1. Member Since 22nd Sep, 2011
  2. offline for 40m, 32s

I'm the creator of Otakuworld.com, Jenniverse.com, the computer game Boppin', numerous online comics, novels, and tons of other wonderful things. I really love MLP:FiM.

More Blog Posts85

  • 2w, 5d
    Petal's Corollary To The Bostrom Simulation Argument


    Petal's Corollary To The Bostrom Simulation Argument

    By Petal Chatoyance


    1. Unless avoiding pain and seeking pleasure and satisfaction becomes irrelevant, post-human civilizations will primarily create fantastic and heavenly simulations of reality in which to reside in, where all needs are met, and all desires are fulfilled.

    2. Unless the fundamental need for novelty, contrast in experience, and avoidance of boredom becomes irrelevant, post-human civilizations will place a special premium on simulated realities that serve these drives even if they should cause suffering.

    3. The establishment of horrifically accurate simulations of the chaotic, unpredictable, and experientially authentic pre-Singularity world will occur, in sufficient number to meet the demand of bored or jaded post-human consciousnesses.




        

    41 comments · 338 views
  • 7w, 14h
    Virtual Reality Followup: PSVR

    VR: Virtual Reality

    Followup: Playstation VR


    A few days ago, I got to try the Playstation VR system. I'd like to tell you about that experience.

    In my last blog, I described the strengths and weaknesses, as I perceive them, for both the Vive and the Rift. They are both good systems, they both work well. The Vive, to recap, allows you to walk around in what amounts to a holodeck, interacting with the virtual world - picking up things, throwing things, crouching down, standing up, exploring a room-sized space. The Rift demands that you sit or stand on one place and never physically walk around. You use an Xbox Controller instead of hand-held graspers. You push buttons and move with the stick. The Vive never causes motion sickness, the Rift does, sometimes. The Vive is very expensive, and finicky to set up, but when it works, nothing beats it. The Rift is lighter, easy to set up and use, and vastly more convenient, it is also slightly cheaper.

    Let me tell you about the Playstation VR, once called the 'Morpheus'.

    The device is light. It weighs less than the Rift. It does not have built-in earphones or a built-in microphone. You have to supply those. It connects to a small box that connects to the Playstation 4. The small box does the work that allows the PS4 to both show the virtual world for the player using the VR headset AND also show the same scene on a television. This allows a person wearing a headset to play co-op with another person in the same room.

    The PSVR device is supported on the head by a kind of 'crown' - not quite a halo - from which the visor 'hangs'. The visor can be pulled forward on a rail, and slid back to cover the eyes. This makes it very convenient for glasses. All of this also means that the system is cool - it does not bake the face like the Vive and the Rift. Air circulates easily, and the eyeballs do not get hot. More than this, it makes the system fit any person easily, and not get all sticky or gooey with skin oils between players.

    The PSVR, according to the stats, has only a 90 degree field of view, compared to the 110 degree field of the Rift and Vive. I did not notice. Because of the way the device works, the perceived field of view appeared identical to me. I honestly could not tell. More than that, it actually felt less like looking through a pair of swimming goggles - a problem both the Vive and the Rift share. Despite the given stats for the machine, it actually felt wider and less confining.

    More importantly, the PSVR has more pixels in the display, and the refresh is faster - 90 times a second instead of a max of 60. That difference is incredibly important, as I discovered much to my surprise. Fast refresh and more pixels helps so incredibly much. The 'screendoor' pixel view is much less than on the other two machines. But best of all - the result is no simulation sickness... at least for me, and for my spouse Stephen too - and he is VERY prone to simulation sickness.

    I played VR Battlezone. It's an updated, very Tron-like vision of the old quarter-muncher. I slid my anti-grav future-tank all over the landscape, weaving and spinning and zooming and firing in every direction - including up high - and never once felt dizzy or ill. The view was clear,  butter-smooth, and had zero judder. It was smoother than a babies' butt. I was very, very impressed. I did not expect it to be that damn good.

    I did not try the 'Move' controllers with it. Like the Vive, the Move controllers act as 'hands' in the world, allowing the player to hold objects. It is of note that one of the coolest games for the Vive 'Job Simulator' is actually coming out for the PSVR. In that game, you walk around a space and use your virtual hands to fix cars, make sandwiches and soups, type on computers, answer old fashioned phones, and even throw office supplies across the room. If the PSVR can handle that game, damn, it can likely do just about anything the Vive can do.

    And this astonished me. I expected the PSVR to be a sort of 'budget Rift' not a Vive-killer. I did not expect a better view by any means. I was, to put it bluntly, utterly blown away.

    The PSVR, in short, is the bomb.

    And by that, I mean that it is the cheapest, most powerful, most easy-to-use truly complete VR system of the three. Anybody could use this thing, anybody. It's basically as easy as using a controller. It is not finicky. It works well. The view is... excellent. Better than the Rift, zero question, and... I hate to say this... possibly even better than the Vive. How? How in all of hell is Sony pulling this off?

    Well, I've thought about that. Sony has been making head-mounted displays for nearly a decade. To watch movies. Mostly sold in Japan, the devices allow Japanese people in small rooms to enjoy the equivalent of a large-screen television. Going one step further, and making a VR headset out of that is not very much of a stretch. They had a secret head-start, in a way.

    Sony has also had the advantage of watching both HTC/Valve and Oculus stumble and make things work. They may have come last, but that apparently just means they can benefit from the work of those before. The result: I am more convinced than ever of my predictions.

    My predictions, if you have forgotten, are these:

    The Vive is the most impressive overall, but it is too expensive and fussy and complex for most people.

    The Rift is easy, slightly cheaper, and not fussy at all... but it is still limited and locked (for most users) to Oculus itself.

    The PSVR will ultimately win the VR race, and make Virtual Reality not only commonplace, but in time, the standard way to play games. It is the most affordable of all, works fantastically, is easy and simple, is the only truly consumer VR device, and... it keeps your face comfortable.

    Plus, there are 40 million PS4 units out there. 40 Million 'just plug it in and it works' potential VR customers who already have the base machine. All they have to do is buy the headset, and bam: VR funtown.

    That's kind of hard to beat.

    So, that's my report. I have now played all three VR systems and can now render considered judgement. All three are good, and VR really is as amazing as people claim. It isn't just 'sticking a screen on your face'. It is being somewhere else, other than earth. It is genuinely astonishing, and if you have not experienced it personally, you have nothing useful or real to say about the matter. It is that big of a deal.

    But, that said, the Vive is amazing but expensive and fussy, the Rift is less amazing but serviceable, and the PSVR is the easiest of all, and the least expensive, and it looked and felt just as good - or better - than the other two.

    If I could only afford one of the three systems, I would... I guess I would probably go with PSVR. Yes, the Vive is all that and a bag of very large chips. Yes, the Rift is easy and it works. But damn, Playstation is going to have the games. It's going to have it all and... if past experience is any guide, the PSVR will be adaptable to work with a PC, just like the PS controller and headphones... at least eventually. I think that suggests that the PSVR will... basically do it all, and for less than half the price.

    Maybe so. But I would not trade the incredible, magical experiences I have had on the HTC/Valve Vive for anything. I want that noted. Just blew me away.

    Honestly, though, I spend way more time on the Rift. It's just so damn easy. All I have to do is slap it on my face. That's it. Bam, I'm in. There isn't much to do, but... it's just that easy.

    When the PSVR is released in October... I will be there. Already long on order. I'm a gamer. PSVR is... I think it's going to be the place to be for most folks.

    I don't regret getting all three, mind you. It is wonderful to have the privilege of comparing and contrasting. Each headset has its own charms. And, this is the beginning of history, this is a historic moment. Virtual reality will change our world. It will change our lives... I think, within 20 years, it will be as important to rich first-worlders as the internet has been to the world. It may be our very damnation, but... it will be necessary, not just a luxury.

    But not yet. Not for two decades. For now, we have the Rift and the Vive and soon, the PSVR.

    Let me tell you about one more experience.

    Last night, I was in a virtual world called 'ALTspace VR'. It's kind of a simple chat-room / game-room meeting place online. Anyone with VR can enter - any kind of VR. Doesn't matter the brand or make or model. You got a Cardboard VR on a cell phone, you can be there.

    I was chatting with three other people. I turned around to study my own robot body in a nearby mirror. I leaned forward and tried to see myself in my glowing electric eyes. My body there is white and heliotrope, smooth and rounded, sort of like a tall version of EVE from Wall-E. I tilt my head, and my robot head tilts because it is my real head, there.

    One of the people-bots I was chatting with was from Germany, another from California, the third from Utah. We stood about a meter apart, more or less. We talked about VR, I admired the fact that the German man had real hands and fingers. He was using a device called a 'Leap-Motion' that represents real hands in the virtual world. His flesh fingers represented in the virtual space. He could do sign language with them.

    I was there, with those people. In that room, a room that looked like a futuristic lounge. I could gaze into the mirror, I could watch the large television on the wall (it was silently running some music video). I could speak naturally, and they could too. I was there.

    Yet, there, didn't exist. Not really. German-guy was in his morning, sitting at a computer. The other guys were sitting or standing in California and Utah. Yet... we were together, in a real space, a real place, walking around each other. I stood next to the german man's robot body and leaned over to study his fingers up close.

    When I quit - it was four in my morning - I lifted my Rift off my face and blinked several times. I was in my chair, at home. Yet, I had just been standing somewhere else, somewhere somehow real.

    I now finally understand... how I can be in two places at once, when I am not anywhere at all.

    Someday, in the future, somebody is going to die in some virtual place, like the one I was in last night. They are just going to slump to the floor, and people will gather around, and then they will de-rezz, as the paramedics unplug them. Later, people will hear that they died while in VR.

    And you just know that when that happens - and it will - people will start putting virtual flowers, and crosses, and virtual messages on that place, inside the virtual world, to mark the person who died - like how people do now on the side of roads where terrible accidents happen.

    And later, people, inside VR, will pass by that place, with the virtual flowers, and whisper about how somebody died there, right there, on that spot.

    And some part of me spins, mind akimbo, at the question: where did that person actually die?

    Did they die in some room, in front of a machine, or did they die in a virtual place that cannot be pointed to? Because I think the answer is valid either way. If all of your senses are certain you are someplace, then, in a very real sense, you are. You are where your brain tells you that you are - you cannot know anything else. Reality is what you perceive, not what actually is. Reality - an any human sense - is personal.

    And this thought, this issue, is not some far-future Conversion Bureau World science fiction thing, neither is it some 'not yet or ever' Optimalverse situation. It's real, right now. It could happen tomorrow. It could be on the news tomorrow. It will happen, someday. VR is here, right now, and I spend some evenings in it, talking to people and rolling D&D dice on a table that is not there, or looking at myself in a virtual mirror, trying to see my soul in my digital eyes. That is happening now, folks.

    I think this is a time to be aware of these changes. It may be that things like Ready Player One and the Optimalverse may be much closer than we silly fiction writers truly realize.

    Ain't that a thought?










    20 comments · 296 views
  • 9w, 3d
    VR: Virtual Reality

    VR: Virtual Reality


    I currently have both the Vive and the Oculus. I've been saving up for VR for many years.

    My initial impressions are thus:

    The Vive is the real deal - it is amazingly immersive, and with the hand controllers, and the ability to walk around and interact with virtual objects as real things... it is just about the most incredible experience you can imagine. The view is a little bit like wearing a slightly wider scuba mask. You can see the grain of the pixels, but the view is clear and everything is precise. The goggles completely block out the world, and seal around your face. They are high quality - everything is super high quality. I have never gotten motion sick with the Vive. It has everything needed right out of the box.

    The downside of the Vive is that it is heavy, the cables are thick, you have to set up 'lighthouse' laser boxes at opposite corners of the room, and you need empty space to move around. My reserved VR space is 12 by 14 feet, for example. The sound is earbuds. It is a pain in the ass to set up and get working, every time. Also, it is hot, and if you are out of shape or old, like me, it gets exhausting fast. Stooping and crawling and standing and moving levers and turning wheels and pressing buttons and throwing balls and walking to and fro and ducking monsters and... it's a complete workout. I always come out drenched in sweat. But damn. Damn is it beyond awesome.

    There are few games for the Vive, but all are open to everyone, including users of the Rift.


    The Oculus Rift is... adequate, but less impressive. The visual quality is similar, but has some blur and glare with bright virtual objects. You have to use it in a dark room because light from outside gets in around the edges easily. You can look down your nose and see your lap for example. You don't get hand controllers (Yet. Soon, supposedly. Sold separately). You get a single microphone-like thing on a stand which monitors your goggles. You sit and use a Microsoft game controller. You don't physically walk around, you have to sit, or stand in one place. You cannot grab anything. You can look around. It's good for flight simulators and staying in one place and looking around at a virtual world. Or floating along behind a tiny character. There are games that let you joystick-move, but that also can cause... problems.

    The Rift does have the advantage of being cheaper, it is lighter and vastly less sweaty, and it has thin, easily managed cables. It works almost the moment you plug it in, it isn't a pain to set it up. It doesn't need regular recalibration. It has integrated headphones and doesn't require the use of earbuds. It is as close to 'plug and play' as anything can be until the Playstation VR comes out in October.

    There is a lot of software for it, but any that involves motion with the joypad could make you throw up. A lot. For a long, long time. All the games are Rift-only. The Rift goes out of it's way to be incompatible with anything other than itself. Basically, the Rift is trying to be a DRM locked console, rather than a peripheral like a monitor screen. The Vive considers itself a peripheral, open to anyone for anything.

    My opinion is that, in the end, that the Vive is the vastly better system, but also the most frustrating and difficult to use. Only it alone truly provides a holodeck-like experience. But it will fail, because it requires space to move around in. You can use it sitting down too, but... then you would miss out on being inside a goddamn holodeck! It is troublesome sometimes to get working right, and it is slightly more expensive. Not a lot more expensive - if you count having to buy hand controllers for the Rift into the cost. But a bit more expensive.

    The Rift will do okay, but not great, because it is cheaper, and it is easy to set up. But it is also an inferior experience in some ways. Even when the Rift hand controllers are released, the fact is that it is still a sit-down or stand-in-place experience. You won't be crawling through air ducts on starships with the Rift, or blocking dragon fire with a shield, not with your actual body. But that is probably good enough for most people.

    The real winner, I am convinced, will be the Playstation VR - and I say this even not having yet tried it. I know the specs, and I know what to expect from the Vive and the Rift. Forty million (plus!!) Playstation 4 units and the best games companies in the world committed to PSVR, not to mention console-simplicity at every level - and the cheapest price of all - pretty much guarantee that PSVR will dominate... in the end. No question about it. And that is not bad, I guess. I'm sure it will be fine. I've got one on order.

    But... I have to say this: the sheer, overwhelming wonder I have experienced on the Vive is... there is nothing else like it. I have poked gigantic jellyfish at the bottom of the sea and watched their massive surfaces ripple from my action. I have fixed cars and hand-poured 'headlight fluid' in a future where robots barely remember what humans were. I have lifted a torch off of a dungeon wall and used it to light a monster on fire. I have swung a sword with my hands and arms to deflect the blows of a skeleton knight. I have painted three-dimensional portraits in space with virtual brushes made of light.

    And... I have dropped to the floor, exhausted and covered in sweat, my heart pounding out of my chest, because I am 56, out of shape, and fighting skeletons for real at my age is beyond my physical capacities. Dammit! If only this could have happened when I was twenty-something! What a cheat life is!

    That's my report.

      

    26 comments · 386 views
  • 33w, 6d
    Spatchcock Horology

    62 comments · 915 views
  • 34w, 16h
    For 3.7 Seconds, I enjoyed A Bit Of Magical Thinking


        Have you ever had a moment of magical thinking? A brief span where your mind enjoyed a happy bit of the suspension of disbelief normally used for fantastic stories, only applied to the real world? It's fun!

    And I just recently had one, that I would like to share. It came courtesy of an article from Ars Technica, a semi-regular web destination of mine. To wit -

    Mysterious collector opens world’s largest private Apple exhibition in Prague

    Apple Museum has some 472 exhibits, with raw vegan cafe to come.

    LINK here.

    Turns out that some unknown personage has tons of the history of Apple, including all kinds of rare and secret historical stuff. Nobody knows who it is, or how they own the history of Apple, or... why they chose Prague, specifically, to show the collection off. Prague. The place where Franz Kafka is buried, in the cadastral district of Žižkov. There has been no indication of anyone driving a Kubota Mini-Excavator, or any strange, black vans. Yet.

    This is something Malus Crown would do, though. Likely as a diversion, and an excuse to ship in black cars and Kubotas. So I thought instantly of 'I.D. - That Indestructible Something.'

    What if? For a moment, I experienced Bostrom Alert Purple. It was a very enjoyable woo-woo.

    If you've never read 'Injector Doe - That Indestructible Something', now would be a good time.

    Just in case.

    - Petal

      

    15 comments · 422 views
  • 35w, 3d
    Moderator Abuse Of Power. It's a sad thing.

    I want to make it clear that I did not delete my last blog post, which featured fifty questions answered about headcanon. It was deleted by the mods, and it was done unthinkingly and, I believe, maliciously. The reason given was:

    Reminder that social-network style blog posts that encourage you to repost them are not allowed.

    No person encouraged me to copy the fifty question concept from another author's own blog. I did not in any way encourage any other person to copy me. I chose to use the format because, in my depression, it was the only thing that had sparked any capacity in me to write about anything. I used it on my own, as a tool to fight depression.

    The removal of my previous blog was wrong, even by the rules stated.

    There is, I think, nothing I can do about it.

    The worst part is that all of the information I wrote is gone - I do not even have a copy for myself. I cannot read it to my spouse now. I wanted to, but last night she had a seizure and could not listen then. Now she can, and it is a loss for both of us.

    I find this an abuse of mod power - other options would have been to contact me, to switch my blog off allowing me to collect my own words, or to actually read the statement at the top where I pointed out all of the above. Instead, my blog was just - vanished.

    I want to thank everyone who read and gave feedback before.

    - Petal


    52 comments · 933 views
  • 56w, 3d
    Cross The Amazon Special Feature!

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    T H E       C O N V E R S I O N       B U R E A U :

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    CROSS THE AMAZON

    SPECIAL FEATURE

    Conversion Bureau stories - at least my Conversion Bureau stories - are science fiction, hard science fiction, which means that they are about the future. They are about a real future, a future that very likely will happen based on my meticulous research.

    Then, I add ponies. I add Equestria. But only after some careful and well considered futurism. I don't just make up some arbitrary crap, as my devoted readers already know. I have done my best to show the world as it will be in sixty to eighty years. Plus ponies. A little sugar, after all, helps the medicine go down.

    I found a video that is utterly pertinent to my latest story, Cross The Amazon. It's interesting, it's true, and it's worth your time. It makes an appeal, at the end, to a tree charity, and offers hope of changing things, and I don't believe that is possible. But that's me. Your desperation and tolerance for charity mismanagement may vary. But it does make my current novel all the more understandable, and believable. Except for the ponies, of course. In real life, there isn't going to be Equestria saving anyone. Regrettably.

    Now, wasn't that just incredible? I think this should be seen by every person, especially every person in power. That won't happen - and even if it did, it wouldn't, and won't change anything. Sadly.

    But, that doesn't matter. What matters is trying, even if the situation is hopeless. If anything defines the human condition, it is hopeless struggle despite the odds. My stories. This video. Trying to get people to comprehend.

    - Chatoyance

    33 comments · 653 views
  • 60w, 3d
    The Conversion Bureau Is Now Metal!

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    T H E       C O N V E R S I O N       B U R E A U :

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    TOTALLY METAL

    ARE YOU METAL ENOUGH FOR THE CONVERSION BUREAU?

    Sometimes, wonderful things happen. Valinye Cerveau's amazing Conversion Bureau Movie-Styled promotion piece. Hunternif's incredible animation for Caelum Est Conterrens. Zahqo And d.notive's Conversion Bureau inspired Hand For Hoof. Sometimes, truly wonderful things happen.

    Something wonderful happened again.

    And it is metal as fuck.

    Bang your pony head to the amazing Freewave, Injustrial (and friends!) mind ripping, skull crushing solid chromium steel version of... THE CONVERSION BUREAU! ROOOOCCCCKKK!

    8 comments · 492 views
  • 60w, 4d
    The Metrics Of Authorship

    27 comments · 437 views
  • 60w, 6d
    Cross The Amazon!

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    T H E       C O N V E R S I O N       B U R E A U :

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    CROSS THE AMAZON

    By Chatoyance

    I have just submitted a new novel, the one I wrote about in the Bureau group. The story is Cross The Amazon, and it tells the story of a lone human and a lone Equestrian native racing to stay ahead of the the Barrier of Equestria.

    The Barrier is bad for both of them - for the human, a Palynologist named Calloway Kotani, it means death. There is no potion, and no time to Convert, and the Barrier is coming, inexorably, unstoppably. For the pony, a native unicorn mare named Dropspindle, the Barrier means being lost, forever, in the Exponential Lands, literal light years from any other Equestrian. For a herd creature, that is likely worse than death. Both must flee for their very lives.

    But they are not prepared, nor are they talented, neither are they knowledgeable. Peru is a mystery to them, likewise the entirety of the Southamerizone. Everyone else has left. They are alone in the fifth year of the Bureaus, alone on a continent being devoured by a sky-filling cosmic domain wall. They only have each other, and what they can find along the way.

    And the way is rough. The mountains are steep, the roads poor, and the amazon - the amazon desert once used to be a jungle, a forest. But then it became grasslands so that hamburgers could fill the bellies of rich first-worlders. Then, naturally, it became desert, just as did the Sahara before it.

    The amazon of the Bureau future - and our own - is a dead land of dry tree stumps and ruined meat-packing factories, of desertified grazing lands interrupted by dead patches of former forest. Rough, difficult terrain mixed with endless flat wastes of sand and dry dirt. Duststorms and thirst.

    And perhaps they are not entirely alone.

    I hope you will join me, and Calloway Kotani and Dropspindle, on a rugged journey of survival - a journey that must CROSS THE AMAZON!

    Coming as soon as it is approved. Or just jump here.

    - Petal Chatoyance


    9 comments · 264 views
  • 62w, 3d
    Slice Of Life: MLPFIM 100

    Slice Of Life

    MLP Episode 100




    I loved it.

    24 comments · 519 views
  • 64w, 18h
    Little Blue Cat Is Coming

    12 comments · 345 views
  • 70w, 6d
    Voiceless In Hillsboro - Season Five and Other Things

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    Voiceless In Hillsboro

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    Season Five and Other Things

    It's a little strange not having a voice. My whole family and I came down with some terrible virus, that, in me, allowed an opportunistic bacterial infection - long story short, for the past three weeks I have been sick as sick can be. Triplet antibiotics have helped, and I am slowly climbing back to life. But - I cannot make a sound. I am mute. I sure hope my voice comes back one day.

    I may be mute in real life, and feel like death warmed over, but I am not mute here, in the realm of text, so I thought to say a few things about the most recent season of My Little Pony.

    Season five, so far, as of 'Castle Sweet Castle', is excellent.

    After my scathing 'Around The Bend', you might want to know why I think this, and I want to tell you.

    The first three episodes of season five are, in my opinion, as good as the work in season one. They do, of course, of necessity, have to run with what has been established in the intervening seasons, I have no issue with that. Indeed, it is mandatory - consistency is not the 'hobgoblin of small minds', rather it is the foundation of all suspension of disbelief. Without consistency, there can be no meaning or value to causality, and causal relationships are the machinery of drama and storytelling.

    What makes season five good is that thus far, in these first three episodes, we have consistent characters acting according to what we know about them, they act in a rational and meaningful way, and they are not bent into self-parodies or used for cheap gags.

    And one of those characters, the most important character in almost any story, is the world. The world is also being attended properly.

    "Know your world, know your characters, and you need not fear even a thousand pages of story."

    Yes, I am quoting myself. But that does not make it any less true.

    In season five, thus far, Pinkie Pie is funny, but she is also competent. She isn't just a joke. She adds to the group, she helps, she supports, she has useful input. Remember 'Giggle At The Ghostie'? That was intended to be Pinkie's defining moment. In that pilot, that scene tells us exactly what and who Pinkie is to the team - and from the start, the Mane Six are supposed to be a team, an action team, working together as a group to solve problems. Pinkie uses humor to save others, to rescue others. She uses the tools of laughter intelligently. She isn't just a useless clown.

    Rarity may be emotional, but she is smart. She is supposed to be capable and able. Initially, Faust described her as the oldest, and she is supposed to have the experience and backbone of an independent entrepreneur. She isn't supposed to be a useless frail. She's back... not perfectly, but back, and she is starting to have moments again, moments of competence.

    Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack - sure, they can have personality quirks, but the original picture we were given of them is that they are capable adventurers. This is the heart of what they should be along with Twilight - all capable representatives of Equestria, not just gags or cheap joke characters. They aren't wacky superhero parodies, they aren't Animaniacs or Freakazoids... they are a team driven by friendship, determination, and their trust in each other. In short, they should be played as they were when we first met them - as if they were real, as if they were people, not mere toons.

    Season five has returned to this. The Mane Six are not jokes now. They are handling the problems they face together, as useful, functional members of Equestria's elite Friendship Squad. And this is exactly what they should be, because it is how they were intended to be, and how they were first presented to us, back when Lauren had any say at all.

    The world has meaning again. The world is the most important character of all.

    Geography is consistent again. Ponyville is a flat river valley again. We have a god-damned MAP, front and center, and woe betide any writer for the show who does not sit up and take notice of what that represents. It means 'treat the show as a real world, not as a cheap gag'. It means 'there be places here, places with names and relationships to each other'.

    A world is a character. It changes over time, it has history, it has a feeling of its own, and it has places within it that have relationships just as people-characters have relationships... and those change over time too. A world has a character arc. We have seen Equestria grow, we have seen it develop as a place - not without some serious growing pains thanks to terrible writers - but we have seen it grow.

    Originally, Lauren Faust, in an interview, described Equestria as being a blend between the Elysian Fields and Oz. It was supposed to literally be the Elysian Fields - that, as many know, is why Tartarus is located below it. That was also why Queen Celestia was supposed to be essentially a Greek goddess... until Hasbro marketing demanded she be a princess, and get rid of the overt Greek pagan stuff and... well. Those who've kept up know the story. And how Faust got pushed out, and how she can't talk straight about any of it now.

    Season five has gone back to Faust.

    How? Those of you who read - really read, not just fan fiction - probably know the classic Oz books pretty well, but for those that don't, let me give the briefest of infodumps: after all the fuss with Dorothy and getting the basic world nailed down, the many, many books that continued the story went afield. Basically, Oz proper was now understood to the reader, and under Celestia's - ah, Ozma's - dominion,  so adventures now took place at the borders and fringes of Oz. It became the great quest, after a fashion, to bring the authority of Queen Ozma to the undeveloped and unexplored parts of Oz, the edges of the map and even off the map.

    This is what we see in the two part 'Cutie Map'. The show is utterly Oz-like. Our team is sent off to the frontier to confront a threat to the harmony of Oz - ah, I mean Equestria. Excellent. Faust must be smiling. I am.

    We also see, in 'Castle Sweet Castle' real consequences to changing the world. Gone are throw-away stupidly deadly cliffside roads that could never exist in a flat river valley - there for one episode for a cheap gag, gone the next, nothing matters, nothing is real.

    No, now, we have a consistent world. I want to scream this point: SEE HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE CONSISTENCY MAKES?

    Twilight is broken hearted - as a lot of we viewers are - at the loss of the Golden Oaks Library. It wasn't just a cool home, it was the coolest home. It was the dream home of fantasy, a living tree that loves back, filled with books, covered in nurturing leaves. It was everything great about a Hobbit hole mixed with everything great about elves and magic and wonder. A living tree house. If it isn't every child's dream at some point, that child grew up in a desert.

    This was not a cheap gag. The Golden Oaks was obliterated. It was destroyed, and because the world was made consistent again, that fact MATTERED.

    And, thanks to the world being a viable character again, we can deal with the tragedy of the loss of the Golden Oaks, and we can understand how Twilight, as a character, felt about this change to the world, and to her life. We can see things played realistically. Twilight isn't bouncing around because she went up a level and gained a cool new super-hero hideout, a crystal castle made of magic - no, she's depressed.

    Twilight just got her own Hall Of Justice, and she is depressed. Because her home was destroyed. Because she isn't just some two-dimensional super-hero, she is a person. She isn't a cardboard character. She is mourning the loss of her proper home, and, by extension, her childhood too.

    Because now, forced (by Hasbro marketing) into being an alicorn princess prematurely (Faust intended the event to be the culmination of the entire series, something for the ending), Twilight has to grow up fast. No more playing in the treehouse, she has princess duties, and she can't go back. The Golden Oaks is ash... and roots hanging from her ceiling. Her personal life is over. Now she serves the Crown.

    That is some real, powerful stuff there. That is damn good writing for any show, not just a cartoon about ponies.

    And a word about that - cartoon. Cartoon about ponies. It's just a cartoon. It's only a cartoon. It's just a kid's show. It's for little girls. It doesn't have to make sense.

    Do you think that way? Fuck you. Seriously. You are an idiot.

    Animation is just one medium for expression. Just like live-action film, just like computer animation, just like text, just like books and audio drama and stage drama and every other form of creativity. Listen up: only idiots dismiss animation as being only for children, and only idiots imagine that things ostensibly written for children cannot also be written for adults too. Indeed, most classic English children's literature was written as much for the adults reading it to their children as it was to the children they read it to. That is what makes classics... classic. They speak to both adult and child together.

    My Little Pony should make sense. It should be deep. It should have meaning and worth and value. It should be intelligent and make sense. If not for the benefit of we adults, then for the benefit of children watching it. Don't underestimate children. Yes, there are some droolers out there, but there are also some reading at a college level in second grade, like me, and I suspect, many of you (I'm looking at you, fellow Bureau and Optimalverse authors!). Even the droolers do benefit from logical consistency in their media - things making sense.

    The notion that a cartoon doesn't have to make sense is horseshit. Bullshit is lies, horseshit is actually toxic lies... if you didn't know the difference.

    So, the big conclusion.

    I'm sicker than hell, still, and season five, so far, rocks. It rocks because it is returning to the reason we all fell in love with Friendship Is Magic in the first place - and that is solid characters, valid relationships, intelligent plots, and a consistent, amazing world worth suspending our disbelief for.

    If season five can keep this up, if it doesn't bellyflop into a big pit of stupid, then we may well have the best season since the first.

    Here's hoping that season five keeps up the rock-solid goodness of writing talent.

    It is my demand that the on-screen My Little Pony be at least as good as the writing I favor here. If it can't meet that level, then I have to wonder why the writers are 'professional' and getting paid at all.

    So far, this season, the writers are earning their dough.

    So far.

    - Petal Chatoyance

    April 15th, 2015




    53 comments · 1,138 views
  • 85w, 6d
    The State Of The Unicorn 2015

    44 comments · 839 views
  • 104w, 15h
    In Hell, There Are No Desks

    I'm typing this from my lap, on a new keyboard I am unused to. Had to get a new one, we couldn't connect my old keyboard - they don't make those ancient connectors anymore, and the cable needed is still in a box. Everything I own is in a box, and will be for the next three to four months at least.

    Hah! How the mighty have fallen, eh? Once I lived in a palatial home, now I have no room of my own. My world, for now, is the far corner of what - in a normal person's house - would likely be the 'living room'. The house is filled with hundreds of boxes, and no way to unpack them. Why? It's a little bit Sokoban, and a little bit 'guess what's in the box' and a little bit 'we are so fucked'.

    Intel got caught with their fingers in the European cookie jar, as you may recall, and they had to pay billions in fines. Worse, they got very complacent and ignored the rise of mobile computing entirely, so the pacific rim ate their lunch with cheap, easily modified, dedicated chips for consumer goods. Desperate to look good to stockholders, they did the usual American Capitalist Trick: fire most of the workers who actually do the work in a way that denies them any benefits or severance of any kind. Suddenly, without employees, they look great on paper!

    The way they did this is to announce that if one wanted to work for Intel any longer, one must move to the region around Portland, Oregon. Naturally, this meant that more that 75% of their employees in the divisions targeted would be screwed, and 'choose' to leave their jobs of their 'own volition', thus making their quitting their 'free choice' and thus ineligible for any benefits of any kind - the slackers! The losers! Stupid peasants with homes and communities and family obligations and relatives and lack of resources to move at the drop of a hat!

    It was evil, but damn clever. Force people to have to quit because moving is not possible for most people. Brilliant. Dirty as hell, of course, but cunning.

    That still left tens of thousands of people flooding into a fairly small region, Hillsboro. It was sheer luck we found an overpriced house at all - there is a huge bubble going on as folks gouge the hell out of the influx of Intel folks. House-flip-a-go-go! Gold rush!

    Bottom line? It is impossible to get a contractor to fix a house or turn a garage into a room. And that is a problem, you see, since the entire plan was to convert the garage into my room. For me to live in. That isn't happening. It's so massive an issue, that the guy that set up our internet? He is part of a small army of folks brought in from Colorado just to hook up internet here in Hillsboro. They're letting him go back to Colorado for a week to see his family, then it's another month of hooking up folks like us... the Intel Invasion. They don't have enough native cable guys here to do the job. Consider that.

    My family is hoping that maybe by October or November, it might be rainy and miserable enough that the contractors here might be unable to work outside - or unwilling to work outside - and it might be possible to get some to do interior work at last, and thus finally build me a room to live in. It's a hope, anyway.

    Until then, I am the empress of cardboard boxes that I can't get into... because there is no place to unpack them. I have six pieces of clothing, my shoes, my computer and monitor, my 360 and PS4, a chair, my toothbrush and the medicines I have to take, one garbage can, and my purse with my ipad in it. This is my world. This is my life. I am slowly going through some of the mis-labled boxes, checking them, resealing them, and writing their contents down (the packing crew did a random job, just insane) to find, well, things. More clothes to wear. Even one game for my PS4 to play. But, it's rough going - the house is chock-a-block with boxes. We were entirely depending on having my room done, so that my stuff could get unpacked, so there would be room to unpack other things. That isn't happening. We also expected that the boxes would be correctly labeled too. Nope.

    If I had thought, even for a moment, that everything would be lies and bullshit, and that it would all turn out to be a clusterfuck... I would have done some things differently.

    So, here is my big lesson to you, in case you have to move:

    Expect that nobody is telling the truth about anything, that everything will be fucked no matter what, and that nothing and no man can be trusted. Prepare accordingly: take enough stuff you need to live normally in the car with you, and don't let said stuff get packed up on the moving truck. Even if you have to make six or ten five hour trips back and forth to do it, do it. Keep what you need close to you. Because it will all go horribly wrong. When it does, you will have all of your necessities with you in your fortress of cardboard boxes, and you will be alright until things eventually become rational again.

    I didn't do the above, so now, for the next many months, I must peer at a monitor stacked on six shelf boards balanced on two incomplete drawer shells and type from my lap.

    Because, in hell, there are no desks.

    Anyway, we are in a new house, there is a lot wrong with it, but it will get fixed in time, and maybe in enough months, I will have a room again. And a surface to type on. (In the mean time, I am experimenting with using boards across my chair arms, tilted boards balanced on the edge of my monitor base, and pillows with boards on them as ways to get that 'desk feeling' back. Something will work, eventually. Surely.)

    When I get used to my new keyboard (this one is USB! Huzzah! I am finally in the new decade!) I will continue with my writing.

    So, for the too-long, didn't read crowd: I am down and (relatively) safe, the move is sort of over, and I am the empress of cardboard boxes, all hail me in my palace of cardboard!

    Lastly, thank you to everyone who has been so supportive and kind to me during this fairly awful situation. You are wonderful, and I am grateful for you.

    All hail Cardboardia!

    May your boxes never crush

    A land not unlike Minecraft

    Someday the toilets will flush

    All hail the Empress

    ensconced in cardboard wall

    one day the mythical contractors

    will build her unicorn stall

    All hail Cardboardia!

    who knows what's tucked inside?

    Intel and life and human greed

    will ever take us for a ride!

    When you gaze upon a cardboard box, remember: the empress gazes back at you. (No, she doesn't. She's too busy feeling sorry for herself. The stroppy bint.)

    Yay.

    - Petal Chatoyance

    40 comments · 912 views
  • 106w, 6d
    This week and the next is moving.

    And I am in hell.

    Please, Celestia, CelestA.I. - I want to emigrate to Equestria.

    30 comments · 689 views
  • 108w, 4d
    It looks like we have a house.

    A little update on my life, it looks like we have a house to move to.

    Over the past... however long... we have been negotiating for a home in the Portland area. Hillsborough. We are just about to sign - this weekend, actually - and then we will own a home about six minuted from the Intel campus.

    It will need a little work - in order to provide me with a roughly equivalent 'Uniplex' room - the common place where my family gets together to watch or play, and the place I do everything in - the garage will be turned into a finished room with a proper floor and insulation and nice walls and skylights and suchlike. A replacement Japanese soaking tub will take a little longer, but it is in the plans.

    The house we are getting has some upsides and some downsides. It has enough rooms for a polyamoric family of four, which is good - one thing we have learned about being in a group marriage is that having enough private space is really a vital thing. People need some alone time. So a house for us has to have places where family members can just isolate if they need to. Say to work on something without interruption, or even just to chill out.

    The house is quirky, which is good. It appears to have been several houses, in a way. A house that was built on, then built onto again. The stairs are crazy in it, short stairs mostly, but strange in placement because of the haphazard way the place sort of grew over time. It has a moderate yard in the back, decent for gardening in, and a very nice front yard with a mature cherry tree. Mmm. Cherries.

    On the negative side, it is not very isolated - it is in the middle of Spielbergian Suburbia. It is next to the distant outer yard of a gradeschool, hopefully that will not be too awful. We are not 'kids' people, and we don't like noise and screaming and people breeding all over the place. Also, there is an airport nearby, somewhere. We have no way to know if we are on a flightpath that will be hell to suffer under. I guess... we'll find out.

    I tried packing some of my little, fragile things, and I broke down in tears. It was also hard on my stamina. Ever since my heart attack about a decade ago, my stamina has not been great. I'm going to need help packing, a lot of it, and I'm not sure how that is going to work out yet.

    But... the plan is that in three weeks or so, I will be living in a new house. When the shit hits the fan, it happens fast.

    That is the update, for those that care.

    I will keep working on my novel with dedication, but because of circumstances, I cannot promise, nor hope to always manage a chapter a day. I am sorry. I hate this unfortunate fact. I was really hoping to perform like I used to. But... life. The real world always gets in the way of ponies, and that is why real life is always inferior! :derpytongue2:

    Oh, how I wish that the Bureau Mythos, my own Pony Singularity, or the Optimalverse was real.

    But then, I doubt I am alone in that.

    - Petal Chatoyance, July 25th, 2014

    28 comments · 537 views
  • 110w, 1d
    Error Correction

    16 comments · 548 views
  • 110w, 2d
    Adrift Off Fiddler's Green: a new story is coming!

    We have a lead on a house. If things work out, then we may own a new place to live by the end of the month.

    This has cheered me enough that one day, I woke up, and... I wasn't completely sad. I had some energy. I had just a little joy in me. The bright day wasn't shining with despair anymore. I almost felt happy.

    And what powers my ability to write is feeling joy. Even just a little.

    And that translates to:

    Adrift Off

    Fiddler's Green

    A     C o n v e r s i o n     B u r e a u     S t o r y

                                                                  By Chatoyance

    It's coming. The first chapter is even now going through approval. It's a sort-of follow up to HUMAN In Equestria, and sort of it's own novel. It stars, with permission, a reporter character courtesy of Midnight Shadow. Why? Because while it is trivial to just invent a character, using his newfoal 'Frontpage' from 'Midnight's Tail' makes me feel, just a little bit, like the old days, when I was part of a community of writers all sharing the same mythos in joy and friendship. That sort of feeling is precious.

    A note on HUMAN In Equestria. For months and months, it has sat there, unfinished, a blot on my perfect record of always finishing every story. So, I set out to finish it. That was my initial goal. But... stories have lives of their own. Stories are living things, and what happened was that in doing more chapters of HUMAN, I realized an astonishing thing.

    I had already finished the book perfectly ( just as some readers did, in fact, point out at the time ) and I had failed to notice it. Or believe it. I think I didn't want that particular ride to end, really. But... it is complete. The 'new chapters' proved that to me. The book had a perfect, happy ending, plus an epilogue that tied everything up. It was complete, I was just unwilling to admit it. Silly, stubborn me!

    So, now I had two chapters and no book to put them in.

    That is remedied as of now... or rather, when the new novel is greenlighted and online. Soon, I expect.

    Please look for it. I would love to tell you a story, if I may.

    A story of the deepest secrets of Equestria... like what it actually is, what the princesses (and Discord) truly are, and... the little issue of what happens in my Equestria after ponies... and other creatures... die.

    Because an event, with a little Snow Bunny, from HUMAN In Equestria, needs to be followed up.

    Because stories, have a life, of their own.


    I guess... I'm back!

    - Petal Chatoyance

      July 12, 2014








    34 comments · 1,135 views
  • 113w, 2d
    The State Of The Unicorn


    First, I want to say that I am sorry to my friends here, who worry for me. I've been very distant and closed-off for some time now, and I still am to a great degree... but maybe that needs to change just a little. My friend Midnight Shadow is courageous enough to talk about himself and his life here, so that is what inspired this blog post.

    I haven't wanted to say anything about my life currently, because of three reasons. One is that I don't want to be seen as a whiner. Another is that I am embarrassed by how messed up I am. And another is just pure and simple depression. Depression is pretty powerful.

    My family has to move. Some of you know that, because you have asked me during times when I had enough inside to respond at all. Moving is hard on anyone.

    For the past eleven years, I have lived in a marvelous, magnificent home. The only house I have ever liked, much less loved, in my life. I was under the belief that it would be the last house I would ever live in - that I could stay here until the day I died. The house is literally one-of-a-kind. It was a show-home for a failed housing development that failed.

    It likely failed because the houses were too nice.

    As I type this, I sit under massive golden beams of wood buttressing my twenty-five-foot high golden plank ceiling. Light streams in from the cathedral windows far, far near the top. In the morning, the light gleams off the solid wood and makes the entire, vast chamber glow with golden light. My room, my 'Uniplex' is thirty-some feet long by twenty wide, and every wall is shelves. I live in a library, only of games and promotional toys (I worked for many years in the software industry) like some game-designing Twilight Sparkle. And that is just my room. On the second floor, up the spiral staircase.

    We got it cheap, originally, because nobody wanted it. It was too weird for normal people. Seriously. Yes, the bathroom in my 'Uniplex' has no door, and just opens into the large gallery I am in. Yes, the walkway beyond my door overlooks the rest of the inside of the house like some catwalk within a mad-scientist's lair. Yes, the spiral staircase is like something out of a science-fiction show. And yes, there are no walls but that are covered solidly in shelves.

    It's perfect. I love it. Our family are readers. Those shelves are filled with the massive book collections of four people - me, and my three spouses.

    I live in a library house.

    And I have to lose it.

    The one thing I have always wanted, my entire life, was a permanent home. I had to move every three to six months, growing up, because of my father. He made maps for the USGS. Supposedly. It's a weird story. Another time. I never got to have friends I didn't lose, I was lonely all the time, it sucked.

    Finally, I have a permanent home, at fifty, and now we have to move. To Oregon.

    I was born in Oregon, and I hate it. Loathe it. Despise the state. Admittedly, I only knew eastern Oregon: desert-y, dry, filled with uneducated, narrow-minded conservative, racist bastards who hate everything I love and admire. Had to deal with it every summer, because my mother owned a house in Baker City. It was the only island of security in my constant moving, and I despised it.

    We're moving to the Portland area, which I am told, is nice. It's supposed to be 'Seattle Light': liberal, educated, tech-savvy, queer positive, ethnically diverse - everything I like. The problem is that we are not alone.

    The reason we have to move is Intel. Intel, the big chip maker (Intel Inside!) made a few stupid moves. They got caught being Microsoft in Europe, buying freedom from competition with payola and ended up fined 1.7 billion dollars. Also, they've somehow managed to overlook how big, universal, monolithic processors for desktop computers aren't the market anymore... and that kinda means they're currently boned. Long story short: they have to get rid of two thirds of their workforce, and they don't want to pay unemployment to anyone.

    The answer? Make everybody who works for them move to Portland... or, well, it's your choice if you want to keep working. Brilliant! Screw everyone legally! America! What a country!

    And it's going well. They expect to lose 70% of their employees, which will look great on the bottom line. All over the country, though, thousands of people are nevertheless moving to Portland. We have to compete with them. All of them. Thousands, streaming into the areas outside of Portland, small areas, the only areas within commute distance of Intel.

    Additionally, Chinese nationals are currently buying up Portland real estate to get their money out of China fast. We lost one house because just such a person came in with a big suitcase full of money and bought the house we were negotiating for - for a 100,000 dollars over the asking price. They took the case. Of money.

    We can't match that kind of bullshit!

    Portland is three hours from where we live. This has to be done.

    We can't find a house we can afford. The prices are insane now. Big housing bubble because of all of this. We can't buy land to build our own house for the same reason. We've been trying since September of last year. The only rental houses are tiny, cramped, piss-pots that we can't fit into without ending up killing each other. But we have no choice. We have to move.

    By this upcoming September. Not much time left.

    Tomorrow, we drive down, yet again, to check out some unlikely properties - some blank lots, formerly farmland, without sewer, water, or power... and two houses, one located near a sawmill, the other on the runway of an airport. That is how desperate things are getting.

    And I sit here, in my dream home, the home I love, the perfect home, which I was promised I could live in for the rest of my life, the home I will lose. Forever.

    In my polyamoric family, I am the center. I am the lynchpin, the hetaera, the earthmother who holds it together. I comfort my spouses, I nurture them, I kiss their boo-boos, I listen to their pain. That's my position. It is where I fit best, and I am glad of it, and it is an honor. I am the uberwife. It is a sacred thing.

    But, it is also a very demanding thing. I am everybody's comfort. But there is no comfort for me. I can't unload, I can't break down, I can't fail, because if I collapse, everything goes to shit. Seriously, it's happened before - once when my mother died. I just fell apart and so did everything else nearly. Only love kept us together. I herd creative, superintelligent, incredibly driven cats for a living, you see. Without a cat herder... well.

    I am vastly well rewarded for an uberwife - don't feel sorry for me on that account. I get all the goodstuff. No complaints there.

    It's just that, when things are really tough on everyone, when everyone is openly talking about how tasty a cup of cyanide would be right about now? It's hard. Normally I manage to repair myself, keep myself functioning. That's part of the reason I am what I am in my family. But when it gets this bad... I'm not doing well right now. That's the fact of it. I am not doing well at all.

    It's been a hard past two years - two of my spouses nearly died from super-resistant bacteria. One from a burrito, the other from a swimming pool, but in both cases, these people I love more than my own life came within hours of dying. One involved blood everywhere, from every orifice. Everywhere. So much blood.

    Don't eat at Taco Time. I mean it. And don't swim at the YWCA.

    Then, of course, there was the matter of the Anti-TCB bastards here, destroying my entire genre, then dividing and conquering my writing community - turning many of those I thought my friends against me to save themselves... and ultimately, breaking me. I come here, to Fimfiction, to find safety, community, relief, and friendship. What a maroon, right? What a fucking idiot, right? Am I right? Love and tolerate. Yeah. Sure.

    So, I am very damaged, yet it is a time when I am most needed. I am failing. I am falling apart. And I can't, because I have a job to do. I need to be there for my family. And I am doing my best, but... I am not doing well. At all.

    The best case scenario, currently, is that we find a house we can stand, somehow, and don't take too much of a financial catastrophe to buy it. If we even can.

    We may end up renting a crappy place and living out of boxes for the one to three years it will take for the bubble to burst. Then maybe we can buy a house.

    We may, if we are very lucky, manage to buy a chunk of unloved, reject farm land, and over time, develop it. Septic tanks and a well. Get power in somehow. Literally buy the farm.

    But whatever happens, it is going to be a move down. Way down. Downscale. And that hurts, real bad, after thirty years of working our asses off to have something decent, finally, after all the suffering and struggle.

    My spouses are hurting really bad about this. They are utterly raw. That's why I have to be there. Mommy Jenny, keeping the family going. It is literally my honor. I am grateful to be such, to such wonderful people.

    But... I am not doing well.

    And that's where I am at, and why I have been so weird lately, so distant, so... unapproachable. It's why I won't skype, or answer emails easily. It's hard just to talk to anyone. It's hard, some days, just to keep breathing. Marvin, from Hitchhiker's is too upbeat for me right now. Bloody party robot.

    Well, I've embarrassed myself enough for one blog. Big shithead whinger I am. Whine, whine, whine. "Oh, all I've worked for these thirty years is all going to be lost forever! Oh poor me!" I know, there is no pity on the internet. Only hate, spite, trolls and loathing. And of course 'First World Problem, Chatoyance, losing your home! Some people don't even have homes! Fuck you! Go live in a car, you misanthropic cunt!' Oh, yeah, I expect that too.

    But not from everyone, and not from you. Not from you, the ones that still bother to read my blog.  

    So, anybody know a brilliant home under 350K in the Portland area within 30 minutes of Intel that could house four people? 3 1/2 bathrooms, maybe some space for gardening, no need for proximity to schools or anything else breeders need? A big, big room to use as an Uniplex? Three bedrooms, two offices, kitchen, garage, and utilities room?

    No?

    Yeah, I know. It's okay. Hey, I'm only fifty-four. I can always just... start over. Even despite my heart condition, I probably still have almost twenty years left.

    Do a lot in twenty years. Yeah. A lot.

    Like I said. I'm not doing well.

    Sorry.

    So, that's the story. Now you know.

    And knowing is half the battle. The other half involves bullets and explosions. And Michael Bay.

    And a goat.

    - Chatoyance, June 21st, 2014

    49 comments · 1,127 views
Feb
13th
2012

Since September 30th, 2011 I have written 405, 334 words of fiction.

Almost a half a million words of Conversion Bureau. I have Just completed my latest novel, The Conversion Bureau: The 800 Year Promise.

That is... a lot of words. I think. I'm pretty sure that's a lot of words. It doesn't feel like it though. It all went by so quickly.

I always feel sad when a story ends. I fall in love with my characters. But stories have a natural and inevitable conclusion, and when it comes, it comes.

I feel content with The 800 Year Promise, for a number of reasons. I managed, I believe, to develop an engaging married couple that have an adventure where they learn something about themselves, their universe, and their love for each other. They are changed by the experience, and become both hurt, and benefited by it; their love is deeper but their innocence is gone.

I also feel I finally put a cork in those who like to claim that Conversion Bureau stories are completely misanthropic; I have given the hardest hard case villains of the Conversion Bureau universe - The Human Liberation Front - not merely a dangerous face, but a likable one too, that in the end shows nobility and even compassion of a sort. More than this, I think I have clearly shown that their fight, the reason they fight, is completely understandable and valid. They are not villains after all, but just the losing side of a very lopsided war.

I have shown humanity unflinchingly, I think, in The 800 Year Promise, with all of its warts, and redeemed it: I have made of those very warts something both sad and hopeful, terrible and yet not without utility. And I have explained how ponies can be nasty and how humans can be better than ponies in some ways, and I have made of Celestia a creature both charming and yet fit to rule a universe. I think I have done these things, anyway.

Above all, I have given a reason for the Emergence of Equestria itself, the fundamental conceit of the Conversion Bureau universe, and I think my reason is both compassionate, and horrifying, a matter of honor and love, and at the same time nightmare fuel.

These are the reasons I feel content with this story, it has its flaws but I think I accomplished what I set out to do. Complete my vision of the Conversion Bureau Universe.

Blaze gave us a clumsy story with a brilliant premise, a concept far beyond his ability to work it. That is nothing to be ashamed of; a brilliant concept is a wonder to all and a master-level achievement. There is no end to what can be done with the basic Conversion Bureau concept.

But I felt that it needed a decent treatment, and a full skeleton to hang the flesh on. It needed to be something more than the mere wish-fulfillment that it was long dismissed as.

In my works I offer the Conversion Bureau mythos my attempt at codifying a solid base to work from. The way ponification serum works. How it works, and why, and in what ways under what conditions. How it was developed and why it was developed. A six-year timeline in which most existing stories can be placed. The cosmic physics behind what Equestria is, where it comes from, how it interfaces with Earth, and what the rules of that interaction are. How Equestria became what it is, what Celestia and Luna really are, and why their cosmos is rainbows and candy-colored ponies. How they rule, and why they rule and what drives them and why it drives them. I have codified a future dystopian Earth made of both good and bad people, extrapolated logically from our current world, but one where humans are slightly nicer and actually feed their own species. And now, finally, I have codified a reason for Equestria to expand and devour the Earth, and suggested why that is both good and horrifying at the same time.

This was my goal, and I think in 405,334 words I have done what I set out to do.

This vision, this codification is open. It is yours to use, yours to make of what you will. This framework is open source and royalty free and it is supposed to be a big tent under which any writer may find shelter and structure and ideas and directions. I wanted to take what Blaze had suggested and make something useful of it, something that you can work with, something self-consistent and rational, yet with ample room to grow and expand in all directions.

I don't know if I have any more Conversion Bureau stories in me at this point. I guess we'll see.

But with this story, this novel, The 800 Year Promise, I have laid the best foundation I can for anyone who wants to make use of it.

It isn't the 'Chatoyance' version of the Conversion Bureau, not to me. It's just the Conversion Bureau Universe, one maybe you can find some foundation in that makes sense, and isn't vague or self-contradictory. For those that want that of course.

Not everypony does. That's fine.

Now I need some rest.

- Chatoyance

Report Chatoyance · 1,194 views ·
#1 · 236w, 1d ago · · ·

405k! That's excessive! :pinkiegasp: :pinkiecrazy: :derpytongue2:

That's about all I can say to that. One more story the length of 800 year promise and you're over that!

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your stories, and wow, it does not feel like 405k words. I've read them all, some more than once.

The depth of your storytelling impresses me, the world you have created around the Conversion Bureau idea has benefitted my own immeasurably and I cannot express how glad I am to have been a part of it.

I do think that your take is "Chatoyance's Conversion Bureau", but I don't think that's a bad thing. Every author brings their own unique flavour, and I really enjoy the nuances you employ. From the third-party painkiller to the non-swearing, to the elder goddess from the pastel-coloured pit of hugging beyond the stars that is Celestia and Luna - I don't have to agree with them, I'm not that shallow. I see them for what they are - vehicles towards a deeper meaning in your stories. My frivolous fun pieces pale in comparison, I was too boring to change my ponies around even!

Keep it up (whip-crack, whip-crack), once you've had a rest. A half hour should do, then back to writing more! :heart:

#2 · 236w, 1d ago · · ·

If it means anything to you, I can't bring myself to think of the foundations you've laid as anything other than 'the conversion bureau universe' as well. When I read CB tales, I'm always subconsciously setting them in the world you created. And, it is a world. Not a concept, not a background, but a fully fleshed place, with rules, and history, and so many things that I can't imagine CB stories without. If I ever write my own conversion bureau tale, it will undoubtedly be built off of your foundations, and in addition to thanking you for providing your readers with literally monstrous amounts of content to devour, with hours and hours of intrigue and entertainment, I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for codifying this world, and making it simultaneously more approachable and endlessly more vast.

#3 · 236w, 1d ago · · ·

my face when I read 405k words -> :rainbowderp::derpytongue2:

But yea Chat, you are by and large one of the biggest factors in what prompted me to write In Duty's Name in the first place. I'll admit it was Pen Stroke Pony and Past Sins who planted the seed in my brain, but your Conversion Bureau stories are what poured a big ol' pile of miracle grow on it. You, Midnight, Windchaser, Anonsi, Hurricane Puncher, LesPony, and all the other brilliant authors who've written their own CB stories have truly given me a beautiful thing in helping me discover how much fun writing can be. Thank you :twilightsmile:

#4 · 236w, 1d ago · · ·

I have enjoyed all the conversion bureau stories you have written, I can say I loved the stories and the characters in them. They have inspired me to begin write my own stories of the Conversion bureau. Thank you for writting these and sharing them.  

#5 · 236w, 1d ago · 1 · ·

I have, tragically, fallen behind on The 800 Year Promise, which is probably readily apparent in my lack of commentary on most of its chapters. I will, at some point in the future, when I have overcome the challenges currently besieging me, return and offer my comments, for all the good they will do to you now that you have, at least for the time being, paused to rest.

That is, and I am hoping you will pardon my language, a fuckton of words, miss, and I have read all but the last several thousand of them and therefore can say with some degree of certainty that they are some of the most well-thought out, carefully chosen, and meticulously arranged words I have ever seen in fiction writing, and certainly some of the best I have seen in this fandom.

You were my first exposure to the Conversion Bureau universe, miss, and with all due respect to the other noble and skilled authors who have written within its boundaries, you are also my favorite. I confess to having my own story or set of stories on the way set in this universe, inspired heavily by what you (and others, but mostly you) have laid down as a foundation; and while I cannot, and should not, attest to the quality of my words compared to the quality of yours, I do hope to at least represent faithfully the world you have so faithfully represented and built.

I am, alongside so many others, eternally grateful to you for the stories you've created and the world you've helped build. Thank you so much for your months of toil, your dedication to your readers, and your fuckton of words.

To the future, miss, whether it contains ponies or not.

Faithfully yours,

Lysander

#6 · 236w, 1d ago · · ·

I loved every one of those 405334 words! Thank you for writing!

"I don't know if I have any more Conversion Bureau stories in me at this point. I guess we'll see."

Even if you don't, I hope to see you keep on writing, be it other pony fanfic, or more original scifi like Ishtar Crisis. You have quite the talent!

#7 · 236w, 23h ago · · ·

What we need right now is for some angry person to call you out for being (an extremely) pretentious (fuckwit) in this blogpost. :facehoof: (I'm not angry, but it feels like you've created an angry-person shaped hole.) You should be proud of what you've written, and there probably will be other fics based in your ~verse, but it is still Chatoyance~verse. There is no one Conversion Bureau ~verse. Many authors before you successfully decoupled Blaze's basic idea from his setting and created their own versions of both, and they will continue to make their own ~verses for their own stories. They won't be as extensively explored as yours is, but they don't need to be. Statements like "It needed to be something more than the mere wish-fulfillment that it was long dismissed as." and "I wanted to take what Blaze had suggested and make something useful of it, something that you can work with, something self-consistent and rational, yet with ample room to grow and expand in all directions." are insulting to all other TCB stories. Maybe you are both the most prolific and most talented TCB writer, but that give you no right to claim ownership over anything but your stories. Other authors created stories that were beyond wish-fulfillment, and ~verses that were self-consistent and rational. But your ~verse has limited space to "grow and expand in all directions" because you've already defined so many things. And all TCB stories do not fit in your ~verse. You can head-cannon the stories so that they fit, like Vergess does, but by themselves they are different.

Ever since you wrote your first few stories, I've wanted to do the same thing you've done: Explore the far reaches of morality and the big things like what Celestia is and other worlds and Ponification serum. Not just because I feel that all of it can be done differently and explore ideas, not just because your ~verse is super-high contrast and another exploration could include entire spectrum of drama-cultivating grey, but because your Ponies are not the Ponies in the show. Basically, FiM is a tv show for little children, so we don't directly see Ponies hurting each other, but it's sophisticated enough that it's heavily hinted at that some Ponies can be quite hurtful to others, to the extent of completely ruing each others lives. And just because it's peaceful now doesn't mean it always was.

I can't though. I've skipped tons of what I want to say here. I may not quite seem like it, but I'm an extremely pathetic writer. I have statements I wan to make about almost everything you've said, but I can't. I've spend years, thousands of hours, online (lots of usernames) arguing and discussing and being persuasive on different websites across the internet. I'm barely competent. It is not something i have any real talent at, because otherwise I'd be an expert by now. And for all the many and various fiction I've read, I have never written more than a few very short stories.

So no, I can't practice what I'm ineptly preaching. There probably won't be another author who explores their TCB~verse as extensively as you have. But no amount of achievement, no inspirations readers will gain, nothing can excuse how pretentious and superior you are in this blog post. You have no right to claim ownership over everything that has been written and will be written in the Conversion Bureau stories. For the 5th TCB Writing Event, (write a continuation, prequel, or spinoff of someone else's TCB story,) you wrote Ten Minutes: Aftermath. The original Ten Minutes's premise was simple: Replace zombies with armies of brainwashed Ponies, suicidally dying by the hundreds and thousands to convert the remaining Humans of Earth. It was a silly premise, but the author played it straight and serious. In the conclusion of the story, one of the Ponies regains her Human memories and spends a last moment with the last Human before they both die. In Aftermath, you ported the story into your universe, running whateverthewordis over everything in the original by inserting your Perfect Ponies, who instead of being insane were sacrificing themselves to save Human's souls. That didn't make the story better, because it removed everything that small, short, weak and defenseless story stood for.

I really wish that there was an angry person who beat me to all this. That person could rage at everything, line by line, motivated and passionate and powerful. Me? I'm just depressed.

#8 · 236w, 23h ago · · ·

>>14512

Wow, quite the wall of words here. And all of it really pathetically written. :facehoof::facehoof::facehoof::facehoof::facehoof:

#9 · 236w, 23h ago · 1 · ·

>>14512

I actually had someone go over my post to make sure it wasn't egotistical or upsetting. I guess it is impossible to win.

Nutshell: Blaze's treatment was weak, everyone agrees with that, just as everyone agrees that his idea was godlike. I wanted to make a self-consistent big tent framework that any writer could feel a part of and which would solidify the CB mythos. My statement above is just handing the keys to anyone who wants them. That's it. Nothing more. I am giving away ownership, not taking it, I am handing everything over, not claiming it for myself.

What do I have to say to express; hey, I've done this, now it's yours to play with if you want, if you don't want then don't?

I don't know what you read, but whatever you are channeling, that isn't me or what I tried to communicate.

#10 · 236w, 20h ago · · ·

>>14512

I understand what you're saying about how there's little wiggle room for world-building for other writers who want to use her TCB-verse, but not all stories are built around world-building. I can think of many story ideas that can fit into Chatoyance's universe, mostly because I enjoy writing stories about human/pony interaction. Not every story is world-spanning, or world-changing. Sometimes they only involve the personal worlds of a few characters.

#11 · 236w, 17h ago · · ·

Just to poke my head in here... While you have created a bleak dystopia for humanity, Chatoyance, it's a WARRANTED one.  As far as I'm concerned, you've extrapolated nicely.  There's plenty of room to work even within the "constraints" of your particular version of TCB.  Certainly, I think it's confined in some senses, but it's a good, workable confinement.  Ponyfeathers, you and Midnight are the ones I'm basing my TCB work off of, so don't you dare feel bad about what you've written, either here in this blog post or any of your stories.  It's thanks to you two that I'm even writing again, save for annual National Novel Writing Month attempts, for the first time in the better part of a decade.

I don't know why some folks seem to have some particular damage over the way you've worked your continuity.  Me? I'm grateful.  Kind of hard to forget a wonderful author who has been the cause of many, MANY late nights on my part :heart:

In short? Thank you.  Whether you continue writing, take an extended break, or put down the quill and parchment for good, thank you.

#12 · 236w, 14h ago · 1 · ·

>>14636

"if you don't want then don't?"

"for anyone who wants to make use of it."

"Not everypony does. That's fine."

"maybe you can find some foundation"

Is there a single instance of "trying to impose that your interpretation" anywhere in any of that? Even a little?

Have I suddenly stopped using English correctly here? Do my words come out "Gorble Plubash Bark Bark" or something? Jesus Dogfucking Christ on a Pony, just how totally self-effacing and effort-deprecating do I have to be here, before this ends?

Do you need me to say something like "Oh, all of my work is crap and everything I did is just my little stupid effort but, like, you can use it if, like, you wanted to, not that you would of course, because it all sucks and so do I." Will THAT satisfy you? Do I need to say it in 1337 speak, or Swahili or something, is English no longer relevant?

Is somehow there just no possible way to seem small and grovelling enough to satisfy you? Is that the issue? What the flying fuck!

At this point... I am happy to be taking a vacation. Fuck.

Listen very, very carefully, FourFire and Derpmind and anybody else who somehow cannot read clear english:

ME DUMB. ME BAD. BUT ME MAKE STORY WORLD FRAMEWORK. YOU CAN USE IF WANT. YOU CAN DUMP IF WANT. ME JUST TRY TO HELP. DON'T USE IF NOT LIKE!

And if that is not simple enough, then just... go away. Please. Bullshit like this makes me wonder why I bothered at all.

#13 · 236w, 10h ago · 2 · ·

>>14512

>>14636

I had a look at that post Chat made before she posted it, and I think you've got the wrong end of the stick, by a country mile. Seriously. If I were standing there right next to you I'd slap the stupid off you.

Statements like "It needed to be something more than the mere wish-fulfillment that it was long dismissed as." and "I wanted to take what Blaze had suggested and make something useful of it, something that you can work with, something self-consistent and rational, yet with ample room to grow and expand in all directions." are insulting to all other TCB stories

No, I don't agree with you. I'm not insulted at all, infact I'm angry at you, and here's why.

You can blame me if her blog post sounds pretentious, not her, because then I slipped up. What I read it as and what I think she means by every single word, is simply that when she wrote her own TCB stories she wanted to take the one base simple idea that Blaze had, and build around it something that was in and of itself complete, logical and self-consistent. She is not claiming ownership, she is not usurping anything, she isn't even claiming it's the best. She is claiming, rightly so, that as a blanket fleshing-out of the idea, everything you need for a self-consistent, logical mythos is there, and that it is better than the original. It is also the most comprehensive.

Now that she feels that not only is this story done, but a large enough quantity of them, like many authors of shared universes before she is saying "here is the world, play in it if you wish".

Blaze's idea wasn't even scaffolding, it was a nugget, an inkling. As she and I and all others do, we thank Blaze for that nugget, that kernel, but it was quite frankly bad for a number of reasons. That's okay, it's nothing to be ashamed of. It does, however, need somepony to take it further, to give it a rational makeover. That misanthropy (and I know Blaze didn't mean it, but that's what he got), that wish fulfillment - it stands in the way of acceptance not only of the original but of every story that follows Blaze's pattern.

Chatoyance's fleshed-out realization - all 405k words of it - gives you why, how, when and where for so many things. It defines gods, ponies, humans, timelines, locations, methods and reasons behind all of that. Follow her rules, and you have something that won't fall down on a technicality. As much as people like to think it is, her stuff isn't misanthropic, that's the power of it.

in her words:...In my works I offer the Conversion Bureau mythos my attempt at codifying a solid base to work from...

Maybe you read It isn't the 'Chatoyance' version of the Conversion Bureau ... It's just the Conversion Bureau Universe and forgot not to me.

She means "write in my world rather than the original, if you want", not "all shall bow before my hooves".

Chatoyance, I'm sorry for causing you pain by not picking up on ambiguous word choice - I've spoken to you a lot more than most so I know what you meant, and I have obviously screwed up and let you down.

#14 · 236w, 3h ago · · ·

The trick to world building is walking a fine line between detail and ambiguity. And I think Chatoyance has done a very fine job of that.

The 'CB' milieu is now much better defined for her efforts, but there is soooo much more out there, so many more stories that need to be told.

I think the problem we see here is that this fandom does seem to be very literal in their interpretations of all things pony. Challenging anything; the number of princesses, the way ponies interact, or even the 'fannon' personalities of 'fannon' characters is met with instant, and potentially violent, "Not In My Fandom".

I think almost every 'OC Pony' author faces this to some extent with this group as well, and I'm still trying to figure out "Why?"

TCB, by it's very nature is extremely divisive. For many it seems to fly in the face of 'love and tolerate' to some extent - ponies assimilating humanity and not feeling bad about it. And this causes an intense emotional outburst.

The video I did for TCB up on youtube is even starting to generate some 'emotional response' simply because it is associated with the stories... Random people are feeling the need, nay obligation, to tell me that they don't like the stories and their reasoning for this. Even "Transcendence" has earned me a raft of emails similar to: "I don't like your video because it is escapist and I don't feel anyone should want to run away to Equestria. We need to fix the problems here and not fantasize about magic portals to ponyland."

Wow.

Now, I do answer each and every one with a completely unemotional desire for them to tell me more, and I get them into a discussion about 'why' the video made them feel this way. Mostly because it was an experiment in videography to see if I could cause the viewer to self-insert, and by all accounts I was quite successful - but I want to understand why I was successful...

(blinks)

Maybe that's it... TCB really does center around the reader's reality being the situation - that's the fuel for the story. Perhaps it isn't the 'treatment of humanity' that is the real issue, it's the fact that 'the treatment' is amplified because the reader has been pulled into the event so completely and has a real emotional investment in the events depicted. This would take the highly literal nature of the average pony fan and seriously push them to an extreme.

Note that few pony fans are on the fence about TCB - they either sing praises, or wield pitchforks.

(shakes her head)

Whatever the case - it is certainly fascinating and I really do hope you continue writing for us Chatoyance. For me, it's been an absolutely wonderful romp and I really do thank you for all you've written. And that you've done it for nothing more than the thrill of the tale is simply awesome.

Thank you very much Chatoyance.

#15 · 235w, 6d ago · 1 · ·

>>14641

Ummm...  I like your work, please don't stop writing?

Ok, in all seriousness,  I think that you set up one hell of a universe in your stories. You managed to strike that right balance between descriptive world setting, and non dry personal writing to make the reader interested at the same time as you set the universe in which your stories took place. I think that you have one heck of a gift Chat. Write about what interests you Chat. Personal writing is how you pulled me in with your stories.

Also, I don't think you were pushing or really even suggesting that people should use your version of the conversion bureau world.  The impression that I took was that you were willing to let other people in your sandbox and go nuts with it basically. You had done something that most people would have extreme difficulty with. You managed to create a world framework at a frightening (but in a good way) pace that managed (at least for me, can't personally speak for everyone else) to keep the reader interested and invested in the characters.  

Also>>14512,  I get that you think that Chat is trying to push her version over everyone else's, but I do honestly think she is just trying to share it with everyone instead of hoarding it and not letting anyone use her universe. Also, there is expansion available inside of her universe. Two examples of the top of my mind(at time of writing) is how the HLF perfected gene engineering to allow themselves to stay the same and how the PER manages to get new members to do violent things. (I.e. more gene engineering in the potion perhaps?). There are also stories that aren't meant to define a world, but are used to define person and their struggles in life.  Having a world already defined can help take the pressure off of an author and allow them to focus on their characters more. Also, chat never really dismissed anyone else's idea. The closest she came to that was saying how blaze's story never really worked but how he had a great idea, and how she said that she didn't see her universe as Chat's universe but as the conversion bureau universe. To be honest, I don't think that's belittling anyone else version of the universe. Any author will probably, unless they write in another persons universe, think their version of the universe is the right one. We all experience different things and understand things differently.  That leads us to all view the same thing slightly different and have our unique takes on it.  Thus, we all, at least head cannon wise, have our own version of the CB-verse as the one true one.  Chat just simply said that is how she saw her own version, which is one hundred percent cool with me. She didn't dictate that's had to see her version as the one true one, or that I had to do so to write in her universe. She is just letting other people use her universe if they wish, that is all I believe she intended.

Giant wall of text aside,  Chat, you are an amazing writer and I hope you don't give it up. Allow your muse to come forth and write but what it wills.  

#16 · 235w, 6d ago · · ·

The Conversion Bureau is something that every writer is able to depict differently, however there is one author who's stories I have come to accept as the best. Yours Chatoyance. Your stories have indeed developed that universe FAR beyond that of the original, Your stories have captured my attention for hours on end, and your stories inspire my writing on a daily basis. I don't think we need to call it "Chatoyances Conversion Bureau" As it basically is the "Original" in my eyes. I sincerely hope that you will continue to write in that world you have come to design. If you don't though, I guess we will all just have to settle on whatever world you make next.

#17 · 235w, 3d ago · · ·

>>14765

Regarding the emails you got about this. This kind of hate is good. It implies that there is a lot of love for something to justify hating it.

This kind of hate means that they are fascinated by concept and have thought about it long enough to create a stance around it. He isn't merely reading a story, he is philosophising. This is why I consider the good TCB writers (Midnight Shadown, Chatoyance, etc) to be very good at.

In some way it insults us, but you know what, insulting us is the best thing it can do. It forces us to think and question.

#18 · 235w, 2d ago · · ·

I don't remember anymore why I wrote that comment, or why I wrote so much. I need to admit something to myself that I've always avoided acknowledging: I cannot let myself write anything at all when I get emotional. My most essential opinions are unchanged, but given that I devolved into sleep-deprived ranting, I don't believe that I have any right to discuss them anymore. I'm sorry, and I apologize for, to be honest, being myself.

#19 · 235w, 2d ago · · ·

The best stories are ones that make you feel something, even if that something is negative. I think a step back and a deep breath is all that's needed to keep feelings from being unnecessarily hurt. Cooler heads prevail and all that. We will all misconstrue and be misconstrued from time to time. When you're on one side of the line, just remind yourself of the last time you were on the other side.

Chatoyance, regarding your stories, I've really enjoyed them so far. Taking a break is always a good (and necessary!) thing, but I hope it's not out of discouragement or burnout. I've been in sort of a vacuum in all things fan-fiction since turning my attention inward to work on my own as-yet-unfinished story. This was largely because I didn't want to be subconsciously "inspired" by other works and then wake up one morning to find a stream of "omg all you did was copy _______'s story" comments. However, when I saw the sheer breadth of your work, I couldn't resist. TCB was a universe I only ever intended to write in once, so it was exempt from my no-reading-fanfiction rule, but up through what I've read of yours so far (which is everything except 800 Year and Taste of Grass), it's really made me want to write in TCB again. It's hugely engaging and entertaining and it makes me want to play around in the universe some more. That's a Bad Thing™ for me, because I am terrible when it comes to distractions and I'm a slow writer even when completely focused, so I needed this like I needed a hole in the head. That's all my problem, of course; that you've doomed me to (eventually) writing more TCB is the best compliment I can give.

Your setting plays up the futuristic crapsack-world aspect of TCB much more than most, which is necessary for the sorts of stories you tell. Me, I'm a sucker for more immediately relatable settings, so I always envisioned the human side of the TCB universe as more contemporary, with perhaps a liiiittle bit of sci-fi thrown in for some detachment from the "real world." It can be argued that the real world is crapsack enough for the purposes of setting Conversion-Bureau stories to it, but it's easier to look through a window than a mirror.

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