The fight had lasted well into the morning. The fires that burned brightly in the dawn light were a pale reflection of the rage and destruction that had been unleashed the night previous. Alexmagnet crawled through the wreckage of the Seattle’s Angels headquarters towards his weapon that lay just a few feet away: his trusty Bop-It, once a source of color and happiness, now just a battery-drained sad chunk of plastic.
A red squirrel hopped onto the high-tech weapon, curling his insidious paws around the twist-it and pull-it levers.
“Admit defeat, Alex. I have won,” he snarled. “The Angels’ space station falls from the sky and your robot army lies in ruins. It is time to end this.”
“Never!” shouted Alex. “You insulted my writing. You dared take a mantle you do not deserve, RedSquirrel!”
Red reared up and held aloft a silver acorn. “I have proven myself in the purging fires of FimFiction’s new story column! I have laid myself bare in the podcasts! When I claim this title my ascension to the ranks of a true Seattle’s Angel will be complete!”
He tossed the acorn, bopping Alex on the head. The other Angel convulsed and flopped about on the floor before going still.
“I will ask once more!” declared the squirrel. “Do you surrender?”
Alex sighed. “Fine, fine… you can write the intro.”
Red leaned in closer, grinning manically as he held up a sheet of paper in his dastardly little paw. “Oh, but Alex… I already have!”
“All this destruction for nothing? You evil, insane rodent!”
Razgriz poked his head in through the door. “Hey! You numbskulls done out there? We got reviews to do!”
Red and Alex looked up from their destroyed pillow fort. “Okay,” they lamented in unison.ROUND 29
The Frozen West, by Cozy Mark IV
There’s nothing I like to see more than a nice, tasty slab of worldbuilding still steaming hot from the creative furnace of the author’s mind on my plate. Whether it’s incredible mythology stretching into the misty ancient aeons or just a simple explanation for why ponies have doorknobs, worldbuilding is one of my favorite seasonings to add to any tale. The Frozen West is not by nature a piping hot story—indeed, it is more a slow descent into madness than a rollicking adventure, in spite of that being one of its tags. But it might stop your heart from the ice-cold wasteland of death and despair that this story drags its characters into. There aren’t many pony stories that manage to actually make themselves dark and creepy, but this is one that succeeds in all the right ways. Let me start off by saying that this story is less about the characters and more about the world it creates. They are mostly engines for the story and their motivations are told straight out in a less than organic way, but not so much that it puts you off from the reading itself. If you have no problems with that (I know I didn’t) then the rest of the story will go down like a spoonful of sugar.
We’re introduced via rather lengthy exposition to the character of Martin, a griffon who grew up with a taste for adventure by reading, of all things, the Daring Do series of kid novels. This should set some alarm bells ringing right here. What’s a griffon doing being a fan of a well-known pony series? This and other tantalizing clues reveal that this is a world that is, in fact, dominated by griffons, ponies are much more rare than they once were, and it is in a future far removed from what we are familiar with. The biggest departure come when we are told it is not the equator that is hot and the poles that are cold, but west is frozen and east is boiling away. The Sun and the Moon do not move in the sky. After finding some chilling evidence (hue) of pony population to the west where records say there shouldn’t be, Martin joins an expedition to find out who lives there and maybe even find out what caused the celestial bodies to stop spinning millenia ago.
What they find defies expectation, and rightly so. The admittedly slow pace of this story ramps up once they reach their destination and then goes full-steam to its frightening conclusion, leaving you high atop the mountain of realization, able to see the truth of this world and unable to change it. I said before this story is actually quite grim and dark, but this is the exact kind of grim and dark that I like to see in a story. It doesn’t warp our expectations of the characters from the show, it doesn’t just throw terrible monsters and our favorite characters into a blender and mix them up, and it doesn’t just expect the reader to realize why this particular thing is frightening. It’s a fear that could, in fact, actually happen within the boundaries of the show canon. It’s recognizable, it’s real, and therefore a much scarier thought than I’m sure almost anything the upcoming Halloween themed fics will imagine. RazgrizS57:
It’s not at all that hard to establish a frame of reference for when a story takes place, and it’s even easier to completely dismiss one altogether, because unless it’s otherwise stated, it’s downright implied that the story at hand occurs relatively within the timeline of the show. But The Frozen West takes what’s got to be the best approach to telling a reader when the story takes place: it doesn’t. It shows. Man, does it show.
Let’s start by saying how awesome this story is with its worldbuilding. We’re introduced to the main character Martin, a young gryphon with the heart of an adventurer, and that notion really proves itself not just throughout the story, but in the very Daring Do novels he’s taken a liking to. And while Martin may be the main character, this story isn’t so much about him but the world that’s continuously being built and discovered around him. His adventures take him from the warm and tranquil eastern part of his world to over the frozen expanse and desolate wasteland that marks the west, and as the story progresses, the creepiness factor increases dramatically. This story isn’t horrifying so much as it’s unsettling, and it really earns its marks getting in under the reader’s skin. The more attentive readers will take notice of not just the world Martin enters, but the one he leaves behind on his journey.
What I find most mesmerizing about The Frozen West is that, for all it’s exposition, there’s still so much it doesn’t explain, which really benefits the creepiness in the end. It may feel like the reader was left in the dark at the end, but there’s more than enough to infer exactly what went down and what the story is behind all that’s untold. There’s much here that’s left unsaid, for all it’s worth, that actually helps the story, which is something I rarely see and really gets the reader thinking.
Of course, I have some qualms with this story. However, they are for the most part technical, for example with some awkward phrasing or punctuation misuse. Something to note is how unnecessary Martin feels to the story despite his involvement. But that isn’t to say the story feels inflexible or boring, especially not its characters.
Those who love worldbuilding should be in love here. There’s plenty of details to be on the lookout for, and those who want to walk away feeling a bit creeped out should also check this story out. The twist at the end is surely a surprise. alexmagnet:
Martin laughed. “You'll think me an old romantic, but now that it's just the four of us? I am secretly hoping to find something new. I don't know what, but perhaps there are secrets to the west that even we know nothing of.”
So, about a week ago, I saw Gravity at my local theater (which is total crap by the way), and I was blown away by how beautiful the movie was. I'm not one of those guys that sees special effects and just glazes over because “hurr durr, it's like Avatar”. Nah, dawg, that ain't me. I like 2001 just as much as any other self-respecting movie buff, but there's something about Gravity that makes you think that this movie couldn't have been done without modern CGI, and that in itself is an impressive feat. But I digress, one of the things I don't think most people think about when they ponder what it'd be like to float in space, is HOW INSANELY FRIGGIN' COLD IT IS. I mean, it makes walking around the North Pole in a tank top and booty shorts look like a stroll along Vespucci Beach. The other thing I think people don't realize is that the only thing separating us on Earth from that is the Sun coupled with the Earth's rotation. If we ever stopped rotating for any reason, half the Earth would become a charred wasteland and the other half's balls would freeze off in a matter of weeks, and that is exactly the setting of The Frozen West.
Not a pretty sight...
Martin, being a regular griffon with a taste for adventure, decides to take up an expedition to the “Frozen West”, the ice-filled wasteland created after the world stopped spinning. Now, if I'm being honest, I wasn't particularly impressed with this story at first. The whole first act is rather boring and pretty slow. However, like a diesel engine, once this baby gets going, it goes hard. In what can only be described as some really fantastic world-building, Cozy Mark IV (I assume his father was Cozy Mark III) creates an absolutely convincing setting for his story. He even throws in some little extra stuff just to make it that much more believable. But what really makes me love this story is that it does all this in a very subtle way. It doesn't just come right out and say, “Hey man, just fyi, half the world is burned and the other half is frozen.” Cozy Mark takes the time to let this information flow naturally through the narrative, something that most authors seem to not have the patience or skill to do.
I won't spoil what happens once Martin and his cohorts reach this “Frozen West”, but suffice it to say that I was completely surprised by what they found. It's a twist that I didn't see coming, a total rarity for me. However, for all the praise I would love to heap on this story, I have to temper it with some minor criticisms. Martin, while a fairly awesome character in his own right, never really feels all that important to the story, nor do any of the other characters for that matter. They all sort of feel like plot devices rather than organic beings. They're just a vehicle for Cozy Mark to move the story forward to the point he really wants to get to. Despite this however, the characters do manage to not feel wooden or boring, which there's something to be said for that. So, if you like stories with lots of really goddamn cool world-building and don't care if the characters are secondary to the setting, then this is the fic for you. Oh, and one more thing, the twist that comes at the very end of the story almost made me change my feelings for this fic. I was completely in love with it until then, but that Shymalan-esque twist just really put me off. Regardless, The Frozen West still impressed me with it's world-building up to that point, so I would heartily recommend it to anyone reading.
Late Nights at the Hooves Household, by obabscribbler
Feels are a strange thing. They can appear without warning, dropping in like bombs made of maple syrup. Other times they can go for days or even weeks without appearing even once, leaving your heart a cold, hard shell of its former glory. This story is of the former persuasion, but whether those saccharine bombs of pure feeling power will penetrate the jaded bunkers of a reader’s heart is mostly up to you. But then, feels are never far away when Derpy Hooves is concerned.
Let’s work through this first: I don’t like the fanon incarnations of Derpy Hooves. I don’t even like that her name is Derpy Hooves. Ditzy Doo is my preferred title, and besides that her character is basically a meme, and the fact this story is about Derpy being a hardworking, sad, impaired single mother of Dinky Doo really just butters my biscuit. But let’s not get into a hatefest here: this story wouldn’t on our list if it wasn’t good! And it’s good, oh yes it is. We’re given a little peek Derpy Hooves and Dinky Doo as they settle in for the night, making sandwiches and reflecting on their various hardships. One of which I must admit is a unique affliction I’ve never seen attached to Derpy: a stutter. It makes sense, when you think about it, and it adds a little bit of flavor to Derpy’s character you don’t normally see in a sad fic. Apart from that, the story is rather standard: the bills are piling up, Dinky is struggling to keep her mother happy in any way she knows how, and Derpy Hooves is desperate to keep her daughter from worrying about her. The end result is a sugary mixture of all the right feel buttons to be pressed, and even if we’ve seen this before it’s well written and the characterization is solid for ponies who have literally no character whatsoever. Dinky’s desperate contributions to her mother’s happiness and life savings are heartwarming, as they should be. This isn’t a story about magically solving problems but learning that love can help you through the worst of them.
Like many slice of life stories that I’ve seen, this is a short and sweet little romp through lives that we’re both very familiar with yet can’t seem to get enough of. If you are indeed a Derpy Hooves fan, then this is definitely a read that you will enjoy. RazgrizS57:
This story is short. This story is sweet. Honestly, that’s pretty much it, and while I could say that Late Nights at the Hooves Household is a stunning example of a story that is both short and sweet (which it is) and leave it at that, I will also make note of this story’s warm characterization.
This story is just a small scene between Derpy and Dinky, where they both just want the best for each other as they struggle through some pretty tough times. It should be no surprise that this story is designed to evoke some sort of feeling from the reader, but before I develop on that, cool down all your hatefuel reactors and step back for a second. Yes, this story plays on the trope of Derpy being sad and a single mother. Yes, that’s a cliché that this fandom has pounded into the ground relentlessly, so much so that we apparently think we can turn this horse into a zombie if we beat it enough. Yes, there is a wide fluctuation of opinions on Derpy.
However, Late Nights at the Hooves Household would not be reviewed here if there wasn't something outstanding about it, and for that I point in the direction of the story’s atmosphere and what it is as a whole. We’re given a whole bunch of knobs and switches that could make such and overdone character stale, and yet the author was able to set them all in a place that makes for a unique, harmonious setting. This story is a humbling one at that, like something that wouldn’t be read in front of a fireplace so much as it would be experienced in front of one. It puts fuzzies in the stomach and is just plain cute. Both Derpy and Dinky have their simple roles to play and play them wonderfully.
There’s really nothing for me to complain about here that wouldn’t be nitpicking; I don’t think I’ve seen a story so earning of the Slice of Life tag. And while this is not necessarily the most saddening story, I’d imagine some readers might find this story hitting a bit close to home. It’s still a great example of giving energy to a tired character like Derpy. If you’re a fan of Derpy, you’ll be in love here. alexmagnet:
“Neeeeeow! Here c-comes the Wonderbolt, r-ready for la-anding. Open the ha-atch!”
I'm about to make myself really unpopular here, but here goes. I hate Derpy Hooves with fiery passion that any Spaniard would be jealous of, even Ricky Martin (who I'm pretty sure isn't even Spanish). I'm so sick of seeing her in every friggin' fic as either the comic relief or the sick puppy we're supposed to feel sorry for. If I have to read one more fic about how goddamn sad Derpy's life is, I will literally light an orphanage on fire and throw a bag of kittens and puppies (yes, together) into a river while kicking elderly people in the shins. Even more so than seeing sad Trixie fics, I can't stand seeing sad Derpy fics, so it's not without some trepidation that I say, Late Nights at the Hooves Household is actually pretty damn good.
Oh my god, shut up... No one cares.
Oh, I should make a clarification about my potentially inflammatory statement from earlier. I hate fanon Derpy Hooves. The silly mare who drops shiz on Rainbow's head and flies around looking happy as a clam is totally cool with me. I'm all for seeing more Derpy in the show (though I never need to hear her speak again), it's the seemingly endless amounts of Derpy fics that I have a problem with. But anyway, why is Late Night so good I hear you asking. Well, my adorable little gumdrops, it's because it tells a story that, yes, is a bit sad, but does so in a way that doesn't beg for your sympathy. It simply presents a scenario, shows how Derpy and Dinky are making it through despite difficulties and leaves it at that. Some people may experience a case of the “feels” after reading this fic. I didn't, but some may. I mostly just appreciated the fact that despite the characters involved and the plot of the story I didn't walk away from this fic hating it with all my heart and actually ended up kinda liking it.
However, despite my like for this story, there are some weird concessions you have to make while reading it. You have to be okay assuming that Dinky is apparently a genius for her age since she seems to be able to understand legal jargon with ease and even outsmarts her own mother, who admittedly isn't very smart. Also, Raindrops and Golden Harvest are sort of tangentially involved for seemingly no reason, but whatevs. It's all cool. I wasn't even mad that their story had no bearing on the plot whatsoever. But anyway, Late Nights at the Hooves Household will forever hold a special place in my heart as “the Derpy fic I didn't hate”, right next to Eclipse as “the adventure fic I did hate”.
Coffee and Complex Contemplations, by GrimoireFantasia
Another story full of feels! These touchy-feely slice of life stories are like a bag full of candy bars: the first few are totally awesome and you can’t stop eating them if someone paid you, the next are gracing an already satisfied tongue but you wouldn’t exactly call them great, and the last few are covered up by the sugar from the others and you’re just kind of sick of eating them. Fortunately, this story is just atypical enough that it found its way onto this list.
There’s not much to say about it, since the story does most of the saying itself: in the dark future of ten years from now,Twilight is staying up late consumed by introspection and writes a journal that tells us about the past ten years in a whirlwind of recollection. She speaks about the fates of her friends and what they did and where they’ve been, who they married and what they accomplished. It’s a shame that this story is all crammed into a single chapter: given all the things that have clearly happened I would have loved to see this stretched out into several different chapters, perhaps one for each friend that Twilight revisits. Essentially, Twilight tells us everything that’s happened in one long diary entry at Spike’s behest. There’s very little controversial to be found here, and while that’s not “exciting” it’s certainly a nice change from other stories desperate to be edgy or just grab at all the required conditions for the featured box.
Twilight’s character is an interesting take that I think could also have been expanded on: she has become a coffee addict and spends most of her nights wondering about the past and how it might impact the future. The story has her grappling, in a minor way, with her own lack of personal, intimate accomplishment in spite of being a Princess when compared to the amazing personal discoveries all her friends have already made. This kind of thoughtfulness can make a story all on its own about introspective!Twilight, but instead we get two ideas squashed into one.
That’s not to say this is a bad story. It’s not. This was a writing exercise in developing a slice of life, and it’s good at what it does. Have fun reading it, even if it does take its own headcanon and runs away giggling maniacally into the sunset. RazgrizS57:
Hooray for complex contemplation and coffee! The former I do all too much of and the latter makes me sick, so insomniac musings entrap me. Nonetheless, Coffee and Complex Contemplation is, in a nutshell, a rundown of the last decade or so of Twilight’s life, told through her recollection and put down on paper. It’s something I’m not used to in reading, because there’s a lot being said whereas I’ve taken more of a liking to being shown, but this is something unique that made for a curious and enjoyable read.
The story is told from the mind of everyone’s favorite egghead Twilight Sparkle, and it’s no easy feat mind you to talk with the eyes of a so heavily established character. But the author was audacious enough to tackle such a challenge, and I think it was pulled off admirably.
There really isn’t much for me to talk about here with Coffee and Complex Contemplation, because what the story’s about is in the title. It’s an interesting look at the distant future, if a bit on the short side. One thing to note about this story is that while it’s protagonist is Twilight, we don’t seem to learn as much about her as we do her friends. Perhaps that’s for the better, but I’m unsure myself. For what the story presents, it presents it well and with a neat little bow on top.
My one major complaint with this story is the hyphen usage. But other than that, this was one satisfying read.
This story is a basic slice of life down memory lane. It might not have been my particular cup of tea coffee, but it’s definitely worth taking a look into. Those who are curious about what the future of the show’s characters could entail should find themselves enjoying this story here. alexmagnet:
The past seemed so far away, and it was far enough away to begin with.
Have I ever told you guys that I love coffee? Because I seriously do, like, a lot. I drink that shiz erryday. Sometimes, before I head off the work in the morning, I'll pour myself a cup of coffee and just start into it as the cup fills, thinking about stuff. Usually it's something like, “Oh god, I forget to check if my Bucati saved or not. I just dumped like a hundred-thousand into upgrading it” or, “If I breed for a modest nature using this dream world Vulpix, and then EV train its special attack up, I should be able to get a really badass Ninetails with Drought, who I can then pair with my Exeggutor who has Chlorophyll and Solar Beam, and just crap all over everyone”, but occasionally I get introspective and wonder what I'm doing with my life. Thankfully, that doesn't happen all that often. However, in Coffee and Complex Contemplations that seems to be par for the course with Twilight. They way she tells it, she spends a lot of her nights staring into a full cup of coffee just thinking about stuff.
Jon Snow doesn't know any moves. Jon Snow used Struggle. …It's not very effective.
Anyway, to be quite honest, there's not a whole lot to talk about with this story. GrimoireFantasia, besides not knowing that when you hyphenate words you only use one hyphen, is actually a pretty decent writer. Twilight is written rather competently, excepting the fact that despite being 10 years older she still seems to think more or less like her younger self, and she's a very believable character, and it's easy to empathize with her. My only wish is that this story went on longer than it did. It feels like there's a lot of potential to explore this near future world that has been established. Near the end, Twilight talks about what all her friends are doing now that they've all grown up, and that's pretty interesting. I would've liked to see that explored more, but I suppose that would require a much longer fic. However, I would've at least liked to hear more about Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo. I always like seeing them grown up in fics. It's sort of a fresh take on some old characters.
I mean, if you like stories with a lot of introspection, though maybe not as much as I would've hoped, then I'm sure you'll find yourself liking Coffee and Complex Contemplations. It's a short little story that has a surprising amount of heart and more than a little soul. Ugh... did I really just say that?
“So,” said Red, standing on Raz’s shoulder, “that’s it then.”
“That’s it,” replied Raz.
“I think we did good,” said Alex, “even if we were a little late.”
“It was the faffing,” said Raz with a sage nod. “Always with the faffing.”
Red and Alex glanced at each other.
“And the pillow forts,” said Raz. “And the megalomaniacal grabs at power. And sinking the space station. Again.”
“I could’ve sworn I just imagined that part,” muttered Red.
“Have fun cleaning it up, because I totally blame you two,” said Raz. “We are supposed to maintain a modicum of dignity around here. There’s a reason we’re called Seattle’s Angels after all.”
“Well,” said Alex, “perhaps more recommendations will help. It’s a proven fact that faffing is reduced by fifteen percent per story recommendation.”
“I actually can’t digest acorns,” admitted Red.