Oct
31st
2014

From the dread darkness of Chthonian slumber, from the maddening whispers of voiceless space, comes today's story of doom.  DOOOOOM!  And makeovers.

An Outsider's Perspective

[Comedy] [Slice of Life] • 5,475 words

A freakish abomination from beyond the fringes of the rational universe emerges from the trackless depths and finds himself in Ponyville.

FROM THE CURATORS: Like last week's feature, An Outsider's Perspective was an entry into Equestria Daily's Outside Insight contest, and quickly rose to stand out from the pack.  "If Moonlight Palaver was the Outside Insight entry I found the most entertaining, this is the one I found the funniest," JohnPerry said.  "Its absurd premise belies its wit; it looks like a piece of featurebox bait from the cover, but inside is something really clever and wonderful. It's not often that you come across something that's this absurd yet feels so true to the tone of the show."

But when that wit and show-feel are mere supplements to perfectly on-point comedy, it's easy to understand what makes this fic exemplary.  "This story is so hilarious," Present Perfect said, and Chris agreed: "It's fun, funny, and left me in a better mood after reading it."  Its whimsical melding of Lovecraftian horror and the magic of friendship won Horizon over: "Everything about this brought a smile to my face.  The core idea is so clever and the execution is just so spot-on that you can't help but like it."

Ultimately, it was that tongues-in-the-many-cheeks-of-the-gibbering-faces-of-horror tone which sold us on the piece.  "I've never seen comedic juxtaposition done so well," Present Perfect said.  "It really stood apart on the merits of using such a dark non-pony character and playing it for laughs.  This was one of my absolute favorites from Outside Insight."

Read on for our author interview, in which Kavonde discusses grandiose monologues, death rays, and Lovecraft hats.

Read More
PresentPerfect · 400 views · Edited 4h, 20m ago · Report
Oct
28th
2014

We've just made some really massive backend changes on the site. As usual with these things, there is a good chance something no longer works. If that's the case, this is the post to report them in.

You'll also notice some fancy new dropdowns for notifications/PMs, and comment pagination that's much more robust and basically works a million times better than it ever did.

Edit: Chapter publishing and comment liking should be fixed. So should adding items to public bookshelves (curse me only testing private ones..)

knighty · 4,710 views · Edited 4d, 3h ago · Report
Oct
26th
2014

Seattle's Angels is a group that promotes good stories with low views. You can find us here.


Deathly cold stifled the graveyard and its swirling mists. This would have been quite palatable to the graveyard’s inhabitants, given they didn’t exactly care about such trivialities as the weather anymore, but on this night, they were not alone, and thus the agreeableness of the weather was simply a majority opinion.

“Why is it so darn cold?” asked Burraku Pansa, drawing the black folds of his long robe closer around himself.

“Because October sucks,” replied Belligerent Sock. “It’s the harbinger of darker times to come. Just you watch. As soon as Halloween’s over, the Fatty Who Shall Not Be Named is going to start sticking his red-clad butt into things. Probably even before.”

“Woe betide anyone who dresses as Santa this time of year.”

Sock all but tripped over his own robe’s dragging hem. “Do people really do that? Inconceivable.”

“It is technically a costume.”

“Yeah, but then, so’s the Sexy Ebola Nurse.” He shook his head. “Y’know, I remember when this time of year was all about the thrill of fright and mayhem.”

“And you’re all about fright and mayhem.”

“Darn straight.” He hefted the sack of rattling objects slung across his back. “It’s why we’re here, after all. You spy any good graves?”

BP swung his flashlight around. “Let’s see… ‘Here lie Csquared's hopes and dreams.’ Nope. ‘Here lies Raz's motivation.’ Nah. ‘Here lies Red's favorite acorn. Somewhere around here.’ Hmm…” The cone of light found its way to a narrow grave, set off to the side beneath the gnarled, grasping branches of an old tree. “Oh, how about this one?”

Sock nodded in approval. “Perfect. Let’s get to work.”

Setting the sack down near the grave, Sock started pulling things out and handing them to BP. They were perfectly ordinary things—crow feathers soaked in pitch, bags of black cat bones, a cast-iron pot whose rim was speckled with a greasy purple rime, jars of pickled newt feet, pickled frog eyes, and pickled beets, and finally, a pair of chalk sticks.

BP threw everything but the last away. “Y’know, you might’ve sorted through all that junk instead of bringing the whole bag out here.”

“Meh.”

Sock took one of the sticks of chalk and knelt down, drawing various lines over the tombstone. BP did the same to the earth in front of it, and then drew four packets of paper from beneath his cloak, arraying them in front of the grave. Four stories, freshly chosen. Four, the number of death.

“Now what?”

“Now, we send a message.” Sock’s wide grin glinted in the moonlight, like a knife drawn from beneath the folds of a flowing black cloak. He drew a knife from the folds of his flowing black cloak.

“Uh…” said BP. “You never said to bring a knife.”

“Don’t worry,” said Sock. “You won’t be needing one.”

There was a flicker in the darkness as the blade struck home, again and again.


ROUND 55


STORY 1

Make You Feel Better, by Aquillo

You awaken in a glade outside of Ponyville with no idea how you got there. Luckily, Fluttershy will make you feel better.


Burraku_Pansa:

Howdy, folks. This time around, in honor of dread holiday Spookyween, Sock and I have elected to line up some Dark stories for you. Ideally, horror would’ve been the whole of this four-course meal, but lordy does the pony fandom have slim pickings in that department for a group like ours, focused as we are on both the unknown and the vaguely safe for work. So, general Dark is most of what’s on the menu.

Starting us off, though, is Make You Feel Better, probably the most directly spooky of our selections tonight. As its description suggests, this is a second-person piece starring “you” and Fluttershy, wherein Fluttershy finds you and endeavors to take care of you. To go much deeper into the plot than that would be to risk spoiling it, as this is a very short piece and, moreover, it relies on repetition of plot elements to tell its story.

So I’ll skip to the broader aspects. For one, there are no notable technical issues, which is always an achievement around here. For two, let’s talk about the usage of the second-person perspective—it’s not the greatest I’ve seen, even in this fandom, but it is not without purpose, and that in and of itself keeps it from being cringe-y. Again, to go deeply into why it works would be to spoil key plot happenings, but I will at least assure you that it’s being done right. That’s impressive, considering that this story is from the distant past of 2012; though there’s been a bit of a resurgence of second person recently, with some top authors demonstrating ways it can be pulled off gracefully, there didn’t used to be so many examples to point to for ways to make it work. This is one of them.

If you generally dislike creepy stories, this one won’t be for you, as that’s pretty much the entirety of the piece—we have a fic or two for folks like you tonight as well, so just be patient. If you’re down for this sort of thing, though, you could do a lot worse than Make You Feel Better. Give it a shot.

Belligerent Sock:

SPOILERS: IT WON’T MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER!

Ah, second-person narration. Few things are more terrifying than the second-person, as anyone who’s familiar with a particular song about Shia LeBouf or read certain self-insert clopfics can attest. It’s a perspective that easily lends itself to a certain unease, and that makes it effective for writing horror when utilized properly. When the story addresses you the reader, specifically, it not just dictating the fate of a character. Like any good set of socks, it sets the boundaries of what you can and can’t do, and forces you to accept its will.

With that in mind, this fic does indeed provide a good way to kick off this little spook-fest we’ve got going here. You ought to be able to start guessing at where it’s headed from its description and tag alone, and rest assured that it does not disappoint. I can’t say exactly where it’s heading, because that would just spoil the whole thing, but suffice it to say it’s not your typical “Fluttershy turns out to be a serial murderer/rapist” fare. I will say that there’s some nice, hinting symbolism with some of the description—little details that come around at the end to make you go “ooooh” like a ghost who’s realized he’s actually dead.

So, if you’re up for a short little creep-out as we draw ever closer to the Eve of All Hallows, this one goes down quick and leaves a resoundingly unsettling feel by the end.


STORY 2

The Pale Stallion, by Yellow Sub Zero

Sweetie Belle gives somepony a scarf, and receives something else entirely.


Burraku_Pansa:

This is a fun one. The Pale Stallion, though it covers somewhat dark topics and presents a nice, subtly dark framing story, is more world-buildy than anything else. It concerns, as you might have guessed from the title and/or general air of how this fic presents itself, Death—specifically his powers and his duty. A good portion of this piece is a sub-story, told to Sweetie Belle by the titular pale stallion, of an old war and heroes therein. This is decidedly not what I was expecting, going in, but in a way that was refreshing. The Pale Stallion is a story that not only wears its dark themes and characters firmly yet nonchalantly on its sleeve—telling its little framed legend about them in such a matter-of-fact way as to not actually merit the Dark tag on their own—but also works in some darkness in subtle ways that really did make me shiver.

Another strength of this story’s is its characters. Sweetie Belle is just the right levels of sweet and childlike, and though she takes a back seat to OCs, the OCs themselves are far from overbearing. In that vein, I greatly appreciated how distinctive the pale stallion’s personality felt to me without him coming off as a willful spotlight grabber.

Apart from the surprise world-buildy stuff, this is a fairly simply put-together piece, but strong. There’s no real complaints I can make, and I bet you’ll like it. Also, if you’re as dense as me, I might recommend that you read it more than once, as I missed the ending’s deeper implication the first time through, and I liked this story all the more once I worked it out.

Belligerent Sock:

THIS FIC HAS A RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH!

Have you ever played chess with Death? He’s a cheater, but fortunately, so are socks.

The idea of the Grim Reaper, of an anthropomorphized version of the End of Life, is one of the oldest in the anthology of human literature. For whatever reason, people are enthralled by the idea of communicating with something that has seen the other side, or especially, something that commands it. It’s a fascinating concept, to be sure.

And when ponies are involved, well, it makes sense that Death would be a pale horse. Though why he’d be interested in Sweetie Belle, one can only guess. Yes, this fic starts out with Sweetie at a train station, chatting up some stallion possessed of curiously archaic speech patterns, and it doesn’t take much to guess at what’s going on. Just in case you missed it, though, he offers to explain everything to Sweetie.

He describes a war that occurred in the long-distant past. So, this one deals with another terrifying subject matter: it’s the New Lunar Republic versus the Solar Empire! As much as that particular bit of fanon deserves ire, though, here it’s used merely as an expedient way of getting ponies involved in a war. The focus is more on the characters involved in the conflict—and in a refreshing bit of worldbuilding, on some of the mechanics of their arms and armor.

There’s also a nice bit of foreshadowing, some well-laid Chekov’s guns in the tale, and they come back in the end like a stray winter draft in an otherwise warm house. The fic is really quite clever in how it handles the roles of not just the mysterious stallion, but Sweetie as well. It’s a full-circle story, and it’s quite satisfying by the end.

And by “end”, I don’t mean that end. Read on while you still have life, readers!


STORY 3

Six Months in July, by Fiddlebottoms

When ponies are being gossipy, they call Inkie and Blinkie "Trottingham Twins." For one month, they are the same age. It was during one such July they murdered their father in cold blood and fled their home.


Burraku_Pansa:

If Six Months in July’s description grabs your attention, just wait until you start reading. It felt as though every time my mind started to drift, some line or other was there to grab my brain and force-feed it more story. This was a ride, let me tell you.

Something that greatly plays into that is what, to me, is the most notable thing about this story: how it utilizes telling. Very, very little is left to my imagination—we’re told what characters think and how they feel, and we’re shown so little of what they do by comparison (and even then, it’s often directly tinged by how they feel about what they’re doing). It’s constant, it’s entirely unlike what I’m used to seeing, and it works so, so well. For example, the perspective will hover around Blinkie and tell me some tangential, at first unassuming fact about her mother’s experience—but through that, I’m given a window into how and what Blinkie thinks. A key thing about telling which makes everyone want to avoid it is that it takes a reader out of a story, but here, that very “flaw” seems to be the desired effect. Author Fiddlebottoms takes telling to such an extreme that he downplays pretty much the entire story, to the point that he’s not telling a story so much as showing you the essence of its characters. If this isn’t the best use of telling I’ve seen in the pony fandom, it’s at least the best I can remember.

I occasionally took issue with this piece’s punctuation, but on the whole, it’s quite well put together. No, if there’s a reason not to read this, it would probably be its subject matter—in terms of relevance to tonight’s theme of the spooksome, Six Months in July has probably the grittiest and most true-to-life creepiness behind it. Sometimes subtly and other times overtly disturbing, this piece never really stops going for your gut, and while it isn’t some gory horror story, there’s no shortage of squick here. Reader, beware, you’re in for okay not a scare I guess but maybe some weird vibes or something.

Belligerent Sock:

I SPENT SIX MONTHS IN JULY, TOO! I WAS TRAPPED IN GEORGIA!

So, let’s talk about the impartial omniscient narrator. It’s like a sock, in a sense. It’s not nearly as awesome, but I digress. Like a sock, it provides a viewpoint that is both impartial and all-seeing. Also like a sock, it’s rather tricky to pull off, as it requires a stronger voice than most any other perspective. To be engaging, it needs a certain poetic bend to the prose—a way of telling the story without telling it, as it were.

This fic knows how to do use its viewpoint. It uses the events as a canvas upon which it paints a landscape of tragedy. A number of key phrases are utilized and repeated over the course of the story—like a melodic motif—which gives the scenes a sort of gravitas far beyond the bare and plain prose. It even goes one step further and tells its story in the present tense, which also lends a certain urgency to everything going on.

The subjects of the piece are, of course, the Pie sisters. And since this was written long before Season Four, it focuses solely on the grey pair of the trio. In essence, it’s a sort of biography, showcasing a number of vignettes from their lives together, and how they each deal with the trials of growing up. Interspersed are some intriguing worldbuilding details which lend the whole thing an ever-greater air of believability.

Now, word of warning: this one also deals with some rather dark subject matter—as though that wouldn’t be apparent from the description and opening paragraphs. It’s a harshly mature interpretation of the MLP ‘verse, with all the cynicism, spite, and general mean spirit that implies, and that may not be palatable to all. That said, it’s probably the only instance where the subject of pony estrus is dealt with that isn’t a clopfic, so there’s some novelty to be had with it, as well.

And in the end, this fic still manages to present a surprisingly heartwarming conclusion to what would otherwise be a chillingly dark little affair. There’s a certain, red thread which binds the whole thing together, and it’s a thread worth tugging on.


STORY 4

Monochrome, by A Man Called Horse

In the wake of her coronation, Twilight Sparkle worries that the tides of life and responsibility are pulling her away from her friends.

All in all, it's not the ideal time for a mysterious force to suck all the colors from Ponyville.


Burraku_Pansa:

I’m very happy that Sock discovered this fic for us. Monochrome is one of those solid, show-worthy fics that you can never really get enough of (assuming, of course, that you actually like the show). More than that, though, is that this piece manages to be a story with a show feel and also some undeniably mature themes and concepts, a slice of life and also an adventure, a cold tale with a warm ending—reading it, this fic was very difficult for me to qualify, and judging by the state of the tags, I imagine the author probably felt much the same way.

In terms of its spook factor, Monochrome was the least dark of tonight’s fics, but that’s not to say that it’s without its share of disturbing imagery. Still, though, while nightmares, darkness, and shadowy, stalking figures feature prominently in this tale, the focus is on relationships and self-perceptions. The mystical, colorless wrongness sweeping through the land brings not only fear, but doubt, as ponies begin to lose touch with their world, their companions, and who they themselves are—past the problems’ magical roots, there is a heavy and poignant theme of depression present in this fic, and the portrayal touched me in a lot of the right ways. Emotions run both high and low throughout this piece, at once realer than and still possessed of the heart of the show—it’s like I’m watching one of the many slice of life episodes where a character’s emotions are in the forefront, except that where I might normally be seeing, say, somewhat overblown anxiety over an upcoming big event, I’m instead seeing a character honestly question whether she deserves her own life.

The ways that Monochrome handles its characters births some its coolest aspects and also some of its most prominent weaknesses. The use of Rainbow Dash in this story is particularly interesting; she and Twilight have pretty much equal billing and they go through comparable emotional turmoil. Furthermore, this piece presented a Dash that I feel many fans of the show (judging, at least, from the increasingly vitriolic comments on her character I tend to see as the show continues) would be interested to see: one who is trying to reconcile her own sometimes self-centered actions and personality with her frequent label of “loyal”. But while I found this dual focus on two different characters intriguing—mainly because it felt like an episode and most of the actual episodes either cast one character as the main one or cast Twilight as the leader of a group—it highlighted a problem. The other characters felt a lot more flat than Dash and Twilight, by comparison, and scenes featuring them (particularly scenes featuring everyone together) felt that much flatter for it, to me. Perhaps relatedly, I also found myself having the occasional issue with characters’ voices, feeling that they (and even Dash) had moments where they sounded a bit too similar to Twilight, all wordy and intellectual. This didn’t happen often, and maybe it was just me, but there you go. As a final complaint, in the area of mechanics, this piece could use something of a proofreading pass. The typos were minor, but many, and sometimes in key moments.

Despite the issues I may have had with it, I still feel that Monochrome is a strong piece, and more than worthy of SA. If you want a fic with the feel of the show but with a mature (lowercase ‘m’) bent, give it a look.

Belligerent Sock:

WARNING: THIS FIC IS IRONICALLY NOT FOR THE COLORBLIND!

This is a work of genius. But that’s not what’s remarkable about it. What’s really amazing is that the author is not, in fact, a sock. Oh, and there’s the incredibly criminal fact that we have to call attention to this one here. Seriously, with a premise this well-spun, a plot this well-conceived, and an execution this well… executed, it boggles the mind that it has not received the attention it deserves.

Let’s go down the List of Arbitrary Scoring. From its great premise (+1), we are drawn into a story which effortlessly handles multiple arcs (+2), maintains the integrity of the characters throughout (+5), deals with some complex issues regarding the characters’ psyches (+6.5), balances humor and drama in accord (+3.27), and concludes with a resounding, highly-original, and fascinating take on the show’s values (+1.2 Billion). Oh, and the writing mechanics are solid (+0.5).

To explain in detail, this story is told through different viewpoints over the course of its 40,000 words, with two major arcs overall. There’s the obvious color-sucking calamity which Twilight must correct, of course, but there’s also a great deal of interpersonal conflict involved, as well. Rainbow Dash is the most profoundly affected by the lack of hue in the town, and starts feeling quite a bit of psychological torment about the goings-on of the plot, and this is expressed in a tight bit of symbolism. Each of these arcs is given equal screen time and both spiral back to meet each other beautifully by the end.

The characters’ interactions are all spot-on, with their behaviors making sense in the contexts of both their personalities and the narrative. The midpoint of the story sees Dash talking with each of her friends about her troubles, and the ways the others help her deal with them are sincerely heartwarming. They’re… genuine. If there’s one point where the writing really starts to shine, it’s here—especially given how these interactions all come back in the end.

That’s the other thing: the attention to detail in this fic is marvelous. As you progress, all the little things throughout the story start to make sense, and it’s done with such subtlety that you can’t help but appreciate the mad genius behind it. Absolutely nothing is out of place, and every single scene has something that plays into the wider story going on. Not one scene is wasted; everything comes back by the end. Readers, take note: this is how you handle Chekov’s guns.

Honestly, I can only blame my age-old enemy, the tags, for this one’s lack of views. Perhaps the author was unwilling to constrain themselves to the labels, or perhaps felt they made the fic’s description too colorful, but nonetheless, it makes a story such as this harder to locate. I only stumbled across it by (extremely) happy chance during one of my back-street jaunts through the bowls of FimFic. Again, take note, readers: tags do help. And if you’ve got a story as good as this, you’ll want to give it as much help as possible.

This one has my highest recommendation. It is, without doubt, one of the best I’ve read for Seattle’s Angels. I’ll even emphasize it with an additional link: READ THIS!


Deathly warmth stifled the graveyard and its dissipating mists. This was quite unpalatable to the graveyard’s sole inhabitant, given they were one for colder temperatures, and thus found the golden sunlight peeking over the edge of the distant hills quite disagreeable, even if that was simply a minority opinion.

“Why is it so darn warm?” asked Finster the Gravekeeper, loosening the sleeves of his denim jacket. “It’s October, for crying out loud! Christmas is just around the corner, inn’t?”

Oh, well, he couldn’t really complain. He was just a humble gravekeeper. He’d weather the weather just like the graves he kept.

He set off on his morning walk, carrying his superfluous shovel over one shoulder. The rows of graves stood as they always did: in uniform rows completely devoid of sinister import or frightening nature. His eyes passed over them like shepherds watching their flock, until they found one grave in particular, and the scene it held.

It was a narrow grave, standing beneath the gnarled and grasping branches of an old tree. Drawn on the ground around it were many chalky arrows of varying sizes and levels of quality, all pointing at four packets of paper resting just in front of the tombstone. Carved into the tombstone itself was a message:

“THESE ARE TOTES GOOD STORIES. YOU SHOULD READ THEM.”

Finster was not one for melodrama—he was a humble gravekeeper, after all—but he heaved a great sigh nonetheless. Then he drew a smartphone from his pocket and thumbed the profile of one of his contacts.

“Yeah, Barney? I need a… Yeah, they did it again. How soon can you have the new decoy made up? Well, they’re probably going to be back in a couple of weeks, if the pattern holds. Yeah. All right, thanks.”

With another sigh, he leveled a lazy kick at the gravestone. It toppled to the earth and broke into absurdly cheap pieces of plaster. He scooped the four packets of paper up into his arms and looked them over.

“I really wish they’d stop doing that. Meddling kids. I’ve got way too much to read, already.”

With a shrug, he started making his way back to his humble gravekeeper shack. “Oh well, I s’pose I need something to fill my new bookshelves.”


Feel free to visit our group for more information and events, and to offer some recommendations for future rounds. See you all next time!

Alexstrazsa · 1,095 views · Report
Oct
24th
2014

They say that politics is like making sausage — and today's story puts Equestria's neighbors through the grinder.

Moonlight Palaver

[Comedy] [Slice of Life] • 6,851 words

Upon Nightmare Moon's return, the leaders of other nations gather to discuss the situation.

They're not especially happy about it.

FROM THE CURATORS: "This might have been the most entertaining story I read in Equestria Daily's Outside Insight contest, which is saying a lot," JohnPerry told us when he nominated this story. "The worldbuilding is exquisite, with brilliant little details scattered throughout.  The dialogue is superbly written.  And even though the ending is a foregone conclusion, it's an absolute delight. Start to finish, this one is just a whole lot of fun."

It didn't take long for us to agree — in fact, Moonlight Palaver set a record for our fastest-approved nomination (at 6 hours, 37 minutes).  "I bumped this up my reading list, and I'm glad I did," Chris said, while Present Perfect found it immediately memorable: "I haven't read this story since round 2 of the official Outside Insight voting, and I can still remember it perfectly. … There's always something missing when writers start making their own species, or giving show races nations, but not this time."

Beyond the marvelous worldbuilding, Moonlight Palaver also distinguished itself as "one of the best examples of non-pony politics I think I've ever read," as Present Perfect put it.  Ultimately, the intricate interplay between the personal and the political brought both the politics and the story to life.  "This does a great job of showing that greed and habit are the cockroaches of sentience, outlasting even the grandest thermonuclear blasts," Chris said.  "And yet, the fic never loses its essential humor, nor does it trivialize the potential disaster facing the delegates — except, of course, to show how they have trivialized it.  It's funny, it's clever, and it never lets those two things get in the way of its respect for its characters and the setting."

Read on for our author interview, in which Carabas discusses ploutering, Perralt, and prompts promoting plausible political pondering.

Read More
PresentPerfect · 810 views · Report
Oct
17th
2014

Settle down, children, and we'll tell you tonight's story, of a mystical adventure to a faraway land.  Did you brush your teeth before we tucked you in?

In The Place The Wild Horses Sleep

[Adventure] [Human] • 2,814 words

Young Mia is determined to run with wild horses and nothing is going to stop her. Not her mother. Not even a pony with stars in her mane, come to take her away on an adventure …

FROM THE CURATORS: You might have heard of this story a few months ago when it scored third place in Obselescence's "Most Dangerous Game" contest, turning in strong showings with both the judges and the voters.  It easily won over our hearts, too. "Any story that can overcome my initial distrust of the 'once there was a little girl who wanted to be a pony, and then suddenly Equestria!' premise deserves to be featured," Chris said, and Present Perfect was even more effusive: "It’s gorgeous and uplifting.  I cannot praise this highly enough."

One of the factors making it exemplary was its unique bedtime-story narrative voice. "Its language play really works," Horizon said.  "At its best I couldn't see it on the screen without hearing it read aloud in my head."  For similar reasons, JohnPerry described it as "an utterly fantastic children's story that has a great Maurice Sendak (may he rest in peace) vibe to it. … The pacing is perfect, the tone and language is very fitting to a children's tale, and there's a depth to it that is intriguing."  Chris agreed: "This is a great example of what a children's story should be — enjoyable to a young listener, but with something to offer the adult reader, and pleasant to read aloud to boot."

Ultimately, it was the story's success at that adult-child balancing act that made it so magical — and inspired some curator introspection. "I was recently contemplating what makes children’s stories work, how magic and mysticism simply exist, and how the things that are important to us as children are not the same things that are important to us as adults," Present Perfect said.  "This story embodies all of those things. It’s about appreciating what you have and learning that dreams are only that. In other words, it’s about growing up."

Read on for our (illustrated!) author interview, in which Lucky Dreams discusses the Ghost of Fanfic Past, having faith in your audience, and a literal embarrassment singularity.

Read More
PresentPerfect · 1,113 views · Report
Oct
16th
2014

Site Update » User Stats · 10:31pm

Today I've been working on a stats page for each user. You can access it in your user toolbar dropdown or from any user dropdown (the button on the top right of a user card). You'll get a variety of stats for your account:

This chart shows you your story views (purple) and stories posted (blue)

This chart shows you your followers over time

And finally, blog posts over time.

Enjoy.

knighty · 3,278 views · Edited 2w, 7h ago · Report
Oct
16th
2014

We've added some new formatting options to the chapter formatting dialog. People have asked for better dark schemes, and we now have a few that are tinted towards a color, as well as "Ultra Dark", which has a true black background. Alongside these new options, we've improved all dark schemes to fade out the overall site background when you're reading the chapter, which gets rid of those annoying light-colored bars on the sides of the page, which made those options significantly less useful.

In addition to color options, we've added font options too, including a few common serif/sans-serif fonts that we missed, as well as a bunch of "Cursive" fonts, which attempt to emulate handwriting in some way. Some people have a hard time reading "computer font" text, we hope that the handwriting-like options will at least help.

We've also added some accessibility features to both the color and font lists, there are two new high-contrast color schemes, and we've added support for common dyslexia fonts, if you have them installed on your computer.

Edit: Quote box formatting has been improved inside stories, especially for dark schemes.

Xaquseg · 1,925 views · Edited 2w, 2d ago · Report
Oct
14th
2014

Seattle's Angels is a group that promotes good stories with low views. You can find us here.


“Yo, C^2, we’re up this round,” said Red.

“K.”

“I’m gonna look for stories.” Red paused. “You coming?”

“Yea.”

“…But he she didn’t! I was out there, all alone! How could he she let a tiny little thing like me wander out there all alone? Doesn’t he she know how dangerous it is out there?”

“Is it really that dangerous?”

“Come on, alex! I’m a squirrel! Everything is dangerous!”

“Whatever. Did he she at least find a story?” asked alex.

Red threw his paws in the air. “That’s the thing! I come back, after hours of slogging through self-inserts and Mary Sues, and there, waiting in my inbox, are three stories from him her. I don’t get it!” Red attempted to calm himself. It didn’t work. “I bet he she didn’t even leave. I bet he she found those stories when he she worked with Pav last time he she was up. I bet he she sat in the tech room all day, doing whatever it is helicoprions do, while I went out and actually worked.”

“Geez, dude, calm down.” alex thought for a moment. “Have you gone in to check on him her?”

“…No. Do you think something happened to him her?”

“Let’s go find out.” Red hopped onto alex’s shoulder, and the two walked in to the tech room. The door creaked as they opened it. The only light in the room came from the computer.

“C^2? Is that you?” Red asked the figure in front of the computer.

“Yea.”

“What is that? Is that…” Red squinted to get a better look. “Is that Sunset Shimmer?”

“Yea.”

“O…kay. You get the reviews done?”

“Yea.”

“Good.” Red hopped on to the desk. “So, uh, how long have you been in here?”

“I dunno.”

“That’s concerning. You alright?”

“Yea.”

“You sure?”

“Yea.”

Red looked at the screen again. “That’s quite the gif.”

“Yea.”

“Have you had it open this whole time?”

“Yea.”

Red looked to alex for help. alex just shrugged and walked out of the room. Sighing, Red said, “Are you sure you’re alright? This can’t be healthy.”

“I’m fine.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever. You need help.”

Red turned to leave, but C^2 grabbed him. “Look, Red. It’s so mesmerizing.

ROUND 54


STORY 1

Daily, by LimeAttack

Wake up. Eat breakfast. Trot to work. Eat a sunflower sandwich for lunch. Trot home. Take a shower. Sleep. Routine.


RedSquirrel456:

I can’t help but think that it kind of sucks when a pony is literally named for their talent. We here in the good States of ‘Murica don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed anymore than the next shotgun-wielding maniac, so I can only imagine that it’s a cultural thing for ponies to pay no mind to being called what they do. Then again, that’s exactly what people did back in the days of swords and sorcery, so who am I to judge? This story deals with a pony who not only fits his name and cutie mark to a tee, he’s been so happy with it he doesn’t even care he never goes outside its boundaries.

Tedious Care is his name, and doing everything the same every day for his entire life is his game. We don’t get much about this pony or the world he inhabits, since it’s first person and we are restricted entirely to what he thinks about things. Unfortunately, this pony doesn’t do a lot of thinking. He has a post-it note that tells him what breakfast and lunch is going to be. He doesn’t like going out for lunch at work. He turns down offers to do anything different or think anything about what he’s doing. It may make sense because he’s, well, a tedious pony, but as a reader I often found myself floating in the same haze Tedious (called “Teddy”) was.

This’ll make the first part of the story rather hard to get through if you don’t like protagonists who can’t be bothered to show you a good time. But this story is also a journey about how a chance happening starts to inspire him, to write a new ending to the rote story of his life. If you can get past that first half, you might be touched by what Tedious ends up deciding.

My jimmies were considerably rustled by use of ‘lavender unicorn’, however.

Csquared08:

I’ve long since accepted the fact that I’m a sucker for these sorts of stories. From The Diary of John (RIP, you wonderful story) to Saturday, I’ve found myself really enjoying stories about boring old ponies doing boring old things. It’s the simple things in life, ya know?

So what it is about Daily in particular? Is it just another one of those “boring” stories? Well, for the first half of the story, yes. Yes it is. Tedious Care lives for his simple routine and does everything he can to maintain the status quo. Anything different from the norm, like bumping into the town librarian, sends him off his game. And that’s where this story sets itself apart from other “boring” (there has to be a better term for this sort of story, yes?) stories. Tedious Care is so thrown off his game that he considers doing something different.

We learn that once upon a time, boring old Tedious Care wasn’t so boring. He didn’t live by routine. He didn’t plan out every minute of his day. He didn’t get upset when something didn’t go exactly according to his detailed plan. So, when Tedious Care realizes he has the chance to return to that life, he actually considers it.

It turns out that Daily isn’t actually a “boring” story. It masquerades as one, sure, but it’s mostly focused on Tedious Care’s choices along the way.


STORY 2

Slammed, by Enter Madness

Rainbow Dash tries her hoof at something she's never done before: poetry


RedSquirrel456:

Let’s get this out of the way: I don’t write poetry. I don’t know poetry. I don’t even really like poetry! Prose all the way for me, because dammit Jim I’m an author not a philosopher! So when anyone else, and I mean anyone, even tries to write poetry, I have to laud them just for putting in the effort. It’s almost like learning a whole new language with all those stanzas and codas and what have you. But in this story, not only do we get Rainbow Dash doing a not-very-Rainbow-Dash-thing, which is writing poetry, but we get to watch her read it aloud to an audience including her friends.

The poem itself I can’t really judge. It’s a simple one-two rhyming scheme that ends up being fun reading, because who doesn’t like rhyming? What’s really the draw here is that it ends up turning into a character study: it explores why Rainbow Dash flies in general, ignoring the fact that she loves to win. It also turns into an experience to tell herself that even though she loves flying, it doesn’t have to be the only thing that defines her.

Some people may take issue with this characterization—I’m not sure who—since they might see Rainbow Dash as all brash all the time, but I think the majority of bronies out there will appreciate seeing a side of Rainbow Dash that’s not quite sensitive, but definitely more introspective and thoughtful than we’re used to seeing. In all, a sweet tale that’s more of a glance at who Rainbow Dash than a full story, but it’s sure to leave you with a smile on your face.

Csquared08:

I feel like we need a general disclaimer now that Nietzsche is gone: We at SA do not know poetry. BP, you don’t count.

So, given that, why are we up here, telling you to read what appears to be a story about poetry? Well, for the same reason Rainbow Dash decided to write and present the poem, I’d imagine.

The poem is pretty simple, as Red said. Easy peasy rhyming scheme and not much else. Pretty much what I would expect from Dash. And then I looked at the rest of the story and the poem in more depth. And boy, did I like what I saw. This story touched on a side of Dash I’ve wished authors would write more about. She’s not just a brash braggart, as many like to write her. In Slammed, we see a more introspective Dash. She’s telling the audience why she likes to fly. While that may sound simple enough, the poem goes far beyond the simple “Flying is awesome, flying is cool.” It delves much further into the “Why?” and into her insecurities. Her thoughts as she presents the poem are also particularly revealing. So while I went in expecting a silly poem written by Dash, I came out with a particularly excellent little character study.


STORY 3

The Death of Sorrow, by Kaldanor

I thought that I was past sadness. I thought that I had defeated it, but now I realize that I had just hidden it away to let it grow stronger. Now it's trapped somewhere deep inside of me where I cannot get it out. The longer the sadness festers inside of me, the stronger it gets, but the key to letting it out was lost a long time ago.


RedSquirrel456:

Oh boy, the sad tag. Like many, many other genres, the sad tag is abused in ways it should not be. In general, I use a tag only if that reflects on the story as a whole—none of that ‘tags may be added later’ nonsense or putting in ‘random’ just because the story has some characters that act a little off-kilter. For this story, there is only the one lonely sad tag, and I went in expecting to come out with eyes as moist as a body vigorously rubbed down with Aveeno body lotion.

It wasn’t quite as bad as that, because this story left me more in a position of ‘what do I do now?’ than ‘how sad that was!’ I don’t mean that as a negative; the story is supposed to be a pony reflecting on how they got where they are. Let’s get one thing out of the way: the entire story is in first person, and it’s being told to you with hardly a break for characters to develop organically. It’s a story about a story. I can hear the alarm bells ringing, so just calm down! No, calm down, put the red ink away, STOP—

Okay, we’re good? We’re good. Moving on, the author fully admits that it’s a story that isn’t so far from reality, also something I usually frown upon. But the lesson contained within was good enough that I at least didn’t feel immediately tempted to slap a downvote on the whole shebang and move on. And considering the horrors that usually lurk in this site’s dark corners, that’s saying quite a lot. We’re introduced very quickly to “Carter,” who carts things around for a living. Why he’s so blasé about himself and how he got that way is what I’ll leave to you to find out, as it forms the basic conflict.

There’s not a whole lot of resolution to speak of, but in a sad story about life, when is there ever any? I can at least say that the story stuck to its guns—it is sad and not much else. Speaking as a squirrel, I had to go and eat an entire gallon of almond gelato to feel better after reading it. And I even ate the gelato too.

Csquared08:

This story is rather unorthodox. It’s a story about a story, so lots of things are told to us. It also relies heavily on the character of the narrator to make the story compelling.

If you’re the sort to skip straight to the Author’s Note before you read the story (what kind of monster are you?), you’ll note that the author informs you that the happenings of the story are based on actual events from his life. If you’re a normal person, however, you’ll notice that the narrator’s voice feels genuine. The narrator is earnest, if you will, in making sure we readers understand what he’s telling us. The events of the story he’s telling are pretty depressing, and he’s able to convey that depression pretty well throughout the story.

The narrator’s voice really is the key to this story. I mean, it is about all we’ve got, after all. I think, though, that the fact that this is based on actual events serves to give the narrator more credibility. The fact that the author experienced these events allowed him to write a story that felt that much more genuine. This naturally flowed into the narrator’s voice and made the story more compelling as a result.

So this story about a story thing. Well, it worked. The lesson the narrator learned is a pretty valuable one, and he was able to turn it into a compelling, genuine narrative. If nothing else, show up for the lesson and stay for the unorthodox, compelling narrative.


STORY 4

Eclipse, by 8686

A recurring nightmare convinces Luna that, since her return, she has never regained her sister's complete trust. And at the forthcoming Festival of the Eclipse, she decides to make amends with a bold gesture.

But Luna's solution causes consequences she never anticipated. Consequences the whole world will feel. Now, Celestia and Luna must set forth on an adventure that will take them even into Tartarus itself, and set everything right before it's too late.

And if they're lucky, they'll rediscover the trust they once had a thousand years ago.


RedSquirrel456:

Adventure and wonder await beyond the boundaries of the earth in this epic little yarn starring the first pony princesses to help bronies everywhere sexualize the word "plot." Both Celestia and Luna are the central characters here, and while the mane six do crop up on occasion, the monarchs do the heavy lifting. This right here is something that caught my eye: an adventure? Starring just the Princesses? But they're super-powerful demigods! What situation could possibly arise to challenge their incredible might, to overshadow their prodigious behinds?

Well, for starters they could go to Hell! Or in this case Tartarus. Because that's where the moon is. Because Luna sent it there. To Hell.

Princess Luna had good reason though, straddling the line between "sweet act of love and submission" and "utterly boneheaded act of temporary insanity." Luna starts the story fretting that her jealousy about the moon being overtaken by the sun will resurface. In a desperate attempt to stave off a Nightmare remission and please her sister, Luna decides the only way to not be jealous is to remove what drives that jealousy: the moon! Naturally Celestia calls her out on being a total dork and the two dive into Tartarus to get it back.

This is a rollicking good story with plenty of strange and interesting characters the Princesses encounter. It's sure to give you your fill of both worldbuilding and sweet sisterly moments without those pesky mane six getting in the way. I know I had fun reading it. If you can get over the idea that Luna literally loves Celestia and values their relationship so much that she will actually give up her very reason for being to make Celestia happy, the rest of the story will be smooth sailing to the very depths of Tartarus and back. I love adventure stories that take risks, and quite frankly deciding to turn the rulers of Equestria, typically the distant mentor figures, into adventurers worthy of the title is a challenge in and of itself. I applaud the author for taking it on.

Csquared08:

Oh boy, we saved the best for last. Seriously. Stop reading my drivel and go read Eclipse.

…You’re still here? Dagnabbit.

So, obviously, I loved this story. A lot. As a whole, it’s a story about Luna and Celestia going on an adventure and experiencing all sorts of wonderful sibling bonding along the way. The author is able to capture potential trust issues leftover from the Nightmare Moon debacle and turn them into incredibly compelling conflicts within the story.

That’s not even the best part.

What is the best is King Ragnarok, the dragon king. He may only be in the story for a couple chapters, but he was a brilliantly written supporting character that absolutely stole the show from Celestia and Luna. And Ragnarok is merely one example of an excellently written side character. Though 8686 does a fantastic job with writing the alicorn sisters, and he does an even better job with developing their conflicts and trust issues, 8686 is able to make his side characters just as compelling no matter how little spotlight they’re actually given. From Cerberus to King Ragnarok to Valkyrie and more, no character is left unattended. This attention to detail shines throughout the story, and it’s significantly better as a result. Sure, the main narrative was amazing, but just about everything else was equally amazing.

Anywho, since you’re still here, you guys think you can do me a favor? I need a riot.

ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ノ KING RAGNAROK or RIOT ヽ༼ຈل͜ຈ༽ノ


“alex, you seen Red?”

“No, Pav, why?”

“Weren’t you with him last?”

“Yeah, we went in to the tech room to see what was up with C^2.” alex looked at Pav in horror. “You don’t think…?”

“No, alex, don’t be an idiot. But I haven’t seen either of them all week.” alex and Pav rushed to the tech room. They went to kick the door open…but it was already open.

“Oh. That was awkward,” said alex, bringing his leg back down to the ground.

“Yeah, you tell me,” grumbled Pav, getting up off the ground. “I threw my shoulder into the air.”

“Oh, thank goodness! You guys can get me out of here!”

“Red? What’s going on?” asked Pav.

He She won’t let me leave!”

“C^2, explain yourself,” demanded alex.

C^2 just pointed to the screen. “It’s so mesmerizing.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever. We’re getting you out of here.” Pav attempted to drag C^2 out of the chair. The helicoprion didn’t budge.

“It’s so mesmerizing.” With a desperate look in his her eyes, C^2 continued. “Help me…”


Feel free to visit our group for more information and events, and to offer some recommendations for future rounds. See you all next time!

Alexstrazsa · 1,282 views · Report
Oct
10th
2014

(A quick note before we get into the good stuff: You can now find all the Pony Fiction Vault and Royal Canterlot Library-approved stories -- all the ones hosted on Fimfiction, anyway -- in the "Interviews" shelf of the communal libraries. Just access any of your shelves to find it!)

Today's feature is a little different — in celebration of a full year of author spotlights, we're turning the lens onto the RCL itself!  When we announced the Ask Us Anything last week, dozens of questions flooded in from community members, ranging from the serious (how do we choose our features?) to the silly (fight a duck-sized horse or a horse-sized duck?) to the literary (how many prereaders should look at a story?).  After subjecting over 50 authors to our interviews, fair's fair — we rolled up our sleeves and answered them all.

Read on for our responses, in which we discuss guilty pleasures, salivating zebras, and Sturgeon's Law. (As well as milking a question or two for puns.)

Read More
PresentPerfect · 1,483 views · Report
Oct
9th
2014

Hi guys. These are certainly interesting times we're living in, what with the onset of Bookshelves (as prophesied by our forefathers) and the return of notifications for posting Group Threads to our feeds. It's been noted that there are a few common questions people seem to be asking about how to navigate this brave new world the update's brought us, so we're going to try to address those in a space where everyone can see it.

It will be a dangerous road, and undoubtedly there'll be many questions that aren't fully covered here, but I believe we can do it! Together we are stronger than we ever were separately, and we shall surely brave this beautiful storm.

Read More
Obselescence · 6,059 views · Edited 2w, 6d ago · Report