1) Checkmates by xjuggernautx
What I like about it: I’m an avid board game player, including games that are more for people willing to sink quite a bit of money into and take hours to play. As such, I know the difficulty of teaching rules to people aren’t as into such games as I am such as when people question rules that go against logic (this page on Boardgame geeks is an example of such stuff) and the difficulty of not trying to blow your top when they get distracted. Certainly, there are number of things that I actually can really appreciate.
Why I think I don’t enjoy it in the end: I can buy Twilight being a chess player, what I can’t buy is the idea she would even consider teaching Dash or Applejack. Yes, they’re both competitive, but neither have the patience to learn a game (I couldn’t buy Dash liking that pony Battleship in “Read it or Weep”, nor being good at it). Plus, Twilight’s blowouts actually offended me (this is slice-of-life, not just comedy, so I expect it to be more like an episode). Back in my undergrad years, I was part of the college’s gaming club, and I know that you can’t lose yourself like this; otherwise no one wants to play with you. It got in the way of a number of gags that I actually thought were well done.
What I like about it: This is one the most tragic of Ponyficts I have read because if you think about it, one of the character’s life is pretty much ruined at the end with little to no hope of recovery. Plus, “Want it, Need it” accurately and effectively says, in addition to the time-worn (but still well presented) idea that using others as stepping stones we bring about our downfall, the things we often say bring us happiness and success such as love, can actually be abused and ultimately ruin us. This was one of the few ficts that actually had me thinking about it days after.
Why I think I don’t enjoy it in the end: I think some liberties are taken with the ‘want it, need it’ spell, but even that wouldn’t wreck it for me. What does keep me from liking it is Twilight’s characterization. I just couldn’t buy (even though there’s really no solid reason for me to say that it’s implausible); it felt way too low for her. Plus, some things were never clear for me (such as the relationship between Twi and Crimson, which seemed to move between the latter having feelings for the former but couldn’t even say a word to her to the two of them being close friends and some awkward jumps at certain parts). I spent most of my time asking questions about the story instead of enjoying the story.
3) White Box by Chromosome
What I like about it: Writing about a character who has suffered memory loss isn’t easy to do, but done right, it can lead to some interesting results. I think Chromosome got that right about Canvas. I was even more impressed by his ability to portray the loneliness and anger that results from solitary confinement that comes having everything you loved taken away (it almost got me emotionally). Plus, the black background with the white lettering feels like a natural thing (the other color use, is neither a good or bad thing, for me).
Why I think I don’t enjoy it in the end: A lot of debate about this is whether they can accept the fact that Celestia imprisoned someone for basically being a potential danger (basically, the crime of existing). I can’t buy that part, particularly when we learned when Canvas was taken away and why the others were locked up (and how is a person who speaks of “revolutionary” ideas that can influence others would be on the same level as someone who can paint reality, that can could describe any modern speaker in the real world; come to think of it, copying a cutie mark isn’t dangerous either, why was he imprisoned). Worse was the talent of Canvas and the other incarcerated ponies. Actually, talent isn’t the right word, they have frickin’ superpowers that put them on Discord’s level. The idea that a pony could be that powerful was ridiculous. Also frustrating was the level of pretentious this fict displayed at times. Finally, I believe the White Box would have been better as a short story with humans, with adjustments, about whether its right to lock people up who are potentially dangerous. Instead, it’s this.
4) The Glass Blower by Cold in Gardez
What I like about it: Gardez flat-out nails the style of the classic fairy tale with this one. This story of what an artist will do to get the love of another feels like something Hans Christian Andersen would write, down to details such as a mirror that show’s the inside of another. And yet, it never feels like a copy. Plus, the prose, if I remember, was pretty good.
Why I think I don’t enjoy it in the end: As much as I enjoy fairy tales, I read them for cultural curiosity. The problem with classic fairy tales is that they lack things that more conventional literature have such as actual characters. Rarity could have easily been replaced with a generic mare (she just needs to be beautiful and arrogant) and nothing of value would be lost. What’s more is like other fairy tales, “The Glass Blower” has a very repetitive and predictable nature; I knew what was going to happen at the beginning, taking much away. Finally, there was a sense something was missing. I never figured out what it was and where, but it was there.
Again, the none above ficts are not bad in my mind, but they’re works that left me frustrated when I finished them. Surrounding the things I did like and wish were more common in the realm of ponyfiction, were a multitude of things I just wish wasn’t there. What’s makes it worse was that I get the niggling sense that if some of those elements were removed, the overall work would be weaker. There are cases of the opposite, when the strengths of a work knocks aside a huge number of things that would normally prevent me from enjoying it and cause me to myself (Star Wars (New Hope, because it’s the only one I like) comes to mind, as do Fallout: Equestria and One Piece), but often it’s a case like that of “My Girl Friday,” I’m left unhappy overall. And the noun I’m most unhappy with is myself. Yes, works like the above give me only increase my self-loathing. Maybe I’m just crazy.
...I have nothing substantive to add here, other than to observe that both the third and fourth stories on this list will be reviewed by me in the coming months, and I'm now looking forward to seeing if I find them as frustrating as Bugs did.