1. Member Since 22nd Sep, 2011
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Chatoyance


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 Posts73

  • Wednesday
    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




    33 comments · 272 views
  • 15w, 3d
    The State Of The Unicorn 2015

    44 comments · 626 views
  • 33w, 4d
    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 · 692 views
  • 36w, 3d
    This week and the next is moving.

    And I am in hell.

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

    30 comments · 521 views
  • 38w, 1d
    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 · 381 views
  • 39w, 5d
    Error Correction

    16 comments · 334 views
  • 39w, 6d
    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 · 832 views
  • 42w, 6d
    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 · 923 views
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  • 98w, 4d
    Online Abuse On Fimfiction, part four of four.


    The Story Of My Leaving

    By Chatoyance


    You who follow my work here on Fimfiction may be curious about the circumstances of my leaving. I left abruptly, and without explanation. I would like to correct that.

    In short, I left because I felt heartbroken. I had been the focus of organized online and offline harassment and bullying because of my Conversion Bureau stories, but this was not the main reason for my flight from Fimfiction.

    What was the final blow for me was the betrayal of some of those who I considered dear friends and allies, as well as the failure of the Fimfiction management. It was possible to nearly cope with the constant abuse so long as I felt support from those I trusted. But when some of my trusted friends failed to back me up or stand with me in a time of trouble, when some even joined with those who were abusing me, that was simply too much.

    During the worst of the harassment directed against me, I received multiple death threats, countless letters and messages of hatred and insult, constant downvote abuse that rendered my own posts silenced, and in the real world suffered targeted denial of service attacks against my family servers and mailservers, as well as hacking attempts, some successful and quite destructive.

    All of these attacks came with proxy-anonymized messages of hate and insult, directed personally at me, from members of the Anti-Conversion Bureau. They claimed the attacks were specifically because of my Conversion Bureau stories, and the stated goal was to force me to quit writing. It was an organized, orchestrated, ongoing assault that affected my family and myself.

    The abuse began in the March of 2012.

    Until that time, for a full year, I had enjoyed the most joyful and wonderful creative period of my entire fifty-three years of life. Better than my entire software career working for companies like Activision and Electronic Arts, more enjoyable than my second career helping to develop and run one of the first, and most successful games websites at the beginning of the internet. More fun that my third career as a cartoonist. It was the happiest year of my life, in terms of creative expression.

    I needed such a happy creative outlet because it was also a year of fear and near tragedy. Two of my spouses nearly died from terrible infections, one lost her esophagus from food poisoning, another nearly perished from a seemingly unstoppable kidney infection. Only last-resort antibiotics barely saved their lives. The single thing that kept me going during this nightmare was writing my stories. There were times the only bright thing in my life was the camaraderie of my fellow Conversion Bureau authors, and the support of my fully engaged readers. That kept me afloat, and able to help my spouses.

    While this year of online joy and real-world horror went on, a group of young men on a wargaming forum called ‘forums.spacebattles.com’ decided they were deeply upset that anyone was writing about the Conversion Bureau universe. They seemed to feel that the mere existence this fiction somehow threatened their own beloved fantasies of power-suited supermen killing aliens in bloody, nightmarish wars. They ranted and raved about how anyone could write stories where humans would willingly become aliens, rather than kill aliens.

    This caused so much trouble that they were asked by their own community to leave.

    So it was that in March of 2012 this same small group of wargamers joined Fimfiction and immediately began attacking the Conversion Bureau authors. Naturally they attacked the most prolific author preferentially, and that author was me.

    In short order they attracted a following (the internet loves a gang-up), pulling in people from many other places on the internet and worked to create what amounted to a hate group - the Anti-Conversion Bureau Group (now renamed as the ‘Alternative Conversion Bureau’ as an escape from censure by the moderators). The attacks increased as inflaming posts and angry diatribes encouraged collective violence against the authors of the Bureau stories, and very specifically me. It was calculated online terrorism, and it naturally just got worse and worse.

    I, having no concept of the scale of the attack, did my best to ask those that persecuted me to stop. I suggested that if they did not like my stories, that there were thousands of other stories to turn to. I begged them to simply not read my work.

    But they were not there to read pony stories. These bullies were very clear - they had come purely to silence all of the Conversion Bureau authors, destroy the Bureau genre itself, and - because I was prolific, to especially silence me. The reason for the attack? They did not personally approve of such stories, and since they did not approve, such stories should not exist for anyone.

    They were wargamers. The campaign they launched was carefully architected and carried out, and in the end caused many authors to abandon Fimfiction, including myself.

    I begged the moderators to help. I begged the site owner, Knighty, to help. I provided concrete proof of the abuse directed towards me. A weak, ineffective effort was made to deal with the most egregious of the growing group of bullies, but in the end, nothing real came of it. There was no follow-through whatsoever.

    Evil, true evil, is always a matter of institutionalization. For harassment and abuse to exist, those with power and authority must turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Through failure to actively protect those within their care, authority offers tacit approval of abuse. Through thoughtless coding of features, programmers make abuse easy, and thus unintentionally encouraged.

    Despite clear examples of blatant abuse and real-world attacks, the moderators failed to confront and stop the abuse, and ultimately Knighty - who barely made a token effort to deal with the bullies and their hate group - failed everyone.

    But the final blow came when many of those I considered my friends - those who I had shared my glorious year of joyful creative fellowship with - either silently ignored the ongoing attacks, or blatantly caved in and chose submission to the abusers, rather than to work together to oppose them. By then, I had become essentially the sole focus of attacks, yet only a handful of people stood by me.

    You only know the true character of a friend by what they actually bother to do when you are under attack.

    Management would not help. Many of my former friends on Fimfiction remained uselessly silent or joined the bullies. Eventually several of those who had courageously stood with me became so hurt that they simply had to leave - in disgust, in grief, in sadness.

    Then I too, seeing their wisdom, also left.

    No truly sane or decent person ever abuses or harasses another person.

    That so many people were driven to gang up to destroy a genre of fiction and the authors that wrote it is not a sane, or a decent, or a kind, or a good thing. It is worse that Knighty and the moderators of Fimfiction effectively stood by and let it happen. All evil requires is that good men do nothing, or in this case, little.

    In the aftermath, the leaders of the original attack have consolidated their victory. They have begun a widespread effort to delete the bulk of their own vicious and threatening postings from Fimfiction, and the scars left behind by this mass deletion are easy to see. Only the responses to these vile and sometimes frightening attacks remain, ghostly quotations merely hinting at the truly terrible threats and slander now purposefully deleted.

    The victors write the history books, and an effort is ongoing to make the creative authors of the Conversion Bureau out to be the aggressors - especially me. That this is ludicrous should be obvious with even the simplest thought about it. The very notion that a creative person, busy writing stories to an appreciative audience, could somehow magically force dozens of people to join a website so that they could then be attacked is utterly insane. That a happy, content author with many fans has any reason to cause trouble to anyone is beyond credibility.

    That one little author of pony stories could be the aggressor against over four-hundred members of a group dedicated to eliminating that author and her choice of genre? It beggars the imagination. Yet this is their Big Lie.

    It is always the behavior of bullies that they paint their victims as deserving harassment, and ultimately being to blame for their own abuse. Apparently, I dressed provocatively.

    It is beyond silly, of course, but this is the story that is being crafted, and the bigger the lie, and the more often it is repeated, the more people will believe it. Already, some people on Fimfiction are actually falling for this ridiculous revisionism, simply because it is all they hear, it is not being challenged - as it should be - and it is not something that is being thought about at all.

    No person should ever be harassed, or bullied or attacked online. Abuse and harassment should be challenged at every appearance, friends should stand together to oppose harassment, and all should demand that the management of a website aggressively and universally protect and defend its users from abuse - both by action in the moment, and by website design that eliminates the abuse of tools that permit harassment, and the provision of working tools for users to protect themselves.

    I was terribly harassed, yet only a few true souls tried to defend me. The management failed me utterly at every level, and the structure of the site itself is easily abused to cause harm.

    This is why I left Fimfiction.

      

    Petal Chatoyance, 2013

    (Jennifer Diane Reitz)


    The Complete Abuse On Fimfiction Blog Series

    Quick Links to previous parts

    Part One: Abuse, why, how and how to cope

    Part Two: My letter To Knighty

    Part Three: What you can do to help things


    86 comments · 2,800 views
  • 98w, 5d
    Online Abuse On Fimfiction, part three of four.


    What You Can Do To Make Fimfiction A Safer Place

    By Chatoyance

    You’ve now read about the story of my departure from Fimfiction, how and why bullying was possible here, and the letter I sent Knighty to explain how he can protect you from what happened to me.

    It isn’t safe here, I am not a special snowflake, and what happened to me can absolutely also happen to you. You may be next. If not you, then someone you care about here. That should not happen, it is wrong.

    So, what can you do to protect yourselves?

    The emotional self-protection advice within the Online Abuse article is helpful I believe, but to make Fimfiction a decent, safe place to write in, Fimfiction itself needs to change. The changes are simple, easy, and only require that Knighty and the moderators choose to bother with them.

    At least some - preferably all - of the items listed below need to be implemented for your protection, and only a strong and unyielding demand from the user base can hope to have this happen. If you want some tiny degree of protection from harassment, you need to make sure Knighty and the mods hear this need loudly, clearly, and unceasingly until something is done. It seems clear that no one person can convince Knighty that the need for basic user protections is both important and needful. Some or all of the following - or something equally powerful - desperately needs to be applied to Fimfiction:  


    First, all tools and components that can be easily used to cause abuse to others, or which create an atmosphere of contention and conflict must be eliminated. Primary among these is the comment erasing, easily abused downvote button - it is unnecessary, contrary to the spirit of pony fiction, and automatically pits users against each other. If there must be a way to vote on a story, all that is required is an upvote. Say something nice, or say nothing at all.

    The worst abuse an upvote alone is capable of is slightly inflated popularity, and that, really, hurts nobody.


    Secondly, the blocks on others made by a user should automatically carry over when they create a group. The user blocking choices of the founder of a group should also determine who may belong or not, and if they have blocked someone, that choice should inform the groups they create. This permits the existence of safe spaces. Deletion of comments within a group should be fixed, it currently does not work at all much of the time.


    Thirdly, some proof of identity should be demanded by Fimfiction with each account to prevent the endless creation of sock-puppet accounts for purposes of abuse and harassment. The identity of users does not need to be open to the public, and should not be open to the public - but it should be clearly understood that those in charge of Fimfiction know who the users are, and that users will be held accountable for their actions on the site.  


    Lastly, the moderators should proactively and robustly enforce anti-harassment and anti-bullying policy, that policy should be clearly stated with clear rules and definitions, and those seen to be harassing others should be severely dealt with. Additionally, groups formed solely for the purpose of harassment and hate should not be tolerated to exist at all. When found, they, and all members of such groups, should be promptly and severely dealt with.


    In short, a standard and functional anti-harassment policy should be completely followed through with, and harassment of any kind should not be tolerated in the least.


    How do we make this happen?

    The only way to make these changes happen is to convince Graeme Pollard, ‘Knighty’, the creator/programmer of Fimfiction to take real and useful action with regard to them.

    This means you need to write to him, and explain that you want these safety measure to be implemented, that reducing bullying matters to you, and that there is a problem here, and it needs to be solved.


    Write to Graeme (Knighty) at:

    knight33@gmail.com

    or PM him from his user page, or post directly on his user page, here:

    [url=http://www.fimfiction.net/user/knighty]http://www.fimfiction.net/user/knighty[/url]


    What else can you do?

    Never tolerate bullying or harassment. Report it and demand a response when you see it - even if it is not directed at you. Especially if it is not directed at you - protect your community, protect your friends.

    If someone is being bullied and harassed, stand by them. Support them. Defend them. Remain loyal and true to anyone being attacked, and always stand united against every bully. If you side with those who commit harassment or encourage harassment, then you are just the same. You are a bully too. Always protect and defend those who are being hurt. Demand protection - and results - from management when harassment happens to anyone.

    Always remember that there is no excuse for bullying. Bullying is not ‘free speech’, it is not ‘criticism’ it is not ‘teaching’ it is not ‘calling someone on their bullcrap’ - it is an assault, it is wrong, and there is no excuse for it. If a post is not kind, if a post is not civil, then do not tolerate it. Shut down any attempt to put forward the notion that abuse is ever justified by any reason whatsoever. If it cannot be said kindly, then it should not be said. Incivility is abuse. You create the culture you live in by what level of behavior you tolerate. Bullies must not be tolerated.

    If someone bullies you, do not respond. Block, delete and report. A bully is beneath you, they are not worth your time or feeling.

    It is easy to spot any bully - if they are trying to silence someone, frighten someone, or make someone feel bad about themselves or their creative work, they are a bully. There is no excuse for behaving like that. Creativity should be encouraged, and if a comment makes you feel bad about yourself or your work, then that comment is bad. Real teaching is kind and helpful, real criticism is kind and helpful, and it is absolutely possible to discuss any subject in a supportive, kind way.

    If things are not civil, if they are not polite, if they are not kind, you are under attack.

    Demand a safe, civil environment!


    NEXT TIME:

    The Story Of My Leaving - the conclusion of this series.

    65 comments · 1,511 views
  • 98w, 6d
    Online Abuse On Fimfiction, part two of four.


    My Letter to Graeme Pollard(Knighty)

    email: knight33@gmail.com

    _____________________________________________________________________


    Hello, Graeme!

    I’m Jennifer Reitz, (Chatoyance on Fimfiction) and I wanted to write to you about programming with regard to Fimfiction. You probably know me as the writer who was harassed into leaving. Rather than being angry, I'd like to help the situation as it stands.

    In the 80’s, before I founded my own little software company - Accursed Toys, Inc. - I worked for many companies. There was a saying at the time among designers, like myself, and programmers too, that ‘The Interface IS The Game’. This is fairly common sense - the entire possibility set which a user has available to them in any program is circumscribed by the interface they use.

    But interface is far more than a set of command options. Interface defines and creates user experience, and in a social context, as with a social website, interface directly shapes user culture.


    Humans Can Be Programmed

    Human behavior is programmed and shaped in countless deliberate ways, and any given culture - from that of the men of a military boot camp to the tone and attitude of a classroom - is, optimally, deliberately shaped and created to serve a defined goal. When social behavior is not shaped and defined, people become confused about what is expected of them, they often fall to a lowest common denominator of behavior, and chaos ultimately ensues. Social environments can be programmed through the choices of those creating them.

    Fimfiction is a social environment.


    Options Are A Form Of Communication

    In any computer game, the tone, emotion, and feeling of the work are defined not just by the graphics or the music or the characters, such human matters are also created by the possibility set available to the player. In any situation, be it physical interaction or online interaction, mood and feeling are likewise defined by the chosen set of allowed actions.


    The Three Choices

    In any program, game or website, everything that matters to the user ultimately reduces to choice. From an emotional standpoint, there are three types of choices: Antagonistic, Amicable, and Neutral.

    A Neutral choice is purely functional. Selecting a font, choosing to save or load, these choices are tools and carry no social power in and of themselves.

    An Antagonistic choice is one where the user is pitted in some fashion against another user, or a perceived opponent real or computer controlled. Antagonistic choices generate conflict, upset, and drama, but also excitement. Antagonistic choices promote tribalism, infighting, and a social contract of warfare.

    An Amicable choice is one where the user cooperates with other users or adds to a growing body of mutual choices. Amicable choices promote fellowship, civility, and a social contract of mutuality.


    Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

    The use of tools to express opinion within a social space is useful and common, but how such tools are implemented has a tremendous effect upon the emotional character of such a space.

    The use of a ‘Thumb Up To Approve, Thumb Down To Disapprove’ option instantly introduces conflict. It is an Antagonistic choice set. Users comprehend the tone of their online social environment through the possibility set provided them. Websites that wish to generate conflict and drama provide means by which users can polarize themselves into opposing tribes and groups. Fighting and turmoil is a natural result as these means are utilized. For a website about Klingon Fandom within Star Trek, for example, the use of an ‘Up Dagger’ and a ‘Down Dagger’ would be expected. Klingons are warriors, and opposition is their nature.


    Friendship Is Choices

    For a website defined by values of cooperation, tolerance, and compassion, conflict choices would generate a culture at odds to the subject matter. The options provided to a user within a program define their experience, more than this, the available set of options defines mood, tone and the emotional feeling of the user.

    In the case of Fimfiction, the choice to provide both ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ is an antagonistic choice set. It communicates opposition and encourages dispute and discordance, conflict and tribalism. It is in opposition to the milieu of My Little Pony. That it can also be abused to entirely erase the posts of users only enhances this effect. The result is bullying and social warfare.

    By constraining the possibility set to limit user actions to only those things that are desired or which are appropriate to the subject matter, online culture is defined and reinforced.

    Eliminating all oppositional choices creates a shared culture. It is a form of communication, of programming, which instinctively defines to the user what is expected by what is possible.

    Eliminating any such choice as ‘Thumbs Down’ would go far towards silently, elegantly shaping the user culture of Fimfiction. Leaving only ‘Thumbs Up’ allows expression of opinion, but places the emphasis entirely on positive, shared, cooperative attitudes. The user can chose to go out of their way to show support - ‘say something nice’ - or refrain from support - ‘or don’t say anything at all’. This unconsciously promotes civil behavior without having to say a single word.

    The single worst possible abuse that could be made of a purely ‘Thumbs Up’ system would be that a group of dedicated superfans might over-praise a given work. This is not any kind of problem, and if anything, encourages users to behave in ways that garner positive feelings.


    Covering The Socket-Outlets

    Every option, tool, or selection offered to a user should be considered through the filter of “How could a truly vicious person abuse this?” While only a small percentage of people are likely to abuse a given system to hurt others or to cause trouble, the damage a single determined user can do to even a large social group is great. Essentially, the interface to any program, especially software designed to create a social environment, requires child-proofing.

    While some web sites thrive on interpersonal and group conflict - such as the defunct Portal Of Evil, or Encyclopedia Dramatica and 4-chan - their membership is limited to a small subset of possible online users.

    Fimfiction appeals to a much larger potential audience, one that includes the very young to the very old. If a large participation is desired, all design should optimally exist to reduce conflict, encourage civility and mutuality, and generate emotions of welcoming and safety. This is the tack taken by successful commercial websites, such as those owned by Disney, Nintendo and others. A safe, civil environment provides the greatest possibility of a maximal audience.


    No Room For Hate

    When I, and many others, were singled out for harassment because of our participation on Fimfiction, it was a very traumatic experience. Many highly productive writers dedicated to helping and supporting other writers have fled entirely, myself included. Initially, I will honestly say that I desired nothing less than bloody retribution. Such feelings are precisely what are not useful or optimal for a My Little Pony website to generate. There are ways to prevent such harassment before it begins, through website design alone, such as shown in the ‘Thumbs Up’ example.

    But sometimes it is absolutely necessary to impose culture, and in doing so, the best model is one of effective parenting.

    An effective parent sets rules and boundaries, clearly states the consequences of breaking those rules and boundaries, and then fully and completely follows through with imposing those consequences should the rules be broken.

    The single greatest failure a parent or leader can make is to fail to follow through completely when imposing consequences. At best the parent or leader is seen as weak and ineffective, at worst they are seen as complicit in the breaking of the rules by all concerned, especially those actually breaking the rules themselves.

    Human beings (of any age) operate under a base assumption that whatever is not forbidden is allowed. If someone in charge is ignores violations, then the assumption is that permission has been tacitly given.

    This happened with regard to the contentious Anti-TCB hate group. When it was deleted, it was immediately restored, the members believing that the entire deletion had been a software glitch or accident.

    If a leader or parent figure weakly imposes consequences, then they are perceived as weak and easily manipulated, or they are seen as tacitly supporting those they are dealing with.

    This also is true with regard to the Anti-TCB group (now the Alternative TCB Group), who express, openly, just these thoughts. The rule was not harass others, and they now conform to appearing to not openly harass anyone. This is not the same as ceasing destructive behavior. Since no real consequence came of their actions, and since nothing was clearly defined or said with regard to their actions, their reasonable assumption is that they can get away with anything so long as it is not overt.

    I should note that I, and others, are still being harassed even after leaving entirely.

    When faced with clearly destructive, antagonistic behavior within a social environment, it is necessary to reiterate a clear and firm statement of policy followed by fully followed through consequences. This is the only way to establish order, which is why it is the established methodology of human history. Partial efforts, weak warnings and failing to deal with a problem only leads to endless troubles in the long term.

    This can be seen most clearly in children raised by ineffective parents.


    You Are The Parent, You Are The Programmer

    You own Fimfiction. You are seen, rightfully, as the leader, the authority, the parent, who defines the rules and tone of the website. This is true whether or not you desire such responsibility, because primates naturally desire an authority figure - a grayback - to establish order. Your behaviors and actions towards your users are a form of programming. Even as you program the code of the website, your communication with your users programs the society your website collects. You program your user base through what you say and do, and how you construct your interface. Neither side can be neglected, or all falls into some degree of malfunction.

    Parenting is simply hacking children into proper social function. To run a social environment - such as a forum website - optimally, it is required that you act the role expected of you, which is that of a leader, a grayback, a parent. Your users are your children, and your actions and pronouncements - or lack thereof - determine what they become.

    I encourage you to think carefully about what kind of social environment you actually want to create with regard to Fimfiction. Do you want a contentious society filled with grief and harassment, a place where users - especially the young, the vulnerable, the creative and sensitive - feel unwelcome, endangered or threatened?

    Do you want Fimfiction to be a place where the greatest number of people, of all ages and temperaments, gather to celebrate My Little Pony with creativity and mutual support?

    You have the power to construct, to program, either possibility, and in fact you are already doing so. Your every choice and action - or inaction - accomplishes precisely this.

    My experience of Fimfiction, as well as the experience of many others, is that Fimfiction is increasingly becoming a typical internet place of abuse and harassment. This is inevitable, as any website grows in population, unless strong and considered action is taken to deliberately shape the culture as it develops.

    One tool is through the options presented to the user - what they can and cannot do, and how any given tool or gadget can be abused, or how abuse is prevented, or made irrelevant.

    Another tool is by treating the users as your own and parenting them effectively, making what is permissible clear, and what is not allowed even more clear, and then following robustly and implacably through with any corrective action. No second chances, no wheedling out of anything, no weakness.

    To respond correctively to a breach of law is to keep a promise - to fail to do so is to have one’s words and authority forever considered questionable. Failing to follow through is how parents lose control of their children, and how children go bad.

    it is also how social websites become nightmare places of abuse and incivility that push users away.


    Conclusion

    Thank you for listening to me, for hearing me out.

    During my time on Fimfiction, I had one of the best years of my entire life. For a single year, I felt part of a supportive, intelligent, clever group of writers all sharing a mythos in common. I wrote some 800,000 words, possibly some of the best writing of my life. The experience of camaraderie and shared creativity got me through some terrible real-life events: Two of my spouses (I live in a polyamory, or group marriage) nearly died, the victims of MRSA and foodborne infections. They survived, barely, but the trauma of these horrific events brought me desperately low. Only writing my Conversion Bureau stories, and feeling part of the Fimfiction community kept me able to function during that time.

    When the Anti-TCB began its attacks upon me, my family, and our servers and property, it destroyed for me the single greatest emotional escape and support I had in my life outside of my own endangered family. I miss writing for my Fimfiction fans more than I can adequately express. But as long as Fimfiction remains combative and hate groups remain, I feel excluded and forced away.

    I know I am not alone in that feeling.

    I am told that you care about such matters as these, but simply are unsure what to do about them. My wish, in writing this to you, is to offer some idea of effective strategies you can use to make Fimfiction a safe and inclusive place with no room for hate within it. I would find it difficult to imagine that you would wish it to be a place of anger and abuse.

    I believe there are several things that can be done immediately to sculpt the society of the Fimfiction users.

    One is to reexamine the site interface and shed any option or gadget that permits the abuse of others. My first choice would be the ‘Down Thumb’, to remove it universally. The ‘Up Thumb’ is a benefit, alone.

    Another thing that would help would be to make sure that users can block others in - all - cases, and that the blocking choices of a user who starts a group are transferred to that group automatically.

    The establishment of a clear and precisely defined policy against harassment should be made highly accessible and obvious, and it should be enforced with robust and implacable determination and effect. The trusted Moderators should be given the tools to enforce the policy, and encouraged to take action swiftly and definitively. It should be made clear there is absolutely zero tolerance of harassment, hate groups and bullying, and that all users are expected to treat each other with great respect. To be effective, there can be no weakness in this. (I myself have used all of these methods in our own websites over the years to absolute effect. They work.)

    For the future, I would offer that it would be wise to consider the development of Fimfiction, and any other social websites you may create, in terms of what functions of both interface and policy are needed in order to create the exact social structure you desire. Define the kind of society you wish to create as part of the process of programming the whole. Hack the social environment - it is an extension of the function of your code, if you think about it.

    With respect - and hope,

    Jennifer Diane Reitz (Chatoyance)

    ___________________________________________________________

    I have never received a response.

    Do you agree with any of this? You can make it happen, you know. Just demand it loudly enough, for long enough.


    NEXT TIME:

    What You Can Do To Make Fimfiction A Safer Place

    47 comments · 1,219 views
  • 98w, 6d
    Online Abuse On Fimfiction, part one of four.

    I have returned to acquire the text of my unpublished, seventh chapter of ‘I.D. - That Indestructible Something’. While I am briefly here, I might as well make a statement. Here then is the beginning of a four- part blog series regarding the events of my leaving, and the problems inherent to Fimfiction itself.

    Online Abuse

    How to understand it   -   Why it happens   -   How to deal with it

    By Chatoyance


    Welcome to Fimfiction. You will be bullied and harassed.

    The fault is not yours, you are not to blame, neither do you deserve it. You may be bullied in small ways, with insults or having your comments obliterated by downvotes. You may be privately messaged vile things and you well may have lies and slanders repeated against you. Your attackers will try to make you feel small, make you feel that you are at fault, or that you have no right to create, or to even live.


    How can this even happen?

    The reason it can happen is because the website, Fimfiction itself, allows it to happen. Evil, real evil, is an institutional matter. It can only exist when it is permitted to exist. For evil to occur, all it takes is those in power turning a blind eye and ignoring things. What allows you to be attacked is the management and programming of Fimfiction itself.

    The first, and most obvious problem is posting anonymity. Complete anonymity inevitably leads to some degree of bullying and harassment. Websites that require valid personal identification when creating accounts on them have vastly fewer incidents of abuse, and should abuse occur, the perpetrators are more easily dealt with either by the website management, or by legal authorities. Anonymity breeds contempt of others by creating a feeling of total freedom from responsibility. Simply knowing that the website owner has true knowledge of user identity can stop a great deal of abuse. This is a major reason why professionally run forums, such as those run by corporate entities, always demand personal identification on signup.

    There are many ways an online environment can either prevent, or promote bullying and harassment. Every tool and gadget will be used for harm by evil people, if it can be, and the social tone of an environment is determined by what is possible within that environment. One particularly egregious example of this can be found in nothing more than the ‘thumbs up/ thumbs down’ voting system. It is by design intrinsically contentious - it pits people against each other.

    The creator of Fimfiction, Graeme Pollard (Knighty), has chosen to create an environment where it is possible to downvote comments into invisibility. This means that voting can be used as a weapon, one with no defense against it. The same downvote can be used to make your story socially unacceptable, to silence and censor you. There is no way to block this attack and there is no recourse. The moderators will not help you, Knighty will not help you. This is just one way the website itself socially programs for contention and emotional violence.

    Your power to block and delete the written attacks of those who would hurt you is limited and often faulty. Strangely, it is implemented in such a way as to make your deletions - when they work - leave traces, which in a social context makes you look bad for protecting yourself.

    If you form a group on Fimfiction, to create a safe space, your own block list will not keep out those who want to harass you. You will have to individually block your attackers all over again, while they harass you for it. You may find it impossible to delete their posts. You may need to close your group entirely, and only admit people one-by-one, vastly limiting who will choose to bother to join. And even with this tactic, your own comments and posts, within your own private group, can be downvote-bombed into oblivion with no recourse, and no hope of help.

    Worst of all, the administrator and owner do not follow through when problems arise. Through inattention, thoughtless programming choices and indifference to online harassment, Fimfiction itself supports bullying.

    Thus, when bullies harass you here, it is not your fault, you are not to blame. The fault lies with the institution, the fault lies with the programmer, Graeme Pollard, and the moderators who serve him. Bullies will always take advantage of the tools and circumstances available to them, and abuse the system as it exists. It is up to the site creator to prevent such abuses rigorously through programming choices based on understanding of the reality of online harassment.

    This is how to understand what is happening to you. You are being bullied because harassment is intrinsically allowed to occur, when it could easily be made virtually impossible. You could be given strong tools to protect your space. To delete cleanly. The existence of easily abused downvotes could be eliminated. The owner and moderators could take the issue of harassment seriously and end it through site programming and strong, proactive action.

    Fimfiction is about pony fiction. The ideal is ‘love and tolerance’. The line you are given is that harassment will not be tolerated. These are illusions.

    You are bullied because the institution itself physically, programmatically, permits your harassment to occur, and because the owner and moderators do not consider the issue worth real, firm action.

    Understanding this, you can easily grasp how abuse can happen here.


    Why you?

    Your attackers will have many reasons to justify their abusive behavior. All of these reasons will revolve around you, what you write, what you think, what you are. In every case, it is all lies.

    Bullies and abusers are broken human beings. No decent, sane, good person would ever wish to harass another person. The attacks against you have nothing to do with you. If the cause truly was your writing or words, those harassing you could chose to go read something, anything else. There are thousands of authors and stories on Fimfiction to choose from. The bullies lie. It is not your words, or your stories, or your ideas, or your self that is the reason you are being attacked.

    The reason you are being attacked is because those harassing you are dysfunctional. It could be that they are too emotionally immature - regardless of their physical age - to grasp that they are doing something wrong. They could have had very inept parents who failed to teach them civil behavior. They could have endured parents who abused them, and they learned abuse as a way of life. They could be incapable of genuine compassion for others.

    Most commonly, those who harass and abuse others are powerless people who feel weak and powerless in their own existence. They are desperate for even the most petty and small sensation of power in their empty lives, and bully strangers in order to feel less weak and pathetic to themselves. By silencing, hurting, and minimizing you, they feel dominant for a moment. That brief victory is likely the only thing going for them. It may be all they have.

    ‘You’ are not important to them. Though it may feel like it, you have not been personally singled out - however much your abusers may make it seem so. Statistically, most online abusers have attacked others before you, and will harass still more people after you. You are just another target in a long line of targets. But to get to you, to induce maximum hurt, abusers will make you feel singularly targeted, uniquely attacked, and personally the focus in every way.

    The reason you are being attacked specifically is that you were there. It could have been anyone. You were chosen and reasons were invented to justify that choice. Your abusers will make those reasons into an almost religious cause, so that they feel righteous and just in attacking you.

    But no sane, decent, good person ever harasses or bullies or attacks another. Knowing this, you can now understand why abuse happens - those who harass and abuse are broken, malfunctioning people. There is something wrong with them, and they are acting out in ways that are socially inappropriate and ultimately cruel and wrong. It has nothing to do with you, rather abuse and bullying is about mental or emotional illness - of one kind or another - causing destructive and uncivil behavior to random others.


    What can be done?

    The most obvious and direct answer to online harassment and abuse is for the owners and operators of a social website to make harassment virtually impossible by programming the site to prevent it, and then following up with a strong, proactive effort to police the environment.

    In the absence of decent institutional control and response to harassment, there is only you. You must protect yourself, as best as you can, using all available means.

    Those tools that work, or marginally work - such as blocking, deleting, and locking - should be used consistently. It is always advised that you remain as anonymous as possible, just like those who would attack you.

    The fact is that this is sometimes not possible.

    Those who abuse and harass are by nature destructive and uncreative. In being attacked on Fimfiction, it will be because you dared to be creative, to write stories and produce content for the site. Most of those who attack you will never have written a story themselves, and the few that do will likely create few works, and often those works will be parodies or insult stories devoid of real imagination.

    Those who harass become good at spotting their victims work, style, and content. You may be discovered even if you try to hide, because you are creating works as opposed to mocking works, and trying to entertain rather than hunting people in order to cause suffering.

    What this means is that you may have few protections, and no way to truly hide. Nowhere to run, and few means to defend yourself. You may find that truly desperate, twisted bullies will not leave you alone even if you follow all the rules of how to deal with bullies. Hiding may be impossible. Ignoring your attackers may fail, asking them to stop may fail, and appealing to authority may be utterly pointless.

    In this circumstance, currently common to Fimfiction, there is one remaining tool left.

    You need to understand, clearly, robustly, deeply that anything that your attackers have to say is utterly beneath you.

    This may seem hard. As a creative person who is not a bully, you may want to see the best in others. You may feel that the opinions of every person should have merit, that if many people come down on you they must have a point, because they are many, and you are alone. Creative people often have such egalitarian, kind, and generous views. It is likely you have such views, or want to have such views, because of the nature of Fimfiction - it is a website about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and the reason you are here is because you love the ideal of a world of friendship and kindness.

    Such things are indeed good ideals. They are wonderful ideals. But in the real world, in a world that is not a cartoon, the fact is that there are broken, damaged people who thrive on hurting others. People who derive joy and feelings of importance and power and even self-worth from knowing they have destroyed or harmed an innocent stranger. People who will justify their cruelty by any means they can, and deny their own evil especially to themselves. This is real, this is the real world. The people who harass you, bully you, are such people.

    No sane, kind, or good person ever harasses or bullies another person.

    You must, despite yourself, despite your wish to see the best in others, despite your ideals, accept that the world is not a nice place. There are nice people, to be sure, but there are many more who are indifferent to evil, or who openly engage in it. This is why you are being attacked. It is obvious, really.

    Knowing this, it is imperative that you recognize that no person has the right to any opinion about anything unless they are truly worth your respect and trust.

    Understand that. You must grasp this, right down to your gut.

    No person has any right to any opinion, unless they are truly worth your respect and trust.

    The majority of the people on this website? You do not know them. You have no basis to trust them. They are anonymous, they hide themselves like cowards. Some bullies may seem friendly at first, to gain your trust. Trust takes time and is hard won - do not give it lightly or easily. The only judge of character is behavior over time. A lot of time.

    You are in your right, and your right mind, to instantly dismiss the opinions, observations and attitudes of the majority of people you will ever meet or deal with. This is doubly true online.

    Before you grant any voice your ear, ask yourself: who is this person? What have they truly done, in a real way, to demonstrate supportive friendship to me? Is that supportive friendship solid - have they never betrayed me? Unless you can state to yourself that someone posting a comment is worth your respect and trust, INSTANTLY DISMISS WHATEVER THEY HAVE TO SAY.

    Your feelings, your creativity, your peace of mind is worth something. Dismiss, ignore, throw away any random comment that is negative, uncivil, rude, or just feels wrong. It just plain is not worth your time. Accept this. Know this. Live by it.

    For it is your armor.

    The anonymity of the internet, combined with the indifference of institutions to abuse and harassment automatically make an environment contentious and dangerous to your happiness and peace. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it currently is this way on Fimfiction. Know this fact. Use your armor.

    If a seemingly friendly commenter begins to turn rude and abusive - you have been had. Accept that. Let them go - delete, block, ignore. They are not worth your time.

    If a group of posters dig into you and your work, attacking you while claiming they are trying to teach you, or improve your work, or that it is just honest criticism - they are lying. They are bullies.

    Violence - including emotional violence - only teaches violence.

    Real criticism is kindly said, and real teaching is gently given.

    If a comment feels abusive - it is abusive. Your emotions are the judge, the only judge. A kind person will find a kind way to say something. Knowing this, you can discern who is worth listening to, and who is to be utterly ignored.

    Treat everyone politely, but don’t let them into your mind or heart until they prove they are your friend.


    But it still hurts!

    I thought just this, and to an extent I still feel it. Verbal and written harassment is processed by the same part of the brain that processes physical pain. Chronic attack can cause damage that can be seen during imaging of the brain. Insults and abuse, contrary to common belief can truly damage people. On the internet, showing that you have been hurt is itself insulted. A bully will use anything and everything to dismiss you and imply that your pain is your fault. This is sociopathic behavior. It is just about as wrong as it is possible to be.

    That said, there is a degree by which we are to blame for some of our own suffering, and that is when we fail to protect ourselves because of innocence, ignorance, or the willful desire to see the best in others. This is an error.

    When I was attacked on Fimfiction, I was very hurt, and I was insulted for even being hurt. This is of course wrong, but even so, the bullies did have a very thin, very specious, but true point - I was not using my armor. The only reason the comments and attacks and abuse of others could hurt me at all was because I was generously granting those that abused me equal status. I considered them my equals. I thought of them as worthwhile people.

    And they absolutely were not worthwhile people, and they absolutely did not deserve for me to consider them my equal, and they absolutely were beneath me in every regard. If I had truly understood this, I could not have been hurt by them.

    No sane, kind, decent person ever abuses another person.

    If you are being abused and harassed and bullied, whoever is doing it automatically is beneath you, utterly less than you, and not worthy of any consideration whatsoever. You need to learn to dismiss them and ignore them the instant you recognize such people. Ban them. Block them. Delete them. Ignore them. It is your right, and it is the proper thing to do.

    You are the creative person. All an abuser can do is abuse. They are worthless.

    If management was doing its job, you would be protected from such people, and have tools for the few that slip through.

    You may want to believe the best about everyone. That is what those who would hurt you depend upon. If you want to not be hurt, you must be very choosy with your trust and respect, and you must only bother with the opinions of those who have earned your trust.

    Everyone else - the whole of humanity - is not worth your least consideration until they prove to you, concretely, over time, otherwise.

    The moment you can internalize this, really feel this, you will have an intelligent, real, and true armor to protect your feelings. This is your ultimate defence. This is sometimes your only defence. Always remember:

    No sane, kind, or good person ever harasses or bullies another person.

    If you are being ganged up on - that is abuse. If you or your work is angrily attacked - that is abuse. If you receive death threats or threats of physical harm - that is absolutely abuse.

    Real criticism is kindly. Real teaching is kindly. Real comments will make you feel like writing is worth the effort. If the comment you read isn’t kind, it isn’t worth reading, because it didn’t come from anyone worth your time to listen to.

    Do not be complicit in your own hurt. Use your armor. Ignore, delete, dismiss.


    If you’ve already been hurt -

    If you’ve already been hurt by bullying, by harassment, by those beneath you, then you are probably feeling pretty bad. You may be depressed, grief stricken, angry, and feel both helpless and hopeless.

    Understand that these feelings are legitimate. Emotional abuse hurts, and is a serious matter. It is processed in the brain by the same region that processes physical pain. It is equivalent to physical harm, as far as your biochemistry is concerned. Society often dismisses and minimizes emotional abuse, but this is a foolish, outdated belief not supported by medicine.

    You are not at fault. You have been attacked, harmed, by sick, broken people. It is reasonable to feel hurt and angry. On the internet, your attackers are almost certainly practiced at being anonymous, and the fact of being anonymous gives cowardly people the security to hurt others. It is reasonable to feel helpless and frustrated - those that hurt you are beyond your reach, and beyond punishment. It is also reasonable to feel angry that such abuse was even allowed to happen. Much abuse can be prevented by proper website design, as mentioned.

    But here you are, hurting. What now?

    Time. Time and comfort and distance from the source of the pain. You need time to heal and to gain perspective. You need to get your brain to decide that everything is OK again, so that you will feel better, and the way to do that is to make your experiences OK. Your environment OK. If your senses report things are safe and alright long enough, your brain will calm down, and your depression and helpless anger will lift. Counseling may help, talking to friends - real friends you rationally trust - will help.

    Understanding and internalizing the above can help.

    If nothing works, then find something else to do, and leave Fimfiction behind.

    If you can’t do that, take time to heal up. When you return, apply what is provided here diligently. Avoid the mistake of granting anyone the privilege of having anything to say to you until they earn it by proper behavior over time. People do not deserve your attention or respect unless they earn it.

    Treat everyone politely, but don’t let them into your mind or heart until they prove they are your friend.

    And always remember: no sane, kind, or good person ever harasses or bullies another person. The moment you detect abuse of any kind - dismiss, delete, and ignore.

    Because you, being a creative person, are worth more than that.


    NEXT TIME:

    My Letter to Graeme Pollard (Knighty), the creator and owner of Fimfiction.net




    72 comments · 1,702 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

Chatoyance · 862 views · Report
#1 · 165w, 5d 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 · 165w, 5d 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 · 165w, 5d 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 · 165w, 5d 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 · 165w, 5d 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 · 165w, 5d 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 · 165w, 4d 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 · 165w, 4d ago · · ·

>>14512

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

#9 · 165w, 4d 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 · 165w, 4d 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 · 165w, 4d 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 · 165w, 4d 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 · 165w, 4d ago · 1 · ·

>>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 · 165w, 4d 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 · 165w, 3d 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 · 165w, 3d 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 · 165w, 1h 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 · 164w, 6d 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 · 164w, 6d 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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