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Trick Question


Being against evil doesn't make you good.

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Aug
19th
2016

Final Note: Heading off the Inevitable · 12:17am Aug 19th, 2016

I probably should have said this in advance, even though I figured it would be obvious at this point.

Yes, I know Ashes is rather convoluted, dark, expositiony, and not everypony's cup of tea. This isn't a story I expected to be popular, even among readers who have grown to expect this as my signature style.

In this particular case, I am totally okay with this.

That doesn't mean I don't desire and appreciate feedback; on the contrary, I do. It just means I'm not aiming to be a crowd-pleaser with most of what I write. I write to release my feelings in a format where others have an opportunity to understand them, and those feelings are usually pretty horrible.

With rare exception, the point of my stories isn't to entertain or get the most viewers. It is to tell a particular story I want to tell, and by that I mean to convey a very specific message. In the case of Ashes, the message is contained in the last line of the story. It isn't a story about Celestia's relationships or bad choices ponies make or weird math or dark surprises or even depression in and of itself. It's a story that ponders whether one hour spent well-lived can be worth more than a lifetime in denial, from the perspective of direct suicidal ideation.

I have no doubt there are other, less ridiculous ways to tell this story, but this is the one that has been floating in my head for a year, and I'm happy with how it turned out. Even if it flops in up/down ratio, it isn't a story I'd consider removing because I'm pretty sure it says exactly what I want it to say. This is different from the stories I remove temporarily from the site: I do that only when I've totally misaimed and said the wrong thing. (The only exception to this is OHC, which I took down because I need to improve the writing.)

In the end, I hope that some ponies can enjoy it, or at least that it will raise some questions they find interesting. That's part of the point of posting the story, though not the main point.

For the record, the timing on me completing this story isn't a coincidence. Very soon, I'll be undergoing a medical treatment that bears a lot of similarity to Celestia's choice in the story, and I'm curious how much like death it will be if I'm the one being strapped to the gurney rather than the one who wakes without that memory. Perhaps I'll split in two, realize I'm actually about to die, and get to see what it's like firsthoof.

I'm looking forward to it, because Trick Question comes packaged with the Dark and Sad tags.

As for Tragedy? We'll have to wait and see. :twilightsmile:

Report Trick Question · 628 views · Story: Ashes · #story #ashes #meaning #popular
Comments ( 7 )

From the perspective of every observer you'll still be alive, hopefully happier, and there's no reason to suspect you yourself will observe differently. I didn't bring up the stuff about the zombie paradox just be contrary with the story, I really do believe you're you even when changed or briefly disassembled. It's not like there's any reason your seat of consciousness should stick to who you currently are from second to second, and you can have life changing epiphanies, or lose memories, throughout your life. If it's physically impossible for anyone to tell the difference between you being you or you with a new observer inside, then I would conclude that there was never a distinct internal observer to worry about losing in the first place.

Regarding the story... The time travel convolutions were surprising but certainly the kind of math paper I expect from your time travel works (and that's not necessarily bad). Even if the topic was fueled by your personal situation, the way you shared your musings was very much unique to you. And it wasn't hard to grasp the musings from this story; I totally got that this was sort of philosophical, and was even expecting it as soon as the phoenix discussion happened. The long explanation of the details behind it all did detract/distract from the musings you wanted to convey, but they were still there.

Oh, and good luck with your treatment.

Don't delude yourself into thinking that the reactions ate the audience's fault.

It wasn't convoluted and dark, that's you justifying it to yourself.
It was trite and arbitrary. There was no sense of agency. Nothing anyone did mattered except for a bewildering and unexpected off-screen suicide that, apparently, only served to make a single character cry for a few minutes.

Adding time travel to the mix contributed nothing. You made a mistake. That's not some opinion-based accusation, that's a frank assessment of the results of your actions. Unless you intended to alienate readers and muddle your narrative so much that nobody was able to carry their emotions through it, you have objectively erred.

The flashback was tedious and oddly inserted, the sudden elevation of Raven to central character from footnote was more irritating than fascinating, and if you sincerely couldn't think of a way to avoid dragging time travel into this then... honestly, in that case, at least consider putting more effort into that component of the story instead of cramming it in like a makeshift field bandage.

I'm being all prickly because I really like your work, including the first half of this.

Edit: Also I wish you the best at the doctor's, of course. Whichever version of you survived the procedure is sure to come back with more excellent stories to tell. Just... maybe lay off the time travel component, eh?

4158134
What you're saying is fair, but my main point is that this isn't a story I would take down, because I like it personally. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it and I appreciate the criticism.

I think I've learned one thing, however: it would have been better to post this all at once rather than stagger it out. When ponies read things and wait for the next installment they develop more expectations and get frustrated when those expectations aren't met. With Broken Symmetry it wasn't that much of a problem because there was more consistency to the framework (though I suspected, incorrectly, that some ponies would be put off by the fact that Starlight Glimmer wasn't actually in the story).

It is, however, a constant problem with TSJ. That's certainly not TSJ's biggest problem, but it is a problem. Unfortunately, the story will be twice the length of a standard novel when I've finished it, so it isn't something I can change.

My secret project will be a crowd-pleaser, however (which is why it's taking so damned long).

4158495 Oh, don't take it down! It's not a bad story, I just think it could have been vastly better because you as an author are quite talented.
You're right about staggering the posting being a mistake, it added a lot of tension which colors reader response.

I'm not aiming to be a crowd-pleaser with most of what I write. I write to release my feelings in a format where others have an opportunity to understand them, and those feelings are usually pretty horrible.

With rare exception, the point of my stories isn't to entertain or get the most viewers. It is to tell a particular story I want to tell, and by that I mean to convey a very specific message.

Well put. It would be nice if everyone understood this perspective.

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