• Member Since 27th Dec, 2011
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You'll find, my friend, that in the gutters of this floating world, much of the trash consists of fallen flowers.

More Blog Posts135

  • 6 days
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    1 comments · 28 views
  • 24 weeks
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  • 66 weeks
    Can't think of a title.

    For years, every time someone says "All Lives Matter" I'm reminded of this quote:

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    1 comments · 196 views
  • 69 weeks
    I first heard of this from that weird 90s PC game

    Not long ago I discovered that archive.org has free videos of every episode from Connections: An Alternative View of Change.


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  • 75 weeks

    This is a good video (hopefully it works in all browsers, GDC's site is weird) about fairness in games. And by extension, stories.


    Preferences are preferences, but some of them are much stronger than that. Things that feel wrong to us. Like we want to say, "that's not how stories should go!"

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    7 comments · 231 views

REVIEW: Ponyville Mysteries 1 & 2 · 7:32am Jul 20th, 2017

There's more MLP chapter books! That means more reviews! Finally!

As you probably noticed, there was one important character who never got the spotlight in the previous book series. No, not Spike. He's not important like the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Well, they kinda count as one character, usually. Except when they don't.

They got an entire new series to themselves, called "Ponyville Mysteries". And they get fancy custom artwork on their covers instead of clipart! That puts them on the same level as Daring Do.

Ponyville Mysteries:
Schoolhouse of Secrets and The Tail of the Timberwolf
by Penumbra Quill

Just to get the roleplaying out of the way: similar to how we already know "G.M. Berrow" is secretly another identity of the pony author A.K. Yearling, this "Penumbra Quill" pony is actually a pair of humans, Mike Vogel and Nicole Dubuc (I'm guessing the latter wrote some show episodes that haven't aired yet). Trust no one's identity, not even your own. Except for me. :trixieshiftright:

The CMC may have discovered their cutie marks, but it's made their show-identity even weirder. They aren't meant to go on their own adventures now. They wait for others to come to them with a cutiemark-related problem. It's a bit like the magic map that sends the adult ponies to someplace they're needed to solve someone else's situation. Even though it's resulted in some really good episodes, it's kinda clunky. The whole show began with a focus on each character's hopes and dreams, and now none of them seem to have any left. :unsuresweetie:


Or maybe they don't, but at least addresses the issue. Now the CMC solve mysterious happenings and monster attacks going on around Ponyville. It's not quite Scooby Doo, since strange magical stuff already happens in Equestria in the first place. I guess it's more like Harry Potter, where even in a world of magic and monsters, some unexplained mysteries can still happen. And much like Harry Potter, they're caused by some shadowy villain who's up to no good, shown for only 3 pages per book in the prologue & epilogue. There's a bigger story connecting all these together!

This may sound like a "monster of the week" type of thing, and it kinda is, but it's still the CMC's agency. They don't normally save the day, and in these stories they choose to figure out what's happening on their own, instead of waiting for the Mane 6 to do all the heroics. Not that they're going out of their way looking for trouble, because all the trouble seems to attack them first, and that's why they feel like it's their problem to investigate. Not Twilight Sparkle's or Applejack's.

This sets up the part I find most interesting: each book gives one crusader a simple arc and focus. Apple Bloom feels jealous that the older sisters always save the day, always get to be the heroes, and it's difficult looking up to them without wanting a chance to prove herself too. In book 2, Sweetie Belle feels like she's the scaredy-pony in the group, always hiding while the others bravely face danger. I assume future books will give similar development to Scootaloo and Lilymoon (the new goth kid who befriends them and becomes the unofficial 4th crusader..... oh come on, it's not a spoiler. if you're over the age of 10 you can instantly figure out where the plot's going and that she's not the villain).

Still, this character development takes a backseat to the mystery work. These books are about as lengthy as the G.M. Berrow series, but the writing style focuses on action to pack as much of it in as possible. I liked Berrow's writing for how much it tried to get in the main character's head for each book, following their personality and thought process. She also had a relaxed pace, with room for subtle humor and atmosphere. Maybe that's why she was better at doing slice of life than adventure stories. Then again, for all these Ponyville Mystery books focus on adventure and action, they're just kind of adequate at it. They're not that suspenseful, even compared to children's books. They shine when they're about characters and their friendships, but that's secondary to explaining the plot and worldbuilding. I'm surprised the books aren't written more "in-character", like told from Apple Bloom or Sweetie Bell's perspective, which would make the character arc fit better with the mystery element.

Maybe the author is still figuring out how she wants to write it. Maybe the 3rd book will be stronger. I hope so. At the moment, it can't decide between writing close to one pony's thoughts & feelings, or being detached and viewing the group as a detached observer. You have the sassy leader, the scared one, the reckless one, and the gloomy one... and that's mostly all you get for group interaction, they follow the archetypes for each situation. It doesn't feel all that surprising or inventive with their group dynamics.

Still, it's better than most of the comics. :ajbemused:

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