Thursday, 31 August 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 6: I Yam What I Yam

Time we had another one of these! Today's tip is one I've felt quite strongly about ever since I first attended UK PonyCon in 2014:

Tip 6: Enjoy UK PonyCon for what it is, and don't fret over what it isn't

UK PonyCon is not quite like other pony conventions. Its all-generations coverage and long history are the most obvious manifestations of this, but not the only ones. When you attend UKPC, bear this in mind. If you go in expecting the experience to be what you had at Everfree Northwest or BronyCon or even BUCK, you're likely to be disappointed. That isn't what UK PonyCon is about. It's something unique.

Connected to this: be careful how you compare UKPC to other events. While many people will be delighted to hear some tales of your experiences at other conventions, they won't be as impressed if you constantly come across as complaining because it's not as loud as BUCK's Summer Sun Celebration or as posh as GalaCon's gala or full of show guests like BABSCon. You'll be missing the point.

If, like most of us, you started with Friendship is Magic, UK PonyCon has been in this fandom a lot longer than you have. Conventions don't survive into double figures of iterations just by chance. Go in with an open mind and an acceptance that while this con has plenty of similarities with others, there are a number of differences too, and you're likely to have a much happier time at this great event.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 171: If You're Going to Make Words, At Least Make Them Fabulous

Rarity's comment is going to be stuck in my head for ages, I know it! Anyway, onward:

Read it Later story count: 398 (+1)

Three more fics today. I was hoping it would be four, but things happened. It's very annoying when things happen. I really wish they wouldn't do that. Here's this week's selection o' stuff. Just a reminder that a story I feel is average gets two stars, not three. Right:

Apple Sense by Godzillawolf
A Fragile Heart by Newtaloo
The Lighthouse and the Sea by The Cyan Recluse

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

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

UK PonyCon SOLD OUT, meal tickets available

UK PonyCon 2017 is now completely sold out. That's the third year running that the convention has managed a full house, so congratulations to everyone who's worked so hard to get to this point. With 800 of us due to descend on Bristol this time, I'm really looking forward to 21st October!

Another bit of news: you can now buy tickets for the yearly institution that is the UK PonyCon dinner. This is separately ticketed from the main convention, though you must have a con ticket to be eligible. As there are no suitable restaurants near the venue, the committee have arranged for coach travel to and from Frankie & Benny's a mile or so away; it's along a busy dual carriageway, so I think that's a reasonable approach.

The dinner costs £20 and includes a set menu (any two courses from starter, main and dessert), draught soft drinks and the above-mentioned coach transport. The meal will be at 6pm on Saturday evening and full details can be found in daisyd's thread on the UKPC forum. Tickets are strictly limited and are not expected to last all that long – after all, they certainly can't fit 800 people in F&B! ;)

For myself? The meal isn't something I've gone for in past years, and I probably won't this year either – though knowing me, by the time I decide the tickets will be sold out anyway! I tend not to be all that hungry on Saturday evening, and in any case I had a huge meal with the Worcester ponymeet people just a few days ago. Still, if the thought appeals to you, get buying those tickets!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Episode Review: S7E16: "Campfire Tales"

Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash being adorable sisters
Just give me 22 minutes of this and I'll give you five stars
We had a new writing team for this episode: Barry Safchick and Michael Platt. I don't know a thing about either of them, so I was going in blind as to what to expect. I did know that this was a sort-of follow-up to "Sleepless in Ponyville", the first episode I reviewed on this blog and still one of my all-time favourites. Could this new ep live up to its illustrious predecessor?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

M-rated favourites

I have 218 stories on my Fimfiction Favourites list. Of these, only five are Mature-rated – and one of those is Fallout: Equestria. That's a bit of a law unto itself, and also happens to be the only one which has a [Gore] tag – the other four are M-rated for the [Sex] tag. These are they:

Ribbons and Lace by Jot Jiggety Jog (PR 111) – one of the few explicit clopfics that can fairly be called a love story, this RariShy fic won me over despite the early-series characterisations (it was written in mid-2012). Sex scenes that are actually sexy rather than unintentionally cringy help it to its four-star status, too. Only the LUS, intrusive even by the standards of its day, stopped it getting a five, and it was an easy four even so. I was impressed that I could enjoy a story featuring Fluttershy in such a situation, too.

Proofreading Clopfics Sucks by idiotcornball (PR 112) – the only story in the entire 218 that isn't marked complete. I broke my usual rule because this story's episodic nature means that isn't too much of a problem. Also, in its guilty-pleasure way, it's hilarious and despite slightly variable levels of comedy I think it's worth its four-star rating. Don't read it in public, though. Especially Pinkie's chapter. I mean this!

Lust by Taialin (PR 138) – RariShy (well, "Flarity") again. This is the third part of an increasingly adult (in multiple senses) trilogy, and in my view the best, though I'd strongly advise reading both prequels first. Part of the reason I gave this the full five stars was that I can empathise somewhat with Rarity. The full details are a little too personal for me to go into, but Rarity's narration is brilliant, the explicitness is appropriate and the resolution is satisfying.

When the Levee Breaks by A Hoof-ful of Dust (PR 150) – a RariJackDash fic chock-full of sex, physical and otherwise (which is important), but just using the word "clop" almost demeans it. If you want to see erotic ponyfic, this is it. The substantial amount of POV-hopping actually works in its favour for me, and the atmosphere the author creates is intense and in fact thrilling. This one also got the highest rating from me.

Leaving aside Proofreading Clopfics Sucks, the second-funniest sex comedy I've read here (behind Cold in Gardez's T-rated Naked Singularity), there's a common denominator between the fics: Rarity. This actually slightly surprised me, as Rarity fics are not always among my favourites. She might also be considered a little obvious a choice for this sort of story. Nevertheless, in the three non-comedy fics here, she absolutely shines.

The stories are also all stories – I have very little interest in fics that are nothing but clop. They don't just show us the ponies in question falling into bed, but take the time to show us how they got there in a way I can buy. On top of that, their explicit scenes aren't (as sometimes happens) a place where the actual writing takes a nose-dive. These ponies don't stop their character development just because they're having sex.

As most of you know, I don't read many M-rated ponyfics, but that's not because I have any rooted objection to them. While I do have a few no-go areas (foalcon being the heaviest red line of all), that still leaves plenty. I generally do prefer my MLP fiction to be all-ages stuff, and I see no sign of that changing, but these few stories have convinced me to keep Mature stories in mind occasionally.

(Since you ask, I currently have five M-rated stories on my RiL list. Out of 398, yes.)

Friday, 25 August 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Triple Threat"

You know, I think I might continue TRR for a while now. It's less time-consuming than some of the other stuff I do here, so I can still fit it in despite all the non-Pony things going on in my life right now. (Not terrible things, just things that take up time I'd rather use writing about talking horses.)

I've dropped Cuddlepug from this now, as virtually nothing beyond the grade he gives actually qualifies as an episode review in the conventional sense. Darke Raven doesn't seem to have written one this week at all. However, we welcome a new source in The Southern Nerd. Always good to see new text-based reviewers!

Batbrony Reviews – generally positive ("It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, it was good.")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B; "good because of and despite some awkward moments")

Louder Yay – fairly positive (three stars; "another entertaining episode [though] the problem could have been sorted out with about three seconds' logical thought")

The Southern Nerd – positive ("Both Ember and Thorax came off as charming")

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive (graded B; "the Spike streak is still going strong")

Thrond Media Pony Corner – fairly positive (rated 70%; "Despite the rote plot, the episode is frequently entertaining")

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 5: Drink for the thirst to come

Time for another one of these little tips. As usual, they're mostly aimed at first-time con-goers who don't really know what to expect, but if they help anyone else then I'll be happy!

Tip 5: Stay hydrated

This one is really important. In all the excitement and adrenalin of UK PonyCon, you may not feel thirsty or realise how little you've had to drink – but that could come back to bite you hard later on. You're likely to be using more energy than usual, as well as being active for two pretty long days, so keeping those H0 levels topped up is absolutely imperative.

UK PonyCon allows you to take your own water/soft drinks in, which helps – though water is heavy, you need it. The cafĂ© and bar are open for most of each day, and there should be free tap water available somewhere; ask one of the staff if you can't find any. Don't make all your liquid intake alcoholic, caffeinated or fizzy, as your body won't thank you for it later.

2018 update: this year, you cannot take your own drinks in. I think this is a backwards step, but unfortunately it's very common at venues so we have to live with it.

It's hard to say exactly how much water you'll need in the day, as there are many variables – not least how hot the venue is – but I usually take a 500ml bottle of plain water and add a few more drinks with meals. You'll also need to have something to keep your throat moist if you're doing karaoke/singalong sessions. But seriously, this tip matters.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 170: In That Case I'll Have a Rum and Coca-Cola

Real Life has got even busier since last time, so I'm afraid underweight editions of Ponyfic Roundup may be the norm for a little while. I hope things will gradually return to normal in the autumn, but we'll see. At least I have one tiny achievement to report:

Read it Later story count: 397 (-7)

Today I have a mere three stories for you, but hopefully there'll be something in here that catches your eye. Today's fics are:

Wet Feathers by bookplayer
Minuette's Lesson by Airstream
My Even Tinier Ponies by Benman

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

Monday, 21 August 2017

Episode review: E7S15: "Triple Threat"

Starlight and Twilight looking angrily at Ember
Clearly the writers are still a little bit in meta mode
Another episode exactly a week from the last, without any other TV station deciding to get in early? What sorcery is this? Still, it makes things easier for the likes of me. "Triple Threat" was written by Josh Hamilton, who wrote the excellent "Parental Glideance", so I was hoping for the significant improvement in Spikeisode quality of late to be maintained. Past the cut we go!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

UK PonyCon update: only Saturday tickets left now!

Things are moving pretty fast in the UK PonyCon world, it seems, and the Weekend and Sunday tickets are now completely sold out. Saturday tickets are still available, but who knows how long that will be the case? You probably know by now, but here's the ticket store. As before, linking directly as it has up-to-date info, but if you want more general information about the convention then go here.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Fame and Misfortune"

Yes, it's back! Now that everyone's on the same page again, it seemed to be worth giving TRR a go once more. There aren't as many text-based reviews as I'd like, perhaps because some of the usual suspects were at BronyCon when the episode went out, but never mind. I may continue to do TRR for the rest of the season, but that depends on the schedulers around the world.

This episode was generally fairly well received by the usual Fimfiction reviewers, with the notable exception of Bad Horse, who really disliked it. Here's how reviewers on other sites reacted:

Batbrony Reviews – mixed ("Certainly not bad [but] quite odd to watch to say the least")

Cuddlepug – negative (graded C-; "would have been far more timely three years ago")

Darke Raven – mostly positive (rated 4/5; "an overall good episode that just needs more done with it")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B; "lessons for all of us [but] pretty harsh")

Louder Yay – very positive (four stars; "tremendously entertaining")

TheDragonWarlock – mixed (graded C; "okay at best"; some jokes have dated)

Thrond Media Pony Corner – rather negative (rated 45%; "I just don't find this kind of story especially fun")

Thursday, 17 August 2017

UK PonyCon news: Final wave of tickets, promo video

With little more than two months to go until UK PonyCon 2017, things seem to be ramping up at their HQ. I'll get to the big ticket news in a minute, but first there's a small promo video out, which you can see above. It's certainly not over the top – in fact, I think it slightly undersells the convention, which after all had an attendance of 750 last year – but it does get across that this isn't like the usual run of brony cons around the world.

This year, the con is heading to be the largest ever, with attendance topping the 800 mark. Extra space in the venue has been arranged, and the third and final wave of tickets has gone on sale. Notably, these see an extra tranche of Saturday-only tickets, which had previously been marked as sold out. Sunday-only and the all-important Weekend passes are also still available, as are Stallholder tickets. Update 18/8: only Saturday tickets now remain!

At the time of writing, the Tickets page had not been fully updated and still said that Saturday tickets were unavailable. This is not the case! If you go straight to the ticket store, you'll see the correct information, along with the information that stocks of all tickets are now running low. They seem to have reached the point at which "When they're gone, they're gone" – so if you fancy joining the fun in Bristol, buy your tickets now!

The UKPC folks have said that more announcements are on the way, so I'll talk about the more significant ones here as they happen. Yes, the convention does have its own social media accounts, but I'll try to make my posts less promotional in nature – and yes, if there's something that disappoints me, I'll say so. I truly do love this event, though, so don't expect me to lay into it because of some minor nitpick. :)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 169: Let the Sky Fall

I note that iisaw has finished The Skyla Pseudonym. That means I can read it! And yes, I intend to give it a spotlight here in due course. I'm really looking forward to reading this.

Read it Later story count: 404 (+2)

I'm still awfully busy with stuff not related to this blog, so it's been a struggle to find time to read. I know I don't have to do this at all, but I enjoy it! At least I've managed a slight increase over the story count from last week. Here's this time's selection:

What's In The Box? by naturalbornderpy
Voyage's End by The DM
To Love the Sun by Magello
Numberography by ph00tbag
Daring Do and the Curse of Ahuizotl by horizon

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

Monday, 14 August 2017

Episode review: S7E14: "Fame and Misfortune"

Ponies arguing about who the Best Pony is
Not having the internet, Equestrians have to live the EqD comments section
Aaaand we're back! Everyone's back on the same page as far as schedule is concerned, and we're returning with a bang in the shape of an episode written by none other than M. A. Larson. Well, sort of. Maybe. The man himself seems distinctly unhappy about being credited, though I do wonder how much of that is because of this episode and how much other experiences. As far as this blog is concerned, the name on the screen is the name that gets tagged, so Larson it is. Beyond the cut!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Fair warning

Anyone who tells me to "go and see the movie right now" or whatever just after 6th October when it's not even out in the UK for another fortnight, I will track you down and I will take your cider. All of it!

Friday, 11 August 2017

I'm a stranger here myself

There's a new S7 episode out tomorrow – as in new for all of us. I'm really looking forward to everyone being able to watch on the same day again, and I might even go so far as to revive Text Review Roundup next week. That's not a promise, as it depends on how many text-based reviewers are still in the game after the mess of the last few months' scheduling. (I'll still review it!)

To the main point of this post. I've been active in this fandom for more than five years now, and I'm comfortable with my place in it. I've been writing here since late 2012. Yet I still feel something of an outsider, and that goes especially for the fanfic/writing part of the game. You might think that odd, given how much time I spend on it these days, but it's very much the case.

Possibly part of this is that a lot of you guys are Americans who get to socialise together at the large conventions you have over there – cons which sometimes have multiple writing-based events. I can count the people I've met who have strong name recognition within the international ponyfic community on the fingers of one hand – and the most famous one of those (Blueshift) isn't really active any more.

My relatively late and low-key entry into being an active Fimfictioner might be a factor, too. I spent much of 2013 semi-absent from Fimf after a major personal upset – it's no accident that I didn't start Ponyfic Roundup until 2014. That also meant that in 2013 I barely even looked at EqD, didn't really participate in the (then) still very active writers' training grounds and the like, etc.

Possibly another aspect is that so many people around the ponyfic world seem terrifyingly clever. I've mentioned Bad Horse's scary blogs before, and the equally scary comments thereon, but that's far from being the only example. I read a blog in which someone lightly references the Riemann hypothesis or the Christianisation of Lithuania or whatever, and I can feel my brain heating up.

Please don't get the idea I worry about this. I'm more than comfortable with keeping on in my own small way, writing occasionally, going to smaller-scale social events and cons, and shoving out these rambly blogs. Largely for health reasons, I'm unlikely to be able to travel thousands of miles for a con anyway, and I have zero interest in loud, alcohol-or-other-drug-of-choice-fuelled parties.

I do wonder, though, whether all this helps to explain why I choose the stories I do to review. Right from the start, I've made a conscious effort to read plenty of fics that aren't among the acknowledged classics, or even at all well known. I think that, as something of an outsider here myself, I find myself sympathetic to other outsiders and drawn to give time to what they've produced.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 168: The Beard that's Feared

Read it Later story count: 403 (-1)

A very small edition today, because I've been both very busy and very tired lately. Also distracted by Moeen Ali's heroics for England in the cricket. What a player he's become in the last couple of years; he should be among the first names on the Ashes team-sheet. Anyway, returning to ponyfic, here is this week's meagre selection of stories:

I Shall Please by FanOfMostEverything
The Temple by DeraNged CupCak3
The Music Is Where I'll Be by statoose

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

Monday, 7 August 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 4: Social and antisocial media

It's BloodyMassiveCon USA next weekend, and I hope everyone who's going has a great time. :) But for those of us who are preparing for UK PonyCon instead (or as well!) another thrilling tip:

Tip 4: Use your phone – a bit

There are several official UK PonyCon social media accounts, which are listed here, on their page. Although they're currently rather infrequently updated, they should be busier during the convention and can be a good way of finding out what's happening, especially if something unexpected happens – as it often does!

I believe there will be free WiFi at the UWE, so you can also stay in touch with other attendees that way, not to mention making inane tweets about the colour of the stage curtains. (What? Is that just me? Okay then.) Back at BUCK 2014, some of us resorted to tweeting to people six feet away as the Summer Sun Celebration was too loud to talk/shout over, but that's unlikely to be the case at UKPC.

However, try not to overdo the phone use. You don't want to end up in a situation where you might as well have spent the weekend at home, spending a lot less money! I know it's hard to resist, but try to keep your mobile in your pocket for much of the time. This is an event where seeing, hearing and speaking for yourself works best.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Pony Music Library 45: "Best Friends Until the End of Time (JTH Remix)"

What? "Best Friends Until the End of Time (JTH Remix)"

Who? JoinedTheHerd

Which? Show song remix

When? April 2017

Why? Yeah, I know this is a bit recent by PML standards, but I just can't get it out of my head. The little repeated instrumental theme that plays multiple times during the song is one of the catchiest things I've heard in ages. The show version itself is growing on me a bit, but JTH's version really lifts it to another level. Nice ending, too. Also, cute cover art, though I can't help feeling this remix needs an animation with pixellated ponies bouncing along to the beat, a little like a 16-bit version of the way they do in "La Da Dee".

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

My Little Pony: The Movie rated PG in the US

No Ponyfic Roundup this week, as I'm away. There'll be a scheduled Pony Music Library post on Friday, but otherwise nothing until Monday. Enjoy the silence!

For "Mild Action Scenes", apparently – the S4 and S5 finales were both TV-Y, but oh well. I saw this news on Chevistian C's Twitter, and he's a pretty reliable source regarding such things. A warning to spoiler-avoiders that the relevant tweet contains a large picture of a character we haven't seen in the know – but if you're not bothered about that, you can see it here.

People who know about US ratings say the MLP movie was always likely to be PG. It does seem that, on this score at least, the Americans are fussier than we are over here. For example, Inside Out was rated U (=G) in the UK, but was given a PG certificate in the States. I think this is therefore the first ever MLP work with a PG rating, but I stand to be corrected on that.