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Blog Number 17: Button's Adventures Edition
Just a shorty today, but I couldn't resist once I found this.
A fan-made animation that combines show-worthy artwork with a healthy dose of humour? Despite being only four and a half minutes long, Button's Adventures, the latest offering of JanAnimation, is great viewing, as I've come to expect from him. This is the guy who did Picture Perfect Pony, which is still my favourite fan-based work, followed closely by Let's Meet the Bronies. The humour is a bit random and Button's voice can be grating at times, but if you're OK with that and haven't seen it yet, I strongly urge that you give it a look:
I personally found the ending hilarious, followed closely by the scene with the ping pong game.
To be honest, I would like to see more videos like this on Youtube, combining show-quality animation with some pretty good entertainment, (so I'm hoping the mini-series takes off). If you know of any, I'd be very interested in seeing your suggestions in the comments!
On a side-note, I am contemplating whether or not to try my hand at a longer work. Having been on this site for over a year and a half, I feel I should have produced something substantial by now, but I am unsure where to begin. I think what might help is knowing what the people following me think they'd like to see. For instance, are there any current works of mine that you would like to see finished, or would you rather I tried something new and see what I come up with? Or if you think both would be interesting and leave it up to me to pick, so long as there's a longfic in the works? If you like, please send me a comment or PM about it. I'd be very interested in hearing from my followers, though passersby are also welcome, natch.
That's all for now. Impossible Numbers, out.
New Stories?: The Adventure of the Five Apple Cores and Braeburn's Ambition. The former was a parody of Five Orange Pips, which I'd recently read and found to be a tad disappointing for a Sherlock work. The latter was a stab at characterizing Braeburn and Sheriff Silverstar (Silver Star?), as well as an excuse to introduce the Spiderglass monsters.
New Updates:: Four chapters added to The Campaign for Extra Trixie. Of them, the two Daring Do ones are my personal favourites, followed closely by Heliocentric.
Story Count: 20
My Total Story View Count: 11,034
Age: 86 weeks, 1 day
My Follower Count: 59
My Followed Count: 64
9 comments · 153 views
Blog Number 16: 10,000 Views Edition
Ten weeks without a blog, and then I get a head cold the instant I decide to write one. As anyone who follows me will know by now, timing is not my strong suit.
I'm referring to the unfinished stories of mine that currently make up about half of my FiM output. I haven't updated some of my stories in months, but on the other hand, I refuse to make predictions or to set deadlines on the grounds that the technique has already been tried and failed. As it is, the most I can give you is an assurance that I'm not enjoying the procrastination either and I'm trying to get around it. I also offer an apology for my tardiness, if you have a liking for any one of my unfinished stories, but more on that below.
Also, prediction is a mug's game, at least when done by amateurs.
In related news, I submitted two entries to the World Building Alliance's monthly competition in April, and the judging for that contest was supposed to have concluded by the seventh day of May. The results still aren't up yet. Now, while I understand the reason for its delay in May (one of the judges had to focus on a summer course), by the time the third week of June comes around, you do feel your sympathies erode a little. I sent an email to one of the judges about it last month, and I have sent an email to another of the judges this month, but I've received no reply from the latter yet. I'll wait, naturally, but I at least wanted to express my frustration on this blog in the meantime.
Now, to pony business. There are only a couple of items today, so I won't bother making a mini-contents section. Just go right in.
Firstly, a bit of a personal pep-me-up before we get to the main course. As of today, I have surpassed the 10,000 views threshold! I'm really pleased to have reached five figures, though also a tad subdued when I consider what the numbers actually mean.
Let me explain: To what extent this counts as an achievement on my part, and to what extent it's simply the FIMF.net equivalent of a "happy birthday", I'm unsure. On the one hand, I at least have the ability to get people to read my stories, and at 10,000 views per 18 stories, that leaves around 556 views a story (rounded up from 555 and five ninths). Also, at a cursory glance, I have hundreds of likes in total which far, far outweigh the dislikes, and I think that's pretty good going. On the other hand, I accomplished this using 18 stories (plus one or two behind the scenes), which pales in comparison to some of the accomplishments of other users, and there's no denying many of the views are simply people dropping in simply because I published the stuff. The result is one half of my brain going "Yeehaw!" and the other half going "Hold your horses, bud. You ain't done nothin' yet."
At the risk of sounding self-absorbed, I am kind of interested in other users' thoughts on this issue, both in general and with regard to my specific performance. Are there any particular unfinished stories of mine you'd like to see tackled? Do you think this is typical of users on FIMF.net, or am I below/above average to some degree? And to what extent do you think viewership reflects quality of story (for instance, is it an unreliable indicator because of lowest-common-denominator stories that get popular)? Is there a better way of gauging the quality of any particular piece?
This originally wasn't going to be in the post at all, but since the next season is so far off, and since it's the au courant thing in the fandom, I might as well throw in my two cents.
To be honest, I don't feel particularly enthused by (or interested in) the movie. That's partly because I was hoping they'd tackle some of the established mythology rather than simply invent more, partly because the gimmicky premise comes out of left field even for a fantasy work, partly because I'm doubtful that the story (which also raises serious questions vis-a-vis Equestrian security) would even justify a feature-length outing, and partly because season three suggests the writing staff have fumbled with the ball a bit. I also have to admit that my glasses have become a bit jaded since I started noticing plot holes and problems in the series (go on its less admiring TVTropes pages and you'll see what I mean).
This isn't to say it'll be a flop, but it probably will be one of those things people tactfully call an "acquired taste". I'm more interested in the upcoming fourth season. Heck, I'm more interested in the second Hobbit movie, if only because we'll finally get to see Smaug in all his draconian glory.
So while I don't think the movie's premise automatically marks it down as poor, neither do I sympathize so readily with the "we misjudged FiM, remember?" crowd. From where I'm standing, given how the quality of plotting and writing has changed in the series recently, and given the gimmicky premise and possible merchandise-driven motive behind it, then what I see does not inspire much confidence that it will be worth watching. I might be wrong - it's hard to tell with a one-off - but it's worth remembering why we tend to judge books by their covers in the first place.
I'll tell you what movie I'd go and see, though. One that featured any of the established villains making a second bid on the Mane 6, that filled in some backstory for the Princesses, and that wasn't overly focused on Twilight like most of the two-parters have been so far. Or else it involved visiting one of the less well-explored places in Equestria, like Los Pegasus, or one of the frontier towns, or Manehattan (lots of interesting stuff must happen in the most cosmopolitan city of all of Equestria, surely?).
Anyway, I can't think of anything else right now, so I'll leave it and see if anything pops up later. Impossible Numbers, out.
New Stories?: Rarity Ever After and Laurels, though the latter has been accessible from WBA since April
New Updates: A new category, this, and hopefully one that I will use more often. Two new chapters added to The Campaign for Extra Trixie, and other unlikely experiments
Story Count: 18
My Total Story View Count: 10,082
Age: 79 weeks, 4 days
My Follower Count: 58
My Followed Count: 64
8 comments · 160 views
Like a swiss army knife, this post will have many parts to deal with different subjects. Admittedly, this makes the resulting blog eclectic and fat with blocks of adi-prose, but it means I can package a fair number of points in one go and then cheerfully go my own way for several weeks afterwards. It also has the advantage of cutting down the number of blog notifications my followers receive (I follow some users who seem to blog every other day, and it gets a bit boring after a while), and it just feels neater and less daunting to look at one summary post every month, as opposed to tracking one post a day for thirty days or so. Might be just me, though.
Anyway, to business. Below are the six main topics I'll tackle for this blog post. You can skip to the one topic that interests you in this set and respond to specific topics, if you so wish. I'm perfectly happy with that; I wouldn't want to overwhelm you with the size of this post, after all!
Here they are, in order of appearance:
One Man's Pony Ramblings
New Site Design
Bronyland Personality Test
World Building Alliance March and April Contests
Thank You, DPV111!
Please feel free to comment on this blog at any time, whether you're just passing or not. I appreciate having a chat with fellow fans every now and again.
One Man's Pony Ramblings
Last month, I visited Chris' "One Man's Pony Ramblings" blog. Not for the first time, it must be said, but certainly it was the first time I was convinced to follow his blog as a lurker. It's always worth finding out what your fellow fans are up to.
For those of you who don't know what the attraction is, the blog takes 6-star fics from Equestria Daily and subjects them to criticism, ranking them according to a five-star system. Necessarily, the judgements are partly subjective, but he has a knack for getting past the surface and looking at the bare bones of the story for signs of consistency, research, and stylistic and structural elegance, and his criticisms largely seem to hit the target. Moreover, his reviews are civil and a pleasure to read in their own right.
I'd recommend it for the reviews alone, but there are also mini-reviews for other works, and bonus posts from contributors, including some notable names in the fandom. If you like keen and carefully considered reviews (he's thoughtful enough to note where people of different tastes might disagree with him), want to isolate those fics that have survived rigorous scrutiny, or just like to read about the thoughts and opinions of others (it often pays to follow the subsequent comments by users just as thoughtful and incisive as Chris himself), then I recommend you give it a look here and see if it's for you.
New Site Design
We had yet another overhaul of the site design last month. By and large, I could get past it after the initial few hours of disorientation, but I sorely miss the old design for the story searches. Where once you could exclude categories and tags and see them laid out before you in organized sets, now you just get them lumped under a single drop-down menu that is less intuitive and far uglier than the old one. I also miss the ability to distinguish new story updates from blog posts, though the feed option isn't too bad. I can't think of anything else to criticize, though, and to be fair, knighty does a good job overall with the site.
Bronyland Personality Test
For the most part, I don't take personality tests all that seriously. Often, I wonder how the categories were decided and to what degree you can give an honest assessment of yourself, and even the more scientifically rigorous tests such as those based on The Big Five should be treated as artefacts based on empirical results, not as decisive personality frameworks that will stand the test of time. But if it's just a bit of fun, then I don't see much harm in it. People compare themselves with others all the time in the first place, and so long as you don't act like the test is objective or decisive, you're not likely to make mistakes or read too much into it.
A delightful discovery in recent weeks was the Bronyland Personality Test. I virtually never use the site, but after seeing some users with screenshots of their results from the test, I became curious enough to give it a look. And yes, once you look at such a test, you inevitably have to take it. You can't feel curious about a cake that's been left out without at least dipping your finger in the icing.
My first impressions were that it was a bit hit-and-miss. Some questions make sense, though it was a bit obvious at times which pony the answers were pointing at (you can guess pretty easily what answers would get you classified as a Rainbow Dash type): the ones about the pizza and socializing did a fair job, and you could at least see the logic behind them (the former, for instance, tests how you resolve a conflict of interest that can't be decided by easy mathematics). Others were frankly bizarre: it's questionable why my preference for certain adornments says volumes about me, if only because there are many reasons why someone would wear a cowboy hat or a scarf. A few were downright silly: how exactly do you pick your "favourite suit of cards" (spade, clubs, diamonds, etc.), and why should this say anything about your personality? Overall, though, it was pretty fun, and there were one or two surprises hidden for those who like to go back and try different answers on purpose.
At the end of the questions, you get shown a diagram comparing your personality to the Mane Six and to the averages of previous users, and then a brief description for whichever pony you are most like. My result was shaped like two gigantic spikes; I was overwhelmingly like Fluttershy, with Twilight a very close second and Applejack in third place, just above average.
Does it fit? Well, taking what I said earlier into account, I think it captures some of the more obvious aspects of my personality. I am a bit shy and introverted in real life, and tend to like learning and reading in my spare time more than partying and big social events. On the other hand, it doesn't say much about my organization (I'm actually a lot sloppier than Twilight is) or about my nervousness (unlike Fluttershy, I find I'm neither fully relaxed nor fully tense in most situations). Plus, I don't take fright at my own shadow or talk to animals, and I've never tried brainwashing my local community because a bit of homework was overdue. Needless to say, I'm not going away with the notion that I'm a full-blooded Fluttershy-type just yet.
Still, I won't deny it was kind of a pleasant surprise when I got the result (I'd guessed that Applejack and Twilight would be most like me, and hadn't given Fluttershy much thought), and there is the usual suspense as you try to guess who you'll end up being compared to. If you like a bit of fun, you can try it yourself here and see if you're most like Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, or Rainbow Dash. To be fair, I should add that you don't have to register to use the test (I didn't bother), but your results won't be included in the set they use to calculate user averages.
More recently, I've discovered the latest offering of the fandom; a surprisingly professional-looking fan-made episode entitled Double Rainboom, released a few days ago and given some publicity on Equestria Daily. As far as technical achievement goes, this is easily something to boast about; much of the animation is faithful to that of the show, and the artwork, backgrounds, and character designs will provide hope to those who long to see the franchise expand.
That said, I confess my appreciation for the episode is largely over its technical achievement and the "Dancing Bear" principle (amazed not because it's done well, but because it's done at all). As for it being a quality piece of entertainment, I think we have a long way to go yet. The voice acting is just too different from the professional VAs' standards for me to ignore, the story is essentially an excuse plot to give Rainbow a moment to be awesome (and to get to a Powerpuff Girls cameo), and the original video simply drags out the story with slow pacing. If you insist on seeing the original product, the link's here, but I'd recommend watching the shortened version shown above, which at least brings the episode down to the 22-minute mark.
My review is harsh, and I don't want to be so negative as to suggest fan-made works are doomed to mediocrity. Personally, I'd love to see more videos of this artistic skill, and I hope the precedent makes it easier to pull off. That doesn't mean I have to like the flavour of this particular dish, even if I acknowledge that it's a historically important moment in cuisine.
World-Building Alliance, March and April Contests
The World-Building Alliance is essentially where you go to argue that Chrysalis is the third (and the most evil) alicorn sister, that Iron Will believes in reincarnation and free market economies, and that the dragons are far more socially and politically organized than canon would indicate. It is, in short, a welcome home for fanon that focuses on non-pony stuff, and is one of my favourite groups on this site. If you like to pick the brains of your fellow pony fans, or just want to tell others how you'd explain certain elements of the ponyverse, then I heartily recommend giving the group a visit.
Since the beginning of 2013, a new development has appeared that combined fanon-based world-building with fanfic writing. Every month, the senior members of the group post a story prompt and challenge members to write, before the end of the month, a fic that focuses on non-pony races or species and explains some aspect of the ponyverse. At the end of each month, the judges will read and score each fic based on such things as grammar, characterization, world-building scope, and how interesting or solidly constructed the plot is, and the results are published during the first half of the next month.
Perhaps some of you might like the chance to test your writing skills in this month's event? It's one reason why I bring it up here. The contests don't require you to thrash out a very long fic - 5,500 words is considered the upper limit for what the judges will look at - so with thirty days to tackle each prompt, you have plenty of time to produce a one-shot or introductory chapter. It also has the advantage of providing you with feedback on your performance, and you get to meet like-minded members in the same cart as you. Plus, it's just good fun, and could be enough to get your creative juices going if you're stuck.
My last three releases were entries for that contest: The Last of Lapis Lazuli, Insecta Non Grata, and Monster Catchers. Yes, that now leaves me with three unfinished fics, but considering I'd just come from six or so months of no productivity, that pretty much made my year. I'm still hoping to rattle off a few more in the coming weeks, though obviously I don't want to get too careless. There are a lot of things I want to achieve yet in story-writing.
Also... well, I don't want to impose, but I'd like to add that I would be grateful if you were to take a few moments sometime and have a look at my latest offerings, especially if you could give me your opinion on them. I like to receive feedback for my work so that I can improve in future and produce better and more refined specimens. Even if you just want to give one line summarizing your response to the fic, rather than a long list of constructive criticism, feel absolutely free! Every comment is welcome.
Thank You, DPV111!
On that front, I'd like to thank DPV111 for giving one of my fics some much-needed publicity, and basically for doing me a favour. Having received a surprising number of dislikes shortly after release, Insecta Non Grata was pretty much left for dead, and I confess my confidence took a hit. It doesn't help that none of the dislikers left any criticism or comments, so I had no idea what I did wrong.
DPV111 - fully of his own free will, I might add, and with no request or suggestion from me to do it - posted a blog shortly afterwards promoting the fic, and contributed to its much warmer, more constructive, and more encouraging reception afterwards. He does a fair amount of work promoting stories that slip under the mainstream radar in any case, so he deserves, at the very least, a pat on the back for his efforts there. I want to add that I appreciate him especially for being one of the few users - for a time, the only user - who replied to my blog posts, and thus convinced me that I was not merely a lone voice rambling to an empty theatre. I do not underestimate the value of even the smaller contributions.
Of course, the length of my blog posts probably contributes to that last item, so it's probably worth changing my blogging habits. Penny for your thoughts?
That's certainly enough for now, I think. Still, I hope there will be plenty more mind-bending developments and discoveries between now and my next post, and I hope my contribution here, however meagre, gives you at least a few minutes of enjoyable reading.
Until next time. Impossible Numbers, out.
New Stories?: Insecta Non Grata and Monster Catchers
Story Count: 16
My Total Story View Count: 9,116
Age: 69 weeks, 1 day
My Follower Count: 56
My Followed Count: 62
3 comments · 150 views
Blog Number 14: Spin-Off Ponies Edition
It's shaping up to be the next "Twilicorn" controversy among the fandom, and as far as I can tell, it hasn't even been properly confirmed yet. The story goes like this: a magazine claims that a spin-off MLP series will feature anthropomorphized versions of the ponies, probably in a merchandise show meant to sell a new line of dolls or something. Naturally, the reaction blogs are already going up.
While I'm not exactly bowled over by the prospect, neither am I feeling particularly antagonistic towards it, and not just because I don't really care about this particular spin-off proposal. I was excited, prior to reading about what it actually contained, of the idea of a spin-off series for MLP:FiM, and that got me thinking. A spin-off series would be great, firstly because it expands the show's 'verse and secondly because it means that the ball could really get rolling for the franchise to transcend its roots further. The main series has already shown us plenty of promising avenues it could explore. Moreover, it would be a chance to see more characters and settings in a way that just can't be done when you're following six mares and a dragon around a country town.
But then what would the spin-off series be about? That's what I'd like to ask you. Instead of complaining about or adapting to the current proposal, what about entertaining a proposal we would like to see done? Maybe you want to see more of Manehattan or Appleloosa. Maybe you'd prefer a Trixie show in which she travels the road, or a show about young Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armour growing up together. Maybe a show about Celestia's past, and about her and Luna's struggles against ancient evils would enthuse you.
Personally, I'd like to see a Daring Do spin-off series, or that Cutie Mark Crusaders spin-off Faust originally planned, but what about you? What would you like to see in a MLP:FiM spin-off?
N.B. Statistics not included. It wasn't that long ago when I posted the last batch, and I prefer to do it over longer expanses of time.
6 comments · 148 views
Blog Number 13: Lapis Lazuli Edition
January 2013 Contest
My latest story, The Last of Lapis Lazuli, was a submission for the January World-Building Contest for the World-Building Alliance group. The prompt was to write an origin story for one of the species of Equestria (normal and alicorn ponies excluded), with the first 5000 words being judged. The results were released earlier today, having been intended for release by the 7th before the site got hit with a storm of problems. There were all kinds of conditions and details, so if you want to find out more, the prompt post is here. If you're interested, they're hosting a second contest for this February with a different prompt here.
The good news is that my story got a good score of 4.17/5. It seems there were problems with Sombra's flat characterization, a bit of confusion in the third part, and a little too much darkness and despair for the prompt's requirements, but otherwise I'm pretty chuffed. The judges really liked my OC, and it seems I have some good grammar, pacing, and world-building with the origin of the crystal ponies. Mostly, I scored well in all the categories the judges used.
The bad news is that I didn't win. I didn't even make the top three. Naturally, I'll try again for the February prompt, but darn does it take a bit of wind out of my sails.
Thoughts on Games Ponies Play
Well, for a start, I like the allusion made in the title. It's not often you get a nod to the "soft" sciences in fiction, or at least those bits of it that aren't Freudian pseudoscientific nonsense and "early 20th century armchair psychologist" stereotyping.
While I'm at it, I might as well place my thoughts on the latest episode here. Naturally, spoilers, so...
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK! SPOILER ALERT!
You can't say I didn't warn you.
On the latest episode, I don't really have much to offer intellectually. I do think it felt a bit underwhelming, though I was really pleased we got to see the Empire and its wonderfully animated crystal ponies again. I'm ashamed to admit I was guessing "wrong passenger" before they got off the station, though I was surprised they'd confirm it so quickly rather than leave it ambiguous. Not that the claustrophobic southern tourist wasn't nice or anything, but less screen-time on her and more on the Empire, Cadence, Shining Armour's training regime, and/or Dash's family would have been more enjoyable. I don't blame Rarity for admiring the crystal spa, either. Wonder if Lotus and Aloe will keep blushing every time their customer gushes about it over the next few weeks.
How exactly were Cloudsdale supposed to host the Games? It's a cloud city for pegasi. How are the other ponies supposed to get up there? And I hope we get to see some of the Games in season four. The prospect of Pony Olympics is just too good to pass up.
And it's about time they showed some pegasus family members! I wonder if Rainbow's dad was a record-breaker in the past, but I guess we'll start seeing fics about that any moment now. I'm increasingly of the opinion the staff put in details like that almost entirely for fans to do something with, as nearly all the Mane family members save Applejack's and Twilight's are superfluous to the show.
Also, is it just me, or is Cadence always being used as a cosmic punch bag whenever she appears? Debut double-parter: gets locked underground in a forgotten cavern. Season three opener: deprived of sleep for days to keep up one whopper of a protection spell. And now this episode: has her Empire's chances of hosting the Games slowly go to pieces while Rarity makes a humongous mess of her mane. She's got nothing on Rainbow, though. I can't think of an episode in which Rainbow doesn't get dealt a bad hand at some point, whether it's crashing into things or having circumstances pull the rug out from under her hooves.
Lastly, yet another contrived ending that either doesn't make sense or rushes things for a happy ending. Season three seems to be replete with these: Sombra's awesome (if quick) defeat got minimized by a basic test; Pinkie clones getting zapped based on a poor test; Babs getting amnesty for her sob story excuse; Trixie's utterly unbelievable "apology"; Dash appearing out of nowhere to save Scootaloo; Rainbow's disillusionment getting a U-turn at the last second; the totally predictable (and anticlimactic) stunt with the fake Timber Wolf and the real one, with Rainbow and Twilight of all ponies running away; Discord's near-total personality change; and now the inspector feeling kindly disposed to a lack of fanfare despite learning seconds before that there was fanfare, that it was very nice, and that she got splashed on twice because five ponies forgot the most basic greeting -- how to ask someone's name. I'm not saying the episodes as a whole are bad, nor that earlier seasons don't have examples that are just as bad, but it seems too obvious here, and I'm hoping that both the finale and the next season pick things up again. Having a happy ending doesn't mean having a dumb ending.
SPOILER ALERT HAS BEEN LIFTED! CLEARING THE ZONE FOR TRACE CONTAMINANTS! READING THREAT HAS BEEN CONTAINED IN QUARANTINE! RETURNING TO NORMAL MODE!
Tap my shoulder if I'm overdoing it.
Writer's Block Confession
I would like very much to produce a piece of work on par with All of a Fluttershy and Through the Eyes of the Hurricane again, but I might as well be honest; I privately think my ideas and/or writing style will not go over well, and I'm wrestling with a bad case of writer's block. Plus, I have a track record of not finishing what I start because of unexpected drops in confidence...
I need a sounding board. Somewhere where I can discuss my ideas with others without worrying about getting them stolen or bad-mouthed (bad-mouthing is not the same as constructive criticism, I hasten to add). If anyone knows such a place, I'd be mighty grateful.
Impossible Numbers out.
New Stories?: The Last of Lapis Lazuli was released a couple of weeks ago. See above for details.
Story Count: 14
My Total Story View count: 8,405
Age: 60 weeks, 5 days
My Follower count: 50
My Followed count: 61