Friday, 29 April 2016

It's Fluttershy Day!

Fluttershy by Camellia (from DeviantArt)
Fluttershy by Camellia. Dec 2015. (CC by-nc-nd 3.0)
Yay! Have a happy Best Pony day, everyone! After all, if you don't, you might make Fluttershy sad – and who'd want to do that? (Also, it's disgracefully long since I got to use the "Fluttershy" tag around here.)

Pony Music Library 2: "A Pony Like Me"

Since there was no episode last Saturday, there was also no Text Review Roundup yesterday. That leaves a bit of a space – which I'll fill with the second edition of Pony Music Library!

What? "A Pony Like Me"

Who? Replacer

Which? Original song

When? February 2012

Why? Because its ethereal sounds and gorgeous harmonies make it the closest thing I've ever found in this fandom to a classic Beach Boys sound from the Pet Sounds era. It may be more than four years old now, but in this particular respect it's never really been matched. The lyrics are well chosen, too.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

On "The Cutie Map"'s Hugo nomination

Note: horizon wrote an excellent piece about this on his Fimfiction blog. That's the place to go if you want detail. This is just me adding a few thoughts of my own.

Some unexpected news emerged on Tuesday: the Hugo Awards, a big name of the science fiction and fantasy world, announced their 2016 finalists. In the "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form" category, there were a total of five shows: Doctor Who, Grimm, Jessica Jones, Supernatural... and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Specifically, the Season Five premiere, "The Cutie Map".

On the face of it, this is a remarkable honour. Although MLP has been nominated for Daytime Emmys before, I doubt many of us would have imagined that a Hugo nomination was in the offing. It's true that "The Cutie Map", with its unusually dark (for this show) and dystopian theme, was a very good episode – I gave it four stars – and perhaps the most interesting, although "Amending Fences" was better.

But here's the problem. The shortlists for Hugo categories are decided by voting, and for the last couple of years there has been a determined effort by certain conservative groups to try to get works which align with that philosophy nominated. This episode's "Our Town", with its perversion of equality and removal of individuality, was seen by some of these people as representing communism.

If so, the joke may be on them. Most fans don't see the episode in those terms, preferring instead to read Starlight Glimmer's role as akin to a cult leader. "The Cutie Map" is genuinely one of the most interesting stories that MLP has told, and if I had to nominate one of the show's episodes for a Hugo, I might choose this one, too. It probably shouldn't win – but it isn't the joke nomination some may believe.

So, what should we as fans do? Simple. Enjoy the moment and have fun telling people who sneer at MLP that our show got Hugo-nominated. (As long as they're not into SF-and-fantasy stuff enough to know about the political angle, that is!) I know, fandom = drama on many occasions, but if we can pull together on this one and not rise to the bait, we'll be the winners whatever the outcome.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 104: Why Me?

The whole Jeremy Whitley FlutterDash thing? I'd prefer not to have any pairings involving the Mane Six, regardless of the gender of their partners. Even Trenderhoof annoyed me; it's refreshing to have a show starring young-adult characters which isn't romantically focused. My headcanon is that Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash have a romantic friendship, and that this suits them both very well. New/background pairings? Sure, knock yourself out. But not the Mane Six, please. Right:

Twilight, There's a Ghost in your Basement by KitsuneRisu
This Side of the Mirror by Baal Bunny
Alone With Dark Thoughts by Snakes
S̼̹̫̟͇̱͖͌ͩ̇̅͐̕h̸̬͚̗̿u͓͖̮͐̉̅ͧͪ͟b̰͡-̡̣̈́̈͂C̺̜ͥ̉ͮ̇͡a̱̾ͩ̒ͧ̚͠d͔͕̣̙͗͒̊̎̍ͬ̕u͙̻̪̤̰͖͗͆ͧͤ̕r̴̥̤̩̺̹͍̂͒ͩ̈̒̇̚ͅa̺̳̖̥̦̱͚͐t͍̻̼ͧ̀ͅh̬̭̪͍͙̞̜ͯ̈ͧ̋ͦ̀ by PresentPerfect
When Life Gives You Lemons . . . by trombrony98
Super Trampoline and BABSCon Authors Write Ponies by Super Trampoline et al

★: 2 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Pony Music Library 1: "Helping Twilight Win the Crown (Aviators Remix)"

This is a new series, which will be fitted in when I've got time rather than being at a set time each week like Ponyfic Roundup. In it, I'll be showcasing my favourite pony tracks, be they show songs, remixes or original works. The main criterion is that they must be MLP-related – so, for example, Aviators' FNAF songs would not be eligible. There won't be much rhyme or reason to the order; this is not a top 20 countdown or the like. Right; here's the first entry into the Hall of Dubious Fame.

What? "Helping Twilight Win the Crown (Aviators remix)"

Who? Aviators

Which? Movie song remix

When? July 2013

Why? Because it's absurdly catchy. Daniel Ingram's original version of this song, officially (and boringly) known as "Cafeteria Song", was easily the highlight of the somewhat variable first Equestria Girls film. Aviators puts his own stamp on the track in a very satisfying way: it's not distorted into oblivion, and the essential sense of fun is retained, but it's recognisable from the first few notes. A fine version of a fine song.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

If this is a Season Six spoiler, things really are going to be interesting...

MLP magazine showing Mutant Shining Armor
I dug out my old copy of Rally Trophy yesterday afternoon. I loved that game back in the early 2000s, and it still plays quite nicely today. Dated graphics of course, but it supports 1920x1080 resolution, which isn't bad going for a 2001 game! Anyway, on to pony. Technically this is Europe-specific, but close enough. I'm afraid it's rather on the Nightmare Fuel side, though: this is a photo from the current edition of the official MLP magazine. Why does the Royal Guard behind Shining Armor look so concerned? Count the legs...

Friday, 22 April 2016

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #41

IDW MLP comic #41 main cover
This would be worth having just for this cover!
An unusual one this month. Not only is it Katie Cook's penultimate My Little Pony comic (for now, anyway), but Andy Price is handling not only the line art but the colours too. The main cover seems to be based on an American series called "Little Golden Books", which we don't have in the UK, but it's good fun on its own merits. The comic inside is quite rewarding, too, though more so for the art than for the text. Price really goes to town with this issue, drawing in several styles (including his usual one) and providing some lovely, striking images. Cook's story, read by Zecora, is... well, it's amusing enough, and (usually) rhymes, but... well, here's one couplet: "On the dark day of this story, our hero was struck / By a terrible interim, she was down on her luck". Interim? Still, treat this as a picture book first and foremost and it's well worth buying. Five stars for the art and (a generous) three for the text, so I'll give it ★★★★.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Text Review Roundup: "Gauntlet of Fire"

Here we go again. Another change of personnel this week, but once again there are half a dozen text reviews for your perusal. The episode seems to have been well received in most parts, ecstatically so on occasion, but the delight is not uniform.

Articles of Destroyer -- very positive (rated 9/10)

Cross's Examinations -- very positive ("Wonderful, fun episode")

Derpy News -- extremely positive (rated A+)

The Entertainment Nut -- marginally positive (rated B-)

MLP Fanatic -- mixed ("good, but not great ... slightly boring")

TheDragonWarlock -- very positive (rated A-)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 103: AGREE WITH ME!

And there's another thing I have to thank "Gauntlet of Fire" for: providing a subtitle for PR that I could use for ever and ever. (But won't. Probably. Well, maybe.) We're back to the ol' "Logan reads fanfics he felt like reading" approach this time around, and as you'd expect the average score is higher than when it was all done with wibbly wobbly randomy things. Maybe trying to be interesting was a bad idea! Just five fics this week, but the star ratings tell a pleasing story.

I Will Always Wait For You by Deep
Small-town Charm by Cold in Gardez
Would Bang by Aragon
The Carrot Dog Fight by xjuggernaughtx
Atic Atac by Ceffyl Dwr

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 18 April 2016

Episode review: S6E05: "Gauntlet of Fire"

Ember grabs Garble
"And stop calling me Ember-lism!"
When it was announced that episode 5 would be a Spike one, I wasn't alone in being a little apprehensive. Spike-isodes don't have the best track record, and even when the writing team was announced as Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco (who gave us the excellent "Rarity Investigates!" in S5) that worry wasn't dispelled entirely. Still, I sat down with a snack (salt & vinegar crisps) and a nice cold drink (bitter lemon) and gave it a shot. More after the break.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

BUCK's goodbye message

This is what BUCK posted on its Tumblr, Twitter etc, and it's already been on EQD, so I doubt there are many people who haven't seen it.1 However, on Friday the Tumblr posted an extended version (on Tumblr), which is even more heart-rending. :'(

1 For those who don't know, Britannia is the BUCK mascot. No relation to the other Britannia, who is the UK PonyCon mascot!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Horse News considers the last BUCK and UK con financing

Hat-tip to Idris for alerting me to this.

It's no secret that I rarely read Horse News, but from time to time it does come up with something really worthwhile. The article in question is titled Rolling Pone: An Interview on Pony Convention Finances and Doubtful Allegations, which makes it sound like it's just a scandal piece – but actually, it's a lot more interesting than that. As always with HN, don't go reading it anywhere that's going to make a big deal about NSFW language.

I'm not going to try to summarise the whole thing, since that would detract from the flavour, but writer Foal Duke's pseudonymous associate (who has extensive experience in event organisation) makes it pretty clear that brony cons have very weird finances when set against many other fandoms (yes, even furry) and that a super-high-cost environment like Britain shouldn't really have been able to support a con like BUCK at all. In other words, the BUCK team did the impossible.

One little nugget from the comments, although in true 4chan style it's from an anon: apparently a single hall at Birmingham's NEC costs £100,000 for just one day's hire. Even if an event managed to negotiate a discounted rate, you can see why there is absolutely no chance of something like BUCK ever happening at a place like that. Actually, the comments thread contains more interesting posts than memes and insults, including a fun one by knighty about his own experiences. (I was at that fanfic contest; he did indeed have to rush out to buy pens.)

Anyway, read the article for yourself. It's not that long, and it provides a perspective that I haven't seen before, at least not when applied specifically to the UK.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #27: Pinkie Pie and Granny Smith

MLP Friends Forever comic #27 cover by Tony Fleecs
This is Tony Fleecs's main cover; I thought both it and Garbowska's Sub were a bit dull
This review is a little late, but there's been a lot going on, so I hope you'll forgive me. Anwyay, this looked like an interesting pairing when it was first announced. In the end, it turns out to be a fairly gentle story from Christina Rice, without the madcap antics you might expect from Pinkie; there's even a mild nod towards a possibly unhappy foalhood (beyond what we've seen on the show). There aren't many pop culture references either, which will please some and disappoint others. I'm not entirely keen on Granny's characterisation in a couple of places, but it's not a disaster. Agnes Garbowska's art is what you'd expect from her; her close-ups seem better than her long shots. This is a pleasant entry in the series, albeit a little subdued by Pinkie's standards. The lower reaches of three-star territory, I think. ★★★

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Text Review Roundup: "On Your Marks"

Before I get started: VIP tickets for UK PonyCon have now sold out, more than six months before the convention gets under way. That's an academy record! Okay, there weren't a lot of these passes available (35, I believe), but considering this is a con that sold tickets on the door up until 2014, it's really rather remarkable. I'm sure there are plenty of standard tickets left – but if you're thinking of going, don't leave it until the last moment!

Now on to the text reviews. Since last week's inaugural TRR received a good reception (okay, Chris said it was a good idea), here we are again with some links to text reviews of last week's CMC-tastic episode. One in, one out this time: MLP Fanatic makes its first appearance here, while Unleash the Fanboy either didn't publish a review or hid it so well it couldn't be found. Still no really negative reviews to be found, though levels of enthusiasm for the ep do vary quite a bit.

Batbrony Reviews – very positive

The Entertainment Nut – marginally positive

MLEEP Reviews – positive (9/10 rating, but read the text)

MLP Fanatic – very positive

Super Recaps – moderately positive

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 102: Have you ever Wondered Whose OC you are?

Noted reviewer Loganberry (© xjuggernaughtx) is back with more rambling. I decided to do a gimmicky edition of PR this week: I picked some random story numbers from, weeded out sequels, unfinished stories etc and read the rest. The results were... variable, though thanks to some good fortune regarding the numbers the computer spat out, things didn't go quite as badly as they did for the PR 100 special. I was surprised to get only one Mature-rated story, too. Here's today's set of seven fics:

Light Away the Fear by FictionFreek
Pinkamena Diane Pie Cupcakes with Scootaloo by cupcakespinkiepie090
Gummy saves Equestria by crimsongraph
Daring Do and the Dance by Georg
Twily's Alone Time by Zubric
Love is Power I: Singing from the Heart by ThaStrangr
Just for Decoration by PhotonTH

★: 2 | ★★: 3 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 11 April 2016

Episode review: S6E04: "On Your Marks"

So, BUCK is no more, and the UK no longer has an all-out brony convention to call its own. It's a sad moment in many ways, but it was immensely pleasing that it went out on a high, with what by all accounts was a very successful con. I'll probably give some more thoughts on this in a future post, but for now I have an episode to review!

Depressed Apple Bloom in the clubhouse
"Six hundred Tyrantlestia fics, and I still haven't found a good one!"
Ever since "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" went out, most of us have been wondering "What now for the Cutie Mark Crusaders?" – and it would seem that the CMC themselves have had similar thoughts. This week's episode sees the return of Dave Polsky, who I think is now the only S1 writer remaining on the team. This time around, he's working with Josh Haber; seriously, are we going to get any one-writer eps? Past the break for more thoughts.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Text Review Roundup: "The Gift of the Maud Pie"

Since Equestria Daily is only interested in video reviews of the show, plenty of interesting text-based assessments get overlooked. (Someone asked Seth about this on Twitter. He pointed out that they can go in episode post comments – well, yes, but that hardly has the status of a curated post.) Obviously mine are far and away the best of the lot, but I thought it might be worthwhile to collect a few that I'd come across in my virtual travels. I'm ignoring Fimfiction reviews for now, as most people reading this will already know about those. This isn't intended to be a comprehensive list anyway, as that would take me forever. Here we go:

Batbrony Reviews – fairly positive; image-heavy

The Entertainment Nut – moderately positive

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive

Super Recaps – positive; similar to how I do it, but much better longer

TheDragonWarlock – moderately positive

Unleash the Fanboy – very positive

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 101: The Worst Thing in the World

The most worrying thing in the S6 opener? No, not that alicorn brat. Sunburst's comment about spells that can force people to pick up friendships where they left off. Someone clever, write a fic exploiting this.

If you haven't already done so (which is doubtful), I recommend going back and reading EQD's interview with M. A. Larson. As well as the usual silliness and "buy my book" section, he provides some details I haven't seen anywhere before. He robustly defends "Slice of Life" against the charge that it will confuse newcomers, but admits to making a significant error with "Magical Mystery Cure". There's also news that a potentially lovely scene in "Amending Fences" had to be cut for time. Go and read it!

Back to the wonderful world of ponyfic, and here are this week's stories. Seven this time around, and at least one for every star rating!

Memory's Wooded Path by Bluetree650
Dancing With Silver by ZOMG
I Want to Take the Wings off, but I Can't by JawJoe
Negotiations by Rated Ponystar
Love Letters by MysteriousStranger
The Library Club by Inky Swirl
Roaming by Skywriter

★: 2 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 1

Monday, 4 April 2016

Episode review: S6E03: "The Gift of the Maud Pie"

The ponies at the PSSSD
Hey, I did say "hope to fly" — and now it's come true!
I'm a little bit quicker off the mark with this week's review than I was for the premiere! For our first one-parter of Season Six, we had an episode with a new writing team: Michael P. Fox and Wil [sic] Fox. In addition, Josh Haber contributed to the story, though wasn't credited on screen (so doesn't get a tag). As you'll know if you've read my reviews for a while, I tend to be wary of episodes written by teams as many of them haven't been very good. What about this one, then?

Sunday, 3 April 2016

UK PonyCon ticket prices!

The review of episode 3 will be along tomorrow, as I haven't had time to finish writing it. That gives me today to talk about UK PonyCon tickets, which were released last night. As already mentioned, they're advance-only this year; with a venue capacity of "round about 500 ish" (© Sparkler), they shouldn't sell out instantly — but I wouldn't leave it until the last minute. There's another reason being prompt, too: early bird discounts on some tickets!

Here are the main prices: the first is the offer price, which is available this month only. The figure in brackets is the non-discounted price. Note that this year, unlike in 2015, you must specify which day you want if you buy a one-day ticket — although some alterations will apparently be possible until August.

Adult Weekend: £27 (£32)
Adult One-day: £15 (£20)
Child Weekend: £13 (£15)
Child One-day: £8 (£10)

Family and VIP tickets don't offer early bird discounts; their prices are:

Family Weekend: £70
Family One-day: £40
VIP: £85 

Family tickets are valid for either two adults (13+) and two children (5-12) or one adult and four children. Under-fives get in free with paying adults anyway! The VIP pass gets you early entry, priority seating, the con T-shirt, quite a few other goodies and the exclusive 12-inch Britannia plushie. Only 35 of those tickets were released, however, and a fair number have already gone, so be quick if you want one!

And in case you're wondering, I bought my ticket last night. I can't really justify the expense of a VIP pass, nice as the goodies are, but £27 for a weekend pass was pretty much an instabuy. So I instabought. :)

Friday, 1 April 2016

UK PonyCon 2016 tickets go on sale tomorrow evening!

As announced on Twitter by the official UK PonyCon account yesterday evening, tickets for this year's convention will be released for sale on Saturday 2nd April at 7.30 pm (presumably UK time). That's tomorrow! I don't think that the pricing structure has been revealed yet, so presumably we'll all find that out together when we look at the website. I'm assuming that PayPal will be the way to buy, since it was in 2015.

There's one other already-announced change from last year: entry to UK PonyCon 2016 will be by advance booking only, with no tickets available on the door. This was probably an inevitable change after the con unexpectedly sold out last time. It's a little bit of a shame that "spur of the moment" trips for locals will no longer be possible, but with the numbers UK PonyCon now gets there wasn't really much alternative.

Not officially announced as I type, but looking very likely: instead of the generic "one-day ticket" from 2015, this time you'll have to choose Saturday or Sunday in advance. Again, this does remove a bit of flexibility: if you buy a Saturday ticket and something comes up, you can't just go on Sunday instead (especially if Sunday tickets have sold out by then). I imagine this also has to do with the new setup: the con wants to have an idea about numbers each day.

More details here in the near future!