Sunday, 21 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Saturday evening: Tears of Joy, Tears of Laughter

Buy VIP ticket, get evil villain badge. And G2 Silver Swirl – who was a quiz answer!
I had a date with the cinema room at 5:30pm to see, for the first time ever, the 1986 G1 movie on the big(gish) screen. I'd seen it at home so knew what to expect, but I was glad to get this opportunity – not something you'd have at a strictly brony-focused convention. I don't regret going, but it was a shame that a technical fault meant the film played noticeably too slowly, badly affecting "Nothing Can Stop the Smooze" and making the movie as a whole feel very slow-paced, even more so than it actually is.

It was well after 7pm by the time I got out of the film, and the Crystal Ball had begun. This was UK PonyCon's first real attempt at an evening concert. Steely Hooves was on stage at this point, accompanied by StormBlaze. They worked well as a duo, though sadly I only saw bits of their act. I was hungry, and for some bizarre reason there was no food on sale once the daytime café had closed. (This would get my vote for the 2018 iteration's most irritating feature; Bristol last year did better.) The solution was a quick run to Tesco Express for some egg sandwiches, which I had to eat in the street owing to venue restrictions on outside food.

The Scootacanvas I bought from Jowy. The little easel came with her! :D
I was really keen to get back for 8pm, because the next act was EileMonty. I'd last seen her perform at BUCK 2013, but for various reasons had ended up elsewhere for most of her act. Five years on, I was getting an unexpected second chance. EileMonty did not disappoint, with a 13-song set that included both Pony and non-Pony tracks. We got the likes of "The Moon Rises", "Dark Horse", "The Magic Inside"... and, wonder of wonders, "I am Octavia", which I'd missed in 2013 and been kicking myself over ever since. I found my way up to the balcony, where crowd noise was lower. It was an enormous thrill to be there for this, and I'll admit to shedding a few tears.

It would have been nice to hang around for PrinceWhateverer and BassPon3, but the Pub Quiz was calling. Team Custard represent! As usual, ultimate Derpy fan Archer was asking the questions and as usual we made a mess of many of the old-gen ones, though we ended up with a worryingly impressive (by our standards) 32 points out of 90. I'd managed to remember to buy a Galaxy bar earlier on, but in the heat of the con venue it had melted to such an extent that it was basically a drink by this point! Never mind: the whole thing was immense fun.

EileMonty performing under the stars. With a roof intervening, thankfully
After the quiz, those of us who didn't have trains to catch hung around for the Saturday finale: the Cartoon Riff. In this UKPC staple, Waterfire presents a bunch of weird and/or terrible cartoons she's collected since the previous con, and there were a couple of highlights this time. One was an anime with hilariously clunky Toblerone product placement... and the other was Crab Rave. Yeah, yeah, I know it's a popular meme – but we did it properly. Lights off, bass up, glowsticks waving. It was glorious. This is where the tears of laughter come in!

We got our coats from the cloakroom and spilled out into the street. As it was 11pm by now, few of us went on anywhere. I went straight back to the hotel and did the minimum of preparation, then sank into bed hoping for a good night's sleep... which I didn't get. There was the most almighty racket from the street below until past 4am, worse than any other city centre I've stayed in, and it was only when sirens were heard (not that kind) that I finally grabbed a couple of hours of shut-eye. Not the ideal preparation for Sunday, it has to be said.

The Crab Rave in full swing. Amazingly, the Noise Control Officers didn't come round
Next time: Derpy Fever!

Saturday, 20 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Saturday daytime: A Taste of the High Life

This year's con exclusive: a 3D printed figure of UKPC mascot Britannia
For once on a pre-con Friday night I got a reasonable amount of sleep, so getting up in time to meet Hawthorn for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning wasn't too bad. In any case, he'd arrived on a late-night Megabus, so if anyone had the right to be exhausted it was him. As the hotel restaurant didn't open until 8:00, we made our way to the Joseph Else, another 'Spoons. This was named after a local sculptor, but more importantly it did me a 1,500+ kcal breakfast and coffee while we chatted.

This pub is about ten yards from a tram stop, and this was exciting because I'd never been to a convention by tram before. (I'd had the chance for BUCK in Manchester years ago, but hadn't taken it.) Nottingham's tram network is better than Birmingham's and just a few minutes later we were making our way to the inevitable QueueCon, where I gave a wave to Griffin and BBQ/StewArt and got a hug from fursuiting con mascot Britannia. It was still blowing a gale, but otherwise the weather wasn't too bad and nobody got wet while waiting for the doors to open.

Among the first to sign the Griffish Isles flag, later auctioned for £95
For the first and quite possibly last time, I didn't have to join the regular queue, but could instead go to the VIP line on account of, well, my VIP-tier ticket. These sold out in twenty-six minutes this year, so we're talking Glastonbury levels of demand. Sort of. Moody Magpie was the only person I could find who I knew at all, so we chatted vaguely until, at 9:00 the doors opened. One of the VIP perks was being let in half an hour early. The bag check was quick – top tip: tote bags are much faster to get okayed than rucksacks with 267 pockets – and so was registration. I was in!

UK PonyCon has doubled in size in the five years I've been attending, but an endearingly homespun feel still holds on around the edges: I wrote in my own name on my con badge in biro. I also got a goodie bag: T-shirt voucher, tote bag, exclusive art print and VIP lanyard. Time to head for the vendor hall and have the first pick of the merch! Here I picked up a lovely little canvas painting of Scootaloo from Jowy's stand and some equally adorable Fluttershy-themed Christmas cards from EileMonty's. Both really nice people, I'm happy to say.

BBQ's glorious picture of Team Custard in the con book
By this time other members of Team Custard were filtering into the venue, and (as I had) discovering with surprise the fantastic cartoon of our various OCs drawn by BBQ and now appearing in the con book. There was an A4 print of it for each of us as well, which was really generous. The usual desultory early-morning singalong (because few people were inside yet!) was followed by an opening ceremony which was fine, but about which I remember pretty much nothing beyond the theme (Crystals). Sorry!

At 11:00, most of us filed into an upstairs side room for Idris's "Joining Things" panel. Not about clubs and meets, but instead literally about joining things for cosplays etc. Bolts, screws, buckles and the like, all passed around for us to have a peer at. If you've ever been to an Idris panel, you'll know that his laid-back likeability makes it feel like a relaxed chat with a mate, and so ideal to ease ourselves into the con. Idris said afterwards that he thought "Wonderbolts and Glue" might have been a good title! :D

The cosplay contest; we were in the basement, natch
There was a bit of a lull around lunchtime, so being the strange person I am, I grabbed some food – though given that breakfast, I bought only sweets and a muffin. One of the few irritations at UKPC this year was the café: the range was decent and cheap, and the staff were friendly, but one "catering pod" was insufficient for the attendance and queues sometimes got silly. We ended up going to the Roebuck for lunch, though I only had a cider. On a happier note, the water cooler and drinking fountains were extremely welcome as it was unseasonably warm and this was reflected inside.

The cosplay contest was pretty much compulsory to attend, though I must admit I rarely find them that interesting, preferring to see people's costumes as they wander more naturally around the con. A special note here for con treasurer Guiding Breeze, who had made a superb "Coinky-Dink World" dress. They're not comfortable with photos, so didn't enter the contest and you'll have to take my word for this, but it was outstanding. I thought about going to the G1 Show Discussion panel, but didn't get round to it in time. Never mind: simply chatting to other pony people was good enough.

Looking down on just a few of the ~50 stalls
My Little Karaoke is always a highlight of UK PonyCon for me, so it was off there next. I went out on a limb and chose Phileo's rather unjustly forgotten "The Way She Flies" and... well, let's just say there's a reason I'm not a professional rock singer. I wasn't awful, but MLK's volume was set so low I could barely hear it and so I got out of sync with the beat at times. I'm glad I gave it a go, but I don't think I'll be choosing that song at future cons. After an hour or so enjoying others' singing, I left and headed for the cinema room. You'll have to wait to find out why...

Next time: Tears of Joy, Tears of Laughter

Friday, 19 October 2018

Con crud strikes

Hardly news. It comes to us all (well, most of us) and it's come to me. As such, I'm not posting anything except this today. I hope to have the next part of my UK PonyCon retrospective up tomorrow, and then I'll see how I feel. As for my S8 finale review, I've decided it will go up this coming Monday. That gives me a few days to recover and also fits in with my usual day for posting such things.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Friday: Muffins with Muffins

A question I would ask myself repeatedly
Bright and sunlit were the skies as I ventured forth from home and—no, actually they weren't. It was raining. This would become something of a running theme. Still, I was off to UK PonyCon, and for that I can put up with some damp even when carrying two heavyish bags. (Because I am useless at travelling light.) I was going by train as usual, and the trip was pretty uneventful, which suited me. I managed to get in a quick one-finger "Babs Seed" on the New Street station piano, and ate the compulsory Big Mac, but that was about the height of the excitement.

More fun was that, from Birmingham onwards, I had company in the shape of CuldeeFell, who thinks that Fluttershy is best pony and occasionally comes to the Worcester meets, both unerring signs of quality. (CrossCountry also provided us with a train with room to sit down for a change...) We spent the time having a sometimes quite in-depth chat about MLP's past, present and future; written down here in black and white it seems sad that we felt it might be for the best if G4 did end next year, but it didn't feel that way on the train.
The truly stunning view from my hotel room
We arrived in Nottingham just before 3pm and set off for our respective hotels, though I stayed a few moments to give a quick rendition of "Winter Wrap Up" on that station's piano. It was a very windy day, but thankfully not (quite) raining, so lugging my bags for ten minutes wasn't too much of a trial. Check-in was quick and painless, as it usually is with Travelodge, and I was allotted a corner room on the third floor. As a result, it was noticeably larger than the chain's usual standard, which was nice.

I'd been wearing my UK PonyCon 2017 shirt on the way, but I now changed into my Derpy shirt for something I'd really wanted to do since I discovered it would be possible: I walked a short way to the 200 Degrees coffee shop in Flying Horse Walk (named after a former pub). It was really crowded, but I just about found a place to perch and had a cappuccino and a very nice lemon curd muffin. So there I was, wearing a Derpy shirt, eating a muffin, in Flying Horse Walk. There must be worse starts to pony conventions!

Forbidden Planet's idea of going all-out for the convention market
After nipping into Poundland to get some mints for my annoying cough, I went back to the hotel before going to the Roebuck, a Wetherspoon pub about three minutes from where I was staying and therefore very convenient, to meet up with some friends and (gasp!) talk about ponies. I won't try to name-check everyone here as I'm bound to miss someone out, but during the five hours or so I was there I think I talked to about ten other people. I ate fish and chips and drank the weekend's first cider, followed by a very chocolatey brownie with ice cream.

I walked back to the hotel at a bit after 11pm, and though quite lively (there'd been an away England football match) it wasn't too bad, at least on my side of Nottingham. I forced myself to spend a few minutes getting stuff ready for the morrow, such as my "Friendship Squad" tote bag (this design, but pink and plasticised). By this time I was knackered. And so to bed and dreams of pony conventions, as Samuel Pepys would doubtless have written had he been a brony. And 350 years younger.

A terrible mix-up meant the Phil ended up in the concert hall next door

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Sounds of 2011, no. 95: "Cerulean Blue"

No Ponyfic Roundup this week, thanks to UK PonyCon last weekend, and for the same reason my S8 finale review will be a few days yet – so have this instead.

Well, how about that? We've reached our first original song! I'm sure that the only reason this track by New Zealand musician Replacer charted so low in Everfree Radio's Top 100 for 2011 was that it wasn't released until early December of that year. It's certainly a song that's stood the test of time, being instantly recognisable from the pulsing piano chords that open the track. From there, we get a fast-paced celebration of early-series Rainbow Dash, but also a nagging worry that she's not quite fulfilling her potential.

For such an old song, the production values on "Cerulean Blue" are pretty high, perhaps one reason it's retained its popularity; the simple yet striking image on the video can't have hurt, either. A few of the drum sounds are a bit tinny, but Replacer's own vocals stand out quite well. There's also some nice variety, with a short guitar solo around halfway through and a great big Blur-style section nearer the end. "Rainbow Dash is best pony when the world seems Everfree" is a clever lyric – if not one this Fluttershy fan entirely agrees with!

Replacer – who styles himself replacer (all lower-case) – is a musician who remains active in the fandom to this day, having released a new post-apocalyptic surf-rock track (yes, really), "Still No Words", in September. If you're interested in getting hold of "Cerulean Blue" in better-than-YouTube quality, you'll need to look in the video description, where there are Mediafire links for both MP3 and WAV versions, plus instrumental, a capella and stem files. Although Replacer does have a Bandcamp, this track is not available there.

Next time on Sounds of 2011: another original song, and again one that's still quite well-known.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Back from British Personal Small Horse Convention

Yes, UK PonyCon is over for another year. It was a wonderful experience, full of... well, friendship and magic. I can't see the future, but if UKPC happens in 2019 and I can get to it again, I'm there.

There will be my trademark rambly posts about my UK PonyCon experience in the near future, but I'm much too tired for now; I haven't even fully unpacked the things I bought yet.

Suffice it to say that this was the happiest convention weekend I've ever had.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sounds of 2011, no. 96: "For the New Lunar Republic (Thorinair Mix)"

I'm currently away at UK PonyCon, so this is a scheduled post.

Last time on Sounds of 2011 we had four remixes. This time? Just the one! "For the New Lunar Republic" is one of the more enduring of early-fandom tunes, and we'll be meeting the original by Not a Clever Pony down the line. What we have here is a version by Thorinair that turns the song into a swoopy, swishy trance track. (Yes, those are technical musical terms.) It perhaps feels a little too long at over seven and a half minutes, but otherwise it's great as background music.

It's been a long time since this homage to the Princess of the Night, but Croatian musician Thorinair is another still active in the fandom as of 2018: his Twilight-themed "From That Very First Day" was uploaded to YouTube this January, and you can hear him on the Glory of the Night show on Ponyville FM. Should you wish to get his "FtNLR" remix in higher quality than YouTube can offer, there are Mediafire links in the video description, or it can be purchased for $1 on Thorinair's Bandcamp.

Join me again next time, when Sounds of 2011 will be featuring... an original track! (Gasp! —Ed.) Yes, that's right: no. 95 in the chart is not a remix. You'll have to wait a little while longer to find out just what it is, though. Well, unless you know already. But don't spoil it for the others if you do, eh? Thanks. :)

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 100 to 97: four from Eurobeat Brony

I'm currently away at UK PonyCon, so this is a scheduled post.

Earlier this month, I mentioned here that I felt like doing a look at the songs that made the Everfree Radio Top 100 back in 2011. Although on many occasions I'll be sticking to just one song per post, I'm starting with a multipack. That's because entries 100 through 97 in the chart were all written by the same person. It's someone who remains well-known to this day and indeed performed at BronyCon 2018: Eurobeat Brony, aka Odyssey Eurobeat.

These are very early tracks, so there are a few rough edges that got smoothed off later on, as well as a slightly less impressive production quality overall. Nevertheless, the distinctive Eurobeat Brony sound is very much present and correct. Of the four, I think the "Winter Wrap Up" one may be my favourite, though it's impressive how a little ditty like "Evil Enchantress" can be remixed into a full song.

All four of these tracks can be found on the classic album Super Ponybeat Vol. 1, which was released on 26 March 2011 and remains available on a name-your-price basis on Odyssey's Bandcamp. (It's also cc-by 3.0 licensed, fact fans, so you can do pretty much what you like with it subject to appropriate attribution.) You will probably not be surprised to learn that we shall be encountering this musician again during the course of this countdown feature!

Not for a little while yet, though. Next time on Sounds of 2011, I'll be looking at... well, actually it's another remix. But it's by a different artist!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Father Knows Beast"

This will be the final post made while I'm actually here, before I leave for UK PonyCon tomorrow morning. I've decided to fill the gap by beginning my "Sounds of 2011" series looking at the songs that made the Everfree Radio Top 100 that year. As such, there'll be a couple of scheduled posts while I'm away. I'm not sure when I'll be back to regular posting, but we'll see. Right now, though, it's time for TRR.

"Father Knows Beast" got a pretty positive reception from the text-based reviewers. It's hard to tell with JDPrime, who seems to have a games magazine approach to review scores, but with one exception the others were all at least broadly positive about the episode. The outlier was DrakeyC, who absolutely hated it.

Cuddlepug – mostly positive (graded B+; "we are left wondering who Spike's real parents are and why his egg was abandoned [but the ep is] a success on the whole [...] positive message this creates about the adaptable nature of family")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "a much better episode than “Dragon Quest” and one of the main reasons is Smolder")

The Dragon Warlock – generally positive (graded B; "a good premise [...] Sludge [...] is an enjoyable villain [but] I think we all deserve a proper explanation about why Spike ended up in Equestria")

DrakeyC – extremely negative ("THAT line left me fuming with rage [...] this is a shitty episode [...] a repeat of Dragon Quest where the villain is slimier, the heroes dumber, and the pathos recycled")

JDPrime22 – mixed (rated 8/10; " So much potential for this episode... and it was kind of wasted... but then again... not really.")

Lightening McQueen – very positive ("it may be kind of similar to Dragon Quest, but I still liked it [...] Smolder was also great in this episode")

Louder Yay – mildly positive (rated 3/5; "has Twilight really never thought to ask Celestia where [Spike's egg] came from? [Still,] Spike's interactions with Smolder were really good")

Mega Sean 45 – positive ("The episode I've been waiting for... or so I thought. [...] Smolder [...] was amazing [but] this episode just followed the same moral as Dragon Quest")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 9/10; "the 'liar revealed' plotline [was] used again [but] there was so much new information about dragon culture and heart between the characters")

The Railfan Brony – broadly positive (rated Good; "a good, enjoyable episode in the end and the lesson Spike learned was a useful one for kids to learn [but] the series might be creatively stagnant")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("It's safe to say that Sludge's moments were just more reasons to hate him. Even his song was not really anything too interesting. [However,] Smolder's pointers were perfect [and t]he Spike and Twilight moments were also very sweet and tender.")

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 222: The Hooded Fang

Read it Later story count: 298 (nc)

Thanks to one story I was going to review being deleted before I got here, together with me being pretty much out of commission for a couple of days with a horrible cold, I have only four fics on the reviewing table today rather than the five I was hoping for. Oh well, still better than some weeks of PR! Without further ado, here's today's quartet:

Chuckling Over my Cheery-O's by chrumsum
I Didn't Sign Up For This by Cillerenda
The Royal Proposal by Everyday
Dance by Martian

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

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Episode review: S8E24: "Father Knows Beast"

Happy Twilight with Spike and  unsure-looking Sludge in a castle room containing many books
"Books! The answer is always books! Spike's real dad? A book!"
I have a rather nasty cold at the moment, so this is going to be another of my rather short reviews. Oh well, better to have the cold now than during a convention weekend. Maybe it's a sort of pre-emptive con crud! Back on-topic, the last Josh Haber episode was the fantastically fun "On the Road to Friendship", so I was hoping for something of a similar standard from "Father Knows Beast". In the event...

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Episode review will be on Tuesday this coming week

I've been out for most of the weekend and I'm very tired, so my review of episode 24 has been pushed back a day and will now appear on Tuesday. Thanks to UK PonyCon being next weekend, the S8 finale review will also be a bit late, though right now I'm not going to commit to a specific date.

Hiatus plans: Back to 2011!

I've been wondering what to do on this blog during the S8/S9 hiatus, and I think I have the answer. A while back, somewhere in the dark and nasty regions where nobody goes – ie DeviantArt – I discovered a zip archive containing all the tracks that made Everfree Radio's Top 100 for that year. I wish I could remember exactly where on DeviantArt I found it, but oh well.

Anyway, I plan to count down from 100 to 1 on that and write a little something about each track. And, when I can, point to where you can get them.* That might be tricky in some cases: while some of the songs are classics to this day (for example, "Nightmare Night" and "Flutterwonder"), others have been hit hard by the ravages of time and are now very hard or impossible to find online.

Still, that will make it a fun adventure! (At least, I hope so.) I'll continue with this blog's usual ramblings as well, so consider this countdown something to fill in the gaps on days when I'm not posting Ponyfic Roundup or the like. Since I wasn't in the fandom until 2012, I'm really looking forward to discovering some of the music that was popular before my time!

* Note: I won't be uploading anything myself. If they really have disappeared entirely from the web, then I'll respect their creators' wishes.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

UK PonyCon questionnaire thingy, 2018 edition!

I did one of these last year, so I thought I might as well do one again. I've made one or two slight tweaks, but the basic format is very similar. So...

What do I call you? Logan. Everyone else does. I mean, I don't mind the full "Loganberry", but Logan is the easiest option all round.

What will you look like? Even older than I did last year. :D I'll have a pony shirt of some description, probably Fluttershy on Saturday morning. I always wear glasses. I never wear jeans. For some ludicrous reason I bought a VIP ticket this year, so inside the con venue I'll have a VIP lanyard.

Who will you be with? A bunch of like-minded silly pony people. Some of whom will have plushies, in all probability. Other than that, whoever can stand me!

What will you be doing? Ponying. But specifically: there'll be music involved somewhere, whether karaoke or Crystal Ball or both. I'd like to do at least a little non-G4 stuff. Naturally I'll be attending the Charity Auction. I don't play the CCG, so I won't be doing that.

Can I talk to you? Of course you can! I mean, don't go on about exactly the same thing every time you speak to me and please don't fill up my precious pony weekend with hours of chat about non-pony stuff. I like cricket and trains and weather and so on, but for the most part those subjects can wait. But otherwise, by all means say hi!

What can I talk to you about? I'm not desperately fussy, and I'm happy to talk both FiM and EqG stuff, or even other gens to the limited extent I know them – but I would be delighted if anyone wanted to talk ponyfic. It's my favourite part of the creative fandom, so if you get me started on the subject, you may have trouble stopping me!

Can I take your photo? Not sure why you'd want to given that I don't cosplay. But as long as you ask first, I'm unlikely to object. If you've taken a photo/video and I'm in it only incidentally (eg in the audience) then there's no need to ask. If you take a video of me doing karaoke, though, please let me see a copy afterwards!

Can I hug you? If you really want to, then I don't see why not. Please do ask first, though, in case I'm carrying something breakable.

Can I buy you food or drink? If you must! I really don't expect anyone to buy me muffins or cider, though.

How long are you staying? Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, so the whole convention with a little bit either side.

Where are you staying? Travelodge Nottingham Central. Convenient and fairly cheap.

How are you travelling? By train, on Friday. I'll wear the UKPC 2017 T-shirt on the journey, so feel free to say hello if you see me around – I'll be at Birmingham New Street station at lunchtime, and I aim to reach Nottingham a little after 3pm.

Favourite characters? Fluttershy, Scootaloo, Celestia, Silverstream, Starlight, Derpy.

Anything else I should know? Yes. If you find out what it is, please tell me.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Them's Writin' Words

A few months ago, Scribbler uploaded the first edition of a new podcast, Them's Writin' Words, to her YouTube channel. In this, she was joined by Goombasa, Neighrator Pony, Thornquill and Luna Farrowes to discuss billymorph's fic A World Without Kindness. They went into a lot of detail, enough that this 17k-word story was discussed for well over an hour – and, unlike in many long podcasts, this didn't mean 2% discussion and 98% pub banter. Also, because these are high quality readers, you can actually hear what they're saying.

I must admit that I didn't listen to the entire podcast: while I have read A World Without Kindness (PR 54), I neither loved it nor hated it enough to want to listen to over 100 minutes of discussion of it. However, earlier this month, Scribbler released episode 2 of the podcast, and I thought I'd listen to it right through. Same cast, but minus Luna Farrowes. The subject this time was TheGreyPotter's Body of Work, which I knew nothing about, so I wanted to see whether the podcast could hold my attention.

And yes. Yes, it could. It helped that the reviewers didn't all have the same opinion: Scribbler didn't really like it, and she wasn't shy about saying so. As I mentioned above, once again the banter didn't overwhelm the actual discussion. Nor was it full of swearing: unsurprisingly Scribbler's language in particular wasn't entirely TV-Y but it was hardly unreasonable for a podcast like this. I'm not sure I personally want to listen to an hour-plus of talk about a single story very often, but for those who do want that level of detail, I think the series could fill a niche nicely.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Sounds of Silence"

Time for some kirin-tinged opinions of episode 23. This episode got a pretty good reception, though few reviewers got quite as obsessive about the kirin as Seth over on Equestria Daily. (If anyone ever creates a kirin/batpony hybrid, I fear he may actually explode.) Cuddlepug is back this week, and there's a clear split this time between reviewers who loved the ep and those who were underwhelmed. Nobody hated it, at least.

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "a fantastic return to form in terms of providing audiences with an episode that puts the 'magic' back [...] a triumphant episode that oozes with charm")

Derpy News – extremely positive (graded A+; "The show went back to some of the basics with this episode and it paid off magnificently [...] a great lesson")

The Dragon Warlock – mixed (graded C; "I do love the world building, the song is great, and Autumn Blaze is a good new character, but the pacing, characterization issues (mostly Fluttershy), and the weak story [drag it down]")

DrakeyC – mixed ("Autumn Blaze is a great character [but] I knew this was a celebrity guest voice [...] The concept of the Kirin was very creative and interesting, and the Kirin had great designs. But the execution was lacking.")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "just a fun ol' episode. The song, especially, is one of the best of the season.")

Lightening McQueen – very positive ("Autumn Blaze [was] such an amazing character; Rachel Bloom is just perfect for her voice")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "[Autumn Blaze] was a fun character [and though it felt] more like an AJ-with-Flutters episode than a true double act [...] snappy dialogue [meant it] continued late S8's strong run of episodes.")

Mega Sean 45 – positive ("We have a new writer here, and he's already nailing this! [... The kirin] were cute [but] that old man with the end of the line part [...] wasn't even that funny.")

MLEEP Reviews – generally positive (rated 8/10; "despite having a weak story, 'Sounds Of Silence' [was a] pretty decent episode full of beautiful animation and plenty of laughs")

The Railfan Brony – mixed (rated Okay; "Autumn Blaze was... fine, I suppose [...] the plot is very thin on the ground [though] the characters and theme do their best to make up for that")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("These friendship quests are moderately predictable [but the silent kirin were] very adorable[, and Autumn Blaze's design is] just over the top beautiful)

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 221: The Trail of the Lonesome Pone

Title explanation: 1913 song, later featured by Laurel & Hardy in Way Out West

Read it Later story count: 298 (nc)

The previous prohibition on using [Adventure] and [Slice of Life] genre tags on the same story doesn't seem to be coming back. Good. It was pretty pointless. The first fic today is by an author who would have qualified for my planned Newcomers Edition, but I simply didn't want to wait that long to read their fic. Let's see whether that decision paid off, and indeed what I thought of this week's other stories. Today's slate is:

My Little Student by Lets Do This
...But the Kitchen Sink by Dubs Rewatcher
One Head of Cattle by Trick Question
The Jet Powered Pegasus by billymorph

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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Thoughts on "Friendship was magic", Dubs Rewatcher's Polygon article

I read "Friendship was magic: How bronies are preparing for the end of My Little Pony" a few weeks ago, and I remember remarking at the time how favourably impressed I was by the article's approach, especially given it was published in a non-fandom source. (Okay, it was Polygon, a gaming and entertainment site, not a mainstream newspaper, but nevertheless.) We even got an interview with a ponyfic author in Bookplayer, a rare thing even in good articles about our fandom.

Being behind the curve as usual, I've only now discovered the reason for the article's author coming across as so well-informed: because he was. The writer used his real name on Polygon, but it was in fact long-time fandom member and ponyfic person Dubs Rewatcher. (One of whose old fics I'll be reviewing tomorrow, plug plug!) Given he's been on Fimfiction since August 2011, and given I don't think he was new to the fandom then, I think it's fair to say he's been around a bit. Since this is a fandom blog, I'll use his fandom name here.

As for the article itself: it's generally a very good one. It's fair and balanced, for one thing. (Yes, I know that phrase is loaded, but I mean it here.) It doesn't deny reality and pretend that the fandom is as big now as it was in 2013, but nor does it take an apocalyptic view and opine that the moment the show ends the fandom will too. It also has one of the more clear-eyed brief takes on clop I've seen, though understandably Dubs chooses not to mention that term.

There's a very interesting section later in the article in which Dubs points out the vast number of people who've used skills they've picked up in the MLP fandom to help them in later real-world endeavours. There's inevitably a slightly bittersweet tinge here, since most of us know favourite writers, musicians, artists or voice actors who have moved on and are no longer active. Some have severed all contact with the fandom, some still embrace their brony history.

My one disappointment with the article is its insularity: a reader unfamiliar with bronies could get the impression that BronyCon was the fandom and that there were no other MLP conventions worthy of the name, nor even fandom life outside the US. Perhaps the fact that Dubs is American and researched his piece at BronyCon makes this tricky to avoid, but it is something that irritated me as a British brony. The end of the show will be as huge a deal for us over here as it will be for American fans. The end of BronyCon, perhaps a little less so.

Despite that niggle, I would urge anyone who hasn't read "Friendship was Magic" to do so. It's a good read and, while it probably won't tell an active fan much they didn't already know, it's nice to find non-fandom platforms still taking some interest in us in 2018 – even if it is from a "waiting for the end" perspective. Still, I don't intend to mope, and while there's life there's hope. Besides, I have a Pony convention to prepare for!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Episode review: S8E23: "Sounds of Silence"

Autumn Blaze speaking from a rostrum, with a Citizen Kane-style poster behind
Doesn't this imply Autumn Blaze owns the newspapers she's pushing in the same sequence?
Getting close to the end of the season now, at least for the minority of the fandom that hasn't binged the whole lot already. Just two regular episodes left before the finale, and this one had a new writer: Gregory Bonsignore, about whom I knew nothing. (He has a Wikipedia page, though.) There were a couple of things about this that I'd already seen and was looking forward to, so – to use a rejected Darkwing Duck catchphrase – let's get spoilery!