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

Cleave by BlazzingInferno
Lyra, Bon Bon and OC
Dark/Drama; 15k words; Jun–Jul 2016; Teen
Lyra and Bon Bon aren’t best friends, or even real ponies. They’re two thirds of a spell gone horribly wrong.
When a fic starts with "Lyra would always remember being born", that tends to grab your attention; it did mine. I don't think I've read anything like this before when it comes to Lyra and BB's backstory. It's weird and frequently disturbing but it does work, at least for me. I don't know whether it was deliberate misdirection or just denseness on my part, but for the first third I felt fairly secure with what was happening, then things became quite hard going for a bit. I certainly think a cleverer reader than me might have spotted an important reveal quite late on before it happened. I don't particularly like one bit of Bon Bon canon used – it feels shoe-horned in – but the sense of pre-S1 Ponyville is definitely there. Cleave didn't absolutely stun me as it has some others, but I do think it's clever and original. ★★★★

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing by Pascoite
OCs and Griffons
Drama; 6k words; Mar 2017; Everyone
When a griffon rescues an injured stallion, she’s not quite what she seems. To him or her.
This was Pascoite's entry to the EFNW contest this year, and was apparently "slightly edged out" for a prize. At its most basic level, it's a "nature v nurture" story, but its satisfying characterisation and background world-building make it something more than that. I do get a slight feeling it ran up against the contest word limit, but maybe that's just me wanting to know more about everyone – and on the other hoof, leaving some questions hanging feels right. It also manages to do the often hackneyed "pony's reaction to meat-eating" scene in a different way. A tad talky, but I don't think that detracts from an interesting scene. ★★★★

In Memory Of by Obselescence
Twilight, Spike and Celestia
Sad/Slice of Life; 7k words; Dec 2012; Everyone
Dear Princess Celestia, I'm sorry I haven't written in a while. Things seem to be falling through the cracks lately. Spike thinks I should go see the doctor, but...
I may be the last person in the fandom actually to read this! It's told through the medium of letters to Celestia, from both Twilight and Spike, and the format really works. (The one real exception is late on where crossed-out text is occasionally used in a way that doesn't convince.) Twi is 65 at the start of the story, and it's fairly quickly apparent what illness that story description is referring to. That means this isn't a cheery fic to read, especially as it may hit very close to home for some. I also have a slight issue with Rarity's characterisation – she plays a vital role, and I'm not sure I entirely buy her behaviour, even in context. Spike, on the other hand, comes out of the fic as something of a quiet hero, though you wonder what the previous 40-odd years held. I can't say I enjoyed reading Twilight's future here, but I am glad I finally got round to it. ★★★★

What They Don't Know by SoundoftheWaves
Diamond Tiara
Slice of Life; 1k words; Aug 2015; Teen
Diamond works to protect her world.
Yes, this is pre-redemption DT, but it still doesn't simply show the plain ol' bully we used to think she was. Don't expect an "actually she's really nice!" fic either, though. It's hard to review this as everything leads up to the twist and the effect is spoilt if you know that. The clues are there as you read through, and I did suspect the truth a bit before the reveal. I'm not totally sure this really fits in canon Equestria (even pre-S5), and there are a few clunky word choices. But it's so short that it's worth it to see elements of Diamond Tiara's personality given an alternative explanation. ★★★

Next time on Ponyfic Roundup: Spotlight on ocalhoun's One in a Million.

8 comments:

  1. So you're scrapping ratings?

    It's up to you obviously, but I found them quite useful.

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    1. The more feedback I get about it the better! It's entirely possible I'll go back to using ratings, and it's more likely to happen if that's what my readers would prefer. FWIW, all the stories this week would have got three or four stars.

      Delete
  2. I like the ratings, but I can see the advantages of leaving them off, too. All in all, I'd like to see them return, but I'm fine if they don't.

    Also, I've never read In Memory Of, so I guess I'm the last now.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback, too. :) As next week's PR will be a Spotlight edition, about a fic I've already finished reading, I'll only have to make a decision for that one story. I probably will make my mind up by then, though.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for the review, and I'm glad you liked it! I did run up against the word count, but not in the usual way, where you write happily away and have to truncate the ending as you run up against it. More that I was cognizant of the limit throughout and kept from expanding some things so I could fit it all in. Also interesting that you found it talky in places, because I was deliberately going for that. I'm not someone who talks a lot, so I have difficulty writing extended conversations. I usually just want to have everyone be short and to the point, but that's not always an engaging way to write, and I often enjoy other writers who do lovely flowing dialogue that wanders around as real conversations do, and can make three pages of it pass by feeling as if it was no longer than a single paragraph. So I've been trying lately to do more with dialogue like that.

    I hope the disappearance of ratings isn't related to my comment a bit ago about how I found most numerical ratings to be useless. I should have clarified - they can be useful when the scale is small. You and Chris both use a five-star scale, and Present Perfect's ratings are about like that, too. But that one group who gave you 28/100? Far too big a scale to be meaningful. That implies there's a discernible difference between a 27 and a 28, and I just don't buy it. And when a scoring system implies fine grading that it can't deliver, then it's pretty useless.

    If you liked "In Memory Of," you might also like "If Memory Serves." It deals with similar issues, and all the reviewers I've seen who read both of them liked both. I'm another one who's never read "In Memory Of," but I don't read that much anyway.

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    1. I like talky, perhaps a bit more than the average. Maybe because I'm waffly in real life! It's perhaps a bit odd, therefore, that my usual preference in both reading and writing is for short one-shots, but I never claimed to be logical.

      It's not directly related, though it was on the edge of my mind. I happened to have read a few stories where I was right on a borderline and wondered whether I was getting too fixated on whether to give (eg) a three or a four. The only way I could really test it was to try. The balance of feedback, both here and elsewhere, has been that people either liked the star ratings or were neutral about them, so I will probably restore them. FWIW, your fic would have got a four.

      Thanks; I didn't know about that story. I'll have a look.

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  4. Your last review links to the wrong fic. "The Call" by RealCrimsonBlade, instead of "What They Don't Know" by SoundoftheWaves.

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    1. Copy/paste fail! One of these days I'll stop doing that. Fixed now; thanks for the alert.

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