Thursday, 28 January 2016

S6 coming this spring! Oh, and about that royal foal...

Yes, it's happening. Equestria Daily reports that Season Six of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic will be with us this spring. not in autumn as some of us had imagined/feared. We don't know when in spring it will be – presumably not before Easter – but it's still a great piece of news to see. It also means I can start using my "season 6" post tag a bit more often. Spoilers about the royal foal after the break, including her name if you haven't seen that yet. (And even if you have, I suppose.)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 92: Like a Mighty Cannonball He Seems to Fly

Slightly to my surprise, To Be the Candle got a Recommended from Present Perfect the other day. Maybe I should actually do something about the couple of other [Dark] story ideas I have bouncing around in my head. As it happens, I have one of PP's own stories in this week's selection of six, though that's pure coincidence. A mixed bag this week, so let's get on with it.

The Wind Changed by DaeCat
Dinky's First Kill by PresentPerfect
Bomb-Bomb Cake by Garnot
The Coronation of the Reluctant Princess Fluttershy by A British Gentleman
The Haunting in Ponyville by JasonTheHuman
Sweetie Brick by shortskirtsandexplosions

Monday, 25 January 2016

Checking back

Back in December 2014, at the point when It Doesn't Matter Now became the very last story to be featured by Twilight's Library, I made a blog post here in which I "set a few goals of varying importance and likelihood" for my ponyfic writing. I meant to revisit that post after a year, but I forgot about it. Here we go, then:

1) Actually win a writing contest of some sort
Done! My little Fancy Pants story, Ever Let the Fancy Roam, won the "Making the Most of the Mundane" contest.

2) Get 1,000 views on a single story
Done! Both It Doesn't Matter Now and This Fragment of Life have reached four figures.

3) Reach 100 followers
Done! I have exactly 150 at the time of posting.

4) Have a story of mine be another reviewer's equivalent of a "Pick of the fics"
Not done, although I don't do "Pick of the Fics" any more anyway. I've had some nice reviews, but I can't think of any roundups where a story I wrote was the standout.

5) Publish a [Dark]-tagged story
Done! That'll be To Be the Candle

6) Write a Watership Down crossover that actually works
Not done, and I haven't even written one that doesn't work.

7) Get Friendship is Poetry going again
Not really done – I've only added one poem (the William McGonagall homage) since December 2014.

8) Finish Where They Understand You

9) Write something in second-person, just to see if I can
Not done, and may never be. Unless I'm feeling stupid, anyway.

10) Never, ever, under any circumstances, make the feature box
Done! I'm proud of maintaining a clean record here.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

BUCK 2016 guests: Daniel Ingram out, Peter New and Nicole Martel in

Some big news on guests for this year's BUCK – some good, some bad. Let's get the bad out of the way first: Daniel Ingram will not now be able to attend, owing to pressure of work. Let's not beat about the bush: this is a big disappointment. In fact, if I'd still been thinking of going to BUCK this year, Mr Ingram's attendance would have been the single biggest draw. The announcement post does slightly slip in the bad news (it's not mentioned at all in the threadline) but it's not as if people are going to miss a change like that.

Happily, there is good news as well on the guests front. Two new names have been announced, the first of whom is Peter New. He has a superb reputation as a con guest, and I'm sure that BUCK will benefit immensely from his presence. The second new guest is a name many may not know: Nicole Martel. She works as layout designer for several big-name cartoons, among them Friendship is Magic. She'll be presenting a workshop, a format which worked very well last year with the likes of Heather Breckel. It's a very interesting choice of invitee.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Ponyfic Roundup Extra: Desert Island Ponyfics 2015

Having rashly told a friend that I was going to write a post like this, I suppose I'd better get on and do it! Before I begin, I should mention that this is not simply a list of the eight highest-rated fanfics I reviewed in 2015. (They didn't have to be written that year.) There are several entries here which didn't get five-star ratings at all, but which stayed with me for other reasons.

Why eight? Because castaways on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs get to choose eight records to take with them, so it seemed a suitable number. It also forces me to make some hard choices, but doesn't restrict me so much that I'm limited to one or two types of fic. I've made no attempt to pick an outright winner, so the stories are listed in alphabetical order:

Bubbles by anonymous (PR 45)
It may be almost five years old now, but this is still one of the most affecting portraits of Derpy I've read anywhere.

The Celestia Code by iisaw (PR 59)
This story goes all-out in showing us Awesome!Twilight, without the irritating (to me) romantic angle of its sequel.

Cutie Mark Crisscross by Everyday (PR 44)
A notably high-class debut fic, with plenty to entertain and featuring some truly adorable Rarity/Sweetie scenes.

Flash Fog by Kwakerjak (PR 62)
This features mainly for its excellent Fluttershy, but also for its well realised main OC and a more than averagely interesting Lyra/Bon-Bon subplot.

Home by RBDash47 (PR 77)
A wonderful short character piece centring on Applejack. Utterly believable and deeply touching.

Lost Cities by Cold in Gardez (PR 76)
The progenitor of a small subgenre of its own, and a masterpiece of imaginative writing. No dialogue, no action, no dialogue – but all fascinating.

Pirates for a Day by DawnFade (PR 85)
Unbearably adorable, this is the story that melted my heart the most last year. It demanded inclusion here.

Riverdream at Sunset: a Manuscript by GroaningGreyAgony (PR 70)
It's [Adventure]/[Crossover]/[Human]. It's written in a flowery, wordy style. And yet it's absolutely magical.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Georgia Ball and the problems with the Rarity/Gilda Friends Forever

(Thanks to moody magpie on UK of Equestria for the heads-up on this.)

A few days ago, I reviewed Friends Forever #24, which I didn't find a particularly brilliant comic. Part of that was because I find American football boring, but part was because I was unimpressed with the use of characters (eg Greta) who looked absolutely nothing like their on-screen equivalents. Well, it turns out that I wasn't the only one.

It's not often that I link to a Horse News article, but this one is worth reading. Remember that I complained about the new cover design that makes the creators' names tiny? On top of that, Georgia Ball's name was misspelt as "Bell" – there and in the inside-cover credits. She wasn't very happy about that, nor about the off-model character designs, and rightly so.

And Ball isn't planning on pitching anything else for Pony, as this Twitter conversation reveals. It's also pretty clear that she is not desperately happy with Jay Fosgitt's lack of research, and I can't blame her. I like Fosgitt's style – the Dash/'Shy FF was wonderful – but this really isn't on. We're talking about basic research.

I go back and read the early MLP comics occasionally, and while I don't think the fall in average quality is as bad as 4chan likes to make out, the fact is that the gems are rarer than they were. Will we ever get another arc that produces non-stop laughs in the way "Zen and the Art of Gazebo Maintenance" or the Rarity micro did?

This franchise needs some TLC, and it needs it now. Over to you, Bobby Curnow.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 91: Beats All the Lies You Can Invent

We've actually had a bit of seasonal weather recently. Of course, this is Worcestershire seasonal weather, which means temperatures of a few degrees above freezing and the occasional shower. No actual snow, as usual. Unexciting as that sounds, though, it's still a huge improvement on the torrential rain and widespread flooding so much of the country endured in December. Back to ponyfic, though, and this week's six fics are:

Rebirth by ObeySaturnGod
Changelings, Changelings Everywhere by Benman
Fine Print by nucnik
Dressing Room by GaPJaxie
Life is a Lemon by Blueshift
An Unfinished World by WorldWalker128

Monday, 18 January 2016

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #24: Rarity and Gilda

MLP Friends Forever comic #24 Sub cover
I actually prefer the main cover, but it was sold out!
A slight redesign for the IDW covers. I don't much like it, since I feel the creators' names are now too small, tucked away at the bottom of the page. (Edit: and "Ball" is printed as "Bell" anyway!) Anyway, an unusual pairing this time, and a reasonable comic. Jay Fosgitt's style continues to divide opinion, but I quite like it despite its liberties with pony anatomy. One thing I don't like is that Greta, who plays a minor role, looks nothing like her show design. Sorry, JF, but with canon characters you can't get away with that. Georgia Ball provides only her second My Little Pony story after the very satisfying Celestia micro back in 2013, but doesn't quite match that effort here. The story is still a reasonable read, although it is heavily based around a sport similar to American football, which bores me silly. (Only the Dash Academy webcomic has made me interested in anything similar!) It's not bad on the whole, but I'd probably only really recommend this comic to Gilda fans. ★★ (but ★★★ if you like Gilda)

Edit: For once I'm going to link to a Horse News column. It makes pretty depressing reading, and the only person who comes out of it with credit is Ball. I'll be making a fuller post about this in the near future.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Good news from BronyScot

In two years, BronyScot has established itself as an exemplar of how a small British pony convention should be run. If only I didn't live so far away, making budgeting too hard so close to UK PonyCon, I'd have been very interested in going myself. The team behind it have announced their intention to return in 2016, and that's the first bit of good news.

Next comes the announcement that BronyScot has been accepted as a full member of the European Pony Convention Union. The EPCU is an umbrella body for several pony cons across Europe, including big players such as BUCK and GalaCon. Member events agree to abide by a code of conduct and get to use the EPCU badge on their websites.

Also, BronyScot has published its 2015 financial statement. This is remarkably detailed – I can't think of many other cons which publish income and expenditure down to the last pound – and very clearly expressed. I was actually a little surprised (and impressed) to read that the con's expenses were under £5,000. Just goes to show what can be done with the right setup!

BronyScot had 220 attendees this time round (plus another 70 for the Rock Nessie concert) and that was a pleasing rise on the 187 of 2014. In my view, as someone with no vested interest in the con other than wanting it to succeed, I think it's a credit to the UK fandom and I very much hope it goes from strength to strength this year. Well done, guys.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 90: Muskehounds are Always Ready

Fair warning: my next Spotlight (not sure when it'll be) may well be a Mature-rated fic. It's not a clopfic as such, though it does contain some sex scenes. I'll tell you now that it came very close to making me DNF it at one point, but I managed to get past the section in question. Hopefully I'll actually get to the end and be able to review the thing! Right; back to the present. Half a dozen stories in the mix this time round, and they are:

Second Birthday by xjuggernaughtx
Sixes and Sevens by GeodesicDragon
The Best Job in Equestria by Mooncalf
Our Gifts by The Descendant
A Light In the Woods by RattPitt
The Mare With No Name by Heavyhauler75622

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #37

MLP IDW comic #37 main cover
It's another nice cover by Price, at least
We reach the end of the four-issue Siege of the Crystal Empire arc, and it's been an interesting ride. Sadly, this final instalment doesn't manage to close things out in style. Everything's wrapped up much too neatly, with a particuarly irritating ending for Sombra. Considering that the show has now given us a glimpse of a full-scale war, I don't think the "kids' comics can't have serious battles" argument holds water any longer.  The Umbrum are still interesting (I'm surprised they haven't caught fanfic writers' attention) and Discord's cameo is amusing, but this isn't the epic ending that I'd hoped for. Still, the first half is decent. ★★

Friday, 8 January 2016

BUCK 2016 news: the Pinkie Pie Pals return!

One of the best features of BUCK 2014 has returned for this year's iteration. The Pinkie Pie Pals area group of volunteers – not actually convention staff, but working closely with them – who aim to help new, nervous or younger attendees, or those going on their own who feel a bit lost, enjoy the event more. Last time round, they created the Fluttershy Club for said attendees, and as a participant in said Club (admittedly partly for the super-cute 'Shy badge!) I thought it was an excellent initiative.

I'm therefore using this post to signal-boost the launch of the 2016 Pinkie Pie Pals. You can read more about it, including details of how to apply to be a PPP volunteer, in this UK of Equestria post. (You don't have to be a UK of E member, as the post is public and there are email and Facebook routes for applications.) Given that I thought this was the best new feature of BUCK 2014, I'm delighted to see it return and even though I won't be there myself this time, I wish it every success.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Friendship is Witchcraft: Horse Women returns at last!

Well, this is a fairly major surprise, at least to me. A couple of years (ish?) after we last heard from the FiW team*, Sherclop Pones is back with the second part of Equestria Girls parody, Horse Women. This episode adds in a bit of The Return of Harmony at the start, whose main benefit is to give us an all-too-brief slice of Sweetie Bot. Then we're off to humanland, where the highlight is probably Rina-chan's perfect Sunset Shimmer. Is it any good? Well, I laughed. Is that a guarantor of quality? Well, no. But again: I laughed.

Don't read the EQD comments. They're YouTube standard. Seriously.

* Well, apart from that reading of FiW episode 10. Dare we hope that might (eventually) become a full-blown episode now?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 89: And Next Year's Words Await Another Voice

I'm back from my break, so welcome to the first Ponyfic Roundup of 2016. All things being well, I'll be doing PR 100 before too long, and I'm thinking about whether I'm going to make it a themed edition. Any suggestions for a theme would be welcome – though no, Project Horizons will not be read under any circumstances. :P As far as this week is concerned, I've reviewed five stories, including one of the most famous horror fics the fandom has produced.

Biblical Monsters by Horse Voice
The Trial of Fluttershy Flutters by Masterweaver
Wizards, Fools, and Foals by FanOfMostEverything
The Filly That Lives Under Ground by Not Worthy
A Glimmer in the Night by Himntor

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

French cons BronyDays and PonySouth will not happen in 2016

The largest MLP convention in France, BronyDays in Paris, will not take place in 2016. Neither will the PonySouth con in Toulouse. The organising group, Hoofmade Events, made the announcement a couple of weeks ago, but I'd missed it until Silver Broom pointed it out yesterday. The official post is in French, but here are some of the key points:
  • Team fatigue is a major reason for the announcement. Running a convention inevitably means a great deal of work, and even with public support it's hard to stay motivated indefinitely.
  • Attendances for both conventions fell significantly in 2015, making running them a riskier business. The Hoofmade team have made a conscious decision not to speculate on why this might be, as they want to avoid being drawn into "state of the fandom" arguments·
  • Hoofmade Events will continue, perhaps with smaller events such as 3PS (Party Pinkie Pie Style). Also, the PonySouth team are working on a new project, the details of which will be published soon.
Some interesting stuff there. The first point won't come as a surprise to anyone in the UK, given that a major reason for BUCK taking 2015 off was the huge workload staff members were taking on. Sooner or later, people have to put their health first and say "no more", and that moment has arrived.

Regarding the second point, it will be very interesting indeed to see how many people BUCK 2016 attracts. UK PonyCon enjoyed a record attendance in 2015, and BronyScot was also highly successful, but they're smaller events – and, in UK PonyCon's case, not tied exclusively to the G4/brony part of the MLP fandom.

Unlike Hoofmade, I will talk briefly about the fandom itself. I think the signs are that it is indeed shrinking, and it may be that (at least in Europe) the big extravaganzas' days are numbered. Some people suspect this year's BUCK may be the last, and in truth I wouldn't be entirely surprised.

That's not to say we should become downcast, though. Even if our fandom's medium-term future is as a considerably smaller, quieter place, that doesn't mean it will become a wasteland. G1 fans are still around after more than 30 years, so we G4 fans should be inspired by their example!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Pony Fandom and Me in 2015

2015 wasn't a great year for me personally, but in purely fandom terms it was much better. In fact, I'd say that this may have been the year I enjoyed most since entering the fandom in the spring of 2012. Not everything was sunshine and rainbows, but enough was to make me pretty optimistic about 2016. Beyond the break, I'll go into rather more detail about how it struck me.