[Interview] Sessalisk's We · 4:55am
Originally posted to the Vault on 7/13/12.
A gripping, unique look into how the Royal Sisters and Equestria came to be. (It also kind of defies genre tagging, in my opinion, so... yeah!)
[Slice-of-Life] • 4,100 words
How does Celestia know the things she knows? How does she relate to her "nieces" and "nephews"? What is friendship? What is harmony?
What is she.
Hit the break for a sit-down with Sessalisk - doesn't that just roll off the tongue - and links to We here and there around the ponynet. The Vault's Downloads page is still a thing, too, in case you just gotta get yourself an ebook!
Where do you live?
I'm a Canadian.
What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)
I went to school for 3D animation, but currently I work in a meat shop as a butcher. It pays better than you'd expect.
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
A few of my classmates back in senior year kept raving about this great new cartoon made by a local studio. This wasn't anything unusual, considering the fact that they were all animation majors as well. When I went to check out what they were talking about, it turned out that it was actually the latest incarnation of My Little Pony.
I was very, very skeptical.
This wasn't just apprehension about it following up the godawful mistake that was G3, but also about the very... eclectic tastes of my classmates. A couple of them are, or were, fans of children's animation. Not just the wide-appeal cartoons, like The Powerpuff Girls, or Avatar: The Last Airbender, not even weird kinda-sorta-maybe-for-kids stuff like Yo Gabba Gabba, but things that were literally aimed at preschoolers and preschoolers alone. Things that (outside of animation quality) had no merits outside of their target demographic whatsoever.
But I decided to give it a chance, because hey, they were right about Adventure Time. And wow! These character designs are actually pretty decent. They're sleek and stylized and didn't have the clunky and awkward look of previous gens. And – and – and! Their expressions! And... those walk cycles are amazing!
(It's hard to convey how difficult it is to convincingly animate a horse walking. It sounds simple enough, but if you've ever watched cartoons where they show horses for any length of time, the horses will look great while they're galloping! They'll look wonderful while they're rearing! They'll look amazing while they're jumping! But as soon as they start walking they look like they have some sort of mobility disorder. This is because it is freaking hard to animate a good horse walk cycle. They have so many different gaits and their necks are this really awkward length. It's an absolute nightmare to get the correct timing of the bob of their heads in relation to their legs and the up and down movement of their torso; if you don't get it exactly right, then your walk cycle looks stupid.)
Eh, but I digress. The pilot episodes were pretty standard kid's fare, but the animation was good enough to keep me watching even though I didn't find it very engaging yet. By Dragonshy, I found that I was actually enjoying the episodes for what they were, rather than just some surprisingly well-animated toy commercial.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Sonic Rainboom! When Rainbow Dash made that save I was feeling all the awesome with her.
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)?
Fluttershy! Despite cutting up dead animals for a living, I'm actually very fond of them. I don't even eat them. They are fascinating and awesome! When I see her squeeing over manticores and frogs, that is me, right there, squeeing over them as well. FROGS! Did you know that their hearts keep beating even when they've been cut out? They are real life zombies!
With memes... Fluttershy would probably tie with Molestia.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I was thinking of the most horribly cruel thing you could ever ask someone to say if they had a lisp. Basilisks came to mind (sausages and sinuses too). And then I decided to make it even worse.
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
I used to write really bad Pokémon fanfiction when I was thirteen. I am very ashamed of it and I deleted it all years ago. (It will not be mourned.)
As for writing professionally, I assume that any writing done for real money is considered professional. I've been paid to write essays and reports in the past for other people... It was good money. Don't judge me. D:
I probably first started writing about when I started reading, which was around four years old, if I'm remembering correctly.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
My favourite published author would have to be Neil Gaiman. I realise that is extremely cliché, but I can't think of any other author who has such consistently entertaining and interesting ideas, especially with his short stories. Fanfiction-wise, I'd have to go with dellaluce, from the Homestuck fandom.
As for novels, I am absolutely in love with China Miéville's Perdido Street Station – or rather the trilogy. It's so weird and unique and yet somehow it makes complete sense, even without copious amounts of drugs. There are giant dream-eating moths and poet spiders with affinities for scissors. There is a wingless garuda who wants to fly again and a scientist who's looking for the theory of everything. His girlfriend is a woman with a scarab beetle for a head who makes sculptures out of her spit. And somehow it's not just some surreal and whimsical mindscrewy thing, but a grim fantasy story set in a world very different from ours, with people who have dreams just like ours.
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?
I don't really have any one ideal reader. Everyone I guess?
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
If you want to find someone to give you honest, critical feedback about what you're writing, start by doing the same for other people, ask for a review exchange, start visiting places where fanfics get concrits and offer your own opinion on stuff.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
For longer stories, I write up a loose plot outline that tends to morph a lot as I get a feel for the characters and the narrative. Once I have the whole thing drawn up, I start writing the chapters one at a time. Then, when I'm done I'll send to a friend to look at for major things like pacing and characterization, dialogue falling flat or inconsistencies, stuff like that. Usually, I ask the people on TVTropes for the similar feedback at the same time. I'll do my best to fix up the things they've suggested, and then I'll do a final edit before sending it to a different friend for copyediting stuff (grammar, punctuation, sentence flow, that sort of thing).
What inspired you to write We?
It was originally a character sketch for Darkest Before Dawn, a longer fanfic I've written. To give a brief summary it's about a young Twilight Sparkle after she gets accepted into Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, learning about magic and going through all the challenges she faces in her formative years.
Although the story is written from the perspective of Twilight, and although it follows her personal journey, I always had it in my mind that the story was about Celestia. I was working from this comment on Lauren Faust's DA – particularly the first paragraph:
I never wanted to define her abilities, even to myself. I wanted her to be mysterious and hard to understand on purpose. There are things she knows, things she has a mere sense for and things she can't see at all.
I think she knew a certain extent of what would happen regarding the Elements and did her best to fill in the blanks. She's smart, so she guesses right a lot of the time.
She may have sensed that Twilight was the filly she was looking for, but wasn't sure. She sent out the egg to see if her hunch was right.
This comment had a lot of very loaded statements in it. Celestia was looking for someone to be the Element of Magic because she had some impenetrable method of forseeing events years and years in advance. She'd planned for it and was only watching, waiting for the right opportunity to come.
And I began to wonder what it must have been like for Twilight to work under this mysterious, precognitive mentor figure, what Celestia was trying to accomplish, how Celestia felt about her sister, what it meant that she chose her people over her family. I wondered what sort of person this would make her.
I wanted to write a story about a cosmic horror who had learned the meaning of duty. One who had learned to love.
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing We?
There was this one scene at the beginning I had to completely redo. It had Celestia talking to a janitor about potential timelines that did not come to be, but one person interpreted it as Celestia being mopey about fictional characters. I axed the whole thing and re-wrote it from scratch. The new scene had her use her eldritch abomination powers to allow one of her nephews to examine his own agency. Which made him go nuts (he got better!). I'm really happy that it was suggested I change this one, because the new version is actually my favourite scene in the entire story. It has just enough ambiguity there someone could interpret Celestia to be God or Yog-Sothoth.
I also had a spot of trouble when it came to submitting to Equestria Daily. It wasn't about the content, or anything like that, where I was expecting they might have issues. (With the main character being a cosmic horror, even a fluffy one, I think I was bordering perilously close to Grimdark.)
Actually, the pre-reader in question thought that the segment in present-tense was an error.
He (or she, I'm not sure) was kind enough to say that all I had to do was correct the tense issue and then they'd give it a quick once-over and post it... but I really couldn't change the tense of that segment without sacrificing some of the story's message – that Celestia was a being from outside time. I'd always planned that the part narrated from her perspective would be narrated outside of the timeframe of the story, that it was something that is always happening to her, rather than a series of events that had happened. In the now, rather than the then. I know that sounds really pretentious, for which I apologise. I'll probably crack a joke about boners to make up for it later.
When you set out to write We, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
I wanted to give the message that a part of having free will is actually lacking complete control and full awareness of your choices. That if all decisions are distilled into series of calculable outcomes, they lose their meaning.
I'm pretty sure I didn't succeed, but I wanted to get across that part of being human, or pony, or whatever, is being blind and stumbling our ways through life doing the best we can with what we're given, and then realising there's a whole schwackload of people who are in just the same boat.
Where can readers drop you a line?
I'm on FIMFiction as Sessalisk. You can also throw things at me on TVTropes... where I am also Sessalisk.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Unfortunately, I can't think of any boner jokes at this time.