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!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 209: The Greta Garbo Home for Wayward Boys and Girls

Title explanation: Manfred Mann song lyrics

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

It's still far too hot here in central England, so I've found it hard going to get anything at all done, let alone reading ponyfic. Still, I've managed to get through four stories, so let's see what's under the microscope this week. We have:

Rainbownomicon by Void Chicken
Minuette's Imaginary Friend Replacement Service by Ceffyl Dwr
Just Fine by ferret
Exes by Donraj

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

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Pride and prejudice?

The Mane Six against a rainbow flag and the legend #PONYPRIDE
I eagerly await Twi's double ascension
Okay, a very unoriginal headline, but it's hot and I'm tired. Last night, the official My Little Pony Facebook page and Instagram account posted the above image, together with the text "Colorful and proud ❤️ 💛 💚 💙 💜 #PrideMonth". Rather predictably, reaction has been mixed, though at least reasonably civil as of the time of my writing this post. I'm not American, so it can be hard to appreciate how politically charged LGBT issues still are in the US. (They can be here in England too, but not really to quite the same extent.)

On a similar note, Vivid Syntax posted a story yesterday called Pride, which is about the Whinneapolis Pride celebrations and features a large cast of characters based on fandom OCs. It so happens that my own (Proton) is one of these. The fic has received a few downvotes, but as I write none of the downvoters have actually left a comment explaining. Personally I found the fic great fun. Probably not one for those who are sticklers for show-like feel, but I read it in the garden with a cold drink and enjoyed it throughout.