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For those of you who, for whatever reason (masochism?) can't get enough Skywriter, please be advised that I wrote a short guest chapter for xjuggernaughtx's Cheerabuse magnum opus "Cheerilee's Thousand." It is a crossover with my "Ask the Equestria Games Inspector," if you're into that sort of thing. Anyway, you can find the relevant chapter here!
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Rainbow Dash hovered anxiously over the crowd.
It was true that Dash's default position in any given crowd was "hovering over it." The weatherpony always existed in an uneasy peace with the earth; on the one hoof, the earth supported all her friends, and all her friends' stuff, and they would probably be really ticked if it were to suddenly go away. On the other, the ground had done Rainbow Dash a lot of damage over the years by being generally unyielding in response to failed corkscrew turns, for instance. Dash and the ground admittedly maintained a wary and respectful distance as a matter of course.
On this particular day, though, being on the ground—in that crowd—was utterly out of the question.
"This is ridiculous!" shouted Twilight Sparkle, Princess of All Friendship Everywhere, waving around a copy of Daring Do and the Siren's Curse. "She spends the entire book as a monkey, for crying out loud!"
"You're just letting your irrational hatred of monkeys pollute this discussion," shot back Lyra, Duchess d'Heartstrings, a mint-colored unicorn so far from her family's throne (and thus the public's attention) that she could afford to engage in public cosplay and live-action role-playing without risking scandal.
"What?" Twilight cried. "I don't hate monkeys! Sure, they smell funny and have a weird relationship with their own fecal matter, but that doesn't mean I hate them. I just don't particularly enjoy reading about them for like three hundred pages! It's the sort of lazy authorial trick we never would have seen back when my mom was writing this series!" Cheers from Twilight's half of the convention hall.
"If you were actually a fan of this series, you'd give this book a chance, Princess!" Cheers from the Duchess's half of the convention hall.
"I've given it a chance! I still think it stinks! If you were actually a fan of this series, you'd see this travesty as a cuff in the face to everything that used to be good about these books!"
"A.K. Yearling is putting a lot of love and care into these books, for ponies just like us. You know what this is? It's ingratitude. Plain and simple."
"It's not ingratitude to demand high standards! You're just sucking up whatever weird monkey-related swill she puts out because she hasn't actually put out a decent book in years! But by all means, go ahead! Just hoof over your bits to the publishers, like a good little fan!"
"What's with all this anger and bitterness, Sparkle?" Lyra snarled, her horn beginning to gleam sympathetically. The "I am now so upset I am foregoing honorifics" line had clearly been crossed. "Coming to DoCon used to be fun. We laughed, played, sang songs. It was great! Now it's just full of horrible complainy whiny jerks who make everyone feel rotten. Why do you even come to these things if you're just going to grouse?"
"I grouse because I care. I have standards, Lyra! And I 'come to these things' because I still love adventure just as much as I used to! I like to celebrate what this series used to be! I can't help it if all everypony talks about is this monkey book! Am I not supposed to express my opinion? Is that what you're saying?" The rumble of the crowd became a low roar.
"What I'm saying is that you're being a complete and total hater, Sparkle," said Lyra, poking her with one forehoof. "Hater. That's you." The low roar turned quickly to a medium roar.
"Why, you—!" Twilight sputtered. "You're just... some kind of drone! Like a changeling! Blindly loyal to the queen, never questioning, never thinking." Twilight's horn lit, then, as well, crackling with a sinister magenta aura. "I value thinking, Lyra! Very highly! And if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a pony who doesn't think!"
Dash let out a nervous snort. Yeah, there was about a fifty percent chance now that somepony was going to end up as a cactus. Time to put a stop. Working with great professional economy, Dash gathered the water vapor from the ceiling of the convention hall (one of the unpleasant side effects of crowding this many steamy unshowered egghead ponies together in a small space: all the flippin' moisture) and formed it into a tiny black thundercloud. Then she gritted her teeth and gave it a good solid buck.
A thunderclap echoed across the hall. Shocked into momentary silence, all the fanponies looked ceilingward to see Rainbow Dash floating gently down, perched on her little black cloud.
"'Sup," she said, nodding to Lyra. "Twi."
"Rainbow Dash," said Twilight. "Daring Do's self-described hugest fangirl. Here to weigh in?"
"Eh, kinda," she said, keeping it easy. It was important to keep it easy, sometimes. You learn this sort of thing when you are a weatherpony dealing with mood-responsive stormclouds. You also learn this when you are totally completely awesomazingly chill, which Rainbow Dash was.
"Okay, look," said Dash. "I'm not gonna insult any of you by telling you to not take this series of young adult novels so seriously. Because saying that they're not worth caring about would imply that they aren't completely radical, and they completely are. A'ight?"
"All right," said Twilight Sparkle.
"Excuse me?" Rainbow Dash held a hoof behind one ear.
Twilight sighed. "A'ight," she said, fuming a little.
"Better," said Dash. "Okay, sorry about this, Twi. I know we're besties, but as the previous Bearer of the Element of Honesty—"
"Loyalty," muttered Twilight.
"Whatever. I gotta call a spade a spade here. You know that thing you say about how anypony that actually dares to like A.K. Yearling's version of Daring Do must be a brainless supporter of Ms. Yearling's publisher who's got no standards and doesn't actually care about the series? That's really insulting and wrong. There's a lot to like about the recent books. Even if Daring Do is a monkey for like the entire book. And I'm pretty sure that some the ponies who were writing Daring-Do-as-Monkey fanfic before ...Siren's Curse came out like the book because of this new development, not in spite of it."
"Woohoo!" shouted a lone gray pegasus with a bubble Mark, somewhere over on Lyra's half of the hall.
"See? Like her. Believe it or not, it really is okay for ponies to like the monkey-books!"
"But they're ruining the franchise! The more money they spend on monkey-books, the more monkey-books the publisher will put out! I don't want this franchise to turn into one hundred percent monkeys all the time!"
"Yeah, I dunno," said Dash. "I mean, maybe spending bits on monkey-books will make the publisher produce more books about monkeys instead of original-flavor Daring Do books. It's possible. I'm not a publisher, so I can't tell you that. I prefer to think that publishers who see the money rolling in from anywhere in a franchise are going to wanna bankroll more of both kinds. Rising tide lifts all boats and all."
"Thanks, Dash," said the Duchess D'Heartstrings. "I knew you'd come down on the right side."
"I ain't done yet," said Dash, putting on her emergency sunglasses for an extra layer of chill. "Lyra, it's also really insulting and wrong for you to say that Twilight hasn't given the monkey-books a 'chance.' We're all a bunch of grown mares attending a convention for a young adult novel series, so, yeah. Pretty sure we've all given the topic of every single official release enough thought. Ponies have the right to like what they like, and dislike what they dislike, and they also have a right to be in this community even if they grouse about the direction the books are taking. Your happiness is your own responsibility. It is downright selfish for you to insist that someone else be happy even when they're not just because they're bringing your mood down. Crystal?"
Lyra stood there for a moment, mouth agape, and then looked away and muttered something that sounded vaguely like assent. Good enough for Dash. Giving her powerful wings a few strong beats, she hoisted her thundercloud a cubit or two more off the ground. "And here's the last thing I gotta say to the both of you. Daring Do conquers problems through the power of her extremely awesome adventure skills. But she also conquers problems through friendship. And when either—" She raised her head, addressing the entire convention hall now. "—when any of you say to yourselves, 'I value these books and this fandom so highly that I am going to be all surly and rude and namecall-y to my fellow ponies just to prove how much I value these books and this fandom,' for Celestia's sake, you had better friggin' check yourself. Because by being surly and rude and namecall-y to your fellow ponies, you are proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you don't actually value what you're claiming to. Because being surly and rude and namecall-y is the exact opposite of what this whole entire series is about."
Rainbow Dash gave a sharp nod. "That's my thing," she said.
"It... really has gotten kind of hostile," said Twilight.
"Yeah," said Lyra. "Maybe we should just... y'know, be happy with each other. Happy that there are other ponies who are just as passionate about the same silly thing we're passionate about. Happy we've got company on this crazy head-trip we're all on."
"Agreed." A smile. Then, hesitantly, the two ponies shared a hoofbump; sighs of relief, of tension relaxing, echoed throughout the convention hall.
"I know what," Twilight continued. "Let's make this fandom what it used to be, back in the early days, back when we were all peaceful and happy. We should all sit down together and share our thoughts on one of our favorite books."
"That's a great plan, Princess," said Lyra. "I've got an idea: why don't we talk about one of my very favorite installments in the series: Daring Do and the Extended Metaphor of Faith Versus Scientific Understanding!"
Princess Twilight Sparkle's eyes grew flinty.
* * *
In Equestria, they were long and sinewy things; elegant, slippery and snakelike. For literally thousands of years, they had been trapped in the awkward, gangling bodies of the native inhabitants of their prison-dimension. Now, they were back, and their old serpentine forms welcomed them back like a pair of comfortable slippers.
Comfortable slippers like they used to wear back in the prison-dimension, of course. They didn't currently have feet that would accept comfortable slippers. This was a point of chagrin for Sonata, who constantly lamented the loss of her two fuzzy bunny friends. This was to be expected from Sonata, because she was a moron.
Sonata's relative stupidity was actually not bothering Adagio all that much today. She stretched decadently, then relaxed, her body falling in easy curves all across the surprisingly-roomy maintenance area beneath the floor of the convention center. The portal between the prison-dimension and Equestria opened so frequently now; little bits of correspondence, gifts and souvenirs exchanged across the interdimensional divide. All it had taken was one little misdirection, one moment of inattention, for the three of them to slip through...
"Mmm," purred Aria, glancing up at the muffled noise of Daring Do fans really going at it now. "This is the best petty bickering I've had. In, like, a thousand years."
"I brought popcorn!" shouted Sonata, gleefully, displaying a striped paper carton caught up in the coils of her tail.
"You eat hatred and dissent, Sonata," groaned Aria. "Not popcorn."
"I think they go great together."
"You know what else goes great together? My cloaca and your face."
"What do you know about pairing food and anger?"
"More than you!"
"Please," said Adagio. "Idiots, please. You're interrupting my digestion. Let's just sit back and enjoy this delicious feast, shall we? I, for one, am perfectly content right now."
"Yeah," said Sonata. "I kinda miss my chaos amulet, though."
Adagio raised her long, horsey head and gave her underling a sweet little smile.
"Who needs chaos amulets," she said, "when you've got fandom?"
26 comments · 399 views
...Finally! The story that was only ever supposed to be a one-shot and turned into a huge campaign exploration of Cadance's history is finally over.
So, serious question: this is a bridge story. It's all it ever was, really; just a glorified way for me to shift the story cycle from here to there. It obviously holds up best as part of a greater whole, with its precursors supporting it, but just to get a consensus, do you folks feel like it's a strong and worthwhile enough story on its own merits to make it worth the time to submit to EQD as a stand-alone piece? Still pondering the idea and looking for input. Thanks in advance!
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(Sorry about the doublepost. Accidentally published too early, and I didn't want comments coming in on the incomplete version before I had a chance to explain myself...)
So. Just watched "Rainbow Rocks" again.
I actually really like this movie, and it makes me sad, because I keep on imagining what Ms. Faust must think of it, and what she would think of me, by proxy.
This is nothing new to me, of course, speaking as a Cadance fan. It's well-known public record by now that the show's original developer never wanted more than two alicorns, and yet, here I am, devoting most of my creative energies in this fandom to the once-controversial third alicorn. (Is Cadance drama even a thing anymore?) When pressed on this topic, I will always fall back on the following conclusion: Cadance is a Bad Thing, and we are making the most of it.
If I am being brutally honest with myself, however, I realize that I am saying this because I have the specter of a disapproving Lauren Faust watching me over my shoulder. I like alicorns. I like to have a selection of alicorns. I like that there's a younger alicorn. I like that I do not have to choose between "godlike, regal, and canon-perfect" and "struggles with inner darkness." I like everything about the fact of Cadance...
...except for the fact that I feel like I'm stepping on someone's childhood imaginings by doing so. Pity the professional artist, who frequently has to sell control of her childhood friends to a corporation who never knew them, and who will take them places you never wanted them to go. Craig McCracken, Ms. Faust's husband, as much as confirmed that "Equestria Girls" was contrary to her original vision. And I can see why, of course.
The original Equestria Girls was very much an honest "making the most of a Bad Thing" period for me. That movie was a bit of a mess; I enjoyed bits of it and did not criticize it too harshly. The fans and creators were both dealt a bad hand by management, and I liked the idea of us all sort of enduring it together. But now we have a sequel, and while rough edges still exist, on the whole, it's a much more satisfying film experience.
Nothing about it being a satisfying film experience changes the fact that it's never going to be the direction this show, this franchise, was intended to go.
My entirely non-scientific surveys of the Ponynet suggest that people are generally pleased with "Rainbow Rocks." I am... disheartened by the people who are unquenchably angry about the whole thing, the ones that point and say, functionally, Skywriter, you are the problem. That you continue to consume this media spits on the thing Lauren Faust was trying to do with this show. You, Skywriter, have participated in muddying this from something great into something merely okay. One in particular has exhorted the general public as follows: "Don't you dare forget what could have been!"
I wonder what this hypothetical show looks like in that fan's imaginings.
I wonder if I would like it as much as I like the show I'm currently watching.
I wonder if I am a worse person for liking what "could have been" greater.
I wonder if it's even true that it "could have been" greater at all.
I wonder what Lauren Faust thinks of me.
Ms. Faust, there is no chance that you are reading this, so I say this purely for myself: I actually like what they did with the characters you thought of first this time, and I'm sorry if anything has been diminished because of what I do or don't like.
It's the best I can do.
Final non sequitur: Why haven't I seen any crackfic stories where Cadance is actually the fourth siren of the coven, the only one redeemable by Star Swirl? Get on it, fandom!
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Welcome to another edition of "Because You All Perforce Must Care What I Think." Let's make this short and sweet, shall we, getting the unpleasant bits out of the way first.
Category A: Things That There Was Never Any Hope For Improvement On
1. Human character designs still not doing it for me. No amount of time and effort will make our girls not look like somewhat sexualized and rainbow-hued versions of Mr. ZIP what with the huge heads and stick bodies and all.
2. Still no substitute for actual pony film. Actual pony screen-time even lower than last time around.
3. All protagonists are suddenly skilled musicians, when canonically only Pinkie, Fluttershy (maybe?) and A.J. have even been shown handling an instrument. And Twilight is appropriately lampshaded in the narrative, so I guess I'm only questioning Dash and Rarity? I dunno. Let's move on.
Category B: Things Actually Worse Than Last Film
1. Vinyl Scratch. I am absolutely great with fandom nods. No allergy whatsoever to seeing Octavia, Snowflake Bulk Biceps, and lots and lots of Trixie. Welcomed. But basic storytelling dictates that you cannot have a functionally nameless character pull not one but two eleventh-hour saves without seeding the plot properly first. Story structure demands that the protective qualities of her omnipresent headphones be hinted at before they are used to save our heroes' bacon (something so simple as including a version of the the disapproving Celestia / Vinyl interaction we saw in the "Music to My Ears" short would have been absolutely sufficient) and the Bass Cannon Sedan needs to have been at least established (if not fully revealed) prior to its use as a problem-solver. When you count on an audience's in-joke knowledge and delight over a character to fill in the cracks of a story, that is when your fandom nod has crossed the line. Furthermore, I can't tell if the creators are putting her forward as a strong-silent master of her craft or actually envision her as the same loudmouthed Bohemian that the fans see and are merely having her stay mute to appease the "Nowacking or Nothing" crowd. I wish they would just pick one, because the more the plot actually hinges on her the more distracting her silence becomes. Thank goodness they actually had Octavia speak a line.
2. No Candybutt, not even in cameo. This is not a fault in the story as such, I'm just (predictably) disappointed and furthermore holistically trepid that my functional OC will continue to fade into the background as Twilight becomes more and more Cadanceified. She's got wings now, is a princess, and lives in a crystal castle. All she needs is a coat of pink paint and to get married, and the narrative will have no use for dear sweet Candybutt whatsoever.
Category C: Things Better Than Last Film
1-n. Virtually everything else. The scene compositions were more visually adventurous and intriguing, the villains had a plot which made some damn sense this time, the songs are marginally superior, plot points are followed through on and not just mentioned and dropped, and the whole thing seems to have been stitched together with a lot of love and affection for the property. And Sunset Shimmer is handled exactly the way I wanted her to be handled. The scene where she once again attempts bad-girl intimidation in the darkened hallway only to have it fizzle this time is just splendid, and I for one gratefully welcome Sunny as the unexplained sixth peripheral star in "Magical Mystery Cure."
That is all. Thoughts?