Don't get me wrong, I get the appeal of the shared universe and creatures/phenomena that define it, but what I don't get is the interest in the Foundation organization itself. The entire setting is full of vastly more appealing groups. There are deranged cultist organizations trying to bring about the end of the world, amoral (probably British) "procurers" who turn a hefty profit moving paranormal things through the underworld, evil clowns... you name it, there's a group that has a more interesting approach to these things than the Foundation's. Heck, it's not even like the Foundation are the good guys to everyone else's villains (as best I can tell, the "good guys" are the UN-backed Global Occult Coalition, who have "ensure the survival of the human race," as their top priority)--this is a group that whose MO is "here's something incredibly dangerous, let's get some shmuck to poke it with a stick for us on penalty of death and see what happens, and if it doesn't kill him, we'll murder him at the end of the month anyway" (supposedly, those "D-class personnel" are all convicted murders off death row, but considering that 1) the Foundation seems to go through anywhere from a few score to a few hundred every month, and 2) pretty much all of them seem to be Westerners, I figure that's just a PR line). I mean, it's not like there's nowhere to go with that, as the 2000+ entries plus various associated stories would attest, but... well, my point is that the Foundation strike me as assholes, and not even the exciting kind of assholes. If I was one of those writers, I'd have more fun writing about the GOC trying to save humanity, or the Serpent's Hand trying to awaken some elder god, than about the Foundation.
That's just my opinion, though. But hey, you're here for my opinion, right? If so, good, because I've got a whole bunch more of 'em--this time, relating to ponyfic, and first sentences therefrom--below the break!
As a reminder, the first sentences here are being judged as first sentences, using my patented HEITSIBPMFTSIATRAEMTCR ("how effective is this sentence in both preparing me for the story I'm about to read, and encouraging me to continue reading") scale. On that scale, a five equates roughly to "immediately evokes a specific tone, prepares the reader for the rest of the story, and encourages me to continue reading," a one is "makes me less likely to continue reading," and a three is "a perfectly adequate first sentence, which neither inspires great excitement or great dread." For each story, I'll give the title with a link to my review of it, and the star rating I initially gave that story.
Note that, as part of my ongoing tweaking/developing of these posts, I'll be taking a fairly liberal definition of "first sentence," so some "sentences" may be two (or more!) sentences long; "first complete idea" might be more technically accurate, but it's not as catchy. Additionally, the review of each sentence will be split into two parts. The first part will be my thoughts after reading ONLY the first sentence, and the second, my thoughts on it after having read the story, graded as BETTER, WORSE, or THE SAME when taken in its larger context.
Rarity Loses Her Innocence In a Poker Game, by Mr. Numbers (story: 1 star)
The first line: Twilight's new crystal castle was a feat of magical engineering unrivalled outside of the Crystal Kingdom itself. It was regal, dignified, beautiful; a work of serene art towering over the small town of Ponyville, like a delicate sculpture placed in an almost bare art gallery.
Initial thoughts: This is the first paragraph, and it pretty much just tells me a location. It doesn't even give me many specifics; the story could be at the castle, or anywhere within sight of it, or somewhere unrelated while Twilight reminisces on its appearance (you'd hope it couldn't actually be that last one, but I have seen stories start out on totally irrelevant character thought-tangents before!). Also, the misused semicolon is a strike against. There's a nice simile tucked in there, but given how at odds everything to this point--the entire first paragraph--is with the title, and how little it tells me, I feel like this has to be a one outta five on the trusty HEITSIBPMFTSIATRAEMTCR scale.
After reading: You might think that I cut that "first line" off in an unfair place, leaving out the punchline which would contrast the grand style of the introduction with something low, uncivil, or crude. I did not; I would've had to make it four paragraphs in to the story to get to that particular turn. When it comes, it's understated enough that the humor of it isn't really apparent for a moment. And that humor is essentially the only point of those first paragraphs, which impart no other particularly relevant narrative information. So, all in all, it's about THE SAME as it looked at first blush.
Schemering Sintel, by N00813
The first line: The inn stank of sweat, alcohol and desperation.
Initial thoughts: Like the story above, this one does nothing other than tell us a location. There are a few key differences, however. First off, we can infer the setting from this line much more effectively than from Loses Her Innocence's. Second, describing the setting is more important in this case--we, the readers, already have a mental image of Twilight's castle to call on, but we won't know what "the inn" is like without the author's help. Third, this paints a vivid picture which dovetails nicely with the story's description to help paint a picture of what kind of story we're in for, also in contrast to the other story's approach. On the downside, saying something "stank of desperation" is treading dangerously close to cliche, and this doesn't tell me much of anything other than setting and tone. Still, a high three from me.
After reading: It's THE SAME, in that it's neither misleading, nor does it reveal any hidden depths as one reads on. A good, solid first sentence--nothing more, nothing less.
Regarding The Need for Sex Education, by GAPJaxie (story: 3 stars)
The first line: Ding-a-ling-a-ling chimed the bell above the door of Carousel Boutique. It was a very good ring, clear and energetic, making the whole shop just a little friendlier.
Initial thoughts: Another "setting and tone" opening, this gives us our opening location, and sets a slightly deadpan, irreverent tone for the narration. I'm not a big fan of opening a story with sound effects, but this is still a middle-of-the-road three.
After reading: THE SAME. WYSIWYG, and all that.
The Witch of the Everfree, by MagnetBolt (story: 4 stars)
The first line: “Sunset Shimmer, I am removing you from the position of my pupil. If we cannot get past this, your studies end here. You are welcome to stay in Canterlot, but you are no longer welcome in the castle.”
Initial thoughts: This strikes me as a strangely liminal example of an in media res opening; yes, it drops us right into the action, but it drops us into the action of a scene which we already know the general structure of, between canon and story concept. As such, it kicks off with no real introduction, but the reader still knows exactly who's talking and what's happening. I suppose I could call that clever use of canon, but I think that's giving a little too much credit for co-opting a scene from the comics... I guess on balance, I'll go three, on the grounds that this "neither inspires great excitement or great dread." But honestly, I'm unsure how I "ought" to rate this.
After reading: It might be slightly BETTER, in the sense that the story doesn't waste any time jumping off into its AU; an opening like this could reasonably leave someone afraid that the entire first chapter would be a rehash of Things We Already Know, and that's not what happens.
Pinkie Pie is an Eldritch Abomination, by PonyAmorous (story: 2 stars)
The first line: Twilight opened her eyes feeling dizzy and slightly nauseated.
Initial thoughts: I don't like it. Oh, the content is fine, but the structure is ungainly, which is a big deal when one is evaluating a first sentence as a sentence. A comma after "eyes" would help, but even with that, it feels backwards to discuss how she feels after describing what she does (at least, when the feelings aren't tied to the action; if she was feeling dizzy because she opened her eyes, that of course would be different). As I said, though, it does a fine job of introducing character and state, so I suppose I can still give it a weak two.
After reading: It's definitely BETTER, both because the writing is better in the story than one might be lead to believe, and (more importantly) because of the way the story ties back to this at the end.
Gods-In-Law, by Pearple Prose
The first line: Princess Celestia smiled and drank deeply from her wine glass, relishing the homely, festive atmosphere of the Sparkle household.
Initial thoughts: I like it. It gives us a bit of context, both obvious ("homely, festive atmosphere") and implied (that Celestia is drinking deeply, rather than taking a dainty sip, which I believe is fandom standard for describing Celestia talking a drink). Tone, characters, and location are all established elegantly. The only problem with this sentence is that, for all that it accomplishes, it's utterly unmemorable on its own. A four from me: good, but not something you'd go quoting to your friends.
After reading: It ends up being somewhat WORSE, since it turns out that Celestia drinking "deeply" isn't a bit of characterization or setting-awareness, but rather a prelude to some stock "drunk Celestia" humor--likewise, the tone it sets is rather more warm slice-of-life-y than the goofy comedy (in the story's first half, at least) which we get.