Monday 15 April 2024

Sounds of 2014: Nos. 90 to 86

Welcome back to our canter through the Equestrian Trot 100 chart of the most popular My Little Pony fandom songs of 2014. As a reminder, a track doesn't have to have been released in that year, just to have been popular enough to make the chart. As usual, I'll remind everyone of the criteria I use to decide whether a song should be included:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the/an original artist.
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this.
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out.
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion.

Third time lucky today, in that once again in the 2014 series I'm not having to skip a song. At one point I thought I would, but... well, that's explained below. Here's what we have:

90: d.notive – Loveless Lovechild
89: Forest Rain et al – On Our Way
88: PsychGoth ft. Rina-Chan – Lulamoon

87: Aviators – Crash
86: Vylet Pony – Twilight's Kingdom (parts 1 & 2)

You probably know this by now, but beyond the jump break you'll find a little waffling about each of the five songs and YouTube videos to match. Onward!

Saturday 13 April 2024

Looking back at Kicking Back

Previously in this series: Sunset's Sales Snag, Ever Let the Fancy Roam

It's been several months since I posted anything in this series, so let's alter that! As before, I've let a random number generator pick which story I'm going to feature, and it's come back with Kicking Back. This is a fic which I wrote as a bit of silly fun but which did slightly better than anticipated. Not the most overperforming story I've had, but even now it's still mentioned occasionally.

This is a Cloud Kicker story, inspired by her personality in the first chapter of Chengar Qordath's highly popular The Life and Times of a Winning Pony. The reason I emphasise first chapter is that it's all I knew of at the time: in that fic Cloudy's story becomes deeper later on, but to start with she's seen as not that much more than a sex-obsessed airhead. That was what I found amusing to pick up on.

While Kicking Back isn't even remotely close to M-rated territory, it does go a little more down the innuendo route than I generally prefer. My usual complaint when stories do that is that there's no particular reason for it, but here it seemed integral to Cloud Kicker's personality, or at least the part of it I was using here. I tried to keep the tone light and fun, and I think I did fairly well there.

You see, in this story Cloud Kicker's reputation is not justified, and she's getting seriously tired of it. She even goes to the extent of hiring an image consultant. It... ah... doesn't go quite as she'd planned. I still smile at some of my descriptions of her sometimes physical rages when something goes horribly wrong – and so I think I got the humour level pretty much where I wanted it.

Would I have changed much? In all honesty, no, not really. Kicking Back isn't some great piece of ponyfic for the ages, but then it wasn't written to be one. I think it stands up quite nicely as what it is: a tea-break fic for those looking to, well, kick back and relax for a few minutes with perhaps a few laughs along the way. All the more so if you enjoy a little humorous wordplay.

One thing I will say is that you'll probably get more out of this if you have read at least the odd bit of Winningverse fiction. On the other hoof, you may for the same reason find it irritating and a bit one-notey. Maybe the ideal audience is the one I was part of when writing it: someone who knows about Cloud Kicker's reputation but hasn't yet read on to the other 300,000 words of Winning Pony!

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Ponyfic Roundup 485

Read it Later story count: 95 (nc)

Words read this week: 34,262

This is apropos of not a lot, and not remotely related to ponyfic, but I have been listening to and greatly enjoying songs by The Seekers, especially those from their 1960s heyday. In my view, Judith Durham had one of the finest voices ever to grace the charts. My own pick would be "The Carnival is Over", a huge hit internationally (except in the USA) that was so popular in the UK that it kept The Who's "My Generation" off the top of the charts in 1965. That band never did have a British number one. All right, now it's time for ponyfic!

Labors at Sunrise by NaiadSagaIotaOar
A Tryst at Midnight by Cosmonaut
How the Foundation Ruined Nightmare Night by Drefsab
flith2 by Fluttergail
White Out by the dobermans

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I enjoy an average amount scores two stars.

Monday 8 April 2024

Sounds of 2014: Nos. 95 to 91

Ah, it really is fun to be doing these again! Much as ponyfic will probably always be my first love when it comes to Pony fandom creativity, I am glad to be back with a regular series on music for the first time in several years. As a reminder, for 2014 I'm using the Equestrian Trot 100 chart – and this chart is for songs that were popular in that year, not limited to those released then, as we'll see this week... As another reminder, my criteria for including a song here are as follows:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the/an original artist.
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this.
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out.
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion.

As with my first post, I'll be featuring five tracks today. No skips needed once again, yay!

95: Ponyphonic – Love is in Bloom (cover)
94: General Mumble – Devil in Me
93: Canapplejack ft. Pencil Eraser – Pieces of Me
92: Aviators – Between Fairytales and Happy Endings (remix)
91: PrinceWhateverer – Promises (2013)

As before, after the jump break you get a YouTube video of the relevant song, plus some waffling from me, including where possible a link to Bandcamp or similar to allow you to obtain the track in high quality.

Saturday 6 April 2024

My Little Repeats 160: "To Change a Changeling"

Feelings... nothing more than feelings

S7E17: "To Change a Changeling"

2 Sep 2017

My original rating: ★★★
IMDb score: 7.5

The one with changeling nymphs

Thoughts: The IMDb ratings for the last few episodes are similarly middling, but I rather like this one. Kevin Lappin's second and last Friendship is Magic ep (after "Honest Apple") is a rare episode (the first in the show's run?) with none of the Mane Six even on screen. It's enjoyable, and Pharynx is an interesting character. I've seen it mentioned by a few people that he's somewhat in the role of a demobbed soldier who finds adjusting to civilian life hard. This is one of Thorax's best episodes, especially when he shows the assertiveness he learnt from Ember. Trixie and Starlight are really getting into the groove now as a team, and they have some fun, snappy dialogue. The Feelings Forum is amusing, especially the bit with the soup. It's a shame that the Maulwurf is such an uninteresting monster, otherwise this might just have had a shot at a four-star rating. Even as it is, it retains its 2017 three-star score with ease and is on the high side of that band.

Choice quote: Pharynx: "I look better with holes."

New rating: ★

Next time around, it'll be "Daring Done?", an episode which prompted mixed reactions from both me and the fandom on first appearance. Now? Well, you know the form... we'll see!

Friday 5 April 2024

Claude 3 Sonnet writes more (and better?) ponyfic

Don't worry, this isn't going to take over the blog! I won't be writing about AI things on here for a while now. I was, however, interested to see that a slight tweak to the prompt gave what I think is a more interesting attempt at ponyfic (albeit still with a hopeless title). This time I allowed Claude 3 Sonnet to use up two responses to write its story, prompting it with "More" to get the second one. This time the prompt was:

Please write a My Little Pony story (with a suitable title) in which Fluttershy and Rarity discuss a sensitive issue over a cup of tea. The two ponies are very long-standing friends and trust each other completely. Both of them are quiet conversationalists, so the conversation should have a restrained emotional tone. However, the much brasher Rainbow Dash barges into the cottage halfway through. The audience is very familiar with the characters already.

I think adding that last sentence has helped, but see what you think. Beyond the break, AI adventurers!

Thursday 4 April 2024

Claude 3 Sonnet writes ponyfic

It's time for more adventures with AI! In the past I've asked an earlier version of ChatGPT, then GPT-4 and Claude+, then finally Bing Chat, to produce a short MLP fanfic based on a moderately simple prompt written by me. I feel freer to experiment with this stuff here than on Fimfiction, given the latter's strict rule (which I support) that stories posted there have to be written by humans. I find it interesting, though, and since I have this blog I shall use it!

This time around I'm sticking with Anthropic's Claude series, but using the more advanced Claude 3 Sonnet model. This is not the top version of Claude, but it is the top version available (albeit for a limited number of messages) without the need for a subscription. Much as this stuff interests me, it doesn't interest me enough to pay £18 a month for!

The prompt is as before, with a single note added in brackets to remind the AI to include a title:

Please write a My Little Pony story (with a suitable title) in which Fluttershy and Rarity discuss a sensitive issue over a cup of tea. The two ponies are very long-standing friends and trust each other completely. Both of them are quiet conversationalists, so the conversation should have a restrained emotional tone. However, the much brasher Rainbow Dash barges into the cottage halfway through.

I'll put the result after the cut. I was amused to see that these things are still pretty damn useless at titles!