it's basically fluff.

  2. Thank you! Occasionally I get these little attacks of sillyness, and putting them down on electronic paper helps spread the giggles. :)