Friday, 30 December 2016

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #35: Twilight and Starlight Glimmer

At least Tony Fleecs used the right manestyle
This team-up was always going to happen, unexciting as it is. Ted Rob Anderson writes a reasonably effective, if not amazing, story and it's nice to have a bit of Star Swirl again. (Not appearing in pony, sadly.) Jay Fosgitt's art is... well, Jay Fosgitt-y. If you hate it, this won't change your mind – especially as he gives Starlight her pre-reformation mane design. Spike plays a fun supporting role this time, and the ending is a little less rushed than sometimes. A moderately entertaining Friends Forever issue. ★★★

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 138: About Time Too!

If you get a chance to see The Entire Universe with Professor Brian Cox and Eric Idle, take it. It's brilliant. In the UK, it'll be on the BBC iPlayer. If you're elsewhere, I'm afraid you're on your own. Anyway, fanfic time.

Read it Later story count: 484 (-2)

Assuming all goes according to plan, I'll be away on holiday and with limited internet access when this goes up. To tide you over until I return to make inane comments once more, have this expanded selection of ten ponyfic reviews. These stories are all taken from my RiL list and are all fics that I considered for previous PRs but passed over for one reason or another. Now they get their chance – and some of them take it with all four hooves...

.out.of.character. by shortskirtsandexplosions
Date Helpers Time! by Mysterious Stranger
Yes, Apple Bloom, there *is* a Santa Hooves by Lucky Dreams
Indigo Hooves by xjuggernaughtx
Lust by Taialin

The Great Ponyville Snowball Fight by 8686
FlutterMac by roygbiv
Pegasus by Grand_Moff_Pony
Final Draft by Post Script
The Keepers of Discord by Hoopy McGee

★: 1 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 4 | ★★★★: 3 | ★★★★★: 1

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Richard Adams, 1920-2016

Why am I writing about Mr Adams on a MLP blog? Quite simply because I wouldn't be writing it at all but for Watership Down. That book, among much else it did, brought me to internet fandom in general, then the WD fandom in particular. Thence I came to the furry fandom, and from there I discovered MLP.

I also wrote my first real fanfic story (Blackavar's Gift, which you can find on FFN to this day) for the WD fandom. So all my ponyfic is also inspired ultimately by Mr Adams' masterpiece. It really is hard to overstate just how influential that book has been on my life.

My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Pony Music Library 35: "Sweep Sweep Sweep Sweep (Gene Gadget Mix)"

Apart from checking one or two minor things, I stayed offline yesterday. It's nice to have an (almost) complete break from the internet from time to time. This post was scheduled in advance for Boxing Day morning. It's not remotely seasonal, but that's what the Christmas Eve post was for!

What? "Sweep Sweep Sweep Sweep (Gene Gadget Mix)"

Who? KingSpartaX37 (YT channel name; aka Delta Brony)

Which? Show song remix

When? May 2016

Why? One of the many well-loved moments from "The Saddle Row Review" was a silly little scene ostensibly about tidying up Rarity's new shop. Rainbow's "Only Twilight could make a dance remix about sweeping" line was, I'm sure, intended as a challenge to the fandom: it was certainly seen as such, and within a few days there were dozens of the things. I chose Delta Brony's track because it's stupidly catchy, keeps things simple and – most importantly – contains a large dollop of nostalgia value. Seriously, is there anyone old enough to remember 16-bit consoles who doesn't think this is basically a boss fight tune? :D

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Hearth's Warming!

As the Queen might put it: I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

As the Queen (sadly) probably wouldn't add: here's a pony song suitable for the season.

Newish blind reactor: Mage Royal

I'm pretty happy with the reaction to More than Alive so far. It hasn't had a whole load of views, which doesn't surprise me given what it is, but those who have read it seem to have enjoyed themselves. I'm particularly pleased about iisaw's comment, because I did wonder how accessible it would be to non-racing fans.

Now, here's an early Hearth's Warming present for that fraction of the fandom that enjoys watching blind reactions. Over the last few days, Mage Royal has uploaded his reactions for the entirety of Season Six – and you know what? For a new reactor, he's not half bad! Not as excitable as some of the other guys out there, and occasionally he's a bit quiet, but he's pleasant enough to listen to. He doesn't do facecam, which is fine as I sometimes find that rather distracting anyway. As I type, he has a mere five subscribers, but that number ought to be rather higher. If you're into blind reactions, have a look at his account.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Pony names, canon and fanon

How do you feel about Minuette? Or Golden Harvest? Or Muffins? Do you use those names in your own stories, or do you prefer to stick with long-established fanon names like Colgate, Carrot Top and Derpy? Do you take a hardline stance of "if it's mentioned in canon, I use it?" If so, then it's presumably "DJ Pon-3" for you for all time. Or do you mix and match? What about other options, like Ditzy Doo?

For me, part of the answer depends on how the show's handled the name in question. So I stick with Vinyl more than I ever did, partly because "DJ Pon-3" being bashed over my head in "The Saddle Row Review" irritated me so much. On the other hand, it will now always be Minuette for me, since M. A. Larson nailed her character in "Amending Fences" and that blew away everything else.

And then there's Derpy. We know she will never again be called that officially – but I really and truly can't see myself thinking of her as anything else. "Muffins" is actually rather a nice name, and I prefer it to "Ditzy Doo", but for me "Derpy" is her, while "Muffins" is simply a name applied to her. She will be Derpy to me to the end of my days in the fandom, of that I am sure.

Oh, and in case Chris is reading: Carrot Top > Golden Harvest. It just sounds better. I might, with some reluctance, use GH in a canon-compliant fic – but I'd be thinking of her as Carrot Top. Hmm, now I come to think of it, Minuette is about the only relatively recent example where I've changed to using the canon name exclusively. I guess it shows just how great "Amending Fences" was.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

New story by me: More than Alive

More than Alive by Loganberry
Rainbow Dash
Alternate Universe/Slice of Life; 3k words; Dec 2016; Everyone
Rainbow Dash drives like she flies: fast, committed, aiming for the sky.
This Equestria is much like any other. Rainbow Dash is still fast, still committed, still devoted to being number one. She's still flying upwards and still aiming for the sky. But right now, she's not even aloft. Today, she's going to be and do all those other things without ever leaving the ground.

"Speed creates a sensation of being alive, more than alive" -- Juan Manuel Fangio

Like so many others, this isn't a fic I intended or expected to write; it just happened. I suspect many of you reading this know exactly what that feels like. I scribbled down a few lines about Rainbow as a racing driver, added in the slightly obscure sort of motorsport I know best, and boom. By the time I'd added a few more paragraphs for fun, I was so close to 1,000 words that it would have been silly to stop there.

In spite of its publication date, More than Alive has absolutely nothing to do with either pony Hearth's Warming or human Christmas. It's just an idea made flesh, given an engine and sent off up the track to see what awaits. With luck, one or two of you will enjoy it – though that's probably most likely if you have at least some interest in motorsport. The cover photo is based on one I took at the track on which Shiresley is closely based.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 137: Spoons: Hard Mode

Read it Later story count: 486 (-5)

I told you! I told you I'd do it! And did you believe me? Hmm? Oh. Apparently you did. Well, that's awfully nice of you. Anyway, in lieu of a proper Hearth's Warming special this year, you get spoons. The "Hard Mode" bit refers to the fact that I excluded any story featuring Silver Spoon in any way at all. There were only a few completed fics left to choose from: all were tagged [Comedy] and all but one [Random] too, so this PR has ended up being a bit uneven. Never mind; let us go forth!

The Derpy Report by Owlor
Applejack and the Poking Spoon by JTB
Dual Stories: Why is there a spoon? - and - ETERNAL PURPLE HUNGER by Piquo Pie
The Frosted Pie by Grey Faerie
Sample Spoons by Takahashi282

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

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Bad Horse's survey and people reading my reviews

Bad Horse has made a follow-up post discussing various aspects of his recent Fimfiction survey. It's long, but worth the read, as are many of the comments below the line. He'll be posting again about other subjects relevant to the survey, so it might be a good idea to keep an eye on his Fimf account if you're interested in this topic.

Here are the results themselves. There's a lot to get your teeth into there, but I'll just mention the "What reviewers/recommenders do you use?" question a little way down. I was very surprised to see myself listed as an option, and in all honesty I'm even more surprised to see that as many as 20 respondents cited me as a source of reviews.

Obviously, this is nowhere near the numbers the major reviewers get: for example, Titanium Dragon was mentioned by 228 people and even the long-completed Pony Fiction Vault by 82. Interestingly, EQD still tops the table with 383, though the Royal Canterlot Library (322) isn't that far behind. Mind you, 855 people said they didn't use recommendations at all...

Nevertheless, even 20 is more than I was expecting. So if you're among them, thank you! As any writer in any field knows, feedback is the thing that we value most, and I'm delighted to hear that there are people out there who find Ponyfic Roundup worth reading. I hope to retain your trust and perhaps even to attract more readers in the future. Thanks again!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Pony Music Library 34: "Friendship"

I don't have a great deal of time to write here at the moment, so I'll fill in the gap between now and Wednesday's Ponyfic Roundup with a PML entry. This is a song that will need no introduction for most of you!

What? "Friendship"

Who? Aviators

Which? Original song

When? February 2012

Why? One of the most famous songs in the fandom, and another "unleaveoutable" track, this is one that actually took me a while to love. You can tell it's one of Aviators' earlier efforts – it was his 2,000-subs special! – as it's not quite as slick as some as his newer songs. Even so, the essential ingredients are there, and the story of what can be best described as "a friendship problem" and the singer's determination to mend it is perfect. For all Aviators is no longer much of a brony musician, he clearly retains affection for "Friendship", as you'll realise if you listen to "Meet You at the End" from this year. By any measure, a classic.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Mini-essay: Fluttershy and Rainbow: Romantic, but not Lovers?

"Fluttershy Rainbow Dash Noserub" pic by simplyFeatherbrain (CC by-nc-nd 3.0)
Fluttershy + Rainbow Dash Noserub by simplyFeatherbrain
(CC by-nc-nd 3.0)
As most will know, I've never had a story on Equestria Daily. (Out of interest, I wonder who's the most famous ponyfic writer to have that distinction?) Part of the reason for that is that I've only ever submitted two fics. One was never going to be good enough anyway, while the other could probably have been wrangled into shape. However, the pre-reader for that one wanted a significant change that, after some reflection, I decided I wasn't willing to make.

So, it was with some amusement that I discovered my little Soapbox piece on EQD the other day. After four and a half years, I have something I wrote up there – and it's non-fiction. :P It was certainly an interesting experience, and I'll talk about that a bit in a minute. First, though, here's my piece; follow me past the break to see it!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Bad Horse's FIMFiction survey!

I will be writing about my EQD Pony Soapbox piece (and the reactions to it!) when I have time, but first: as the title of this post cunningly hints, Bad Horse has put together this survey over on Fimf. He says he's "not supposed" to explain why he's doing this until he has enough results, which does bother me a little – I'm not generally keen on answering lots of questions unless I know why – but I had a go at the survey nevertheless. I think it's worth a look, though be prepared for some tricky decisions and potentially frustrating available choices. You can find the survey here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 136: Farewell to The Royal Guard Edition

Read it Later story count: 491 (-4)

Ah, EQD commenters, never change. :P Anyway, since The Royal Guard have recently disbanded, I thought I might do a small edition of stories that have been featured by them over the last few years. I've already reviewed a number of TRG-inducted stories here on PR, but I picked out a hoof-ful more for today's post. Five stories reviewed this week, and here's the list:

Dr. Rainbow Dash, MD, PhD, etc. by FrontSevens
Bitter-Sweetie by Inquisitor M
Gravity by Avox
A Drop of Sunlight: The Becoming of Sun Brandisher by Autumn Wind
The Evolution of Harmony by Thornwing

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

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pony Music Library 33: "Giddy Up"

I've waffled on a bit in my last couple of posts here, so perhaps it's time for something a little more relaxing. Cue the Pony Music Library! This edition features a song that wasn't written as a pony song at all, but has become so closely associated with MLP and its fandom that it demands inclusion here.

What? "Giddy Up"

Who? Network Musical Ensemble

Which? Original song

When? March 2011 (yes, really. See below)

Why? Because of The Hub (RIP), who in November 2012 chose to use an extract from this track for their Season Three preview (see that here). Although it had already been out for a year and a half (proof), the ridiculously catchy tune caught the attention of a fandom then close to its zenith, and quickly became a favourite. Unsurprisingly, there were remixes (here's one by Phaux) and animations produced, too. The song later got taken up by 4chan's /mlp/ board, so be even more cautious than usual about YouTube comments! It was also sung at the closing ceremony of the last ever BUCK, complete with conga. In short, though, "Giddy Up" is a song that no-one in this fandom should be without. Not only will it live in your head for days, but that Sweetie image is just too adorable for words.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Why I don't write original fiction

Note: this article was written a few days ago, so is not intended as a response to anything in horizon's recent Fimfiction blog. The timing is entirely coincidental.

There's an "original short story" Writeoff round this weekend, and if you're interested in that sort of thing then please do check it out. There really isn't anything else like it... but, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I won't be participating. Admittedly I've only ever done one Writeoff even in the ponyfic rounds, partly since weekends are not full of spare time for me, but at least that one entry eventually led to Like a Flower to the World.

Here's the thing, though: I have no ambition to write original fiction on any sort of serious basis. It just doesn't interest me enough right now. And while I like writing for its own sake, I certainly read far more non-fiction than fiction: I'd estimate that only about 20% of my reading falls into the latter category, something that hasn't changed in years. (While I'm on the subject, though: go and read Lindsey Davis's Falco series about a Roman private eye. It's great.)

I'm old enough to have been around since before the web, but I have never written anything like as much fiction as I have in this fandom. I did put out one significant story and a few other little things for the Watership Down fandom years ago, but beyond that? Well, here's my FictionPress account, untouched for eight years now. Some of what's there is pretty cringy stuff, but I'm still quite pleased by elements of a few of those pieces.

I'm hardly alone in picking out Fimfiction as a reason for enjoying writing ponyfic. Although its actual editor is still a pain in the rump to use, most of the site is approximately a zillion times nicer than the equivalents for other fandoms. I'd still write ponyfic if I were sent back to the days of GDocs, but I can't pretend it would feel quite as fun. The Fimf community helps a lot there – I've never had a story, no matter how short or pointless, that hasn't got feedback.

Everyone points out that the Friendship is Magic fandom will end one day – though actually I'm not sure about that. At UK PonyCon the other month, I met people who still write G1 fanfic, more than 20 years after G1 itself ended. I confidently expect an active, though much smaller, G4 fandom to exist in 20 years' time. And, of course, G5 may capture my imagination too; there's a difference between being a strictly FiM fan and being a more general MLP fan.

But you know what? The thought of that smaller, quieter future doesn't make me more motivated to break out of ponyfic into original fiction; it makes me more motivated to write more ponyfic while the going remains good. I haven't gone into all the personal details why this fandom means so much to me, but it is really, truly no exaggeration to say that it played a vital role at a very hard time in my life. FiM is not, and never will be, "just another show" to me.

I think I'll continue to write all sorts of things if and when my desire to write ponyfic dies down – and the "if" part of that is a big one. But I don't think I'm ever likely to be a significant author (even at a strictly amateur level) of original fiction. I simply don't owe it the debt that I do the FiW fandom, and it doesn't capture my imagination in the same way. I don't see this as limiting, or "thinking small" – I see it as writing for enjoyment first, last and always.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Well, that was unexpected

I don't set much store by the Feature Box over on Fimfiction – I very rarely use it to select stories to review, for a start. That being so, I haven't really thought about it with respect to my own fics, and had always assumed that I'd never made it in there. Considering the sort of stories that frequently do make it to the FB, this is not something I'd found remotely alarming.

But thanks to Trick Question reminding me that every story featured since the advent of the Bookshelves facility is listed in Bookshelf #1, and also doing the necessary search, I now know that I was wrong. As this link demonstrates, one of my stories has made it in there at some point: Where They Understand You. I doubt the fact that it's my only multi-chapter story is unrelated.

I'm still not fussed about the FB, you understand. As I always say, comments, reviews and other feedback are much more valuable to me than features. But as I've got nothing else to post about today, you can have this pointless little post instead. :D

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Ponyfic Roundup 135: Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With

Read it Later story count: 495 (-1)

Although I'm still committed to doing plenty of themed editions of PR over the coming weeks and months, I don't want entirely to neglect the "lucky dip" posts. Apart from anything else, there are lots of stories on my RiL list that might not get reviewed at all otherwise. This time around, I've managed to read eight fics – and they're not even all one-shots! They are:

Cards Against Equinity by Door Matt
Herald by shortskirtsandexplosions
Things Rainbow Dash Doesn't Like by PresentPerfect
The 18th Brewmare of Bluey Napoleon by horizon
Book Club by Twelve Song
Second Sun by Carabas
Loosening Up by N.K.
Language Barrier by Aquaman

★: 0 | ★★: 4 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 5 December 2016

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #34: Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich

MLP Friends Forever #34 cover showing Cheese and Pinkie
Tony Fleecs' cover brings us Weird Al in 2-D!
Friends Forever time again, and this issue brings together two characters who, again, it's not exactly a surprise to see paired up. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the plot Thom Zahler has written for this one. A giant, walking, apparently somewhat malevolent house doesn't really feel right for Equestria – the only time we've seen such a thing in the show was in a dream. Agnes Garbowska's art is generally serviceable and rises above that at times, but it's not strong enough to overcome the limitations of the storyline. A little bit of a missed opportunity, I feel. ★★

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Pony Music Library 32: "On Our Way"

Gosh, that Nico Rosberg retirement came a bit out of the blue! I really have no idea who's likely to replace him at Mercedes; for entertainment value, the obvious choice would be Alonso, but I can't see him and Hamilton ever working together again. Anyway, I think it's PML time.

What? "On Our Way"

Who? Forest Rain

Which? Original song

When? August 2013

Why? In spite of what many fans seem to believe, Hasbro doesn't dish out C&Ds very often. How many have there even been? Surely only a handful. One of them, however, was issued in 2013 against the planned feature-length animation Journey of the Spark. After the C&D hit, there was talk of making it an audio drama, but that never appeared. What did emerge from the project was this fine song. Admittedly Forest Rain has an excellent track record anyway, but the voice acting for the Mane Six in this is generally very good indeed, and that's what makes it. I particularly like the comment that Pinkie has gone "off the hay". It's a shame the film had to be cancelled, but this song alone means the project produced something worthwhile.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

"You're Gonna Go Far Kid" PMV unblocked on YouTube (edit: or not. Edit again: maybe)

A few days ago, I mentioned here that TheSlutfox's hugely popular PMV, "You're Gonna Go Far Kid", had been blocked by UMG. Well, that is no longer the case. I was alerted by Griffin in a comment that the video was now available once more – and, as you can see above, it remains so. As far as I can tell from a quick skim through YouTube, the other uploads of the same video that had been blocked are also once more viewable. Even if you don't like the PMV itself, the return of the video is surely welcome from a fandom history perspective.

Edit: and it's gone again. I'm not sure how the process works, but given that pretty much every copy of the video, including some at different speeds/pitches and even a few covers have been blocked... well. I have no idea what's going to happen now, but I'm rather pessimistic. I hope I'm proved wrong. Thanks a bunch, UMG. You are officially the new Sony. And no, that is not a compliment. I suppose the one thing we can take heart from is that it reminds us how lucky we are in this fandom that most things are controlled by Hasbro. A company that, by mediacorp standards, is really pretty damn good to us.

Edit again: as of 10.30am GMT on 3/12/16, it's up again! Who knows what's going on?