Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 76: Copper Bottom Tympani in Horse Platoons

First: go and watch the reboot of Danger Mouse. If you're in the UK, it's on the BBC iPlayer, but I expect it can be obtained in other ways. It's great fun. Also, yes, I've seen the leak of the synopsis list for the rest of S5. I won't spoil anything here, but they're only what we'd have seen on Zap2it or something anyway; it's not as if they give away the entire stories. Okay, back to ponyfic. Six short stories for consideration this time round:

Swan Lake by 314
Lost Cities by Cold in Gardez
Echoplex by thewoollymammoth
Insomnia by Pale Horse
The Wrong Fork by PoweredByTea
Sombra's Advisor by Supahsnail

Monday, 28 September 2015

Episode review: S5E16: "Made in Manehattan"

Coco Pommel gets emotional
"At last you notice me again... and you let those humans take all the attention?"
I was a bit preoccupied last night watching Equestria Girls: Friendship Games – a review will follow at some point, but it looks as though it's going to get a cinema release in the UK next month. If so, I'd like to follow the pattern for the first two films and write my review only after that. Sneak peek: it was better than the first film but not as good as Rainbow Rocks. Mind you, the 287 ad breaks probably didn't help.

For that reason, this review will be a bit shorter than usual, and much of it will be simply a light reworking of the one I posted over on Fimfiction earlier.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Fluttershy episodes: the best and the worst

Settle back, everyone, for this is a post made simply so that I have an excuse for talking about how brilliant Fluttershy is. Not that I need one, of course, since everyone knows that she's completely... hmm. "Fluttershy" is probably the only acceptable adjective here. The question of "What is a Fluttershy episode?" is one that I have answered with the same simplicity: it's one that I consider to be a Fluttershy episode. Here we go, then:

Three Good Episodes for Fluttershy

3. A Bird in the Hoof
If you think this is a controversial choice, thank your lucky stars that I didn't choose "Bats!" instead. :P But this episode makes the list because Charlotte Fullerton does something that far too many Fluttershy writers don't: she concentrates on facets of 'Shy's character other than her shyness. The whole mess is set up by her impulsiveness in taking Philomena, while we later see her depth of animal caretaking knowledge, her almost limitless patience and – yes! – her calmness under pressure. (Specifically, when the Royal Guards come calling.)

2. Filli Vanilli
My top two are very, very close, and on some days I might even put this episode ahead. Forget Pinkie Pie being irritating for a bit and think about the ending. If you can't feel happy at the sheer joyfulness experienced by Fluttershy, singing on stage in her Ponytones sweater, then you surely have no soul. There wasn't a single time in this ep that I thought, "That's not right for Fluttershy" – and that counts for a great deal.

1. Hurricane Fluttershy
I know, I know, the most predictable choice ever. I haven't really stopped raving about this Cindy Morrow episode since it first went out. It's probably not quite as much of an achievement as "Filli Vanilli", but it's the episode that I enjoy most – and as with my Ponyfic Roundup ratings, that's what counts here. There is no better exploration in the entire series of the fascinating friendship between 'Shy and Rainbow Dash.

And now for the bit you've all been waiting for:

Three Bad Episodes for Fluttershy

3. Putting Your Hoof Down
Who are you, and what have you done with the Charlotte Fullerton who wrote "A Bird in the Hoof"? More to the point, what have you done with Ponyville? Angel is written horribly, going beyond his usual grumpiness and into the realms of actual domestic violence. Fluttershy doesn't seem to know how to cope with anything, and it shows. I would actually like to see another episode with her interacting with Iron Will (yes, I know the comics have done it), just so the damage from this could be repaired. Thank goodness "Hurricane Fluttershy" was on the horizon by this point.

2. MMMystery on the Friendship Express
The recent "Rarity Investigates" shows how a Pony detective story can work. This episode shows how it can fall flat on its face – and its ludicrous characterisation of Fluttershy is among its worst features. With everything we know of her up to this point, it makes no sense whatsoever for her to have: a) taken a bite of the cake and b) used a disguise that requires her to shovel coal and that very clearly shows her mane. Gah.

1. Magic Duel
Larson! Popular writer he may be, but he's made a bit of a mess of Fluttershy on several occasions. Think of "Ponyville Confidential" and the floods of tears over those tail extensions. "Magic Duel" is the one that really annoys me, though, all the more so because so many people love it because OhmigoshTrixie! The scene in the library, Rainbow Dash totally ignoring her, that bunny costume, the general cowardliness... I don't like this ep all that much anyway, but Fluttershy's scenes make it that much the worse.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Fanfic reading: Ever Let the Fancy Roam

It's been quite a long time since I've done a reading of any of my fanfics, and as I had an idle few minutes the other day I thought I might as well. I chose to do Ever Let the Fancy Roam, my Slice of Life story about Fancy Pants and his butler preparing for a small dinner party. This fic has the unusual (for me) distinction of actually having won a writing contest where I wasn't the only entrant – the "Making the Most of the Mundane" competition that the Characters that Need More Stories group ran a while back.

On another writing-related note, The Unbearable Lightness of Bucking has broken the 200-view barrier. Hardly a startling achievement in three and a bit weeks, but it's more than Ever Let the Fancy Roam has managed in seven months... :P

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 75: Three-quarters of a Century!

Yeah, I've seen the EQD mascots. One particular irritation, which I may post about at some point if I can be bothered, but it's been quite a busy week for me (the steam trains were great, by the way) so I'll move on for now. I've managed to get in a reasonable amount of reading, so here we go with another Ponyfic Roundup. PR 75! Sooner or later I'll have to start thinking about what to do for PR 100, which should arrive sometime in the spring, but that's a good way off yet. Instead, here's the usual assortment of stories:

Would It Matter If I Was? by GaPJaxie
Yes, It Matters by RealityCheck
Resolution by xjuggernaughtx
Another Dragon's Quest by draconmannvlvs
Nothing. by Fonypan
Twilight Sparkle Makes a Cup of Tea by GhostOfHeraclitus

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #34

My Little Pony comic #34 cover A
Andy Price's main cover is really very nicely done
After several generally rather disappointing main-series stories in IDW's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series, this month we get the start of "Siege of the Crystal Empire", the first four-part outing since the controversial "Reflections" arc. Notably, this one is drawn by Andy Price but not written by long-time collaborator Katie Cook; Jeremy Whitley does the honours. Heather Breckel is the colourist. I think it's a definite improvement, too: although not perfect (one pony says "my hand slipped", a shoddy error) there's a lot of actual intrigue going on by the end.

Price's artwork looks good for the most part, as does Breckel's colour work, while Whitley's writing certainly seems rather stronger than Cook's was, slightly uncertain opening scene aside. The question of why certain characters would team up will need to be addressed, so I can't be more than "cautiously optimistic" right now, but here's hoping. Probably the most enjoyable main-series comic since issue #24 – it's a three-star issue, but a top-end three and at last I can recommend a main-series comic again! ★★★

Monday, 21 September 2015

Episode review: S5E15: "Rarity Investigates!"

Noir Rarity lounges on the couch
"A lot depends on who's in the saddle."
Fresh from last week's Rarity episode, this week we have... a Rarity episode! And its writing credits bothered me a bit when I first saw them, as there are two writers – Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco – with a story by four people – Lewis, Songco, Meghan McCarthy and M. A. Larson. Can this end well? There's only one way to find out, and that's to follow me past the break for the usual spoiler-filled waffle about "Rarity Investigates!" in all its glory... or otherwise.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Curses, foiled... well, not again, since this was the first time. But still foiled!

I'm off to spend most of the next two days doing steam trainy things (here), so the episode review may be a little bit late this weekend. Though as it's always late, I don't expect you'll notice any difference. Yay for procrastination! :D Anyway, I do have a little bit of news, though it's probably of interest to no one but me. This is my blog, though, so you can lump it. :P

It Doesn't Matter Now has been rejected by The Royal Guard. In all honesty, I'd almost forgotten that I'd submitted it at all! The TRG prereaders felt that my fic "lacked substance", that Pinkie was inconsistently written and that there wasn't enough buildup to the ending. Oh, and they didn't like that 50-word-plus long opening sentence: it was considered to be "clumsy" and overlong. This was the first fic I'd ever submitted to TRG, so I didn't know what their replies looked like. Answer: a standard template with some story-specific comments added in. Seems pretty sensible.

With one tiny exception (pointing me at Overly Extensive Editors, which is intended for 4k-word-plus fics) I've no problem with any of the feedback, as it was pleasant, helpful and constructive. I won't be changing this fic, though: I don't want to make it more substantial, for one thing. It might be a more accomplished story if I did that, but it wouldn't be the story I wanted to tell. It got into the RCL in the form it is now (admittedly to my very considerable surprise) and has been very well received overall, so it's staying as it is. First sentence most definitely included. :P

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #20: Discord and Luna

MLP Friends Forever comic #20, main cover
Amy Mebberson's main cover promises a little more than the issue delivers
With a pairing like that, this month's IDW comic was one of the most eagerly awaited in ages. The established team of Jeremy Whitley, Brenda Hickey and Heather Breckel maje a reasonable job of it, though it isn't the classic I'd been hoping for. There's not much wrong with the artwork, and the colours are lovely and vibrant. The writing, though, is variable. Luna is generally written pretty well – especially when she's being sarcastic. Discord, on the other hand, seems a bit off, with his usual easy style made to feel a little awkward. Also, there are heaps of references, some I don't get (those talking hands?) though I do question dressing Apple Bloom as Inara. Not quite the classic I'd hoped for, but a fun read and pretty enjoyable. ★★★

Monday, 14 September 2015

Episode review: S5E14: "Canterlot Boutique"

Rarity gets angry with Sassy Saddles
Applejack (and the Mane Six out of shot) know it's time to run
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is back on our screens at last! It's only been a few months, but it's sometimes felt like a lot longer. We kick off S5 part two with a Rarity episode, and those are rarely terrible. The fact that the writer for this ep was Amy Keating Rogers also helped to make me more optimistic towards it, as I've generally liked her episodes. After the break, there'll be the usual spoiler-filled review of how good I thought it actually was.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

One month until UK PonyCon!

Okay, actually just under a month, but never mind. I have the ticket, I have the hotel booking, I have... well, okay, I don't have the train tickets yet, as I'm buying them on the day, but I do know where I'm going! (Leicester. Big place to the east of Birmingham. Where Thomas Cook ran his first excursion from. All that stuff.)

As usual with these things, I'm galloping around in small circles trying to get things ready while I can still convince myself that it's not actually "last minute" yet. Admittedly not being staff, panellist, performer or cosplayer helps there, but you'd be amazed how tricky it can be working out which pony shirts to take. (Okay, you probably wouldn't.)

Attendance last year was (from memory) in the high 300s, and I think most people expect that figure to be exceeded this time round. It's by a long way the biggest pony event in Britain during 2015 (thanks to BUCK taking the year off) so there'll be quite a few complete con newcomers there – though I hope that, having experienced it, they'll be back next year!

Although nothing's been said, and for all I know it may not even have been decided, I get the feeling that UK PonyCon will be back to its traditional peripatetic ways next year. The venue hotel in Leicester hasn't covered itself with glory in one or two respects (double-bookings, mainly) and besides, it's nice to allow people in different parts of the UK to visit easily. That means it may be harder for me to reach in 2016, which in turn means that I need to make sure I make the most of next month's event!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

This is where actually researching for a fic gets me...

Email from Amazon about Nietzsche
The small print on these things now says, "We hope you enjoyed receiving this message."
In the course of doing my (fairly minimal) research for The Unbearable Lightness of Bucking, I had a poke around Amazon's selection of existentialism-related literature. It seems that the site now believes that I have developed a deep interest in profound questions of existence. In reality, of course, I was just looking to see if I could find inspiration for horse puns.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 73: The Lonely C and the Sky

I realised, after reading three stories this week, that their authors' names all began with C – so I sought out three more fics which also fitted the bill. (Gah, AmEng influence is so strong on the net these days that I'm starting to pause when writing "fitted" in that context. Grr.) I'm not sure it made any significant difference to the overall quality, since all these fics were already on my RiL list – but it gave me something to write here, and that's the main thing.

Applejack Anonymous by Clavier
Fluttershy Sits Down With Lyra For a Day by Church
Wyrmlysan by Chris
But I Don't Want To Not Die by Cerulean Fantasy
What We Wanted to Do by Cold in Gardez
A Night In The Life of the Imaginitive Gamer by CogWing

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Lauren Faust and M. A. Larson Show at EQLA

I find it somehow amusing that the way this blog handles tags means that Mitch is listed as "ma larson". Anyway, I can't find a video of this big Equestria LA event – though with luck one will surface – so here's the Equestria Daily report. Quite a lot of information from Lauren Faust that I didn't know, though I don't know how much of that is genuinely "first time in public" stuff and how much is just things everyone in the fandom except me has known since 2012. Still, it's not absurdly long and is worth a read. Don't expect a big "All the reasons I left the show" reveal, but there are a couple more pieces added to the jigsaw.

In other news, my liveblog of AestheticB's The Immortal Game has an entry for the first two chapters. Naturally, it's packed with spoilers.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

BronyBeeb presents "Make a Wish (Extended Version)"

Time for another BBC Micro rendition of a My Little Pony song. This isn't actually the one I was expecting to release next – that honour goes to a much older number, one which I now expect to reveal next month – but there is a reason for it. Simply put, 10 October, which just happens to be the first day of UK PonyCon, will also be the fifth birthday of Friendship is Magic. So what better song to mark the occasion than one actually about a birthday?

In other news, I am grinning stupidly because someone has apparently got to Louder Yay by searching for "Noseybonk fanfic". I've never written any, but... well, if you don't know who Noseybonk is, have a look here on creator Adrian Hedley's YouTube channel. You won't regret it. (Well, you might, but by then it'll be too late...)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ponyfic Roundup 72: Where Your Fears and Horrors Come True

I've managed to get through eight fics this week, which is nice as it's got my Read it Later list down to under 430 for the first time in quite a while. Sorry, City of Doors guy! Among today's tales are one of the fandom's most (in)famous old fics and the sequel to a longer story I really liked a few months ago. As usual, I've tried to ensure that a reasonable variety of stories is covered. The fics under review this time are:

Just Like Old Times by DustyPwny
How can I trust you anymore? by callypony
Never a Wonderbolt by SkyeSilverwing
Friends With Discounts by Hyzaku

Rainbow Factory by AuroraDawn
Understanding Eternity by Angel
Neither Brass nor Bold by JohnPerry
The Luna Cypher by iisaw

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Pony convention ticket prices around the world

It's often been said – by me, among others – that we in the UK face massively higher costs for going to My Little Pony conventions than fans in other countries where cons are held. Is it true, though? I did a little research on the matter and discovered that it's true to an extent – but not for all the events held over here.

The graph below shows the cost of a standard adult weekend ticket (in pounds) for a number of pony conventions around the world, using 2015 prices if I could find them or 2016 ones if they were already available. For cons with variable pricing according to when you book, I chose the non-discounted advance option.

Comparative price graph showing the cost of admission to each con
Red = UK, Blue = North America, Green = Europe, Purple = Other
BUCK is by far the most expensive pony convention in the world, and not just when compared with North American events. Another UK con, GBBC, comes in second. However, the other two British conventions, UK PonyCon and BronyScot, are much cheaper and nestle comfortably in with the bulk of the international pack.

On the plus side, the embracing of FiM by the all-gens UK PonyCon and the arrival of BronyScot last year mean that it's not a case of having to pay £100 for a ticket if you want to go to a British convention at all. These events are valuable features on the con landscape, and having that choice is a fine thing.

Please don't use this graph simply to have a go at BUCK. Yes, their tickets are extremely expensive by global standards, there's no denying that. But bear in mind that their running costs are stupidly high and that they simply couldn't make the sums add up with £40 tickets. Our big-event economy is, frankly, broken. :(