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Integral Archer

Joined October 2012
141 followers

Stories (5)

  • Subjunctive
    In this romance of language and culture, a changeling linguist struggles to salvage what remains of the failed invasion of Canterlot with only himself, his words, and his deception as his weapons.

    94,438 words · 2,244 views · 165 likes · 7 dislikes
  • And I Asked Why
    They said I was the Element of Loyalty, but to whom and to what do my loyalties lie?
    21,134 words · 9,839 views · 880 likes · 80 dislikes
  • Ordo ab Chao
    The United Republic of Equestria is electing again; a draconequus finds himself in the spotlight.
    103,560 words · 929 views · 50 likes · 6 dislikes
  • Blank Slate
    Littlepip has always felt a complete disconnect between her thoughts and her environment. When a strange encounter in the basement churns up her thoughts, she reaches out for support. But whom to trust? Based on the Fallout: Equestria universe.
    69,585 words · 444 views · 32 likes · 5 dislikes
  • Aureax Ferri
    28,298 words · 157 views · 7 likes · 2 dislikes

Blog Posts (28)

Sep
28th
2013

Has your book been a failure? Too bad. . . . You should have completed it when you conceived it.

—Victor Hugo

The first time you probably heard (or will hear) the word theme apropos of novels and plot was (or will be) in your high school English class. If you’re like me, you probably rolled your eyes when your teacher said “the theme of this book was so-and-so, and by so-and-so metaphor or by so-and-so encounter, the author is stating that . . .” and whispered to the guy sitting next to you: “Like I’m supposed to believe that the author was thinking about all this when he wrote the book!”

I realized that I was both right and wrong. I was right, in the sense that: when writing the book, the author was not thinking about anything else but the words on the page and the scene he was creating. I was wrong, in the sense that: I believed that the author did not have these premises in mind in his subconsciousness.

When I say the word theme, I’m going to be using Ayn Rand’s definition, when she stated that: “A novel’s theme is the general abstraction in relation to which the events serve as concretes. . . . The theme of Gone with the Wind is: the impact of the Civil War on the South—the destruction of the Southern way of life, which vanished with the wind. . . . The theme of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is: the injustice done to the lower classes of society.”

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your romance is going to have a theme, and what that theme is is going to be dictated by your subconscious premises.

No, you do not need to be actively thinking about that theme to be writing a book, but it’s going to come out one way or another. Thus, any good writer forms an intimate relationship with his subconsciousness and can trust it to give him the physical words that can express what he feels.

But here’s the caveat: what is in your subconsciousness is purely dictated by what you put into it. This means that if you only put garbage into it, only garbage will come out.

By “garbage,” I mean contradictions and inconsistencies. It is absolutely essential that you think about your theme and make sure that it’s internally consistent. Inconsistency is something that can and will destroy your romance. If there’s a thematic inconsistency in the back of your mind, don’t tuck it away; pull it out, think about it, and resolve it. If you don’t, then you’ll have to live with the fact that your romance will be a failure. Don’t think it won’t show in your writing, even if you don’t see it yourself.

That being said, to argue this, I point you toward two exhibits: Murky Number Seven, by Fuzzy; and Fallout: Equestria, by Kkat.

By all accounts, by just reading their plot synopses, these should be exhilarating romances. The scopes are enormous, the conflicts are dire and tense, the number of situations that these characters could be put in are limitless; and the number and quality of resolutions to those situations could be deep, complex, and moving.

These romances have everything going for them. Yet, by having inconsistent philosophical premises*, both somehow manage to squander all their opportunity.

*Note that I’m not saying immoral philosophical premises; I’m saying inconsistent premises. You could have a completely immoral philosophy, yet present it in a flawless artistic light. But I’ll get to that later.

First up, we have Murky Number Seven. It has an unbelievably interesting theme, something that would no doubt provide us with complex and timeless moral questions that the reader would take away with him long after he’s put the book down:

The theme of Murky Number Seven is: the struggle of free will over social positions, and what some will do (or won’t do) to fight back to regain their rights.

With his huge premise, with his huge characters represented in their essentials, with his depiction of evil for the sake of evil, his depiction of the good and the innocent, the timeless conflicts he has shown himself capable of creating, with his slaves’ demonstration of defiance even in the face of these evils—with all these, Fuzzy shows exceptional promise as a romantic writer.

And like a romantic, Fuzzy (for the most part), attempts to present what he thinks as good as the heroes and what he thinks is evil as the villains: the villain Chainlink Shackles is a villain because he doesn’t think he needs morality when the world has gone immoral (when, according to Fuzzy, when the world has gone immoral is when a man would need morality the most); the villain Protégé, a slave-turned-slaver, represents the evil of complacency, that what is evil is innocence that allows itself to abandon its morality; the hero Brimstone Blitz, the contrast to Chainlink Shackles, a character born under similar circumstances but with a completely different moral code, demonstrating that though the characters in Murky Number Seven ascribe a great deal of value to the position one is born in, Fuzzy doesn’t at all; and, best of all, through his protagonist Murky, Fuzzy not only shows the abuses that evil is willing to exact onto the innocent—but he also shows that evil is impotent, that no matter what evil does to poor little Murky, it’s never enough to destroy his will and spirit.

After expressing my initial skepticism regarding Murky Number Seven, a friend assured me that Murky himself was indeed a romantic hero. My first reaction was one of disbelief: What? How could this week, crippled, crybaby be considered one of those larger-than-life, powerful characters who move the world through their will alone? And after a lot of thinking, I realized that Murky is enormous as a person and as a character: because even though Murky vomits his body weight twice a day; even though he is whipped, beaten, poisoned, taunted, derided; even though he’s been mutilated and violated; even though he’s been put into chains for his entire teenage life; even though he’s been through torments that would make Rasputin blush—even after all of these things, he still has the urge to fight and be free. These huge slavers think they’re so tough—but even after all these years, they have yet to kill this tiny little pegasus’s will. The fact that Murky exists shows that evil is impotent. If he’s not a romantic hero, I don’t know who is.

These are the reason that I really wanted to love Murky Number Seven. The premises that Fuzzy have laid down are excellent, the character outlines amazing. With his themes of nature vs. nurture, with his heroes as those fighting to rise from their born positions, with his villains the ones wallowing in complacency, Fuzzy clearly demonstrates himself to be on the premises of volition and judgment, showing that it is these qualities that push life and plot and conflict—the defining characteristics of a romantic writer. To my knowledge, Fuzzy is the only established writer in the Fallout: Equestria fandom on the romantic premise, presenting his own value-judgments and abstractions through his characters, who have been reduced to their essential values. He ought to be praised for crafting such a narrative.

Unfortunately, I realize Fuzzy’s premises more than he himself probably does. The concretes of Murky’s theme are horribly inconsistent, and it’s enough to ruin the story. And when a writer is on the romantic premise, inconsistent or half-realized themes are represented in their concrete forms (more so than on the naturalistic premise, for on the naturalistic premise the values of the author are not as overt). Characters are concretes of values; thus, Murky evinces its inconsistency of values through inconsistent character actions.

Take Brimstone Blitz, Murky Number Seven’s hooker with a heart of gold.*

*Brimstone Blitz isn’t literally a hooker (or, maybe he is, I don’t know; I wouldn’t put it past him), but he’s on the same literary premise: because of his profession, his internal values clash with how he has to conduct himself. This isn’t bad; quite the contrary, it creates some juicy conflicts, which is why the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope is so popular. But to create a conflict, to create moral ambiguity, actions and values and choices need to be consistent, i.e., the reader needs to be able to understand why a person like that would be conflicted as he is now.

In the following scene, Brimstone Blitz introduces himself to Murky, the latter hitherto only referring to the former as “Number Six”:

My struggles were pointless as I felt my hind legs dangle helplessly a good two feet from the floor.  My eyes locked on his as I heard the growl of unhinged madness and anger.  Staring into his gaze, I could see the years of borderline insanity still in there, furious that I had suggested anything other than the harsh truth.

        “I am a raider,” he intoned with barely suppressed anger, “a life, longer than many in the wasteland, dedicated to the pursuit of free madness.  You sat in your guarded little pens while I stormed the wastes.  Had I met you, Murk, I would have used you as a toy like those eejits just tried to.  Aye, I would have plucked those wee wings myself.  I have killed, tortured, raped and broken anypony that wasn't in my clan for longer than you've been alive.  Once, I burned a little buck like you alive on our camp fire for not giving me his young mare friend to have in my tent that night.  I took her anyway.”

        Fear clenched my gut as I stared toward the massive raider.  Those eyes...he was telling the truth.  He was angry, whether at me or himself I couldn't tell.  I felt him draw a long breath before lowering me to the floor and looking the other way from me.

        “You don't simply turn your back on so much agony caused to others, so much fucked up stuff like that and say 'that's it, I'm an ex-raider now.' It doesn't work like that!” . . .

        “So...so why did you stop?”

        His eyes closed as he took a breath, seeking to calm himself, apparently.  I could see the thin line between now and the fury of the raider fought back down.  Did he have that voice in his head?  The raider in his mind?  Just like I had a slave?

        “...the Goddesses are forever watching us, Murk.  Do you believe in them?”

        His voice had dropped, was he embarrassed at his outburst?  I nodded shakily, thankful to see his face slightly relax from the rage that had overcome it.

        “You might say that Fillydelphia gave me some...perspective.  To see what it was like from the other side.  It's a good place for ponies like me, out of the way, forced to work to do something greater in the place of ponies more innocent.  Like you.  But I don't labour just to rebuild Equestria...no.”

        He fixed me with a stare.  He was deadly serious.

        “I accept my slavery.  Only through this place could I ever hope to even begin to atone for the sins I've done in the eyes of the two Goddesses.”

It may not seem like it at a first glance, but this is one of the most romantically consistent scenes in the entire story, and also one of the most memorable, powerful, and wonderful. Through the juxtaposition of the enormous Brimstone Blitz and the tiny Murky, Fuzzy concretes the entire conflict of Brimstone Blitz:

My struggles were pointless as I felt my hind legs dangle helplessly a good two feet from the floor. Saving Murky, and then proceeding to assault him is a perfect concrete of Brimstone’s internal conflict: a raider who desires to be good. In addition, Murky saying that he felt his legs dangle, instead of saying “my legs dangled,” further showing Murky’s perpetual loss of power.

“I could see the years of borderline insanity still in there, furious that I had suggested anything other than the harsh truth.” By using “insanity” and “harsh truth” in the same sentence, Fuzzy gives us another amazing juxtaposition of Brimstone’s conflict. Brimstone does not commit enormities because he’s insane; once again on the romantic premise of volition, Fuzzy says that he’s insane because he chose to commit enormities, and now he’s showing us what happens when that insane pursues the truth. Well-intentioned—but horrifying.

“Once, I burned a little buck like you alive on our camp fire for not giving me his young mare friend to have in my tent that night.  I took her anyway.” Ending this paragraph with these sentences is infinitely more powerful than if Fuzzy were not to have it. If Brimstone had only said “I have killed, tortured, raped,” it would’ve meant nothing, as we don’t know for sure if what Brimstone think is “killing, torturing, and raping” is the same thing as we think it is. But by giving us an example, Fuzzy concretes these otherwise abstract concepts. If there is nothing the reader takes away from that paragraph, it’s this sentence.

 He was angry, whether at me or himself I couldn't tell. Though it could have been presented better than Murky outright explaining it here, the idea is still solid and powerful: he can’t tell what he’s angry at, because Murky has ascribed something good to him but has also deviated from the truth—and Brimstone doesn’t know whether this is Murky’s error or his own.

“You don't simply turn your back on so much agony caused to others, so much fucked up stuff like that and say 'that's it, I'm an ex-raider now.' It doesn't work like that!” This line is actually unnecessary, because we’ve already seen what he talks about and how he’s treating Murky. Even so, it’s still consistent within the scene: in essence, Brimstone is saying that one must take steps to become better. Keep this line in mind for now. I’ll get back to it.

 “I accept my slavery.  Only through this place could I ever hope to even begin to atone for the sins I've done in the eyes of the two Goddesses.” Atone: a powerful word, carrying many implications. Just by speaking this word, Brimstone’s premises are established: he acknowledges what he did was wrong, he desires to right those wrongs, he desires to be forgiven, he desires to change, and he believes that he can change.

It's passages like these that make Murky a gem among fan fictions. Granted, it's not perfect. There are a few things I can complain about; but the things that Fuzzy does well in this passage are so good that all the little things become trivial. The trivial things don't show who Fuzzy is as a writer—the good things show what he is capable of.

Now, did Fuzzy have all these things in mind when he was writing the story? Absolutely not; it would’ve been impossible to get a single sentence down. Rather, he has these subconscious premises he wishes to convey, and they come across in his writing whether he’s aware of them or not.

But I can tell you with certainty that Fuzzy was not aware of these things; because if he were, he would’ve not written the two scenes that follow:

There is a scene after Murky seems like he met a new friend, a fellow slave, someone with whom Murky may be able to trust and someone who might be able to help him in the future—but then the other slave finds out that Murky’s a pegasus, and then tries to kill him. (An excellent scene, making sure that the reader knows that this bigotry is deeply personal within the Fillydelphians. If the reader wasn’t convinced that the world truly hates pegasi after the scene where Murky is paraded around and taunted, he does now.)

Thus, Murky wants Brimstone to help him cut off his own wings. Though it’s immediately apparent to the reader that this won’t help, that this is a bad decision, the reader can understand why Murky would want to do this. Brimstone responds thus:

You're a pegasus, wings don't change that, Murk.  You'll always be one.  Something inside you, your soul, magic centre or whatever.  It's always going to be a pegasus.  Born for the clouds, bound to the open sky and all that other airy nonsense.  It's who you are.”

He leaned closer.  I could have sworn I saw a knowing rise of an eyebrow.

“You don't just turn your back on stuff like that.  It doesn't work that way.”

The reader can easily infer that Brimstone is not talking about Murky and his being a pegasus strictly speaking—he’s only using it as a metaphor to describe a deeper philosophical view. And, strictly speaking, Brimstone has said the same thing he said in the first scene.

The difference here is context.

In the scene quoted before the last, this is Brimstone’s response to Murky asking him if he’s a raider; and Brimstone’s response, in effect, says that he hasn’t atoned long enough for him to say that he’s absolved of his sins. Thus, says Brimstone, it would be wrong for him, at this point in his repentance, to not be referred to as a “raider.”

In this scene just quoted, the line comes across in a different light: in this scene, Brimstone is effectively saying that the role into which one is born strictly defines who he is for the rest of his life.

This above quoted scene contradicts Brimstone’s philosophy of atonement: the desire to change, and the belief that one can and should change who he is. And Murky Number Seven has been telling us up until this point that the role one is born into does not define who he is, nor does it justify or define the choices he can and will make when he gets older:

Brimstone is a born raider who wishes to atone and not be a raider—Brimstone is a hero. Murky is a born slave who fights to be free from slavery—Murky is a hero. Protégé is a born slave turned slaver—Protégé is a villain. Chainlink Shackles is a born slaver who is content to be who he is—Chainlink Shackles is a villain.

If a villain were to drop this line to Murky, I’d understand. But this is completely out of character for Brimstone, the guy who dedicated his life to showing himself and the goddesses that people can change their roles. It also contradicts the message of Murky Number Seven, which says that prejudicing against born roles is wrong.

Now, is there any thematically consonant reason that Brimstone would not want to not help Murky cut off his wings? Absolutely, I can think of a million. But the reason he gives is inconsistent with his character. It throws the previous speech out the window.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Later, when Murky is caught in a pickle and finds a mine he can blow up, killing himself and his captors at the same time, his justification for trying to blow up the mine is: “Well...better dead than enslaved!”

Up to this point, Murky has had many opportunities to kill himself. But every time he decides to bear it, to fight another day—because he firmly believes that, unlike the other slaves whom he sees dying to try to get freedom, he believes in a little bit more tact. In addition, there’s a very memorable and powerful scene where he’s standing on the edge of a building, contemplating whether to just jump off and end it all—and after he decides not to, he’s horrified at how he could have ever considered killing himself in the first place.

Thus, in order to read Murky Number Seven past these parts, the reader has to, whether consciously or subconsciously, pretend Brimstone’s and Murky’s comments never existed. They contradict with everything that came before, and I imagine that they would contradict with everything to come.

This is not the only thing the reader has to ignore. There are a few other incidents that contradict:

The story bills itself with the epigraph Dare to Dream; yet when Murky dreams of LittlePip, his heroine, the reader is supposed to laugh at him for his dreams being wrong and unrealistic about her. Fillydelphia is depicted to be a nightmarish hellhole, with slaves dying every minute; yet, somehow, it manages to be the most productive area of the Equestrian Wasteland.

If daring to dream is the ideal, then why does Fuzzy have said dreams ridiculed? If slavery is truly evil, then why is it depicted as a thriving, productive industry?

These are questions that are never brought up, that are thrown in there between the good parts, leaving the reader scratching his head and wondering how it all fits together. And these are contradictions which require a lot of mental energy for me to ignore; which means that it’s quite fatiguing to read Murky Number Seven, and I have to do it only as mindless escapism.

Which is a shame, really, because when Murky Number Seven wants to be that great romance I so desire, it is. When Fuzzy knows what he’s doing, he can create these scenes that stun and mesmerize, making me shiver long after I’ve put the book down.

The scene that comes to mind is the scene in Chapter Five when Murky has to decide whether to take medicine from a dying mare to help Glimmerlight, or to leave it and let Glimmerlight die.

When I first read the scene, my heart began to race, and I had to check the ebook I was reading to make sure that I was indeed really reading an amateur fiction—a fan fiction of My Little Pony, of all things. No words of mine can accurately praise this set-up. This is a conflict. This is how moral ambiguity should be done. The reader can understand why Murky would be conflicted about this issue—not only that, but this conflict is timeless and unbelievably pertinent to the nature of mankind. At this point, the story is not about pastel-colored ponies; it has long before become a philosophical argument into human morality.

I will even say this: this is a set-up I’d expect from the highest-tier romantic novel. Don’t take this as me blowing steam. Believe me when I say, with full earnestness, as an appreciator of romanticism and literature: this is a conflict I’d expect Victor Hugo or Dostoevsky to write (not with ponies, but you get the idea). This conflict reminded me why I read fiction in the first place. This conflict reminded me why I want to be a writer. To find this in a pony fiction . . . all the more wonderful. If I can ever construct a conflict even a quarter as deep and as powerful as this one, then I will consider myself sucessful.

But, unfortunately, conflict is inseparably tied with plot, and plot is inseparably tied to theme. And though Fuzzy has made the mental connection between conflict and plot (something most professional writers never do), he has not made it between plot and theme. And because of this, it’s not surprising that the conflict resolves itself in the way it does, i.e., a deus e machina results, absolving Murky of the responsibility to make a moral choice*.

*I nearly cried when this happened. I couldn’t believe that Fuzzy could create something so wonderful and then proceed to destroy it.

In conclusion, Murky Number Seven is an unfortunate case—this is a romance that has every reason to be good. Its premises are amazing, its characters are amazing, and the author has an profound ability to craft conflicts that terrify and astound. But because of its inconsistencies, the romance is broken unless the reader ignores them. This is a story that I really, really, really wanted (and want) to like. There’s so much good stuff buried in here. But as it progressed, I found myself unable to make excuses for it.

That’s an example of how otherwise great writing can be ruined by inconsistent premises. Let’s turn our attention to Fallout: Equestria; or, how an inconsistent premise explicitly stated at the beginning can doom an entire novel from the start.

Murky and Fallout: Equestria: though the former is derived from the latter, both were written with their respective authors on completely different philosophies, and this is evident to some extent in their styles. While Fuzzy is on the romantic premise, Kkat was on the naturalist.

Was Kkat really on the naturalistic premise though? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

While romantics like Fuzzy strive to depict abstract values as fully realized characters, naturalists like Kkat strive to create believable, everyday reality and characters; naturalist characters are not homogenous walking concretes of values—rather, they’ve been created with the intent in mind of creating a real person, i.e., someone you could meet on the street.

What is the result of naturalism? Often much smaller characters than their romantic counterparts. They’re often quiet and innocuous; and their problems are very personal, in the sense that they pertain to no one but themselves.

But these schools, romanticism and naturalism, are immiscible. Someone subconsciously writing on the romantic premise but trying to craft a naturalist story will fall flat, and vice-versa.

That being said, let’s get into Fallout: Equestria.

Recently, I translated the first chapter of Fallout: Equestria into Latin for the shits and giggles. If any of you speak a second language, I urge you to translate certain documents for practice from one language to another: not only will it make you more conscious of grammar, but it will make you more aware of author intent, and it will make you a better reader. Translation is not just taking words and changing them into words in the equivalent language: quite often the literal equivalent of a word in another language will carry different connotations then the original, and it is up to you as a translator to make sure the author’s original message gets through preserved (see footnote seven in the Latin translation).

With my translator’s eyes, going over sentence by sentence, I analyzed every sentence for Kkat’s intent. Reading every sentence, I asked myself: “Now Kkat says this, but what does she really mean?” This is the only way to translate.

And I came across two sentences. I almost translated them without thinking, but then I had to stop. I read them. I read them a second time. I read them a third time. Even after the fourth read, I couldn’t believe they were actually there.

This sentences were not merely bad. They were not merely character-breaking. Through these two sentences in the first chapter, Kkat managed to, somehow, undermine everything that could have possibly followed in the story. And unlike the contradictory sentences in Murky, which I can easily believe were just mental derps by Fuzzy and can be ignored without really impacting the rest of the story, these were foundation-setting sentences, the motivators for the entire plot and conflict, such that to ignore these sentences was to ignore the entire story itself.

I hadn’t given them much thought the first time I read them; but if I’d understood them the first time I’d read them, I could’ve told you that Fallout: Equestria was bad before having to read ten chapters of it.

It was doomed from the start:

I’ll admit it now, I’d had a crush on Velvet Remedy for years.  Me [sic] and at least three hundred other ponies [have a crush on her].

Before I go on, stop reading this essay and think about these sentences for a second. Do you see anything wrong with them? Consider LittlePip, consider what she does, consider the plot of Fallout: Equestria, consider where the story goes, consider its theme—consider the story as a whole. Stop reading here and just ask yourself: is this sentence consonant with everything else? Analyze these sentences just like I did a few paragraphs back with Murky Number Seven. Look at each word and ask yourself its implications, and what that must say about Kkat and her philosophy. Do that, and then come back.

Done?

To understand why these sentences break the story, you must first understand the characters and the context. LittlePip is chooses, in the face of objection, to leave the stable for the purpose of rescuing Velvet Remedy. Despite objections from her overmare, she still sets out with a steadfastness inexorable. LittlePip is a character driven very firmly by her morals: she will often do things without thought in the face of others objecting if her morals tell her to do so. If she feels passionately about something, there’s nothing to stop her from doing it. The entire plot of Fallout: Equestria revolves around the passion and will of this moral figure.

That being said, let’s see why these two sentences, in themselves, break the entire story:

I’ll admit it: Here, LittlePip says that her feelings for Velvet Remedy are something to be admitted, as if they were something that brought her shame, a thought that she’d rather not keep in the foremost part of her mind due to some unmentioned factor. Why? The reason is never given.

I’ll admit it now: With the use of the word now, LittlePip declares her feelings to be a mere afterthought, something not important enough to mention any earlier than where it is now. This clause, by itself, is a complete admission of moral weakness and insecurity when it comes to her feelings about Velvet Remedy.

I’d had a crush on Velvet Remedy for years: The use of the word crush here implies the juvenile, immature, and the ephemeral. A crush is something that inherently carries very little weight, one of those passing, uncontrollable feelings that have no more impact in our lives than breathing.

Me [sic] and at least three hundred other ponies: Here, LittlePip is flat-out admitting that her feelings are nothing unique, nor special. This is further stressed by the word least, i.e., saying that her feelings are so commonplace that everyone has them.

What is the result of every single word of these sentences? The lowering of LittlePip’s highest value. Everything in this sentence makes the reader convinced that this value LittlePip has, i.e., her love and admiration of Velvet Remedy, is inconsequential.

But LittlePip’s feelings for her, Velvet Remedy, are not inconsequential. Velvet Remedy leaving the stable is what drives LittlePip to leave it herself, even when others object. Moreover, her feelings for Velvet Remedy, because they’re actually what make her leave the stable, is the basis for the entire story.

It is a common pitfall for naturalist writers to hesitate in giving their characters, especially young characters, any radical feelings or moral values. And even if the writer does, if these values or feelings are held by the protagonist, he won’t be depicted as “superlative,” i.e., surpassing in moral admirability the feelings of anyone else. The supposition is that what some (or what I, the author) feel isn’t “right” or “wrong” or “better,” but just “different.” Naturalists also don’t believe in homogenous, completely noble human beings: if a character is a hero, he will have a grievous flaw that will drag him down from the pedestal he deserves; if he’s a villain, he will have a morally understandable motive that can be sympathized with simultaneously with motivations of the protagonist. “To make a hero feel real, you have to give him flaws and vices,” is the naturalist argument often trotted out.

But I state here, firmly and passionately, that it is these flaws, vices, and rashness in thinking that make LittlePip feel fake. I state here that absolutely no young woman would abandon her home, her family, her friends, risk life and limb, be willing to sustain injuries and kill scores of people—all to go after someone toward whom she calls her feelings, as a passing thought, a “crush,” which she thinks three hundred others share. It is the above quoted line that makes LittlePip lose all the poignancy and weight that she otherwise may have had.

In addition, as someone who loves heroes, as someone who has a desire to see the intransigent best doing the best when everyone else is doing wrong, as someone who ascribes a great deal of worth and merit to hero-worship, this line is morally repugnant to me. Because, in fact, what LittlePip feels toward Velvet Remedy is not what three hundred other ponies feel. If that were true, if three hundred other ponies felt the exact same way toward Velvet Remedy as she, LittlePip, did, then there would’ve been three hundred other ponies trying to get out to go save her.

To downplay her feelings, as LittlePip, the protagonist and hero, does, to lower such a passionate, unique, powerful, plot-moving feeling: as an appreciator of romanticism, I find this unspeakable.

So why? Why would Kkat write such an insipid, character- and plot-breaking line?

It is my speculation that though Kkat said this, she actually felt the exact opposite, whether she  admits it to herself or not. Though Kkat spends the entire first chapter telling us how inconsequential and average LittlePip is, she, Kkat, didn’t think LittlePip was average at all; rather, I think Kkat liked the idea of a young, intransigent hero; she liked the idea that the power of love and hero-worship can bring out the best in a man and can overcome obstacles that would otherwise seem unassailable. I think Kkat liked LittlePip. I think Kkat thought that LittlePip and her feelings were better than many, many others.

But, furthermore, I speculate* that Kkat, subconsciously on the romantic premise, lacked the conviction that her judgment was right in this case. She doubted that her romantic view point was tenable.  So, consciously writing on the naturalistic premise, but really not on it at all, she, Kkat, deliberately lowered LittlePip, hoping that by giving her, LittlePip, this immature and ephemeral viewpoint and motivation, she, Kkat, could keep part of her romantic ideals while still making the character feel “real.” But the result of these inconsistencies is a character that feels fake, flat, and ultimately unreal, unbelievable, and untenable.

*I feel so certainly in these speculations, that I don’t even consider them speculations. Considering where Fallout: Equestria goes, considering that LittlePip is one of the only few in the world who are motivated to do good solely for the sake of good, who want to bring justice to injustice solely because it ought to be done—considering all this, considering where the story goes, Fallout: Equestria is indeed supposed to be about the nobility of heroism.

And, indeed, the reader will not be surprised to find that this lowering of a hero, her values, and her pleasures is not an isolated incident. LittlePip, this “hero” who’s supposed to have this inexorable will, becomes a helpless, unwilling victim to a drug addiction. In addition, I’m told that later in the story, LittlePip’s lover and worshiper frequently takes pleasure in embarrassing her hero—by publicly describing their acts of love in humorous, trivial, light-hearted tones. I will let these incidents speak for themselves.

To conclude this argument, I’d like to stress that all of these story- and character-breaking things are not bad things in themselves. Even if one may disagree philosophically with them, these things can consistently contribute to a story’s theme and message. The examples I’ve described are only bad here because they are inconsistent with their respective stories’ themes.

Inconsistency: that is my main point. A story that is inconsistent, no matter what it preaches, will not stand.

Fallout: Equestria, in its beginning, really never had a chance. When I think of the case of Murky Number Seven, or how an otherwise profound story with a deep message, crafted by an author with an enormous amount of skill, could be brought down because of a few inconsistencies and naturalistic pitfalls, I’m struck with a deep sorrow. If the faults in Murky are due to the fact that it’s a romantic novel extrapolated from an ostensibly naturalistic novel, i.e., if the faults in it are due to the fact that Kkat and her naturalism set the precedent, declared that naturalism and its implications is the only proper way to write a story; and Fuzzy, a romantic writer, deriving his themes from it, felt that he had no choice but to adhere to such things—if these things are true, then so much the worse. It truly does pain me to see Fuzzy struggle with these conflicting concepts, trying desperately to reconcile them and still be true to himself, still believing that he can truly do it—when he doesn’t realize that trying to hold inconsistencies together is a losing battle. Murky Number Seven is already longer than Atlas Shrugged and still has not even begun its third act, and I believe that Fuzzy’s inability to consolidate and realize his values on this accord, something that he may only be able to placate by constantly switching back and forth between the two in the narrative (thus breaking it further), accounts for why it’s so long.

But should Fuzzy learn from his mistakes, should he start writing afresh, should he create a new world where he is the unilateral ruler and king, where the characters he creates are dictated only by his own mind and not influenced by the will of anyone else, should he start writing again—you can be sure that I’d wake up at midnight to buy the first copy of his hardcover romance.

Integral Archer · 1,269 views · Report

Comments ( 15 )

#1 · 46w, 5d ago · · ·

So there aren't any comments here, (yet,) but somehow your blog ended up on FoE's Reddit and there's two comments over there right now.

#2 · 46w, 5d ago · 5 · ·

I think you are profoundly mistaken about the meaning of that phrase, and how it reflects on Lil'Pip's character and the larger FoE plot.

The thing is, what that sentence says is that what she (and indeed, the rest of Stable 2) feels towards Velvet is more of an Idol worship than true love. Thus, she leaving the Stable doesn't makes her heroic, sacrificing peace and stability in order to rescue her lost love, but instead foolish, seeing the Wasteland as an escape from the drudgery of the Stable, from which she would return a hero, not by saving Velvet, but by returning her to the Stable (as monomythic a plot as you can get). Indeed until chapter 5 (after meeting Calamity) there is no indication that Lil'Pip even understands the negative consequences of her leaving the Stable, seeing the Wasteland as a place where she can play the Hero and show off. Everything comes crashing down when she finally meets Velvet in chapter 7.

Chapter 7 spoilers: Velvet was never in danger. She left of her own volition in order to help the Wasteland, and Lil'Pip journey is meaningless, and almost harmful to Velvet's purposes. From this point on, the story isn't about Pip being a Hero, but instead becoming a Hero, and gaining the characteristics necessary to become that hero, mainly thanks to her experiences with the Memory orbs and the (deceased) Mane 6. It isn't the Hero Journey, but the Journey to a Hero.

I haven't got around to reading MN7, but if you are interested in a FoE fic with a proper care for that greater thematic structure, you should consider reading Project Horizons, which is essentially a story about what it means to be moral in an amoral world, and that takes great care in establishing that in light of each of the main characters, and the world itself.

#3 · 46w, 5d ago · 5 · ·

While I may lack the literary background to argue on your level, I must disagree with your assessment of Littlepip. What I feel you have missed, although it seems simplistic, is that Fallout Equestria is a first person story. Littlepip downplaying her own heroic nature is a well established part of her character. Little Pip, through her narration is telling the reader that she's no hero, while at the same time showing through her actions that the opposite is true.

I’ll admit it now, I’d had a crush on Velvet Remedy for years.  Me [sic] and at least three hundred other ponies [have a crush on her].

Now if Kkat had written that in Omniscient narrator, we would have to take it as fact, but as you yourself point out

...LittlePip’s feelings for her, Velvet Remedy, are not inconsequential. Velvet Remedy leaving the stable is what drives LittlePip to leave it herself, even when others object. Moreover, her feelings for Velvet Remedy, because they’re actually what make her leave the stable, is the basis for the entire story.

Little Pip's narration is far from infallible, and her style of narration is another vehicle through which her character is developed. This is particularly evident in during the Party Time Mintals subplot.

“But I have to be careful with you,” I said to the Party-Time Mint-als in my saddlebags. “I can’t let Calamity or Velvet Remedy get to thinking I have a problem with you. I don’t want to lose my friends because they think I’m addicted.”

While Little Pip is obviously showing through her actions that she is addicted to Mint-als, she, at the same time, is telling you she isn't.

So, while Little Pip may not be a full blown unreliable narrator, she certainly tells the story through the lens of her own bias, and with the inconsistencies of her own memory.

#4 · 46w, 5d ago · 2 · ·

>>1381683

I should hope so. I posted it. :rainbowlaugh:

>>1381787

I believe the "desiring to play the hero" thing, but I never got the feeling that it really was a prime motivator to bring Velvet back to the stable. Pip wasn't particularly liked by many people. I never felt that it was the stable dwellers that she wanted to please; rather, it was Velvet herself. And you said that everything up to Chapter 7 was meaningless—so much the worse. As a reader, there's nothing I hate more than to be told explicitly, or implicitly, that my time has been wasted.

>>1381826

You misunderstand me. I don't believe that it were "a crush," like LittlePip said. I believe it were much more than a crush. But unlike the drug thing (which, from appearances, looks like a great way of dramatizing an addict's denial), the "crush" line, unlike the drug line (which is dramatized)—the crush line is narrated to the reader. You're right, LittlePip doesn't actually feel that way—thus, the line destroys her earnestness as a character; and, unlike the drug line which is dramatizing a conflict, serves only to lower in the reader's eyes a prime motivating factor of the story. At best, assuming the line is false, the line serves the reader to see LittlePip as regarding herself remarkably average and self-effacing (when she, as a hero, is not that at all, and to claim otherwise is exceptionally dishonest); at worst, it makes her seem shallow and insipid.

#5 · 46w, 5d ago · 5 · ·

>>1382620

You misunderstand me. I don't believe that it were "a crush," like LittlePip said. I believe it were much more than a crush.

No you misunderstand me. I know you don't think it's "a crush" I even included a quote to demonstrate that fact. My point was that unreliable narrator, is a technique and not an inconsistency. In this example Kkat has used the technique effectively to show the meek, self-effacing nature of the protagonist whilst simultaneously showcasing their embarrassment over their romantic attraction. The embarrassment helps to convey her youth and inexperience, and to further alienate her from the stable population. That one line holds a lot of meaning and is instrumental in developing her character.

You're right, LittlePip doesn't actually feel that way—thus, the line destroys her earnestness as a character

At best, assuming the line is false, the line serves the reader to see LittlePip as regarding herself remarkably average and self-effacing (when she, as a hero, is not that at all, and to claim otherwise is exceptionally dishonest); at worst, it makes her seem shallow and insipid

So you mean to tell me that any character that suffers from self doubt, any character that can't give a completely unbiased assessment of themself is being shallow and insipid? Self-effacing heroes are so common that it's a cliche, a heroic trope. A tip of your hat and and an "I just did what any good person would do." is expected when you successfully resuscitate someone or pull them from a burning building. From a naturalistic perspective accurate self-assessment is an unusual and highly prized trait. Of course Littlepip doesn't consider herself a hero. To do so would be the height of arrogance and completely stunt her growth as a character. She's a dynamic naturalistic flawed hero, not a static romantic paragon, and that's what allows the reader to relate to her.

#6 · 46w, 5d ago · · ·

>>1382723

In this example Kkat has used the technique effectively to show the meek, self-effacing nature of the protagonist

And this is the problem. Pip is anything but meek (a thousand dead raiders between her and Velvet will testify to that). She's anything but self-effacing; she ascribes a great deal of value to her morals and values, such that the slightest affront will set them off (and when it comes to her other values, she doesn't efface her reasons for taking action; find me a passage in the story where she says "Slavery might actually be an okay thing").

That line was clearly a naturalistic apology for an otherwise strong character. And, everything else considered about Pip, it doesn't hold. After that line, I can't believe such a person would exist or be tenable.

So you mean to tell me that any character that suffers from self doubt, any character that can't give a completely unbiased assessment of themself is being shallow and insipid?

If such that that assessment doesn't make sense to me as a reader; if such that that assessment provides a conflict that, considering everything I know about the character, doesn't make any sense as to why he'd be conflicted; if such that that assessment serves only to lower; if such that that conflict does not provide a meaningful dissonance and conflict, and only serves to "make her a believable, immature teenager"? Then, yes, it's shallow.

Of course Littlepip doesn't consider herself a hero. To do so would be the height of arrogance and completely stunt her growth as a character

Pip is indeed arrogant, bombastic, and impassioned (at least at the beginning). Like I said, her arrogance (or, rather, determination) is what drives her to cut through raider after raider when most would've just paled. She cut through raider after raider for Velvet—yet her feelings toward her are, evinced by this line, the equivalent to a shrug (and modest, and false—she clearly feels more than a crush, again evinced by all the dead raiders between her and Velvet).

This cognitive dissonance is one that makes no sense. I can't understand why someone like that would have so conflicting feelings an actions in this case.

She's a dynamic naturalistic flawed hero, not a static romantic paragon, and that's what allows the reader to relate to her.

Not to this reader. This reader finds her probably one of the most unrelateable he's ever read.

#7 · 46w, 4d ago · 2 · ·

>>1383514

find me a passage in the story where she says "Slavery might actually be an okay thing"

Alright, page 704:

>>Fallout Equestria

I found myself conflicted. I seethed at the treatment of the slave ponies, which amounted to nothing short of slow and torturous murder. And yet… I understood Red Eye’s goal. Maybe not all of it. The whole Unity thing was getting downright creepy. But the progress? The striving to make the world a better place at any cost? The same drive had left me flank-deep in blood, and I was not apologetic for it.

Red Eye will put you to work doing things we probably should be working together towards anyway. (Although by choice and in safer conditions!) Me? I’ll put a bullet through your head if you are a raping, murdering blight on ponykind. In both cases, we had decided that ponies who don’t choose to live their lives the right way had forfeited their right to live freely, if at all.

>>1383514

That line was clearly a naturalistic apology for an otherwise strong character. And, everything else considered about Pip, it doesn't hold. After that line, I can't believe such a person would exist or be tenable.

If you don't think a person can be socially awkward and still kill swaths of people in a moral outrage you haven't been paying attention.

>>1383514

Pip is indeed arrogant, bombastic, and impassioned (at least at the beginning). Like I said, her arrogance (or, rather, determination) is what drives her to cut through raider after raider when most would've just paled. She cut through raider after raider for Velvet—yet her feelings toward her are, evinced by this line, the equivalent to a shrug (and modest, and false—she clearly feels more than a crush, again evinced by all the dead raiders between her and Velvet).

This cognitive dissonance is one that makes no sense. I can't understand why someone like that would have so conflicting feelings an actions in this case.

I don't know why you're still attributing her killing the slavers to her love fore Velvet Remedy. It's clearly a separate issue. She kills the slavers, because they're slavers and she hates slavery.

>>Fallout Equestria

I knew this was foalish, but where there were slavers, there were slaves in need of rescue. I knew part of me was just trying to live up to my overblown reputation; but I’d also been a captive of slavers, if for only a few hours, and I couldn’t just ignore the fact that there were ponies up there who needed somepony to care enough to try and help them.

She even has an argument with Velvet Remedy over it once she finds her. Clearly she's not doing it for Velvet's sake.

>>Fallout Equestria

“It’s different!”

“Oh?” she challenged, “How?”

Because these are slavers who are killing people and selling others into slavery and death, even foals! And the zebras were just… the zebras just wiped out our cities. I stomped at the ground. Okay, maybe I didn’t have any logical reason why this was any different, but

it felt different.

“Look,” I tried reasonably, “These slaver ponies… when you save one

of them, you’re making it possible for them to hurt and kill other

ponies. Destroy lives. The slaves you heal? They’re being sold into

horrible work that ends up killing them. The slavers are just using

you so those poor ponies survive the trip into hell.”

#8 · 46w, 4d ago · · 2 ·

>>1384243

Not one part in that quoted paragraph comes close to LP saying that slavery per se is a good thing. She says that slavery is flat-out wrong, and never deviates from that. She understands the root of Red Eye's goals, but she doesn't once say that his methods might be okay.

E.g. One can say communists have good intentions without actually saying that communist methods are good.

If you don't think a person can be socially awkward and still kill swaths of people in a moral outrage you haven't been paying attention.

That is not what I said. I said that I don't think a person who has the capability to take radical actions when he's morally determined would ascribe so little thought to those morals in the first place. Yet this is indeed—and this is the thesis of my essay—what LP does when she says that her feelings for Velvet, the feelings that make her take radical action in the first place; and it makes everything else, the character, all her further moral outrage and steadfastness, unbelievable and implausible.

#9 · 46w, 4d ago · 4 · ·

>>1384804

Not one part in that quoted paragraph comes close to LP saying that slavery per se is a good thing.

You're moving the goal posts, you asked:

find me a passage in the story where she says "Slavery might actually be an okay thing"

If LP isn't having a moment of doubt, why is she so conflicted? Why is she drawing parallels between herself and Red Eye?

That is not what I said. I said that I don't think a person who has the capability to take radical actions when he's morally determined would ascribe so little thought to those morals in the first place.

What does love have to do with morals? Where's the disconnect between being a naive lovesick teenager who abandons her home and becoming galvanized in moral purpose when confronted with the atrocities of the wasteland?

#10 · 46w, 4d ago · · ·

Why is she drawing parallels between herself and Red Eye?

Because they're both motivated to do what they think is right, both motivated to make the wasteland a better place. LP still abhors Red Eye's method (slavery) and not once says it might be an okay thing to do to anybody.

What does love have to do with morals?

Absolutely everything. A moral code tells one what it is right for him to do and what it is wrong for him to do. A moral code will tell him who is right to love and who is wrong to love. A moral code will tell him how to act in regard to that person whom he loves.

Where's the disconnect between being a naive lovesick teenager who abandons her home and becoming galvanized in moral purpose when confronted with the atrocities of the wasteland?

Nothing. But I don't believe for a second that such a "lovesick teenager" who would and does become "galvanized in a moral purpose" would call her lovesickness a "crush shared by three hundred others."

#11 · 45w, 6d ago · 13 · ·

Someone pointed this essay out to me, so I figured that I would drop by.  It is nice to see someone attempting to put so much thought and analysis into the stories they read.

Unfortunately, in this case, you simply haven't read enough of the story to form accurate conclusions.  Your analysis, at least in the case of Fallout: Equestria, is fundamentally flawed.  This is, in part, because you don't grasp the themes of the story -- something unsurprising as you have read so little of it --  and thus you cannot accurately determine inconsistency with a theme.  Likewise, you do not understand the character of Littlepip, and you do not have the insight to properly analyze the context surrounding the passage of contention.  (Again, while the former is simple misunderstanding on your part, the latter is at least partially due to truths about her life in the Stable that are not revealed until much later.)

Is the "nobility of heroism" a major theme of the story?  Yes insomuch as heroism is portrayed as noble, and the need of heroes is a major theme of the story.  But not in the romanticized way you speak of it with phrases like "the power of love and hero-worship" and "inexorable will".  Fallout: Equestria portrays heroism as something to aspire to; Littlepip is a pony striving towards that ideal, not an embodiment of it.  

More importantly, you have missed that this is but one of the major themes in play.   Another, perhaps more vital than heroism, is the nature of virtues.  The story explores how important virtues are, how frail and easily warped they can be, and how friendship can act as a guide and bulwark against the forces that would corrupt them.  A third theme is the classic danger that good intentions can lead to the most harmful of results.  And the one I suspect will be most offensive to your ideology: sometimes, the right thing to do isn't the heroic thing to do.  Sometimes, to make the happy ending possible for others, you need to be willing to abandon being the hero and do things that will make you reviled -- to be the villain of the piece.  All of these themes interweave and play off of each other throughout the story.

Allow me to go through the passage you hare hung up on with you in order to assist your understanding.  Fair warning: this will include spoilers.

I’ll admit it: Here, LittlePip says that her feelings for Velvet Remedy are something to be admitted, as if they were something that brought her shame, a thought that she’d rather not keep in the foremost part of her mind due to some unmentioned factor. Why? The reason is never given.

Correction: the reason is not given yet.  

Like many who "fall in love" with their idols, Littlepip didn't truly know Velvet Remedy.  She had built a mental construct of her idol.  She wasn't in love with the actual person.  Instead, she had romantic daydreams about the pony she imagined Velvet Remedy to be.

Yes, this is something to be admitted.  Littlepip, as of the telling of this story, has done a lot of growing up.  She now recognizes the nature of the feelings she had for what they were.  She admits, to others but most importantly to herself, that her feelings were nothing more than a crush.

I’ll admit it now: With the use of the word now, LittlePip declares her feelings to be a mere afterthought, something not important enough to mention any earlier than where it is now. This clause, by itself, is a complete admission of moral weakness and insecurity when it comes to her feelings about Velvet Remedy.

Again, you made an inaccurate assessment based on not having read the story.  By using the word now, Littlepip is showing that she has grown and her ability to recognize this has changed between the time she is telling the story and the time being depicted.  

During the course of the second arc of the story, Littlepip grows to know Velvet Remedy -- the real one -- and become friends with her.  The romantic illusions are shattered and replaced with a true friendship.  By the twenty-fifth chapter, Littlepip has come to terms with this, and has finally reached the point where she can not only admit her earlier foalishness, but take comfort in what has replaced it.  

I’d had a crush on Velvet Remedy for years: The use of the word crush here implies the juvenile, immature, and the ephemeral. A crush is something that inherently carries very little weight, one of those passing, uncontrollable feelings that have no more impact in our lives than breathing.

Littlepip calls it a crush to make this point.  She knows that her feelings were a juvenile fantasy, neither actual love nor directed towards an actual person.

But LittlePip’s feelings for her, Velvet Remedy, are not inconsequential. Velvet Remedy leaving the stable is what drives LittlePip to leave it herself, even when others object. Moreover, her feelings for Velvet Remedy, because they’re actually what make her leave the stable, is the basis for the entire story.

You have severely misinterpreted both Littlepip's character and the basis for the story.  Granted, you have read less than a tenth of the story.  But even giving leeway for that, I cannot quite fathom how you analyzed what you have read so badly.  (Although I will make a guess below.)

But first, let my correct the primary misconception that has caused all of your speculation and analysis to fail disastrously:

Littlepip's crush was not the motivating factor for her leaving the Stable.  It was not her "highest value", nor was it a virtue of her character.  It was, in fact, quite the opposite.  Littlepip's crush was the character flaw that blinded her, allowing her to be manipulated in the first place.

Even Littlepip did not believe she was leaving the Stable because she was in love.  Her conscious motivation was to fix a problem -- she would rather act, sacrificing her own safety and security, than do nothing and face a life of having been the cause but not part of the solution.

Subconsciously, she was motivated by a combination of her Special Talent (which I will not reveal here) and one of her most driving personality traits, the latter being curiosity.  Littlepip is not a character driven by love; she is a character driven by the need to make things right and by the need to explore and discover... something that was utterly stifled in the world she lived in.  Curiosity's role may surprise you, but it shouldn't.  Consider that she didn't understand how anyone could get lost in a Stable, despite the fact that it occasionally happened.  What does this say about the level to which she explored the place?  Consider that the direction she naturally went in exploring new talents: lockpicking.  Even from the Prelude, Littlepip unintentionally reveals the influence this trait as had on her all her life.

It is the subconscious motivators that overwhelm the relatively weak bonds holding Littlepip to the Stable.  These are more than sufficient to push her to abandon a home where she feels unwanted, unproductive and ultimately hopeless.  To abandon her family, which consists only of a mother whom she feels disconnected from already, and her friends, of whom she has none.  Combined with her virtue (also not revealed here), these motivators make her leaving of safety and the first step into the unknown almost a foregone conclusion.  Her crush was, at most, something that she could, in the beginning, mentally point a hoof at in an attempt to justify what she was doing.

In short, this was not an "insipid character- and plot-breaking line".  Rather, it was the exact opposite of that.

I speculate that in your subconscious desire to romanticize the character, you missed several very important character-revealing passages and de-emphasized elements you should have paid more attention to.  I suspect that you have, quite ironically, ruined the story for yourself because of your own subconscious premise.  As an " appreciator of romanticism", you want Littlepip's motivations to be founded in the romantic, and take offense to the shattering of romantic illusion.

To downplay her feelings, as LittlePip, the protagonist and hero, does, to lower such a passionate, unique, powerful, plot-moving feeling: as an appreciator of romanticism, I find this unspeakable.

Except that the feeling wasn't passionate.  It wasn't unique.  It wasn't powerful.  And it wasn't plot-motivating.  It was exactly what three hundred other ponies were feeling.  It did not serve to fuel Littlepip's heroism.  It only served to make her weak and desperate in other parts of her life -- to act as a barrier to friendship and a chance at love.  A barrier that she would have to overcome, and as that line foreshadows, eventually did.  And that... all of that... was not what you wanted to read.  You were philosophically against core elements of the story, but you couldn't perceive and handle that.  So you inserted passion and power where there was none.  You tried to imbue plot-motivation where it didn't belong.  And that is why your speculations and analysis went tragically far from the mark.

Still, an "A for effort".

In the end, it was not Fallout: Equestria, but rather your reading of it, that never had a chance.

#12 · 45w, 6d ago · 1 · ·

What insightful essay.

You made all of these conclusions on stories you have not yet finished?

Perhaps a reanalysis should be done upon completion of the stories. After all, it would be like tasting a pie without biting it. How do you know what it tastes like when you never take a bite?

I have learned a bit.

Thank you.

#13 · 32w, 1d ago · · ·

I seem to be late to the party, but I find this a fascinating comparison of the two stories, and a good example of some much needed dissent in a sub-community awash with consensus.

#14 · 32w, 1d ago · 2 · ·

There are a lot of great insights in this post, but also a strange blindness to your own admitted prejudices in the section on Fallout: Equestria, in which you elaborated on the distinction between romantic and naturalistic characters, and then complained at length that Fallout: Equestria uses naturalistic characters.

This isn’t bad; quite the contrary, it creates some juicy conflicts, which is why the Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope is so popular. But to create a conflict, to create moral ambiguity, actions and values and choices need to be consistent, i.e., the reader needs to be able to understand why a person like that would be conflicted as he is now.

I don’t believe the hooker with the heart of gold trope posits conflict or moral ambiguity within the hooker. It’s about the hypocrisy of society, which condemns the hooker for violating arbitrary social rules. The trope shows that those rules have nothing to do with having a good moral character. It shows that society doesn’t value virtue, and “morals” aren’t about morality.

But this is completely out of character for Brimstone, the guy who dedicated his life to showing himself and the goddesses that people can change their roles. It also contradicts the message of Murky Number Seven, which says that prejudicing against born roles is wrong.

Very good point; but this may be deliberate. The main obstacle to Brimstone’s reformation may be that he doesn’t think it’s possible. (I haven’t read the story.)

If slavery is truly evil, then why is it depicted as a thriving, productive industry?

Why would something being evil prevented from being a thriving, productive industry? I haven’t read Murky, but this is one of the themes of Fallout: Equestria. Red Eye’s slave labor camp is evil, but it’s working, when nothing else is. Red Eye, one of the main villains of FoE, is also one of the only characters who cares and still has hope for the future. I think kkat meant it to be unclear whether Red Eye’s actions are in fact evil, or justified in the long run. If you view FoE through the lens of conventional morality, you’re going to bounce off it without understanding anything.

Murky has to decide whether to take medicine from a dying mare to help Glimmerlight, or to leave it and let Glimmerlight die. ...a deus e machina results, absolving Murky of the responsibility to make a moral choice.

That is bad literature, very bad; but it isn’t a departure from theme. It’s the presentation of a false theme, and by false I mean “incorrect”. This is the norm. A few months ago, I was watching one of Blueshift’s streams of a Dr. Who episode, and they set up a trolley-car conflict where the doctor would have to hand over an innocent man to be killed, or else an entire town of moderately innocent people would be killed. And I threw my hands up in disgust and stopped watching, because I knew the writers would resolve it by having the Doctor think of something clever, or in some other way resolve the issue with no losers. (And they did.) That’s because the theme being presented is that the world is set up so that morality works. Virtue is rewarded, good and evil are clear choices, and the world will magically resolve any situations in which they are not at first their choices. This is what most people believe and what most stories preach. Subverting this is what makes Fallout: Equestria so unusual.

While romantics like Fuzzy strive to depict abstract values as fully realized characters, naturalists like Kkat strive to create believable, everyday reality and characters; naturalist characters are not homogenous walking concretes of values—rather, they’ve been created with the intent in mind of creating a real person, i.e., someone you could meet on the street.

But these schools, romanticism and naturalism, are immiscible. Someone subconsciously writing on the romantic premise but trying to craft a naturalist story will fall flat, and vice-versa.

That’s a great insight.

Through these two sentences in the first chapter, Kkat managed to, somehow, undermine everything that could have possibly followed in the story.

Not in the least. LittlePip is just starting her character arc. It would be bad for her to be fully-developed at the start of her arc. Furthermore, you just said she was a realistic character. Now you’re complaining that she isn’t a consistent romantic character. Also see the comments by >>1381787, >>1381826, and >>1395699 . Well, you did, but you bounced off them:

As a reader, there's nothing I hate more than to be told explicitly, or implicitly, that my time has been wasted.

It wasn’t wasted. It showed LittlePip’s initial immaturity.

You're right, LittlePip doesn't actually feel that way—thus, the line destroys her earnestness as a character; and, unlike the drug line which is dramatizing a conflict, serves only to lower in the reader's eyes a prime motivating factor of the story.

It doesn’t destroy her earnestness either in the past (when she acted on her crush), nor in the present (when she knows better). Nor would it matter, if it did. The fact that you use the word “destroy” instead of “diminish” or “tarnish” shows you demand heroes who are pure, mere abstractions of simplistic virtues rather than real people.

I state here that absolutely no young woman would abandon her home, her family, her friends, risk life and limb, be willing to sustain injuries and kill scores of people—all to go after someone toward whom she calls her feelings, as a passing thought, a “crush,” which she thinks three hundred others share.

You’re wrong. Read the newspaper. Talk to people. This happens every day.

Because, in fact, what LittlePip feels toward Velvet Remedy is not what three hundred other ponies feel. If that were true, if three hundred other ponies felt the exact same way toward Velvet Remedy as she, LittlePip, did, then there would’ve been three hundred other ponies trying to get out to go save her.

Now you’re playing semantic games. When LittlePip says ”Me and at least three hundred other ponies [have a crush on her]”, she didn’t say that they all felt the exact same way; she didn’t say whether in her private ontology feelings encompass the resulting actions; she didn’t say or know whether she was a reliable narrator on that point.

In addition, as someone who loves heroes, as someone who has a desire to see the intransigent best doing the best when everyone else is doing wrong, as someone who ascribes a great deal of worth and merit to hero-worship, this line is morally repugnant to me.

I read that as, “I love only romantic characters, and kkat successfully confronted me on this point.”

Velvet Remedy leaving the stable is what drives LittlePip to leave it herself, even when others object.

A realistic character never does anything out of a single motivation. FoE spent a lot of time establishing LittlePip’s other motivation for leaving the Stable; the entire the first chapter, if I recall.

I feel so certainly in these speculations, that I don’t even consider them speculations.

That’s a giant flashing red warning light that you have run up against something that you’re unwilling to think about.

LittlePip, this “hero” who’s supposed to have this inexorable will, becomes a helpless, unwilling victim to a drug addiction.

Here again you’re explicitly saying, “I don’t like naturalistic characters.” Since you are aware of the differences between them, and the different ideologies behind them, you should admit that you’re just pushing an ideological agenda here, not critiquing flaws in a story.

#15 · 31w, 6d ago · 1 · ·

LittlePip, this “hero” who’s supposed to have this inexorable will, becomes a helpless, unwilling victim to a drug addiction.

I'm way late to this party, but there's another important point I think which comes up as far as Fallout and drug use goes.

In Fallout, some of the drugs actually make you a lot better. In real life, there are essentially two classes of drugs - steroids and stimulants - which make you "better", and steroids only work in the long term, not in the short. Almost everyone has been under the influence of caffeine... which really doesn't make much of a difference honestly. Stronger stimulants, such as amphetamines, have more noticeable effects.

What Fallout does is essentially take these drugs and amp them up, so that they make a huge difference but have rapid and rather dramatic consequences on your health and are quite addictive, not only because they actually have an in-game addiction mechanic, but also because you, as the player, want to abuse them because, well, they make you awesome. I haven't actually played fallout 3, but I can tell you in the first two fallout games, the drugs can make a pretty big difference... but I personally almost never used them because they were too scary.

LilPip is in the situation where using these drugs helps her out in numerous situations. Not only is she growing addicted to them, but she increasingly feels she absolutely needs them to survive in the face of the hostile world and to save people. Indeed, there is ambiguity over how true this is - the drugs actually ARE powerful, and really DO help save her bacon several times. But nothing she does will matter if they destroy her before she can actually accomplish anything.

So while the drug addiction is nasty, it is not like someone getting addicted to, say, heroin, and more comparable to a stimulant addiction, except amped up to eleven because the effect is even more beneficial, and the side effects even faster to accumulate, and she's in a very deadly world.

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