This week's episode, Pinkie Pride, was a real mixed bag to me. On the one hand, Weird Al did a great job with the part, he was used well, the polka was hilarious and appropriate, and there were a lot of laughs to be had. On the other, the other songs ranged from "very enjoyable" to "everything that was wrong with the Equestria Girls soundtrack," I thought that the "real-life" clips were a mind-blowingly immersion-breaking addition (it's not even like they were a dream sequence or something), and the grossly unsettling faces which I loath, but which so many fans seem to love, were unusually prevalent today. All in all I enjoyed the episode, and it had some great moments, but if you made a graph of "Chris's enjoyment x time," it would have some pretty massive spikes and troughs.
Oh, also there was some sort of football game last night. Anyway, click down below the break for a few thoughts on a few stories which I've recently been reading.
Long Story Short, Things Went Down, by Aragon
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Carrot Top is going to murder her cheating fiancee, and probably get herself thrown in prison, unless her "friends" help her out. To bad her "friends" are a bunch of morally suspect psychopaths themselves.
A few thoughts: Given that large segments of this story revolve around the meaning and varied uses of an uncensored statue of a dolphin and a pony in mid-coitus, I think it's safe to apply the term "refuge in audacity" to this fic. And to its credit, it doesn't skirt around what it is; Things Went Down is vulgar, aggressive, and foul-mouthed to the hilt. In addition to all that, it's unrelentingly funny. A lot of that humor comes from juxtaposing ponies and violence| (drugs, cursing, etc.), but what Argon does that a lot of "shock fics" don't manage is to not just create settings and characters which are deliberate poor fits for Equestria, but which actually parody its mores and morals. This is, ultimately, a story about friendship; it just happens to be the kind of friendship "that make[s] you pee on the other when you see she's on fire--you're being as mean as possible, but you still try to fight the fire," as the fic puts it. Combine that with the author's almost palpable glee in violating the constraints of logic for the sake of a good one-liner or a stupid gag, and this is a story that made me laugh, made me shake my head, and occasionally made me wonder what on earth I was reading--but which never once bored me.
Recommendation: In terms of editing, the story's not terribly well-written; although it's never difficult to parse, there are a number of problems I associate with authors for whom English isn't their first language (incorrect irregular verbs (e.g. slayed for slain), tense slips, etc.). Readers sensitive to that sort of thing will want to give this a pass, and those looking for anything remotely faithful to the show, its tone, or its characters should likewise steer clear. But anyone seeking an over-the-top, dark (but never grim) comic parody will definitely want to give it a look.
An Average Delivery, by TheBrianJ
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Derpy's given a particularly dull courier job, but she doesn't mind. After all, she's very good at keeping herself entertained.
A few thoughts: This is a story about letting you imagination run wild, and what I liked most about it was that it was grounded enough that it was easy to relate to without being boring--who hasn't grabbed a fallen tree branch and acted out their ninja-fighting (or whatever) fantasies, after all? And if some of us (i.e. people other than me) stop doing that once they turn twelve, I don't think that makes Derpy's fantasies any less relatable. This story doesn't exactly plow any new ground, but nevertheless it's a well-paced example of Slice-of-Life done right.
Recommendation: Although it's not deep, epic, or any of those other adjectives we (I) like to toss around, this is an ideal fic for readers looking for a short, pleasant, and not too challenging bit of day-in-the-lifeing should check this out.
The Riddle, by Golden Vision
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When she was very young, Celestia posed a riddle to Twilight--one which would take a lifetime to answer.
A few thoughts: Much of the first half of this story is told in epistolary form, comprising a series of letters between Twi and Celestia. These sections were well-written, but too often felt less like letters than like plot devices, containing needed information rather than that which would likely appear in such a letter (e.g. Twi using letters to answer simple questions when she and Celestia have met at least once in person since the question was posed). Plus, the riddle itself is disappointingly shallow--I wasn't expecting anything mind-blowing, but it still felt like a bit of a letdown.
Past those complaints, though, I definitely enjoyed this story. The story shows Twi at a variety of ages, and Golden Vision does a nice job of differentiating her locution while still making her sound like Twilight. Plus, I'm a sucker for a good "getting old and dying" story, and this one doesn't wallow in unearned misery like too many do. Heck, it even has some main-six shipping which didn't bother me too much, probably because the shipping itself was ancillary to the fic and was treated as such (though not the emotional relevance, which is given full credence).
Recommendation: This doesn't deliver any big emotional hits, as might be expected from the premise, but if you're looking for a rest-of-life story which has a strong POV but doesn't overdo the drama, this one is worth a look.
Harvest Festival, by Admiral Biscuit
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight is determined to participate in Ponyville's annual traditions, and that includes submitting some produce at the fall fair... even though crop-growing is the near-exclusive purview of earth ponies, and she doesn't know what she's doing.
A few thoughts: I figured this story was going to go the "Twilight is horrifically incompetent" route, and was rather pleasantly surprised that she's instead presented as a perfectly rational, scientifically-minded character who just happens to be at a tremendous disadvantage--it felt like a more natural fit to me, and had the advantage of not turning Twi into a caricature. Plus, there's a lot of good comedy, both in the narration and the dialogue (AJ: "Yer proud of them eggplants ya grew, but there's gonna be other ponies that've got cucumbers the size of watermelons an' watermelons the size a... um, bigger watermelons. Shoot, I ain't good with superlatives."). That said, the story felt rather disjointed, skipping as it does from scene to scene with little to tie them together save the overarching concept of "Twilight trying to grow eggplants." This persisted to the very end: the last line was definitely funny, but it didn't really tie the story together, or even connect directly to the rest of the fic.
Recommendation: This won't appeal to fans of tightly-plotted stories, or to those looking for straight comedy (the story's tagged comedy/SoL, and it really is 50-50 between the two), but readers interested in a short fic which has some nice bits of humor but doesn't ever lose touch with or abuse the intelligence of its characters might find this to their liking.
...Wow, four stories, and I didn't dislike any of them! Guess I'm on a roll.
Also, I've never liked that second i in "biscuit," and I feel like "melon" should have a second l (probably my Tolkien speaking). Just throwing that out there, in case the Prescriptivist Cabal is reading and would like some suggestions for how to enforce the English language.