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Piquo Pie


I love psychology and writing. I tend to write origional/experimental stories. I am the head of the School for New Writers and the EFNW writing track. My new favorite quote is "Why so ˈsir-ē-əs?"

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Jan
7th
2013

Interview with RBDash47. · 5:32pm Jan 7th, 2013


This interview was conducted as number of weeks ago with RBDash47 who founded Pony Fiction Archive and Pony fiction Vault.

One of the things that sets RBDash47's Pony Fiction Vault apart are the interviews he conducts with each author as he posts stories that meet a select criteria. For Pony Fiction Archive effectively acts as a digital time capsule for the Brony community. From influential epics such as Fallout Equestria, to infamous stories such as Cupcakes, RBDash47 goes an extra mile to provide a service that I have yet to see repeated in this fandom. He provides context for the creation of each story and allows readers to find out more about the influential authors that appear thorough each period of Brony history; from the first great pony-less summer, to cannon defenestrating events on such a scale as the Canterlot Wedding, RBDash47 is there to provide the context and background that gives readers a little extra to enjoy from their favorite stories and authors.

The interviews eventually made their way onto FimFiction.net where thousands have enjoyed learning more about stories, author, and their community/culture

This interview was conducted as a thank you for doing something unique that helps strengthen the bonds for those who call ourselves Bronies.

You do many interviews that post on both Fimfiction.net and ponyfictionvault.net correct?

That is correct! Interviews are done for the Vault originally, and are later crossposted to FIMFiction – thanks to knighty's invitation – for greater exposure. There's currently about a two-week delay between an interview going up at the Vault and the same interview going up at FIMFiction, though the delay will slowly decrease as time goes on, and we're closing in on a standardized one-week delay, where an interview will go up .

What brought about your decision to do interviews?

A bit of backstory: in May of 2011, I founded the Pony Fiction Archive, which is a similar site to FIMFiction in that anyone can sign up and post their own stories. The day-to-day running of the PFA was fairly well smoothed out within six months or so of its founding, and FIMFiction had also launched its public beta and gotten the full support of Equestria Daily, so many more authors were posting there – in addition to FanFiction.net, deviantArt, Google Docs, etc.

I took a step back, as it were, and did a bit of accounting of myself and what I could possibly do in this fandom. I knew that I loved fanfiction; that I was an excellent site admin but that I couldn't do anything worthwhile in terms of programming custom site software, so anything I did would have to use publicly-available frameworks; that I was good at contacting and working with authors; that I was good at copyediting, and enjoy working with HTML. Most of all, I knew I wanted to do something that mattered. I wanted to create something, not just regurgitate other peoples' works – or to use the parlance of the day, I wanted to be a content creator, not a content aggregator. I wanted to find some way to give back.

People always talk about having great ideas come to them in the shower, and the Vault came to me in the same way. I was thinking about other fandoms I've been in, or perhaps more accurately consumed content from – I used to read a lot of Pokémon fanfiction, and then a lot of Harry Potter fanfiction, but I very rarely actively participated – and how it's almost impossible to find some of my old favorite stories from those fandoms these days. I was also thinking about the idea of an extinction-level event wiping out the fandom; what sort of things would you want to attempt to protect? In a similar vein, if someone has stumbled across the fandom and has no prior knowledge of it or the fandom's output, what do you think they should see? These ideas all sort of coalesced in one instant into the Vault – a site that exists apart from the various sites that host fanfiction, and while it links back to them, it also hosts the stories itself in multiple redundant formats. This ensures that even if one site goes down, the stories will still exist elsewhere.

I haven't mentioned interviews yet – the whole point of the question – because they were the last addition to the plan. I realized that as long as I was contacting authors directly to get their permission to include their story, why not ask them to do an interview to accompany it? I've always been the kind of guy to buy the special edition DVD just to get the behind-the-scenes featurettes, and I've always been curious about the inspirations and motivations of the authors of my favorite stories. Honestly, the interviews are pure wish fulfillment – they're mostly stuff I'd ask if I bumped into an author on the street, with some more ‘serious' questions thrown in as window dressing to make it look professional. From the Vault's standpoint, they also provide some historical and cultural context for future readers, and I hope that some writers get something out of the authors' various tips and suggestions.

What has changed regarding the interviews/interview process?

Really, very little. I did a lot of workflow planning before I started out. I spent a day or two working up the original list of questions, reading other 'real' author interviews from magazines and such that I found online to make sure I wasn't missing anything considered important. Unlike other interviews, like you'd hear on a podcast or the ones Doctor Dapples did with Butterscotch Sundae and Coffeebean, the Vault interviews are not done in real-time. This allows for easier scheduling between myself and the various authors I feature; we never have to make sure we can sync our timesframes up for a few hours to get it done. This would be almost impossible, especially with international authors.

The biggest change has been my behind-the-scenes organization. When I started out, I had a simple plaintext list of stories I'd like to feature. This has expanded to a detailed spreadsheet I maintain, which tracks stories I have posted to the Vault, stories I want to read that I think have potential, stories I have read and want to feature but haven't yet, stories I would like to feature by authors I have already featured once so I'm sitting on them for now, stories that I think are quite good but just aren't what I'm looking for, stories I've read and don't think are up to snuff (to prevent reduplication of work if I keep running across the same stories), and stories that sound promising but are incomplete (I also use FIMFic's RIL list to ‘watch' incomplete stories). Each story's entry on whichever page of the spreadsheet includes its title, author, and genre; the review queue is much more detailed, sortable by genre, length, number of chapters, when it was written, and when it was queued.

How do you go about the interview from start to finish?

Once I've decided I'd like to feature a story, I prepare an interview document for the author. This involves making a copy of the original blank template in Google Docs and inserting the story's title where appropriate, then sharing the document.

I then contact the author through whichever means seems most convenient. I prefer using email, but I know that not everyone is as email-oriented as myself, so I'll check and see how recently they were online at FIMFiction or deviantArt, for example, and make some deductions about where they're most likely to see a message from me. The invitation varies slightly from author to author, but the general format is to explain what the Vault is and that I would like to include them, with a link to the interview document.

Once the interview is complete, I assign that story a slot in the Vault's post schedule, along with a Vault ID which is used in place of an ISBN in the ebook formats. I'll also read the interview – this is the second-most-fun part of my work for the Vault, right behind getting a response from a shocked and/or flattered author – and make any corrections that may be needed: typos, formatting, et cetera.

A day or two before the post is scheduled to go up, I revoke editing access to the document (many authors keep tweaking their interview, even after they let me know they're done, which is fine by me – but I don't want any confusion in terms of them editing their interview after I've created the post and having their changes not translate to the post) and format and generate the post in Blogger, scheduling it to appear at 9AM on the appointed day.

Are there any interviews that really stand out for you for good reasons?

This is difficult. Each interview truly does have a special place in my heart, for its own reasons. Sleepless Brony's was memorable because it turns out the Vault's only clopfic wasn't originally going to be clop; Pride's is another, because his enthusiasm is infectious. Jetfire's interview is special because it's for my favorite story in the fandom, and it's an interview I've been trying to get since the Vault started nearly a year ago. In every interview I can think of, I learned something about the story or author that I'd never suspected, and I think that's simply wonderful.

Are there any interviews that really stand out for you for bad reasons?

I dislike singling people out, for fear of unintended insult – I debated removing specific references from the last answer, but decided that was too ‘weak' – but the interview that came to mind when I first read this question was Somber's Simply Rarity. This was an early interview, and when I first received the completed document I was disappointed by its brevity – authors often apologize to me for 'saying too much' and worrying about if they should edit down their responses, which I never understand; I want to read anything you'll tell me about yourself, that's the point! But I quickly realized that the brevity itself told me as much about the author as a thousand words of explanatory prose would've, and I now regard Somber's interview as fondly as any of the others.

Do you ever scrap interviews? If so why?

No. If an author has impressed me enough with their work to invite them to the Vault, then I think whatever they have to say is probably worthwhile.

Are there any authors who you wanted to interview but could never get in contact with? Would you like to post their names here in case they see this?

Just one, now. I suspect it's a case of myself originally getting ahold of an email they never checked or something like that. They're still active in the fandom, and I don't want to begrudge them what I imagine to be a rather fun moment when they check their messages and see my invitation. I'll be in touch with them, and I'll let you all wonder who it is for now.

Do authors ever refuse to do interviews, if so what are some of the reasons they give?

There is one author whose story I'd liked enough to invite, but who apparently caught quite a bit of rage and flak for it, completely unbeknownst to me at the time. I never got a true response, and assume it was out of fear of reprisal; I didn't push it. There was another author who was flattered by my invitation, but who didn't agree that his (or her?) story belonged in the Vault. I was thoroughly surprised and impressed by their humbleness.

Do you ever attend cons?

I was at BronyCon 2012 in June, which was a fun and educational experience (I'd never been to any kind of con before). In September 2012 I hosted a fanfiction panel at Canterlot Gardens in Ohio, featuring authors you may recognize (in no particular order): Saddlesoap Opera, Patchwork Poltergeist, SleeplessBrony, ROBCakeran53, Donny's Boy, and Hidden Brony. I had a great deal of fun. The folks at Everfree Radio have a recording of it here.

In the future would you be willing to do live interviews with various authors at a con?

At first blush, that's a semi-terrifying prospect, but the more I think on it, the more I don't think it'd be too bad, and could be quite interesting and fun. However, barring a change in circumstances, at the moment I have no plans to attend more cons. I had a great deal of fun at BronyCon and Canterlot Gardens and made some great friends, but it's realistically too great a drain on my limited time and treasure.

We are going to wrap this up with a few of your standard questions.

So meta!

Where do you live?

I live in North Carolina, though I originally hail from California.

What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)

I work for a small software company as a junior (very, very junior) programmer and technical writer.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

I ran across some pony mashup videos – the first two were the Starcraft II trailer and the 300 trailer. This must have been on /b/, but I'm not sure... at the time I very rarely visited /b/, finding myself ‘burned out' on the constant content-less ridiculousness there. I found more, and showed them to my girlfriend, and we figured we'd see what the show itself was like. I was hooked after the two-parter pilot.

I very much wish I could pinpoint the day I discovered the show like others can with chatlogs or forum posts or what-have-you, but the best I can do is some reverse-engineering based on episode air dates. When I first discovered FiM, only 23 episodes had aired, so that would be sometime between April 15th and April 22nd of 2011. By the time we'd watched those 23 episodes, the last three had aired, so we watched those too.

It was a bit of a letdown finding the show right as the season ended, getting two weeks or so of solid undiluted pony and then nothing. I rewatched them, of course, but also went online looking for fanfiction – as in previous fandoms, when I ran out of source material, I went to see what fans had created, to continue experiencing the new universe I found myself fascinated by. I was pretty disappointed at what I found, to be honest. I'd been spoiled by fandoms like Harry Potter, where you had dozens or hundreds of fanfiction sites. Back then, FiM didn't have any. The closest thing was Equestria Daily, that linked out to random Google Docs, deviantArt, and FF.net stories. So I set up the Pony Fiction Archive, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Do you have a favorite episode?

I've thought about this for a long time – not in the least because I ask every author I feature the same question – and I think I can say with confidence that 'Luna Eclipsed' is my favorite episode. In fact I would argue it was the perfect episode, if not for Rarity's absence. It has fun music, excellent humor, several shots of ponies dancing (I love seeing the ponies walking and dancing, something about the fluid movement of the unusual body type fascinates me), everypony in costume, callbacks to the series pilot in the form of Luna herself and Rainbow Dash's costume (which was particularly entrancing! What a perfect scary costume for Rainbow), Zecora in an expanded in-town role, and an unusual new character model in the form of Pipsqueak.

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?

Wouldn't it be funny if it wasn't Rainbow Dash? My handle's based on her, my avatars around the internet all feature her... but no, it's definitely Rainbow Dash. I love her character design, her voice, her attitude. Her cutie mark is badass and also unique in that all the rest of the Mane 6 have multi-piece cutie marks. My answer would not change based on the fandom; I love some of the things fandom's come up with for her.

Do make note of an interesting distinction – while she may be my favorite character, I am not much like her, nor do I think we would particularly get along in any way. I myself am most like, and suspect I would most enjoy spending time with, Twilight Sparkle. (Which drives the girlfriend crazy because Twilight's her least favorite character!)

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I actually wish I'd come up with a better one, but I'm so involved now I'd fear changing it, since everyone knows me as RBDash47. (Sure is a pain to introduce myself at cons, though! "Hi, I'm Arr Bee Dash Forty-Seven! Just call me... uh...")

Rainbow Dash is my favorite character, so that's all that is, and 47 is a reference to the other great fandom in my life, Star Trek. I was a Trekkie long, long before anything else.

It was originally supposed to be RBD47, but that handle was already taken on Twitter, so I had to scramble for a different one.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

I actually wrote a 14-page treatise on what I consider to be the basics of writing (that's writing English, not writing fanfiction, so it applies to any kind of writing you're doing) as part of the Downloadable Content for the panel at Canterlot Gardens. If you're interested in reading the whole thing (and great writing advice from six wonderful authors in the fandom), you can grab a copy over at the Vault's Downloads page; it's at the top, called ‘Writing Fanfiction'. However, in its most summed-up, condensed form:

The technical quality of your writing matters. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, all of it exists for a reason – to help you bridge the gap between yourself and your reader, and to ensure nothing is lost in translation. I see no reason to invest my limited time in your story if it doesn't appear that you've invested any time in making it readable. If you have trouble with this, there are so many places for you to get help with it, you have no excuse except laziness.

And read your story out loud to yourself after you've written it. You would be absolutely shocked at the ridiculous errors you'll find – far and away from stuff like whether or not your dialogue flows well, I'm talking about duplicated or completely missing words, malformed verb agreements, punctuation errors, that your brain was kind enough to fill in or overlook for you when you skimmed it silently. Every story in the Vault goes through multiple rounds of copyediting with me, and the last one is always reading it out loud, and I have yet to not find any errors that way, despite many previous proofreadings.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A few things, actually, so thanks for asking!

1. I regret not asking authors' ages, but I don't want to go back and re-contact 60-odd authors to ask them one question, and I also don't want to only ask the question of only some authors.

2. I deeply hate turning authors down, sometimes losing sleep over it; in fact, I no longer accept self-submissions. I started the Pony Fiction Archive in part because at the time, authors who were rejected by EqD had nowhere to go; the PFA's motto is, "Everypony equal, everypony loved." Now I run the most exclusive fanfiction site in the fandom, too. Feels weird sometimes.

3. I didn't anticipate what the Vault would become; it was just supposed to be a place to store what I considered to be the best fanfic in the fandom. Now I get people telling me they've always hoped against hope for an invitation, that it's their dream; one author contacted me to ask for my favorite characters, genres, et cetera, then revealed he was attempting to write a story that I was guaranteed to like and therefore invite to the Vault. Don't do that, please. If you never see an invitation from me, it just means I either haven't read your story (very likely)... or one person out of thousands or millions of bronies didn't like it as much as other stories. That doesn't mean it was bad.

I told this anecdote at the Canterlot Gardens panel, so if you were there or have watched the video, I apologize for the duplication of content, but I think it's important. If you like writing, don't let anyone – not me, not the prereaders at EqD, not anyone – stop you from writing. Even if your work isn't popular, or is actively criticized, if you genuinely like it and are happy with it and enjoy doing it then don't stop. I met an author at Canterlot Gardens who's never posted a single word of his stories online; he's got notebooks full of ponyfic because he likes writing them, and that's good enough for him. There's something very Zen about that, I think, something to be admired.

4. I ran across a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln a few days ago that resonated with me in its simplicity, and its application to every aspect of one's professional and personal life. It applies to hobby fanfic authors just as much as world leaders or brain surgeons.

"Whatever you are, be a good one."

Report Piquo Pie · 741 views ·
Comments ( 19 )

Awesome. Glad to get your insights. Pretty screwed up that someone would so blatantly try to manipulate your tastes to get into the Vault, though.

Also, thanks for the shoutout. Let me tell you that getting those interviews in live time was a logistical nightmare, and its also the reason that the Interview series stopped so soon. I had hoped to interview Twilight Flopple, but I was never able to get in proper contact with her, and by the time it finally seemed doable, you were already doing the Vault and doing it much better than I could have hoped for.

RBDash47
Site Blogger

687109
I think I mentioned somewhere... maybe in your own Vault post... that your interviews helped plant that seed. It also gave me hard evidence that doing them 'live' would be a huge pain in the ass. :rainbowwild:

>many authors keep tweaking their interview, even after they let me know they're done

And here I thought I was the only one neurotic enough to do that!

>I'll be in touch with them, and I'll let you all wonder who it is for now.

Is it... Sergeant Sprinkles? :pinkiecrazy:

RBDash47
Site Blogger

687281
Hell, a few authors have had their prereaders look over their doc before it gets back to me! That's dedication.

And he stopped responding to my messages after I secured permission to add his work to the PFA; I've heard through the grapevine that he's profoundly afraid of attracting any more hate, so I guess I really should have counted him as a refusal... I suppose I might try him again, because Cupcakes really is a cornerstone of the fandom, whether people like it or not.

687296

I kind of enjoyed cupcakes actually. Every once in a while you need something dark and to make real life a little brighter. I really like Cupcake Chronicles as a followup.

Soooooooooooooooooo meta.

687339

I found it legitimately scary. There, I said it.

('Kay, I'll stop going off-topic now.)

>People always talk about having great ideas come to them in the shower
That has happened to me multiple times :moustache:

687675

No, discussing things like this is not only fine it's encouraged. I had the forsight to get waisted to the puns were hillarious to me. I also know the whole premis before hand.

But I can see it being creepy/scary. It is a troll fic and was ment to bother people or to be enjoyed by people who like some derangment from time to time/all the time.

But if you had a problem with it I recomend reading the cupecake cronicals chapter 1-3 or 1-4. It takes place after the incident if AJ had appeared and saved Dash. As Dash goes through the process of healing in a very realistic fashion it not only allows the reader to get over some of their issues with the story but it provides a great representation of how Dash would learn to deal with not being able to fly anymore.

Oh wow, I'm an example. Sorry.

RBDash47
Site Blogger

691643
Oh, don't feel bad! We had a nice chat and as far as I'm concerned, everything's good.

Finally we get a glimpse into the mind of The Vault Dweller. :pinkiehappy: Or The Vault Creator. :raritywink:
Thank you both for the interview - PiquoPie for asking the questions and RBD for answering them. :twilightsmile: I've been interested for quite a while now what your own answers would be to your own interview questions, RBD.

EDIT: Apparently I'm a week late. Still though, it was a very interesting read. :rainbowlaugh:

732076

Thank you. And in Case the Vault Dweller doesn't get back to this, I know he was really happy when someone asked him, and I know I was not the only one who felt he deserved the same recognition he gives others.

RBDash47
Site Blogger

732076
Haha, Vault Dweller! I like that.

And you weren't really a week late, I didn't think to include a blurb about it on a site post until Friday.

734943

Is that why this post went from 200 views to 300 and I started getting some extra followers and favorits :pinkiehappy:

RBDash47
Site Blogger

735097

Best, TROLL EVER! :yay:

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