[interview] The Chatoyaverse · 6:49am
Let's face it. I will never be in the Pony Fiction Vault. Nothing I have created will ever go there, and I will never be on the front page of Equestria Daily. RBDash47 will never interview me, and nothing I do will ever be considered part of Pony Celebrity. But, you know, I can pretend. After all, isn't that what we do here, pretend?
Pretend along with me, just for fun, and enter a strange parallel universe where the Conversion Bureau wasn't the red-headed bastard stepchild of pony fiction. A world where more than a half a million words of sincere effort would not be spit upon by trolls, but would be revered by vast numbers of ordinary fans, rather than just a small cadre of the superintelligent. In short... Bizarro World.
Join me now for my dream interview about the induction of all of my work into the Pony Fiction Vault, one day in Alternate Universe Bizarro Land....
NEVER posted to the Vault on 1/34/3012.
Today's Bizarro Vault entry falls into the "Mythos Building" category, providing a vast and rich exploration of an entire sub-genre (Season 2 canon be damned). Chatoyance's numerous works span a wide range of tones, moods, and complex situations.
[Adventure, Slice-of-Life, Comedy, Romance, Alternate Universe] • 620,667 + words
The Chatoyaverse explores virtually every aspect of the Conversion Bureau Mythos.
Where do you live?
What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)
I am a co-wife to three spouses, a kind of house-mother if you will. A homemaker. I also do art, write, and have many hobbies.
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
Sometime in the September of 2011, I came across a reference to the concept of MLP:FIM on a games site, probably Kotaku. It was linked to the notion of 'The New Sincerity', which sounded pleasant, and from that I read about the origins of Pony Fandom. I was fascinated by the idea that in the wretched bowels of 4-chan, something pure and good and nice and kind could grow, spread like a virus and take over all the evil sons-of-bitches and wash their souls less filthy. Goodness on the internet? It was a miracle! Love and Tolerate said un-ironically? Within a week I had devoured everything I could and began collecting and watching episodes. In a trice I was intimate with Equestria Daily, and that was when I found the thing that sparked my writing: an article about The Conversion Bureau. The story shown was The Conversion Bureau: Change of Life by Hurricane Puncher. That moment changed my life.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Without question my favorite episode is Winter Wrap-Up. I consider it to be the consummate MLP:FIM episode. It embodies everything I think is wondrous, beautiful, and magical about the series. You have what I think is the flat out best song in the entire series (with Smile, Smile Smile taking a close second). You have a brilliant description of a cosmos with alien physical laws, and gain an understanding of what those laws are, and how the native species interacts with them. In Winter Wrap-Up we find out these are not just sapient ponies, they are for all intents faery-kind, working together to control and manipulate Nature Itself. This is the establishment of what the three breeds are for, and why they exist. Here is where we find out that the ponies must physically nurture the universe itself in order to live. Here we discover through Twilight Sparkle's eyes for the first time what Equestria is about, and what it means to live there, to be a pony. Above all else, it underscores the fact that Equestria is about cooperation and mutuality.
Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?
Canon: Pinkie Pie. I have always identified her as the heart and soul of her community. She is a character who truly, genuinely loves others with her entire being. She is willing to be silly, even ridiculous, to entertain others. She has within her all the Harmonic Elements, and embodies every last one. She is laughter, of course, but she is also Loyal, often more so that Rainbow Dash, she is Generous - vastly more so that Rarity, she is Kind - she is the equal of Fluttershy, and perhaps moreso, she is utterly Honest - never break a Pinkie Promise, and she is the most magic pony on the show - even reality itself, the fourth wall, is a toy to her. Pinkie Pie is everything, and yet she is also herself, and that self is utter love. Pure, total love. She is everything I personally Idealize. I only wish I could embody a tenth of what Pinkie Pie represents.
Fanon: Derpy Ditsy-Doo Hooves. Derpy is charming, utterly lovable, tender, kind, and mentally and physically disabled. And that is the absolute best thing she could be. Derpy is for me, an Inclusion Character. Derpy basically says: You Are Welcome Here. I remember the actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg talking about Star Trek. She liked the fact that there were black folks on the show, as regulars. That meant a lot to her. I know that Derpy does the same for people with disabilities. One of my spouses, for example, adores Derpy. She's suffered T.I.A.'s - mini strokes - that have reduced her memory and concentration in profound ways. She identifies with Derpy, and loves the character. It broke her heart when the bastards changed Derpy's one speaking appearance. Hearing Derpy speak in a clearly disabled manner instantly told her she could Belong in the pony fandom and the Pony Universe. Fortunately, the original survives on my hard drive for her.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
'Chatoyance' means many-hued and changing colors, and in Jewelry means stones, like Cat's Eye, that reflect a brilliant streak of light. I consider myself a diverse person, with many interests and areas of expertise, and my writing and other art expresses many moods and many styles. Further, there is no art that is not based on what has come before, so if I ever achieve anything, it can only be because I am reflecting the streak of brilliance from someone else, who has inspired me. This is the reasoning behind my handle.
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
I've done several graphic novels, co-authored two other novels, written some many short stories scattered about, and written a great number of cartoons. My first graphic novel was done when I was eleven. But I never really got the serious writing bug - writing stories as a primary activity - until joining FimFiction.net. I read everything that existed at the time that was Conversion Bureau, and I was utterly enraptured by the concept. I could see endless potential there to plumb the complexities of the human spirit within the Bureau mythos. I was utterly excited by it. So I joined FimFiction and wrote my first story. Then another and another, then full novels, and more novels, and more. I have written more words on FimFiction than likely anywhere else in my life.
I will say this, though. Writing is incredibly, vastly easier than doing graphic novels. Writing and illustrating is a great deal of labor, for me, merely writing is like a vacation. I don't have to do a painting for every two sentences. I LOVE writing, compared to doing cartoon work. It's relaxing.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Video and Computer games, of course - I used to work in the industry, and I have never lost my love for the artform. I also paint and sculpt miniatures, draw and paint, invent tabletop and board games, study various subjects according to my latest fascinations, play housewife X3, read, enjoy all manner of media, and (try) to keep up with all of my friends. Oh, I also collect toys and videogame memorabilia. I used to do animation, but not any more. Then again, I used to do a lot of things, from leatherwork to custom stuffed animals. I guess you could say I keep busy.
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
I do not have a favorite author, as in top of the list favorite. I have many favorites and influences. Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, Issac Asimov, Robert Sheckley, Zenna Henderson, Ray Bradbury (and many, many more)... all the Golden Age and Silver Age science fiction authors are my idols. I literally grew up inside books. My family moved every three to six months, and I lived a highly isolated life. I would find one friend of like mind and then would have to leave, over and over, until my last two years of high school. I lived inside books. Libraries were my safe houses, my only stability. My ideas of the world, of what should be and could be all derive purely from a life spent within the worlds created by such great authors.
On FimFiction I have many favorite authors that consistently astonish and amaze me. The writers of the Conversion Bureau mythos are brilliant people - Midnight Shadow, Krass McWriter, Windchaser, Defoloce, Fullmetal Pony, Dafaddah, BronyOfSteel, TalonMach5 and Silvertie... and on and on. Beyond the Bureau mythos I have been astonished at the sheer wonder of writers like shortskirtsandexplosions, Applejinx, Gabriel LaVedier, Kwakerjak, BillyColt, Andrew Joshua Talon, SleeplessBrony, Cold in Gardez, butterscotchsundae, Donny's Boy, and so many more. These are my heroes, they inspire and teach me, just as the old Golden Age Authors once did.
Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" - the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?
My Ideal Reader is highly intelligent and highly educated. They are Idealistic and value kindness and friendship above all else. They are culturally literate and know a great variety of things from all manner of media. They are the sort of person who sees the vast and complex diversity of gender, race and sexuality as a big happy banquet of fun. They naturally treat all people as equals. They appreciate Reason and reject arbitrary belief, yet are open to all possibility, even the most bizarre. They are creative, clever, whimsical, and playful. They are childlike, without being child-ish. They strive always to be a better, nicer, more capable person with humor at life and at themselves.
My Ideal Reader, to whom I write, is strange, whimsical, smart, aware, compassionate, creative, passionate. They will not abide hate in any form. They expect the best, but treat failure with patience and understanding. Above all else... they are nice. A nice person who is nice to others.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
Just write. No excuses. I know that it's scary, I know that there is the chance that someone might make mean comments. But you are better than that, and you will get better still if you just write. Nothing is worse than not trying at all. That way lies only regret and a loss of self worth. Write, tell your story, say what is in your heart and mind. Just do it. Overthinking is for chumps. Hit the keys, write and write and then publish. Do it. I don't even know you, and I believe in you, because I believe in the power of the human imagination. It does not matter one bit how 'good' you think you are, or aren't compared to others - there will always be someone better, and always be someone worse no matter what. You will always be somewhere in the middle. Just write. Get going. No hesitation, no fear, just joy. Write, just write.
When you are writing, during that moment only, suspend your disbelief - in that moment truly believe that you are the best writer that ever lived. Imagine the joy and laughter and tears and terror on the countless faces of your endless admirers. Pretend that every word is golden, and that You Can Do No Wrong. That you are the Universe's Gift to all of humankind.
Then, when you have finished your story, edit the hell out of it. Go over it and correct all the grammar, the spelling, the punctuation. Then do it again. If you can, read your story out loud to a spouse or best friend, so that you can catch even more errors. But DON'T RE-WRITE anything unless there is NO other option. If you do so, you will regret it, because there is passion within an initial text that can never be regained. Correct, but don't lose the passion you had while writing it initially.
Above all else, write honestly. Don't try to 'be' somebody in your writing, don't try to put on airs. Write honestly and intimately from your heart. Let your inner truth speak. Just... write.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
Everything I do, artistically, in any medium, is always intuitive. For me, stories tell themselves. I don't think, I don't plan, I don't plot. I may come up with a one sentence beginning notion and a one sentence concept of the end. But that is rare. Mostly I just start writing. The first sentence is the crystal around which the rest of the story solidifies.
In the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, there was the Infinite Perspective Vortex, that recreated a working model of the universe from a single piece of fairy-cake. It extrapolated. Cake implies grain and butter and milk and eggs. These things imply ground and planets and sunshine and stars, which imply galaxies and the universe as a whole. That is how I write. Each thing demands the existence of other things in order to make sense, gradually the whole world, complete and self-consistent must result. I have a terrible memory, I always have, so if it were not for this extrapolation ability I would never be able to keep anything straight.
When I write, there is a daydream that goes on in my mind, and it is a simulation that runs. I know the characters, so I know what they will do and how they will react. I know the world, and so what is possible is inevitable. The simulation plays out as it will, the characters making their decisions and choices while I float and watch. As the story unfolds for me, I type it out, trying to keep up. At the end, it makes sense and I feel grateful and exhausted. This way, the stories literally write themselves. I try to not get in their way.
I never know how a story will turn out, or where it will go. As I write new chapters, I am a reader just like anyone. I can't wait to see what happens next, because I do not have a loving clue. Each chapter, each line is as much a mystery to me as it would be to anyone reading after the fact. For me, the process of writing is sitting down and letting a story be told to me, while I try to capture the essence of it as it plays out as it will, vividly, like a movie in my mind.
It's a scary way to write - each new work feels like a roller coaster in a tornado. I cling on, unsure that the story will work out, that it will make sense, that anything will work, but somehow it does. It is always a wild ride, but also an exhausting one. But when a story jumps on my back, I have no choice but to write it. It will nag me until I obey.
What inspired you to create your (many different) Chatoyaverses?
Well, I've created too many universes to go into all of them. Tryslmaistan, Pastel, Krawlni, Ktlikitkak... so I will stick with my work on FimFiction doing Bureau stories. The initial seed for my work was the works of the other, original authors. Mostly Midnight, Krass, Hurricane and such. I didn't even read Blaze's seminal work until I came across Midnight's guide to the TCB universe. When I had devoured all that these founders had written, the whole set about organizing itself inside my head. I am driven to make sense of science fiction and fantasy universes, to make them self-consistent, rational, complete. I want something fictional I like to feel real to me.
So, when I did my first story, The Big Respawn, the beginning of a complete, self-consistent vision of the Bureau universe was just starting to crystallize for me. I knew I wanted to make a Big Tent, a codified, clarified vision that could include the stories by all the other writers, or at least most of them, within it. My goal has always been to create a Mythos - like the Cthulhu Mythos that Lovecraft spawned. That mythos still grows through the works of more and more authors to this day. That is what I want for the Conversion Bureau.
When I felt that I had mostly achieved this, at the One Year Anniversary of the Conversion Bureau, that is when I decided to demonstrate the true potential of the Bureau concept through alternate universe variation. That's why I did Brave New Universe. I wanted to say 'Hey! We have a great Prime universe, but the idea here is so great, so grand, take a look! There can me many more Bureau universes. The concept transcends all!' And I really believe that. The Bureau concept is the perfect stage on which the human mind and heart can be explored. It is an ideal space in which to examine Identity, Self, Free-Will, and the human capacity for adaptation.
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing all of your many works?
I had one. At the end of The Taste Of Grass, I was exhausted. Just completely wasted. I was pumping out a 3500 word chapter almost every day for a month and... I was just exhausted. So I ended the story, but I knew it needed an epilogue. It needed dessert, after the meal. I just didn't have it in me to write one more bloody word. Along comes Midnight Shadow and presents me with the perfect, perfect epilogue. Saved my bacon, he did. I just slapped that baby in there, with full credits to him and the story was golden.
Trust in your good writing friends.
When you set out to write your many, many stories, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
I wanted to embody the core feeling of the first season of MLP:FIM, which I remain convinced is the best. That core is this: that friendship, compassion and cooperation are the greatest good, and that working together, ponies can do anything. To put it more succinctly, love literally rules. In all of my stories, I strive to have at the center the basic concept that the only truth is being good to each other, all else is vanity. It was not a stretch to do this, it is also what I value in real life. It is what drew me to MLP:FIM in the first place. If I have a religion, it is Friendship. That is always my theme. If characters suffer, it is because they chose anger or greed over friendship and compassion and cooperation. If they succeed, it is because they embodied these virtues.
Where can readers drop you a line?
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Be weird. Be yourself, whatever that means. Write your stories after your own dreams. Make your life in your own image. A true artist makes everything their art, especially their own life. Be you, your way.
And I encourage you to express your unique creativity. But above all else, I encourage you to embody those things you love. If you love magical ponies... try to be a pony, deep inside. Be a human-shaped pony - or anything else that captures your heart. Become - as best you can - your ideals, and what you write will be authentic. And for what it is worth, I believe in you.