Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 159: It was Twenty Years Ago Today

Read it Later story count: 447 (+3)

Okay, I'm 30 years and a few days late on the release date, but never mind. :P This week, by dint of some supreme effort and nice enough weather to read in the garden occasionally, I've managed to get through a whole four stories. Go me. Here they are:

The Old Guard by Visiden Visidane
Gods-In-Law by Pearple Prose
The Princess and the Knight by GlaciesFrost
The Call by RealCrimsonBlade

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

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Pony Music Library 42: "Hay Ms Derpy"

Now that we're heading into a hiatus of unknown length, it seems a good time to revive the PML. Something that's really rather special to me now. Not because of its subject matter, but because of when it appeared. Read on for more on that...

What? "Hay Ms Derpy"

Who? Forest Rain

Which? Parody

When? April 2012

Why? This song appeared at pretty much exactly the time I joined the fandom. It was one of the first fan-made ponysongs I ever heard, and certainly the first by Forest Rain. It's less well known than her "Great to be Different" (PML 4), but right from the gentle piano opening through its upbeat, cheery body it's just about perfect for its subject. Although often seen as an original song, it's clearly heavily inspired by "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's, so I'm classing it here as a parody. I wish Forest Rain had acknowledged that from the start, but the song itself is still lovely. Bear in mind that, when "Hay Ms Derpy" was released, the unhappiness of Derpygate was less than three months in the past. So a cute, fun, upbeat song about the muffin mare was all too welcome.

Friday, 26 May 2017

May's Flashfic 150 is over

The second Flashfic 150 contest brought 18 entries, the same number as April's inaugural edition. Pascoite's pick as prompt, "Laugh so you don't cry", produced a decent variety of interpretations, which is pleasing. My pick as winning author, PostNinja, said they'd never entered anything like this before – which just goes to show! If you're reading this and are interested in entering, the next contest will begin on 1st June. The prompt is not yet decided, as PostNinja's "prize" is the ability to decide that.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Episode review: S7E11: "Not Asking for Trouble"

Gummy, Pinkie and Prince Rutherford in the snow
It strikes me that, in just three days' time, those of us on the Canadian schedule will be halfway through Season Seven. It's going by so fast! Still, the only way I could avoid that would be to move to the US schedule, and for a variety of reasons I'm not going to. So, episode 11. We had yet another new writer in May Chan, about whom I know nothing. After the break, a short review. I just don't have much to say about this ep.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 158: Run With Us

Read it Later story count: 444 (nc)

Another lightweight edition of PR today, I'm afraid. It's actually even lighter than I was expecting; I was planning to read at least one more fic, but then Manchester happened and I just didn't feel like it any more. The story in question should be in next week's batch, though. A mere three fics to look at this time, as follows:

A Light in Dark Places by Lucky Dreams
My Little Introvert: Being Home is Magic(al) by Rossby Waves
The Call by RealCrimsonBlade

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

Monday, 22 May 2017

Episode review: S7E10: "A Royal Problem"

Celestia shows Luna a pancake with a smiley face on
New headcanon: Equestria has pancakes instead of emoji
The synopsis for this one looked pretty intriguing: a Royal Sisters episode at last, but one with added Starlight. Since I'm in the "quite likes Glimmy" camp, this didn't put me off, but I was still a little anxious about whether the writers could make it work. In this case, said writers were Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco themselves, which boded reasonably well. Past the break for my take!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Comic mini-review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #53

All very meta. I do like the design, though
And at last it's time to review the final part of the Shadow Lock arc! My usual supplier for some reason didn't stock #53, and so I had to get it electronically this time. (I'll pick up a paper copy in due course.) As with Asmus's previous issues, there's a sense that he's got the basics but doesn't quite have the ponies' characters down pat. (Fluttershy, for one.) On the plus side, there's what looks like foreshadowing – and given that we've been told this arc ties into the show's plot, I'm intrigued! The interior art credit, I've noticed, is now "Tony Fleecs and Garage Art Studio". Oh, and we get "kick your haunches" this time to add to the flanks, rumps and tails used in the past! All in all, a fairly enjoyable comic once again. This arc hasn't been a classic, but it's been entertaining. ★★★

Saturday, 20 May 2017

More on UK PonyCon 2017!

At the end of last month, I published a very short post about this year's UK PonyCon. Since I have a lot of time for this convention, and all being well will be attending for the fourth year in a row, I'd like to give it a bit more publicity now. So, here are some of the key details, as well as my thoughts on a few of them:

Dates: Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October

This wasn't any surprise, as they're basically the same as last year's dates. They're at the beginning of the school half-term holiday, which makes sense. This is about as late in the year as I'd want the con to be – I wouldn't like to have it after the clocks go back, or even worse over the weekend when times change! But these dates seem fine and give us plenty of time to save up.

Venue: UWE Exhibition and Conference Centre, Bristol

Bristol seems like a very good choice for host city. It's a good way from the places that have hosted UKPC for the last few years, for one thing. In an ideal world I'd have preferred a city centre venue to this out-of-town one, but I suspect that anywhere big enough would have blown a big hole in the con's budget; Bristol is not a particularly cheap place. So I'll take this.

Road links are pretty good (close to M4/M5/M32) and rail links are acceptable – the nearest major station (Bristol Parkway) is 25 minutes' walk away. As the con's in university termtime, there's a 24/7 bus service to the city centre, which makes it viable for non-drivers to stay there and still stick around at the convention until the end of the schedule late on Saturday evening.

Hotels aren't quite as convenient as in recent years. There's no hotel on site or just over the road, which sadly has meant one very popular fursuiter having to pass on UKPC this year. There are a few within walking distance, though, plus the various establishments in the city centre. As mentioned a minute ago, Bristol is not that cheap, so best to make reservations soon!

Food doesn't look like being a problem: the on-site café will be open until late afternoon, at least, and there's a bar too. Also, luxury of luxuries, you can take your own food in! Cold food and soft drinks only, but that's no hardship. BUCK's venues were almost hilariously fussy about even bottles of water. Saturday evening could be tricky, but there's a retail park 12 minutes' walk away.

Theme: Wild West

This was actually announced well before everything else, and it's proving to be a popular choice. Not only with Applejack fans. ;) Given that the con is being held at the University of the West of England, it seems a very appropriate choice, too! Doubtless there will be the usual fine cosplays, lots of singing ("Raise This Barn" looks a certainty) and if we're really lucky, some cider at the bar too!

Tickets and prices

The stock of 35 VIP tickets sold out in six hours(!) but for the sake of completeness: these cost £89 and bought you early entry on both days, priority seating, a goodie bag including a VIP-exclusive print and the con-exclusive plushie. I strongly suspect that it's guaranteed access to that plushie that's driven many people to buy this level of ticket!

A Standard Adult Weekend pass is £30/£35 this year; the £5 Early Bird discount applies until 3rd June. This is a small increase on last year's price (I paid £27 for my EB ticket in 2016) but it's still perfectly reasonable. UK PonyCon has an excellent reputation for offering value for money, and it's great to see them continuing to keep their prices moderate.

An innovation this year is the Supporter tier, which costs an extra tenner – so the weekend pass is £40/£45. This includes a £5 donation to con charity the RDA, a special button badge and your name in the con book. Any money left over goes to support the convention. I feel this is a nice idea, and indeed this is the type of ticket I've purchased for myself.

There are various other ticket options, for children (4-12), adults and families to get single-day or weekend access to the convention. They all seem good value, except perhaps the Family One-Day Supporter – £82 is a £40 jump on the equivalent Standard ticket; I think that's rather steep, especially as Family tickets have no EB discount.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. You'll have noticed I've said a lot more positive than negative things about UK PonyCon, and I would thoroughly encourage anyone reading who likes the idea of a family-friendly all-gens convention to attend. You can buy tickets for yourself by going to the link below:

UK PonyCon 2017's official ticket page

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Episode review: S7E09: "Honest Apple"

Rarity and Applejack meet Strawberry Sunrise
No mention of peaches...
Another new writer this time, in the person of Kevin Lappin. The synopsis for this episode seemed a little bit on the uninspired side. It felt like something that belonged in Seasons One or Two. That said, when an old-fashioned episode is done really well, I can enjoy it as much as anything else. "Buckball Season" is the best example from S6. As for "Honest Apple"... see after the break.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 157: Throw Yourself at the Ground and Miss

Read it Later story count: 444 (+1)

As I expected, I just haven't had much time for reading ponyfic in the last week. Also, one story I did read and intended to review here (Fangs by Fluttashift) seems to have been deleted. Here's what I have got for you this time round:

Two Peas in a Pod by Blueshift
I Can Wait by Eakin
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover by LightStriker
Pioneer by OleGrayMane

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

Monday, 15 May 2017

Episode review: S7E08: "Hard to Say Anything"

One of my favourite books of all time is Heroes & History by Rosemary Sutcliff, a book for young people about ten British heroes from Caratacus to Montrose. It was published in 1965, so some of its research is now out of date, but I don't read it for that. I read it for stuff like this, from the chapter on Alfred:
On the crest of the High Downs, a lone ancient thorn tree reached gaunt arms to the sky, and all about it the battle raged, over the hound-tawny turf made treacherous by the winter wet, still more treacherous as time went by, with the slipperiness of blood.
Isn't that great? Sutcliff clearly liked it, since she reused "hound-tawny turf" in her novel Sun Horse, Moon Horse. And even when I haven't read Heroes & History for ages, I remain almost word-perfect on that passage. Anyway, back to ponies we go.

Close up of Big Mac making a kissy face
I don't know about you, but I'd file this under Nightmare Fuel
We get another new writer for this episode in the shape of Becky Wangberg. Her IMDb profile tells me that she's previously written for a few other shows, most notably The Fairly Odd Parents. I have to admit that the synopsis for this episode wasn't one that filled me with excitement, but would I feel the same way after viewing? A rather short review follows after the break!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Comic mini-review: Legends of Magic #1

Sub cover of MLP Legends of Magic #1, showing the Mane Six looking at cave paintings resembling G3 ponies
Zachary Sterling's cover was, of course, unmissable!
Good grief, I'm getting behind with these comic reviews. I haven't forgotten about main-series #53, but for now it's the first issue in the Legends of Magic series. I'm pleased to say that the Whitley/Hickey/Breckel team have got it off to a strong start. Apart from a rather irritating portrayal of young Celestia – thankfully modified later – this look into the past is great. Starswirl (who seems to have gone back to having a one-word name) is quite a lot of fun and the artwork is varied and colourful, too. For that, and the look we get into the Royal Sisters' relationship pre-Nightmare Moon, this is well worth picking up. ★★★★

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Episode review: S7E07: "Parental Glideance"

Scootaloo winking, wearing a camera around her neck
Scootaloo is Scootaloo-er than ever before in this episode
Another day, another episode. I think I can keep up with the Canadian schedule reasonably well, so I'm going to continue with my plan to post two reviews a week. This time around, we had a newcomer to the writing staff: Josh Hamilton, whose previous credits include episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. After my disappointment with "Forever Filly", would the 150th episode of the show deliver something more?

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 156: Scribblefest Edition

What with the double episode releases and various other things, I'm likely to be very busy for a while, so expect Ponyfic Roundup to be light on stories some weeks. I'll try my best not to miss any weeks entirely, but don't be surprised if sometimes I don't get half a dozen fics reviewed.

Read it Later story count: 443 (+1)

For the second week in succession, it's a contest edition of PR! There were actually six award-winning stories in the Everfree Northwest Scribblefest 2017 contest, one for each of the Mane Six, but only four are reviewed here. The Twilight Sparkle Award (for attention to detail) went to Ebon Quill's Slouching Towards Canterlot, which I reviewed in PR 150. The Rarity Award (for elegance in prose) went to The Book of Ended Lives, by some dreadful hack whose name I now can't remember. The other four winners were:

The Next Best Thing by Posh (Pinkie Pie Award, for comedy)
The Cycle of Flame by Novel-Idea (Rainbow Dash Award, for coolness)
Freedom Flourishes by The Hat Man (Fluttershy Award, for being heartwarming)
Nightmer Niht by Apple Bottoms (Applejack Award, for trueness to the show's spirit)

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 8 May 2017

Episode Review: S7E06: "Forever Filly"

The May Flashfic 150 contest is now on! This month's prompt, chosen by April winner Pascoite, is "Laugh so you don't cry". Everyone with a Fimfiction account, regardless of experience, is welcome to join. :)

Sweetie Belle and Rarity watch a puppet show
"Actually, Rarity, I'm just annoyed you're hogging the popcorn"
I'm writing this review after the following episode has already gone out on Treehouse. This is starting to get confusing, and we're only a week into the new Canadian regime! Anyway, this ep was written by the Fox brothers, which wasn't really news to gladden my heart. We knew it would be a Rarity/Sweetie episode, like "Sisterhooves Social" back in S2, but would it be any good? Find out my thoughts after the break.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Not the Text Review Roundup

Sorry, folks, but there just doesn't seem any point. Out of all the eligible reviewers who wrote about episode four, precisely two have reviews up of "Fluttershy Leans In" – and one of those is me! The other is Thrond (who didn't like it), but all the others seem to be using the Discovery Family schedule for their reviews. I suppose I could do that with TRR, but it would mean the posts becoming way out of step with my own viewing. Right now, I'm not sure how motivated I really am to do something like that.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Rock Solid Friendship"

Voted in my county council elections yesterday. It did feel a bit odd doing so a month before a general election – the last time we had such a schedule was in 1983, long before I was old enough to vote.

"Rock Solid Friendship" is the last episode which everyone saw at roughly the same time. Treehouse seems to be continuing on its double-release path for the rest of time as long as it can. I don't think I can really justify waiting weeks, maybe months for the US schedule, so future TRRs may have to feature rather fewer reviewers even than this week's slightly meagre selection. :(

ArthurCrane – extremely positive ("It had Maud in it. 12/10")

Batbrony Reviews – slightly positive ("the first episode of Season 7 that was ... just good")

Derpy News – very positive (graded A-; Maud/Starlight great, Pinkie less so)

Louder Yay – positive (three stars; Pinkie stopped it being a four)

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "truly rocking")

Super Recaps – generally positive ("despite ... Pinkie Pie's portrayal, this is a really solid episode")

TheDragonWarlock – very positive (graded A-; another one who found Pinkie annoying)

Thrond Media Pony Corner – mixed (rated 60%; "moments of irritation kill the momentum")

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Episode review: S7E05: "Fluttershy Leans In"

Fluttershy getting angry
"An episode starring me and you write a short review? Why, I oughta..."
I've realised that I can't really keep up with doing two full episode reviews per week, so I'm going to have to cut them down a bit. It's a shame, but the only alternative would be to delay them and I don't want to do that. This one, being a Fluttersode, is still reasonably long, but others won't be. They still won't be as short as the mini-reviews I write about other stuff, but until the broadcast schedule slows down a bit I just won't have time to do a rambly piece each time. Sorry.

Anyway, G. M. Berrow made a return to writing duties for episode 5. The only previous ep she'd written was "The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows", which I thought was fairly enjoyable without being world-shaking in any way. This episode starred Fluttershy, though, so I was both nervous and excited about it. If only somepony had come up with a word for that... past the break for (a bit) more!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 155: Imposing Sovereigns Edition

If EqD's reports are to be believed, Treehouse's Ponybomb will continue into June. I can't say I'm thrilled by this turn of events, but given that official UK releases will be even later than the US ones I'm probably not in the strongest position to moan. Oh well, fanfic time.

Read it Later story count: 442 (-5)

It just so happens that FanOfMostEverything gave nods to six stories in the results post for his Imposing Sovereigns competition, which is the ideal number for a Ponyfic Roundup! With that in mind, I'm going to take a look at the medallists and the three stories which received honourable mentions. They are as follows:

Evil is Easy, Governing is Harder by Aragon (winner)
Stay Determined by Czar_Yoshi (second)
Little Truths by EbonQuill (third)
Ember, Hoardsmelter by Bugsydore (hon mention)
An Apple a Day Keeps Autocracy Away by MrNumbers (hon mention)
The Honing of Perfection by Dafaddah (hon mention)

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

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Comic mini-review: Friends Forever #38

MLP Friends Forever #38 sub cover showing Luna, Celestia and their pets
Can we please get Tiberius in the show?
The grand finale of the Friends Forever series was delayed for quite a while, and my review is even later! But here it is at last, with the Royal Sisters taking centre stage. Unusually, Andy Price wrote this comic as well as drawing it; he obviously likes writing as this is one of the wordiest comics in the series. Although the inclusion of Kibitz as a major supporting character explains this to an extent, I still think it goes a little far. The Princesses' pets, always fun, are particularly good value this time, while Rarity and Sweetie hark back to their "Sisterhooves Social" days as a contrast to Tia and Luna's bickering. There's also a nice Pinkie/fourth wall gag at the very end. It's a solid, entertaining way to round off Friends Forever, but that wordiness does drag it down just slightly. As such, a high three-star rating feels right. ★★★

Monday, 1 May 2017

Episode review: S7E04: "Rock Solid Friendship"

Now that we know Treehouse will be continuing its two-ep weekends all the way through May, it and Discovery Family will be five episodes out of sync by the end of the month. I therefore can't please both those who want quick reviews and those who want to stick with the US schedule. Neither option is perfect, but I think it likely that I'll do two shortish reviews each week rather than waiting ages. I will try to make sure nothing above the break is particularly spoilery, though. Celestia knows what I'll do about Text Review Roundup, but I'll think of something.

The Pie family at Maud's graduation
Limestone looks remarkably cheerful here...
Nick Confalone's episodes a mixed record with me. He wrote the excellent "The Saddle Row Review", but he was also responsible for the less-than-excellent "Party Pooped". He's never come up with an episode I've truly hated, though. Mind you, Maud episodes also have a mixed record with me, so how did this one measure up? Past the break, you'll find out!