Blog Number 27: A Spring In My Step Edition
Quarterly Report 2017. Three months down, nine to go...
Season Seven is on the horizon, as is a movie that isn't about anthropomorphs unless you count the cat. I dare say that, at the very least, there will be some episodes in Season Seven which I will treasure, and who knows? Maybe the movie will be a spectacular success, though I personally suspect it'll be slightly above average at best, with possibly one or two gem moments.
As you can guess, overall I don't find myself particularly enthused about either. What little has been leaked makes me think "meh" or "oh dear, it's becoming the Starlight Glimmer show".* Given the autonomy of the fandom and the strength of the earlier works**, they both seem like courtesy details at this point.
* That said, the Maud episode looks pretty interesting. If it's similar to "The Gift of the Maud Pie", I might add it to my favourite episode collection. In some ways, I'm a very undemanding audience.
** I don't think I'm being a knee-jerk nostalgic here, at least not entirely. Many Season Six episodes more than make the cut as far as I'm concerned, and as much as I think Season One is the best, I'll admit that it doesn't really reach full throttle until about halfway through. It also lacks a bit of the edge and variety that makes the later seasons especially entertaining at their greatest; could we really imagine "Rarity Investigates", "Stranger Than Fan Fiction", or "Viva Las Pegasus" in Season One?
So what is going on in the fandom? Well, at least in the fanfiction arena, or more narrowly the part of the fanfiction arena which fimfiction.net currently occupies, I'm a little more involved. See the gory details below, past the contents section.
Also, I've peppered the blog with a few tangentially related pictures, if for no other reason than to break up the eye-watering walls of text. Apologies in advance if they're a bit distracting.
Princesses: Imposing Sovereigns and Imposing Deadlines
Prompts: Group-Plugging Time
Prompts: The Monthly Contest Group
Private Pansy: Founders of Equestria
Private Pansy: My First Group
Princesses: Imposing Sovereigns and Imposing Deadlines
I hardly need introduce this contest, do I? Who am I going to reach who hasn't already been reached?
Consider the story of the explosion: FanOfMostEverything started a contest, apparently through a combination of Daedalus Aegle's reading and FoME's own simple whim. Initially, it garnered a modest if respectable amount of attention, intended only for one week and with maybe a dozen people applying for prompts. Then FoME was asked to extend the deadline another week, some of the bigger names got involved, and within days it snowballed into a huge event pulling seemingly every fanfiction bigwig from seemingly every corner of the site. It was almost beautiful watching it grow into something so far-reaching, almost like a community event that struck gold.
I of course was one of the earliest applicants, and a more laughable trainwreck of participation would be hard to imagine. Initially accepting the "Celestia the Schemer" prompt, I started off a little overconfident and proudly proclaimed that I would finish my piece within a week according to the original deadline. Little did I know at the time that Metal Celestia would not be tamed; though I started strong and even shouldered the rapidly increasing word length, a couple of days before the original deadline I crashed and couldn't write another word. Perhaps this is what happens when you explicitly compare yourself to Lightning Dust, and then ignore the ending of "Wonderbolt Academy".
Swallowing my pride, I accepted the deadline extension, but as one hydra's head fell, another lunged forwards. Now the story was expanding at a rate that would make an utter mockery of even the initially generous word limit. Roughly halfway through the second week, I stared at the growing novella and swallowed the last few crumbs of my pride which hadn't gone down the first time. I regretfully surrendered the prompt.
Which in hindsight was stupid, as I learned afterwards that incomplete fics were perfectly acceptable. Figures.
Of course, that's not a good time to throw yourself back into the mess, and in desperation I landed upon the Spa Ponies - Lotus Blossom and Aloe Vera - and the "Warrior" prompt, which was the one I felt was the most open-ended of the bunch. Truth be told, the choice wasn't completely random; I've had a Spa Ponies fanfic idea developing for years, and some of its details leaked into this parallel incarnation, most obviously their country of origin being Spatsa rather than Equestria***. Besides, it's frankly shocking how often the tag is used on the site for quote-unquote "Mature" fics. If it wasn't for those fics, the poor ponies' tag would be eligible for the Time Action Glory Challenge, which specifically deals in underutilized characters.
*** Granted, in Healing Properties I had Aloe Vera originate from Tshekhovia. In the original concept, however, they were sisters from the same nation. Most of the other details, such as their differing personalities and the grimness of Spatsan life, remained intact.
Just before the deadline struck, I spent three frantic days trying to pour out as much world-building, characterization, and plot development as I could fit into the word limit. History swung round again and slapped me round the face; the fic exploded once more and threatened to turn into a second novella. So many details fought for attention in my head that, in hindsight, I'm not surprised "incoherence" was a repeated criticism of the result. Given that the final fic is almost 16,000 words long, that equates to almost five hours of writing a day.
And frankly, I loved it. For a given definition of "loved".
It was quite a rush, though. One thought led to two more, fission begat fission, and the chain reaction kept the story up as new ideas and details filled my mind. A scene in which Lotus gets hit with a deadly curse while erecting a national flag led to a scene in which she has to confront Aloe's antipathy for the title of "princess", which led to another scene in which Lotus defies medical care and watches both a demonic entity and a pirate fleet on the horizon. Say what you will about the nonsensical connections between them, but make no mistake those connections were forged in fire.
But yeah, I hit the deadline and basically handed in the introduction to a story rather than an actual fic. I think mine is the only one that's incomplete, and it's still the second longest of the bunch.**** No idea where it placed among the thirty-nine other contenders, but given the competition and the severe problems with the fic's flow and presentation, I'm not betting much higher than the bottom half. Of course, it was around this point I slapped my forehead and cried, "Gadzooks, I could have submitted Metal Celestia incomplete all along!" A very strange end to what, after all, has been a very strange contest.
**** Aragon handed in the longest fic of the bunch: Evil is Easy, Governing is Harder. It's the only one to surpass the "do not surpass" limit of 16,000 words, so I'm laughing at this lack of self-control. Aragon also won the contest in a landslide victory, so I'm laughing very, very quietly.
If it sounds like I suffered during it, then perish the thought. I had a whale of a time during it, I did a good amount of writing, and I cannot wait to leap back into the fray once more. What an event!
Er... True, it compromised some of my own writing plans, not least of which was my own prompt challenge on the Time Action Glory Challenge group, but that's a small price to pay for the fun. A "Second-Born" version of the event is continuing, with no prizes or limitations, for those who only heard about it too late or who never finished their works on time, and I may yet go back to it for inspiration.
FanOfMostEverything et al are going to claim a rest, the pansies. But as for me, heigh-ho! I'm ready to begin my next assignment. After all, throwing yourself against your limits with no thought for the consequences worked so well for Lightning Dust, now didn't it?
Prompts: Group-Plugging Time
It's just as well I'm good to go, because a couple more challenges have just come along for the month. True, I actually created one of them, but causality schmausality. The point is: they exist.
Recently, bookplayer made an interesting if saddening point about the underutilized tags like Mr Stripes' and Zipporwhill's; there may be a vicious cycle keeping them down. They're relatively obscure characters with few if any followers, who presumably get disheartened by the lack of attention and stop looking for fics, which in turn reduces the incentives (specifically those to do with garnering attention) for writers who might otherwise keep them coming. The end result is that, if Mr Stripes ever gets any fics, they'll be so rare and sporadic that his tag will remain a virtual nonentity.
Now, I can't speak for Mr Stripes myself, if only because I'm wondering how he was considered a tag-worthy candidate to begin with. However, it's a genuine crying shame for many of the tags, because all told, those characters are on par with their colleagues in the hundred-stories and thousand-stories arenas. I'll be blunt: if Lyra can get a few thousand fics mostly because she sat on a chair funny and bounced a lot in Season One, I think established side characters like The Smooze, Pony/Doughnut Joe, the Our Town citizens, the staff of The Tasty Treat, Sky Stinger and Vapor Trail, Coloratura, Seabreeze and his Breezie tribe, Trenderhoof, Moondancer, Hoity-Toity, Cherry Jubilee, Suri Polomare, the Griffons, and the Founders of Equestria itself can safely be described as "hugely overlooked". I'm not saying I'd prefer quantity over quality, but when they're not even getting the former, I think something has gone a bit askew and needs addressing.
To that end, I've started the biggest prompt yet known to the Time Action Glory Challenge: Obscure No More!***** Since another possible reason for the lack of interest is lack of integration, the aim of that prompt is to mix it up with other groups and produce fics that service both.
***** OK, OK, this isn't a hard limit to cross, but work with me here.
For example, maybe Gabby and the Griffons would get more attention if their fics also coincided with the aims of the World-Building Alliance, fleshing out the lands of Griffonstone and the culture of griffons as a whole. Perhaps an interest in the Equestrian Historical Society would see the comics-related tags get their dues.
A lover of classic literature, and thus a member of the Classic Literature Lovers group, could find a way of retelling A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, arguably the first time travel story, and then add a twist by throwing the Tantabus into the mix.
More prosaically, Quibble Pants and Sassy Saddles might get more attention if reimagined as "friendly enemies" with more popular characters like Twilight Sparkle and Rarity, and so also add to the corresponding character groups. Marble Pie in a Mystery group? Moondancer for the Hope, Love, and Care group?
Or, more ambitiously, Princess Twinkleshine the Schemer as a contender for the Imposing Sovereigns' "Second-Born" challenge? Seriously. Princess Twinkleshine. No one sees the potential in that?
So, wanna test your imaginative mettle against cold hard limits, or just fancy a lark and wouldn't mind contributing any old how? Then, as a totally-not-biased-party-and-creator-of-said-challenge, I bid you join in, and good luck to you. The challenge ends when the year does, so take your time if you don't feel like committing just yet. Or tear your way through with a dozen fics a month, if you prefer. It's entirely up to you.
Prompts: The Monthly Contest Group
Naturally, it would be most unbecoming of me to promote only my own contests, and this is a legitimately interesting one besides. Over on The Monthly Contest Club, SPark has begun a new challenge to get that group back in the game.
I'll probably just be reiterating their points, but I'll try to put it in my own words. Here's the gist of it:
The theme for the challenge is "Fairy Tale". This has been left deliberately open to make the contest more flexible, so please don't jump in asking what the heck that actually means. Besides, there's such a thing as Wikipedia.****** And Disney basically produced a bunch of fairy tales. You must have grown up with Disney, right?
****** Also, TVTropes makes for a good resource. They even break the fairy tales down into tropes so you can start twisting the parts and asking the mechanic's immortal question: "What happens if I fiddle with this bit?"
The fic is restricted to 6,000 words maximum, which, according to this site's estimate of 250 words read per minute, makes a 24-minute-long fic, or a longish episode's length. Presumably, this is to avoid the fate that bedevilled FanOfMostEverything to the point that his results blog came a week later than intended. Other conditions include: no mature fics; new stories only; no limit to the number of stories you can submit; stories will be judged based on five categories, listed on the OP for said contest.
Lastly, the deadline is April 22nd, so you've got less than three weeks to tackle this should you be so inclined. To put that into perspective, that could be one week for planning, one week for writing, one week for editing. There are other guidelines, such as "submit the story in the right folder, for Pete's sake", but you can deal with that nearer the time or just straight-up ask SPark for clarification.
Obviously, the final verdict for joining or abstaining rests with you, but I am a strong believer of the philosophy of Troilus and Cressida: "what's won is done; joy's soul lies in the doing".******* Seriously, it could be a good bit of fun to jump in and take part. Friendship is Magic practically runs on bits of fairy tale logic, and even if you dislike the genre********, there's always the Fractured Fairy Tale to beat it over the head with. It's only a small story, after all. Practically a writing exercise, which would pump up the authorial muscles and get a healthy flow of imagination going.
******* Well, of that out-of-context quotation, really. The play as a whole is OK, but a miserable experience I wouldn't wish on most people. However, since I met that line out of context, its unintended meaning stuck, and I've always had a soft spot for out-of-context scavenging. Call it creative repurposing.
******** Although that raises bizarre questions concerning your involvement in FiM to begin with...
Besides, somebody has to retell The Little Mermaid with Pinkie Pie.
Private Pansy: Founders of Equestria
I'm starting to feel like an advertising column, but without the gross payment. Ah well, 'tis good news and all.
Having mentioned the Founders of Equestria, it's incumbent of me to point out that Titanium Dragon has recently created a new group: Founders of Equestria. And bravo to him! Of all the overlooked characters, these seem to be among the most deserving of more fics. In fact, "Hearth's Warming Eve" is one of my favourite episodes of Season Two, between its simple moral of intergroup harmony, its tantalizing world-building details, its simplistic but potential-creating cast of founders, its creative re-imagining of Christmas in another setting, and its suitably wintry and haunting windigoes*********. Admittedly, a lot of it is a game of "How much do you like watching Rarity, Rainbow, and Pinkie argue with each other?", but I always feel good whenever I rewatch this particular episode.
********* By the way, how in blazes do you spell the plural? I've seen it with the "e" and without the "e", but never definitively one way or another.
It's currently trending as THE group, members-wise, but why settle for good when you can do better? If you wish to show solidarity with the history squad, then head on over and join the ranks. Founders of Equestria cries out for devotees of Ancient Roman Pegasi, Medieval Unicorns, and Renaissance Earth Ponies.
Private Pansy: My First Group
Having seen Titanium Dragon's announcement for the aforementioned group, I was puzzled by his claim that it was the only one, and so went to have a look. There are, as it happens, a smattering of related groups, including ones devoted to specific founders. Clover the Clever and Princess Platinum have their fans, though I wonder if most of that is because Star Swirl********** is an associate. Commander Hurricane obviously gets some attention, because if there's one thing a fandom of cute and friendly ponies loves, it's a warmongering jarhead whose title is a few letters away from being "Caesar". And surprisingly, Smart Cookie's group exists too, though barely. I doubt her subtle snark played a part in that one.
********** Yet another spelling headache. Is it "Starswirl" or "Star Swirl"?
Yet Chancellor Puddinghead and Private Pansy don't have groups at all. I confess I was severely disappointed with this state of affairs, but then among the founders they also have the lowest story counts. I mentioned this oversight in a reply to the blog, but then a thought struck me. It went something like this:
"Instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to make the group, why not do it myself?"
"Well firstly, because you've never done it before and you have little idea what it entails."
"Also, you'd have to feed it and clean it out and flush it down the loo if it died."
"You know what? Why not? I'll go ahead and do it anyway. Besides, if it goes wrong, there's always the loo."
And thus was born my first group. I've tried to make it at least a little more interesting than such groups can be, but it's still in its rudimentary stage, and the unbelievably high story count is mostly because I organized them by genre tag, and some stories (i.e. all but one) have more than one of those.
For now, I've sent invitations to those who have actually written fics for Pansy, on the basis that this demonstrates a tentative level of prior interest in the character. Beyond that, I don't feel comfortable with the idea of sending more in case it comes across as badgering, but any advice and tips would be most welcome.
Lastly, there's not much on it at present. The forum contains an introductory thread, a list of Private Pansy fics (which currently consists of a couple of hyperlinks to tag page and search page, but it's a work in progress), and a post with links to related groups of potential interest. I may post more interesting discussions and activities later on, but I figure I should take baby steps with this group.
And obviously, if you want to join up, that'd be just dandy. It is "Fluttershy meets Spartacus", after all.
That's all for now. I should darn well think so, considering the essay I put out above. Until next time, Impossible Numbers out.
List of Fics Accepted by Equestria Daily
Splash Dash has given me hope again; it was accepted and published, with some good reader responses. Also, I apologize to my pre-reader for procrastinating over the changes they recommended. I'm not ungrateful, I swear. I'll get around to the editing at some point. Just not sure when.
New Stories?: Three. Transient is what happens when you think "Well, I got featured for a horror fic; maybe there's something in that genre." Healing Properties I've already discussed above. Metal Celestia was the fic that could have surpassed it in the contest if not for my bumbling. And no, the title is not a reference to the musical genre. It has a deep thematic relevance to the story.
Well OK, and I literally took the Metal Gear Solid route of, and here I paraphrase Honest Game Trailers, "smashing some awesome-sounding words together". It is, after all, a fic about political skulduggery, attempted assassination, and an awkward friendship between a spoiled princess and a mage who can't afford a decent hoodie.
New Updates: Petalback got a new chapter, its longest and arguably darkest to date. This also came with a good reader response, though sadly not to the same degree its debut received.
Story Count: 51
My Total Story View Count: 40,916
Age: 1,937 days, or 276 weeks and 5 days
My Follower Count: 120. Now that's a good sign. I am as ever grateful for the following, even if half of them haven't been seen in weeks!
My Followed Count: 79
Oh, and one more picture, because why not?
Behold Princess Twinkleshine.
Seriously! She's got Celestia's old colour scheme! She's a time-travelling princess! Fanfic idea right here, you guys!