Thursday, 29 June 2017

Movie trailer out!

No teaser this time – this is the real deal, to mark 100 days until the film's release in the United States, you utter bastards. A little over two minutes of concentrated My Little Pony: The Movie goodness. For the benefit of those of you avoiding spoilers who don't want to know what's in this, I'll put my brief thoughts after a break. They're what I posted in the EqD comments last night, so bear in mind they're instant reactions rather than anything more considered!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 163: In my Plastic Aeroplane

Read it Later story count: 421 (-8)

Well, would you look at that? For the first time in quite a few weeks, I actually have more than four stories in a PR! That's right: this time round, there are five. I'm hoping to get a themed edition or two done once I'm back on an even keel, but for now I hope you'll find this week's selection to be a reasonably varied bunch. Here's what you'll find reviewed after the break:

A Clever Pony by Drax99
Red Satin Sheets by Holy
My Brother, The Tooth by Georg
The Destruction of the Self by Cold in Gardez
Silence by ThatOneWriter

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

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Season 7A – the UK of Equestria rankings

As for the last few seasons, over on UK of Equestria we've recently asked people to rank season 7's episodes up to the hiatus. We chose to make the cutoff episode 11, to avoid potential problems relating to Australian spoilers. I did wonder whether anyone would bother given all the scheduling confusion, but we had 12 lists submitted, enough to get an idea.

I'll pick out a few details at the end of the post, but first here's what the UK of E folks came up with – my own rankings are in brackets:

1. "A Royal Problem" (1)

2. "All Bottled Up" (4)
3. "Parental Glideance" (2)
4. "Rock Solid Friendship" (3)

5. "Celestial Advice" (5)

6. "Hard to Say Anything" (9)
7. "A Flurry of Emotions" (7)
8. "Forever Filly" (10)
9. "Honest Apple" (6)

10. "Not Asking for Trouble" (11)
11. "Fluttershy Leans In" (8)

Number of times each episode placed first
9: "A Royal Problem"
2: "Parental Glideance"
1: "All Bottled Up"

Number of times each episode placed last
6: "Not Asking for Trouble"
3: "Fluttershy Leans In"
1: "A Flurry of Emotions"
1: "Forever Filly"
1: "Honest Apple"

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. "Forever Filly"
2. "Hard to Say Anything"
3. "Not Asking for Trouble"

Least controversial
1. "Fluttershy Leans In"
2. "A Royal Problem"
3. "All Bottled Up"

It wasn't remotely close at the top of the list: "A Royal Problem" was the easiest winner since we started doing these rankings during S4, with a massive lead over the rest of the field. As well as those nine top spots, the episode garnered two seconds and a single fifth place. "All Bottled Up" had only one no. 1 ranking, but everyone placed it in their top five.

At the bottom, the highest "Fluttershy Leans In" was placed was eighth (yes, yes, I was indeed one of those...) but "Not Asking for Trouble" only avoided the wooden spoon because of a solitary fourth place. Those two trailed the rest by a considerable distance. "Forever Filly", the most divisive episode by some margin, was placed as high as second and as low as last.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Episode review: S7E12: "Discordant Harmony"

Some Discords get ready to "fix" Discord's house
Wreaking anarchy and all that it brings. Or not
Although Canada and the US have entered a hiatus after episode 11, Australian television has now shown episodes 12 and 13 as well. That being so, I've decided to review them straight(ish) away. I should warn you in advance that E13 in particular is not one you want to know about before viewing. This ep is more ordinary, so you won't be spoiling yourself on any earth-shaking revelations if you do decide to read it. Beyond the break, a shortish look at "Discordant Harmony".

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Can you help support the Big Master Review List?

I'm hoping to get episode 12's review posted before the next Ponyfic Roundup on Wednesday. It's taken me a little longer than I'd hoped, for which apologies, but it is in the works! Now, back to the main subject of this post...

What's the Big Master Review List? Only the most useful ponyfic reviews database (well, spreadsheet) in existence. It's maintained by Singularity Dream, aka the City of Doors guy – who wonders whether anyone would be prepared to make a little financial donation to support his work. If only I weren't stupidly tight for cash right now, I'd be doing so. (More hefty bills coming up, sadly.) However, I can at least give SD and the BMRL a signal boost here. So, if you're willing and able to help, here's the blog post where you'll find more information.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Fimfiction now has a Patreon

And here's the proof. There are four levels of patronage (Patreonage?) available, which are as follows, along with their minimum monthly cost:

  • Fimfictioneer ($1)
  • Bronze ($5)
  • Silver ($10)
  • Gold ($20)

All the above tiers get you "access to special Discord channel" and a badge beneath your name on Fimfiction comments, while Bronze and above also remove ads from the site. The Silver and Gold tiers don't get you any further benefits beyond a more expensively coloured badge – and a feeling of intense smugness, I suppose. :P

It's no secret that I really dislike auto-recurring subscriptions and try to avoid them whenever possible. "Only a little per month" can mount up rather terrifyingly if you support a few things at once, and given my cashflow situation right now, I'm not going to rush into this one. I don't have the tiniest interest in Discord channels either. That said, Fimfiction is one of the very few fandom causes I might consider supporting in this way.

What I'll probably do is see how things go for a bit first. What matters most is that the site doesn't start discriminating against free users, either explicitly or in a more insidious way. I've seen that happen on other sites and it's very often the beginning of the end for a decent community.* I'm hopeful Fimfiction won't go down that road, though.

As I type this (late Friday evening UK time) a little over 100 people have signed up. The Bronze tier is by some distance the most popular, followed by Fimfictioneer, Gold and Silver in that order. It'll be interesting to see whether that number keeps going up, or whether most of those who'd be most enthusiastic have already signed up.

Also: couldn't you guys have done this when a pound was worth $2.00 rather than $1.27? :P

* On this note: I will never select stories for Ponyfic Roundup review based on their authors' Fimfiction Patreon status. This is a promise.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Staying at the Bristol Parkway Holiday Inn for UK PonyCon? READ THIS NOW

This is important

 If you are going to UK PonyCon and have booked a room at the Holiday Inn at Bristol Parkway (I think this is the Express hotel) then please check your bank records immediately. According to sarahthrel, a member of the con committee, a member of staff there has been arrested on suspicion of stealing credit/debit card details and using them fraudulently.

If you find suspicious activity on your bank statements, first of all report it to your bank. Then, please get in touch privately with the con committee (contact details here) to help the police investigation and get your case logged. The hotel management have dealt with their end of things, so you shouldn't need to contact them specifically.

It appears that no other hotels are involved, and that this only applies to bookings made before 10th June.

Please help to spread the word, so that anyone who may be affected knows as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 162: It Really Doesn't Matter if it's Raining or it's Fine

I'll be reviewing episodes 12 and (if it airs) 13 in the near future, but I can't currently give a firm date. Anyway, as I type this, southern Britain is in the grip of its longest June heatwave since 1995, so please excuse me if I make more mistakes than usual. As ever, I'd be grateful for them to be pointed out!

Read it Later story count: 429 (-11)

I said last week there'd be both a story and an author with "Horse" in their names. Well, I got the story. However, a fic I thought was written by Pale Horse turns out be by Ruirik. Apologies to both authors! An error on my part when I was updating my Calibre ponyfic database, I suppose. I managed to get through a small number of fics this week, and these are they:

The Skin Horse by Obselescence
The Regular by Ruirik
Opinions by All Art Is Quite Useless
Mother's Day by MajesticPoniesEverywhere

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

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

40 hours to go in June's Flashfic 150 contest

As I type this, there haven't been as many entries for this month's Flashfic 150 contest as in May. It's true that the last two editions have seen quite a few submissions close to the deadline, but who knows what will happen this time round? The prompt (suggested by PostNinja, the May winner) is Wouldn't be caught dead and the entry thread, including a link to the full rules, is right here. If you have a Fimfiction account and can keep to an E/T rating, you're welcome to join us!

Monday, 19 June 2017

There is no moral imperative for fans to follow creators to pastures new

Over the last year or two, as an increasing number of creators who got their break in the My Little Pony fandom move on either to other fandoms or to wholly original work, I've noticed a rather odd attitude start to take hold, only from a few people it's true but in one or two cases including some quite loud voices. This being that fans who don't wish to follow those creators are somehow letting the side down.

This is a silly attitude.

Look, I write pony fanfiction. I'm no genius, but I do have a few regulars who read most of what I publish. I'm grateful to them. But if I announced tomorrow that I wanted to switch fandoms, or to strike out into original fiction instead, with the same general style but minus the framework of the Equestrian world, I'm pretty sure that at least some of those regulars would lose interest.

There is nothing wrong with that.

As well as being an author of ponyfic, I'm also a reader. And the fact is that a considerable part of my enjoyment comes specifically from the use of the MLP setting. Even the very best authors in the fandom, those who could truly make it as pro original fiction writers – and in a few cases already have – wouldn't have the same interest for me if they stopped writing pony.

Of course, I don't only read ponyfic. And also of course, I know I'm unlikely to be this committed forever, and that the base of good ponyfic writers is likely to continue to shrink as the fandom does likewise. But expecting me to continue to read Cold in Gardez's work if for some reason he started writing fics about Pokémon instead... well, no.

If you like a soft-pop musician who later starts making mathcore, nobody assumes you're somehow letting the side down if you don't continue to listen to that artist's new music. I don't understand the notion that creators deserve loyalty even if they totally change their scene. No, they don't. Artists have the right to go somewhere new; fans have the right not to follow them.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Pony Music Library 43: "In Our Town"

About time we had another PML entry! This time, it's a song from the show itself – and from one of my favourite episodes, too. And yes, that thumbnail is correct; for some reason Hasbro think this fits as part of a party playlist. Insert your preferred Communist Party joke here...

What? "In Our Town"

Who? Daniel Ingram; Caleb Chan (orchestration)

Which? Show song

When? April 2015

Why? "In Our Town" is under two and a half minutes long, but to my mind it's one of the finest songs Daniel Ingram's come up with in the last three years. Inspired by World War Two propaganda songs, this is pre-reformation Starlight Glimmer's attempt to demonstrate the rightness of her twisted vision for Our Town. It's catchy, it's upbeat – and it's terrifying. "You can't have a nightmare if you never dream" is one of the most memorable lines in any song, not just an MLP song. "In Our Town" is unlike anything else in the series, fitting for an episode that also stands out from the crowd. Sorry, Evil!Glimmy, but the one thing this song isn't is the same as all the others!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 161: Spotlight on One in a Million

Read it Later story count: 440 (-2)

One in a Million by ocalhoun
Scootaloo, OCs, Twilight, Rainbow Dash and CMC
Drama; 54k words; Dec 2013; Everyone
Scootaloo finally finds her special talent. It's the worst week of her life.
Scoot discovers that she can teleport, and an astonished Twilight pulls strings to get her into Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Unfortunately for the filly, she's confronted by racist teachers, a bullying room-mate and her own feelings of unbelonging. This is basically a boarding school story, albeit on a much shorter timescale than the Harry Potters of this world. Scootaloo herself is quite nicely drawn, and I do celebrate her little triumphs and commiserate with her when she fails. My problems with the fic are twofold: one, that just about everypony in authority is appalling. It gets a bit wearing after a while. And two, that a major secondary character's dialogue is written in a thick dialect I find tremendously annoying; it's much worse than Applejack's "ah-speak". If you can slog through that, though, and if you can accept Scoot's eventual destiny (which I just about can), Best Filly's own strength of character makes this fic worth the read. ★★★

Come past the break with me for a more detailed, and spoiler-filled, look at some aspects of the story that caught my attention.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Star ratings restored for Ponyfic Roundup

For the most recent Ponyfic Roundup, I experimented with not having star ratings. The weight of feedback was heavily in favour of having the ratings, and as such I have decided to go back to the way I've been doing things for ages. Star ratings have also been retrospectively awarded for the four fics I reviewed then. Happily, it was a good week! I've added them to the Ponyfic Roundup post, but for convenience here's a summary:

Cleave by BlazzingInferno ★★★★
A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing by Pascoite ★★★★
In Memory Of by Obselescence ★★★★
What They Don't Know by SoundoftheWaves ★★★

Sunday, 11 June 2017

In the national interest

Text: "Gogglesprogs review – after much debate, Aquaman is the people's choice for PM"
Given the confused result of the general election, I can certainly get behind asking a noted author of My Little Pony fanfiction to govern the United Kingdom. The guy's studied in the UK after all, so would probably pass as a genuine British human being more easily than, say, Theresa May. Of course, I'm happy for the Cabinet to consist of various other ponyfic writers, noted or otherwise. As long as I get to be Secretary of State for Scootaloo, since that's nicely alliterative.

Okay, okay, it's a TV review from the Guardian.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 160: An Optimist who Carries a Raincoat

General election day here in the UK. I shall of course go out and vote – I always do – but the national result seems a bit of a foregone conclusion. As I'm not a Tory, I'm not entirely thrilled with this. Still, life and Pony go on, so off we go.

Read it Later story count: 442 (-5)

Four more stories this week, but you may notice a small but significant change in the reviewing format. This isn't an accident. It's an experiment for now, so it's possible I may restore the old format in the future.* Also, I keep looking in the wrong place for character tags on Fimfiction now they've moved! I'll get used to it, probably. And there are definitely four stories under review this week:

Cleave by BlazzingInferno
A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing by Pascoite
In Memory Of by Obselescence
What They Don't Know by SoundoftheWaves

(Update 12 June: Following feedback, I have restored the star ratings!)

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

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

UK PonyCon ticket situation update!

Ponyfic Roundup has been delayed until tomorrow, since this needs to be mentioned now.

The UK PonyCon folks have made this announcement about their ticket sales. In brief:

Sunday and Stallholder tickets remain on sale as before. You can go and buy these right now.

Weekend and Saturday tickets are on hold pending the con committee making a further visit to the venue, hopefully in the nearish future. Once that's been done, there may (operative word!) be additional tickets released.

The reason for this is quite simple: some ticket types have been selling extremely well! I'm not entirely surprised by this – last year's con sold out in July, and that was in a year with BUCK too. It certainly demonstrates that demand for MLP events in the UK is still very strong if the event in question has a good enough reputation.

Please do not buy UKPC tickets from third parties! Any third parties. They do not have the right to sell said tickets, since they are not transferable. Please don't be tempted into buying one, since you're liable to find yourself refused entry at the con registration desk!

If you'd like to attend UK PonyCon this year but don't yet have a ticket, and assuming you're not planning on being a vendor, you have two legitimate choices: either buy a Sunday ticket or wait and see what happens with the other types.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Train travel in ponyfic – or the lack of it

Something that occurred to me recently was that there isn't much detailed treatment of train travel in ponyfic. There are exceptions, such as The Descendant's superb The Railway Ponies: Highball, but not that many. When you consider that rail is the basic way for ponies not otherwise equipped to travel long distances in Equestria, that seemed a little surprising. I wondered why it was so.

One possibility I can suggest is that most ponyfic is written by Americans, whose personal experience of train travel isn't entirely relevant to Pony. With a few exceptions, passenger railways in the US are commuter lines in densely populated cities. With the possible exception of Manehattan, Equestrian railways are all about inter-city travel. (Okay, not always between cities, but you get the idea.)

This fits with the show's vaguely 1900-era technology (again, outside Manehattan) since back then railways were the way to go cross-country in America. They aren't now: Las Vegas, a city of two million people, has, unless you count a limited monorail service, no passenger trains at all. In Europe, however, inter-city railways remain heavily used, and are familiar to hundreds of millions of people.

If you've only ever been on a train on holiday, especially a super-luxury cruising train, your experience perhaps hasn't been very close to the "Come on girls, we need to get to Canterlot!" experience of Equestrian ponies. Unless you're actually a rail enthusiast (like the aforementioned TD) it's probably going to be quite difficult to appreciate the rhythms of that type of train trip.

This isn't a very developed theory. I just thought I'd throw it out there and see what people made of it.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Mild amusement

A couple of months back, my little story Like a Flower to the World got reviewed by a moderately prominent review group on Fimfiction. It was absolutely savaged, with the final verdict being "28/100 Avoid". That was the point at which it picked up its first downvote, I assume from its reviewer. I was, as you can imagine, more than a little disappointed with that rating – it's not an amazing story by any means, but I don't think it's that bad. But hey, everyone has a right to an opinion on a story. I'd be pretty hypocritical if I didn't believe that!

The thing is, since that happened, Flower has picked up 50-60 views – not negligible for a story with under 200 at the time of review! – and its thumbscore has gone from +26/-1 to +30/-1. I can only conclude that all publicity really is good publicity. Or that reviewers' opinions count for nothing, but that's too scary a thought for me to deal with. ;)

Thursday, 1 June 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 – places to eat

The out-of-town location of UK PonyCon this year means there aren't nearly as many options for refreshments as when the convention's been held in a city centre. This is not an event at which you'll have dozens of restaurants, pubs and cafés within a few minutes' walk. However, there's no need to starve! I've found a number of places to obtain food, and here they are.

Hours are given in the format (Saturday / Sunday). The linked distances go to a Google Maps page with directions to the establishment in question.

At the venue

There are two options in the UWE itself:
  • Café (9am–7pm / 9am–4pm)
  • Bar (midday–10.30pm / midday–5pm)

I have no idea how good the café is, but if it's even halfway decent (read: stocks muffins!) and not stupidly expensive, I do recommend eating there at least some of the time. First, it supports the venue, which is always a nice thing to do. Second, it'll be full of con attendees, which will give it a special flavour.

However, this won't be an option for breakfast, late night Saturday or any post-con meals on Sunday. You may also feel that you need a brief change of scene to get you through two packed days. I know I have done at times. As such, some possible alternatives follow.

Unlike some other convention venues, the UWE does allow you to take your own cold food and soft drinks in. No hot food or drinks and definitely no alcohol! Obviously, if you choose to bring food in, don't then go wandering round the vendor stalls with mayonnaise or chocolate all over your hands...

Abbey Wood Shopping Park

This retail park (0.7 miles) has a number of places where you can get a snack or a meal:
  • Asda (supermarket open midnight–10pm / 10am–4pm; café hours unknown) 
  • Bella Italia (9am–11pm / 9am–10pm)
  • Costa (8am–8pm / 9am–6pm)
  • Frankie & Benny's (9am–11pm / 9am–10.30pm)
  • McDonald's (24 hours / 24 hours)
  • Nando's (11am–10pm / 11.30am–10pm)
  • Subway (8am–9pm / 8am–7pm)

Other supermarket

Although not at Abbey Wood, there is one other supermarket with a café that's almost the same distance from the con venue. It is:
  • Sainsbury's (7.30am–7pm / 9.30am–3.30pm) in Fox Den Road (0.6 miles)

Local pub

Yes, singular I'm afraid. There is precisely one pub within a mile of the con venue, weird for an area full of students but there it is. I suppose they must all drink at the Students' Union. That one pub is not the cheapest, with the average main course costing £10–£12, but for those interested:
  • The Fox Den (midday–11pm / midday–10.30pm) (0.7 miles)

Hotel bars

The Holiday Inn bars are open to non-residents. These are as follows:
  • HI Express Bristol North (hours unknown) (0.7 miles)
  • HI Bristol Filton (hours unknown) (0.8 miles)

And that's the lot! Well, I think so, anyway. Let me know if I need to make any corrections. And no, your eyes are not deceiving you: all the options are pretty much the same distance from the UWE! If you happen to know of anywhere else to eat within a mile of the convention venue, then please tell me and I'll add it to the list. :)