Sorry about the inconsistent posts the last few days, guys. On Sunday morning, I got ambushed with a "help me move across town" request. Which would have been fine--except that, while I was helping, I managed to slip a disk. The prognosis is good: "do these stretches, avoid any lifting, and here's a prescription for Cymbalta, come back if you don't feel reasonably good after the prescription runs out or if symptoms worsen." Still, it's been a not-great week over here. Pain notwithstanding, "slipped disk" is something that happens to old people. Joking about taste in music is one thing, but getting hurt doing things that used to be only a metaphorical pain in the back is making me feel bad old. For the teens and twentysomethings reading this: trust me, bad old is not like taste in music old, and it's legitimately got me feeling down.
Also, the medicine makes me super lethargic :P Hopefully next week goes better! For now though, I've still managed to get a few short reviews out. Check them, below.
Twilight Sparkle Does Not Like Bees, by Honey Mead
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Celestia asks Twilight Sparkle to meet her in the garden, near the bees. Twilight hates bees. Celestia knows.
A few thoughts: What I love about this story is how it lays out an unsubtle metaphor... but then leaves the details open. Yes, Celestia's comparison is pretty straightforward, but how far does that comparison extend? How literal is she trying to be? How straight a line can we draw from metaphor to reality? The story is coy on these points, which I found to be to its benefit (though a glance at the comments shows that a lot of readers found it too subtle, so perhaps I'm in the minority). Also, I enjoyed the portrayal of Twilight, whose nerdiness comes through without being overdone, and whose discomfort around bees isn't made into an over-the-top joke.
Recommendation: If you like a little ambiguity in your heavy-handed (in-story heavy-handed, that is (which I guess would make it heavy-hoofed instead...)) aesops, this would be a fine choice. It's probably not a great choice for those who don't like that kind of explicit metaphorizing, though.
Grey, by Foehn
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A glimpse of Octavia's youth.
A few thoughts: Although the general take on this seems to be that it's about the challenges of being a child prodigey, I think that undersells it; this is really about the challenges of being a child, and if the specific situation isn't widely applicable, the more general theme (inability to understand the broader realities of one's situation, inability to control make decisions on one's own behalf) certainly are. The big downside here is that there's absolutely nothing "pony" about this; more than just not requiring an Equestrian setting, some of this story's particulars feel like they would be much more at home in a different setting, to the story's detriment.
Recommendation: This would be a poor choice for the crowd that cares about "not pony enough," to be sure. For other readers, however, this would be a good choice if you're interested in a sad but relatable look at childhood.
Patience, She Said, by TheMessenger
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When a dragon shows up outside of town young filly named Glitter Belle ignores her parents and goes to meet him.
A few thoughts: The dragon in this story is a grown-up Spike, as the tagging will tell you (and really, even the most modestly attentive reader would figure that out pretty quickly anyway), but the selling point here isn't in any surprises or revelations. Instead, it shows us a very old Spike talking to a very young pony, and indulging her questions as only the elderly can indulge the young (and her indulging his rambling as only the young can indulge the elderly). The ending is, again, nothing you didn't expect, but was pleasantly free of forced drama. The way Spike sometimes dips into his more youthful voice is a nice touch; note that it often coincides with him remembering ponies and events from his own youth.
Recommendation: Although a poor choice for readers looking for a lot of novelty or surprise in their fiction, this story does a nice job of expressing a classic idea with pleasant voicing.