Thursday, 29 March 2018

Text Review Roundup: "School Daze"

I'll be away for a few days now, which means that my episode 3 review won't be up until late next week at the earliest. It also means that I won't be able to correct any mistakes I've made in this post, so please let me know in the comments if anything looks off and I'll fix it when I get back.

Some changes for Text Review Roundup this year. I've already mentioned the ending of The Super Mario Brony Blog, and it seems that Thrond Media Pony Corner may have gone the same way. On the other hoof, I welcome newcomers Feather Heart, Michaelsety and Rhythm Red. I can't remember whether I've featured ShutterflyEQD here before. Batbrony didn't get his review up in time, and I'm not sure whether ArthurCrane will continue for S8.

This season opener was generally received fairly well, though few people considered it a classic to match the likes of the S2 premiere. Over on Fimfiction, Present Perfect hated it, but Cuddlepug's review is about the most negative I can find away from Fimf.

Cuddlepug – rather negative (graded C; "somewhat unsatisfying")

Derpy News – very positive (graded A-; "the show has not run out of ideas")

Feather Heart – mixed ("[I love] the portrayal of Starlight [but the songs are] boring and forgettable")

Louder Yay – generally positive (3/5; "I seem to have done a fair amount of complaining here, but actually I quite enjoyed this premiere.")

Michaelsety – mixed (graded B-; "good morals [and] new friends are great [but] Twilight gave up so easily")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (9/10; "another awesome start to [a] season")

Rainbine – positive (8/10; "I like [the Student Six] even though they don't have a whole lot of personality")

Rhythm Red – fairly positive (7/10; "Good songs, GREAT new characters, and an interesting new storyline, but overall, it's nothing all that special")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("I really enjoyed the direction they went with this 2-parter.")

TheDragonWarlock – fairly positive (graded B; "far from [...] bad[...], but it didn't need to have most of the characters being moronic.")

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 197: Baggy Green

There are clearly going to be a large number of fics (by 2018 standards) featuring the School of Friendship. I'll probably give it a while before I read any. I'd like to think some of them will be really good, though. We'll see. Also, I'll be away over Easter, so Text Review Roundup tomorrow will be the last post for a little while. I'll put up a review of episode 3 when I get back.

Read it Later story count: 344 (+2)

A mighty three fics under review this time, thanks to my ongoing dental/medical/similar work. This should finally die down after Easter, so if I'm really lucky I may even be able to get back to somewhere near the five fics a week I used to expect to manage. Anyway, here are the three I have read:

Severe Weather Appreciation Week by Cold in Gardez
Hosting Mr. ████████ by Rinnaul
Party Rock by Casca

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

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Super Mario Brony Blog ended and deleted by owner

Notice saying that the SMBB has been removed.
That's all, folks!
Well, that's rather disappointing. The Super Mario Brony Blog, which was a regular in Text Review Roundup (hence my using that tag on this post) is no more. Apparently its owner has decided to move into vlogging instead. A great shame that they also felt it necessary to nuke the archives rather than simply leaving them up with a goodbye post, but what's done is done.

As far as TRR is concerned, please do let me know about any other text-based episode reviewers. They really need to be people who aim to review every ep, not just those they're especially happy/excited/angry about. TRR will continue for as long as there are text-based reviews. Okay, maybe not if I end up being the only person who writes the darn things. :P

Monday, 26 March 2018

Episode review: S8E01&E02: "School Daze"

Twilight stands in a spotlight, accompanied by Spike and with the EEA staff looking down on her
The Mare Who bucked convention and didn't play by the rules
After what's actually been a fairly short inter-season break, we're back with new episodes of Friendship is Magic. All the previews, the leaks and the 12 million animatics Discovery Family released ahead of time certainly got people talking, though there were mixed views as to how the season premiere itself would be received. There was a heavyweight writing partnership to start us off: Michael Vogel and Nicole Dubuc. My thoughts are after the break, as ever, but first:

Please do not mention anything from the S8 leaks in your comments. I don't want to be spoiled on future episodes! This applies all season. Thanks!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Quick update

I had a dental crown fitted today. The NHS being what it is, it's a metal one. Not even gold these days! Some sort of something-chromium alloy, I think. Still, I'm not too bothered. It's a back tooth, so you can't even see it unless I open my mouth wide. Also, metal crowns are strong and so this takes away some of my fear that I'll break the thing. Today's final fitting was simple – I didn't even need anaesthetic – and I am now one crown heavier and £244.30 lighter. :P

All the above has nothing to do with the MLP fandom, but I thought I should write about it sometime, since it explains why I've had little time for this place for a few days – and also since from tomorrow onwards things may become rather busier! What does have to do with the fandom is that I intend to continue posting episode reviews, and if international scheduling doesn't mess us all about too much, I'll also bring back Text Review Roundup, which I rather like doing.

Writing update: The Danger Within has also suffered a bit due to my other escapades, but I'm making sure I do something with it every day, so expect chapter 5 by the end of this month. I also put in a non-competing piece for this month's Flashfic 150. The feedback I've had so far tells me two things: the bad one is that avoiding being too obvious can go too far the other way, and the good one is that I can get characterisation right sometimes.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 196: Seaweed, Moss or Kelp

I'll never really understand the obsession with St Patrick's Day among people with absolutely no link to Ireland. It's a break from Lent, but how many people observe that in 2018 anyway? It's not just an American thing, either. I mean, I have Welsh ancestry (and so support Wales at rugby union), but nobody organises massive street parties for St David's Day and GOG doesn't put on St David's Day sales with cartoons of leeks. It's odd. Also, I don't like Guinness. :P

Read it Later story count: 342 (-2)

At long last, I'm actually reviewing a story I've wanted to read for ages! Since it has a short prequel, I'm also reviewing that. Four stories this week, and there would have been five had I not spent a fair amount of time shovelling snow. It's the second half of March; can we stop this, Nature? Thanks. Anyway, here are the four stories that did get read:

To My Princess, on the Day of Her Departure by D G D Davidson
Love on the Reef by D G D Davidson
Watch! Watch! by horizon
Fluttershy Hugs a Chicken by Elusive Phoenix

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

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Griffish Isles: tickets now on sale; Elley-Ray announced

Two significant pieces of news from the Griffish Isles convention. First, tickets are now on sale. The pop-up that appears when you click the green "TICKETS" link suggests that Sponsor tickets will be withdrawn from sale on 5 May, a fortnight before the convention, whereas the standard-tier Pony and Foal tickets will remain available until 18 May, the day before the con begins.

Also, the con has announced a show guest! This is Elley-Ray, the voice of Mistmane, as she announced on her own Twitter. Quite a coup for a brand new convention outside North America to get a show guest, so colour me impressed.

Monday, 19 March 2018

PMV: The Journey Thus Far

 ( Text link )

I saw this on EqD earlier and liked it so much that I wanted to feature it here. This PMV by Cole Donnerstag is an eight-minute celebration of the first seven seasons of Friendship is Magic, and one that very firmly places our equine friends in the role of heroes. You couldn't watch this and think they were just any old ponies. It's an old-fashioned PMV in its lack of flashy effects, but I think that makes it stronger. There are no S8 spoilers, so if you've seen to the end of S7 you'll be good to go. Donnerstag is not well known (only 40 subscribers at the time of writing) but that may now change.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

I Aten't Dead

The lack of updates doesn't mean anything terrible. I've just had a great deal to do lately. I spent nearly all of Friday and Saturday at the local steam railway's spring gala, for a start. (Well, I say "spring", and on Friday it did feel that way, but it snowed quite a bit yesterday.) I'll be back to posting Pony soon, and I certainly intend to resume episode reviews when the time comes.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

UK PonyCon 2018 dates announced!

It's all systems go! UK PonyCon has officially confirmed that the 2018 iteration of the convention will be held on the weekend of...

13 and 14 October

This is earlier in the month than in 2017, but only by just over a week. Interestingly, that means the event isn't coinciding with the school half-term holiday this time, at least not in most of the UK. (There are exceptions.)

On the page I linked to at the top, con comms lead Irish O'Conner also states that the venue (a crucial factor for many) should be confirmed in the next couple of weeks and that ticket sales are planned for April.

So, just under seven months to go. Things have suddenly jumped closer!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 195: Chris edition

UK PonyCon will be 13/14 October. More on that in the next day or two.

I don't think I've ever done an edition of PR with all the stories reviewed being by the same author, but there's a first time for everything. In tribute to the contribution the recently-retired-from-OMPR Chris has made to the world of ponyfic, I'm looking at five of his works today. I was a little constrained in my choice as I've previously covered several of his 15 stories (and the minific anthology Bantam Tales isn't eligible anyway), but I managed to find five that looked interesting.

Read it Later story count: 344 (+3)

I know it looks a little bit silly to put "by Chris" on the end of every title line, but if I don't do that then I'm almost certain to mess up the formatting (more than I usually do) when I go back to my more usual mixed bag next week! Also, Chris seems to like starting his story titles with the word "The".

Letters from a Senior to a Junior Changeling by Chris
The Showmare's Tale by Chris
The Sweetest Water by Chris
The Fall of Discord by Chris
The Purloined Pony by Chris

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

Monday, 12 March 2018

Griffish Isles announces ticket details

The new Griffish Isles convention in Manchester announced its ticket arrangements yesterday, via Facebook and Twitter. There's also a summary page on the Eventbrite website. Here's a rundown:

Standard: £27.00 (£24.50 + £2.50 booking fee)
Sponsor: £50.18 (£46.00 + £4.18 booking fee)
Foals (under 12): Up to two free with each paying adult

A few thoughts: the Standard ticket is about what I expected it to be, and although it is a few pounds more than the basic one-day ticket for either BronyScot (£19.99) or UK PonyCon (£21) were last year it doesn't seem excessive, especially given the dual venues. Obviously, what you get for your money will be key, but right now there's not really anything to go on as regards events, guests, etc. If and when anything big is announced, I'll post about it here.

As for the Sponsor ticket, the fact that with the payment processor's – frankly rather hefty – booking fee it creeps over the £50 mark is a real shame. A total price of £49 would have looked so much more attractive. With this ticket, you get a T-shirt (always nice) and front-row seats (not really a huge deal at smaller cons). I'm not sure those are worth £23.18, so it's probably best to see Sponsor tier as including an expression of support for the convention, like UKPC's Supporter tickets.

Tickets will be going on sale at 8pm on 19th March, exactly two months before con date. As with the other British MLP conventions, tickets must be purchased in advance; there will be no on-the-door sales.

As for me? Because of the short notice period, it's already too late for me to stay over, but a day trip might be possible. I'll probably wait to see what events are happening, which vendors are going, etc. If tickets sell out before I feel I have enough details to make a sensible decision, then that will be on me.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

CobaltSky is back

I know blind reactors have a decidedly mixed reputation in this fandom, but I happen to like a few of them, so I was very pleased yesterday to discover that CobaltSky was uploading reactions again. It seems he's been through a lot in the last few months (he gives a brief summary at the start of his S7E11 video) but his style seems almost unchanged from how it was when he last uploaded. He's going to have a tough job finishing his S7 reactions before S8 starts, but that doesn't really matter. I'm just glad he's okay and uploading again.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Reviewers still standing?

With the sad retirement of Chris from the ponyfic-reviewing scene, I took to wondering who was left who still published regular written reviews. I emphasise "written" because, like several other people I know, I'm not a huge fan of video reviews. They just take too long to get through; it's the same reason I don't tend to bother much with video reviews of episodes. There are only a few I can think of who still post more than once in a blue moon, and I'll list them below to help anyone reading who doesn't already know about them.

A few criteria: they must post reviews, not merely recommendations – if they only post about stories they like, they don't qualify. Nor do curated collections such as Equestria Daily, the Royal Canterlot Library and Seattle's Angels, again because you'll never find negative reviews there. (The RCL does note judges' reservations, but that's not enough.) People like Soge and JohnPerry who used to publish reviews but no longer do so don't count because if they did I'd have to include Chris, which would rather defeat the object! Finally, review groups don't count. So, we're left with:

PresentPerfect – no space in his Fimfiction username. Has posted over four thousand reviews, mostly in the single-paragraph format I use here, though I suspect him of actually thinking them out, which is an alien concept to me. Posts irregularly but very frequently. There's also the occasional much longer "vs." review, such as this one of Subjunctive. Reviews several things I generally don't, notably minifics and trollfics. Five-point rating system for general reviews: Highly Recommended, Recommended, Conditionally Recommended, Vaguely Recommended, Not Recommended. The "vs." reviews get a numerical score out of five.

City of Doors – aka Singularity Dream, creator of the indispensible Big Master Review List. The second most prolific reviewer, with almost 3,000 to his name. Again, short reviews for the most part, occasionally just a single line summarising his personal impressions. Even those can contain some striking insights, though. Review numbering and frequency can be rather inconsistent. No formal rating system.

PaulAsaran – another spaceless guy. Publishes a review post most Thursdays and now has over 700. Reviews are fairly detailed, consisting of several paragraphs, though still considerably shorter than Chris's detailed reviews were. Includes cover art, which is space-consuming but nice to look at, and occasional details about who recommended the story to him or requested its review. Five-point rating system based on bookshelves: Why Haven't You Read These Yet?, Pretty Good, Worth It, Needs Work and None.

That's about it, I think, other than that ridiculous buffoon Logan on Louder Yay. We did see the first Rinnaul reviews blog since 2015 the other day, but for now that's a one-off. Gosh, there really aren't a lot of us left, are there? If I've missed any out who fit all the criteria I outlined above then I'd be delighted to know about them. I did skim through the BMRL, but I could easily have missed someone with under 100 reviews, as such people don't get their own column in the spreadsheet.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 194: Thaw: The Green World

Update: after I wrote this (scheduled) post but before it appeared, Chris announced that "One Man's Pony Ramblings is closing its doors." I don't think it's my place to try to summarise his explanation, so please go over there to read that. All I'll say right here is that I wish Chris the very best and that every single time I've had any contact with him, he's been a complete pleasure to talk to. OMPR has been undoubtedly the best of all ponyfic blogs, and I'm glad its archives will remain to prove that.

Chris's excellent One Man's Pony Ramblings blog hasn't updated for over a month now. I hope that this is simply due to more important things taking priority and that he'll be able to resume posting there at some point. Regardless, if OMPR has somehow passed you by over the years then please do go and browse through its archives. There's plenty of fine stuff in there, including not only Chris's extremely interesting reviews but also some high-quality comment discussions.

Read it Later story count: 341 (-4)

Yet another three-fic week, which really does irritate me. Had the snow relented before the weekend, there'd certainly have been one or two more. I now have some (scheduled) dental appointments coming up, so how much I read over the next couple of weeks will depend on how those go! Still, I did manage to read the story I trailed last week, so there's that. Today's trio:

The Web Untangled by Impossible Numbers
Peachy Pie's Very Special Somepony by VitalSpark
No hard feelings by SeptimusMagistos

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

Monday, 5 March 2018

Pony Music Library 51: "Spirit of Fire"

It's long past time we had another PML entry, so let's get right to it!

What? "Spirit of Fire"

Who? PsychGoth (ft. Nowacking and Mysterious Bronie)

Which? Original song

When? July 2013

Why? I'm rather fond of Eighties-style music, so this song attracted my attention right from the start. The impressive line-up of performers didn't hurt, either. It's very much in the vein of Europop from that decade, so it may not win over those who don't already enjoy the genre. However, for those who are taken by it, this has a wonderful drive and energy that fits Spitfire's character perfectly and gives us a nice look at how she grew into the powerful mare she later became. Great guitar solo, too!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

HAHcon 2018 today!

A quick reminder that the online-only Horses at Home Convention, otherwise known as HAHcon, takes place today. There hasn't been a lot of noise about this (EqD's news post today is the first there since January) but I think it's such a good concept that it deserves a plug. There's a disappointing lack of writing-focused events this year, but otherwise there's a pretty good range of panels and suchlike. Visit the HAHcon homepage for a full schedule.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Writing, present and future

It's been really weird weather around these parts. Very fine powder snow, blowing around in the wind, is not what Britain usually gets. Nor are ice days in March. I'm quite glad that winter is finally going to start relaxing its grip by the end of the weekend. We've had quite a cold and snowy winter by our standards this time, and I am most definitely ready for spring now.

On the writing front, I did (just) manage to get chapter 4 of The Danger Within out by the end of February. It's a different experience writing this way, and not one I'd want to make a rule, but it has its moments. Not least that it's also firing up the ol' ideas'n'motivation generator again. While I don't think I'm going to get anything done for EFNW now, I do think I'll have another one-shot out fairly soon.

Also, some conversation with friends has revived my interest in writing a bit more about the burden of Fluttershy's commitment to kindness. Yes, Estee did something very good with this concept a long time ago with Five Hundred Little Murders, but I have a different story I want to tell. Fluttershy's small scene in The Book of Ended Lives is something of a starting point for what I have in mind now.

Finally, I might give a Flashfic 150 prompt a go in the next few months. The rules do allow me to submit a piece – as the person who wrote them, I made sure that they did! – though naturally I wouldn't be eligible to win. I'm very rusty with that format of ponyfic, so I'd probably struggle a bit, but when I've written flashfic in the past I've found it quite enjoyable. I'll see what I can do on that score.