Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Conclusive Proof that I'm Not a Time Traveler from the Future

As you probably already know, if you aren't stumbling upon this site for the first time (and if you are: hello!), I'm one of the curators of the Royal Canterlot Library.  Being a curator there is pretty straightforward: when one of us reads something amazing, we recommend it to the group, and if the rest of the crew thinks they're right about its amazingness, we feature it.

But we generally only feature an author once--we don't want to just keep featuring the same half-dozen authors' stories in a never-ending cycle, do we?  And this can lead to a tragic problem: sometimes, an author writes something really amazing after we've already featured them!  More than once, I've gotten ready to type up a fic recommendation, only to realize that the story I just read is by someone we've already spotlighted.  So today, we're taking a look at stories I read, loved... and wasn't able to suggest to the RCL.  Find them, below the break!

Before we dive in, though, let me be clear on a few things:

1) This is a personal list, not an RCL one.  Think of it as "here's the fic Chris would've recommended first, if it'd been written at the time" rather than "here's the fic the RCL would've featured, if etc."

2) In none of these cases am I disappointed by the stories we actually featured; all of them are great (that's why we featured them, natch).  The point is, the author wrote something I liked even better!

3) This list is only of stories that the author wrote after we featured them.  Great stories they'd already written are another bag of beans entirely.

4)  Obviously, this is only a list of stories I've actually read.  There are probably plenty of other authors who've exceeded their RCL feature since said featuring without me knowing about it (yet), but... well, I don't know about it (yet).

With that said: onward!

What the RCL featured:  Home is Where the Harp Is, by Blueshift (featured 12-13-13)

What the author wrote after that:  Rise (published 8-14-14) (my review)

Why I'm sad we couldn't feature it:  Blueshift is best known for his random comedies, but he has remarkable range as an author.  Rise shows not just that range, but a remarkable ability to blend the light, soft-comic tone of Equestria with drama and classical heroism.  Just as the story blends and contrasts the breezies' worldview with the ponies' at turns, it combines Lang's theories of storytelling with fanfic-style worldbuilding and lore expansion in ways that are endlessly fascinating and engrossing.

What the RCL featured:  Lost Cities, by Cold in Gardez (featured 2-7-14)

What the author wrote after that:  Small-Town Charm (published 1-12-14) (my review)

Why I'm sad we couldn't feature it:  "But wait," you cry, "Small-Town Charm was published almost a month before you featured Lost Cities!"  That's true... but we'd already approved Lost Cities to feature, and interviewed the author, by then.  Curse you, healthy post buffer!

Not to speak for the other RCL guys, but I rather doubt they'd have gone for Small-Town Charm as our CiG feature, even if it were possible.  But dangit, I think it's the best story the author's written, and that it's one of the best stories on the site.  The idea of dinner-plate-sized spiders amiably crawling all over everything and everyone, and of nobody except Twilight batting an eyelash at it, is both comical and visceral.  As a plot, it gives a perfectly Equestrian vehicle for exploring the way we view traditions, both as insiders and outsiders of the community practicing them, and it recognizes both how absurd those traditions can be, and how important they are despite--or even because of--the fact that they don't make logical sense.  And the ending is deliciously open to interpretation.

What the RCL featured:  A War of Words - The Opening of the Guard, by Georg (featured 5-9-14)

What the author wrote after that:  The One Who Got Away (published 8-28-15) (my review)

Why I'm sad we couldn't feature it:  This is another one where the story the RCL actually featured is probably the better one for featuring... but I enjoyed The One Who Got Away a lot more.  It helps that the story is synergistic with its flaws; the main character may be painfully obtuse and the setup abrupt, but the story is about discovering that the world is a larger, more wonderful place than you ever knew, which gives those elements a kind of meta-appropriateness.  In any case, the author's growth between these two stories shows clearly in the quality of the prose, and The One is as full of beautiful, evocative language as it is of clever bits of lore and history.

What the RCL featured:  Where Have the Stars Gone?, by HoofBitingActionOverload (featured 5-30-14)

What the author wrote after that:  Spring is Dumb (published 5-18-14) (my review)

Why I'm sad we couldn't feature it:  My exact words in an RCL e-mail chain were "Well, damn. I was all ready to rec Spring is Dumb, and then I find out we posted a Hoofbitingactionoverload story."  As with Small-Town Charm, we just barely missed this one, too; it had already come out by the time the RCL post went up, in fact.  Anyway, Spring is Dumb is one of those stories that absolutely nails the unreliable narrator for comic effect.  As I said in the same e-mail chain, "Seriously though, go read Spring is Dumb if you haven't already. I don't care if it's not for RCL, that fic was gold."

What the RCL featured:  In Bloom, by Pascoite (featured 3-21-14)

What the author wrote after that:  My Domestic Equestria (published 9-11-14) (my review)

Why I'm sad we couldn't feature it:  I don't usually get worked up over downvotes, least of all downvotes on other people's stories, but the three people who felt like they needed to hit the red thumb after reading this are so wrong it causes me almost physical pain.  While this story probably won't be to everyone's taste, being as it is the (nonfiction!) story of the author playing ponies with his child, it's a deliciously heartwarming glimpse of family life, informed by MLP not only in that it has pony toys, but in its presentation and tone.  It's such a sweet, unique story that I can't help but be sad not to feature it.

...That's by no means an exhaustive list, but those are the fics that come to mind when I think of stories that I wish the RCL could have featured, had we only known in advance that the author was going to write them.  Note to writers whom we haven't yet featured: please let us know what date you plan to publish your best work on, so that we can plan ahead!


  1. Where Have the Stars Gone? was featured in 2014, not 2015, and you forgot to include a publishing date for My Domestic Equestra

    With the exception of The One Who Got Away — which is on my list — I've read every one of these, and they're all great. Not sure I'd agree with you on Pascoite, though, since In Bloom's in my "Favourites". MDE's certainly more unique and a wonderful story in its own right

    I absolutely adored Small-Town Charm, and would probably rate that one higher than Lost Cities (though I loved that one too), but I think I'd have to go with All the Mortal Remains for CiG's feature. I dunno, kinda been awhile since I've read these fics, so it's hard to judge

  2. Yeah, I have a lot of these, though I never kept a list. :B

    I don't know if it's because of a surreptitious name change or what, but it took me forever to realize he wasn't HoofBitingActionOverLORD.

    1. HBAO changes part of his username once a month or so.

  3. I appreciate the upvote (as it were) of confidence, though I'm actually not surprised people would downvote that. It's not really fanfiction, as most people would be looking for, and it's barely edited, so on a technical level, it has plenty of missteps. I wouldn't have even written it, except I'd occasionally talk about the games we'd played on Skype, and Masked Ferret and Noble Cause urged me to compile them. I guess it stands out as something unusual, but I wouldn't call it a shining example of good writing.

    1. Compared to your other stories, it might be a little rough around the edges writing-wise... but that's rather different than saying that the story isn't well-written. In any case, I love it for being something truly unique while simultaneously staying simple and charming. It's a story that you've never seen the like of before, but it doesn't coast on its novel-ness.

  4. I really don't understand why the RCL is so up on not featuring an author twice. It has a lot of unwanted consequences, the first of which you highlight with this post, but the second being that it means the RCL sometimes ends up dipping pretty far down into the barrel to avoid featuring an author twice.

    1. I think it makes sense given the whole interview thing they do. They end up being more about promoting fanfic authors than fanfiction itself. Maybe they could add non-interview posts to the site, perhaps a compilation of sorts. I'd imagine that would up the workload, though, so it probably shouldn't be a regular thing

    2. Getting a story featured in the RCL is a lot like a cutie mark in that way. Before you're featured, any story you wrote or ever will write has the potential to be the one, but after you're featured, it's that story foreeeeeeveeer!

    3. The RCL has a folder dedicated to stories we could feature by already-featured authors, but we haven't dipped into it yet... and frankly, I'm probably the person who's pushed hardest for us not to go to that well. My feelings tend to be that:

      1) We haven't had any trouble finding great stories by yet-unfeatured authors to date (ymmv, of course, but I've never felt like I had to "settle" for recommending something)

      2) Seeing a new author get featured is inherently more interesting to readers than seeing an author get re-featured (because of the interviews), and

      3) Seeing a new author get featured is inherently more useful to readers than seeing an author get re-featured (because people are already likely to check out an author's other stories if they enjoy the one they see us feature)

      There are definitely authors we could feature a dozen stories from, but all things being equal, I tend to feel like that's not the most useful, or interesting, thing for us to do.

    4. Agreed, though it'd be a shame for that folder to go to waste. Have you guys thought about including something off to the side? Like, there's "Home", "Archives", "About", etc. Why not include that list as well? That way it's not replacing your regular features, but it's available for anyone interested

    5. With all due respect, that is an *awfully* deep barrel. We have a lot of awesome writers (each in their own way) to showcase, and most of the time when I see something in the RCL, I'll go nose around the rest of their stories to see just what other gems I've missed. (and others do that too, from the additional Faves I've seen on fic A after fic B gets featured)

      The only downside I'm seeing here is that as we write, we get better, so whatever gets RCL featured eventually gets overshadowed by our better stories. (I'll humbly say mine is a good example)

    6. Can confirm @Georg: This has happened more than once.

      It's good, though, because it means the authors aren't willing to rest on their laurels, but keep improving! :D

  5. I've read almost all of these stories and find that I either like the stories featured and the ones you recommend equally, or like the featured ones more. "Where Have the Stars Gone?" and "In Bloom" are two of my top favorites in the fandom.

    But, YMMV and all that, I suppose. There's been a few (and to be fair, only a few) stories in the RCL that had me genuinely wondering why they were even considered, while there's been a few (such as Mare in the High Castle) that I never would have found on my own, and were absolutely excellent.

  6. Yes, Rise is a story I'd have loved to have seen in the RCL. It's not actually my favourite Blueshift story (that'd be So Long and Thanks for All the Fish), but it's an excellent read, which is what I value most of all. Spring is Dumb is great, too, but I'd rather take Rise to my desert island.

    As it so happens, I've recently been thinking about a sporting award* that can only be won once, no matter what that player achieves later in their career, and I think the RCL is right to maintain its approach. There are, after all, plenty of ways in which the consistently excellent authors in this fandom can be (and generally are) recognised. I think the RCL would lose some of its... "individuality", I suppose, if it dropped this particular rule.

    1. Oops, forgot the footnote. Here:

      * Wisden Cricketer of the Year, one of the most prestigious annual awards in cricket.