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.

Ponyfic (writing)
I've gone into a fair amount of detail about this on my Fimfiction blog, but in short: I published four MLP fanfics, which at the time of writing have a combined thumbscore of +115/-0. I know that number means very little, but at least I didn't publish anything people hated. The most successful was the one I dashed off almost as a joke, Shining Armor's Amour's Armour. I don't know what to make of that!

I completed Where They Understand You, a story considerably more personally important to me than any of the one-shots. I also wrote a small number of minifics, albeit not as many as I'd have hoped to have done. All of them were reasonably successful except (wouldn't you know it) my debut Writeoff fic, which was a mess. Even so, I may eventually salvage a standard one-shot from its wreckage.

I'm not sure whether I'll enter the Writeoff again. Its foray into original fiction makes perfect sense if you're the sort of writer who wants to test themselves with a view to trying to get published outside the fandom one day. Me? I just want to write ponyfic, so would have been more attracted if they'd kept to MLP-related contests exclusively. Still, it would be nice to try to do a bit better one of these days.

More generally, I still have several dozen ideas for ponyfics. Whether any of them eventually see the light of day as finished stories is anyone's guess, but I certainly still have the motivation to try to get at least some of them published on Fimfiction. It may shock one or two of you to discover that not all of them are ridiculous, semi-crackfic one-shots! (Mind you, those are probably the ones that are the most likely actually to appear...)

Ponyfic (reading)
If I remember, which is doubtful, I'll be doing a "Best fics I read in 2015" post at some point this month. There were some crackers. I kept up my Ponyfic Roundup posts, to the extent that number 100 is now not that far away, and I'll definitely be keeping the simplified rating system, which has clearly worked. My Read it Later list currently stands at 447, and it would be nice to get that down. (Ha.)

I see no particular sign that the fandom is running out of steam when it comes to writing ponyfic, which is good as it means I won't have to worry about there not being new stories to read! Yes, things have slowed down a little in the last few years, but Fimfiction's search function (still clunky – arbitrary date search, please?) tells me that around 800 completed stories have gone up in the past month.

Nor have I noticed any particular sign that the average standard of fics is dropping. Yes, some people drift out of the fandom, or at least the ponyfic-writing part of it, for a variety of reasons. There are still newcomers appearing with interesting stories, however, and as long as that continues to be the case I don't see any reason to fret too much.

Social events
The very fact that I can have a heading like this underlines what an extraordinary fandom this is – it's the first one in my decade and a half on the internet for which I've actually wanted to go out to meets and conventions. I still find this a bit strange, to be honest, but I'm not going to complain about it as for the most part it's been a lot of fun.

The highlight of my year was undoubtedly UK PonyCon in Leicester in October. This venerable (est 2004) all-gens convention sold out for the first time in 2015, with an attendance of 600 over the weekend. It was very well received, not only by me, and I fully intend to attend the 2016 iteration of the con. I just hope the host city isn't somewhere that's too awkward to get to!

I continued to attend the twice-monthly Worcester meets on a fairly regular basis, although health problems did get in the way from time to time. I also managed to get to the (non-convention) Leicester meet in November, and I'd like to go there again at least once or twice in 2016. I doubt I'll have the time, money or energy to go to any other meets, but who knows?

Short of a financial miracle, though, I won't be going to BUCK 2016. Whatever the whys and wherefores of its highest-in-the-world ticket pricing, the fact is that £100 for the weekend, plus travel, plus hotel, is simply too much for me. I do feel sad that I'm going to miss out on a con attended by Daniel Ingram, but the financial hit from BUCK is now beyond what I can justify.

The online fandom
I enjoyed 2015 a great deal from this point of view. Yes, things are a little quieter than once they were – you don't see many really big new musicians, for example – but there's still plenty going on. Although ponyfic consumed most of my attentions, I did stop to appreciate the occasional video (Lullaby for a Princess, Spitfire's Day Off etc) and various bits of art and music. I'll try to do that more next year.

Not everyone will agree with me on this next point, but I felt the atmosphere in the fandom this last year was notably warm and friendly. I experienced less in the way of pointless unpleasantness than in previous years, and more in the way of, well, the qualities of the Elements of Harmony. When the hiatus was announced, for example, there was just one day of whinging, not the months of drama we had over Twilicorn.

I don't use Facebook or Tumblr at all, so my main avenues of conversation, blogs apart, were the UK of Equestria forums and Twitter. In both cases, there were problems here and there, more noticeable on UK of E thanks to my mod status there, but the ships themselves sailed on fairly serenely. I see very little reason to change the way I approach either of these things during 2016.

The official stuff
We did pretty well here, I think. Season Five of the show was generally very good, with episodes like "Amending Fences" proving how good Friendship is Magic still can be all these episodes on, and "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" providing what so many of us had wanted. If S6 is to be the last, as some (including me) have speculated, then I hope it goes out with a bang rather than a whimper.

In the bipedal arena, Friendship Games was a reasonably solid entry into the Equestria Girls franchise, though for my money it's still Rainbow Rocks that wears the crown. G. M. Berrow offered several more chapter books (Discord's being the highlight) and the IDW comics continued to vary wildly in quality. The autumn also brought us The Art of Equestria, one of the best (and best received) official books in a long while.

I'm not a huge toy collector, but one thing that was noticeable was the reduction in pony in the comic shops and the increase in Toys R Us. Perhaps partly thanks to Tiny Pop's broadcasts (only a few weeks out of date), MLP is ceasing to be seen by retailers as a geeky thing, but is doing better in toy shops. My local Forbidden Planet now stocks only comics and books: even the CCG seems to have vanished.

A final thank you
It's a terrible clich̩, but the fact is that I would not be typing this Рindeed, I wouldn't be maintaining this blog at all Рwere it not for you, my readers. Louder Yay may not have the reach, the audience or the exclusives of Equestria Daily or Derpy News, but it's still enjoyable to write when I know that there are people out there who look forward to reading (and sometimes commenting on) what I have to say.

I don't plan on going anywhere any time soon. As I've said, I find the Pony fandom perhaps a more comfortable place to be than I ever have. It absolutely feels like home, and I've always been a bit of a stay-at-home type! I fully expect to be a part of the MLP fandom throughout 2016, and hopefully well beyond. This makes me sound a bit like the Queen, but: whether you stay for the ride or not, however you choose to spend your 2016, I wish you the very best.

8 comments:

  1. You keep writing and I'll keep reading!

    The nice thing about blogs is their permanence. I'm still going through your fanfic reviews from almost 2 years ago...

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    1. Yes, it's a reason I wish blogging hadn't been marginalised somewhat by the advent of social media. Go back a decade and everybody was using blogs; I'd be getting double-figure comment counts on a regular basis even for my own minor ramblings. Ah well, time waits for nopony. :)

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  2. " The most successful was the one I dashed off almost as a joke, Shining Armor's Amour's Armour. I don't know what to make of that!"

    I think there is something to this. It's something that I was experimenting with over at Fimfiction.net. Since I started writing Cheerilee's Thousand, I really got the impression that the more off the cuff the story was, the better overall response I got to it. I mean, I whip out a Cheerilee chapter in about an hour and half and they are usually much, MUCH more popular than a story that I spent months on.

    Now, some of that is content. My more involved stories lately have tended to be darker, more serious pieces, so that will probably naturally attract fewer views, but I wrote Second Birthday specifically to test that theory. I'd written two stories that I'd spend a whole lot of time on that readers didn't really flock to. I wanted to see how they'd respond to something that I just did off the cuff.

    Turns out that it had far more interest than either of the two stories that came before it, even though I'd consider them to be much better. I got dinged for some sloppiness, some of which is deserved, but I expected that since I wrote and published it so quickly.

    But what I'm getting at is that I think there really is something to writing a story without attaching a whole lot of importance to it. There's some kind of quality in that casualness that people respond to. Maybe it's just that those stories tend to be simple ideas that don't require a whole lot of investment, or that they are pure in idea that they are easy to digest. I'm not sure, but readers seem to like it.

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    1. Well, there's a review of Second Birthday in the next PR, so that'll tell you a little how I felt about it. But your main point is very interesting. It may well be that most readers, even those who say how much they admire some beautifully crafted piece or other, don't actually want "literary fiction" for the most part, but more a quick, fun read. You only have to look at the paperback bestseller charts to see what sells in the wider market.

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    2. Additional: to back up your point, It Doesn't Matter Now was mostly written in a couple of hours, and that's ended up being my most successful story. I know some authors say that they'd prefer to have 50% of readers love their story and 50% hate it than 95% merely like it, but I suspect those are mostly the "literary" breed. I'm definitely in the lowbrow crowd where 95% of readers thinking my story was "pretty fun" or something counts as a success!

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    3. I wouldn't mind 50% love/hate as long as at least SOME of the hate side let me know why. That's one of the frustrating things about writing. I've got maybe 150 downvotes collectively over on Fimfiction, but very, very few comments that support them. Without that knowledge, those downvotes really bug me, especially when I know that a few of them are just from people that mass downvoted everything I'd written. I'd take 95% like any day over 50% downvotes with no commentary on why they voted that way.

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