• Member Since 4th May, 2013
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Estee


On the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs. Cynicism, I like to think of myself as being idyllically cynical. (Patreon page.)

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May
16th
2020

Estee Ticks Off The Entire Site: Story Reviews, Round #2 (in a series of #Unlikely) · 10:06pm May 16th

Before we start, I need to go boldface and bumped font size for a few seconds.

Dear recent Ko-Fi tippers: may I have your attention, please.

Okay. When I first announced the possibility of reviews, I made a dark joke about taking tips: you couldn't bribe me to say something nice, but you could get bumped to the front of the line. And because I happen to like a degree of dark joke, I set a new Ko-Fi goal accordingly. Some people decided it was worth going for, and I'm guessing that happened because when coronavirus has shut down non-essential businesses, y'all just can't get to your usual sources for whips and chains. I honored those first two tips accordingly and after doing so, three more people decided to pay their way into the second round, for stories of a 10k word count or less.

Here's the problem.

I only know who two of you are.

Of the three people who left Ko-Fi tips, two did so anonymously while leaving no comment. (This is an option.) One has since contacted me via PM, but I have no idea who the last person is. (Or rather, I have the name they tipped under -- but I don't have a FIMFic name to go with it. And for obvious reasons, I can't post anyone's PayPal name in a blog and ask 'Is this you?') So when you don't see your story in this group -- unless I hit it by pure random draw -- that's the reason why.

AdmiralBiscuit and Dafaddah have been identified. If you are the third party in that mix, please contact me so that I can give you the evisceration you paid for. Repeat the name which you used for your PayPal account when you do so, as the two of us are the only people who could ID it.

All right. Just wanted to put that out there. Because Round #2 mostly exists due to the need to honor those tips, and... extending that to our mystery party has just ensured there's gonna be a Round #3.

:facehoof:

Y'see how these things start?

(ETA: well, if there's gonna be a Round #3, you can get your bribes in now. If you want to. For whatever reason. On stories of a 10k word count or less, where you clearly ID yourself and the story you want reviewed because I'd really rather not go on a tipper ID hunt twice.)

Okay. So, once again: six slots. Two of those have been claimed through identified Ko-Fi tips: the other four will be random draw from the original offerings in the first blog's comments section. (Please note that wait times for purchasing mob reaction equipment will vary by region. I had to buy pickles this morning and that left me standing in line for an hour.)

We'll start with the random draws. Round and round they go...

...and we land on an insect infestation.

Still a little too close to home.


Bedbug by BezierBallad

Pharynx sleeps in. Again. Thorax decides to mess with him. Bad idea.

Also why does Pharynx keep muttering about some Maulwurf?

Let's talk fluff.

There are stories where nothing is at stake. The characters don't grow or change. No great secrets are revealed. We're not taking a close look at anyone's deepest heart. The story exists because something cute is going to happen and the hoped-for reaction of 'Daaaaw!' requires an audience. And the first impression -- gathered from the long description alone -- is that this story is going to be fluff. It's the literary equivalent of dipping your feet into warm water for three minutes. The relief is real, but it's also temporary.

Anti-fluff readers exist, and are rather easy to identify. Just listen to the wind until you pick up their distinctive Let-Us-Hope-They-Never-Mate cry, the high-pitched eternal whine of 'But what's this story about?'

Oh, you know these guys. They want to talk about themes. They're forever looking for subtext, most of what they uncover was never planted by the writer and if that party makes the mistake of trying to explain, cue Murder Of The Author. You can't turn on a light without having them speculate on just what a sun metaphor means here, and 'No one could see what was going on' is not an acceptable answer. They're out there, and they hate fluff. Because every story needs to have a purpose. It is a window into the writer's twisted psyche. It has Themes and Subtext and Issues and in their hands, Projection. Lots and lots of projection. And never can a story exist simply because the writer wanted to spend a few thousand words having fun, because there is a 5000-page book on Fun: Why You Can't Have Any and they are going to start reading it to you. Starting with the interior front cover watermark, because that image is Freudian.

They are people who would never kick a kitten, but will spend two hours explaining why doing so in a story represents sexual abuse. And, after the ninety-minute mark, listener abuse, but they never get that part...

When it comes to Deep Literature, that segment of the readership has a purpose, a place, and probably a hefty student loan bill. But they tend to hate fluff, because fluff isn't a real story.

The thing is... a diet of nothing but Real Stories can wear you out.

There's all sorts of reader fatigue, and one kind can come when The World Changes Forever Again. It's the sort of thing you have to space out, especially in those mediums where the World Changing Forever is an annual event. You know. The one which is always followed by Resumption Of The Status Quo, because that's the baseline from which the World can Change Forever next time, and the author is really hoping you don't have any long-term definition going on Forever. Oh, and the character is traumatized over and over without a chance for adjustment or recovery, so guess how well the reader's doing? The fictional gets hit and the real flinches: enough of those contacts and your soul starts to bruise. Fluff is the sorbet you use as palate cleanser between courses of the heavy stuff: you can't necessarily live on it, but your large intestine would appreciate any effort you made to temporarily disable the internal manufacture of brick. People who subsist solely on True Art may not have an actual stick up their rear, but something is a lot denser than it should be, and it ain't coming out.

You need fluff. And this story, at least from the long description alone... comes across as fluff.

Of course, I could be wrong. Snap judgments usually are, and people who try to codify an entire story based on the description are another category. So shall we see what we're up against?


The plot is pretty much summarized by the description. One sibling is asleep, and the other decides to go get him. And how does this happen?

Slowly.

I'm the wrong person to lecture anyone on word count. Readers have said that I'm incapable of working short, and I've been known to spend the first thousand (or two thousand) words of a story in just setting up the mood: something which creates downvotes and reader duck-outs because this is the Internet era and a few people didn't have the attention span required to reach the end of this sentence. In the case of this story, we're looking at 2800 words. A fairly short piece, and yet the opener feels longer than that. Because Thorax is looking for his brother, and while doing so...

The changeling leader let out a heavy sigh of exasperation as he slumped down in his seat, taking a moment to gaze up at the countless clusters of white clouds above him.

Thorax then gently shut his eyes just to use a few minutes of tranquil silence and relaxation to think about the possibilities of where his brother could be...

There are times when this sort of details works towards the establishment of character and environment. Is Thorax the sort of person who needs peaceful meditation in his life, especially when trying to focus on a goal? Are the stresses of ruling the hive so great that he'll take any moment of peace he can find? Possibly. But for at least for me, this is coming across as padding, and part of that is the division into two separate paragraphs.

Consider this image. Okay. Pause. Now consider that one.

The pace is being slowed: the line breaks almost force that. It's the opposite of using quick, choppy sentences for action sequences: we're being forced to take our time, drink in what we've been looking at. And that brings up the question as to whether we're setting mood, establishing character -- or stalling.

The answer can be a matter of personal taste, and any addressing in a review this rambling would be ironic at best.

(Oh, and just to make that worse: as an aside, this drives me nuts.

None of those things explain why Pharynx hadn’t shown up to attend his duties

Using normal text to indicate word stressing in the middle of italics is an accepted convention. For me, it's just a very, very annoying one, especially when italics are being used to indicate thought. It makes the sentence look like the character's mind switched off in the middle.)

So eventually, Thorax learns that his brother has not only been sleeping in, but everyone is afraid to try waking him because he's been kicking out in his sleep. For days. There have been injuries. A lot of them. Also, face-doodling is epidemic in the ranks and as military discipline goes, they really aren't. This may be because

“Guys, this is my brother you’re talking about,” Thorax reassured the small mob of subjects. “I’ll be fine. And this is coming from the changeling who had to spend his childhood playing the ‘Stop Hitting Yourself’ game, while being on the receiving end, of course.”

Thorax is not exactly the sort of leader who creates distance between himself and the hive. You've heard of generals who try to lead from behind? Thorax tends to talk about himself in a way which has him ruling from the bottom. While digging. There's being relaxed with your subjects, and there's 'Hey, did you know probably any of you would be better at this than me?'

Of course, now we have to find that brother, and in short order:


Thorax silently peered into his brother’s dimly lit bedchamber, having to squint his eyes in order to properly see the changeling general in his deep slumber.

The only reason why the room wasn’t in pitch black darkness was that Pharynx kept kicking holes in his walls, thus allowing the morning sunlight to seep its way through the open spaces and into the room. So, that was a plus for the changeling leader.

Well, here goes, he thought as he wiped the pooling sweat off of his chitinous forehead. Taking a deep breath and bracing himself, Thorax steadily made his way into the bedroom.

The room itself hadn’t changed, surprisingly enough; inside, there was not only a bed, but there was also a nightstand, a rug and a table. There were even a few spears, some swords and shields, along with other things necessary for any sort of combat. Though Thorax couldn’t help but notice that certain things like flowers in vases and framed photographs weren’t present in the room. Probably because they just weren’t his taste, he guessed as he carefully trotted next to the bedside of his brother.

This is... awkward. How dim is the room? Sunlight generally isn't described as something which can seep, and it's giving me some trouble in trying to figure out just how much is visible. We don't know how big the holes are: just that they're large enough to not be mentioned as cracks. Holes imply rays of light. And then we get to the fact that Pharynx is kicking holes in the walls. In his sleep. So they're all around the bed? Spaced out a little more because he's also sleepflying? PTSD changeling? Had a nibble of some toxic love?

And then we get to 'the bedside of his brother,' which is so formal as to require cursive and a wax-embedded notary stamp.

So what's happening on the bed itself? Pharynx has decided to choke a bitch, which in this case means his pillow and before you say a word, you don't know what that pillow might have done to him. He's squeezing the pillow, he's kicking the pillow, he may have gone to a convention in order to have a face put on the pillow. And upon seeing that his sibling is not sleeping well, is in fact pretty much lashing out in dream and that generally indicates something going on, the changeling who embraced caring about others decides to -- whisper some things to his brother, tricking him into thinking there's an earthquake and things are that much worse.

Siblings!

At which point, Thorax gets his feelers sleep-kicked. Thorax is incapable of making a strategically victorious decision against an opponent who's unconscious. Thorax is making me root for the return of Chrysie, because at least her opponents had a certain basic requirement for beating her. Like having their eyes open.

Shortly after this, we wrap up. Pharynx wakes up, tells his brother about the dream he'd been having (taking on a Diamond Dog, and there was some monster called a Maulwurf), and of course Thorax got hurt during all this because the next step is for the changeling leader to be defeated by something inanimate. I'm thinking toilet paper. Which may not even exist for changelings, so that's extra-humiliating. Go off to get the injury treated, with Pharynx asking Thorax not to tell anyone -- naturally finding out that they already know -- and we're done.

So on the surface level, this is fluff. And it's tagged as a Slice Of Life Comedy, which suggests the author saw it that way. It's just that...

...I spent a thousand words watching a sibling mess around with someone who was, in my eyes, clearly going through sleep trauma.

Because that's what the reader brings to the table. The author can say 'this is fluff,' and that's what was intended. But I feel like there was a disconnect. A sibling who's rolling around on the bed, giggling in his sleep... sure, go ahead and have some fun if that's your inclination. But someone who's fighting in his sleep, who's at the point where he's kicking holes in walls while, at one point, talking about teaching others not to mess with his brother... that's a changeling who looks like he's having some major problems. And Thorax, as both leader and presumably-loving sibling... sees that as an opportunity to prank.

...yeah.

To me, we're looking at a disconnect. It's meant to be cute. But the lead-in to the central scene could have just as easily been tagged Sad and Drama. It's fluff, but... it sits oddly in the stomach, because there's too much density to it. I don't know how much light is in that bedroom, and I don't know how dark this story could have been. Perhaps should have been.

Did the reader fail to see the true purpose of the story? Am I bringing in Theme and Subtext when there shouldn't be any? Or is this just something which could have gone another way?

I can't answer. All I can do is talk about how I saw it, and I've done that. I can always be the one in the wrong. But when it comes to the lightness of fluff... I think this one just went down the wrong pipe.


One down, five to go. Spin the wheel, and land on...

...'stralia.

Well, the good news is that he won't know how this went for hours...


Scheduling Conflict by Brumby_Run

The Leap Year has come around again, and Twilight has forgotten to take it into account when she was working on her schedule. How is she going to cope with a whole day where she has nothing to do? How is Spike going to keep the new alicorn occupied?

Instant disbelief. There is no way Twilight would forget about Leap Year.

"It's an extra day! Well, not really. It's bits of extra days from multiple years all added together, because it turns out that a year isn't an even number. I don't understand that, honestly. If the planet was doing something like, just hear me out, I know how silly this sounds, orbiting around a sun... well, of course you wouldn't expect that duration to end in a perfect integer, would you? But Sun goes around the planet. On schedule. So how are we determining the length of a year? And why wouldn't that be a whole number? Who set up this stupid system, anyway? Why do we need an extra day? Or is this something left over from a time before -- Spike, get me a scroll. All of the scrolls."

(Note to self: do not have leap days in-'verse, because that can of worms is better off staying closed.)

This is the hell of character interpretation again: it's very hard not to build an internal Twilight who, in an Equestria which for some unfathomable reason had Daylight Savings Time, would not take it badly. (Abomination against nature, ponies lying to themselves, stolen hour on one end and then staying up all night to get it back on the other...) But let's say that this particular Twilight did, in fact, manage to overlook a full-day detail. She has been known to hit her head a lot. What happens next?

Twilight woke and got out of bed, eager to face the day. Yesterday had been very productive, and she had slept well. She was refreshed, relaxed, and ready for anything. She walked over to her calendar, and with a smile on her face, tore off yesterday's page. As the details of the new page slowly permeated her consciousness, her smile started to falter. With a blink, and a shake of her head, the true horror of the day was revealed.

It was Sunday, the twenty-ninth of February.

"No, no, no, no," she cried to herself, "We can't be due for another Leap Year yet! We only had one four years ago..."

We get a little reminder of the author's species.

In terms of differentiating the pony environment from the human, this is a case where you need to bring in enough from the latter to make the basic conceit work: if there are leap years, then there's a leap day, and you can certainly use months as a unit of time. But there's a giant trip-up point present here, and it exists as a single word: February.

That's there for the readers. It's Leap Year, and we all know when that day is scheduled. (At the worst possible time. Seriously, wouldn't it be better to place the lie of a day in spring?) And making up month names for a pony calendar... that's not necessarily easy, and you would lose that instant recognition from the readership of just how important the date is. But when you're going through a pony story, and you hit February at full speed...

It can be jarring. But it's not something which knocks everyone out of the story and so most of the time, the choice to use it is going to exist as a compromise situation. You need to mark the temporal map in a way which everyone will understand. It's just that the mark can turn into a pothole.

"Spike! It's a Leap Year. Again!" Twilight said in a tone of frustration. "And this time 'round it falls on a Sunday. I've messed up my schedules!"

A really deep, axle-breaking pothole.

Suspension of disbelief should, if at all possible, be a casual thing: if you're thinking about it, then you're paying too much attention to it. 'February' followed by 'Sunday'...


Now at this point in the story, Twilight reacts to the extra, schedule-empty day not as an opportunity to catch on things which she didn't have time for, or to get ahead on any number of activities. She reacts in that old Lesson Zero way: we are going to take this so seriously as to wait for the nervous breakdown on the other end. She can't eat, because the food budget didn't account for this day. She can't visit her friends, because she never just drops by: she schedules in advance and gee, maybe there is no such thing as Pinkie Sense, it's just that Twilight forgot that she wrote down 'walk under plummeting flowerpot' on the minute-by-minute planner. Spike has to initially find her things to do because in the most surprising twist of all, Twilight can't think of anything herself.

Here's a book to read. It's a sex manual. Oops. Well, so much for random pulls. (Also, there's a masturbation joke. It doesn't quite feel like it fits.)

Twilight tries to take a nap. This just leaves her thinking about circadian rhythms.

Monopoly is played. Right: we have February and Sunday and now we're gonna play Monopoly. Obviously the Twilight-Spike relationship has reached the point where neither wishes to ever speak with the other again and as we all know, there are two routes for accomplishing this: permanent family separation or Monopoly. Also, Twilight cheats.

And when they get through the day, bringing Twilight to the first of whatever-you-want-to-call-the-next-month, putting her back on schedule -- Celestia sends a letter which reroutes everything. Oh, no! Daily schedule broken! Time for the mission checklist!

That's the story.
Or rather, that's the order of events.


Quite a few of us have done this, and I'm no exception. Here's the situation. Here's the pony trying to deal with the situation. When the situation is resolved or ends, the story is over. It's a basic structure, serviceable for any number of plots, and it has a few issues which always have to be dealt with. Like 'Checklist. Don't.'

Because Twilight can run through one, trying to fix whatever the situation is. But it can't feel as if the writer is doing the same.

We have a day to get through. So how do we break that down? Here's what happens at breakfast. Around lunch. Close to dinner. We don't need every last hour, but we do require a sense that time is passing. And as soon as the reader recognizes that there must be events at X, Y, and Z -- once the structure is spotted... then it's no longer wondering what happens next so much as it is recognizing that there's time left in the story and therefore something has to happen. If writing is any degree of magic, then story pacing frequently serves as a rather visible form of misdirection: please don't look at the checklist under the table, because I still have five hours of this extra day to go.

The story is about occupying extra time, and a visible structure makes it look as if the author is trying to find ways of filling it. You're not supposed to see that structure. The story shouldn't turn into events happening in rough sequence, because then you're tracking numbers instead of words. You need a distraction, and that comes in the form of the characters. It isn't just the events, but it's how they're reacting to them. And when it comes to Twilight and Spike -- we can hear their voices, can't we? If the dialogue hits, then some part of it manifests in the reader's ears. So we let them talk, and --

"I haven't taken today into account for our groceries and household accounts. We can't eat anything today, or it will throw my whole budget for the year out." Her stomach grumbled again.

"Sounds like there is some dissent in the ranks." Spike smiled as Twilight's tummy rumbled a third time.

"Spike! You're not taking this seriously!"

"Okay, calm down. If we have three square meals today, are we going to run out of anything before we go grocery shopping again?"

"No, but it will cut into my carefully calculated emergency reserves."

-- did you hear them? Can you accept those sentences as coming from Spike and Twilight? Was 'there is some dissent' too formal for Spike, with the double 'today' too childish for Twilight? Was it the lack of speech qualifier/descriptives which caused problems? Or does something just not match the voices you have in your head?

This is a story about extra time, and what you do to fill it. But something about it doesn't feel right for the characters, and when it comes to the story itself... it exists as something which knows it needs to cover that full day, and so proceeds from event to event. This happens, then that happens, and when everything has happened, we're finished: basic story structure. The underpinnings of pretty much any tale which exists.

This story knows it needs to fill time. But I spotted the gears, and lost the clock in the tick.

So who else can I alienate today?


Drops Of Jupiter by Paul Asaran

She is an Explorer. She traverses the universe, seeking out those places that have been suggested to Her. With luck, She’ll find something phenomenal. For even across the vast emptiness of space, one may yet find a friend...

Reviewing the reviewer.

Paul has his own review schedule, and it is backlogged to the point where there's a known delay between his adding a story to the review list and seeing that opinion appear on a screen. A few months. Maybe more than a few. (To my knowledge, he doesn't do bribes, but you could always ask.) His feelings come out weekly, through his blog, and people wait patiently to be reviewed by him because he can get across how he felt about the story, plus apparently reviews are at such a premium around here that some writers are willing to try paying for fast, poorly-rendered ones. I'd consider putting together a whole site to do Pay For Review exchanges, but Google put a claim in while I was typing that, will spend four years developing the idea, and then shut it down three months after launch while retaining perpetual ownership on the concept. And thus do we all remain poor, but hey, at least you were here for it.

My work has shown up in his reviews twice, and so I can count him among the few who didn't react to Pony Up A Tree by demanding my permaban: this just about places him in the minority. And what does that mean, when it comes to what I might owe him through a breakdown of his own story?

Nothing. I have to be just as fair with him as I would be with anyone else. When it's an actual review, I have to try and start from neutrality. Paul's seen as a good writer, and I begin reading at the level point. If someone whose work I actually hate wound up in here, I would need to begin from engine idle. (I would just be very unlikely to stay there.) That's the bargain between critic and creator: to keep bias out of it. And in the professional ranks... it's an agreement which gets broken a lot. If you follow any critic for a while, you'll start to pick out their favorites -- which very much includes their favorite targets. Go ahead, bring up Rob Liefeld in front of Linkara. See where that gets you.

So we start from neutrality, as best we can.

And then we twist into confusion.

Her arrival was an explosion. Not an explosion of fire or wind or light.

An explosion of Magic.

She could sense the world. Within half a second, She knew so many things about Her surroundings: the frigid cold, the biting wind, the gentle illumination. The latent energies, quiet and smooth and pleasant, flowed beneath the planet’s surface like an ocean. The cold waters of Magic reached out, feeling at this interloper, gauging Her presence, trying to understand Her arrival. She nearly lashed out, afraid of how it might react to this, their first encounter.

Yet there was no anger. No territorial aggression. Only curiosity and, after the Magic got a good feel for Her, invitation. It was so pleasant, so kind, and yet She couldn’t go in just yet. After all, it would be Her first time, and She wanted to get a better idea of who this new – friend? – really was.

And so She brought about the changes She needed. Hooves with which to feel the ground beneath Her, soft but with a hardness lying just underneath. Skin with which to properly detect the chill winds, driving shivers through a body even as the physical nerves completed their passages to a fast-developing brain. A mouth opened, accepting a breath of air for the first time. Not normal air with its precise oxygen and nitrogen levels, but something more alien, something a pony’s system shouldn’t be able to accept. The air was moist and added an extra chill to Her form, with a taste not unlike spearmint. Ears came to be, allowing Her to hear a wind that seemed more to slosh howl, like a wave of water heard through a hollow tube.

...what the hell?

There are stories which hold your hand and gently guide you into a new world. There are also tales which hit the ground running so fast that all you can do is reach out in desperation, hope to snag a handful of tail hairs, and then you're scrambling as best you can to keep up while being fully aware that at any moment, a single stumble or acceleration from the leading party is going to leave you with a face full of road or worse, the other way around.

This story is pulling no punches. It announces at the outset that we are not going into a beginner's class: you either figure out what's happening in a hurry, or you try to remember where the Back button is. And for a reviewer who's said that you can't be a real critic of any kind unless you finish, the Back button is not an option.

So we're running. And what we know so far (or hope we do) is that we're hopefully dealing with Twilight, because the capital on Magic points in that direction and the one for She is a little more worrisome but hey, at least he's not italicizing it every other sentence. She's coming into an alien environment in a way which is a little more complicated than we would normally expect, and things like 'why' and, as much to the point, 'dear gawds, why?' are going to wait for a while.

What we do know is that Twilight is on another planet, one where the local environment tends towards blue mineral facets, the false snow produced by elements which freeze at temperatures ponies aren't meant to exist in, and light playing off all of it. It's meant to invoke Rarity, and so Twilight takes it a step further by dissolving herself into clouds --

-- keep running: you don't want to know what happens if you stop --

-- and meets something which might be akin to the spirit of the planet itself, gaining its permission to reshape a portion of the landscape into something which is closer kin to Rarity's mark. And we move on to the next chapter, to another celestial body, a moon hiding in the universe's shadow, shepherding anything which comes into its gravity with utmost care...

This, too, is modified over time, to reflect a mark we know. And the whole time, we wonder why, as the process repeats itself over and over again. We might even wonder who's doing this, because these sections never see Twilight named. Magic is present as Magic alone, and any pronouns are capitalized. She and Her, because...

...there's a lot of distance being covered, across this universe.

There's more between us and the pony we used to know.

Are we looking at Twilight? Or is the capitalization the sign of a goddess?

It's hard to relate to this Twilight, because she's so far beyond what we've seen before. The story takes pains to show that there's still something familiar there at the core, and does so even as it continues to widen the gap. Any assumption of form is temporary: any laughter exists as a reaction to a joke which we haven't heard. We're watching a force, and how are we supposed to relate to the divine? Why is it trying to place marks among the stars? Recapturing what was lost? A tribute to the fallen? Perhaps this is simply how goddesses arrange birthday presents. It's not for us to understand the will of a goddess, or so some would claim: frequently, those are the ones who use 'ineffable' to suggest rationalizing is its own sin.

We're watching Her, from a distance, and it's as close as we're allowed to get. You can attune yourself to the pony bearing the Element, but not the Element itself. And when she comes home, when she takes up a form and name again, something which seems only temporary... we still don't get answers.

Five were reinterpreted as celestial creations, and the most interesting part of the story was seeing how the author decided to cast each as orbits and stellae. (The most annoying part? Five. Guess who got shorted out again? I'll give you a hint: imagine a cluster of heavy elements created by a supernova, staying close to what was left of the shell, glittering like scales...) But when she returns, sees her fellow Princesses... she was gone for twelve years, and no part of that bothers her. Twelve years with only the friends she made among the stars, while some form of Ponyville still existed.

So where are her other friends? They're dead, and this was their memorial. Fair enough, really.
But just as much to the point: where's Twilight?

I've never been fond of the 'alicorns as deities' interpretation: it can be done well, but... this is a reminder for one of the built-in issues. This is a Twilight who remembers her mortal life, but doesn't seem to be very concerned with retaining any degree of it. Whatever she used to be has been largely replaced by Magic, and while that magic was molded by her lessons -- magic is all there is. We're looking at an Element wearing a pony shell, not the other way around. And how is a living reader supposed to relate to a goddess who plays with planets for fun?

Who is Twilight, without the real to anchor her?

This story provides one possible answer. And it's nicely written (barring one rather jarring 'Mary Sue' joke in the last chapter), with fanciful linguistic plays which would appeal to many of those who can keep up -- but for me, the tone doesn't work. Because it's seeing the butterfly and realizing that you loved the caterpillar. The caterpillar died to become this, and... what's left?

It's not a bad story. But it's a story about somepony who used to be Twilight, who's a little less like Twilight every day. Who, with her memorial made, may never be this close to what we knew again, and who will only grow more distant over the centuries. Becoming an entity we can't relate to, or hope to understand. Deities are supposed to be beyond our comprehension, after all.

I didn't mourn the dead when I read this. I missed the one who still had some form of existence, because it felt as if she was the one who had been truly lost.

It's not a bad story. But it's not for me.


...tone shift. There's one random draw left. Let's see if I can at least pull out a tone shift...


A Rare Mystery by The Frank.

Rarity have seen better days. She has just returned from a business trip in Trottingham, where the news reached her that her fiancé Sunset Shimmer had been killed during a robbery gone wrong. It's understandable that she's feeling a bit rough.

But as she's trying to deal with her sorrow and the aftermath of the tragedy, she keeps running into the same police officer over and over again, at the most strange occasions. And there is always just one more thing he needs to ask her about...

There's three things we have to clear up here.
First: this is a sequel. This means I'm really going in blind, because unless it's a Sequel In Theme Only or recaps in a hurry, I'm going to be clueless about what happened earlier.
(ETA: Turns out to be a Sequel In Theme Only.)
Second, we're looking at the first Equestria Girls story to reach this kind of blog. So hands are permitted and hooves are the typo. Switching accordingly.
And lastly, this may be a mystery -- but if it's worked as the description and cover art leave me to believe, we'll all know exactly who did it at the moment it starts.

Because that's the fun part.

Let me tell you about Frank Columbo.


Yes, he had a first name. You just had to be quick on the freeze-frame to read it.

Columbo was a long-running TV series of made-for-TV movies, during that era where television networks would pay for double-length episodes because hey, it's a form of pilot and you can rerun it during the summer. The title character was played by Peter Falk as a human rumple: his mere appearance would send Rarity into a flurry of, if not design, a desperate onslaught of ironing. And he spent every day of his fictional police detective life trying to work out what we already knew. His was a mystery series, and every episode started out with a status of SOLVED.

For the viewer.

Columbo always opened with the crime itself. If there was a murder? Then here's your murderer, followed by the act. The motive might need a while to uncover, but we would be shown who did it and how. This left us following Columbo on his rounds, as he questioned suspects, avoided anything resembling a comb, and always had to ask just one more thing, which usually led to one more charge in the ultimate trial.

So instead of having the viewers think along with the character, we were granted a degree of knowledge he didn't have. And then we spent an hour waiting for him to catch up, wondering exactly how he was going to untangle this at all.

It's an unusual format for the genre, and I suppose there are modern viewers who would call it a failure: after all, they only got sixty-nine made-for-TV movies out of it, and the fact that its run went across multiple decades surely indicates the producers had no idea what they were doing. Why, they even got comfortable enough to occasionally have the viewers questioning what they had seen! And all of this was conducted by a man with the persistence of a flour weevil infestation and the personal style of torn motel wallpaper. He's one of television's greatest characters, and if he has one more question for you, then yours for him should be "When will I be eligible for parole?"

(Also, if he seems like he's only making partial eye contact with you... it's because he is. Peter Falk had a glass eye, and so could win 100% of all staring contests -- but only on one side.)

What am I expecting going into this story? To be shown a crime. To know who did it. And to see Rarity, even in mourning, desperately going for the nearest iron.

So let's see what we get.


Sunset Shimmer’s heels clicked against the asphalt as she left the number 33 on Leek street. Time was just a little before 7 pm but it was already rather dark, as her afternoon visit had lasted longer than she had expected. It hadn’t been pleasant, but it had to be done. She bit her lip. Yes, it had to be done. She began to walk faster, she wanted to get home as soon as possible. She wanted to call Rarity and tell her. But she didn’t want to use her cell, the evening was too windy. And she was rather upset as well, she needed to calm down.

Okay: so we're starting with the murder. This is the proper Columbo format and when it comes to proper formatting, it needs to give the text a little help. You can see multiple errors in the first paragraph alone: failure to capitalize Street, no periods on p.m. -- and some of the commas are doing little more than joining sentences which shouldn't necessarily be together.

For the latter, it's possible to do this for the creation of mood: it can indicate a disjointed mind, one which isn't quite thinking properly. But it can't persist for too long and when it does, it mostly shows a story which needed to be read aloud before going through one more round of edits. I won't point out every error in the piece, but there's enough here to show that a little more time would have helped.

I do, however, have to show this one.

That was a stupid thought, and she knew it! She had a better life know!

There's a few ways that can happen. One is that your brain just hiccups for a second: nearly all of us have had that moment of 'but I meant to write...!' Another, all too common for the newest of writers, is to let your spellchecker run on autopilot and presume it knows what you meant to write. And when you're editing, that's the sort of mistake which your eyes can just skim across as your brain declares 'Well, close enough.'

Check your sentences. Carefully.
Also, when I started the above, I almost wrote 'Quick'.
Y'know. Two whole letters in common.


So here's the crime. And we're not shown the murderer (although Sunset gets the reveal), not beyond basic outline and actions. The key moment seems to be a demand that Sunset unlock her phone: the killer uses it to send a text, then gives it back before killing her. It's less information than many of the originals would have given us to go on, but at least we have some interesting questions to start out with.

However, the prologue itself needs some work. Sentences continue to be disjointed, Sunset's main pre-murder thought on being shot is that she wouldn't want that... we don't have the fear which would come from someone in the middle of an initially-presumed mugging, nor do we get any attempt from Sunset to save herself and in most interpretations, she's not someone who's going to let herself be taken without some degree of resistance. In all ways, it's an unusually passive death: we're watching from a distance, and so the falling body might as well be one more mook in the FPS of your choice.

But then we switch to Rarity, going first-person at the same time. Which is fine: Sunset was her fiancee', and we need a protagonist. This is about to be all about what Rarity is going through in the wake of a loved one's murder. We can watch the proceedings from somewhere behind her eyes.

I found myself in the thick of it from the beginning. It was a most unpleasant way to begin such an affair, but I suppose these kind of affairs are unpleasant by default. I had been away to Trottingham for business a few days, and had just gotten off the train when it hit me.
Canterlot Evening News had had a bit of a dry spell, and the robbery and murder of Sunset was headline material.

UNIVERSITY STUDENT VICTIM OF CRIMINAL MADMAN screamed at me from the newsstand.
23 YEAR OLD STAR STUDENT SHOT! READ MORE ON PAGE 7, 8,9,10, 13, and 15.
It wasn’t news to me, of course. They had indeed called me to inform me about the event the day before so it wasn’t THAT kind of shock.
But I won’t deny it was very unpleasant. Only yesterday evening she had texted me and just hours later… Maybe even moments… I shook my head. Duty called. I had hardly time to get back to my apartment to leave my bags. I had been summoned down to the mortuary for identification as soon as I could possibly be there.

Look closely at that wording.

One of Rarity's defining traits is passion. She seldom does anything by half-measures. If she's going to participate in an activity, then she's in it all the way: if she's decided to refuse, then you are going to drag her kicking and screaming if you want her to be there, and you're probably the one who'll wind up getting kicked. She can try for a ladylike reserve -- but we are talking about the death of the woman she was going to marry. Do you know how a person of passion does not react to that?

'Very unpleasant.'

No. I'm not buying it, not even with shock potentially in play. Rarity in shock is going to let you know she's in shock. Swooning when the news comes in. Numbly (and very visibly) rocking in front of any available fireplace. Shredding her hairstyle, wailing at the windows. As a first-person narrator, she'll just tell you. 'Very unpleasant' is either a sociopath, someone on massive doses of downers, or 'Why can't the Mid-Atlantic teach their children how to out-English the English?' I don't accept this Rarity, and being immediately disconnected from what is now our main character doesn't exactly bode well for the story.

(She does have a more emotional reaction later on. But still, to use this for an opener... it's not the best decision.)

Columbo shows up, and his speech patterns don't quite manage to emerge: I can see them struggling to get out, but... it's another case where that one extra edit pass would have been helpful. But he gets his traditional toss from the home of the bereaved, comes back anyway, suspects begin to emerge, typos breed here and there, and...

...I have to make a decision here.

Reading to the end means I know who did it. I have to decide whether I'm going to recount that. Because some of you might want to read the story for yourselves, and giving away the ending to a mystery isn't exactly a polite thing to do --

-- if that solution makes sense.

The Columbo series counted on having one reliable form of narrator: the camera. When the murder took place, you might not see everything -- but you would know that what you'd seen had taken place. There could be times when you were made to reinterpret that vision, but putting the image in a new frame wouldn't change the actual events.

With this mystery, our initial perspective is not reliable. We're being asked to believe that Sunset -- killed by someone she knew -- would not recognize her murderer until the last second. And after that... let's just say the tone has been set. The ending does ask us to reframe events, but we're doing so when we don't know which camera we should have counted on. If that was any viewpoint at all.

We're inside Rarity's head, and that creates a certain degree of trust: we have only her perceptions to go on now. And the solution to the mystery makes sense -- but the approach doesn't.

Here's the thing about an unreliable narrator in a first-person mystery.
Explain to me how you're not being lied to.

It's a mystery. We can follow Columbo as he tries to untangle this, but we only see his efforts through the eyes of someone who's been concealing her own actions from us. She's all we have to go on, and she is refusing to let us see what's actually going on. With the series, there would be times when you stayed with the killer, saw their fear as things closed in, and the story is following that tradition because I called it near the outset.

But it's different, when it's a TV series. Television, even with a direct narrator, doesn't let you get as close as text. The sound of first-person is one letter: "I." You're with that character and to some degree, if the story works, you are that character.

Which can make this level of twist ending feel like you spent the whole time lying to yourself.

Unreliable narrators are hard enough. But when you make them first-person, when you can't trust the only eyes you have to use... then the twist really has to be sold. We came for Columbo, and we didn't quite get his voice. We might have stayed for Rarity, and she was never true to herself, or honest with us.

So it didn't work for me. I don't feel like I got Columbo, not completely. I don't feel like I had a chance to add up the clues, because I didn't have the opportunity to see them being planted. If you already know the solution, you can follow the thought process of the one who doesn't -- but if you don't have the answer, you need to think. And you can only deduce based on the information you were given.

Mysteries and twists can be said to succeed if it all makes sense looking back.
But you need to have the pieces if you're going to put anything together.
And you have to trust the person who was doing the looking.


This brings us to the first of the two Ko-Fi bribe slots. (Hopefully #3 makes their identity known through PM soon.) And the initial placement was claimed by...


Derpy Accidentally A Portal Gun VI: My Little Amethyst by Admiral Biscuit

In the conclusion to the thrilling* Derpy Accidentally A Portal Gun Franchise, Sparkler finds herself stranded on Earth, in a cardboard box. Can she survive Flint long enough to be summoned back to Equestria?

Of course she can, because she has a particular set of skills.

Can Flint survive her?

____________________________
*for some values of 'thrilling'

...y'know... at BronyCon, he had a toy sent via neutral courier to my hotel room. Fashion Style Sunset Shimmer. The cousin of this.

Clearly there was some inbreeding going on.

And now he wants me to look at a Part VI, when I haven't seen Parts I through V, on a story with a deliberate spelling mistake in the title, which he has bribed me to review, apparently while under the continuing delusion that if he gives me things in the name of torturing me, I somehow won't decide to kill him. Is Everfree Northwest cancelled yet?

Not officially. But at this point, having it take place isn't quite guaranteed.

Hope that it gets shut down, Biscuit. You could think of it as... a three-thousand mile head start...

Okay. So. He has my eventual vengeance, but I have his money. Everyone chant 'So what fresh hell is this?' and we'll get started.

...well, technically, it's not a fresh hell. It's a My Little Dashie parody. As hells go, that's about as stale as it gets.


My Little Dashie. Over half a million page views. More than twelve thousand upvotes. Which in this community, lets you stand in line for a panel at BronyCon. Towards the back. No skipping. Such is the value of horsefame that you can stand in any line you want, but good luck actually getting into the room. Oh, and if you have more than 500,000 page views, that upvote count means that, factoring out 34k of rereads, your view-to-positive-vote ratio is around forty to one. Depressing, ain't it?

It's arguably the Ur Hot Story of the fandom, and that also means it's old enough that many of the new arrivals won't have heard of it. The author itself has occasionally been known to mourn the fact that this is what he's known for and on other days, just tries to pass it off on Pen Stroke. I encourage the fresh site members to read it, mostly so you'll understand everyone else's worn-out jokes and finally know why I put Nyx in a cardboard box. But the core conceit of the original is that a man finds a little Dashie and if you can appreciate the feelings which the story invokes, crying may ensue. If you don't, then you might just see it as a pony-based case of Stockholm Syndrome. (Personally, I go with whichever answer will make Rob cringe more at any given moment.) But here we have a parody of it, because Derpy accidentally. With a portal gun. For what's apparently the sixth time.

@$#% it, Derpy.

I lived in Flint through no fault of my own. Well, technically it was my fault; there were other colleges in Michigan than Mott College.

On the plus side, tuition and rent were cheap. I lived in a converted house on Crapo Street. Rent was so cheap, I had the whole place to myself, and that was nice. I didn't have to put pants on unless guests were coming over or I decided to go to class.

Today, I was wearing pants. It was time for the monthly expedition to the grocery store to stock up on beer, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, beer, ramen, and beer.

Your first reaction to reading this (other than 'not the repeating an item three times joke again') might be to deny the existence of Crapo Street, because no town in America could be that stupid. Of course, we're talking about Flint, which hasn't figured out that drinking water is supposed to be, y'know, drinkable. There's a good chance that Crapo Street hosts the treatment plant and if it doesn't, it's providing the additive and if it doesn't do that, the author will because this is a My Little Dashie parody and damn the torpedoes, because they'll have to do for damning until we can find the author. Who is probably in Flint. And deserves it.

Michigan: a land with three seasons, winter, Hell, and spring. Spring lasts one day. Also, Hell is in Michigan. Where else would it be? Also, our protagonist lives in the supermarket, because he put on pants and therefore guests were coming over to his cash register. Don't think I didn't spot that.

I hadn't expected there to be a cardboard box sitting on my front porch. As cardboard boxes went, it was pretty solid, solid enough that it sent me sprawling.

“Oof,” I said.

“What the fuck?” the box said.

I might not have been the sharpest tool in the shed (I was going to school in Flint, after all), but I did know that boxes generally didn't curse.

Smashmouth invoked.

...must... not... downvote... without... finishing... story!
Also, ...must... abandon... Kirby... dialogue!

Anyway, there's a box with a pony in it. But this isn't a cute little Dashie who needs someone to guide her, protect her, and keep her so isolated that really, no one would have blamed her if she'd decided it was a kidnapping and just electrocuted her captor. This is an Amethyst, and she is not happy. She starts the story not being happy and once she finds out she's in Michigan with a Flint resident, finds a way to go downhill from there. Does this story have the Self-Insert tag? Can we add it retroactively?

“This isn't Equestria,” she said, looking around. “It's . . . a nightmarish Hellscape."

Down the road, Amethyst. Then hang a right. Also hang a few people along the way. It's Michigan: they won't mind. Hanging is preferable.

Anyway, pony needs a place to stay and should remain close to where she accidentally, because somepony will be retrieving her eventually and you might as well stay with the torture you've known for five minutes. Pony also has gold and human likes gold, so pony moves in. And it turns out that pony has lots of gold, can't use magic when there's peanut butter on her horn, and human likes to get drunk in bad places and talk about a gold-carrying unicorn living in his very non-secure residence, plus all the things she's vulnerable too, when he's around people who are drunk enough to believe it. Possibly he also flashed some gold at the time. But it's not necessary for him to have done so, because here we have an Idiot Plot. Once again, the definition is the plot which only works if everyone in it is an idiot and since the entire story takes place in Michigan, done.

The bad guys show up. They have peanut butter. Amethyst, however, has a shotgun. Turns out the shotgun wins. And this is where we hit what would normally be the entertaining portion of our program, as stabby small horse kills a lot of people in a style which quite frankly tells Kevin McAllister that his sadism isn't quite up to par, but this is still a My Little Dashie parody and so it's hard to enjoy the deaths when none of them include the author. Still, there are deaths. But the fatalities are Michigan residents and when you're watching Amethyst release them from the greater torment which is living in Flint, the various stylistic killings just lose something, y'know? And it's not as if we get a proper ending. The human comes home to find her burning the bodies, she doesn't kill him for why?, and then he Nopes out of the area forever. Possibly with gold.

Does Amethyst ever get home? Who knows? The story doesn't stick around long enough to say. Does anyone notice that a lot of people didn't come home that might? Well, it's Michigan, so that's a maybe. Is anything ever resolved? Well, yes. I have resolved that there is a very good chance of CNN having to cover the death of the only man known to be killed with a Fashion Style Sunset Shimmer figure, so in that sense, you could say the story accomplished something.

...yes, he actually tip-bribed for this. He knew what was going to happen. He could have chosen his best work, but no, he went with Part VI and didn't even had the decency to toss a Leonard in front of it. (I'm not linking that. You are on your own because that way, once you find out what it is, nothing which follows is my fault.) He thinks he can pay me to suffer, but he doesn't know the secret. I'm a caregiver, and that's the Bruce Banner of emotional torment. I'm always getting not-paid to suffer!

So what do I think of this story? I could say it's fine for what it is, which is a My Little Dashie parody which just wanted to kill some people with a shotgun and if you're wondering how Amethyst used it with her horn covered by peanut butter, you can just keep wondering. I could also say that there are worse ways to spend your reading time and given five hours, I could probably write one.

But mostly, I think Admiral Biscuit Accidentally A Looks Like Suicide.

That'll be a one-off.

Literally.


All right. Second Ko-Fi bribe and final review slot of the day. It almost has to be better than that, right? I mean, technically, it could be worse. I have my anti-favorites among the site's authorship and if one of them ever bribed their way in, I would start from neutrality and if they maintained their usual level of quality, it's party time.

(Non-secret of the day: negative reviews are more fun to write than positive ones, mostly because you just suffered and now there must be payback. However, as Doug Walker pointed out before everything went wrong, bad comedies can be the worst things to cover, because there's only so many times and ways you can say 'That's not funny.')

So let's see what this last one is about.


A Monster by Dafaddah

Sprig felt safe and happy. Everything was fine with Mom, Dad, Sis and Gramps, and even with his grumpy cousin and her father, even though they lived in the Everfree forest, and danger was all around them. Yes, everything was just great, until...

This story is an entry in the Halloween in April Horror contest with the Barcast. You were warned.

Oh, I see. It's a story about Admiral Biscuit!

...fine. Before we start: this story has a few tags on it which should be noted in advance. Namely, Horror with Death and Tragedy. And this is a combination I tend to avoid, because we're all living it and so there isn't much need to read about it --

-- okay. A little more seriously: I typically avoid the Tragedy tag. I have no issues with horror as a genre, although some of the ways it gets executed annoy me. And I can deal with character death. But Tragedy means that no matter how it might look at any point, nothing can end well, and... put it this way: ever hear of The Cabin In The Woods? I look at it as cinematic trolling. (It's just not a tragedy because let's face it: if that was the true nature of the world, then everyone needed to die.) So when you know it's going to end badly, when Horror suggests that there's nothing to be salvaged and Death adds a possible 'They never found the body'...

You need to be in a particular mindset, if you're going to face that trio on a regular basis. You've been told that you're getting the worst outcome before anything even starts. There's no way out of this dark place, no hope, no future, and if he can quote Smashmouth, I will @$#% well invoke Brother Bear. You need to be ready to, quite frankly, be in the emotional place I occupy pretty much every day.

Tragedy? I live in the real world. Tragedy was locked in upon delivery because one day, we'll all be dead and no one will remember any of us ever existed.

Bring it.


The immediate question when you're looking at a story which has a family living in the Everfree is 'Why?' Equestria has active volcanoes. Jumping into the caldera is faster and hurts less. But here we have what comes across as a rather young protagonist (which creates some questions about his use of capitals -- I've never seen Ursa Major go lower-case before), residing in Monster Central with his family. It's an environment where you have to expect things to go wrong at any moment, and the family has a system of rules for staying safe. However, none of them are 'Move to Ponyville', so at least we know that in the greatest of horror traditions, they're stupid enough that we can pretend they deserve what's coming.

Of course, that presumes we're talking about ponies.

Our protagonist is named Sprig, and that's not necessarily an immediate clue. Pony names are... flexible, enough so that you could easily see that as an earth pony. The author is quick to play with that expectation, avoiding any anatomical terms which wouldn't be shared with another species, trying to keep the reveal hidden as long as possible.

Because we all see ourselves as the heroes of our own stories, and Sprig is just living a normal life with his family. It's the only kind of existence he knows. He's an innocent -- and whoever's trying to kill the innocent is the monster.

It's not perfect by any means. This is another story which needed an extra editing pass: I spotted where some punctuation was missing, along some places where periods and commas could have been switched out for each other. But it's a story which is betting that it knows what you're thinking going in, and it's hoping you're going to accept being wrong. To that degree, I'm going to say it works. The main issue in the structure itself might come from spotting things too early, and there are those who will be able to do that. In that sense, there can be a sense of betrayal -- but keep this in mind: there is no point at which you are being lied to.

As said above, the key to a twist ending is that it all has to make sense looking back, with any granted clues slotting into their proper place. On that level, the story succeeds. There are monsters, there's a tragedy, it can be viewed as a horror, and there are deaths. You were warned about all of that: you shouldn't try to claim anything else. Simply being willing to click makes you complicit in a desire to view the events, and if you didn't bother to look for the warning signs -- well, like so many of those who die in the Everfree, there would be an argument that it's your own fault. After all, aren't you asking for death, just by going in there? When you know what can happen?

But maybe you have nowhere else to go.

They say none of us choose to be born, and no one gets out alive. We postpone, try to create a legacy -- but guess what? You're going to die. Afterlives are something you can believe in -- or not. You can have faith, including the faith in nothing. But you don't know. You're going to find out the hard way, just like everyone else.

That's the universal horror. The fact that we recognize the inevitability of our own deaths. And so invoking horror in a fictional setting can mean presenting an equal inevitability: that death is coming, there's nothing the characters can do, no one will remember they ever existed at all, and... it's a tragedy.

Isn't it?

Or are we only mourning monsters?

Report Estee · 927 views ·
Comments ( 28 )

Very good points about the “Bedbug” review.

I guess I should’ve clarified about the “holes in the wall” part, which were usually done by Pharynx on a daily basis, and not in his sleep.

... extended that to our mystery party has just ensured there's gonna be a Round #3.

I used to DM AD&D. For this, I did some research on the Middle Ages.
To that Mystery Party I say
"May a murrain seize thee!"

I kid, I kid. Sort of.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Now I wish I'd asked you to read my MLD parody. :D

Estee #4 · May 16th · · ·

5263769

*nods* You had the soldiers in his unit talking about him kicking out before Thorax reached the bedroom: conservation of detail suggested all damage had been done while resting.

Also, military commanders who regularly breach their own defenses may want to get a workout room.

After seeing the first batch of reviews, I was extremely hopeful for when/if mine would come along. And now that it has...

It was everything I was hoping it would be. What I was looking for here wasn't whether you liked it, but the nature of the review, and I am most pleased.

Rarity have seen better days. She has just returned from a business trip in Trottingham, where the news reached her that her fiancé Sunset Shimmer had been killed during a robbery gone wrong. It's understandable that she's feeling a bit rough.

That should be either "has" or "had". This sort of thing annoys me
RIGHT THERE, I stopped reading.
Plus, not a big EQ Girls fan.
I've got almost 900 stories in my "Unread" file
This ain't gonna be among them

Estee #8 · May 16th · · ·

For those who actually read this far, here's what may be tomorrow's posted story idea for a ridiculous Mature comedy.

Static Fling

Rainbow really wants to know why nopony ever told her the reasons pegasi aren't supposed to have sex in a cool, dry environment.

(They did. She just wasn't listening.)

Hell, Michigan is a classic. Right up there with Humansville over in Missouri, although that's more or less exclusive to this fandom. (Apparently it was named after a James Human who started living in the area before it was technically a town, but that just raises further questions)

He's squeezing the pillow, he's kicking the pillow, he may have gone to a convention in order to have a face put on the pillow.

... Darn it, this gave me an idea and I am not okay with that.

'February' followed by 'Sunday'...

To be fair, let's not forget that time Twilight got a visit from herself from next Tuesday. If you're thinking about it to that degree, a day named after Sun is a lot less immersion-breaking than one named after a Norse god.

The most annoying part? Five. Guess who got shorted out again? I'll give you a hint: imagine a cluster of heavy elements created by a supernova, staying close to what was left of the shell, glittering like scales...

I actually discussed this with Paul in the comments. He was going to include something for Spike, but this is only centuries in the future, so there's no need for a sixth memorial quite yet.

And wow, I wasn't expecting you to see the last story's tags as a challenge. :twilightoops:

All told, some great insight into the finer points of storytelling. And Biscuit trolling you.

Estee #11 · May 16th · · ·

5263800

... Darn it, this gave me an idea and I am not okay with that.

Welcome to my world, where we're still hoping for the whole "cabin" thing to screw up globally. We'd be better off.

Is it at least a Teen idea?

(ETA: I deliberately avoided all comments on every story reviewed. Every scroll down was stopped at the available chapters.)

What do you know?

*looks at story page and view counts*

There are other ways to measure success!

*looks at Patreon and Ko-Fi pages*

What gives you the right?

*looks at blog post where I volunteered, and was told what would happen*

Unfollowing is always an option.

*looks at all the unfinished stories I want to know the end to*

Guess I’m just going to be mad at you.

*looks at objectively fair criticism*

Irrationally.

*looks at new story idea posted in the comments*

Damnit Estee, I love you. And that’s really annoying at times.

5263801

Is it at least a Teen idea?

Oh, definitely. It's just that, given how those are apparently a thing in Equestria, I imagine changelings are going to have opinions on the subject, especially Pharynx.

I'm imagining a stand-up routine that mostly consists of complaining about all the parts of pony culture that don't make sense to him in lavish detail.

Hope that it gets shut down, Biscuit. You could think of it as... a three-thousand mile head start...

because they'll have to do for damning until we can find the author. Who is probably in Flint. And deserves it.

stabby small horse kills a lot of people in a style which quite frankly tells Kevin McAllister that his sadism isn't quite up to par, but this is still a My Little Dashie parody and so it's hard to enjoy the deaths when none of them include the author.

Well, yes. I have resolved that there is a very good chance of CNN having to cover the death of the only man known to be killed with a Fashion Style Sunset Shimmer figure, so in that sense, you could say the story accomplished something.

...yes, he actually tip-bribed for this. He knew what was going to happen.

But mostly, I think Admiral Biscuit Accidentally A Looks Like Suicide.

Oh, I see. It's a story about Admiral Biscuit!

As a fan of both reviewer and reviewee, I shouldn't be laughing this hard. So much trolling and retrolling.

Well, I suppose it could be worse:

Equestria has active volcanoes. Jumping into the caldera is faster and hurts less.

At least it isn't Admiral Biscuit Versus The Volcano.

oh, when you said "my little dashie parody" THIS came to mind:

WARNING: bad language! :twilightoops:

That tears it, I’m throwing my hat in the ring/shredder. I just sent a bribe your way:

EApple Boom
There's a reason Zap apples aren't used for cider, as Apple Bloom (and the rest of Ponyville) is about to discover.
BlazzingInferno · 6.7k words  ·  423  6 · 4k views

If for whatever reason round #3-N isn’t going to happen or this story won’t be part of it, I don’t want a refund, just put it toward the next Kofi goal.

A fair review and I thank you for it.

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Oh, come on! It's a fare mistake anyone can mike!

Sorry for proposing you to review such a depressing scenario in these depressing times, but In my defense this was written as a submission for a horror story contest, and it can certainly benefit from some cleanup now that the contest is over!

The biggest challenge I had with this story was keeping the identity of the protagonist ambiguous long enough get the reader to identify with him, so that by the time they figure it out they are hit with the dark inevitability of what’s to come. Other challenges were creating an illustration and title that wouldn’t give everything away.

This story is about the horror of innocence in a cruel world. I’m thrilled at how you’ve clearly perceived what I was trying to portray! Still, this is one of the darkest things I’ve written for quite a while. I hope it wasn’t too much of a downer in a week when you’ve already had more than your fair share of worries IRL. Even better would be the hope that engaging in this series of story revues provided you with a - mostly - pleasant distraction from those worries.

In any case, I’m enormously grateful and happy to get feedback on one of my stories from an author I consider one of the best on this site, and whose writing I enjoy so much!

I hope all is well with you and your mother, and will continue to be so during these difficult times.

I have two things to say about A Rare Mystery -- one about the review, and the other about the story.

A lot of people make the mistake of calling Columbo a mystery. It isn't. It's much more of a police procedural. We're meant to follow the rumpled lieutenant as he circles round and round his target. We watch as the criminal unravels under Columbo's dogged pursuit. That's supposed to be the fun bit. It worked, as the series continued for more than 30 years, on and off, until Falk's death.

The second thing -- and what would've taken me right out of all suspension of disbelief -- was the description of the newspaper story. Killing sprees don't get splashed across six pages after the front page. I doubt the apocalypse would get more than two jumps.

(Note to self: do not have leap days in-'verse, because that can of worms is better off staying closed.)

Of course, if someone needs a leap day in a world where the cycle of day and night is manually managed, that’s probably due to an improbably hilarious bueraucratic screwup.

Estee #21 · May 17th · · ·

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Killing sprees don't get splashed across six pages after the front page. I doubt the apocalypse would get more than two jumps.

{dark}You underestimate the tabloid headline power of a dead Close Enough To White I Guess girl.{/as @$#%}

And yes, the series was probably closer to procedural, although there were a few mystery elements. Of course, it would have helped if the main character's personal procedures had ever included grooming.

Georg #22 · May 17th · · ·

In defense of Fluff! Yes! So many times I've had people decry my lack of depth in my fluffy stories (and some of my others too, but...)

5264053 Now you've got me wanting to write a story where Twilight has a minor freakout because Ceres is not where it is supposed to be, so she travels to Canterlot and proceeds to ask around the question for about twenty paragraphs before Luna holds up a hoof and asks, "Ceres?"

There it was. The dreaded question. Twilight cringed even further into the thick carpeting and managed a weak, "Yes?"

"Oh." Luna let out a very informal giggle, which echoed around the throne room. "Of course. You of all ponies would notice. I must commend your alertness and attention to detail, Twilight Sparkle. We did not send out an announcement because we thought the movement of such a minor star would be beneath the notice of our little ponies. In truth, it is a leap orbit."

"A leap orbit?" Twilight blinked several times, now that she was regaining control over her body. "I don't recall reading anything about leap orbits."

"A deficiency that our educational system must remedy sometime soon," said Luna. She then began to describe the movement of the stars and the rules defining their movements in great detail, with Twilight frantically scribbling notes as she went (etc...)
---
Sometime later, or perhaps earlier if one viewed Day and Night the same way, the Two Sisters met for their Dawn Tea. Eldest looked at Youngest with a practiced eye, and said one word.

"Twilight?"

"Yes." Ignoring the teacup for the moment, Luna poured a full bowl of Crispy Oats with Honey-Like Crunch and smothered it in milk.

"Ceres?" asked Celestia again. Lit in her magic, a small yellow note floated up from the floor and re-attached itself to a nearby board covered with reminders such as 'Adjust for axial tilt on Tuesdays' and 'Increase romantic moonglow 30% Friday night due to festival.'

Luna said nothing, since she was muzzle-deep in sugared stress relief, but she did nod slightly.

"I suppose it is good that our protégé learns of our weaknesses and foibles, so she does not think she needs to be perfect to do our jobs in the future." Celestia added one drop of honey to her tea and stirred, but ever so slowly, her stirring spoon slowed to a halt. "Luna. You did tell Twilight you just forgot to move the star, right? Tell me she's not at home right now, working through some horribly complicated theory on stellar arrangement that you made up out of thin air to cover for the fact that you keep forgetting Ceres."

Luna lifted her milky muzzle out of her empty bowl and licked off the remainders of the cereal. "Maybe."

Masterweaver wrote one chapter of Escalation, and I got permission to put it up for review. I've actually been thinking of re-writing this one, so it should be very helpful.

I went to look up Columbo because of this again... Youtube has a ton of episodes free. It's not pirated, I think it's owned by the official license holder.

For me, it's just a very, very annoying one, especially when italics are being used to indicate thought. It makes the sentence look like the character's mind switched off in the middle.

A perfect representation of my mind, then.

The question has been asked in PM and remains unanswered:

What would you charge to criticize original fiction?

I'd like a price per thousand words, please.

You know what, let's see what you think of Flotsam and Jetsam. It won a competition, so I wonder how it would be received outside of that competition.

I had a blast reading these! Please do more of them!

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