Monday, September 25, 2017

A Brief Q and A About the Royal Canterlot Library

In the last few weeks, I've gotten several e-mails about the RCL, and my involvement in it.  I replied to all of them (at least, I'm pretty sure I did.  If I forgot to reply to you, poke me!), but when several people all ask about something at once, I tend to assume that there's a larger contingent out there that are wondering in silence.  Well, wonder no more!  Here are the questions I was asked (minus a couple of redundant ones), with my answers presented in that most hoofy doofy handy-dandy of formats, the Q and A.  Click down below the break for some knowledge.

(Also, for juicy dirt about the RCL)

Did you approve [insert fic the RCL featured here]?

Hard to say!  I read most (not all) of the fics that are featured; our system requires a minimum of three, and usually four or five, of us to pass a fic, and I'm one of the more consistent readers in the group--that is to say, I'm usually one of the first three people to read it.  But we feature stories that one or more of the five of us read and didn't approve all the time, and that includes stories that I personally didn't think were feature-worthy.

I've also managed to shove more than a couple of stories past AugieDog, horizon, Soge, and PresentPerfect that each of those four individually didn't approve of.  That's kind of the point; the RCL isn't just "stories Chris thinks are great," but fics that a group with fairly diverse ponyfic interests collectively agree are great.  Sometimes, I'm the odd man out; that's a feature, not a bug.

It's been a while since I ran the numbers, but last I checked, I personally approve of about 2/3rds of the fics the RCL features.  The other third are stories I either didn't read, or didn't personally think were the creme de la creme.

Why didn't you have any quotes in the feature for [insert fic the RCL featured here]?

If I didn't have any quotes on a feature, there are three possible reasons.  In order of likelihood:

1) I wasn't one of the curators who read the fic!
2) I read the fic, disliked it, and didn't say anything quotable in our discussion.
3) I read the fic and approved it, but didn't say anything quotable in our discussion.

The first is by far the most common; when I read a fic, whether I approve it or not, I generally say enough about the elements of the story I appreciated for horizon to mine a quote or two from me.  On that note, shoutout to horizon, who puts together the "from the curators" bit almost every week!

What's the worst story the RCL has featured?

Look, it's not a secret that the RCL has featured stories that each individual curator didn't think should qualify.  To repeat myself, that's a feature, not a bug.

But the RCL is also a recommendation site.  As in, you go there to have fics recommended to you.  That doesn't mean you, the reader, will/should like all of them (it'd be kinda weird if you did!), but our purpose is less to offer a critical analysis of the story's strengths and weaknesses, and more to explain why we think it's a good fic.  By definition, the stories we don't collectively think are good end up on the cutting room floor--all you see are the ones we think are good fics.

With that in mind, I don't think it's appropriate to talk about what I think the "worst" story we've featured is.  We do our best to discuss why we think a story is good on every post; if you disagree with our analysis, that's cool, and you should feel free to share your thoughts!  But we're going to focus on what we think these fics did right.

Have any fics ever been rejected that you thought shouldn't have been?

Are you kidding?  It happens all the time!  Without going into detail, there have been literally over 100 stories that I've proposed to the group which were ultimately rejected.  Sometimes we've settled on a different story by the same author; sometimes not.  On at least three occasions, we've debated between a dozen or more stories by a single author before settling on one.  And on at least three occasions, a story that I thought was a slam-dunk, blindingly-obvious choice for featuring fell flat with the other guys.

That last bit isn't as bad as it sounds, though.  I'm pretty sure I've sunk more than three "slam-dunk, blindingly-obvious" fics put up by PP and horizon.  Each.  Augie and Soge haven't been around as long, but I'll crush their hopes and dreams eventually, too...

Are you running out of authors good enough to feature?

I can't speak for the other guys... but no, I don't think so, myself.  I'm running out of time to find them, it's true; it seems like I have less time for pony with every passing year, and a lot of the most visible fanfic authors are already RCL inductees.  But on the other hand, we just recently featured Pen Stroke, and authors don't get much more horsefamous than that, so it's not like we're totally out of Pennames People Recognize.  And even if we were, popularity is in no way a prerequisite for RCL featuring--it just makes it more likely that one of us will notice the fic in the first place.

I don't believe we're all that close to "running out of authors good enough to feature," honestly.

Do you review [RCL fics] on your own?

My blog and the RCL are semi-independent.  If I read something for OMPR and it's both awesome and eligible, I'll rec it for RCL inclusion.  But if I read something for the RCL, or if I read something that would go in a mini-review and decide to rec it to the RCL, I generally don't post a review of it on OMPR.  Maybe I'm paranoid, but I don't want authors to start going "Chris and PP both reviewed this story within a week of each other, it must be an RCL nominee!" and then be disappointed if we don't eventually induct them.

(on that note: PP's and my reading lists are completely independent outside of RCL fics, but are somewhat incestuous.  We both take stories the other reviewed which sound good to us and put them on our own reading lists, because--surprise!--we both like good stories).

Who's the worst curator :trixieshiftleft:?

[Don't mind me, just reproducing these questions as I received them... Who types ":trixieshiftleft:" into an e-mail instead of just using a FiMFic PM where you can actually, you know, use pony emoticons?]

The worst curator is me, because I do the least work around here :(  horizon prepares almost all the posts and assembles the "from the curators" bit from our discussion threads, Augie writes and sends out most of the author interviews, PP does the most reading and reccing in addition to handling the FiMFic posts, and Soge is still too new to be a lazy old bum yet.

Dish some juicy RCL dirt.

Here is an actual quote from one of our fic discussion threads:
it was cool but was lacking a graphic depiction of anal rape
Yeah, that probably doesn't need any further context.  The RCL, everybody!


  1. No but I'm actually the worst curator. :V

    Fun fact: If Chris and I don't agree on a feature, there's a strong chance it won't be posted! (This is more correlation than causation, but still.)

  2. If you allow historical data, I'm the worst curator. I only had time to read half the recommended fics and didn't give a positive vote to any of them, so I was asked to shape up or ship out after only 8 stories and less than a month into the project.

    Fun times.

  3. Well, I guess the issue raised in the dirt section is a feature shared by a lot of stories that don't belong in the RCL.

  4. Clearly I'm the worst curator. I didn't even bother applying for the job. That's just laziness.

    Getting back to the topic at hand, I like "behind the scenes" features, so this was certainly an interesting read. Always nice to know the seeming bastion of order and good taste is a chaotic hotbed of subjective mob rule. I kid, I kid, but it's genuinely a heck of an insight, and a reminder of how complicated these things can be.

    Incidentally, I still blush at the comments about my own RCL-featured fic "Lapidify". Not that I intend to rest on my laurels, but sometimes it's a pleasure to sit back and admire old leaves.

  5. I am reasonably certain that it's Present Perfect you're quoting at the end there. It seems in-character for him.

    1. I'm not so sure, mostly because I have zero idea what that quote could have come from. c.c