Today he is known as the most important conjurer of the pre-classical era, the inventor of many a useful spell and the mentor to one of the most important figures in history. But for all his magical and scholarly achievements, there is another side to Star Swirl the Bearded, a political ideology that many of his contemporaries sought to bury and forget. This is the tale of the last journey of one of ponykind’s most unusual figures and the role he played in the events that led to the founding of a nation.
31,111 words · 9,552 views · 663 · 7
36,476 words · 3,252 views · 332 · 2
28,168 words · 12,461 views · 549 · 8
7,812 words · 3,030 views · 281 · 3
5,836 words · 10,691 views · 225 · 3
36,535 words · 2,239 views · 254 · 4
29,047 words · 2,429 views · 313 · 6
13,126 words · 712 views · 121 · 1
1w, 1dWell, that was fun12 comments · 279 views
So now that things have calmed down a bit and the dust has settled, let’s talk about what just happened here.
I’ve been teasing the idea of doing some sort of second-person HiE clop trollfic for a while now, and it’s mainly because of the Suffer series. After reading so much clop on the feature box, grumbling over its tired clichés and tropes, and idly wondering what gets into the box and why, the allure of trying it for myself became irresistible. Just for a moment, I would cast aside any pretenses of quality or respectability and shamelessly embody “The Player” that I had spoken of.
I mean, come on. If I’m gonna keep talking about this stuff, I might as well try it for myself, right? Plus there was just the fun of poking fun at all these easily mockable tropes. Good times!
When I posted the fic, there were three things I was hoping for:
1) Get on the feature box. Check. (Though this was mainly so that I could…)
2) ”Suffer” my own story. Check. (This was the most important one to me. When all is said and done, I have a feeling that the crowning achievement of the Suffer series will have been the excuse to utter the phrase “The Feature Box Suffers John Perry.”)
3) And finally: Force RainbowBob to suffer my story. Ch– Oh. Hmm.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad! There were also a couple of things to come out of this story that I hadn’t expected, but that I loved: one was finding out that Sethisto had read it, and the other was seeing this fic get more downvotes than the rest of my stories combined.
Actually, let’s talk about those downvotes for a moment. I have literally never seen a worse upvote/downvote ratio in the feature box than my fic. I’ve been told 1 to 1 has happened in the past, and I believe it, but the worse I had personally witnessed was in the ballpark of 2 to 1 (2 upvotes to 1 downvote). When my fic was in the box, it was around 1.8 to 1. (As of writing, it’s dropped down to around 1.4 to 1.)
And I love it. While it doesn’t exactly speak well to the mechanisms of the feature box that such a poorly received fic managed to remain in the box, I can’t help but take heart in the fact that so many people saw this premise and immediately went “NO.” Which isn’t to say that everyone who downvoted it did so without reading it; there were plenty of people who went in expecting clop and were disappointed to be reading a trollfic, or who were put off by the overt crudeness of the fic (fair enough; it definitely isn’t for everyone). But there were undoubtedly a lot of people who downvoted on sight, probably without realizing what this thing was.
And to be fair, it looks like a clopfic from the cover. Most people on FIMFiction wouldn’t recognize my name, and if you don’t know any of my other work (namely the Suffer series) there’s probably no way you could have known that it was meant in jest.
So kudos to those who tried their darndest to keep this blatant piece of feature bait off the feature box. But I think what we’ve learned is that downvoting en masse is a terrible way to try to keep something off the box. It might be more effective to just ignore it and hope it falls off the box due to lack of “heat”.
So now that that’s over with, I return to my normal suffering of the feature box. I’ve had my fun, and now I’m at least one step closer to understanding the strange mistress that is the feature box.
A big thank you to all you guys for indulging me in my insanity. Kudos all around!
11 comments · 411 views
12 comments · 339 views
8 comments · 227 views
You know, after you read enough clop in the feature box, re-reading the same tropes and even what feel like the exact same lines over and over again, at some point you start thinking, "Well, shit. I could do this."
So, uh... I did it.
Okay, strictly speaking, it's a clopfic parody, but make no mistake: there's clop. And if you're not feeling too squeamish, I would be most appreciative if you could drop whatever you're doing, right this second, and read/like it. If you like, you can think of it as one of my Suffer reviews of a clopfic... but much longer and in the form of a story.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present my single greatest piece of feature bait...
Rainbow Dash Gets You Laid
(Link goes to my recent stories page, since this might be too hot to link directly to in a blog!)
In other news, in case you haven't already seen it, the Royal Canterlot Library did an "Ask Us Anything" post to celebrate the group's first anniversary, and we got a lot of great questions. Some of them are specific to the RCL, although there were some questions addressed more to the individual curators, so if you want to see more ramblings from me, along with noted reviewers Chris, Present Perfect, and horizon, go check that out.
But you know, after you read the clopfic, obviously.
21 comments · 367 views
Guys, I’ll be honest. I’m just not feeling the feature box today. It’s not that there isn’t anything good (bad?) in there, it’s just that I’m not feeling it, you know? Some days you feel the creative juices flowing, ready to take on the world, and other days you look at the front page and see a Castlevania crossover, “you” screwing human Luna, and BMiH (Big Mac in Human) and just shake your head.
Yawn. Where’s the challenge in that?
So instead, I thought I'd do something I've been thinking about doing for a while: trying to disown some of my early stories.
Now, let me clarify that I'm not talking about deleting these stories or anything so drastic. I've speculated about doing that before, and nothing good lies down that sordid path. Nevertheless, I’m perfectly willing to throw these stories under the bus for the sake of a cheap laugh.
Basic summary: Twilight gets writer’s block while writing a friendship report, then asks her friends for help.
What was I thinking? “Get it? It’s called ‘Writer’s Block’ because we all experience writer’s block! Pretty clever, huh? …Guys? Guys?”
Why it sucks: I feel pretty ambivalent about this one these days, and all told I can think of far worse ways to debut one’s fan fiction career. Of course, there’s not really enough to this fic to feel anything but ambivalent, because it’s pretty nothing.
Overlooking the overly tell-y prose and the weirdly meandering path the story takes despite its simple premise (“But I have so many cool worldbuilding ideas!” past me must have thought as he inserted another meaningless aside into what should have been a straightforward story), this fic commits that cardinal sin that many first-time ponyfic writers make of trying to cram all of the Mane Six somewhere into the story to make it as “show-faithful” as possible. Hell, even the CMC show up for a moment (which I think is the one and only time I’ve tried to incorporate them into one of my stories), but only to do a clichéd “CUTIE MARK CRUSADER ________S YAY!” line. Wow, real original, past John.
What ultimately did this fic in for me was the episode Lesson Zero. Once I got over the novelty of knowing that the show writers had a vaguely similar idea to mine (Twilight doesn’t have a friendship report ready), the lasting impression was that Lesson Zero simply did it way, way better than I did. We don’t really think of it today, because it has so solidly become part of the MLP mythos, but the idea of Twilight as neurotic spaz really began with that episode. Lesson Zero added this whole other side to Twilight’s character that didn’t just make sense, but was really funny and memorable, to the point that it defined her character for quite a while there.
What have we learned: Don’t try to cram so many characters into your stories. And if you hear that a future episode has a similar plot device to one of your stories, just give in to despair now.
Legion of Gloom (and its sequels)
Basic summary: All of the minor antagonists from season one (Trixie, Gilda, Prince Blueblood, the Diamond Dogs, etc.) unite to get revenge on the Mane Six. Hilarity fails to ensue.
What was I thinking? “Hang on, has no one done a Legion of Doom-esque villain team with MLP characters? Shit, I gotta lay my claim! That’s a gold mine just waiting to pay off!”
Why it sucks: When I think of this fic today, all I can think of is the word “random.”
Also, the words “uninspired meta humor and pop culture references.”
You know, I probably would have felt a whole lot better about this fic if I hadn’t completely and utterly botched the idea with the two sequels. On its own, the first fic isn’t anything great, but it was at least a fairly straightforward, if absurdly short, fic played for a few laughs. For the sequels, I very deliberately cast sanity to the wind, with the result of turning the whole thing into a giant clusterfuck. The first story was ludicrously oversaturated with characters as it is, between the Main Six and six antagonists, so what did I do for the sequels? Add six background characters! Plus a couple more villains! THE MORE THE MERRIER, AMIRITE?! HOLY FUCK WHY CAN’T I HANDLE ALL THESE CHARACTERS?!?
Oh well. At least I had fun writing them at the time. But in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t invested as much time as I did into them (which wasn’t a whole lot, to be perfectly honest, but still too much for what they are). I think the reaction to these fics gave me a false sense of what this fandom looks for in its stories, which set the stage for a whole lot of stumbling in the dark on my part, as I tried to figure out what “my thing” was. Oh well, I guess you gotta stumble in order to get back up.
What have we learned: OKAY SERIOUSLY DON’T CRAM SO MANY CHARACTERS INTO YOUR STORY
Basic summary: Twilight is taking a train across the west and is feeling particularly moody. She meets Trixie at a rest stop.
What was I thinking? “Well great, I’m stuck at this rest stop in the middle of nowhere while I wait for my bus driver to finish up and start driving again. And now my iPod battery is dead, and I forgot to bring something to read, so I’ve got nothing to occupy myself. God, my life sucks. Maybe I can write a story about this when I get home.”
Why it sucks: Ngggh… this, to me, is the biggest stain on my fan fiction bibliography. This is the story I want to distance myself from more than any other, because when I look at it now, I think it says all the wrong things about who I am as an author. It’s not my absolutely worst fic, but it has gained this enduring attention since it somehow became a 6-star Equestria Daily story (back in the days when they still had that rating system). It’s that perfect combination of popularity and personal distaste that makes me want to delete this fic if I thought I could get away with it without anyone noticing. Even today, I get a notification once in a while that someone has favorited this story, and every time that happens I die a little inside.
So why do I hate this story so much? Well, to be honest, I think it has less to do with the story itself and more because of what it came from. (But the story doesn’t help.) It has this immature, whiny tone that’s more fitting to a mopey teenager than any self-respecting adult. It is a product of a moment in my life I’d rather forget, when I had soured my outlook on the world and allowed all my childish insecurities and selfishness to surface. Nowadays I don’t want readers to identify with Twilight in this story, because she is basically just me at my lowest point: an overly sentimental, insecure person who has given in to depression, who in a moment of stress decided he has no agency over his life before curling up into a ball and becoming a surly recluse. None of the inner strength and confidence of Twilight’s character is shown here, it’s all cast aside so that I could have my little moping session. Everything I tell myself and I tell others about who I am is challenged by this fic, this reminder of my foulest side.
I hate this story. I hate it so fucking much.
The real kicker here is that this was never supposed to be posted to Equestria Daily in the first place. After writing it over the span of a day and a half, I submitted it to EQD, then I got a note back pointing out some grammar errors along with one or two more serious issues that would take some rewriting to address. I replied that I would look into addressing it, then I cleaned up the grammar stuff and left the more serious issues alone. By that point, my drive to continue working on this thing had already dried up, so I just chalked the fic off as something I would look into fixing at a later point, or just never touch again and never get posted to EQD. But a day or two later, it got posted to EQD anyway, with no one notifying me. I figure there was some mix-up behind the scenes where it got into the posting queue when it should have gone into the resubmission pile, but the end result is that it got posted, and then got some stupid high rating it never deserved.
What have we learned: Just because something felt good to write the other night doesn’t mean you should stick with it. Sleep on it. Whatever you post will stick around for a long time, so you’d better be comfortable with it for the long haul.
Basic summary: Princess Luna remembers Hearth’s Warming Day very differently from how it’s currently being celebrated. Parody of A Christmas Carol ensues.
What was I thinking? “Hey, I’ll write a holiday story! And I’ll put in some message about all that ‘War on Christmas’ crap.”
Why it sucks: I’m not sure how to feel about this one nowadays. I think my disdain for it has less to do with the story itself and more to do with overexposure to this story. See, a couple years back someone approached me who was interested in doing a rather ambitious dramatic reading of the story. “Dramatic” wound up describing the project itself, when a rather bizarre amount of ego started infecting the whole thing, and by the end I wound up biting off the head of the guy running the thing (who was the only guy in this project I ever had any contact with) and never spoke to him again.
So… yeah. That was fun.
I think there’s kind of a nifty idea in this story, but the execution leaves a fair amount to be desired. The biggest complaint I got was the application of Luna’s olde English, something which, quite frankly, I could not give two shits about. I’m more worried about whether the intended message got through the dense fog of Christmas Carol-isms and odd asides I made while writing this. These days, I also question whether it makes any sense whatsoever to incorporate a message like that into a ponyfic.
What have we learned: Don’t get involved in big projects if you don’t know the people involved. Also, never write anything with Olde English ever again.
Mission: Implausible (and its sequels)
Basic summary: Vinyl and Octavia are secret agents.
What was I thinking? “People like Vinyl and Octavia, right? And people like secret agents, right?”
Why it sucks: Okay, so compared to the previous fics I mentioned, I have far, far less disdain for this one. In fact, I’m still pretty okay with this series, all things considered. That said, when you have one thing that’s far, far more popular than your other stuff, you wind up constantly returning to the question of whether it accurately reflects your ability as a writer and your body of work. And the further I get away from these stories, the more I’m inclined to think that it doesn’t.
Present Perfect recently remarked that, to his disappointment, he felt like he was becoming known more for his reviews than his stories. I think I’m in the same situation, but rather than disappointment I welcome it. In a situation like mine, the best thing you can be known for is whatever your most recent work is, since that’s usually the thing where you used the most of that talent you’ve been building up all this time. Although I’d be kidding myself if I said I had earned name recognition from Mission: Implausible, it was still far and away my most popular work prior to my Suffer series.
My friend RTStephens once said that an issue with these stories is that I get “too descriptive of the different locations ... I wouldn't say it devolves into scenery porn, but some descriptions of San Franciscolt … seem unnecessary to the plot and come across more like a tour guide giving a practiced speech.” I think he might have been too generous; they are scenery porn, full of moments where I was obviously more interested in the setting or trying out some bit of worldbuilding than in telling a story.
Also, I recently came across the pun “San Prancesco” in a friend's work, and that pun is so awesome I feel ashamed for ever thinking “San Franciscolt” was adequate. I'm hanging up the pun cap; that's it. I'm done.
And when I was interested in telling a story, I couldn’t even keep a consistent tone. This, more than anything else, is what irks me about the series as a whole. One story would be played for laughs (for the most part), and then I would get bored of that and try something more serious, and then I would get bored of that and switch back. It doesn’t reflect well on the series as a whole, and makes the whole thing a pretty mixed bag.
What have we learned: Stay focused on your actual story; don’t wander off into worldbuilding excursions just ‘cause you can. And for god’s sake, try to keep a consistent tone.
Well, that's enough for now. Now go read my more recent stories, and tell me I'm a better writer than that John Perry impostor who wrote all this crap.