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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 #84 – The Riddle of the Sphinx, Barnstormer, Entry #649, Baby Pictures, Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise · 2:43am Jun 22nd, 2016

My computer may be gone, but my reviews shall ever remain. A new computer is en route in many, many pieces, but I am done wallowing in self-pity over the loss of my extended brain.

Time to get some reviews done. You folks have been busy.

Today’s stories:

The Riddle of the Sphinx by Cold in Gardez
Barnstormer by GAPJaxie
Entry #649 by KitsuneRisu
Baby Pictures by King Moriarty
Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise by Dubs Rewatcher

The Riddle of the Sphinx
by Cold in Gardez

Adventure, Mystery
3,425 words

It was supposed to be an easy delve. In, explore, and out.

Instead Daring Do finds herself wandering through an endless corridor, wishing for nothing more than to see the sky once more. And when she reaches the end of the maze, she discovers something waiting for her that hasn't felt the sun for a long, long time. Something very lonely.

And hungry.

Why I added it: Cold in Gardez is a good writer, and I liked it in the Writeoff.

Daring Do is in yet another forgotten ruin, her path behind her closed off. The only way out is past a great sphinx – but, as is always the case, to get past the sphinx, she must answer its riddle.

The bones of those who have failed announce the price of their failure.

But maybe there’s a deeper riddle to the sphinx, beyond what meets the eye.

This story has a good and very My Little Pony twist to it, even if the setup is rather grim for the verse. It is exactly what it seems like it is going to be, and yet still manages to put a new twist on things that I haven’t seen before.

That said, the story feels like it has a lot of space up front that is pretty much cruft. An interminable hallway is covered in a very small space, but ultimately, I didn’t feel like it accomplished the emotional task it was aiming towards. Really, everything before the sphinx’s appearance felt kind of unnecessary; the sphinx is the story, beginning, middle, and end, and really everything before that point was cuttable – and indeed, didn’t exist in the writeoff version. Really, the whole thing feels longer than it needs to be, drawn out beyond the space it needed to exist in, and ultimately, I felt like the original writeoff version was a stronger piece – it managed to cover the same space, but did so in far fewer words. I think that some of the expansion – the sphinx’s strange kindness towards Daring Do, as well as its eagerness to hang out – worked, but it felt like a lot of the expansion just diluted the core of the piece.

Recommendation: Worth Reading, though I’d favor the writeoff version over the longer one.

by GAPJaxie

Alternate Universe, Slice of Life
4,975 words

Barnstormer isn’t Rainbow Dash – but she does play her on TV.

Why I added it: GAPJaxie is a great writer, and I love the Actingverse.

The sequel to the also-recommended Dressing Room, Deep Cover, and Butter Up, this story is set in the so-called Actingverse. This series of stories is about the various actors who play the characters on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. You know, the ponies behind the live-action show.

These stories are interesting for a variety of reasons. The alternate universe behind them is itself an intriguing idea – GAPJaxie fills in background details about race relations, the history of this pony-filled society, and what the lives of the child/young adult actors playing the characters on the children’s show would be like.

But it is also interesting because the characters are simultaneously very different and yet recognizable.

This story is about Barnstormer, the actress who plays Rainbow Dash. Some of the actors on the show are kind of a mess. But others aren’t. Barnstormer is one of the exceptions. A pony who actually originally started out on the racing circuit as an athlete, she’s a real prodigy. She’s an athlete, an actor, and an excellent student, and is presently applying to go to college, while fighting against the stereotype of her being a dumb jock. Oh, and she’s totally hot jailbait, at least according to herself.

But… she isn’t sure if college is what she wants to do. She makes a ton of money on racing and acting, and it isn’t like physics pays well. But there’s more to the tension than that – she’s also afraid of trying and actually failing for once, and even if she succeeds, there’s no guarantee of greatness in physics the way there is in racing or acting.

I liked this story a lot. Barnstormer’s central dilemma – a plethora of options, some of them easier than others, and worrying about whether or not she’s wasting her gifts – is an interesting one, and something which is underexplored in fiction. It is linked somewhat to the idea of noblesse oblige, but given a modern twist and different context. Is Barnstormer obligated to try and do something which “contributes more” to society? What does that even mean? Is going into physics really the best use of her gifts? Or is she just scared of not being awesome? Is that even wrong?

The story does a good job of tying itself in with the previous Actingverse stories as well, nodding towards the events of Butter Up, as well as filling in a lot more about Barnstormer and Butter Up’s friendship. The background bit about “real world” barnstormers, and their conflicts with pegasi, and how airplanes changed the Actingverse was a nice bit of worldbuilding.

Ultimately, this story’s greatest weakness is that it is ultimately a conversation piece, and while I have a special place in my heart for conversation pieces, I’m not quite sure if this delivered quite as strongly as Butter Up or Dressing Room did, or even as well as Deep Cover. Still, I think that the conflict here was interesting, and as part of the Actingverse series, it was a worthwhile addition.

Recommendation: Worth Reading; Recommended if you are a fan of the Actingverse. If you aren’t familiar with the Actingverse, I’d recommend starting with Dressing Room and working through to the present.

Entry #649
by KitsuneRisu

Horror, Mystery
9,846 words

It has been a year since I last saw her when she appeared on my doorstep, strangeness in her eyes and a mumbling under her voice.

She asked for my help to investigate a peculiar object, which once held an odd ancient magic. But it's benign now, she said.

It's benign now.

Why I added it: KitsuneRisu is a good writer, and was disappointed that this story didn’t end up getting read by a large volume of people.

A cosmic horror story, Twilight comes to Rarity’s house, half-mad, with a strange, red-veined object she’s researching. But there’s something wrong. She keeps leaving and returning, and doesn’t make sense half the time. There’s also something else there, a past between her and Rarity, likely as lovers. And Rarity wants to recapture it, even as she pushes Twilight away.

And then, Twilight leaves, entrusting the object to Rarity until Twilight returns.

She doesn’t.

And soon, things start going very weird.

Honestly, this story was very predictable. Horror stories like this generally are, and this didn’t really hold any surprises. It was pretty obvious early on what was going to happen, and in the end, it did, and there was nothing that Rarity could really do about it. And I have to admit, I got kind of bored reading through the first half of the story.

The story felt kind of empty, as the story ultimately seemed to lack purpose. What was the point of the story? Is it meant to indicate that the world is vast and it is pointless to struggle against it? Or is it simply emulating similar cosmic horror stories?

In the end, I was left without a feeling of character agency in the story, and the whole thing just played out exactly like you might expect a story like this to, without really doing anything fresh or different with the premise. I just could never get interested in it or excited by it.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

Baby Pictures
by KingMoriarty

Sex, Alternate Universe, Drama
3,700 words

There's a lot of unpleasant surprises that can be found in photo albums. A third pony in what you thought was a private moment, inexpertly applied bodypaint, or just evidence of that time that your mother dressed you up like a burrito.

Twilight Sparkle was expecting to come out of Family Night with a few fresh blushes on her cheeks. What she wasn't expecting was a mysterious pair of wings in her baby pictures.

Hopefully Celestia will have some answers.

Why I added it: It was featured.

While Twilight’s family is looking through their photo album, Twilight realizes that she has wings in her early baby photos – and that her family now remembers her as being born as an alicorn.

Clearly, the solution is to talk to Celestia about it.

She is somewhat disturbed by the explanation.

The start of this story was cute enough; people being embarrassed by baby photos and funny stories is interesting enough to carry us through to the reveal of Twilight’s backstory being rewritten.

However, while the premise of the story is interesting, and I liked the explanation given by Celestia, I was still feeling like my itch wasn’t totally scratched. I felt like having an additional reveal in there, or Twilight questioning what other things have been changed as a result of the effect in question, might have added something to the story; as it was, it felt a little bit too neat, as a new and potentially disturbing concept was inserted into the setting but the story sort of stops before exploring any further. Flurry Heart in particular seems like something which should be looked at a bit more, and could have possibly lead to hints about other things that might be going on with the world.

Still, I can’t say that the story wasn’t at least interesting, even if it felt underexplored.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.

Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise
by Dubs Rewatcher

Slice of Life
2,405 words

It's been a few weeks since Starlight Glimmer nearly destroyed all of time and space, and she hasn't gone outside since. At least, not until she receives an invitation from Princess Celestia to meet for tea at sunrise. This can't be good.

Why I added it: It was featured.

In the aftermath of nearly destroying all of Equestria, Starlight Glimmer is afraid of doing anything for fear of causing further destruction. She’s avoiding Twilight, she’s avoiding going outside…

But when she gets a royal invitation from Princess Celestia, she has no choice but to go share scones with the Princess of the Sun.

This was a fairly simple slice of life piece, but it was enjoyable enough for what it was. Starlight being coached through her fears, combined with her dread at being around Celestia, worked well. It isn’t overly long, and doesn’t linger past where it should go, and leaves us where the show starts off, with Starlight finally joining Twilight and her friends.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.

The Riddle of the Sphinx by Cold in Gardez
Worth Reading

Barnstormer by GAPJaxie
Worth Reading

Entry #649 by KitsuneRisu
Not Recommended

Baby Pictures by King Moriarty
Worth Reading

Starlight Glimmer Battles Existential Dread at Sunrise by Dubs Rewatcher
Worth Reading

Huzzah! I may feel diminished by the loss of my computer, but I did manage to save all my files.

GAPJaxie is hoping to finish at least three stories before Bronycon; I really have no excuse not to do the same.

Time to get to work.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy some of these.

Number of stories still listed as Read It Sooner: 135

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later: 485

Number of stories listed as Read It Eventually: 1934

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Comments ( 15 )

Shit, BC is only a few weeks away. *cracks fingers*

Four out of five Worth Reading? You're getting soft, old man.

Or maybe you're just being more selective with what you review. Iunno.

4039918 what are you talking about? BronyCan is over two months away! :rainbowwild:
I'm a little sad my ride bailed for BronyCon, but I'm also gonna have a lot more money now.

4039932 Dude... it's two weekends from this Friday.

4039931 Maybe it has something to do with the fact that half the stories he reads are by authors he already likes?

Blame PresentPerfect. It was his idea.

Still working for that "Dubs Rewatcher is a good author" tag... :ajsmug:

See you at BronyCon, assuming you'll be attending.

4039937 that is Can, not Con. The joke is that the two conventions share the same initials.

I do actually try to avoid stories I don't think I'll like, often unsuccessfully, but reading stories from certain writers helps a lot. I've only NRed one GAPJaxie story; CIG has a very high hit rate for me as well. Both have multiple recommendations/highly recommendeds. Dubs is batting 3 out of 4 WRs, and KitsuneRisu is at 50% (including at least one HR). This is the first time I've ever reviewed a King Moriarty story,

What's your favorite/best thing you've ever written?

4040049 http://bronycon.org/

Pretty sure you have the dates mixed up, Tramp.

4040138 King Moriarty is a surprisingly adept writer, though he flew under most peoples' radar until recently.

4040138 I believe that an author is the worst judge of the quality of their own work, so I can't with any confidence tell you what the best thing I've written is.

In terms of what I had the most fun writing, I'd probably be torn between Iron Wing, its sequel, and When an Angel Loses his Wings.


Heh, doesn't help that I tend to write stuff that you generally have professed before many times to not liking (SoL and Horror, mainly).

Working on a comedy, though! Maybe that'll be better. I know you like the funnies.

Also, in my defense, that blog was more of a commentary on the way the site works now rather than specifically boo hoo my story isn't being read. I DID mention that it did BETTER than my other horror stories, and I definitely am not at all upset about that!

4040150 https://www.bronycan.ca it was a joke about conventions with similar names and initials that apparently wasn't funny

The background bit about “real world” barnstormers, and their conflicts with pegasi, and how airplanes changed the Actingverse was a nice bit of worldbuilding.

My head-canon is that species that can fly don't develop heavier-than-air aircraft until much later than they would otherwise.


While it will never come up in the stories, it's part of my world bible for Actingverse that the first flying machines were tethered, unmanned air balloons that served a similar function to barrage balloons. Covered in barbed wire, they existed to make it hard for pegasai to strafe a structure or local area. After the industrial revolution, the typical flight height for the balloons got higher, and they started carrying an earth pony or two to operate a machine gun. That eventually lead to zepplins, and then there was a need for a way to fly high enough to engage zeppelins, since they fly far above a typical pegasai's flight ceiling.

Essentially, I have a little pony WW1/"Great War" mapped out and I'll probably never use it. :twilightsmile:

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