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Titanium Dragon

TD writes and reviews pony fanfiction, and has a serious RariJack addiction. Send help and/or ponies.

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Read It Now Reviews #39 – Y’allin’, Tea Time with Tomahawk Missiles, The Seal of Wax and Glass, Paying with a Smile, NightmareJack · 8:07pm Jul 11th, 2015

I published a new story yesterday:

Forever and Again and Again
by the Titanium Dragon

Slice of Life, Romance
4,376 words

When Twilight visits Celestia's private hall of stained-glass windows, each bearing the image of a long-gone friend, one in particular catches her eye.

Who was this pony?

Why was she so important to Celestia?

And why does she look so familiar?

For those of you who are members of the Writeoff Association, this is the edited version of my write-off story from the Title Drop competition in November of last year. If you like discussions of immortality and reincarnation, you’re likely to find this piece interesting.

But I wasn’t the only one to publish a story. Indeed, yesterday seemed to be “everyone release a story” day, with no fewer than six new stories showing up on my feed within a 24 hour timespan.

So here’s four of them, plus a SS&E piece from earlier in the week. As these were all written by good writers, I came into them with high expectations, and was not disappointed.

Today’s stories:

Y’allin’ by Short Skirts and Explosions
Tea Time with Tomahawk Missiles by Short Skirts and Explosions
The Seal of Wax and Glass by DuncanR
Paying with a Smile by Trick Question
NightmareJack by Zaponator

by Short Skirts and Explosions

Slice of Life
8,733 words

While welcoming a foreign dignitary to Princess Twilight's Palace, Applejack refers to the single monarch as "Y'all." This, of course, causes the entire Kingdom of Equestria to explode into flames.

Okay, maybe not explode into flames, but it could happen... right? Just ask Twilight...

Why I added it: It involves an argument over the proper use of y’all.

Seriously, this is about Twilight spending three days freaking out over Applejack misusing the word “y’all” while addressing a foreign dignitary, and Rarity and Rainbow Dash trying to talk Twilight down before she says or does something stupid.

Or, more stupid than writing a three-hundred page book on the proper use of the word “y’all”.

This is one of those things that is written in the style of what I most love about the show: lots of character interplay and funny dialogue, such as:

“No, Rarity,” Twilight said, seriously, with a serious face. “I'm serious.”

Rarity, Twilight, and Applejack are all voiced quite well, and the interplay between the characters over the course of the story works excellently. The story may not have a standard climax as such – indeed, it is more of an anti-climax – but the purpose of the story is to be sort of sweet and friendshippy, and that’s exactly what the story does, with humor to sustain the reader the whole way through.

The plot of the story may be simple, but if you want to read a story about Twilight freaking over a grammatical error – and Rarity and Applejack dealing with it – you’ve come to the right place.

Recommendation: Worth Reading if you don’t mind a low-stakes story, especially if you’re a grammar nerd.

Tea Time with Tomahawk Missiles
by Short Skirts and Explosions

Sex, Romance, Comedy, Random, Slice of Life
3,450 words

Actually, this has nothing to do with tomahawks... or missiles. But Rarity almost wishes that it did, for it would distract her from how ardently she looks forward to these afternoon tea parties with Rainbow Dash.

Why I added it: Short Skirts and Explosions is a good writer, and this is the sequel to Y’allin’, which I enjoyed.

Rarity has a crush on Rainbow Dash and invites her over for tea, regardless of the fact that Rainbow Dash does not really do tea correctly.

This portrays a very comically exaggerated Rarity and Rainbow Dash; Rainbow Dash spends most of the tea time playing around with her (totally awesome) cookies, while Rarity spends most of the time salivating over Rainbow Dash. This is not a serious shipfic, but a silly RariDash piece about an oblivious Rainbow Dash and a fantasizing Rarity. As such, this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; it has very little to do with Y’allin’ thematically, being more of an outgrowth of a side-comment in that story about tea time.

There is, however, a very real market for stories like this; I know some folks who like writing about the characters in this way, and reading about them in this way, and if you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably appreciate this more than I did.

Even aside from that, this story also contains the usual quirks of some of SS&E’s more hastily written stories; there are a few bits of awkward writing here and there, sentences or bits of prose which don’t really flow properly, but there are also bits of genius, with very funny jokes mixed in with the crude:

Rarity let loose a slow, controlled sigh. “You know, Rainbow Dash...” She placed her teacup down and crossed her legs in her chair. “Usually, tea parties require a certain sophisticated civility.”

“Really?” Rainbow blinked. “I thought they were all about getting Princess Celestia out of office.”

“No no no no no.” Rarity stifled a giggled. “I'm talking about the sort of thing we're doing right this second.”

“You mean sitting in sissy dresses while stuffing ourselves with cookies?”

“A lady does not stuff herself,” Rarity said. “That is...” She fanned herself slightly as her blue eyes traveled down to Rainbow's well-toned fetlocks peaking out from beneath her petticoats. “...s-something reserved for the task of others.”

The story’s ending, however, is pretty weird, and not all that satisfying, as it sort of ends, then ends again on a completely random note.

Recommendation: Worth Reading if you like comically exaggerated Rarity and Rainbow Dash and SS&E style humor, and don’t mind Rarity fantasizing about Rainbow Dash, but avoid it if those things bother you.

The Seal of Wax and Glass
by DuncanR

Sad, Adventure
6,454 words

Past the Endless Ocean, deep within the Sea of Ghosts, there is an island shrouded in mist.

Written as both an experiment and a tribute, directly inspired by Cold in Gardez's magnificent Lost Cities, and published with his permission.

Why I added it: DuncanR is a good writer, and Lost Cities is a great collection; seeing someone else try their hand at telling a story via a location is really neat.

There is a certain character to Cold in Gardez’s Lost Cities, which are the simultaneous sense of mystery, but also a lack of it. While we don’t know everything that happened in those ruined cities, the narrator does not tell us this; instead, the narrator constantly reminds us of a greater world, of history we should know, but which often goes unspoken.

This story shows why this presentation is so important; here, the story tries to be too mysterious in the text itself. The narrator seems to emphasize uncertainty, or asking the audience questions, which ironically actually diminishes the mystery of the piece – when you read about something, and of course you know about the place, but you don’t really because you don’t know pony history, that adds a certain sense of mystique; when a piece calls out the mystery, it ends up feeling less so. It is the sort of “showing versus telling” distinction – when you tell the audience something is mysterious, it ironically becomes less so. But when you show them something mysterious, the audience becomes curious on their own.

Unfortunately, I never really got the same pull out of this that I got out of Cold in Gardez’s stories. I sort of got a bit lost in the descriptions a few times, and not in a good way, more in the sense that I was trying to grok the fantastic details of what was being described, which may have further distracted me from the mysterious pull the story was going for, and I think the ruins were actually too fantastic - they didn't really end up working out for me textually, and I was never quite certain of what I was supposed to be seeing in some parts, and thus, a lot of it didn't quite come together for me in the scenery porn kind of way, either.

The story shifted also shifted narrative voices partway through; it started out in more the sense of Cold in Gardez’s pieces, but then transitioned to a second person narration. All of the “mays” feel weird, given that the story itself is not actually about something that might happen, but that did happen, as the second person narrator that the story is about is actually there – stuff is happening around them, so all the mays and mights feel off after a while, as it becomes clear that the events in the story are not hypothetical. This ended up being a distraction for me as the story went on, which probably further pulled away from the mysterious core of the piece.

All in all, I think this was a potentially interesting idea, but it just never ended up coming together for me in the way that Lost Cities did.

Recommendation: Not Recommended

Paying with a Smile
by Trick Question

Sad, Dark, Adventure, Alternate Universe
14,593 words

Princess Twilight Sparkle has been losing her mind. She lives plagued by nightmares and hallucinations.

Upon discovering she's not alone in her experiences, Twilight realizes Equestria may be in grave danger. She seeks counsel with Princess Luna in order to discover the truth about her recurrent nightmares. However, Luna warns Twilight that the knowledge she seeks will come at great personal cost.

Twilight Sparkle would give up anything to save Equestria, but how much would she sacrifice just to learn the truth about what threatens it? Princess Luna offers her an impossible choice.

Why I added it: It won the last write-off under the (much better) name The Price of a Smile.

Twilight goes to a meeting full of crazy ponies and admits that she has terrible dreams and has noticed things that are wrong or missing out of the corner of her eye – things that we, the audience, recognize as animation errors. She notices nonsensical plots, or errors that require a pony to be in two places at once, or similar nonsense.

It turns out, she’s not the only one – and while some of the ponies in the group are genuinely crazy, others are truly seeing things, and being followed around by some sort of foreign presence which is keeping tabs on them, strange ponies who no one knows. Twilight thinks they might be changelings, but they seem to go beyond that – they don’t change shape in the same way, and they appear to be able to correct the visual disturbances.

And one pony who tried confronting them was, by all appearances, entirely erased from existence.

As Twilight goes to confront Luna over the issue, she comes to recognize the true horror of the situation, as she discovers her memories have been altered and reality changed around her. Luna warns her that there is no going back once she knows what is truly going on, but regardless of Twilight’s knowledge of a grittier, darker reality, Twilight has to know – and has to protect Equestria.

This story is very clever; it takes the idea of the show being a show and runs with it, positing that what we’ve been seeing is a lighter, softer reality imposed on the ponies, and that the truth – what is really going on, and what really happened – is very different. It takes some of the absurdities of the show, such as the pie fight with the buffalo, and shows us what “really” happened there – a bloody fight between the townsfolk and the buffalo, complete with guns.

And it also very cleverly explains Luna’s absence from A Canterlot Wedding, though it never actually does so on-screen.

This is a strong story, and the overall idea is very good. If there are any flaws in its execution, it is in the pacing; Trick added a few new scenes to the story from the write-off, in particular Twilight going to the Office of Equestrian Records, but this actually felt like it slowed down the story to no good end. The story didn’t really need that scene, and the information could have been communicated in a different scene in a much briefer fashion, which would have been more engaging, I think.

I also felt like the repeated emphasis Luna gave to Twilight’s friendships was not very useful; there was nothing in the story which really indicated that Twilight’s friendships would be ruined, and it didn’t really make much logical sense in the confines of the story. While it is true that not everything was as it seemed, there really was no reason why they couldn’t still be friends afterwards. There was also a strange hanging thread between Twilight and Luna – whether it was a maternalesque bond, or a romantic thing, I couldn’t say – but it never really got resolved very well, and just kind of felt like it was there. It seemed like something that really wanted a big reveal, but it just never came.

Still, these gripes are minor to the overall feel of the piece, and if you like stories about a mystery underlying the reality of the world, and calling what we’ve seen into question, this is a worthwhile read.

Recommendation: Recommended.

by Zaponator

Comedy, Slice of Life
10,000 words

Applejack is chosen as The Nightmare's new host.

It really isn't that big of a deal. Until it is.

Why I added it: Zaponator is a good writer.

Applejack has become NightmareJack, a terrifying, tall, black alicorn with a mane of darkness and bat wings.

Also, an apple cutie mark.

And no one really seems to mind that much. Well, not many people. She does look a bit different, though.

This is a very, very silly story which is absolutely chock full of lines which have been stolen borrowed researched from other stories, as well as a bunch of references ranging from to other fanfics to meta-references:

When Applejack awoke that morning, she had expected a fairly standard day of farmwork capped off with a little get-together with her friends at Sugarcube Corner. She was in no mood for Equestria-threatening villains, ancient monsters, or mysterious quests to far off lands.

After all, it wasn't even Saturday.

The story is almost an anti-story, as it is full of anti-climaxes as pony after pony doesn’t really care about Applejack, and every seeming point at which there is going to be a major crisis is headed off by the fact that it is Applejack, and no one can really be scared of her unless they’re, like, really stupid.

This is one of those stories which is pretty consistently funny, but if you’re hoping for a “true” climax, you’re likely to be a bit disappointed. Still, I can’t say I was ever bored or unamused at any point while reading this, and it certainly left me with a smile.

If there was one thing that disappointed me about this story, it was that there wasn't a Candlejack reference. It seemed like a natural fit.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.

Y’allin’ by Short Skirts and Explosions
Worth Reading

Tea Time with Tomahawk Missiles by Short Skirts and Explosions
Worth Reading

The Seal of Wax and Glass by DuncanR
Not Recommended

Paying with a Smile by Trick Question

NightmareJack by Zaponator
Worth Reading

Three worth readings and a recommended story in a single set? What is the world coming to?

I could get used to this.

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later – Important: 1605

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later – High Priority: 291

Number of stories listed as Read It Later: 69

Comments ( 13 )

Thanks for the review! :pinkiehappy:

For the record, I suspected I might get a kind review from you since my story included Fluttershy crying in a fetal position. :fluttercry:

TD + Flutterrape = Recommended continues to be my theory, dammit.

Thanks, again, for the review! :rainbowkiss:
Yeah, this one got a bit... silly. It happens sometimes.
Still, if it elicited a smile than I call it a success. :twilightsmile:

Also, I can't believe I forgot to put a Candlejack reference in. How did I miss—

Woo! Worst of the Best!

In all seriousness, though, thanks for the review. It's good to hear such solid constructive feedback, especially since Seal of Wax and Glass was a writing experiment as well as a tribute. Even if my story fails at the latter, I still learned a lot from the attempt, and had fun doing so.

I still can't believe CiG kept the word count under/at 2000 words for his chapters... an impressive feat of concision and brevity. I don't know if most readers realize just how well done Lost Cities really is.

Whohoo! More!

Shh! Don't tell them my secrets!


Still, if it elicited a smile than I call it a success. :twilightsmile:

Judging by the featured story box, it got 585 of them at least. :raritywink:

Being concise is hard.

Thanks for the enthusiasm. Haven't quite decided yet what I'm doing for tomorrow.

If there was one thing that disappointed me about this story, it was that there wasn't a Candlejack reference. It seemed like a natural fit.

Aw man, you didn't do the joke right. When you mention Candlejack, you should get cut off i

Just so I make sure I'm not missing one of your review posts, are we counting this one both #38 and #39?

Thanks. I think either the site or my brain is messing with me. Got everything, anyway.

It's all good.

Thanks for compiling that list; it is a really neat resource to have.

Even if we keep messing things up for you by writing more reviews. :moustache:

Which is good! Though putting out a review post like five minutes before I was about to be caught up on all of your reviews was a little cruel.

The irony of that did not escape me. :scootangel:

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