Saturday, 27 April 2019

Simple fun and warmth and magic

People watch Game of Thrones because Winter is Coming.

And they watch My Little Pony... because tomorrow spring is here.
—Lets Do This

The other day, Friendmaker by Lets Do This was inducted into the Royal Canterlot Library. I was very pleased by this for several reasons. First of all, I think it's a really good story: I found it "very satisfying" when I reviewed it for Ponyfic Roundup 236. Secondly, Lets Do This is a relatively new author, having signed up for Fimfiction only in June 2018. I'm always pleased to see newcomers writing good stories.

And third... well, see that quote at the top of this post? That's from Lets Do This's RCL interview. I saw it and thought, "Yes." It's a perfect summation of why so many of us enjoy both MLP and what might be called more conventionally "grown-up" shows. I quoted it on Twitter (with LDT credited, of course) and it seemed to get plenty of interest, too. Still, much as I love those two lines, seeing them got me thinking a bit.

If you read this blog much, you may have noticed that from time to time I say that a fic or an episode or whatever felt like something from the old days. Occasionally that's a criticism, for example when a story is full of Lavender Unicorn Syndrome. More often, though, it's intended as a compliment. I mean that the piece in question harks back to simpler times in MLP, both show and fandom.

Yes, sure, the fandom began on 4chan, with all that that implies. But in fanfic especially, something I frequently notice about early works is that they're written with a very simple object: innocent fun. Free of the need to make stories complex and intense, there's a sense of playfulness about many of them that I'm not sure is quite as common today as I'd really like it to be, even if the best modern fics are often clever in different ways.

One small example is in the way writers use horse puns. I don't mean the obvious stuff like Neighagara Falls or Stalliongrad. I mean fun passing touches, such as characters using "Hay there!" instead of "Hey there!" or "foalish" instead of "foolish". When I see usages like that nowadays, they really feel like throwbacks, because they're no longer all that common. I may be out on a limb here, but I'd like to see that kind of thing return.

There are other ways, naturally. Lucky Dreams, an author I feel should have gained considerably more recognition, has 17 published stories, every one E-rated and some actually aimed at kids (itself a rarity in ponyfic). These tales are clever, but also warm and, well, magical. Of course that's not suitable for every kind of story, but I'd like to see some more in that vein without having to go back to 2012 to find them.

Perhaps it's just me. But I must say I'm glad of Lets Do This's reminder that not everything connected with Pony has to be deep and "grown-up" and deal with Great Issues to succeed. A story which leaves the reader feeling happy and warm inside can be just as valuable. It's in tune with Equestrian values, after all: as the Mane Six delighted in reminding Sombra the other week, in the ponies' world "friendship is magic!"


  1. I hear you. :) That is a great quote, by the way.

    1. Isn't it? Made me even more interested in reading more of what LDT has to say. Someone who can come up with a quote like that is worth taking an interest in.

  2. Yeah, that quote from his interview was great. It makes me very happy to know that the fandom can still attract authors like him.

    1. Absolutely. I'm also glad LDT has stuck around for quite a while, rather than just blazing brightly for two stories and then fading away, and I hope that will continue.

  3. That was a great line, as were his observations on Winter Wrap-up. I'm reading through more of his stuff right now. All top-notch so far.

    1. This is very good to hear. I eventually want to get back to doing the odd author special on Ponyfic Roundup, and I'm increasingly attracted by the notion of doing one featuring LDT.

    2. He would definitely be a good pick for that! He has a good range, too, so the stories wouldn't blur together.

    3. I wanted to chip in here with a couple of long rambling observations - please indulge me!

      I got into the show relatively late, joined the fandom at the start of Season 5. So I missed out on the 'golden age' of seasons 1-4, and all that amazing creativity and fraternal spirit that went along with those years. But I do often wonder how much people's views of those earlier seasons are coloured by their experiences during those years, and the way they look back on those experiences. I think it's worth remembering that we're talking about things that happened anywhere from five to nine years ago - that's a significant amount of time for anyone, enough so to be defined as a phase of someone's entire life, and I often think those experiences must inevitably be tied together in a way that can't be unpicked.

      I wonder too if, and this isn't a criticism, a lot of people's disillusionment with the show's more recent years stems as much from their wish to go back to those earlier years in their own lives, whether that's to relive them, do them over, or just have "their" show back with the friendships and collaborations and intact headcanons and everything else. As I say, I don't mean that as a criticism, it's completely understandable and valid; I mean, I'm frequently embarrassed by blog posts and comments I made six months ago, never mind ten years! It's entirely understandable if some people see not only their own contributions, but even their very involvement in the fandom, as something to fiercely defend; it's hard to accept that many people have simply grown up and moved on, but, well, people change. Especially if you started watching the show when you yourself were less cynical and shared a little more of the early seasons' wide-eyed wonder. Especially if there's a part of you that yearns to feel that way again, and finds the show no longer provokes it anymore, or at least only in a greatly reduced, occasional dose; glimpses and reflections rather than the full experience.

      (And for all I enjoy the character explanations and darker takes and, yes, the clop, I do sometimes feel a little sadness at having somehow perverted something that, even if it was always a glorified toy commercial at heart, still managed to be pure of spirit; and I'll always feel well-disposed towards ANY creative endeavour that aims to replicate that innocent, optimistic feeling.)

      As a parent, I feel that too, because I watched those early episodes - the first four seasons - in a non-stop run in the first half of 2015, with my children, and just as some of the older fans have grown up and moved on, or turned against the show's later years, so I've watched my children growing up, and my son - who once dressed up as Rainbow Dash and ran around the house - now barely watches...


    4. (2/2)
      But my daughter, who was 2 when we started watching the show, has grown up with these later seasons, and she loves them every bit as much as my son enjoyed shotgunning the earlier ones four years ago. That sense of childlike wonder at this amazing, beautiful fantasy world is still there; one only needs to see how an actual child responds to the show, the look of tearful, joyous awe on my daughter's face as the salvaged clubhouse grew into the new tree house is *exactly* the same as the one I saw on my son's face when Princess Twilight descended from that cloud, or when Granny Smith told the story of how Ponyville was founded. And so just as I feel there might be some rose-tinted bias towards the earlier episodes from fans who were there at the time and enjoying the show in a way that, for whatever reason, they now can't, well, I think the sense of childlike wonder is absolutely restored and enhanced by watching each new episode with, well, an actual child, and so I'm probably going to be more positive about them than if I just watched them on my own.

      (I don't know how one would replicate that, of course, and for the record The Cloptimist does *not* recommend simply approaching random children to ask to watch MLP with them...)

      Anyway, I'd say those were my two cents, but (a) I'm British and (b) that was clearly at least eleven dollars' worth of rambling. But yes.

    5. I joined at the tail end of S2 (in fact, the first episode I saw as it aired was "A Canterlot Wedding") and in all honesty I think the early simple wonder was already fading by then. We'd had the less than willing departure of Lauren Faust from the show, and we'd also had the first really big fandom spat in Derpygate. Then came S3 and the months-long fandom-wide argument over Twilight's wings; the spats over Starlight are minor in comparison.

      It ties into my feelings about "the three ages of Pony. The show was only meant to last three seasons, so there was always going to be change, and I don't think we'd have reached S9 otherwise. I do like the modern show, but I still sometimes miss the old days.

      As for seeing how actual children react to the ponies, the way I do it is to go to UK PonyCon each year. Being strongly family-friendly beyond just paying lip service to the idea, there are always lots of kids. They may not be watching episodes, but they're interacting with the world of MLP in a way that as you point out is harder for us perhaps jaded adults.