Saturday, 19 August 2017

UK PonyCon update: only Saturday tickets left now!

Things are moving pretty fast in the UK PonyCon world, it seems, and the Weekend and Sunday tickets are now completely sold out. Saturday tickets are still available, but who knows how long that will be the case? You probably know by now, but here's the ticket store. As before, linking directly as it has up-to-date info, but if you want more general information about the convention then go here.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Text Review Roundup: "Fame and Misfortune"

Yes, it's back! Now that everyone's on the same page again, it seemed to be worth giving TRR a go once more. There aren't as many text-based reviews as I'd like, perhaps because some of the usual suspects were at BronyCon when the episode went out, but never mind. I may continue to do TRR for the rest of the season, but that depends on the schedulers around the world.

This episode was generally fairly well received by the usual Fimfiction reviewers, with the notable exception of Bad Horse, who really disliked it. Here's how reviewers on other sites reacted:

Batbrony Reviews – mixed ("Certainly not bad [but] quite odd to watch to say the least")

Cuddlepug – negative (graded C-; "would have been far more timely three years ago")

Darke Raven – mostly positive (rated 4/5; "an overall good episode that just needs more done with it")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B; "lessons for all of us [but] pretty harsh")

Louder Yay – very positive (four stars; "tremendously entertaining")

TheDragonWarlock – mixed (graded C; "okay at best"; some jokes have dated)

Thrond Media Pony Corner – rather negative (rated 45%; "I just don't find this kind of story especially fun")

Thursday, 17 August 2017

UK PonyCon news: Final wave of tickets, promo video

With little more than two months to go until UK PonyCon 2017, things seem to be ramping up at their HQ. I'll get to the big ticket news in a minute, but first there's a small promo video out, which you can see above. It's certainly not over the top – in fact, I think it slightly undersells the convention, which after all had an attendance of 750 last year – but it does get across that this isn't like the usual run of brony cons around the world.

This year, the con is heading to be the largest ever, with attendance topping the 800 mark. Extra space in the venue has been arranged, and the third and final wave of tickets has gone on sale. Notably, these see an extra tranche of Saturday-only tickets, which had previously been marked as sold out. Sunday-only and the all-important Weekend passes are also still available, as are Stallholder tickets. Update 18/8: only Saturday tickets now remain!

At the time of writing, the Tickets page had not been fully updated and still said that Saturday tickets were unavailable. This is not the case! If you go straight to the ticket store, you'll see the correct information, along with the information that stocks of all tickets are now running low. They seem to have reached the point at which "When they're gone, they're gone" – so if you fancy joining the fun in Bristol, buy your tickets now!

The UKPC folks have said that more announcements are on the way, so I'll talk about the more significant ones here as they happen. Yes, the convention does have its own social media accounts, but I'll try to make my posts less promotional in nature – and yes, if there's something that disappoints me, I'll say so. I truly do love this event, though, so don't expect me to lay into it because of some minor nitpick. :)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 169: Let the Sky Fall

I note that iisaw has finished The Skyla Pseudonym. That means I can read it! And yes, I intend to give it a spotlight here in due course. I'm really looking forward to reading this.

Read it Later story count: 404 (+2)

I'm still awfully busy with stuff not related to this blog, so it's been a struggle to find time to read. I know I don't have to do this at all, but I enjoy it! At least I've managed a slight increase over the story count from last week. Here's this time's selection:

What's In The Box? by naturalbornderpy
Voyage's End by The DM
To Love the Sun by Magello
Numberography by ph00tbag
Daring Do and the Curse of Ahuizotl by horizon

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

Monday, 14 August 2017

Episode review: S7E14: "Fame and Misfortune"

Ponies arguing about who the Best Pony is
Not having the internet, Equestrians have to live the EqD comments section
Aaaand we're back! Everyone's back on the same page as far as schedule is concerned, and we're returning with a bang in the shape of an episode written by none other than M. A. Larson. Well, sort of. Maybe. The man himself seems distinctly unhappy about being credited, though I do wonder how much of that is because of this episode and how much other experiences. As far as this blog is concerned, the name on the screen is the name that gets tagged, so Larson it is. Beyond the cut!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Fair warning

Anyone who tells me to "go and see the movie right now" or whatever just after 6th October when it's not even out in the UK for another fortnight, I will track you down and I will take your cider. All of it!

Friday, 11 August 2017

I'm a stranger here myself

There's a new S7 episode out tomorrow – as in new for all of us. I'm really looking forward to everyone being able to watch on the same day again, and I might even go so far as to revive Text Review Roundup next week. That's not a promise, as it depends on how many text-based reviewers are still in the game after the mess of the last few months' scheduling. (I'll still review it!)

To the main point of this post. I've been active in this fandom for more than five years now, and I'm comfortable with my place in it. I've been writing here since late 2012. Yet I still feel something of an outsider, and that goes especially for the fanfic/writing part of the game. You might think that odd, given how much time I spend on it these days, but it's very much the case.

Possibly part of this is that a lot of you guys are Americans who get to socialise together at the large conventions you have over there – cons which sometimes have multiple writing-based events. I can count the people I've met who have strong name recognition within the international ponyfic community on the fingers of one hand – and the most famous one of those (Blueshift) isn't really active any more.

My relatively late and low-key entry into being an active Fimfictioner might be a factor, too. I spent much of 2013 semi-absent from Fimf after a major personal upset – it's no accident that I didn't start Ponyfic Roundup until 2014. That also meant that in 2013 I barely even looked at EqD, didn't really participate in the (then) still very active writers' training grounds and the like, etc.

Possibly another aspect is that so many people around the ponyfic world seem terrifyingly clever. I've mentioned Bad Horse's scary blogs before, and the equally scary comments thereon, but that's far from being the only example. I read a blog in which someone lightly references the Riemann hypothesis or the Christianisation of Lithuania or whatever, and I can feel my brain heating up.

Please don't get the idea I worry about this. I'm more than comfortable with keeping on in my own small way, writing occasionally, going to smaller-scale social events and cons, and shoving out these rambly blogs. Largely for health reasons, I'm unlikely to be able to travel thousands of miles for a con anyway, and I have zero interest in loud, alcohol-or-other-drug-of-choice-fuelled parties.

I do wonder, though, whether all this helps to explain why I choose the stories I do to review. Right from the start, I've made a conscious effort to read plenty of fics that aren't among the acknowledged classics, or even at all well known. I think that, as something of an outsider here myself, I find myself sympathetic to other outsiders and drawn to give time to what they've produced.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 168: The Beard that's Feared

Read it Later story count: 403 (-1)

A very small edition today, because I've been both very busy and very tired lately. Also distracted by Moeen Ali's heroics for England in the cricket. What a player he's become in the last couple of years; he should be among the first names on the Ashes team-sheet. Anyway, returning to ponyfic, here is this week's meagre selection of stories:

I Shall Please by FanOfMostEverything
The Temple by DeraNged CupCak3
The Music Is Where I'll Be by statoose

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

Monday, 7 August 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 4: Social and antisocial media

It's BloodyMassiveCon USA next weekend, and I hope everyone who's going has a great time. :) But for those of us who are preparing for UK PonyCon instead (or as well!) another thrilling tip:

Tip 4: Use your phone – a bit

There are several official UK PonyCon social media accounts, which are listed here, on their page. Although they're currently rather infrequently updated, they should be busier during the convention and can be a good way of finding out what's happening, especially if something unexpected happens – as it often does!

I believe there will be free WiFi at the UWE, so you can also stay in touch with other attendees that way, not to mention making inane tweets about the colour of the stage curtains. (What? Is that just me? Okay then.) Back at BUCK 2014, some of us resorted to tweeting to people six feet away as the Summer Sun Celebration was too loud to talk/shout over, but that's unlikely to be the case at UKPC.

However, try not to overdo the phone use. You don't want to end up in a situation where you might as well have spent the weekend at home, spending a lot less money! I know it's hard to resist, but try to keep your mobile in your pocket for much of the time. This is an event where seeing, hearing and speaking for yourself works best.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Pony Music Library 45: "Best Friends Until the End of Time (JTH Remix)"

What? "Best Friends Until the End of Time (JTH Remix)"

Who? JoinedTheHerd

Which? Show song remix

When? April 2017

Why? Yeah, I know this is a bit recent by PML standards, but I just can't get it out of my head. The little repeated instrumental theme that plays multiple times during the song is one of the catchiest things I've heard in ages. The show version itself is growing on me a bit, but JTH's version really lifts it to another level. Nice ending, too. Also, cute cover art, though I can't help feeling this remix needs an animation with pixellated ponies bouncing along to the beat, a little like a 16-bit version of the way they do in "La Da Dee".

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

My Little Pony: The Movie rated PG in the US

No Ponyfic Roundup this week, as I'm away. There'll be a scheduled Pony Music Library post on Friday, but otherwise nothing until Monday. Enjoy the silence!

For "Mild Action Scenes", apparently – the S4 and S5 finales were both TV-Y, but oh well. I saw this news on Chevistian C's Twitter, and he's a pretty reliable source regarding such things. A warning to spoiler-avoiders that the relevant tweet contains a large picture of a character we haven't seen in the know – but if you're not bothered about that, you can see it here.

People who know about US ratings say the MLP movie was always likely to be PG. It does seem that, on this score at least, the Americans are fussier than we are over here. For example, Inside Out was rated U (=G) in the UK, but was given a PG certificate in the States. I think this is therefore the first ever MLP work with a PG rating, but I stand to be corrected on that.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Twilight's Ultimate Guide to the MLP Fandom

I can't remember how I found Twilight's Ultimate Guide to the MLP Fandom the other day, but I'm glad I did. It's a text-heavy page that tries to give a potted introduction to our weird and wonderful fandom, written by someone called Ajedi32 – here's the original Reddit post it's linked from, though I didn't find it from there.

There are sections covering animations, games, music and so on, but of course I was most interested in the fanfic section. Sadly Ajedi32 doesn't seem to be much into ponyfic, but there's a list of ten twelve stories they've had recommended to them. I've read them all apart from Through the Well of Pirene, and I'm now starting to read that one!

The Reddit post was made earlier this year, which means it's more up to date than some of the similar guides we see around the net, though perhaps not that up to date – it generally seems to cover up to around S5. One oddity is that it tries to avoid the most unavoidable spoiler in the fandom by referring to, eg, the "[Redacted] Twilight Orchestral Suite"!

Also oddly, the list of books includes Journal of the Two Sisters but not the Elements of Harmony guidebooks. The chapter book list is complete up to Starlight Glimmer and the Secret Suite but doesn't feature Trixie's book. Still, none of this stops the guide being a pretty good example of its type if you don't need pictures and videos every paragraph.

Friday, 28 July 2017


I was surprised and disappointed recently to discover that MandoPony has apparently scrubbed the majority of his pony-related songs from his YouTube account. He hasn't just made them unlisted as some others have, but has made them private and entirely inaccessible. It doesn't seem just to be a "Please buy my music instead" thing, as "Harmony" (to take just one example) is not available from his BandCamp page either.

A few of the really big songs ("Loyalty" and "Horse Famous", for example) are still available, but out of 42 songs in his "Pony Music" playlists (one and two) just 11 remain available at the time of writing. Some of the others can still be found via other people's re-uploads, but I doubt all can.

As the owner of these songs, it's MandoPony's right to take them away from public display – but I think it's really sad to see significant parts of fandom history just disappear like this, especially with no apparent notice or explanation being given. I really wish musicians wouldn't do this sort of thing.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 3: Don't get caught short

I'm continuing my little series of hints and tips for people planning on attending UK PonyCon this year. As ever, these are mainly aimed at first-timers, but I'm happy if they're useful for anyone else, too.

Tip 3: Find where the toilets are!

When you get into the con venue, the first thing you'll need to do is register. The second should be to find out where the toilets are. You may well be here for more than 12 hours on the Saturday, so you're certainly going to need to know this crucial information during your time at the convention – learn before you need it more urgently!

Last year, there was a small plan of the venue in the conbook, and such things are handy, but to fix the location in your mind you really need to learn the route to the toilets yourself. Apart from anything else, there's bound to be a point at which you need to dash there before an imminent new event or panel that starts in five minutes' time.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 167: No Churns, No Porter, No Cat on a Seat

I now have a "new" PC, so yay for that. It's nothing very thrilling (an ex-corporate Dell i3) but it's a huge improvement on the previous computer simply because it can go more than a few hours without crashing. :P

Read it Later story count: 404 (nc)

I've ended up reviewing five E-rated stories this time round. I don't think that really qualifies as an Edition, since I didn't set out to do it, but still. Admittedly, some of these rather stretch the E rating, which officially is supposed to mean "stuff you might see in the show", but I don't think it's a huge deal. I'd be annoyed to see an E-rated story with hard swearing in, but nothing like that's happened this week. We have:

Bonafide by Sharp Spark
Drug by RarityEQM
Words Failed Her by Nonsanity
Selling Out by Kaorin
I'll See You to Shore by Educated Guess

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

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

And even more custard news!

Sheet music for "Custard Song"
Has MuseScore ever been used to less useful effect?
I'd say I was sorry, but it wouldn't really be true. :D

Monday, 24 July 2017

More custard news

For reasons that I confess largely escape me, Starlight Repeatedly Teleports into Custard has been given a Seattle's Angels feature. That's provided me with about 30 extra views, so I'm not complaining, but I fear I must disappoint reviewer RTStephens, who suggested I write a sequel involving Trixie and a vat of pudding. For one, it's already been done (main-series comic #21) and for two, I already know what the sequel is going to be – and it'll come out just before UK PonyCon in October.

That said, I do agree with Snails where dessert is concerned.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon-goers 2: Ch-ch-change!

Time for the next tip for those attending UK PonyCon – which starts in three months from today! – especially people who haven't been before and don't quite know what to expect:

Tip 2: Take lots of change!

Cash is king at conventions. Some vendors might accept cards or PayPal or AppleThing, but you really can't count on any of them. Don't blithely assume there'll be an ATM ten yards away, either – the nearest permanent cashpoint is roughly a 15-minute walk away at Asda.

So take actual, old-fashioned money. And try your best to make sure that some of it is in change. If you buy a small badge or something costing £1.50 and can actually hand over £1.50 rather than a £20 note, the vendor will love you for it. Don't worry too much if you can't make up the exact money, but do your best.

Note that most buses in Bristol will give change, unlike in many big cities, so if you get any from that source, hang onto it.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

I like the way the fandom thinks

Note: this post itself is not spoilery, but the comments might be!

Equestria Daily has a poll running asking people what they're most looking forward to about the forthcoming movie. There are eight choices. Since it's not spoilery, I can mention here that the current numbers are:

1. Story (37%)
8. New Big Name Actors (2%)

Admittedly the fandom probably doesn't have entirely the same priorities as Hasbro, but never mind!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 166: Derpy Edition!

For those who know about such things: is there any significant difference between the type of stories you find on the AugieDog account and those you find on the Baal Bunny one? I'm probably missing something really obvious, but that's what I do.

Read it Later story count: 404 (-4)

This was planned and the stories read well before my recent Derpy-related post – yes, even the first story below – but it's a nice coincidence. I thought it was about time I had a themed edition of PR again, and Derpy was the winner of the Great Pony Lottery. Which was not in any way fixed. *cough* Here's this week's bunch o' fics:

Too Good For Us by Skeeter The Lurker
The Corners of (Our) Eyes by Daemon McRae
Let a Smile be Your Umbrella by Pascoite
Beep, Boop, I Will Destroy You! by NightWolf289
Insufficient Postage by Razgriz57
Today, Tomorrow, and Forever by ChoppersTopHat

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tips for UK PonyCon 1: Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!

Now that we're well inside 100 days until UK PonyCon 2017, I thought I'd actually do what I keep saying I will and put up a few little hints and tips. These are mostly aimed at people who haven't been to a convention before – they're the sort of stuff I'd have found useful when I first went to one – but of course I'm glad if anyone at all finds them helpful. Let's start with the one that tops every list:

Tip 1: Wear comfortable shoes

You can wing it with some things at a convention, but not this one. Unless you actually have wings (or Twilight-level teleportation ability) you're going to be doing a great deal of walking. Probably plenty of standing around as well, especially if you spend much time in queues.

Note that "comfortable" is far more important than "smart". When I went to BUCK 2014, I wore brand new shoes that hadn't been properly broken in. Mistake! I had to kludge things with tissues stuffed inside on the second day to stop myself from being in total agony. Don't be like me.

If you wear shoes that pinch or rub or are full of holes, you will regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Writer slams poor research, but how much did he do himself?

Over on Gizmondo (and that's not a way I want to start too many posts here!) a guy named Rhett Jones has posted an article entitled "Researchers Are Sorry They Used 'Derpy' in a Research Paper". I tend to agree with Jones that it's generally a bad idea to use non-standard language in research papers. However, seeing a massive picture of our Derpy at the top of the article, I read on to see whether there was any My Little Pony content. And here's what I found:
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic reinforced the association between derpy and language mocking people with disabilities when it controversially renamed a character previously called “Derpy” that was clumsy and had crossed eyes. Fan boys petitioned to “save Derpy,” failed, and the term officially became part of the war on “politically correct” language.
So, Mr Jones has written an article complaining about poor research, yet has clearly done almost none himself, at least where the MLP fandom is concerned. Why does life have to be so ironic?

Note: having read Oilyvalves' comment below, I wonder whether I might have been unfair here. Feel free to tell me so if you think I have.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

How the Telegraph covered the very first UK PonyCon. (Badly.)

Way way back many centuries ago in 2004, the inaugural UK PonyCon took place in Morecambe. There are still a few people around who've been to every one of the convention's iterations, but the fandom was inevitably a rather different place in those far-off pre-brony days.

Recently, I discovered that the Telegraph had written about the con, and that its own archive gave free access to this report by Rebecca Tyrrel. It's an interesting window into the past, but one that's sadly marred by the patronising tone with which many of us are all too familiar.

I'm not one of those people who thinks it would help for fans to snub the mainstream media entirely, and there have been good pieces – for example, the BBC's piece on bronies from 2013. It's just a shame to see that the sneery attitude was around even long before G4.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Pony Music Library 44: "Shy Heart"

What? "Shy Heart"

Who? Ponyphonic (full credits at end of post)

Which? Original song

When? November 2016

Why? Because it's one of the most wonderful Fluttershy tracks I've had the pleasure of hearing – and I've heard a lot! It's no surprise that a Ponyphonic song would be excellent, but this one got to me emotionally in a way very few Fluttersongs can do. The singer (Ponyphonic's sister!) has a lovely voice that suits the character perfectly, and she gives the piece a fragile beauty without taking things over the top. The other parts match the vocals excellently, too; for all I'm impressed by what can be done with computers these days, there's no substitute for real instruments. I could easily imagine this on a film soundtrack. I went to the YouTube video of this to check I was linking to the right one – and I ended up listening to the whole song. That says it all. This is Fluttershy, and I can give a song no higher praise.

Full credits
Vocals: Christina Ellis
Guitar: Don Larson
Violins: Brittany Davidson and Emilio Vazquez
Viola: Seth Willey
Cello: Gillian Kuroiwa
String Recording: Mark Lanus
Writing/Arrangement: Dane Larson

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Second-wave UK PonyCon tickets go on sale tomorrow

As many will know, sales of Saturday and Weekend tickets were suspended in early June owing to unprecedented demand. The committee wanted to put things on hold until they could visit Bristol together to discuss things with each other and the venue management.

This has now happened, and the committee have decided to book more space in the venue and to rearrange some of their plans. This will mean extra work for them, so major thanks are in order. This will mean that UK PonyCon 2017 will be the largest iteration ever!

The big news is that Weekend tickets will go back on sale tomorrow. Sunday-only and Stallholder tickets were not suspended anyway and sales of those will continue. If I'm reading the official post correctly, Saturday-only and VIP tickets will not go back on sale.

Also! If you bought a Sunday-only ticket during the suspension period (4th June to 13th July) you will be able to buy an upgrade to a Weekend ticket by paying the difference in price at the usual ticket store, meaning you won't have to buy a whole new Weekend ticket.

Keep an eye on the official UK PonyCon site and the ticket store to make sure you stay right up to date with what's happening on this score.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 165: Home for Retired Bears

Read it Later story count: 408 (-11)

My PC is still dying, but I haven't been able to get the time, money, money or time to replace it yet, so I'm struggling on with the one I've got for now. At least I've managed to get five stories read this week, which frankly feels like something of an achievement. Okay, okay, the nice weather helped – sitting in the garden with a book is one of life's nicer little pleasures. Here's what I've got for you today:

The Archer and the Smith by Sharaloth
Mayor Mare Has a Problem by Noble Thought
I'm Not A Firefly by SirTruffles
Those Awful Rumors 'Round Town by PresentPerfect
Mister Lonely Heart by Eskerata

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

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bits and pieces

First: if there's anyone left who hasn't seen Oilyvalves' spectacular Lego Rainbow Dash – made from 3,700 bricks! – then gallop right over to this EqD post from a couple of weeks ago. I declare an interest here in that a) he's a friend, and b) I've seen Lego Dash in person (at a meet). And yes, she really does look tremendous. :D

Second: the July edition of Flashfic 150 is currently open for submissions. The closing date is the 21st of this month, so you have plenty of time. This month's prompt is Crossing Over, chosen by last month's winner, Chris.

Third: has anyone in the UK seen the Series 4 Enterplay Fun Pack cards (not the CCG packs) in actual, bricks-and-mortar shops? I was in a Forbidden Planet recently and they still had the ancient Series 3 on sale, but no S4 cards.

Fourth: I haven't forgotten about the Pony Music Library, but my dying PC is really not helping matters there. However, I will try to get a new post in that series up sometime in the next week or so.

Fifth: a quick survey of friends at the last Worcester meet revealed that most but not all had seen the movie trailer. As such, I've decided to continue to spoiler-cut posts that give away anything about that.

There's probably something I've forgotten, but you should be used to that by now!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Logan and NSFW Pony stuff

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen a potted version of this post last night. But I want to make something very clear. There are certain things in this fandom that I don't want anything to do with. One of them is most definitely "Look how drunk I am, hur hur hur". If that's your bag, well that's your business, as long as you do it well away from me. But if you want me anywhere near your social event, don't make it dependent on the putting-away of stupid quantities of alcohol. (Or any drug stronger than caffeine.) The whole concept bores the hell out of me.

Secondly, I have very limited tolerance for NSFW. Yes, I read the occasional Mature-rated ponyfic – but that's about it. I won't even go to 18+ fandom events, as a matter of principle. For me, the social aspect of this fandom is absolutely bound up with its all-ages, family-friendly nature, and I'm not prepared to compromise on that. So I'm going to have very little patience with you if you start trying to tell me that All Lewd Butts Chat, All The Time or whatever is something I'd love. No. I wouldn't. I really, really wouldn't.

This fandom matters to me. I don't care how silly that sounds. I don't care how silly it is. It matters for a whole host of reasons, some minor and some very important to me indeed. I don't have a problem if your personal fandom is very different from mine. That's great. Go for your life, as the Aussies would say. But don't you bloody dare try to force my fandom to be like that too. I'm not going to appreciate it, and I'm going to tell you that in language a great deal blunter than I use on here.

For the avoidance of doubt, nothing I've said here is as a result of anything that's happened on this blog, and I very much doubt anyone reading this will be among the people it's really aimed at. I just needed to get it out. End of rant.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

"Anthropology" – new piano cover by Matías Peñaloza

AwkwardMarina's Lyra song, "Anthropology", has been one of my favourite fandom tracks since I heard it for the very first time at BUCK 2013. Now, the always excellent Matías Peñaloza has published a really nice piano cover of the song. It's pretty faithful to the original, but with just enough variety to give it a character of its own. I like it a good deal.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Episode review: S7E13: "The Perfect Pear"

Back in March, I reviewed EbonQuill's Slouching Towards Canterlot for Ponyfic Roundup 150. I enjoyed it a good deal and awarded it four stars. Unfortunately, Pascoite points out in a comment on that PR that it isn't as original as I'd imagined. Disappointing. Hopefully less disappointing is my getting up to date with episode reviews!

The Apple Siblings talk to Mrs Cake
Finding a non-spoilery picture for this episode was not easy
It's taken a ridiculous amount of time, but here at last is my review of the halfway point of Season 7. It's another fairly short one, because otherwise you'll still be waiting when S8 begins. This was written by Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco, and the Lady Writers are usually good value with their episodes. This was a much-anticipated ep, and for anyone who hasn't yet seen it: what's beyond the break will be really, really spoilery. If that's not a problem to you, follow me!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 164: Dying PC Edition :P

Read it Later story count: 419 (-2)

If this post stops suddenly, it's because my PC died before I could finish editing. :P Anyway, assuming I make it all the way through, there'll be four stories under review this week, including a couple of real old-timers. The fics are are:

Easy As Pie by xjuggernaughtx
Sauna Talk by FlutterLights
Just an Assistant by RadicalDishonesty
Tonight I Shall Be Laughter by Cloud Wander

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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Reduced activity for a little while

Just a heads-up: my PC is on its way to dying, and it's doing so at a particularly irritating time financially. As such, it may be a little while before I have a reliable computer at home again. It's sort of working still, but that's as far as it goes. I can write up scheduled posts on public PCs when I have the time – but that's not very often.

For now, I'll be prioritising Ponyfic Roundup and any UK PonyCon news I notice, as well as doing my best to keep up with Flashfic 150 over on Fimfiction. (July prompt, chosen by Chris: "Crossing Over".) Anything else will have to be fitted in where I can manage it. I'm just relieved I'm a writer rather than a video or game maker, since the necessary PC specs are a fair bit lower – and so, therefore, is the price of a useable second-hand machine!

Ponyfic Roundup 164 will appear tomorrow, unless the PC totally Norwegian Blues before then. Regrettably it'll be another brief edition, since I spent yesterday evening messing around inside the PC case rather than reading, but it will contain at least three reviews. So yay and woo-hoo and suchlike.

Edit: Oh, and the E13 review will also, at last, appear in the next few days. I hope.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Reviewer Reviews Reviewed

Chris has an occasional series called "Reviewer Reviews" in which he looks at how some of the more prolific ponyfic reviewers go about their business. A couple of weeks ago, it was my turn.

I was a little nervous about this, especially given that the period chosen (Ponyfic Roundups 157 to 160) was not one I think of as my best, but it worked out okay. Chris rightly says that my reviews give a lot of weight to my personal enjoyment or otherwise of the fics I look at – and that's how PR is intended to work. It's always been a slightly expanded "Here are some fics I read and what I thought of them" rather than anything more formal, and I don't expect that to change much.

One of the parts of Chris's piece that stood out was a paragraph in which he compared my reviewing style to Present Perfect's:
Both of them are agreeable and on the laconic side, and both briefly focus on a few key elements rather than trying to discuss every element of every story.  But whereas PP uses a lot of humor and self-depreciation to make his point while still coming off as friendly, Logan's writing has more of a good-natured, self-aware earnestness to it.
I'm not entirely sure what "self-aware earnestness" is, but I'll take "good-natured" any day. Personally, I think I do sprinkle in a reasonable amount of humour, but possibly it's too dry and British for most people to notice. Or just not very funny. Still, I don't intend to make any major changes to my style, as I feel pretty comfortable with it as it stands.

Chris points up the fact that five-star ratings are much rarer than they used to be, to the extent that he says "they don't see much (any) use anymore". It's true that fives are rare now, and I intend to keep it that way. My scale is skewed in that a solid, decent but not particularly memorable fic will generally get a two, not a three. That means that a five-star story has to be not merely excellent but exceptional. As it happens, CiG's The Destruction of the Self did get a five last time out (PR 163), so I haven't abandoned the top rating entirely!

Among the most interesting aspects of this series is that Chris gives an example of what he feels is a strong review, and conversely one he thought was weaker. He chose my review of My Little Introvert: Being Home is Magic(al) (PR 158) for the former – that surprised me a bit, as I feel it was a slightly rushed review. What They Don't Know (PR 160) was the one he felt had weaknesses; in this case, I agree, but as the review itself makes clear it was one I found difficult to write about without major spoilers. Here's how Chris summed up what he saw:
Logan's reviews are an excellent source if you're looking for a large quantity, a pretty decent variety, and brevity that doesn't sacrifice big-picture reviewer opinion.  You're not going to get a lot of detail here, nor much in the way of analysis, but he's worth following if you're more interested in a bunch of quick hits than a few deep dives.
I think that's a fair assessment, and I'm pleased to see variety mentioned; I've always made a considerable effort not only to review the stuff everyone else has been reading. Chris didn't look at any of my occasional Spotlight reviews, but that was probably sensible as they are only occasional – and in any case, they're not what I do best. Chris himself does long-form reviews notably well, if you ask me.

Oh, and since this came up in passing: "Loganberry" is my username because it's what I've used in various fandoms for a decade and a half. However, because it shortens to something that sounds like an ordinary name, people in the MLP fandom tend to call me "Logan" in real life. I like it, and I've increasingly adopted it online – as on this blog. However, I don't intend to change my Fimfiction username, as I'm comfortable with that as well.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Movie trailer out!

No teaser this time – this is the real deal, to mark 100 days until the film's release in the United States, you utter bastards. A little over two minutes of concentrated My Little Pony: The Movie goodness. For the benefit of those of you avoiding spoilers who don't want to know what's in this, I'll put my brief thoughts after a break. They're what I posted in the EqD comments last night, so bear in mind they're instant reactions rather than anything more considered!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 163: In my Plastic Aeroplane

Read it Later story count: 421 (-8)

Well, would you look at that? For the first time in quite a few weeks, I actually have more than four stories in a PR! That's right: this time round, there are five. I'm hoping to get a themed edition or two done once I'm back on an even keel, but for now I hope you'll find this week's selection to be a reasonably varied bunch. Here's what you'll find reviewed after the break:

A Clever Pony by Drax99
Red Satin Sheets by Holy
My Brother, The Tooth by Georg
The Destruction of the Self by Cold in Gardez
Silence by ThatOneWriter

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

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Season 7A – the UK of Equestria rankings

As for the last few seasons, over on UK of Equestria we've recently asked people to rank season 7's episodes up to the hiatus. We chose to make the cutoff episode 11, to avoid potential problems relating to Australian spoilers. I did wonder whether anyone would bother given all the scheduling confusion, but we had 12 lists submitted, enough to get an idea.

I'll pick out a few details at the end of the post, but first here's what the UK of E folks came up with – my own rankings are in brackets:

1. "A Royal Problem" (1)

2. "All Bottled Up" (4)
3. "Parental Glideance" (2)
4. "Rock Solid Friendship" (3)

5. "Celestial Advice" (5)

6. "Hard to Say Anything" (9)
7. "A Flurry of Emotions" (7)
8. "Forever Filly" (10)
9. "Honest Apple" (6)

10. "Not Asking for Trouble" (11)
11. "Fluttershy Leans In" (8)

Number of times each episode placed first
9: "A Royal Problem"
2: "Parental Glideance"
1: "All Bottled Up"

Number of times each episode placed last
6: "Not Asking for Trouble"
3: "Fluttershy Leans In"
1: "A Flurry of Emotions"
1: "Forever Filly"
1: "Honest Apple"

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. "Forever Filly"
2. "Hard to Say Anything"
3. "Not Asking for Trouble"

Least controversial
1. "Fluttershy Leans In"
2. "A Royal Problem"
3. "All Bottled Up"

It wasn't remotely close at the top of the list: "A Royal Problem" was the easiest winner since we started doing these rankings during S4, with a massive lead over the rest of the field. As well as those nine top spots, the episode garnered two seconds and a single fifth place. "All Bottled Up" had only one no. 1 ranking, but everyone placed it in their top five.

At the bottom, the highest "Fluttershy Leans In" was placed was eighth (yes, yes, I was indeed one of those...) but "Not Asking for Trouble" only avoided the wooden spoon because of a solitary fourth place. Those two trailed the rest by a considerable distance. "Forever Filly", the most divisive episode by some margin, was placed as high as second and as low as last.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Episode review: S7E12: "Discordant Harmony"

Some Discords get ready to "fix" Discord's house
Wreaking anarchy and all that it brings. Or not
Although Canada and the US have entered a hiatus after episode 11, Australian television has now shown episodes 12 and 13 as well. That being so, I've decided to review them straight(ish) away. I should warn you in advance that E13 in particular is not one you want to know about before viewing. This ep is more ordinary, so you won't be spoiling yourself on any earth-shaking revelations if you do decide to read it. Beyond the break, a shortish look at "Discordant Harmony".

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Can you help support the Big Master Review List?

I'm hoping to get episode 12's review posted before the next Ponyfic Roundup on Wednesday. It's taken me a little longer than I'd hoped, for which apologies, but it is in the works! Now, back to the main subject of this post...

What's the Big Master Review List? Only the most useful ponyfic reviews database (well, spreadsheet) in existence. It's maintained by Singularity Dream, aka the City of Doors guy – who wonders whether anyone would be prepared to make a little financial donation to support his work. If only I weren't stupidly tight for cash right now, I'd be doing so. (More hefty bills coming up, sadly.) However, I can at least give SD and the BMRL a signal boost here. So, if you're willing and able to help, here's the blog post where you'll find more information.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Fimfiction now has a Patreon

And here's the proof. There are four levels of patronage (Patreonage?) available, which are as follows, along with their minimum monthly cost:

  • Fimfictioneer ($1)
  • Bronze ($5)
  • Silver ($10)
  • Gold ($20)

All the above tiers get you "access to special Discord channel" and a badge beneath your name on Fimfiction comments, while Bronze and above also remove ads from the site. The Silver and Gold tiers don't get you any further benefits beyond a more expensively coloured badge – and a feeling of intense smugness, I suppose. :P

It's no secret that I really dislike auto-recurring subscriptions and try to avoid them whenever possible. "Only a little per month" can mount up rather terrifyingly if you support a few things at once, and given my cashflow situation right now, I'm not going to rush into this one. I don't have the tiniest interest in Discord channels either. That said, Fimfiction is one of the very few fandom causes I might consider supporting in this way.

What I'll probably do is see how things go for a bit first. What matters most is that the site doesn't start discriminating against free users, either explicitly or in a more insidious way. I've seen that happen on other sites and it's very often the beginning of the end for a decent community.* I'm hopeful Fimfiction won't go down that road, though.

As I type this (late Friday evening UK time) a little over 100 people have signed up. The Bronze tier is by some distance the most popular, followed by Fimfictioneer, Gold and Silver in that order. It'll be interesting to see whether that number keeps going up, or whether most of those who'd be most enthusiastic have already signed up.

Also: couldn't you guys have done this when a pound was worth $2.00 rather than $1.27? :P

* On this note: I will never select stories for Ponyfic Roundup review based on their authors' Fimfiction Patreon status. This is a promise.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Staying at the Bristol Parkway Holiday Inn for UK PonyCon? READ THIS NOW

This is important

 If you are going to UK PonyCon and have booked a room at the Holiday Inn at Bristol Parkway (I think this is the Express hotel) then please check your bank records immediately. According to sarahthrel, a member of the con committee, a member of staff there has been arrested on suspicion of stealing credit/debit card details and using them fraudulently.

If you find suspicious activity on your bank statements, first of all report it to your bank. Then, please get in touch privately with the con committee (contact details here) to help the police investigation and get your case logged. The hotel management have dealt with their end of things, so you shouldn't need to contact them specifically.

It appears that no other hotels are involved, and that this only applies to bookings made before 10th June.

Please help to spread the word, so that anyone who may be affected knows as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 162: It Really Doesn't Matter if it's Raining or it's Fine

I'll be reviewing episodes 12 and (if it airs) 13 in the near future, but I can't currently give a firm date. Anyway, as I type this, southern Britain is in the grip of its longest June heatwave since 1995, so please excuse me if I make more mistakes than usual. As ever, I'd be grateful for them to be pointed out!

Read it Later story count: 429 (-11)

I said last week there'd be both a story and an author with "Horse" in their names. Well, I got the story. However, a fic I thought was written by Pale Horse turns out be by Ruirik. Apologies to both authors! An error on my part when I was updating my Calibre ponyfic database, I suppose. I managed to get through a small number of fics this week, and these are they:

The Skin Horse by Obselescence
The Regular by Ruirik
Opinions by All Art Is Quite Useless
Mother's Day by MajesticPoniesEverywhere

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

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

40 hours to go in June's Flashfic 150 contest

As I type this, there haven't been as many entries for this month's Flashfic 150 contest as in May. It's true that the last two editions have seen quite a few submissions close to the deadline, but who knows what will happen this time round? The prompt (suggested by PostNinja, the May winner) is Wouldn't be caught dead and the entry thread, including a link to the full rules, is right here. If you have a Fimfiction account and can keep to an E/T rating, you're welcome to join us!

Monday, 19 June 2017

There is no moral imperative for fans to follow creators to pastures new

Over the last year or two, as an increasing number of creators who got their break in the My Little Pony fandom move on either to other fandoms or to wholly original work, I've noticed a rather odd attitude start to take hold, only from a few people it's true but in one or two cases including some quite loud voices. This being that fans who don't wish to follow those creators are somehow letting the side down.

This is a silly attitude.

Look, I write pony fanfiction. I'm no genius, but I do have a few regulars who read most of what I publish. I'm grateful to them. But if I announced tomorrow that I wanted to switch fandoms, or to strike out into original fiction instead, with the same general style but minus the framework of the Equestrian world, I'm pretty sure that at least some of those regulars would lose interest.

There is nothing wrong with that.

As well as being an author of ponyfic, I'm also a reader. And the fact is that a considerable part of my enjoyment comes specifically from the use of the MLP setting. Even the very best authors in the fandom, those who could truly make it as pro original fiction writers – and in a few cases already have – wouldn't have the same interest for me if they stopped writing pony.

Of course, I don't only read ponyfic. And also of course, I know I'm unlikely to be this committed forever, and that the base of good ponyfic writers is likely to continue to shrink as the fandom does likewise. But expecting me to continue to read Cold in Gardez's work if for some reason he started writing fics about Pokémon instead... well, no.

If you like a soft-pop musician who later starts making mathcore, nobody assumes you're somehow letting the side down if you don't continue to listen to that artist's new music. I don't understand the notion that creators deserve loyalty even if they totally change their scene. No, they don't. Artists have the right to go somewhere new; fans have the right not to follow them.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Pony Music Library 43: "In Our Town"

About time we had another PML entry! This time, it's a song from the show itself – and from one of my favourite episodes, too. And yes, that thumbnail is correct; for some reason Hasbro think this fits as part of a party playlist. Insert your preferred Communist Party joke here...

What? "In Our Town"

Who? Daniel Ingram; Caleb Chan (orchestration)

Which? Show song

When? April 2015

Why? "In Our Town" is under two and a half minutes long, but to my mind it's one of the finest songs Daniel Ingram's come up with in the last three years. Inspired by World War Two propaganda songs, this is pre-reformation Starlight Glimmer's attempt to demonstrate the rightness of her twisted vision for Our Town. It's catchy, it's upbeat – and it's terrifying. "You can't have a nightmare if you never dream" is one of the most memorable lines in any song, not just an MLP song. "In Our Town" is unlike anything else in the series, fitting for an episode that also stands out from the crowd. Sorry, Evil!Glimmy, but the one thing this song isn't is the same as all the others!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 161: Spotlight on One in a Million

Read it Later story count: 440 (-2)

One in a Million by ocalhoun
Scootaloo, OCs, Twilight, Rainbow Dash and CMC
Drama; 54k words; Dec 2013; Everyone
Scootaloo finally finds her special talent. It's the worst week of her life.
Scoot discovers that she can teleport, and an astonished Twilight pulls strings to get her into Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Unfortunately for the filly, she's confronted by racist teachers, a bullying room-mate and her own feelings of unbelonging. This is basically a boarding school story, albeit on a much shorter timescale than the Harry Potters of this world. Scootaloo herself is quite nicely drawn, and I do celebrate her little triumphs and commiserate with her when she fails. My problems with the fic are twofold: one, that just about everypony in authority is appalling. It gets a bit wearing after a while. And two, that a major secondary character's dialogue is written in a thick dialect I find tremendously annoying; it's much worse than Applejack's "ah-speak". If you can slog through that, though, and if you can accept Scoot's eventual destiny (which I just about can), Best Filly's own strength of character makes this fic worth the read. ★★★

Come past the break with me for a more detailed, and spoiler-filled, look at some aspects of the story that caught my attention.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Star ratings restored for Ponyfic Roundup

For the most recent Ponyfic Roundup, I experimented with not having star ratings. The weight of feedback was heavily in favour of having the ratings, and as such I have decided to go back to the way I've been doing things for ages. Star ratings have also been retrospectively awarded for the four fics I reviewed then. Happily, it was a good week! I've added them to the Ponyfic Roundup post, but for convenience here's a summary:

Cleave by BlazzingInferno ★★★★
A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing by Pascoite ★★★★
In Memory Of by Obselescence ★★★★
What They Don't Know by SoundoftheWaves ★★★

Sunday, 11 June 2017

In the national interest

Text: "Gogglesprogs review – after much debate, Aquaman is the people's choice for PM"
Given the confused result of the general election, I can certainly get behind asking a noted author of My Little Pony fanfiction to govern the United Kingdom. The guy's studied in the UK after all, so would probably pass as a genuine British human being more easily than, say, Theresa May. Of course, I'm happy for the Cabinet to consist of various other ponyfic writers, noted or otherwise. As long as I get to be Secretary of State for Scootaloo, since that's nicely alliterative.

Okay, okay, it's a TV review from the Guardian.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 160: An Optimist who Carries a Raincoat

General election day here in the UK. I shall of course go out and vote – I always do – but the national result seems a bit of a foregone conclusion. As I'm not a Tory, I'm not entirely thrilled with this. Still, life and Pony go on, so off we go.

Read it Later story count: 442 (-5)

Four more stories this week, but you may notice a small but significant change in the reviewing format. This isn't an accident. It's an experiment for now, so it's possible I may restore the old format in the future.* Also, I keep looking in the wrong place for character tags on Fimfiction now they've moved! I'll get used to it, probably. And there are definitely four stories under review this week:

Cleave by BlazzingInferno
A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing by Pascoite
In Memory Of by Obselescence
What They Don't Know by SoundoftheWaves

(Update 12 June: Following feedback, I have restored the star ratings!)

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

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

UK PonyCon ticket situation update!

Ponyfic Roundup has been delayed until tomorrow, since this needs to be mentioned now.

The UK PonyCon folks have made this announcement about their ticket sales. In brief:

Sunday and Stallholder tickets remain on sale as before. You can go and buy these right now.

Weekend and Saturday tickets are on hold pending the con committee making a further visit to the venue, hopefully in the nearish future. Once that's been done, there may (operative word!) be additional tickets released.

The reason for this is quite simple: some ticket types have been selling extremely well! I'm not entirely surprised by this – last year's con sold out in July, and that was in a year with BUCK too. It certainly demonstrates that demand for MLP events in the UK is still very strong if the event in question has a good enough reputation.

Please do not buy UKPC tickets from third parties! Any third parties. They do not have the right to sell said tickets, since they are not transferable. Please don't be tempted into buying one, since you're liable to find yourself refused entry at the con registration desk!

If you'd like to attend UK PonyCon this year but don't yet have a ticket, and assuming you're not planning on being a vendor, you have two legitimate choices: either buy a Sunday ticket or wait and see what happens with the other types.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Train travel in ponyfic – or the lack of it

Something that occurred to me recently was that there isn't much detailed treatment of train travel in ponyfic. There are exceptions, such as The Descendant's superb The Railway Ponies: Highball, but not that many. When you consider that rail is the basic way for ponies not otherwise equipped to travel long distances in Equestria, that seemed a little surprising. I wondered why it was so.

One possibility I can suggest is that most ponyfic is written by Americans, whose personal experience of train travel isn't entirely relevant to Pony. With a few exceptions, passenger railways in the US are commuter lines in densely populated cities. With the possible exception of Manehattan, Equestrian railways are all about inter-city travel. (Okay, not always between cities, but you get the idea.)

This fits with the show's vaguely 1900-era technology (again, outside Manehattan) since back then railways were the way to go cross-country in America. They aren't now: Las Vegas, a city of two million people, has, unless you count a limited monorail service, no passenger trains at all. In Europe, however, inter-city railways remain heavily used, and are familiar to hundreds of millions of people.

If you've only ever been on a train on holiday, especially a super-luxury cruising train, your experience perhaps hasn't been very close to the "Come on girls, we need to get to Canterlot!" experience of Equestrian ponies. Unless you're actually a rail enthusiast (like the aforementioned TD) it's probably going to be quite difficult to appreciate the rhythms of that type of train trip.

This isn't a very developed theory. I just thought I'd throw it out there and see what people made of it.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Mild amusement

A couple of months back, my little story Like a Flower to the World got reviewed by a moderately prominent review group on Fimfiction. It was absolutely savaged, with the final verdict being "28/100 Avoid". That was the point at which it picked up its first downvote, I assume from its reviewer. I was, as you can imagine, more than a little disappointed with that rating – it's not an amazing story by any means, but I don't think it's that bad. But hey, everyone has a right to an opinion on a story. I'd be pretty hypocritical if I didn't believe that!

The thing is, since that happened, Flower has picked up 50-60 views – not negligible for a story with under 200 at the time of review! – and its thumbscore has gone from +26/-1 to +30/-1. I can only conclude that all publicity really is good publicity. Or that reviewers' opinions count for nothing, but that's too scary a thought for me to deal with. ;)

Thursday, 1 June 2017

UK PonyCon 2017 – places to eat

The out-of-town location of UK PonyCon this year means there aren't nearly as many options for refreshments as when the convention's been held in a city centre. This is not an event at which you'll have dozens of restaurants, pubs and cafés within a few minutes' walk. However, there's no need to starve! I've found a number of places to obtain food, and here they are.

Hours are given in the format (Saturday / Sunday). The linked distances go to a Google Maps page with directions to the establishment in question.

At the venue

There are two options in the UWE itself:
  • Café (9am–7pm / 9am–4pm)
  • Bar (midday–10.30pm / midday–5pm)

I have no idea how good the café is, but if it's even halfway decent (read: stocks muffins!) and not stupidly expensive, I do recommend eating there at least some of the time. First, it supports the venue, which is always a nice thing to do. Second, it'll be full of con attendees, which will give it a special flavour.

However, this won't be an option for breakfast, late night Saturday or any post-con meals on Sunday. You may also feel that you need a brief change of scene to get you through two packed days. I know I have done at times. As such, some possible alternatives follow.

Unlike some other convention venues, the UWE does allow you to take your own cold food and soft drinks in. No hot food or drinks and definitely no alcohol! Obviously, if you choose to bring food in, don't then go wandering round the vendor stalls with mayonnaise or chocolate all over your hands...

Abbey Wood Shopping Park

This retail park (0.7 miles) has a number of places where you can get a snack or a meal:
  • Asda (supermarket open midnight–10pm / 10am–4pm; café hours unknown) 
  • Bella Italia (9am–11pm / 9am–10pm)
  • Costa (8am–8pm / 9am–6pm)
  • Frankie & Benny's (9am–11pm / 9am–10.30pm)
  • McDonald's (24 hours / 24 hours)
  • Nando's (11am–10pm / 11.30am–10pm)
  • Subway (8am–9pm / 8am–7pm)

Other supermarket

Although not at Abbey Wood, there is one other supermarket with a café that's almost the same distance from the con venue. It is:
  • Sainsbury's (7.30am–7pm / 9.30am–3.30pm) in Fox Den Road (0.6 miles)

Local pub

Yes, singular I'm afraid. There is precisely one pub within a mile of the con venue, weird for an area full of students but there it is. I suppose they must all drink at the Students' Union. That one pub is not the cheapest, with the average main course costing £10–£12, but for those interested:
  • The Fox Den (midday–11pm / midday–10.30pm) (0.7 miles)

Hotel bars

The Holiday Inn bars are open to non-residents. These are as follows:
  • HI Express Bristol North (hours unknown) (0.7 miles)
  • HI Bristol Filton (hours unknown) (0.8 miles)

And that's the lot! Well, I think so, anyway. Let me know if I need to make any corrections. And no, your eyes are not deceiving you: all the options are pretty much the same distance from the UWE! If you happen to know of anywhere else to eat within a mile of the convention venue, then please tell me and I'll add it to the list. :)

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 159: It was Twenty Years Ago Today

Read it Later story count: 447 (+3)

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

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

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

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Pony Music Library 42: "Hay Ms Derpy"

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

What? "Hay Ms Derpy"

Who? Forest Rain

Which? Parody

When? April 2012

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

Friday, 26 May 2017

May's Flashfic 150 is over

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

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Episode review: S7E11: "Not Asking for Trouble"

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

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 158: Run With Us

Read it Later story count: 444 (nc)

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

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

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

Monday, 22 May 2017

Episode review: S7E10: "A Royal Problem"

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

Sunday, 21 May 2017

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

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

Saturday, 20 May 2017

More on UK PonyCon 2017!

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

Dates: Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October

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

Venue: UWE Exhibition and Conference Centre, Bristol

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

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

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

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

Theme: Wild West

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

Tickets and prices

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

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

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

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

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

UK PonyCon 2017's official ticket page

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Episode review: S7E09: "Honest Apple"

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

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 157: Throw Yourself at the Ground and Miss

Read it Later story count: 444 (+1)

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

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

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

Monday, 15 May 2017

Episode review: S7E08: "Hard to Say Anything"

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

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

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Comic mini-review: Legends of Magic #1

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

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Episode review: S7E07: "Parental Glideance"

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

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Ponyfic Roundup 156: Scribblefest Edition

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

Read it Later story count: 443 (+1)

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

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

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