For those of you who are the con-going types and who have some deep-seated desire to meet me in person, it turns out that I know a guy who's going to be presenting at GenCon, and he offered me a free ticket. So, I'll probably be there! Honestly, the whole thing was very abrupt, but I figure that I can finagle my way down to Indy for a long weekend. This'll be my second GenCon, the first being when I was seven years old and they were still holding the thing in Lake Geneva every year, so it'll be a new experience. I'm pretty excited about the prospect, though!
Anyhoo, mini reviews below!
Princess Cadence Takes One for the Team, by PresentPerfect
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Becoming a princess was difficult for Cadence--ponies fear change. And until Twilight Sparkle's ascension to alicornhood, she didn't even know why her role was so important.
A few thoughts: The author describes this as "A story I meant to be a s***fic but that became somewhat morose instead." And it shows that this was written in haste, with a changing goal in mind. Indeed, I'd have loved to see more done with this--an expansion on what Cadence's role meant to Luna, more about Celestia's role, and more could have been explored. But there's still an interesting idea here, and if the presentation is scattershot and unrefined (though the writing is solid, far more so than the phrase "meant to be a s***fic" would suggest), then at least there's the core of an interesting idea beneath that.
Recommendation: Fans of Cadence backstory and general worldbuilding/chessmastery will probably find that PP's picked at an interesting thread here, but as a fully composed story this falls short.
The Confessions of Clyde Pie, Prince of Rock, by Casca
Zero-ish spoiler summary: All through his many years of as a husband and father, Clyde Pie carried a secret. A secret he carried to the grave... but left behind in a note to his wife.
A few thoughts: This is a very serious take on a very goofy premise. As I started the story, I found that a little off-putting, especially right at the initial reveal, but it grew on me as an idea over the fic's short length. What ended up selling me on the story, though, was that it wasn't, as I thought it would be at first, a story of loss and sacrifice, and the ending is sweetly poignant.
Recommendation: If you like dramatic spins on funny ideas, this is a well-written, short (less than 2k words), and sad but sweet example of such. If you find that mix doesn't play well together, though, this probably doesn't do enough to change your mind.
Chrysalis Kidnaps Rainbow Dash For 10 Minutes, by Cloud Hop
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Chrysalis kidnaps Dash--now Princess Twilight Sparkle's fiancee--as part of a convoluted bid for princesshood. Twilight quickly demonstrates why making her angry is a bad idea.
A few thoughts: Ahh, here's the s***fic that Princess Cadence Takes One for the Team was apparently supposed to be. I read it because it had been stubbornly sitting around the top of the feature box for, like, a week, and... well, it's pretty much what I expected. Actually, it's got some redeeming qualities: the writing quality is far better than I generally expect from this kind of story, and there's some nice wordplay in places ("Twilight didn't seem to think it was funny. "THIS ISN'T FUNNY!" she said, further reinforcing the idea that she clearly did not approve of the copious amounts of funny going on at the table"). But for the most part, this is a dashed-together collection of memes, character destruction, random shipping, and everything else that the use of the Random tag so often seems to denote.
Recommendation: If you like these kind of stories, I'd say this is an above-average example of the type. But if a story which doesn't even pretend to care about plot or characterization in favor of lowest common denominator humor doesn't sound like your thing, you should definitely avoid this.
Discord: End of Empires, by DannyJ
A few thoughts: Long after the pony races fled south to escape the windigos, the Dragon Queen and her lieutenants follow, seeking their erstwhile subjects/slaves/food. When they reach the long-rumored land of Equestria, though, they find that someone else has already taken control.
A few thoughts: DannyJ does a wonderful job of balancing the whimsy of Discord with the dramatic, slightly dark story he's telling. Further, this is a great look at the history of the dragons, which strikes a perfect balance between expanding lore and leaving hinted-at vistas. The one thing I was less impressed with was Discord himself: while the author shows a knack for portraying him as comic yet frightening, at times he becomes far too serious; the effect is more "schizophrenic" than "chaotic." But the off-balance bite of the last scene almost makes that worth it.
Recommendation: This is an excellent choice for fans of history fics, and those who like dark stories that aren't full of blood, guts, and the like.