Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 219: Ludlow Sausage

Title explanation: much-missed discontinued flavour of Tyrrells Crisps

I discovered quite by chance today that Vimbert the Unimpressive has changed his username to "An Unimpressive". I've no idea why and it isn't any of my business anyway, but it did throw me briefly when I noticed the name while skimming the BMRL and wondered why someone I'd never heard of had been reviewed so often! Note that I don't usually go back and edit my reviews to use new usernames, as it's just too fiddly. I will do so if it's specifically requested by the author, however.

Read it Later story count: 306 (-9)

On a vaguely related note, you may occasionally notice that although I usually stick with canon names in my headers (so it's Minuette, not Colgate) I don't always follow either that or Fimfiction style. There's an example today: I'm sticking with "Vinyl Scratch" even though Fimfiction goes with Hasbro and uses "DJ P0N-3". Why? Because I think the official version looks dreadful. What more do you need?

Destination Unknown by Pale Horse
Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo by A Hoof-ful of Dust
Twilight Sparkle Was Shot by Coyote de la Mancha

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

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

New(ish) to writing ponyfic and would like a review? Read on!

Note: this post is copied from the matching one on Fimfiction.

I was wondering recently what do to for a themed edition of Ponyfic Roundup, my weekly review blog. Having seen Pascoite's recent blog post about underappreciated newcomers, that gave me an idea. So, I'd like to do a blog featuring new(ish) writers, or at least those who first published fairly recently. Read on for what it's all about!

Which authors are eligible?
You simply need to fit at least one of these criteria:
  • Joined Fimfiction on or after 1 January 2017
  • Published your first fic on or after 1 January 2017
Which fics are eligible?
Your story must fit all of these criteria:
  • Maximum 20,000 words using the Fimfiction counter
  • Marked Complete
  • Not a crossover or sequel
  • No more than 999 views at time of submission
  • Published at least one week before time of submission
What about Mature fics?
Although I would prefer Everyone or Teen stories, M-rated fics are eligible, but I don't read many so probably won't pick more than one or two. Also:
  • No foalcon -- this is a hard red line
  • No extreme gore or squick -- this can be subjective, so feel free to ask if you're unsure!
  • I'm not interested in pure clop -- there needs to be some sort of story there too
What will the reviews be like?
One-para potted reviews with a star rating (one to five) at the end. See the non-Spotlight reviews under this tag on my blog to get the idea. Please bear in mind that I give out more ones than fives! I will always explain why I like or dislike a fic, and you are very welcome to engage with me about it in comments or by PM. Note that I will not do "Accepted" or "Rejected" stuff. I really don't like that, and it's not what these reviews are about. The reviews will probably appear towards the end of 2018 or early in 2019.

Sounds fun! How do I submit?
Either leave a comment or PM me [on Fimfiction] with the story you'd like reviewed! If you're submitting an M-rated fic, Fimfiction rules mean you can't link to it directly there, but you can embed.

Small print
Only one story per author, please. If I get a large number of fics submitted, I may not be able to review them all. I will choose all but a couple of the stories myself, but the last two will be chosen randomly, to give people who write genres/characters I don't normally go for a chance. Pegasi can go down as well as up. Your village is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on your Elements. Subject to status.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Episode review: S8E21: "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place"

"And polish up the handle of the big front door!"
There are just a few episodes left now until we reach the end of Season 8, at least for those sticking to the weekly schedule. It's certainly been an interesting ride, and I'll try to make the time to do an end-of-season roundup (possibly in audio as well) sometime this autumn. This episode was written by Kaita Mpambara, who acquitted himself quite well on his debut with "Horse Play". How would this tale of a Pillar fare?

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Washouts"

I'd better squeeze in this TRR before episode 21 goes out on DF. No Dark Qiviut this week, but that's balanced bv the return of ShutterflyEQD. I've also found a new (to me) reviewer: Lightening McQueen. Be careful if you read their review, as their thoughts on all S8 episodes, right up to the finale, are on the same page. This episode's reception was generally positive, though this week I'm one of the more impressed by the ep!

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded C+; "a competent episode")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "Scootaloo’s following of a pony other than Dash also calls attention to Dash’s own insecurities [...] a good episode with a good lesson") Subsequently downgraded to B due to the "Parental Glideance" continuity fumble.

The Dragon Warlock – positive (graded B+; "another great entry to this season, and another superb Rainbow and Scootaloo episode [though it] does suffer some characterization issues")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "The comedy was fantastic, the moral just as good, and I appreciate the fact that Scootaloo admitted that she couldn’t fly.")

Lightening McQueen – broadly positive ("cool and intense [...] very puzzling [given "Parental Glideance"] that Scootaloo didn't know that Rainbow Dash and Lightning Dust know each other [...] much good humour [...] Rolling Thunder and Short Fuse were also nice")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "a generally very satisfying look at a slightly older Scootaloo [but] Twi should have stepped in [at the end]")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("This episode was just as cool as I thought it would be! [...] a great way for LD [to] return [but] one retcon to Parental Glideance")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 8/10; "even though the moral is total bull-crap, it didn't wash away everything else of what was great about 'The Washouts' from the beautiful and epic animation to the highly anticipated return of [Lightning Dust]")

The Railfan Brony – mixed (rated Okay (just barely); "on one hand, there's a solid theme about bad influences [...] but on the other, Rainbow Dash's character is inconsistent at points and the message about eavesdropping was really bad")

Rainbine – generally positive (rated 4/5; "highlighted the best qualities of Rainbow Dash [and I was] entertained throughout [but] Lightning Dust is awful [and Spitfire's cameo] felt kind of forced")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("great to finally see Lightning Dust once again [...] Scootaloo was still great [...] left us entertained the whole way through")

Friday, 14 September 2018

Episode review: S8E20: "The Washouts"

Short Fuse, a short, red stallion wearing a flight suit, getting angry at the state of his sandwich
"What do you mean, bacon?"
Apologies for the delay in getting to this episode review. I hope to get the Text Review Roundup posted tomorrow, then I should be more or less back on the normal schedule next week. Anyway, "The Washouts" was an episode I'd been looking forward to, as it promised to be one about the relationship between unofficially-adoptive-sisters Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo. Nick Confalone had one okay-I-sippose episode this season ("The Maud Couple") and one very entertaining one ("The Break Up Breakdown") – which category would "The Washouts" fall into?

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 218: Spotlight on Carousel

I don't read very many [Horror]-tagged fics at all, and probably most of those I have read have been by Horse Voice. This time, I'm reading a story with that tag that isn't by him! Carousel was recommended to me by more than one person, so it seemed an interesting choice for one of my occasional longer reads. And it was...

Read it Later story count: 315 (+3)

Carousel by Thornquill
Dark/Drama/Horror; 70k words; Mar–May 2016; Teen
There is a part of Ponyville’s past its citizens forgot, a part that was left to rot... until Rarity encounters a dark power in Old Town Hall.
Set several years before the show begins, this fic follows a newly-independent Rarity as she sets up what will eventually become the Carousel Boutique. Unfortunately for her, the building – or something or someone in it – doesn't seem to want her to succeed. This leads to some very tense and sometimes truly scary scenes, as well as one with a more domestic angle that's utterly horrific. The best thing this fic does is to be frightening without the need to resort to blood and guts. As the long description makes plain, this is a slow-burning horror, so you should expect plenty of slice-of-life stuff, including Rarity's relations with several of the future Mane Six. Some interesting ideas about magic, too. The ending is a bit of an anticlimax, and there are one or two slightly forced links with canon. Still, the heart of the fic is so good that it outweighs these concerns. A strong four. ★★★★

A bit more on Carousel, including major spoilers, follows the page break.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Blog schedule for this week

Although I have seen episode 20, I haven't had enough time to watch it again, something I always like to do before writing a review. As such, that will be delayed slightly until later this week, probably Thursday or Friday. Before that, there'll be Ponyfic Roundup as usual on Wednesday (a Spotlight edition this time) and anything else quick that comes to mind.

I have now seen the S8 finale, and I'll have quite a bit to say about that when the time comes. However, in deference to those who are watching on the Discovery Family schedule, I won't be talking about it until mid-October, at least not unless I've placed a clearly-marked spoiler warning and put the spoilery stuff after a page break. Suffice to say now that I'm in the camp that liked it.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

UK PonyCon events schedule is out!

This actually happened late on Friday night – here's the schedule. By UK PonyCon standards, this is a very busy timetable, and certainly well up on last year's already good selection. I suppose that goes with the con being the largest ever, and with that allowing more capacity to add stuff. The full listings for each event always get added later on, so the lack of detail here isn't just an oversight. As with various other things, it's simply the UKPC Way.

The sharp-eyed will have noticed EileMonty's name on the schedule. She's down as giving a panel on Sunday morning, but given the existence of a four-hour Crystal Ball on Saturday night (crystal is the con's 2018 theme) you can't help but wonder... if she does perform, I wonder what she'll do? I'm sure her set will have changed a bit from what it was five years ago when she appeared at BUCK 2013, but she's so good that I'd imagine she'd draw a crowd whatever she chose.

Whether it will include me is another matter! The snag is that part of the concert clashes with the Pub Quiz, and that quiz is a fantastically enjoyable highlight of the convention for me. If EileMonty were to be on stage during that hour, I would probably have the most difficult scheduling decision I've ever faced at a Pony convention. I'm really hoping we'll get an order of performance before the actual con, so that I can make up my mind as to what I'll do.

Away from that, and from the stalwarts like the Charity Auction and Cosplay Contest, UKPC this year has some fascinating-looking events and panels. A couple that really catch my eye are "MLP on YouTube" on Saturday and "MLP The Movie: Its Place in Literary History" on Sunday. The screening of the 1986 movie is appealing, too. Smoooooze! I might not get to Rainbow Dash Attack this year, but I will sing. Whether karaoke or impromptu, it will happen!

The con is now only five weeks away, and it's starting to feel close in a way it hasn't done up to this point. Even though I have my ticket and hotel safely booked, and train tickets can wait a fair while longer, I'm just beginning to do some real planning as regards what to take, how to get to and from the venue each day, where to eat, etc. Cons being what they are, though, I'm sure some of my plans will change wildly during the weekend itself!

Friday, 7 September 2018

Where should a new ponyfic reader start?

There are still new people coming into the My Little Pony fandom, if in smaller numbers than there once were. Some of these are interested in fanfiction, or at least become so. The tricky bit these days is likely to be deciding what to read first. There are a small number of stories that everyone will have mentioned to them – Fallout: Equestria, Past Sins, My Little Dashie, Cupcakes – but they're not necessarily the best places to start, for reasons of length, quality or whatever.

This is the thing that occurred to me a day or two ago: what would you recommend as a first reading list for someone new to the ponyfic side of the fandom? Let's assume that they are familiar with the show itself, but not with anything else. Let's further assume that they're reasonably genre- and character-agnostic, but that they don't want crossovers and don't want clop. What do you think would make a good sampler for such a reader?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Text Review Roundup: "On the Road to Friendship"

It's nice to see that there are still people coming into this fandom. Not as many as there once were, to be sure, but I still see "Hi, I'm a new brony" around the place from time to time. Occasionally I even find one of them reading something I wrote, which is particularly satisfying. This experience made me think about something, but you'll have to wait a day or two longer to find out what it is!

As far as TRR goes, "On the Road to Friendship" was very well received. It came oh-so-close to having a 100% positive reception from our text-based reviewers, but Rainbine departed from the consensus and was not impressed. On the whole, however, Josh Haber seems to have come up with a winner here.

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A-; "a sharp episode sandwiched between a cool road trip theme and a high-octane relationship drama – with a hefty slice of a decent song comprising thecreamy filling")

Dark Qiviut – extremely positive ("magnificent chemistry [...] incredibly tight dialogue [...] the season's best song [...] one of the best [episodes] of not just the season, but the show")

Derpy News – very positive (graded A-; "a brilliant ode to the Road Trip movies of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope")

The Dragon Warlock – positive (graded B+; "song is very catchy [...] character development for Trixie [...] some plot holes, some stuff left unexplained, and Starlight's behavior in the end [but] arguably the best episode involving the Starlight and Trixie team up")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "The song was fantastic, the jokes spot on, and the message was really nice too.")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "in the "superior filler" category, with nothing terribly deep or (probably) important for the upcoming finale, but a whole heap of entertainment")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("fun episode! Loved the song! And I learned a friendship lesson about travelling with friends!")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "these two were made to be best friends [...] best [song] of Season 8 [...] a smooth ride with plenty of entertaining tricks up its sleeves and no bumps")

The Railfan Brony – positive (rated Good; "the phrase "Great and Powerful" got old really quick [but nevertheless] this is Trixie's best episode")

Rainbine – negative (rated 2/5; "The song in the episode was catchy [but] I need to know who thought it was a good idea to make Starlight so unlikable in this episode by trading off Trixie's home [...] a huge disappointment")

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 217: It Might as Well Rain Until September

Title explanation: 1962 Carole King song

Read it Later story count: 312 (-11)

I've actually managed to squeeze in some fic-reading that goes beyond three stories this week. Don't get too used to this, as it's not likely to happen every time, much as I'd like it to. I mean, I'll try, but every time I think I'm back on an even keel something comes along to capsize me once again. Still, for this PR the stories under the (rather blurry) microscope are:

No Tame Forest by PhantomFox
Bon Bon Bon Bon Bon Bon by shortskirtsandexplosions
The Brief Reign of Princess Twily by Forthwith
Zipporwhill's Secret by Alaborn
Fluttershy's Tail by Alexstrazsa

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Episode review: S8E19: "On the Road to Friendship"

Starlight, wearing a red robe, confronts a crying Trixie in front of their wagon
"No, Trixie, I'm sorry. That jackalope costume just doesn't work."
Here we are again, back with the episode reviews after the "Yakity-Sax" break. To remind you: I reviewed that ep back when DF first showed it. This time we're back with E19, which brought the popular (with most) modern team of Starlight and Trixie back together. The episode was written by show stalwart Josh Haber, whose previous effort this season was the pretty darn good "Molt Down". Could he bring us another 22 minutes of fun?

Monday, 3 September 2018

Flashfic 150's September (not-actually-a-)contest is now live

All things being well, I'll have my review of S8E19 up tomorrow. I've actually now seen up to episode 23 inclusive, but I'm going to stick to my weekly review schedule to stop things getting too hectic for me to cope with.

I keep forgetting to plug these things, so here we go: Flashfic 150 is a monthly contest, run by yours truly, in which you get a prompt and have three weeks (ish) to write a brief story inspired by it. The catch is that you have a maximum of 150 words to do so. There are a few other rules, notably no M-rated fics and no crossovers, but otherwise you get fairly wide discretion as to how you go about things. I judge this, which adds another dimension of unspeakable terror.

There's no actual prize for Flashfic 150, beyond the winner getting to choose the next prompt, largely because I don't want there to be a prize. It's not supposed to be that kind of contest, but rather a bit of fun. You probably will get some feedback, though how much tends to vary quite a bit from month to month. Everyone with a Fimfiction account can enter – you just need to join the Flashfic group and you're good to go.

The prompt for September is "Birthday Magic", and you can find the contest thread right here. If you want to give it a go, you'd be very welcome!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

UK PonyCon sells out again

For the fourth year in succession, UK PonyCon sold out yesterday. Despite its largest ever attendance (1,000) the convention has once again reached its limit in August (just) – not bad for a con that doesn't actually take place until the middle of October! Thanks to my various personal situations, I'm still not sure of being able to make it, but I have my ticket and hotel sorted out so if things go as I hope then I will be there for the whole weekend.

I was reminded last night that this way of doing things, with attendance limits and no walk-up sales, is strange and unfamiliar to American fans. I assure you that it's completely standard practice over here – we just don't have the locations or finances to allow the hiring of venues much larger than this one. Yes, BUCK managed it, but BUCK had a huge budget by comparison – well into six figures (pounds), which is absolutely not the norm for British MLP conventions.

What's particularly pleasing for me is that every year since I first attended UKPC (2014) the con has grown larger. It's now nearly three times the size it was at that point, and there seems little sign as yet of the British fandom rolling over and dying. True, UK PonyCon has the slight cushion of having been a multi-generation event from the very start,* but G4 fans are by far the largest segment. We're most definitely not finished yet!

* Late 2004. It's the oldest MLP con in Europe, and second globally only to the My Little Pony Fair.

Friday, 31 August 2018

New story by me: Custard Repeatedly Teleports into Starlight

Custard Repeatedly Teleports into Starlight by Loganberry
Starlight Glimmer, Twilight, Spike and OC
Comedy/Random/Slice of Life; 1k words; Aug 2018; Teen
Starlight's magic is growing stronger. So is her attraction to custard.
Starlight Glimmer's teleportation skills have improved to the extent that she can now travel around Equestria without landing in somepony's dessert. Unfortunately, her determination never to face such a fate again, combined with her predilection for using magic as the solution to pretty much any problem, means she's now lying in acute discomfort in Twilight's castle.

This is a Custardverse story, a sequel to the equally ridiculous Starlight Repeatedly Teleports into Custard from 2016. It only barely passes a thousand words, and it's no great work of literature. However, it is the first time I've been able to slap a "Complete" tag on anything at all since The Book of Ended Lives in February 2017, and for that reason alone I'm immensely relieved to have got it written. TBoEL is the better story by a very substantial margin, but that isn't the point here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 216: Cleeton St Mary

Title explanation: Shropshire village

No episode review this week, since Discovery Family is just re-running "Yakity-Sax", which I've already seen. You can see my thoughts about that episode over here. I'll be reviewing "On the Road to Friendship" next week.

Read it Later story count: 323 (+2)

Another very busy week for me has meant a mere three fics reviewed once again. As has been the case for a long time now, I do want to get back to the point at which five stories is the minimum you can expect. That's not likely to happen until well into the autumn, though. Today's trio are:

Endless Gifts by Jenova2
Falling Leaves of Oak by Georg
Slipping Through My Hooves by Awesomo3000

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

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Fanfic Reading: We Who with Songs Beguile

 ( Text link )

I felt it was about time I did another fanfic reading – so here one is! This is a story I've always been rather pleased with, especially given how it fits with some pretty tiny pieces of canon, and I have happy memories of it from the EqD Outside Insight contest all those years ago. (Not only did it make the final, but Inquisitor M gave it quite a nice review.) However, I did want to give a better idea of how Mazarine sounded in my head, and what better way than actually reading the fic aloud? Note that the story is set in the second half of Season 3, so Twilight is not an alicorn at this point.

OC, Fluttershy and Rarity
Comedy/Slice of Life; 3k words; Aug 2014; Teen
Fluttershy's songbird choir is renowned throughout Equestria, in demand by ponies everywhere. Looked at from the other side of the perch, though, it's not always the life it's cracked up to be. If you want to hear the real story, straight from the bird's beak, Mazarine is your jay. Though you may have to set aside most of an afternoon...

Monday, 27 August 2018

The BronyCon Bookstore and selling fanfic

An interesting initiative here: Aquaman is proposing a bookshop at the final BronyCon next year. This means an actual, physical place selling actual, physical books. I have no idea whether it will work out, but the comments contain an impressive number of high-powered ponyfic people, so it seems to have a fair chance. If you want to know all the ins and outs and whys and wherefores, read the Aquaman blog I linked to. It's long, but it's readable enough for that not to be a big problem.

This really underlines how much of a gulf there is between drawing and writing in terms of artists/authors selling their stuff. There are probably thousands of visual artists who at least make the occasional few quid through PayPal. The number of writers who do the same is tiny, restricted to a few good enough to charge for commissions or editing work and an overlapping few good enough for it to be worth their making Lulu (or whatever) editions.

Now, if this BronyCon Bookstore idea ends up bringing a gigantic C&D down on Fimfiction, it will go down as one of the fandom's legendary self-inflicted disasters. Some people might now be jaded or cynical enough not to care, but many, many more still do. But it won't. As pointed out in the blog, if that was going to happen it would have done so long since, and I'd add especially given some of the things that Fimfiction allows in stories hosted there. So I wish it all the best.

For what it's worth, I have no problem at all with ponyfic authors selling books of their work. Given that I have a folder full of fan art purchased at conventions, plus several non-licensed plushies, I'd be a hypocrite if I said anything else. It's never been relevant to me: even if I were good enough, I wouldn't do it myself, as I don't want to make any money from my ponyfic – I decided way back in 2012 that I would opt out of any AdSense-type programmes Fimfiction might introduce in the future. But if others do, then in a world of paid-for fan art and plushies I don't see why not.

On a slightly wider topic, here's a paraphrased comment I saw very recently, making a suggestion as to an additional reason why fanfic doesn't generally sell: "Fan art prints are generally cheaper than non-fandom art prints. Fan books are generally more expensive than non-fandom books." There are exceptions to all of those, but I thought it was quite perceptive: here in the UK, you wouldn't expect a good-quality paperback novel to cost more than £10. A ponyfic self-print will, so it's more of a luxury investment, whereas a fan art print at a fiver is not.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The End in Friend"

Honestly, folks, this isn't only a review blog – but the way things have been going recently, it's only the reviews I've had time to write! I do actually want to write some posts that aren't reviews in due course. I just don't know when I'll get the time to do so. (The same applies for some mini-reviews of actual, physical products I have lying around.)

Dark Qiviut did a blog post for this one, so they're back on the list this week. Yay! Also, why is the Derpy News website so slow on initial loading? It's fine once you're flicking between pages within the site, but the initial getting there is treacly.

"The End in Friend" got a very mixed reaction, though there were few reviewers who either adored or detested it. I find myself at the lower end of the scale again, which surprised me a bit.

Cuddlepug – positive (graded B; "More than many episodes in years, “The End in Friend” feels like a Season 1 episode – a quality that I appreciate")

Dark Qiviut – very positive ("This quest humbled [Dash and Rarity] without humiliating them [...] The moral taught (and how) is incredibly important.")

Derpy News – positive (graded B+; "could well have been a recycle of a Season One episode [...] but it’s saved by the fact that it is wrapped around teaching a lesson to the Young Six")

The Dragon Warlock – rather negative (graded C+; "At best, the episode is mediocre and watchable. At worst, it's just an insufferable bore.")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 8/10; "The one where "Non-Compete Clause" was done right [...] Really good lesson [though didn't like] how childish Rarity and Rainbow were acting at the start")

Louder Yay – rather negative (rated 2/5; "a somewhat lacklustre episode that rather wasted its rare pairing and never felt truly convincing")

Mega Sean 45 – positive ("kinda similar to Non-Compete Clause, but it was much better executed!")

MLEEP Reviews – negative (rated 4/10; "continuity [and] lore [but the plot was] clich├ęd and recycled [...] nothing new or original")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Bad; "painfully mediocre all the way through")

Rainbine – slightly negative (rated 3/5; "Besides the counseling scene and the frog scene, the episode was a gigantic bore [...] It's not bad, but it's nothing special. It's something that can be forgotten very easily")

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Episode review: S8E17: "The End in Friend"

Rarity and Rainbow walk through a cavern filled with multicoloured gems
Gems have got a lot easier to find since S1!
My real-life concerns (to put it as vaguely as possible) continue and won't end for a while, so this is going to be a very short episode review. However, I prefer to do things this way than to wait until I'm back on an even keel – partly because I currently don't know when that will be. Anyway, "The End in Friend" was a G. M. (Gillian) Berrow episode, her first since the amusing "Grannies Gone Wild" 12 episodes ago. Past the break we go!

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 215: Blue Minty Gel

Title explanation: famous 1980s Colgate advert

Read it Later story count: 321 (+2)

I've had very little time to spend reading recently, but I did manage to squeeze in a bit of ponyfic on my phone. I couldn't make it up to five stories this time, but at least I got to read both the fics trailed last week, plus one other. Today we have:

Brotherly Bond by Crash Jet
Apple Knots by BlazzingInferno
Leave All The Lights On by FamousLastWords

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

Monday, 20 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Friendship University"

The personal reasons I alluded to last time mean that I wasn't able to post here for a few days, and I'm now falling behind with the show again. As I type, I haven't even seen "The End in Friend", and I'm really not going to start trying to keep up with the Australian/Swedish/French/Martian schedules! So, to the TRR for E16. No Dark Qiviut or ShutterflyEQD any more means a slightly light roster, though of course I'm always looking for any text-based reviewers I've missed!

"Friendship University" was a fairly well received episode. None of the reviewers outright disliked it, although some of them gave it only qualified support. Each reviewer's attitude to Flim and Flam tended to colour their opinion of the episode as a whole. Cuddlepug, who loved it, even came up with a pretty straight review, not something that happens all that often!

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "complex, ambitious and funny [...] The stakes are high – higher than they are in most episodes [...] engaging throughout")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B+; "The episode itself is good, though points off because Twilight’s disguise leaves a lot to be desired while Rarity again steals the show.")

The Dragon Warlock – mixed (graded B+; "I think the brothers have run their course at this point. [though the ep] does have some funny moments, sets up stuff for the season finale, and it does give us a Rarity and Twilight episode.")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 9/10; "Had some great moments in it, especially Twilight's disguise and... Plainity.")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 3/5; "I don't usually love FlimFlam episodes, though I do usually like them. That was the case here.")

Mega Sean 45 – extremely positive ("very clever [...] so using [Twi and Rares] was brillant! [...] a fantastic episode")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "Star Swirl [...] plenty of new visual delights [...] plenty of surprises and entertainment")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "plays really well into Star Swirl's character [...] it almost looks as though they're building up to something grand for the finale")

Rainbine – mixed (rated 3/5; "[Rarity] was honestly the best thing about the episode [but it had] pretty poor pacing")

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 3 of 3

This is a scheduled post. For personal reasons, updates may be uneven for a while. If they turn up, then great, but if there's a dry spell at any point, it won't mean I've given up on this blog. Very much not the case!

Here's the final part of this series, in which we discover The Railfan Brony's thoughts on episodes 3 through 10 of S8. (To remind you, "School Daze" was a video review, so doesn't belong here, and from "Molt Down" onwards these are included in regular TRR editions.) For this season, Railfan moved away from numerical marks and to a simple one-word rating. It's actually been rather fun doing this, though it's not something I'd like to do all the time. TRR for "Friendship University" will be along sometime in the next few days.

Railfan had a fairly good time with this section of S8, and at one point three successive episodes earned an Excellent rating. However, things went downhill after that. As you'll know if you've read TRR since then, he's considered some episodes very strong (eg "Molt Down" and "The Hearth's Warming Club"), some on the meh side (eg "Marks for Effort") and some very poor (eg "The Mean Six" and "Yakity-Sax"). Not all of his ratings agree with mine, but why should they? So Railfan, as long as you keep writing these reviews, I'll keep including them in TRR.

803: "The Maud Couple" – positive with reservations (rated Good; "a very strong message [although] the plot is quite thin [...] Had it not been for the theme, it would've gotten a worse rating.")

804: "Fake It 'Til You Make It" – fairly positive (rated Good; "surprisingly good given that Josh Hamilton wrote this [...] the humor was actually quite funny [but] the rest of the Mane Six (barring Rarity of course) felt kind of useless")

805: "Grannies Gone Wild" – very positive (rated Excellent; "did Gillian Berrow pull [this] off? Absolutely [...] funny [...] the whole conflict all felt believable and relatable")

806: "Surf and/or Turf" – very positive (rated Excellent; "I liked Terramar a lot. He is incredibly sympathetic and relatable [...] subtle allegory [...] Seeing Scootaloo swim around as a seapony is just adorably charming [but] the conflict between Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle felt rather shoehorned.")

807: "Horse Play" – mostly very positive (rated Excellent; "Celestia is an absolute delight throughout the entire episode [...] the standout was Fluttershy, no question [...] issues with Twilight and Pinkie's characterization [but] a solid episode")

808: "The Parent Trap" – negative (rated Bad; "boy, does it get frustrating after a while [...] a crapload of wasted potential [Sunburst is] so boring [but Starlight] does what she can to give the episode some weight")

809: "Non-Compete Clause" – very negative (rated Terrible; "the Young Six are really good throughout [but the episode] completely ignores character development that had happened in the past seven seasons [...] the moral comes off as extremely forced, and the ending makes the whole endeavor pointless.")

810: "The Break Up Breakdown" – positive (rated Good; "the characters are actually entertaining, Discord and Spike especially [and the] best character of the episode was [...] Big Macintosh. [However,] the Crusaders' subplot felt useless")

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 214: Grey Sky Morning

Title explanation: Vertical Horizon song

Here in Britland, we're now long past the end of our heatwave and back to standard British weather. As I type at 4pm on Tuesday, it's overcast, breezy and 21 °C. For reasons which have not yet been entirely discovered, August has almost always been the least summery summer month during the last 15 years or so, and 2018 looks set to continue that trend.

Read it Later story count: 319 (-8)

Well, how about that? Five fics to review today, which is not what I was expecting to happen!

Administrative Angel by horizon
Benign Providence by Haysit T Ganaram
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by sunnypack
More Than Muscle by Level Dasher
You Want to Do What Now? by Nyarlathi

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

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Episode review: S8E16: "Friendship University"

Rarity (as "Plainity") and Twilight (as "Eye Patch") argue
"This was the only emergency eye patch Pinkie had left!"
Well, it seems that I did have time to write a quick episode review after all. It's been a while since we saw Chris "Doc" Wyatt and Kevin Burke on the writers' credits for My Little Pony. In fact, their last episode was S6's "Viva Las Pegasus", which divided fandom opinion but which I liked rather a lot, and not only because of all the Fluttershy. How would this week's effort shape up? Come past the break with me and we'll find out!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Episode review will be along shortly

This week, anyway. I've had a much longer and more tiring weekend than I was expecting (although some of it was enjoyable) and I just haven't had the time or energy to write up my review for "Friendship University" yet. If everything falls into place, it'll be up tomorrow, but otherwise it'll be later this week.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 2 of 3

Time for the second instalment in this little series, which covers from episode 14 of S7 to that season's finale. Railfan continued to enjoy S7 in its second half, although not as much as with S7A (only five episodes rated 9 or 10) – and he most definitely didn't share my opinion of its first episode, "Fame and Misfortune"! For him, S7B was a bit uneven early and late, but it had a very solid core.

714: "Fame and Misfortune" – extremely negative (rated minus 3/10; "handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the crotch [...] the worst thing about the message is how insulting it comes off as [...] a complete disgrace to the series")

715: "Triple Threat" – mixed (rated 6/10; "just barely avoids mediocrity [...] I still find Thorax to be unlikable and unsympathetic, the plot comes off as confusing [but] Ember comes off as a strong character, the themes are really good, and there's a few funny jokes")

716: "Campfire Tales" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Sometimes, the best episodes are those that give us little to talk about")

717: "To Change a Changeling" – broadly positive (rated 8/10; "It's fairly entertaining, Pharynx was an interesting character (and more charismatic than Thorax has ever been), and the theme was a useful one for kids to learn.")

718: "Daring Done?" – very positive (rated 10/10; "The story of Somnambula [...] was a brilliant tie-in to the episode's theme about hope.")

719: "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "Haber's best solo episode since 'Simple Ways' [...] the theme [...] suited Rarity's character brilliantly")

720: "A Health of Information" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "quite possibly Fluttershy's best starring role since 'Keep Calm and Flutter On'")

721: "Marks and Recreation" – positive (rated 8/10; "Rumble's a surprisingly relatable character and the themes relating to him are great, but he should've gotten a punishment for his actions.")

722: "Once Upon a Zeppelin" – mildly positive (rated 7/10; "the plot is rather thin, and needed to rely on strong characters to see through it. And it works. Mostly...")

723: "Secrets and Pies" – extremely negative (rated minus 5/10; "just awful, plain and simple. I don't know why anybody would even want to watch this episode; the main characters are unlikable and unsympathetic, the solution was too obvious, and the morals are terrible.")

724: "Uncommon Bond" – very negative (rated 2/10; "I find Sunburst to be a boring, uninteresting character [...] offered nothing in terms of originality [...] painfully dull")

725/726: "Shadow Play" – very positive (rated 10/10; "There's the right mix of comedy and drama, the storytelling is really strong, and the characters all felt genuine.")

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Hearth's Warming Club"

Here we go again! A slight drop in the reviewer count this time, as there's nothing from Dark Qiviut this week and it seems ShutterflyEQD's DeviantArt account (where their reviews were published) has been suspended. I'm not prepared to wait longer than a week for reviews, as otherwise it gets confusing since the following episode will already have aired. That being so, onwards!

This The Breakfast Club-inspired episode was very well received by most, with only Cuddlepug having a more mixed view and nobody outright disliking it. There were a few reservations about Twilight's choice of punishment, but the Student Six were very popular.

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded C+; "It's interesting learning about the festive rituals [the Student Six] engage in [...] but sadly the characters themselves are largely uninteresting")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "Remember how I said MLP usually does a good job of giving a fresh take of a oft-told storyline? This is what I am talking about.")

The Dragon Warlock – positive (graded B+; "really good character development for Gallus [...] doesn't break 'Molt Down' or 'Horse Play', but [S8] definitely stepped up its game")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "I loved this episode! [Gallus's story was] very touching [but Twilight] threatening all of the students to not be able to go home to their families for the holidays is just mean [...] Everything else was perfect.")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "an immensely entertaining episode, one which plays to the students' strengths and also gives us some backstory to flesh out their characters [though] Twilight's choice of punishment seems extremely harsh.")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("my personal favorite [Hearth's Warming episode] so far! Why? Well because of the development of the Student 6 of course, and how far they've gone together")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "so much effort was put into [the animation] a heartwarming and festive episode")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "I love it [...] the real standout character was Gallus [...] the story is brilliant, and the Young Six really shine")

Rainbine – very positive (rated 4.5/5; "I loved this episode [...] the students are still very likable [...] predictable [but] I had a lot of fun")

Friday, 10 August 2018

Episode review: S8E15: "The Hearth's Warming Club"

Twilight, Rainbow and Spike confront the Student Six in a purple goo-covered room
"And if I ever, ever see Gak in this school again, it'll be too soon"
At last, I'm up to date with S8, on the Discovery Family schedule at least. I was really looking forward to "The Hearth's Warming Club". One reason was that I'm now a firm fan of the Student Six – props to the writers for making me care so much about characters who've been around for barely half a season. The other reason was that this episode was written by Brian Hohlfeld, who debuted with the excellent "Surf and/or Turf" earlier this season.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 1 of 3

I have now seen "The Hearth's Warming Club", so expect my review of that episode before the end of the week.

In a comment the other day, The Railfan Brony mentioned that he'd added reviews of S7 and early S8 episodes* to his blog, and wondered whether I'd be willing to add them to Text Review Roundup. I felt that retroactively adding them to the earlier TRR posts would be a bit unsatisfactory, but that I'd like to give them a place. To keep post length in check, I'm going to pull a Julius Caesar and divide the reviews into three parts, which I'll post over the next couple of weeks. Today, the first half of S7.

* Except the S8 premiere, which was in video format so doesn't qualify for a TRR spot.

Railfan had a pretty good time overall with S7A, awarding a 9 or 10 to no fewer than nine of the 13 episodes. He's kinder towards a few episodes than the fandom as a whole was, most notably in his admiration for "Fluttershy Leans In", the episode which came dead last in the UK of Equestria S7 poll. I'm afraid yak fans will be disappointed, though!

701: "Celestial Advice" – very positive (rated 9/10; "I really hope Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco stay for the foreseeable future.")

702: "All Bottled Up" – rather negative (rated 3/10; "Trixie was a nuisance in the first two acts, and the B-plot feels like [padding]. However, it did feel like the first step for Starlight to get some character development")

703: "A Flurry of Emotions" – very positive (rated 10/10; "This episode, I thought, did do Flurry justice [...] but can't we have visual consistency with the [Cake Twins]?")

704: "Rock Solid Friendship" – broadly positive (rated 7/10; "I've got problems with Pinkie's IQ in this episode [but it] does provide a very strong lesson")

705: "Fluttershy Leans In" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "the themes are amongst the best of the show, and Fluttershy's character is at her peak [...] a fantastic Fluttershy episode.")

706: "Forever Filly" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "beautiful and heartwarming from beginning to end [with] some of the most mature themes in a kids' show.")

707: "Parental Glideance" – mixed (rated 6/10; "I liked Scootaloo's role [but the flashback's continuity feels off] it has a good idea [...] but the end result comes off as weird at best.")

708: "Hard to Say Anything" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Despite a couple of issues I have, I still enjoyed it, and would gladly take this over Legend of Everfree [which Railfan detested] any day of the week.")

709: "Honest Apple" – very positive (rated 9/10; "The pacing is quite possibly the strongest aspect [...] emotions are also handled brilliantly [though] the Applejack/Rarity dynamic feels extremely overused")

710: "A Royal Problem" – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "possibly my favorite episode of the [entire] series, hooves down [...] perhaps [Starlight's] best overall [...] The themes alone in this episode are brilliant ... Daybreaker [is] a great addition")

711: "Not Asking for Trouble" – very negative (rated 1/10; "painfully sluggish [...] the episode's biggest downfall is the moral [...] boring")

712: "Discordant Harmony" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Fluttershy is the standout character [...] I've got some issues with the "be yourself" moral being overdone, but it makes sense for Discord to learn it.")

713: "The Perfect Pear" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "I dare you to go watch this episode and say you weren't close to crying [...] in my [all-time] top 5"

And that's all for today! At some point in the next few days I'll put up the second instalment of this mini-series. Part 2 will of course kick off with S7's most divisive episode, "Fame and Misfortune". Exciting, isn't it? :P

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

No Ponyfic Roundup today

Owing to my break last week, PR is also taking a break. Never fear, though: it'll be back next Wednesday! Among the stories under review will be horizon's Administrative Angel. If you're really lucky, there may be more than one story under review. :P

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "A Matter of Principals"

I'm going to give continuing with Text Review Roundup a go and see how well it works. Given that I'll be reviewing episodes on roughly the DF schedule (once I've caught up!), it shouldn't be impossible. However, I don't think I'm going to be able to add in late reviews any more, as the timetable would just get too confused. We'll see.

A pretty full slate of reviewers this time, and there's a running theme: Discord's sometimes startlingly unpleasant characterisation was generally very unpopular, with the vast majority of reviewers disliking it.

Cuddlepug – very negative (graded D-; "the episode actually rewards Discord for being an asshole")

Dark Qiviut – rather negative ("[Starlight was right to apologise but] the story lets [Discord] off without any level of consequence and rewards him for it [...] almost all the jokes fall flat [...] watchable mediocrity")

Derpy News – mixed (graded B; "Some of the gags were funny, some of the cameos were great, but the episode does suffer a bit from Discord’s antics.")

The Dragon Warlock – negative (graded D; "The character bonding with Spike and Starlight is fun and reminds me of the early days of Spike and Twilight. However, as soon as Discord shows up, things start falling apart.")

JDPrime22 – positive with reservations (rated 7/10; "I'll admit that while I did enjoy the comedy in this one (the whole bit with Trixie and Iron Will was great) we see Discord being unusually cruel to the students")

Louder Yay – mixed (rated 3/5; "This could have been a four-star episode, but Discord's characterisation – the Yona scene in particular – leaves a sufficiently sour taste for me to knock off one of those stars.")

Mega Sean 45 – generally very positive ("Discord is an immature baby [but] a very impressive episode!")

MLEEP Reviews – mixed (rated 7/10; "great getting to see the many different cultures of Equestria explored [but] felt like [Discord's] character had regressed")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "[Starlight and Discord's] characters make sense, the third act is one of the funniest of the show, and the twist at the end was rather unexpected.")

Rainbine – mildly positive (rated 3.5/5; "Starlight Glimmer once again proved that she's a great character [but] Where did the hell did [Discord's character development] go in this episode?")

ShutterflyEQD – positive with reservations ("I sure wish I could favorite more from this episode, but Discord really got on my nerves.")

Monday, 6 August 2018

Episode review: S8E14: "A Matter of Principals"

Discord, wearing glasses and consulting a scroll, gives a mischievous smile
"They never would be missed"
I probably ought to mention, so I will, that I'll be reviewing episodes on the Discovery Family schedule, more or less. It seems that Boomerang in Australia is likely to rush through the entire remainder of the season at two episodes per week, and that's just too hectic a schedule for me. Now I'm back home from my little break, I can talk a bit about this episode: "A Matter of Principals" was written by Nicole Dubuc, and...

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 213: Spotlight on The Cough

Yes, that's right: I'm doing a Spotlight edition of PR for a story that's barely a thousand words long. This wasn't my original intention, but I just can't fit everything I want to say into a single paragraph. In fact, this post has ended up longer than the fic itself!

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

The Cough by Ebon Mane
Mane Six
Romance/Dark; 1k words; Aug 2011; Teen (Gore)
The mane six take shelter in a place that is, for now, safe from a disaster occurring outside.This gruesome tale of violence and death is not recommended for colts, fillies, or the faint of heart.
This fic's opening line is "In the darkness, somepony coughed." The question is who. It matters because, as Twilight explains, coughing is the symptom of the final stage of a terrible disease that becomes highly contagious. In other words, the only way to stop all the Mane Six sickening and dying is for the cougher to die. Right now. The play-out is grim, so be prepared. However, at the end you'll be left wondering. (These days, I suspect the fic would have [Horror] and [Mystery] tags.) This is a very old story, so bear that in mind as regards characterisation, and it also really shows its age in the plentiful LUS. Ebon Mane's writing was not as good in 2011 as it later became. Despite those problems, this fic is likely to stick with you – and perhaps even keep you awake at night. ★★★★

Some more detailed thoughts, which are very spoilery indeed, await beyond the break.

Monday, 30 July 2018

BronyCon to call time after next year

At the end of this year's BronyCon, the organisers made a big announcement: the 2019 iteration will be the last. There are a few reasons in a short FAQ at the bottom of their official homepage, but the impression given is that with attendance on a downward slope, they want to call it a day before BronyCon turns into a shadow of its former self. They'll be aiming to go out with a bang in a four-day finale in early August next year.

I never made it to BronyCon and I never will (reasons are several, but include health issues) but this news still hit me. After all, for as long as I've been in this fandom – since spring 2012 ‒ BronyCon has been around, and its 2015 edition was the largest My Little Pony con ever held with just over 10,000 people attending. That is a record that will never be broken, so it will always be the largest convention in history for fans of talking pastel ponies.

This is not the end of the MLP fandom. It's not even the end of the brony fandom. I do think it may be one more tentative step on the road towards G4 becoming a part of the wider MLP fandom – which, after all, has been running since long before Twilight left Canterlot; the My Little Pony Fair in the USA and UK PonyCon over here started in 2004. But a show as popular and successful as Friendship is Magic doesn't just fade into nothingness. There will always be bronies.

Will there always be brony conventions? Well... "always" might be a hostage to fortune. But they're surely not all going to disappear in the next year. BABSCon has already said that it will continue while there are enough people going to make it viable, while Everfree Northwest and GalaCon in Germany have made similar comments. The likes of SEAPonyCon in southeast Asia show that you don't need to be in America to have a good time. Here in the UK, the year features three conventions for the first time since 2016, with UK PonyCon looking set to break its attendance record yet again.

Of course BronyCon will be missed when it's gone. How could an event like that not be? But please don't make the mistake of equating one convention, however large and star-studded, with the fandom as a whole. You know what is the fandom as a whole? All of us who are in it. Whether we run cons or attend meets, whether we draw fanart or write fics, whether we buy custom plushies or chat about Pony on social media...

As long as people are talking about MLP, our gloriously silly fandom lives on.

Let's keep it that way.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

UK PonyCon in the mainstream media

In this weekend when about every second tweet reminds me that BronyCon and GalaCon are on and I'm not at either of them, I need things to take my mind elsewhere – but still keep it on ponies. Fortunately, I have two! One is that later today I'll be off for the Worcester meetup group's annual all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. If there's any pudding there which features custard, you can be sure I'll be all over it. (Well, not literally. Probably.)

The other is that UK PonyCon (which I do hope to be at) has had some mainstream media coverage, something much rarer for British conventions than for the big American ones. Nottingham Live's headline – "Thousands of My Little Pony fans are coming to Nottingham - and here's why" – is perhaps a little over the top, but the article itself is reasonably straightforward and accurate, even mentioning correctly that only Sunday tickets remain.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Pony Music Library 55: "Queen of Nightmares"

It's been more than a month since I added to the Pony Music Library, so let's induct a new song today! Well, not a new song, but you know what I mean. This is a track I didn't actually know anything about until I chanced upon it while flicking through the tracks I hadn't tried in My Little Karaoke some while back, but it really stuck in my head.

What? "Queen of Nightmares"

Who? Time Baby

Which? Original song

When? November 2013

Why? What drew me into this song was the long intro, with its deceptively twangy banjo. Then the main part of the song came in and I was truly hooked. You don't get many songs specifically about Nightmare Moon, but this one fixes that. The breathy vocals fit the subject really well, and the banjo (which almost sounds as if it's about to break into Journey of the Sorcerer) creates a fascinating contrast. There's a definite hint of Depeche Mode in there, though the bridge reminds me just a little of mid-era Talk Talk. The whole atmosphere is dark and unsettling, ideal for its subject. For this to have barely 5,000 views is a crying shame.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Yakity-Sax"

Well, it couldn't last, could it? After the simplicity of the pre-hiatus scheduling, Friendship is Magic is now airing episodes all over the place. As such, I'm afraid I can't promise when there'll next be a Text Review Roundup – especially as it looks as if three episodes will premiere while I'm away staying with family over the next week or so! Many regulars haven't reviewed this episode, so this is a smaller edition of TRR than sometimes.

The general reception was negative, with the episode's moral coming in for particular criticism. When did Derpy News, usually so positive, last grade an episode D? Even "Non-Compete Clause" got a C from them! Rainbine even gives us a new rating: "Gigantic Pile of Shit". My two-star rating for the episode looks really quite mild in comparison! There are reviewers who liked "Yakity-Sax", but they're in a clear minority.

Dark Qiviut – positive ("The moral is simple, but relatable and makes sense.")

Derpy News – negative (graded D; "needed to take a better tack [...] this was not a good episode")

JDPrime22 – generally negative (rated 5/10; "the moral of this episode is completely wack ... No. No, no, no. Bad writers")

Louder Yay – rather negative (2/5; "a very unsatisfactory moral ... a missed opportunity for a nostalgia trip")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "practice truly does make perfect as 'Yakity-Sax' made for a truly perfect episode")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Bad; "[Pinkie] learns nothing, which leads ... the episode's intended message to fall flat on its face")

Rainbine – extremely negative (rated Gigantic Pile of Shit; "Pinkie was so annoying [...] a chore to sit through")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("it left good vibes")

The Dragon Warlock – extremely negative (graded F; "manages to somehow do the unthinkable; make Pinkie not just bad, but despicable [...] The comedy is awful [...] the writing is atrocious [...] deplorable episode.")

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 212: Letting your heart be your guide

Title explanation: Hasbro uploaded the G1 theme

Nothing to do with My Little Pony, but I was delighted recently to discover that you could finally get Beatles songs on YouTube from the official channel, ie one whose videos weren't going to be zapped by Apple. I've always been a big Beatles fan, though maybe not as hardcore as some (I just can't sit through Revolution 9), so this was big news for me.

Read it Later story count: 327 (+4)

Another five-fic week, which is pleasing given that our epochal heatwave is still going along. I know 30 °C isn't anything special for some of you, but weeks on end of it here most definitely is. Anyway, another interesting (to me; I can't speak for you!) collection of tales this time around. They are:

The Talk by The Descendant
Tough Little Pony by Isseus
Why We Dig by Starscribe
The Rainbow Factory? by Just Horsing Around
Somnambula's Legacy by Nyarlathi

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

Monday, 23 July 2018

Episode review: S8E18 (or 14, or whatever) : "Yakity-Sax"

Pinkie Pie wearing a helmet and holding the yovidaphone
Back in "Magic Duel" you could play ten instruments at once...
The release schedule for the next few episodes of Friendship is Magic is a complete mess, and since that period also coincides with a holiday week for me, I'm likely to be a bit behind with episode reviews once again. However, this time there's an early release. Equestria Daily calls this episode 18, while the MLP Wiki calls it episode 14. Whatever, it was written by the Fox Brothers, with whose episodes I have a fairly mixed relationship. After the break, a few thoughts...

Friday, 20 July 2018

Special mini-review: "Rollercoaster of Friendship"

Applejack looks left out of shot as Rainbow Dash shushes Megan Williams
Megan is now G4 canon! (In EqG, at least.)
Apologies for the lack of a full-length review for "Rollercoaster of Friendship", but with FiM apparently returning today it was either a mini-review now or a much longer delay. Anyway, Nick Confalone returned for a special that, though entertaining enough for the most part, fell a bit short of his earlier "Forgotten Friendship". It wasn't a disaster by any means, and most of the girls had at least the occasional good line or scene, but it didn't feel as enjoyable or important as the earlier special had.

There was certainly plenty for the RariJack shippers to enjoy, and AJ's reaction to Rarity getting an (apparently) plum job when she was rejected made good viewing. Mind you, much of the rest seemed a little by-the-numbers. Vignette made a decent and suitably unlikeable villain, despite her inevitable near-instant reformation at the end, though the "white room" reveal was just plain silly. The song ("Photo Booth") was not one of EqG's best, being rather generic and forgettable. The special itself was better than that, but even its best scenes lacked the emotional power of Sunset's return to Equestria in "FF".

Oh, and the ponying up at the end seemed a little pointless, but apparently this is Hasbro-mandated for financial reasons. A bit like Rainbow Power, I suppose. I went back and forth between a top-end two-star rating and a bare three a number of times while I was thinking about this review. In the end, it just about scrapes into the higher bracket, partly down to an amusing Rainbow/Fluttershy subplot involving a rather scary rollercoaster – and partly due to that little Megan Williams cameo!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

In which Newborn Cuties blows my mind

Close-up of Newborn Cuties DVD against a white background
This is a European-spec disc; I have no idea whether US-spec ones exist
If you're even slightly familiar with Newborn Cuties, the final version of MLP to be made before Friendship is Magic came on the scene, you'll probably know the name "Over Two Rainbows". This is one of the precisely two NC cartoons made (the other being "So Many Different Ways to Play") and is often cited as the worst official My Little Pony cartoon ever to be released.

The reasons for this are many and varied, ranging from the character design to Rainbow Dash's total obsession with her "super special scarf". However, one of the biggest is that, in the video most people have seen online, the ponies' mouths are not animated at all when they speak. This is what leads reactors to opine that the cartoon just doesn't look finished.

The thing is... they may be right on that. I own an official Newborn Cuties DVD, under the title Once Upon a My Little Pony Time. And the animation for this version of "Over Two Rainbows" in that is... better. The ponies' mouths move, people! Also, the faces have some semblance of emotion, the storm scene is more than two pictures and there are a few short additional scenes which add a little depth.

Since both versions of "Over Two Rainbows" are currently available on YouTube, you can easily compare for yourself. I don't link to full episodes on this blog, but a search for "Over Two Rainbows" will find both easily enough: the video with "gen 3.5" in the title is the worse version, while the one with "ver.2009" in the title is the same as the one on my disc.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 211: Why you gotta ruin everything with questions?

Title explanation: lyric from "Picture Perfect Pony"

I read the Community Soapbox feature on Equestria Daily from time to time (and one of these days I may finally get around to submitting another one). One of last night's was about Twilight stealing the pearl in the movie. What interested me was that opinion in the comments was heavily skewed towards "It was wrong, but understandable given Twi's desperation" rather than "It was a stupid plot point". I agree, but I actually expected more of an even split.

Read it Later story count: 323 (-3)

I'm back up to five stories this week! The hot weather has relented slightly (though we've still had very little rain) and so it's been a bit easier to concentrate. A seriously mixed bag of characters, settings and genres to deal with here. The five fics under review this time around are as follows:

Pranks for Nothing by Baal Bunny
The Doom that Came to Tambelon by MagnetBolt
Spreading Your Wings and Hers by Crowley
Childhood's Legacy by Queen of Fools
The Incandescent Brilliance by KitsuneRisu

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

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

"A good fandom"?

This is, of course, a question with no one definitive answer, but it's also a question that interests me. It's not something I feel I could sensibly discuss on Twitter, as there just isn't room for the uncertainties and shades of grey that I feel are essential. I'll make it quite clear, though, that in general, I have a fairly bright outlook about our fandom. Off we go...

An argument I saw someone make not so long ago ran like this: it's unhelpful to simply say things like "This is a generally good fandom, but there are some bad apples" because then everyone mentally places themselves on the good side of the ledger, so any hard truths don't get through to those people who need to hear them. I think my reply would be: "Up to a point, but not entirely."

As an analogy, consider a chief constable who says, "This city has a problem with knife gangs." I wouldn't have a problem with that. I wouldn't expect them to say, "This city has a problem with knife gangs, though of course the vast majority of the population aren't criminals" because that would dilute the message. People who aren't involved won't assume the criticism applies to them anyway.

But. If the police chief only ever mentioned the bad things about their area, then I'd argue that would not be good policing. There's a community cohesion aspect that can't just be ignored in the name of catching the bad guys. So if the police chief were asked directly, "What do you think of the people in this city?" I would expect them to note the community's good points as well as the problems.

In fandom terms, it's absolutely right that people call out racists and misogynists and homophobes and the like. And such messages are stronger when undiluted. However, it's not good for the community if that's all that's stated when someone's asked about the fandom. If there's no special reason not to, then yes, it's perfectly fair that the good points should be stressed as well.

As I said above, I take a moderately optimistic view of this fandom. It's not perfect and never will be, because we're human beings, so working to make it better is a good thing. But on the whole, I think the MLP fandom, right now in 2018, does more good than bad in the sense of making people's lives happier, and I feel comfortable saying it in those terms.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Small story, big impact

As most of you will know, I usually read short stories rather than lengthy epics. Not so long ago, I read one that may well result in a Ponyfic Roundup spotlight review that ends up being longer than the fic itself. You're welcome to guess if you like, but I won't confirm or deny until the review is actually out! (Should be this month or next.)

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Have an old PMV

I don't have much to talk about, at least not now. I do have one or two things I'd like to post about, but they're things that will take actual effort and it's still too hot for that. So here's "Stamp on the Ground", a PMV by FluttershyElsa from August 2012 that was once enormously popular, as its 1.87 million views will testify. Nothing too demanding here, just a bit of old-fashioned fun. I'm all for that!

Note: this PMV contains rapidly flashing images.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 210: It's Coming Home (Edit: Well, England will be...)

Title explanation: that football song

Yes, all right, I'm sorry. I'm not even much of a football fan. But I am English, and my team is playing a World Cup semi-final this evening, so I'm going to make the most of it. It'll all be over one way or the other by PR 211, after all! On we go...

Read it Later story count: 326 (-1)

A poor week for me, back down to three stories. The heat hasn't helped, but in this case I've just had so much to do that spare time has been nearly non-existent. I'm actually quite glad I've managed to get through anything at all! Here we go(, here we go, here we go), then:

Paper Tigers by Midnight Dancer
With Your Shield Or On It by PatchworkPoltergeist
The Secret Lives of Books by derpyland

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

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

UK PonyCon weekend and Saturday tickets sold out!

As announced by the con's communications lead Irish O'Conner on the official UK PonyCon forum yesterday (as well as on various social media), UK PonyCon 2018 weekend and Saturday tickets are now sold out. Sunday tickets are still available, but in restricted numbers and it's likely that these won't last that much longer either. Still, if you want to attend and haven't yet bought a ticket, this is your last chance! Since tickets are not transferable, you won't get one if you leave it any later. Yes, it is worth coming for the Sunday alone, so don't hang around if you feel you'd like to. Visit the official webstore to buy.

Friday, 6 July 2018

100 days until UK PonyCon!

Actually, because this post isn't going up until Friday, it's 99 days – but hay, who's counting? Anyway, yep, we're getting pretty close to convention time now, although it probably doesn't seem so unless you're on the committee or making stuff to wear or vend for the con. I'll be heading off to Nottingham for a little recce with a friend in the very near future, as bizarrely I've hardly ever visited the city in spite of it being only 80 miles from me.

Having already done a bit of research with the help of Google Maps and Street View, one thing I definitely appreciate about Nottingham is its relatively compact city centre. Its population is around 300,000, roughly the same as Coventry's, but the latter city sprawls and has a mess of a ring road (albeit improved recently) that cuts it off from the rail station. Navigation in Nottingham, on foot or by tram, seems likely to be quite straightforward.

Myself, I don't have much to do to prepare for UKPC this year. I don't go in for cosplay, my hotel is booked and my ticket is bought, so really it's just a case of making sure I can afford to eat when I'm there! My budget is likely to be quite tight compared with last year's, but I'm at least guaranteed a few souvenirs as they're included with my ticket tier. If all goes well, this will be my fifth UK PonyCon, and I've never failed to enjoy one yet!