• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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PaulAsaran


Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords, and reviews both independently and for Seattle's Angels. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

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  • Thursday
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXII

    Wow, last weekend was a busy one. Family gathering was relatively small this year, for obvious reasons. Although I must emphasize the “relative” part; usually when there’s a big holiday like the 4th, we end up with 20 people or more present. This weekend was “only” nine, including me, my parents, and my brother’s family of six. That’s right, six. That boy is a glutton for punishment, I swear to

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    7 comments · 269 views
  • 1 week
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI

    My preliminary editing of the original fiction version of Guppy Love is all but finished! Soon I will have the entire story stored in GDocs and ready for prereading, which means it’s about time I started really looking for prereaders. I intend to ask the prereaders of the MLP version to come back to evaluate the changes, but I’d like to get a few others to offer a fresh perspective. I’m

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    16 comments · 310 views
  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCX

    Howdy, folks. I’m afraid I don’t have much to report this week. Well, other than the very real possibility of maintaining 2,000 words/day of writing this month. Feels like I haven’t pulled something like that off in ages. Pays that I’m finally cutting down on the video games again. It comes in phases.

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    4 comments · 326 views
  • 3 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIX

    The past week has been one of highs and lows. The brief crash has led to me being two days behind on my reading schedule. The good news is that I’ve got a Vacation Week coming up in a couple weeks that I can use to easily make up the lost time. The bad news is that my current major reading project was scheduled to be finished the day before its review gets published, so I’ve no choice but to

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    7 comments · 364 views
  • 3 weeks
    Charity Stream!

    I usually save these kinds of things for my main review blog, but this one's time sensitive, so: my old friend Cerulean Voice is hosting a charity stream! Head here to get the details.

    0 comments · 81 views
May
21st
2020

Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVI · 8:00pm May 21st

A new milestone has been reached. Specifically, I’ve hit 1,500+ followers. Shall we toss the streamers and order a cake? I must acknowledge being highly satisfied by this, and I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am that so many people seem to think I’m worth following. But one question pops into my head: why?

Not “why” as in “why are you following me”, though I wouldn’t complain about hearing some answers to that. Rather, I’m interested in knowing what changed. There was a period of about three years where my follower count stagnated. I was up to around 1,250-1,300 followers, and… that was it. Sometimes someone would join, and just as often someone would leave. The number was practically static. I had come to believe that I’d simply reached the peak amount that I could hope to get given the size of the fandom and the steady waning of the show. I allowed myself to be satisfied by that.

Then, around Fall of last year, my follower count started rising. It was gradual, but obvious. And I couldn’t help but wonder: what changed? I didn’t think I was doing anything particularly different. Was it the quality of my stories? Was it the quantity of my stories? Had my little calling card for reviewing, “You can has review!”, reached a level of site saturation that was luring in more and more people? Is it because I’ve been consistently doing this for years, where a lot of people would have cracked by now? Does it have nothing to do with me but instead is a ripple effect of something going on in the fandom as a whole? I’m clueless.

But not thankless. So thank you, all of you, for finding my mad ramblings worth paying attention to.

In the meantime, it’s time to continue my streak with more reviews. Lots of fresh faces in this lineup!

Stories for This Week:

The Extra Mile by CommissarAJ
Lost by NorsePony
Curiosity by Brony2893
The Statement of S. Belle by Neoarcad
Just Some Flowers by FerociousCreation
Celestia Has A Lot of Sex by Pony with a Pen
Why zombies, though? by Draconaes
Visiting by Chaotic Note
Beyond Achlys by Snuffy
Great and Powerful, Darling! by Krickis

Total Word Count: 87,895

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 0
Pretty Good: 7
Worth It: 3
Needs Work: 0
None: 0


Applejack needs to deliver some goods to a fair. She also needs someone to talk to about something very personal and painful. So, she asks Rarity to come along for the drive. It all seemed like such a good idea at first…

That cover, made by my all-time favorite MLP fanartist (“fan artist?” “fan-artist?” “fanart artist?”), has been my desktop’s lockscreen background for about a year now. Shallow though it may be, it drew me in like a moth to flame.

Set an undisclosed time after the events of Camp Everfree, this story involves the OTP not yet realizing they are the OTP, but figuring it out while getting lost in the crummy backways of the White Tail Woods in a pickup truck that defies carbon dating. It’s packed with all the countryisms and marshmelodrama you could possibly ask for. It also touches upon some pleasant, if not uncommon, concepts of the two characters, including Applejack’s sense of self-value as a woman and how Rarity’s elegant appearance hides her insecurities.

It also has a lot of sex talk. Like, a surprising amount of it. Most stories are either straight up clop or no sex at all, and the non-clop ones that do mention sex tend to be timid in scope and limit it heavily to a ‘pure’ vision of couples performing the deed only after cementing some profound connection in their relationship. But CommissarAJ reminds us all that these are high school girls in the prime of their youth, and naturally such individuals will be sexually aware if not outright active. Talk of penis ratings, blowjobs, and similar are speckled around this story without apology or shame, with even one brief but factual recounting of one of their number performing certain lewd activities.

This may be a shock to some readers. We tend to view the girls in one of two lights: either the sexual deviants of clop or the innocent angels (well, sexually innocent) of the show. This story takes the plunge by giving us a touch of both, with eye-popping results. It’s a risky move, but one that plays in the story’s favor to me. You may disagree.

Ignoring that, the story has a lot going for it. Shippers and especially RariJack fans will rejoice at the subtle and surprisingly more realistic take on a budding romance, one that has less to do with awkward stumbling and fervent denials and a lot more to do with two people coming to realize they’re more of a match than they think. It has a few tropes that you’ll see coming from miles away, but that won’t deter the target audience at all. 

Laced with good humor, demonstrating a strong awareness of the characters at play, and taking some significant risks that make the T-rating questionable, this one kept me interested from beginning to end. I can see no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Lost

1,305 Words
By NorsePony

Something happened in the Crystal Kingdom, but nopony in Facet’s little mining town could guess what. All they knew is that there’d been a bright flash, and then the cold came. Now Facet, the last of the surviving adults of her home, tries to lead the foals West, to the Crystal Kingdom’s heart and the hope of survival.

Yes, I too thought it was Rarity in the cover art at first. And to be fair, it might be. After all, there’s no visible cutie mark. How convenient for NorsePony.

Anyway, this is a sadfic in which a young mare tries her absolute best to save the foals left in her charge. Set right after Sombra and the Crystal Empire vanished, it revolves around her fierce but dwindling hope for a salvation that may never come. The conclusion is open-ended, but leaves the reader with no reason to think happy thoughts. The story does an excellent job with the setting and mood, and for that it has my praise.

The only part that bugs me is how there’s a sort of semi-flashback in the middle of the story. When it comes, it’s a little confusing. Wait, when did we get indoors? Why are we suddenly in a dying village? Wait, you mean we’re not in a dying village? I’m lost, if you’ll forgive the pun. That little moment could certainly have been handled better.

But that’s the only stumble. For the rest of the story, it will be a delight for lovers of dark stories. Happy Ending Crusaders need not apply.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Curiosity

4,235 Words
By Brony2893

When Celestia catches wind of her ever-curious student studying dark magic, she decides it’s time for another lesson.

In a nutshell, this is Brony2893 telling us his theory regarding exactly what black magic is and what it means for a pony like Twilight to study it. It’s set shortly after the start of Season 3, so our favorite bookhorse has yet to alicornicate.

The theory at hand is an interesting one, if not particularly original. What we get is mostly Celestia swatting Twilight’s hoof and saying “bad Twilight, no dark magic!”. The hook of the cover art comes into play late in the story, but is very brief.

My feelings for this one are largely neutral. It has no particularly glaring flaws, but neither does it offer anything to elevate it above its peers. Twilight sees Celestia, Celestia gives a lecture, add semi-mysterious ending, we’re done. It may work for you as a curiosity piece, but it’s placement in my bookshelves is clear.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


I have no idea how to pronounce that name. “Knee-Oar-Cad”? “Neo-R-Cad”? “Knee-Orc-Ad”? Somebody help me out, here.

This story, inspired by and in tribute to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, tells of how an adult Sweetie Belle gets called by Scootaloo to go ‘monster hunting’, for lack of a better term, in some backwater town where a mysterious creature is said to be murdering locals. The attempted stylistic mimicry is clear and excellently done. Anyone who has read material from the time period of Lovecraft will see similarities, even outside of Lovecraft’s work. In particular, I find myself reminded of Stefan Grabinski’s The White Weyrak. Fans of this age of horror material will no doubt be delighted by Neoarcad’s faithful reproduction of the format.

At the same time, the decisions made here create problems. First off, the storytelling style is, by its very nature, formal and stiff. This wouldn’t be a problem if, say, the story was set a couple hundred years before the events of MLP: FiM and starred OCs. But no,this is set in the future with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. The result is that neither of them sound anything remotely like themselves in their dialogue, creating a frustrating distraction from the story itself. Oh, they behave like themselves, but you read that dialogue and tell me you can get their respective voices out of it. You can’t. This is a big problem. If Neoarcad wanted to maintain the style and keep it believable, they chose the wrong protagonists and time-setting to make it so.

Speaking of dialogue, that’s another major issue. The entire story is meant to be Sweetie Belle reciting her story to the authorities. So how is it she can recite entire paragraphs of what other ponies said so long after the fact? No attempt is made to justify this. If Sweetie’s got a photographic memory, fine, but tell us so or people like me will just roll our eyes and shake our heads. A simple note that these statements are approximations would have been fine too, I suppose.

And then, of course, we come upon the ‘monster’, which is revealed in the last paragraph or two in all its… ‘glory’. It’s rather yawn-inducing. After all that time, the big reveal is something so common it’s downright boring. This is supposed to be a Lovecraftian entity, an eldritch abomination. The monster is anything but.

That being said, I can’t fault the author at all for the delivery of that conclusion. The regular hints, the major clue that is the dream (which I picked up on immediately, but that didn’t make me feel negatively towards it), the shock that is the final moment. Even with the heavily formal style, that part was well done, and I have nothing but praise for it. The creature doing the deed induced eye rolls, but everything else about that scene was an exquisite cap on top of a long, drawn-out setup.

I’ll be putting this on the middle ground. I love how well its style reflects that which the story is meant to honor, and how Neoarcad utilized that style to far greater effect than I’ve seen in most authors who’ve tried. But the setting, some flaws in the logic, and the unimaginative choice of villain take it down a few pegs.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:


Caramel has been watching Twilight Sparkle ever since she first came to Ponyville. Today, he decides to give her some flowers. To thank her for all she’s done. And tell her she’s beautiful. He’s not in love with her. He’s not. Maybe he has a little crush, sure, but that’s the extent of it. If only every mare in the world didn’t insist differently.

This is little more than an infatuated colt working up the nerve to give a pretty mare some flowers. It’s made all the harder by how there are a lot of mares noticing this and getting in on the action. I’m sure any guy can appreciate where Caramel’s coming from. Trixie was easily the best part of this story. Her continuous teasing is, admittedly, borderline cruel, but she keeps things amusing from her very first appearance onwards.

The fun thing about this is how it toys with the hopeless romantics in the audience, using the teasing of Caramel as a conveyor of said toying. At no point does the story expressly state that Caramel and Twilight are now going to be an item. In fact, it goes out of its way to avoid that. The shippers among us will latch onto Twilight’s and Caramel’s emphatic denials as… well, denial, which I’m sure is exactly what the author intended.

A fun story for the shippers out there. No reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


With Flurry Heart getting a little older, Princess Cadance finally has a chance to get back into her role as the Princess of Love. Her first order of business is updating Equestria’s sex education, but first she has to pass the idea through Celestia. Cadance expects this to be a hard sell, considering Celestia doesn’t do… er, “relationships”.

Celestia’s not thrilled to be called out on it.

I feel sorry for a certain pony. Celestia is not one of them. I can’t stop grinning at this blatant and terrible attempt to save one’s princess from embarrassment.

If you’re interested in hearing Celestia be humiliated over her sexual prowess – so to speak – then this will do it. It’s quick and silly, which is all it needs to be.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


While enjoying a movie night with her new friends, Sunset Shimmer gets asked a question that, in retrospect, is pretty obvious: if Celestia and Luna are practically gods, why the heck did Sunset think a small army of brainwashed teenagers would be able to defeat them?

This turned out a lot less silly than I anticipated.

This is, essentially, Draconaes giving us their reasoning behind some of Sunset’s more unusual decisions in the original Equestria Girls movie. They’re pretty good conclusions, really. It adds a still anxious and scared Sunset trying to provide answers while hoping that her newfound companions won’t hate her for the truth, which is a nice touch. The only catch I can think of is that it requires you to ignore how canon insists at every possible opportunity that Celestia and Luna are inept punching bags disguised as powerhouses.

A pleasant little story, with a good awareness of character voice and its own canonical timing. I can see no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Visiting

1,152 Words
By Chaotic Note

Rainbow buys some flowers. Rainbow talks to Scootaloo. Rainbow visits the cemetery. Uh… the end?

I don’t know what Chaotic Note was trying to do here. There’s no overarching theme, none of the individual events seem to relate to one another, and the story has no apparent moral. It’s just Rainbow Dash doing her annual visit at her father’s grave, with zero drama around it. There’s nothing special about her buying the flowers. Scootaloo’s brief visit is arbitrary.

So what was the point of the story, author? Why should we be reading this?

With no hook and no purpose, the story just sort of… is. I’m willing to put it on the middle ground because there’s nothing significantly wrong with how it’s written, but it can’t get any further with it being as is.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Letting Peewee GoWorth It


Beyond Achlys

40,035 Words
By Snuffy
Requested by Snuffy

Helena is one of the great galactic travelers. In her journey of hundreds of thousands of years, she has attained such vast technological power as to become a god to other mortals. In all her voyages, however, the one ultimate goal has eluded her: life other than humans. Then she enters a dark and deadly nebula, within which is a small pocket of open space just big enough for a tiny solar system.

When this story began, and throughout the vast majority of it, I had an extremely negative view of Helena. She struck me as a spoiled rich girl given the toys of adults and running rampant. She displays zero consideration for the laws, cultures, and emotions of those she influences, and seems to think that having ultimate power makes her the arbiter of all morality, ethics, and behavior. While there is never any sense of maliciousness or ill will, her entire manner reeks of self-superiority and belittling disinterest.

Then the ending goes and changes your perspective a bit.

If I had to pin this down to one topic, I’d say this is a story about self-awareness. I spent it more interested in the antics of the ponies trying to comprehend and react to an alien among them than anything Helena was doing, mostly because Helena spends the majority of the story being a jerk. It’s easy to misjudge this as “OP self-insert plays in Equestria”, but that’s inaccurate. Helena certainly isn’t having fun in Equestria. Her intentions are fueled by curiosity and a fear that her arrival is going to cause problems for the locals (even as she doesn’t care that her moment-by-moment actions are causing significant issues all on their own).

My overarching impression is that Helena is an unlikeable protagonist, but could become likeable if the circumstances were different. Alas, just when the circumstances are re-aligning to make her a more interesting character, the story ends. And yet it’s still a distinctly positive end, for we can see that Helena is taking steps to correct her ways and improve herself as an individual.

Where Helena is annoying, the rest of the story’s cast are great. We’ve got Twilight being the annoyed, adorably curious workaholic we all know and love. Pinkie and Rainbow get brief moments to shine. Poor Fluttershy and Applejack are largely ignored save for a few cameos. Rarity gets a little extra credit, for while her role is small, it’s an interesting one that really emphasizes her value as a potential leader. It surprised me that she ended up being in this role, as it’s one that normally goes to Applejack (and for good reason). And of course, Celestia and Luna play their parts. Luna fans will certainly feel for her when the story starts.

The cherry on top of all this is the worldbuilding. Snuffy introduces us to a whole new scenario for the creation of Equestria. I recognized the responsible party extremely early, but I don’t think the author was trying to hide it. Honestly, if you miss it you’re just not paying attention. While I can’t call the overarching concept the most original, it does have the virtue of being the first time I’ve seen it in a pony setting. That might just be because of my story preferences though.

I am pleased. While I couldn’t grow to like the central protagonist until the story was all but over, the rest of the cast evens things out and keeps everything interesting. It’s a combination of science fiction, mystery, and slice-of-life, mostly centered around the ponies trying to deal with something beyond their comprehension and Helena trying to determine the origins of the world. I heavily debated with myself over where this one needed to go in my bookshelf, but eventually decided it was unique enough to warrant a higher rating.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Trixie’s original magician’s outfit is getting more than a little threadbare. It needs repairs, but she can’t ask just anybody to do the job. A magician’s attire is important to achieving many of the tricks of the trade, which means the handler has to also know those tricks. Rarity is obviously the best choice, but can Trixie trust her to keep her secrets?

This is an entertaining story in which two of the biggest egos of Canterlot High (Rainbow Dash excepted, of course) find themselves getting to know one another and, of course, pursuing a relationship. It’s fun to watch their respective personalities bouncing off one another in complementary ways. At the same time, it’s not all flowers pulled out of hats and perfect attire; Rarity and Trixie are each shown to have their separate insecurities, and learning to help one another through them is an important aspect of this story.

What Krickis provides us is great, but there are a few nitpicks. Well, one nitpick, really: I can’t help but think that the story is rushed. I know, I know, “But Paul, it’s over 16,000 words!” I’m not denying that’s a lot. But high wordcount alone doesn’t mean pacing has been properly attended to. The pacing of the chapters is really good overall, but the pacing of the chapters in relation to one another feels off.

For example, apparently weeks have passed between the first and second chapters. Wait, they have? I had no idea until it was pointed out to me about two thirds of the way through it. No wonder things felt like they were going quick! I thought we were dealing with a couple days at most. And already Trixie’s treating Rarity as a confidant to her woes and they’re going on a date. In terms of in-story chronology, it’s not rushed at all, but because there’s no effort to demonstrate that passage of time, it doesn’t feel like it is. The same issue comes with the jump between Chapters 2 and 3, where Rarity seems to be leaping to new issues with minimal warning or time for us to really grasp their importance before they’re resolved.

But that’s the only problem I have with the story. Ignoring that, it’s an excellent romance in which Trixie and Rarity find some mutual appreciation, attraction, and camaraderie. Those interested in an unconventional ship will almost certainly love it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Stories for Next Week:

Flash Fog by Kwakerjak
Converted by Shaded Changeling
Scale by shortskirtsandexplosions
The Colour You Bleed by Kegisak
Sophistication and Betrayal by Drefsab
Sunset Shimmer is MAD about EVERYTHING by Justice3442
To Serve In Hell by CoffeeMinion
The Freeport Venture by Chengar Qordath
The Mark of Eran by Tofazz
Evening Flames by Nicknack


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CCI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCV
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Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI

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Comments ( 18 )

If there's any justice in the world, it's because people don't want to miss the Bulletproof Heart sequel.

Hey, Paul, would you be willing to check out my story "You Call That A Costume"?

(looks at follower count) At least you earned yours. I still swear most of mine are mis-clicks.

1,500+ followers? Very nice. You earned them.👍

Snuffy #5 · May 22nd · · ·

Not “why” as in “why are you following me”, though I wouldn’t complain about hearing some answers to that. Rather, I’m interested in knowing what changed.

Consistency and good quality of the reviews is likely the main reason. As for why your follow count began increasing a year ago, it seems to coincide with the sudden burst in popularity of Discord. No doubt people are happy to have their work reviewed and want to show their friends by sharing the blog post on all their active Discord servers (Like I did yesterday). Word of mouth can be a powerful tool.

5266674
I can hear the collective sighs, moans, and outright sobs of all my other stories wishing they had such attention. It's okay to be jealous, guys.

5266780
Nah, pretty sure they're legit.

5266833
Why, thank you!

5267067
I suppose I can see that at one possibility. It's strange to think of Discord as being that young; feels like it's been around for ages.

5266833
Consider it done. Not sure how long it'll take, though. My schedule's a lot harder to predict than it used to be, and I am still booked solid for a while.

5267075
Well, yeah, but you aren't writing sequels to those.

5267137
Not for lack of want, let me assure you.

Thank you for the review :twilightsmile: I can agree with your critique on Great and Powerful, Darling. I've never really gotten the hang of the pacing on shorter stories, definitely more into writing novels personally :twilightsheepish:

I’ve seen your name once before and when I noticed the review, I was happy to know that this was the first review I ever gotten since starting in 2012.

To give some insight about why I wrote it, it’s a parody of how fan fictions on this site are very ship-happy and one-shot confession stories are among them. Instead of making some overly-poetic title, such as, “Confessions of Appreciations,” it’s just Caramel who wants to give thanks to someone he looks up to by giving her just some flowers. But the flowers is to make the audience expect the big date or romance to instantly bloom, which I cannot simply allow without natural growth.

But deep down, there is the bigger meaning: being thankful and finding that courage to say it to your admired person. I don’t need to explain much concidering what Caramel’s intentions are and what happened.

As for them two being paired? I rather write about background characters interacting with main cast. It gives the reader a familiar character but also adds curiosity to what said background character may become. After all, look at what happened to Derpy.

Anyway, I’m sure you weren’t expecting such a dense response. And thank you for finding my story among the sea of fics.

If you are interested in another story of mine... I would recommend King’s Puzzle. If anyone were to ask what short read would I recommend, I’d be this. The other would be Seconds Late, but that’s a bit longer.

Sorry for advertising...

5267667
Always good to hear from authors about their creations. I don't mind the deep response at all!

I'll consider those 'advertisements' as requests. If I don't, it may be years before I get t them. That's not an exaggeration.

5267778 Well, when you get there, do enjoy then please :3

5267778
Then I would love to add some food for thought about Achlys. It was interesting you mentioned that the story was about self-awareness, because the theme I was going for was 'madness'. The madness was meant to be portrayed by how some of Helena actions and thoughts often made little sense.

I was hoping readers asked themselves why Helena acted so strangely instead of the actual jerkiness itself, and at the same time not make the connection between her and the 'hidden antagonist' too obvious. This in many parts backfired spectacularly because it split the readers into two camps... and let's just say that there were a lot of unhappy people in the comment section that hated Helena with a passion.

The reason I didn't expect such a strong backlash was because neither me or the people who's opinions I asked thought her behavior was that bad. I think the divide is best highlighted if with we compare yours with Presentperfect's review. But as the person who wrote the story, to this day I keep asking myself if I should have done things differently. I was confident that people would accept the story near the end, but actually getting people there proved... difficult.

While I can’t call the overarching concept the most original, it does have the virtue of being the first time I’ve seen it in a pony setting

Then I'll shamelessly recommend you check out Dragon Greed is Good or The Train Ride. They're not the greatest fics out there, but I'm confident that they offer a fairly original story line in the same sense as Achlys.

5268228
Interesting. I'd say it's a case study of how a writer's intentions can go horribly askew in the eyes of the readers, something that every writer has to struggle against. I can't describe how many times I'd write a scene with one thing in mind and have the readers interpret it in a way I never anticipated. I've long come to accept that there's simply nothing that can be done about it.

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