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Okay, I admit it, I'm probably not your mom. But odds are I'm old enough to be. Now with Patreon account (under alarajrogers) and short stories on Amazon (under Alara Rogers).

More Blog Posts361

  • 5 weeks
    Wrote, like, three words in June

    I'm exaggerating. It was actually 18K, which sounds respectable until you realize it was a third of the recent chapter of No Escape From Yourself, and one other story, and that's it. Work has been brutal this month.

    I expect things to be more relaxed in July, so I hopefully will get more written.

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    7 comments · 221 views
  • 11 weeks
    I frankly cannot believe this.

    Given the overlap between fans of She-Ra and fans of My Little Pony, how is it there are no stories yet where Swift Wind comes to Equestria and ponies try to get him and Celestia to date? That would be hilarious.

    11 comments · 266 views
  • 11 weeks
    More 52 Project stories, but sadly no fanfic

    I've been struggling so hard to write anything. Output this month is abysmal. I've had to put all the writing energy into the 52 Project stories, so I haven't gotten any farther on my fanfics than I did when I last posted.

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    3 comments · 196 views
  • 16 weeks
    I am not dead

    I feel like, in this day and age, this is something I should be telling y'all fairly regularly.

    Anyway, I have been writing frantically for my 52 Project and haven't had a chance to swing around to any fanfic yet. But I believe I am going to do the next chapter of No Escape From Yourself, very soon.

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    9 comments · 390 views
  • 18 weeks
    52 Project is live!

    Not related to MLP, but to my recent blog post about the 52 Project, a thing I am undertaking where I have to post a short story every week for a year.

    First story, "The Chicken Story", is up!

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    4 comments · 133 views

More reforming spells · 2:05am Jan 5th, 2016

More for my own notes than anything else, some additions to my prior set of reforming spells:

Cricket Conscience: Not a mind control spell at all. Cricket Conscience provides a small voice that reminds the target of the spell as to what standard social mores would require them to do at this point. Cricket Conscience is useful for ponies who either seem to have never learned appropriate behavior, but would like to conform to it -- for instance, ponies who were raised in cults, get free, and want to live their lives by standard Equestrian morality but don't even really know what it is -- or ponies with poor impulse control. Sometimes the retarded can benefit from Cricket Conscience -- Lenny from Of Mice And Men would never have committed the murder he did had he had Cricket Conscience, because he never intended to kill the woman, but he was too strong for his own good. Cricket Conscience, like most low-level reformation spells, is temporary.

It is not always a "reformation" spell; sometimes it's used as part of mental health treatment to help ponies overcome negative messages they were taught in childhood. For instance, a pony who was taught that sex was dirty, bad and wrong could be helped by Cricket Conscience reminding them that there's nothing wrong with sexual activity in the context of love and affection (ponies, in general, have relatively conservative sexual mores and don't usually think casual sex is a great idea, but they're not hung up on waiting for marriage either.) Had Starlight Glimmer's cult gone on much longer, children raised in the cult might need Cricket Conscience to help them get over their fear of cutie marks, and some of the adults might have as well. A slight modification of Cricket Conscience is employed widely in the Crystal Empire, reminding ponies that they are safe, that it is okay to be friends with other ponies and to openly display affection, that it won't be used against them, that no one is informing on them to Sombra. (To be clear, it's not that Sombra forbade affection, it's that one of the ways Sombra quashed rebellion and created a submissive slave population is that there would be harsh retaliation against friends and family for any pony caught dissenting or disobeying, and sometimes simply for failing at a task, so to keep those you cared for safe it was best to hide that you cared about them.)

The worst it could have done to Discord was annoy him, but he didn't want to be annoyed so he ate it anyway.

Be Just Like: A dangerous spell. This spell compels the target to want the affection and praise of the caster, or somepony designated by the caster, and causes them to look up to that individual and want to be like them. Basically, it's hero worship in a spell. When used responsibly, this is employed on ponies whose life circumstances are similar to other ponies who have already reformed (whether by spell or not), to help guide the target pony to a way of life that might be well suited for them after reforming. It's less generalized than Please Like Me, so there is less room for outside factors to interfere, and produces more controllable effects. It's also a pretty powerful mind control spell that villains can use to get instant minions, so it's tightly controlled, unlike most other reforming spells that are widely available; however, Twilight Sparkle's library of magical works was one of the most extensive in Equestria, so she did in fact have a copy.

Be Just Like, cast at very high power or against a temporarily powerless Discord, would have worked. It is, in fact, the spell version of what did work. A responsible use of Be Just Like will always make the target's "hero worship" directed at someone who has consented to be in that position, who is willing to help the target with their reformation, and who is willing to demonstrate genuine affection and praise to reinforce the target's attempts to do things that will please them. Basically, someone just like Fluttershy. (The name can be misleading; the hero worship doesn't actually have to be directed at someone the target is trying to be, just someone the target is trying to please by behaving the way that pony would appreciate.)

It's really easy to abuse this spell, and some in the mental health community have argued that it should not be used, because there are numerous documented abuse cases where a mental health professional cast it and then entered a romantic relationship with the target -- which more or less creates a love slave. Others have pointed out that the directed modeling that a single trustworthy individual can provide is much more effective than Please Like Me, where the target wants to please everypony and one pony's inconsidered words could set back a reformation badly.

Discord considers this spell to be a form of slavery and would eat all the copies in Equestria if it weren't for the fact that so many mental health professionals already have it memorized. Discord's opinion was presented to Celestia and rejected on the grounds of "It hardly seems appropriate for you, in particular, to try to make a stand against therapeutic uses of mind control." Discord has had to acknowledge that his own record of using mind control for funsies does not make him an effective advocate against any kind of mind control.

No Fear: An anti-anxiety spell that is used off-label as a reforming spell when the target's bad behavior is caused by fear. Targets who act out of paranoia or racist fears can have those fears quelled by the No Fear spell. It doesn't actually eliminate fear, it eliminates anxieties and fears that are targeted toward other sapient beings based on categories; somepony who has actually abused the target would still be feared by the target, but other ponies in that same category would not be. No Fear is only ever cast in cities and towns that are well protected from predators, because a rural pony who loses their fear of, say, wild dogs based on knowing one family pet could be killed. While the Everfree is one of the most dangerous regions of Equestria, many of the settlements and small towns are surrounded by land that isn't predator-free.

This would be useless to Discord. He doesn't act out of fear, he doesn't fear creatures he doesn't know based on what category they belong to, and it wouldn't even be helpful for him to use -- as the only draconequus, he's generally dealing with fear specifically of him, not fear of his species.

Amnesia: The saving grace of this spell is that it is difficult to cast, takes a long time, and is almost impossible to cast on a resisting target. Otherwise it would be very easy to abuse. Amnesia causes the target to forget who they are and pretty much all of their personal memories, though none of their skills or knowledge, for between 6 weeks to 6 months. Used as a palliative for extreme PTSD, the kind that leaves ponies catatonic or actively suicidal; as the memories come back, the pony does not experience them as strongly as they did before the treatment, breaking the pattern of flashbacks. Used in combination with Addiction Breaker, it can help a pony break an addiction that's so integrated with their lifestyle it would be actively and horribly painful to use Addiction Breaker otherwise (if all of your friends do drugs, and Addiction Breaker has made you temporarily repulsed by drugs, your life at home will probably be awful.) Ponies under Amnesia usually have volunteered to undergo the treatment because they want to make a clean break with their past, and a few months of not remembering their past will help them do that.

That being said, Amnesia can be cast against an unconscious victim, a victim under a different form of mind control who's compelled to consent, or a victim who is weak-willed and can be emotionally badgered into not resisting. Ponies have cast Amnesia on unconscious victims and then convinced their victim that they are married to the caster, causing the victim to generally develop feelings for the caster in the belief that they already had such feelings, so they're primed for them. This is not legal, but prosecution can be difficult because even after the victim's memories return, they often feel as if they love the caster and don't want to see them punished, so they don't cooperate.

Not particularly useful against Discord because it's so easy to resist.

Obey: Not considered a reforming spell anymore, though it was at one time, a very long time ago. Twilight would never cast Obey on anyone unless she's the Twilight from Elements of Opposition; our Twilight is well aware that this is a terrible spell and should never be used. She had a copy of it anyway because understanding how Obey works allows a unicorn to more easily resist it or reverse it. Discord ate it anyway because why take chances?

Obey compels the target to obey any order given by the "masters" that the caster assigned. There can be more than one and in fact there can be a general category, ie, obey any order given by a unicorn. If the target resists, the spell takes over their body and makes them do it anyway. It cannot compel complex thought operations -- you cannot use "obey" to make the caster cast complex magic or do something that requires a great deal of thought and creativity. However, because the sensation of being puppeted by the spell if you resist your orders is so unpleasant to most ponies (and other beings), Obey can condition the target to obey any order, even the ones that require complex thought, because the target will carry out the order under their own free will in order to avoid being made a puppet.

Sombra liked Obey. A lot. Most of his personal slaves -- servants that attended him in his castle -- were under it. Slaves in the mines were often spared it because Sombra was not their direct supervisor, and he didn't trust the overseers he employed enough to give them obedient armies; the slaves had to be free to resist an order from their supervisor to disobey Sombra's orders.

Obey would normally have no effect against Discord because it is a spell using principles of Order, not Harmony (there is no such thing as Order Magic -- there's chaos magic and harmony magic, in reference to how much control the wielder is using. However, there are spells whose entire function is to bind the target or structure the target, and those can be considered Order spells. Discord is particularly resistant to them.) When cast through the Elements of Harmony or another harmonic amplifier, however, even Discord cannot resist. (Possibly, especially Discord cannot resist. While Discord is resistant to spells cast using harmony magic or order principles, he and his fellow Avatars are all very vulnerable to each other. A spell channeled through the Elements against, say, changelings, would probably be a lot less effective.)

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Comments ( 11 )

This is really interesting!

Wow. I'm not sure there's any way to make reform spells not disturbing in one way or another. Even Cricket Conscience is a little off-putting.

To humans raised to believe in the primacy of the individual spirit above all else, yes. To ponies, whose primary value is harmony?... not so much.

Ponies do, of course, think that the individual pursuit of happiness is very important -- the concept of the cutie mark, the special talent every pony has that defines who they are and what they want out of life, indicates that ponies are hardly all about mindless conformity. But they do have a lot more tolerance for enforcing harmonious behavior, by hook or by crook, than humans do. Possibly because they also have to contend with illegal applications of these sorts of spells. To us, mind control is a horrifying bugaboo, something that doesn't literally exist but that we're terrified of because it could. To ponies, mind control is psychoactive drugs, and can be used for great harm or great benefit.

From the pony perspective, any mind control spell that is not permanent and ends up with a more harmonious result is a good thing. Ponies who are mind controlled into being someone they are not with a non-permanent spell will revert to who they really are, and probably be quite upset about it. Ponies who are mind controlled into being someone they want to be may find that with the habits developed while they were under control, they are able to maintain their new behaviors even while not under control any longer. Most ponies consent to reforming spells willingly; criminals who have faced justice, and the opprobrium of their peers, and the destruction of their social status, will often break down and do anything for forgiveness, because the bonds between ponies are so important, moreso even than amongst humans. There are far fewer true loners among ponies than humans, and fewer sociopaths. (Also, fewer revolutionaries and fewer mad geniuses who push forward on an idea or a dream that other ponies reject. Humanity has benefited in many ways from our tendency to toss up stubbornly individualistic people from our genetic mix frequently.)

So I'm not really sure humans would ever be comfortable with reforming spells -- at least not modern, cynical Western humans -- because humans are much more likely to abuse such things if they had them. Ponies are less likely to do bad things that earn them social opprobrium in the first place, and that includes abusing the reforming spells. Unless they are absolutely sure they can get away with it, and too many unicorns can "see" the effects of mind control on another pony's aura.

Very interesting. I especially find the use of cricket conscience for borderline retarded ponies a unique idea.

3665156 As someone with depression I know first hand that "free will" isn't quite clear cut. If there was a spell that took away some of my "free will" and replaced it with a drive to do the things I love, then I would do it.

Everything you feel is EM fields interacting. Hormones affecting a synapse? Electrons being swapped between atoms. Synapses communicating? More chemicals exchanging electrons. Free will is an illusion, and if you can medically change my "free will" to a different "free will" that allows me to feel more in control, then go ahead.

So, in short, my perspective isn't the average human's or pony's.

Great to see this subject continued. Do you think the enchanted helmets Sombra put on ponies had a form of "obey" in it, or something else?

3665156 One of my favorite things about the way you build the setting of your version of Equestria is how you try not to make ponies "humans in fur coats." History, biology and the environment matter, and shape the way society ends up. I think to pony society, the idea of removing a pony, even a criminal, from their family and community and job and locking them up far away where they can only be occasionally visited, is as horrifying to ponies as mind-control is to us. I mentioned this before, but I feel like the season 5 finale really reinforced the idea that ponies don't use prison as a punitive measure, since that's where Starlight would have ended up.
Do you think Starlight was targeted with some of those "reforming" spells?

Hmmm, so I'm guessing Cadence's love magic works along these lines in your stories? I always imagined it was something kind of subtle. Like she enhances feelings of love between two targets to the point where it suppresses less desirable emotions.

It doesn't put any new feelings in, it just amplifies what was there to start with. So two ponies having a dumb argument suddenly realize it's less important than the fact that they still love each other. Could have other uses like, say suppressing the nerves and anxiety of a shy colt to the point where he doesn't feel scared about talking to his crush and expressing his feelings. Not that our little Princess of Love would ever need to do something like that (heh)...

Of course, on Discord as a reforming spell the only thing he loved was Chaos and Disharmony so this would have actively made things worse.

Yes, exactly. Cadance does have the power to make ponies fall in love with each other, but would not use it -- that's a very dark application of her power, and not something she would do unless she went Nightmare or something. (Nightmare Love is a terrifying thought, actually.) Normally she just uses it to strengthen existing feelings of love. Occasionally, if a pony asks her to, she will renew their feelings of love that they had once had but lost -- someone who for instance has fallen out of love with their spouse, but would rather be magically stimulated into feeling that love again than to seek a divorce or to live in a loveless marriage -- and even that, Cadance would only do if the spouse still loves the partner and it seems to her like it would be a healthy relationship,

And aside from the fact that making Discord fall in love with someone against his will would be what Cadance considers a dark application of her power, and not something she'd do even to "reform" him... both of my versions of Discord were in love, and it didn't stop them from doing terrible things. The Discord who is Equestria's Avatar of Chaos loved Celestia passionately, and loved Luna as a little sister, and this did not stop him from unleashing madness and chaos all over Equestria, in part because of his totally irrational belief that they had abandoned him. It was friendship that reformed him, not love, because love is too inherently chaotic an emotion and too compatible with harming those you love because you love them. Love is very, very possessive; friendship not nearly so much (and we've all seen Discord get totally possessive about friendship, how much worse could he be about love?)

I have a slightly different perspective on it, though overall I agree with you.

Free will is free, most of the time, for most people, but by definition it is constrained by the nature of the individual. I could choose to get drunk, put a lampshade on my head, and dance naked on a table, but the odds of my ever doing so by my own choice -- even getting drunk by my own choice -- are astronomically low, because it is not in my nature to do those things. I'm a control freak and I hate the taste of alcohol. Those are constraints on my will that are caused by the nature of who I am. Those who think metaphysically might say that the nature of my soul prohibits that sort of thing; those who think in terms of biology and physics (which usually I lean toward) think that these constraints are the intersection set of the taste palette I was born with and my personality as shaped by genetics and environment and the firing of neurons in my brain. Either way, whether I "am" an ineffable construct of mental energy or a sophisticated machine made of meat, my free will would always be limited by my nature. If I were to be seen drunk, one would have to suspect an imposition on my free will, that somehow this state was imposed on me without my consent. That's how clear it is that certain actions will never be willed freely into realization by certain individuals. All of us are at least a little bit predictable.

When you're depressed, the essential chemicals that ordinarily make up your specific personality aren't there or are at a low ebb. There's still a you in there, with wants and desires to achieve for your life, but your ability to muster the will to act on what you want is impaired. People with depression don't freely will to sit around the house surfing the net aimlessly as the panic mounts within them about the deadlines they're not meeting and yet they cannot bring themselves to actually get anything done... no one wants to be in a position where there are things you have to do and you just can't make yourself do them. Or even worse, things you want to do, and you can't make yourself do them. The fact that you have a true nature which is being crushed by the disease is made apparent by the fact that people with depression often know what they would want to do, if they could manage to want to do anything. So anything that gives you back the energy to act on your desires is restoring your free will, not imposing on it. I've taken many antidepressant medications and the only ways I've ever seen them impinge on my free will is that some of them make me less hungry and more horny (at least they used to... sadly I've been taking them long enough that the effect wore off, because seriously, if something makes you less hungry and more horny, and you're married and overweight, there is no downside to this.)

So I do believe in free will, but also that free will is generated by the interaction of the nature of our selves with our circumstances, and that it's not correct to say "free will is an illusion generated by electrons in the brain" any more than it's correct to say "color is an illusion generated by photons hitting our retinas." Electrons in the brain are the mechanism of free will. And it's very possible to chemically alter someone so they cannot act on their free will anymore, whether by getting them drunk, or high, or making them suffer clinical depression.

I, too, would like to be under the effects of a spell that give me the energy to do the things I would want to do if I had the energy to do them. I wouldn't consider it an imposition on my free will, but a restoration of it. And if I had a little voice reminding me that I am safe to do the things I am anxious about... as long as I was in control of the message and it wasn't being imposed on me, I'd be fine with that. The danger comes when you use it to impose someone else's message on a person, or a pony.

4048847 I think the main reason for the debate around this topic is because the definition of 'free will' isn't objective, but subjective by it's very nature. It's literaly semantics and how you interpret the term. Because a world with free will and a world witbout free will are intrinsically identical, making the distinctions meaningless in all practicality.

What does free will mean? That you make your own decisions? But then what is this you? Is it your brain? If so, then everything is free will. Yet, the brain is governed by entropy and causality, meaning it's not free. But then, what is?

Is it the ability to make decisions that defies causality, changing the actual chemical and quantum interactions that would have occured if you didn't decide? If so, that would mean our brains are governed by something outside causality. A soul, maybe? Something else?

But how could that be when we know our memories, personality, decisions, and very structure of our being is in our synaptic connections? Meaning a soul--if such a construct exists--can only be our qualia, not our sense of self. Not the thing that makes decisions. Meaning, logically, if a soul exists it cannot give free will.

So, again, what is free will? Personally, I believe the question doesn't matter; that regardless of the answer, we will experience and feel the same either way. Qualia, whatever it is, still objectively exists in each person's subjective experience, so we know that even if free will (in terms of being able to change what would have happened) doesn't exist: at least we exist. At least I exist.

Oh, and yeah; I agree with pretty much everything you said, just expanding on my past self's comment with my ever evolving thoughts on the matter. Reality is fascinating, and trying to figure out what it is really gets my mind cranking. Especially on the issue of qualia--which is the experiencer of your experiences of you don't know. The thing along for the ride of your brain, whether it's your actual physical brain, the particle interactions that make up your brain, a soul, or even the sum of all interactions.

But that's a whole 'nother topic that I could babble about for ages... My bottom up inferences on the issue have brought me to a few posibilies, all of which are horrifying or beautiful--depending on how you look at it.

Sadly, real life reform spells here would be misused quite a bit by either government or individuals.

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