Friday, October 19, 2012

Perfectly Valid Comparisons

As I mentioned last week, real-life stuff is eating up more time these days than usual, which means that it's becoming hard for me to keep up a thrice-weekly posting schedule.  Luckily, the siren call of unpaid non-commercial essay writing is strong indeed, and I've managed to convince several of the better-known names in ponyfiction to contribute guest spots to take some of the pressure off.  First up by virtue of being the first to submit anything is Arcainum, author of the soon-to-be-reviewed-by-yours-truly Harpflank and Sweets, among other things.  Check out what he as to say concerning the roots of creative instinct, authors who deserve your attention, and a little bit about anime robots as well.

My, but this is intimidating! As a long-time follower of Chris' delightful elucidations, I am well-acquainted with the regular commenters' insightful and incisive commentary on his posts. And now I am the focus of your attention? Truly, I stand above the piranha tank of shame, wrapped in the blood-soaked meat of scrutiny and armed only with the tiny squeaky hammer of my words. I can only hope that I can put forth something worth engaging you lovely ladies and gentlemen, or to sufficiently couch this post in roundabout phrasing and contrived segues to distract you from the fact that I have nothing interesting to say.

On that note, let's talk about super robots.

You may be wondering what towering steel behemoths piloted by fiery young men and women saving the world from evil and pastel ponies enjoying adventures and happy times in their pleasant but surprisingly surrounded-by-terrible-dangers village have in common. Well, to me, the answer is "everything," for both have made a noticeable difference to the way in which I view the world.

The key is optimism. GaoGaiGar, a personal favourite of mine, consistently espouses the philosophy that there is nothing a person cannot achieve if they have determination, that never-ending drive to succeed in the face of impossible odds. Though they face infinite enemies powered by the very stars themselves, they refuse to give in, and their faith in themselves and in The Right Thing is rewarded in victory. Also three spaceships transform into the handle of a giant hammer made of light that they use to destroy the Sun, which is brilliant, but that's not important.

What is important is that the belief in myself and in people's fundamental ability to Get Things Done that GaoGaiGar and similar instilled within me (I am but an impressionable youth of 23 and thus too easily swayed, alas) has only been reinforced by Friendship Is Magic. As a dabbler in many, many, many walks of life (my list of hobbies has, on occasion, been used to beat whales to death), I have partaken in many communities, but the Friendship Is Magic fandom consistently amazes me with its ability to take their situation - a surprise demographic in love with a show that all social convention says they should despise for fear of being, gasp, abnormal - and, through the application of nothing more than willpower, a friendly "so what?" attitude and a frankly worrying quantity of artistic content, have carved a niche for themselves in a world less hostile to them every day.

Though I am very much against making any Thing into a Big Thing that does not need to be a Big Thing (a crime of which many FiM fans are, we must admit, depressingly guilty), I will confess that I am thoroughly inspired by what has been achieved by the community as a whole in but two short years. I myself had done nothing more than a miscellaneous scribbled paragraph per day for seven yearsbefore watching FiM, and, well, here I am, asked to write a guest post for a respected blog. For those seven years I had constantly been flirting with creativity, never committing, until FiM somehow gave me that final "what the hell" push into actually making something of my desire. It's a story I've heard a hyperbolic number of times amongst my friends in the FiM fandom.

And that is what ponies and robots have in common. From tales of machines battling gods I gained the will to never stop trying, to keep that spark of creation alive until the day I die because a spark, no matter how dim, is but a flame waiting to be rekindled. And Friendship Is Magic, through whatever wizardry that blasted show employs, gave me something to be passionate about again, gave me a group of people who are always making to take my cue from.

I often hear it said that the FiM community inspires people to create. But I believe it inspires people to follow through. So if you've been keeping that spark alive, unable or unwilling to give it just one more serious try, go crazy. Fan your heart out. Turn that speck of light into a metaphorically-dubious incandescent hammer the size of a small planetary body. Write a story, draw a picture, pen a tune, start a blog. Whether you create with pastel ponies, with shouty robots, with jellied eels, with whatever you find when you rummage in your soul…create.

And never, ever stop.


Now that I've proved to Blueshift I can totally write a post about robots and ponies and make it semi-coherent, and in a desperate attempt to make this post actually about ponyfiction specifically, I shall leave some recommendations for you to do with as you wish. And by "do with as you wish" I mean "investigate and then return here to comment upon, forever fearful of my searing gaze upon your back," by which I mean "you know, if you want.," by which I mean "but it would be really nice if you did."

Um, yes. Anyway.

Firstly, Norse Pony. A consummate villain and indelible cad, he is everything that is wrong wi…I'm sorry, wrong post. Norse is a fine person and a good writer, and nothing more really need be said. He is also, I would not so subtly add, a mod at the wonderful blog Thirty Minute Ponies(and its saucy sister Sexty Minute Ponies [Head's up: that's definitely a NSFW collection.  Don't say you weren't warned.  -Chris]), which I cannot urge you enough to investigate. TMP's prompt-a-day structure is emblematic of the "always keep going" philosophy that I so laud - no matter how busy one is, or how deep in the murk of inspirationless ennui, there's always half an hour spare. I implore you to give it a shot - I'm almost certain you'll enjoy yourself.

Secondly, Professor Piggy. Piggy is one of the nicest people I have ever had the fortune to meet (I do not believe I have ever heard him say a negative word in what time I have spent talking to him), and also a dab hand at placing words into an order pleasing to the mind. Do yourself a service and check out his work. He is also a mod at TMP (the double-recommend was, I assure you, unplanned!) and a regular contributor, and has produced some simply excellent flashfiction in that capacity.

Thirdly, Fedora Mask, whose instinct for comedy strikes the funny bone with such pinpoint precision that he instills as much envy in me as admiration. I am slightly cheating here because he has not actually produced very much in the way of pony but is currently halfway through several projects which, should the repeated contact between my boot and his buttocks have anything to say about it, should be finished at some point. Give him a Watch, and I promise you will not be disappointed when he is done. He is also involved in a number of frankly hilarious Abridged series under the name Duo Himura which, if you are a fan of the animus, I would urge you to try.

And lastly…No, that's it. I'm at 1,182 words and I think I've said all I can say without collapsing into a blubbering heap. I'd just like to end by thanking Chris for inviting to me write this post (I will say without shame that I, as I believe the current vernacular runs, "squee'd"), and you yourselves for taking in my blather with (oh please oh please oh please) no complaint..

It's been a pleasure.


So, that's our first guest post.  Expect to see more in the next few weeks as my posting schedule allows (or rather, doesn't allow).  Thanks again to Arcainum for the contribution!  


  1. ". . . here I am, asked to write a guest post for a respected blog."

    Cool, which one?

    "[Head's up: . . . -Chris]"

    Chris, are you mangling another saying? Tut, tut. Lose the apostrophe please! (Yes, I'm going to pay for that later)

    Anyway. I can't agree enough that FiM just seems to have had that extra something that has really pushed it's fanbase to excel. I wouldn't say I at all agreed with your take on why, but I appreciate that you were probably only stating why it worked for you, as opposed to making any sweeping assumptions (which I, on the other hand, totally would, and probably will, as some point).

    It also reminds me of an interesting discussion I had last night about David Gemmell. A friend asked if I wanted to take away a whole set that he'd been given because he couldn't get on with the author's writing, so, armed with my last two month's worth of study on fiction writing, I started a real-time diagnosis. The results were... surprising. I could pick out books as things went along and point out certain writing traits that he gained and lost—and sometimes revisited—as time went on. I was looking at '86 to '98 mostly, given the books we had, but considering his age when he started, it certainly made me feel better about what I can do even now.

    It made me feel even better about some of the work turned out by my fellow authors (okay, THAT feels weird to say). Back before the internet, people got published with a fraction of the writing skill that some of our best authors have today (not intended as a slight on Gemmell at all). Now I don't have any experience of other fandoms, but I assume this is a largely cross-platform phenomenon, and with that, I see one danger: our authors don't get enough credit.

    So this one's for all MLP:FiM authors. The talents you have learned may seem meagre by comparison to your peers, but you FUCKING ROCK because time and time again you strive to get better and grow, as author, and as a person. Don't ever forget that just taking the time to do something you enjoy and share it with others, you are making your own little world better and brighter. Whether it's grimdark, clop, romance, crossovers, slice-of-life, or high adventure, you're moving us all towards a world where self-expression is the norm, which is a better world for all concerned. For that, I salute you all.

    -Scott 'Inquisitor' Mence

    P.S. I see Mystic's Dancing on Silver Strings is up for inclusion into the vault in a few weeks. If you haven't checked it out already, I'd ask that you do so. Both Chris and Mystic have been very supportive to me this year, and while Chris already gets a lot of feedback here, it would mean the world to me if you'd go and show Mystic some appreciation too. From me.

    1. Indeed, it ended up being a little more personal than I think Chris was after because, well, I'm not very good at this sort of thing =3 So I slipped into "spew words and hope" mode and JUST WENT FOR IT.

      The David Gemmel thing is interesting because I've been doing much the same thing with Terry Pratchett recently - comparing, say, Snuff to something like Soul Music is a wonderful exercise in examining authorial development.

      I'll be sure to check out the story, I'm halfway through ym "read the stuff in the Vault" backlog as it is, so I might as well skip ahead!

    2. Hell, if a blog on a show about friendship isn't an appropriate place to get personal, what is?

    3. No. I hate Mystic and I would never ever give him feedback because he's a stupidhead who isn't in love with Dolores Umbridge.

      He can go rot in a ditch with his little plastic Rarity toy. GO ROT IN A DITCH, MYSTIC!


    4. Rarity?! Pah-lease! All I care about are my plastic Twilight and Rainbow Dash toys that I constantly make kiss each other!


      And thanks, Scott <3

  2. And now I know why Arc is part of the LOEG. :3

    GaoGaiGar... Isn't that the show with the guy named Pizza?

    1. For my sins.

      Pasta, Pizza, Primada, Bolognese and Penchinon. Yup. It's one of my favourite shows ever ¬_¬

  3. As the founder of TMP, I wanted to thank Arcainum for linking to us. I imagine you will find most of our submissions to be about the same quality as the stuff you review, Chris, but like Arcainum I think checking it out would be a really neat idea. If nothing else, it's fantastic writing practice.

    1. Hey, no problem. You've all been nothing but positive and helpful in my interactions with the blog, and it's been a thoroughly enjoyable and useful exercise to take part in. So, yknow, thank YOU for running it.

    2. Definitely something I'll be checking out. Thanks for the tip, Arcainum, and thanks for doing that thing, Kyronea!

  4. Imma gonna copy paste some things that I said on Arcainum's blog, but dah well!

    Very well said about this show being able to create the "Spark" of creativity like none other. Heck, I was just plodding along with other fandoms and then this series falls into my life and I can't stop thinking about it! Or stop writing about it! And I don't want to stop!

    So nice to see an attitude like this. I love being a part of this fandom because it really strives to make us more active in any way possible. We really do become better people through it.

    Looking forward to the Harpflank & Sweets review! Ever onwards!


      Also it's not finished, so I don't think Chris'll be going near it for a while. Unless he does what thewatchtower on reddit did and reviews Season 1 as its own story, which would be painful because Season 1 might as well have been written by a blindfolded monkey covered in jam.

      Also that's the one thing that I do find particularly special about the show. Like I said, I'm against things being Things rather than things, but there is definitely some odd witchalok hoodoo that FiM seems to work. I think the only other thing I can think of that inspires such rampant creation (in terms of the quantity of fancontent versus quantity of canon content) is Touhou. Perhaps Homestuck? It's by no means a unique phenomenon, but it is an unusual one.

    2. I was actually going to do exactly that--review season one and the movie--but the whole thing is just such a strange, variable beast that I think I'd be better off waiting until it's "complete" (assuming it ever will be), and breaking it down however it needs to be broken down then. So, that's my current plan.

  5. Yay for Arc!

    I too can vouch for the existence of something about this show's fandom that just gets the creative juices flowing like little else. I mean, I did a fair bit of writing before I started watching ponies, but getting into this fandom's fic scene has accelerated that unbelievably. The longest thing I've ever written (by two times the length of the second longest) is a work of pony fanfiction, and it alone is only about 60% of my total output. I've done more writing, had more people read my writing and learnt more about writing in this last year of ponyfiction than most of my other writing time combined.

    I think it's a special mix of irony and sincerity that makes people like this show to the degree that they put as much into the fandom as they do. Like, it's kinda fun to tell someone you like ponies as an ironic joke, but it's just joyful to tell them that with utter sincerity.

    It helps that we've got such robust systems in place to support it all – the slickness of FIMFiction, the dedication of the EqD prereaders, the /fic/ reviewers and the voracious horde of ponyfic readers. It's definitely much easier to get noticed here than most other part of the 'net, and that does help people to stick to things.

    1. Oh man, that's a thing I totally nearly wrote about but didn't. I tend to say that the FiM community has a "cult of celebrity." It's a deliberately way-too-strong phrase, but I do think that as a group we very much put people on pedestals. There's much more publicisation of amateur work than I've seen elsewhere. I mean, I've been watching anime since I was about 5, but I know more way more pony fandom names than I do anime names. Sometimes it's excessive, sometimes it's helpful. But it's always interesting!

  6. "Though I am very much against making any Thing into a Big Thing that does not need to be a Big Thing (a crime of which many FiM fans are, we must admit, depressingly guilty)"

    Oof, tell me about it. Still, they run in every fandom, I guess. *shrug* Still, it's always good to find the voice of reason that doesn't overblow the importance of what we do.

    "I often hear it said that the FiM community inspires people to create. But I believe it inspires people to follow through."

    That is brilliant. Really, truly brilliant. Because while having an idea is important, having that encouragement to continue with it and see it to the end.