Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 150: Friendship Through the Ages

Grumble. EQD did a Starlight Glimmer Day on Monday, and pretty much every form of art was represented... except writing. Unless I overlooked something (perfectly possible) there wasn't a single story in any of the day's posts. Comics, pictures, animations, discussions, you name it – but no GlimFics. Surely someone wrote something for the occasion? As I said, grumble.

Away from my whinging, there's a double landmark on this blog today! Not only is this the 150th edition of Ponyfic Roundup, but it's also very nearly the feature's third birthday. PR 1 was published on 26 March 2014.

Read it Later story count: 466 (-12)

I considered a few ways to mark PR 150, but in the end I opted for an idea originally suggested by Chris: to review a story from each year of the fandom. Since I'm counting the two part-years at either end, that means a hefty eight fics under review today. I chose them simply because they looked interesting. I know, right? It'll never catch on.

2010: Pinkie Pie and Applejack's Cooking Hour by Jimbo
2011: Off the Edge of the Map by Daetrin
2012: I Am Chaos by Feather Sigil
2013: Little Lies by totallynotabrony
2014: When the Levee Breaks by A Hoof-ful of Dust
2015: Ciphers by Grand Moff Pony
2016: Midnight Special by NorthCrusader
2017: Slouching Towards Canterlot by EbonQuill

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

Pinkie Pie and Applejack's Cooking Hour by Jimbo
Pinkie Pie and Applejack
Comedy/Slice of Life; 1k words; Dec 2010 [see below]; Everyone
Energetic Pinkie Pie asks the long-suffering Applejack to teach her to bake.
This isn't a bad way to start: a simple, sweet friendshipping tale – and a reminder that in those far-off S1 days it was Applejack who was canonically the best baker in Ponyville. Apart from some relatively minor stylistic issues and being overtaken by canon in a few places, it's aged much better than many early-fandom stories, with the dialogue between AJ and Pinkie still plenty of fun. A word on that publication date: this fic was originally posted on FanFiction.net on 16 December 2010, when "Bridle Gossip" was the newest episode out, making it the oldest FiM story I can find! ★★★

Off the Edge of the Map by Daetrin
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy
Adventure/Romance; 35k words; Aug 2011; Everyone
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy journey through unknown lands.
Don't you miss the days when you could have a setup like that without having to contrive some way to get somewhere truly unknown? Actually, this fic, the first in a long-running series, does start with such a contrivance, but still. It's a pretty standard "ponies get marooned somewhere and have to find their way back" story, but I happen to like those. There are several interesting OCs, as well as some faintly Lost Cities-esque descriptive stuff in places. Plus, y'know, FlutterDash friendshipping. And it is friendshipping, with any romance being very much in the background despite that genre tag. Nothing startling here, and it's packed with "the blue pegasus" LUS, but the care the pegasi show for each other is sufficiently heartwarming to win it a three. ★★★

I Am Chaos by Feather Sigil
Discord
Random/Slice of Life; 3k words; Jul 2012; Teen
An existential deconstruction of Discord, who contemplates his existence while tormenting a pony.
As the title implies, this is first-person Discord, and he's very much the pre-reformation model. He's actually really unpleasant here, to the extent that it put me off the story a bit. Existential Discord is a really interesting idea, but the voice used here just didn't convince me as being him. There are also a few formatting gimmicks which, on balance, I don't think improve the fic. I love to see experiments like this, but sometimes they don't quite come off. For me at least, this is an interesting failure. ★★

Little Lies by totallynotabrony
Apple Bloom and Applejack
Dark; 4k words; Oct 2013; Teen
Apple Bloom tells a little lie to get out of work. The thing about little lies is how they can grow. Before she knows it, everypony up to and including the princesses is involved in a national disaster of lies.
This story suffers through no fault of its own, in that its plot is just too similar to that of "Where the Apple Lies", something its author couldn't possibly have known in 2013. After an exposition-tastic opening, the apple-fuelled nightmare that unfolds is darkly comic, and the story is in its way more about AJ than AB. However, the ending is disappointing. ★★

When the Levee Breaks by A Hoof-ful of Dust
Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Applejack
Romance/Slice of Life; 11k words; Jun 2014; Mature (Sex)
Rarity's date stands her up. Rainbow Dash and Applejack do everything they can to cheer her up. Everything.
Nothing to do with the story of the same name by Cynewulf (PR 49), I really don't think it's appropriate to call this fic clop, as it's not: it's a story that happens to be full of sex. Not just in the physical sense, either, though it certainly gets explicit later on. "Erotic" is the right adjective here – and how. A certain amount of POV-hopping may put off some readers, but I feel it works well, especially when there's such electricity in the air. This isn't flawless – I wish Rarity's date hadn't been named – but my goodness it's effective. It's not lost on me that my last two fives have gone to M-rated stories, but I can't help that. ★★★★★

Ciphers by Grand Moff Pony
Fleur and Other
Drama/Romance/Slice of Life/Tragedy; 6k words; Aug 2015; Everyone
A life of wealth and luxury await Fleur, but at what cost? Can she forsake who she is to become the mare she has to be? Or, can she be both?
Fleur de Lis is pretty much a blank canvas, so I was intrigued to see what GMP could do with her character. The fic is recommended by the RCL and pretty much everyone else, but though it's imaginative and well written it didn't quite blow me away, hence the four-star rather than five-star rating. I'm not entirely sure why: it's talky, but that doesn't generally bother me. It's a common setup, but the emotional aspect is handled very well. Maybe it's because I like Fancy Pants, and find it a little hard to reconcile my view of him with Fleur's mindset here. The ending will divide opinions. It still divides my own. Do give it a look, though. ★★★★

Midnight Special by NorthCrusader
Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon and CMC
Comedy; 3k words; Oct 2016; Everyone
Diamond Tiara and her slumber party guests try to make contact with the spirit of Bloody Mary.
The fillies attempt, with varying degrees of success, to tell ghost stories. DT's turns into a rather stupid CMC experiment, something that feels more like early-series Crusaders but could still be fun. Unfortunately, the fic doesn't really get going until near the end, while the inclusion of modern tech (TVs, phones...) is annoying. The writing doesn't flow very well and the ending is anticlimactic. ★

Slouching Towards Canterlot by EbonQuill
OCs and Twilight
Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller; 6k words; Mar 2017; Teen
A jaded detective tracks a dangerous fugitive through a future Las Pegasus to rescue a herd of foals.
Okay, "jaded big-city detective narrates" is far from an original idea, but I found this refreshingly different from a ponyfic perspective. Chance, the protagonist, is an earth pony, which I felt fitted, and she goes about her work in an interesting way. Twilight feels a bit different from show Twi, but she's a lot older now and Las Pegasus is a much-changed place. The world-building isn't shoved in your face – a name-check for "Celestia Memorial Hospital" early on is not dwelt on. The hard-boiled atmosphere is leavened with occasional jokes, which is nice. Also, Yeats. Yes, that one. This author's been on Fimfiction since 2014, but both their published fics are very recent. I hope there'll be more. ★★★★

Next time on Ponyfic Roundup: a look at some fics that survived my first round of RiL-list culling!

12 comments:

  1. To give you a little behind-the-scenes peek, when one of these character-themed days comes around, there are two ways fics can make it on. One, there's a general call for people to send in whatever content they wish, and they're organized into groups. There's enough art generally to do a single post of just that, same with comics. Fics often get dumped into a catch-all post that includes other media that gets submitted in smaller numbers, as well as stragglers of all types. Second, he may ask us to recommend what we think are good stories, especially ones that have already been on EqD, to make a "best of" fanfiction post. He didn't do the latter this time, and even if he did, I'm stumped. I can only think of one good Starlight Glimmer fic I've read ("Solving for Death" by Syeekoh), and I only have a vague sense of reading a small number in total anyway. We just haven't gotten many submitted featuring her. Might be interesting to look at a list of them on FiMFic sorted by rating to see what floats to the top.

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    1. Thanks for the insight! Most interesting. The "catch-all post" approach was what I was expecting this time round, given that it was the first Starlight Day, and I was a little surprised not to see one. Maybe Glimmy's newness had something to do with that. Fluttershy Day is next, I believe, so it'll be interesting to see what's done for that – and which fics get picked out, if that's the way things go.

      I do want to do a Starlight Glimmer themed Ponyfic Roundup sometime this year, but I may leave it until after S7 has finished – and perhaps even the movie too. Looking on Fimf, the top-rated SG-tagged story is Waiting by Silver Moon. I know nothing about it, but it seems to be set in the "wasteland" universe from the S5 finale. Then Time-Out Tuesday by that Syeekoh guy, a sequel I know nothing about and horizon's If You Can't Beat 'Em. I was going to look a bit further down, but I ran into what appeared to be a Flurry Heart foalcon fic and retreated rapidly.

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  2. Congrats on 150 P.Rs. It's nice to have a range of fics ranging from 1-5 stars, in addition to covering all those years of the fandom. It particularly interesting to see the earliest fan impressions of the show.

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    1. Thanks! :) I'd obviously prefer everything I read to be a five-star story, but this week has certainly delivered a wide variety of experiences. I may do this again at some point.

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  3. I might have to try this format sometime. :D

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    1. It was good fun, at least once I'd actually found something from 2010 worth reviewing.

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  4. Neat idea! Congrats on 150!

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  5. What did you find disappointing about the ending of Little Lies?

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    1. Apologies for the belated reply. It's my fault, really, as I'm a Pony of Very Little Brain. I found it hard to square Applejack telling AB "It's just a dream" with the reveal that actually, it wasn't a dream, at least as far as AJ's utterances were concerned.

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  6. I just got around to reading "Slouching Toward Canterlot." And I saw your comment that you're not familiar enough with "Blade Runner" to compare the two, but this story blatantly recycles material from it. The second chapter is directly a scene, up until the last few paragraphs, and elements of chapters 1 and 4 are also just copied. Very disappointing, and I can only hope the EFNW judging panel isn't familiar with it either, or they're pretty much condoning plagiarism. It's be one thing if it weaved in themes and imagery, but when the dialogue, characters, setting, and events are all spot-on for an entire chapter, and not in a parodic manner, it doesn't pass the sniff test for me.

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    1. Ah... that is a real pity I was hoping it was more in the homage vein. As you say, disappointing.

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