News Archive

  • Sunday
    SA Reviews #105

    8 comments · 580 views
  • 1w, 1d
    S7E11: Not Asking for Trouble

    68 comments · 2,291 views
  • 1w, 2d
    S7E10 - A Royal Problem

    251 comments · 3,788 views
  • 2w, 1d
    S7E9 - Honest Apple

    112 comments · 2,589 views
  • 2w, 2d
    S7E8 - Hard to Say Anything

    147 comments · 2,788 views
  • 2w, 3d
    SA Reviews #104

    5 comments · 704 views
  • 3w, 1d
    S7E7 - Parental Glideance

    163 comments · 3,594 views
  • 3w, 2d
    S7E6 - Forever Filly

    66 comments · 2,669 views
  • 3w, 3d
    AlicornPriest's "Alicorn Time" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    The memories of today's story will stick with you.

    Alicorn Time

    [Sad] • 2,138 words

    Twilight, believing something has happened to her memory, seeks out Princess Celestia to see if she recognizes it and can offer a cure. But the answer lies far deeper in the root of her nature and her life as the Princess of Friendship than she would have ever expected.

    FROM THE CURATORS: It's not often that a short fic laser-focused on a single idea — especially an idea without direct roots in the show — makes us sit up and take notice.  "At the outset, this looks like a pretty typical 'bit of headcanon disguised as a story'," Chris said.  "That does, though, sell this fic short in one crucial respect: the author is able to deliver some truly heartwrenching moments in the back half of this.  Celestia gets a couple of absolute back-breaker lines, and the final sentence of the fic is heavy in just the right way."  Horizon agreed: "It's a headcanon fraught with emotional issues, and the author hits the right notes to effectively draw those out."

    That was due not only to the story's choice of topics, but also the choice of perspectives with which it approached the idea.  "I've had trouble with my memory my entire life ... so the idea of experiencing most of life only 'in the moment' doesn't seem that awful to me," AugieDog said.  "But AlicornPriest does a good job of conveying how devastating this is to Twilight and of following her through the stages of grief as she comes to realize how this is going to affect her and her friendships."  That was brought out further by strong secondary character work.  "The story also made an effective decision in Celestia's characterization," Horizon said.  "Her casual acceptance of the phenomenon just underscores how disturbing the situation is if you actually stop and think about it."

    Those made this work not just as an idea fic but also as a story.  "I've zoned out while working in the yard and 'lost' a half-hour or more before," Chris said.  "Alicorn Time is that feeling, writ large, and it achieved a poignancy as a result which few 'headcanon fics' can match."  And the fic's solid extrapolation of that phenomenon to immortality was what made it exemplary, Horizon said: "I think asking important questions about our own experiences through the lens of fantasy is one of the highest goals that a fanfic can reach."

    Read on for our author interview, in which AlicornPriest discusses tweening, Account Patterns, and zoned-out YouTube flickers.


    Give us the standard biography.

    Hi! I’m Alicorn Priest. I’m 24, I graduated from college about a year ago — English, as you might expect, though I also earned a BA in Chemistry. (Yes, there are Bachelors of Arts in Chemistry. Whodathunk?) I’ve been a brony since season 2 — I was there speculating when we were wondering what Discord was gonna look like, and I started reading “Background Pony” back when there were only two chapters out. My first fic (if you don’t count the terrible one I sent to the EqD reviewers) was posted up on ponyfictionarchive.net in March 2012. (It’s called “The Table at the End.” Go check it out.)

    How did you come up with your handle/penname?

    It’s kind of a funny story. When I made my first GMail account, I fancied myself a philosopher — really, I just liked to think about complex topics — so I named my first e-mail after my first name (which starts with an A), followed by “philos.” When I started making accounts on Reddit and such the like, I decided to make it easier for myself by making every account with the same pattern: a word starting with A, then a word starting with P. “Alicorn” seemed like the obvious A word, and “Priest” for P was the first word that seemed appropriate. I like the imagery it provides: one who worships and serves the princesses. One of my clients calls me Ali P, which I find adorable.

    Who's your favorite pony?

    Twilight Sparkle, almost certainly. I have the same personality as her: studious, awkward, friendly, and a little naive. Somehow, all of my fics seem to include her one way or another. Close behind are Rarity and Pinkie Pie — Pinkie’s my problematic fave, because while I really like her personality and background, I think her depiction in the show is done right only about half of the time. “When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad, she was horrid,” if you know the poem.

    What's your favorite episode?

    As much as I’m a season 1-season 2 fanboy, I’ve gotta give it to “Pinkie Pride.” Every song is spot-on, Weird Al’s guest appearance is perfect, and the thematics and character exploration are stellar. It’s the quintessential episode of the show.

    What do you get from the show?

    I remember when I first got into the show, I was stunned at the attitude and charm it had. The main character is an awkward student who throws snark at everyone she meets? Is that even allowed in kids’ shows? And it had such tension and drama in those opening episodes, I was immediately hooked. I suppose if I had to distill it down to one word, it’d be “relatable.” The characters have real problems, they struggle with their friends, and they overcome through conversation and apologies. The bright colors and poppy songs draw you in, but the relatability is what keeps you watching.

    What do you want from life?

    ... Wow, what a tough question. I suppose I could just point to Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs and say “that,” but I’d better explain a bit more. First of all, I want to be happy, but “happy” is such a poor word. It includes everything from the satisfaction of a job well done to the zoned-out flickers when a YouTube video is slightly more interesting than the previous one. Unfortunately, the latter is much easier to get than the former, so ... there’s that. Second, I want to feel as though I’m useful to the world somehow. I want to feel like I’m creating things people enjoy, or helping make people’s lives better — something that has value. I suppose in a venial way, I like getting praised for doing good work, so that’s part of it, too.

    Why do you write?

    I write because an idea gets lodged into my head, and I want to expand it out into a story. I get a vision of a scene, or a line of dialogue, or a source of conflict, and I want to see how it plays out. The hard part is all the little interactions to get from one major scene to the next — in animation, they’d be called “tweening,” right? Other than that, I write because I have some idea I want to share with the world, and either my blog posts or my fiction is the best way to do that. I come up with a story about how weatherponies came to be, or I want to share a connection between transactional analysis and character interaction, so I write a story about it or create a blog post discussing it. Recently, I’ve had people regularly commenting on my posts, which helps a ton. If I felt I was just spitting into the wind, I wouldn’t keep doing it. (Hence why I went dark a couple years ago.)

    What advice do you have for the authors out there?

    Network. Network, network, network. If you want to rise in the ranks, you need to take writing seriously. Part of that process is talking with the community here on FiMFiction and establishing yourself. Make friends, so that your friends will read your stories, and then they’ll recommend those stories to their friends, and so on. If you’re an introvert like me, this is really hard, I know, but you’ve gotta do it. As to writing advice, it’d be “write what’s important” and “character relationships give you more to work with than each character separately.” And the editor part of me wants to add, “Wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” That’s Samuel Johnson, by the by.

    What inspired “Alicorn Time”?

    A couple of things. To a lesser extent, ruminating on what it would be like to be immortal, and how the passage of time would feel after long stretches. As Celestia explains in the fic, I felt the sort-of dissociative episodes would be a blessing, to save their minds from having to experience every single moment. (The science behind it is pretty circumspect, I’m aware.) Primarily, however, it’s based upon my own experiences of college and previous. I wasted so much time on books, video games, and the Internet that at this point, it all feels like a blur. I would have done no worse if I had simply blacked out at the start of it and coasted through unconsciously. So Twilight’s resolution to “make every picosecond count!” is my own desire, and Celestia’s response is my resignation at the impossibility of that.

    What elements would you consider essential in writing a successful “explainfic”?

    Hah! You used my terminology. You really did your research. The biggest danger to writing an explainfic is that the explanation, the caulking to fill the holes in the plot, is all you have going for the story. A good explainfic should also have strong character interactions, an arc as the characters grow and change, a central conflict that the explanation factors into ... you know, all the workings of any good story. So in “Alicorn Time,” as Twilight tries to cope with having this new condition, her attitude changes, and she struggles to decide what she’s going to do going forward. A bad explainfic will simply set up a condition for a character to ask, “Why does this thing happen,” a character explaining it, and then the first character saying, “Ah, that makes sense.” I’ll be the first to admit “Alicorn Time” is not a perfect fic, and one of its weaknesses is that the characters simply sit down and talk at each other. This is another weakness of explainfics, and the solution is to write a plot which can involve moving around and interacting with objects.

    Do you prefer planning your stories out ahead of time or letting them grow during the typing process?

    I love when little details appear mid-writing session, but I can’t rely on that to be the driver of my story. Sometimes personality quirks will change certain scenes, or the way I decide to execute a scene will create connections I hadn’t considered. For example, in a chapter of “Mother and Child” I’ve been working on, I discovered a place to put Cadance in the Beta timeline of Equestria which I hadn’t really planned when coming up with the chapter. I also noticed how the events Pinkie accidentally puts into motion will reflect a later scene where she does the same thing more intentionally. So that’s really neat. However, I’m not a seat-of-your-pants type writer, as much as I pretend to be. I find I get the best results when I can sit down (with a spiralbound notebook, not a Word document) and sketch out the chapter progressions, the character arcs, and the event timeline. Otherwise, I procrastinate because I don’t know what to write. Of course, even when I do plan, I procrastinate anyway, but eh. That’s how it goes with me, I suppose.

    Do you think Twilight will ever be comfortable enough in her alicornhood to unconsciously call Celestia by name?

    Heh. Twilight and I suffer from a pretty similar problem. When someone superior to us earns our respect, we tend to ... idolize them, just a little bit. I do it with all the amazing writers that frequent my blog, and Twilight does it with Princess Celestia. Talking with one of your idols isn’t quite the same as talking to one of your equals, even when your idol is your equal. (We’re all horsewords enthusiasts here, in the end. Even when one of my commenters has 17 times as many followers as I do.) So for me, that means putting them on a pedestal, and for Twilight, that means she can’t quite get over adding “Princess” to the front of Celestia’s name. I’m not sure it’s something she’ll ever get over, perhaps until she finds herself doing as much as Celestia does.

    Is there anything else you'd like to add?

    Hmm ... the shill in me wants to plug my new monetization strategy, but I’ll leave that for the readers to find on their own. What I will plug of mine, though, is my series of blog posts entitled “Writer’s Workshop.” Every so often, I share a particular trick that can help make your writing more interesting. I’ve used examples from South Park, the RPG Fate: Accelerated Edition, The Arrival of the Mail Train, and the psychological methodology of transactional analysis. I’ve also got a couple other stories people might like if they’re curious — my other smash hit would have to be “It’s Impossible!” (with the unofficial slogan, “The Ride Never Ends!”).

    Other than that, I want to thank all the readers out there. Thanks for reading this interview, thanks for making “Alicorn Time” as big as it has been, and thanks for checking out my other writings. Hope you enjoy. :)

    You can read Alicorn Time at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

    4 comments · 809 views
  • 4w, 1d
    SA Reviews #103

    7 comments · 993 views
  • 4w, 1d
    S7E5 - Fluttershy Leans In

    78 comments · 3,053 views
  • 4w, 2d
    S7E4 - Rock Solid Friendship

    120 comments · 2,658 views
  • 5w, 2d
    S7E3 - Flurry of Emotions

    123 comments · 3,104 views
  • 5w, 5d
    Announcing EFNW Scribblefest 2017 Winners!

    After much deliberation, reading, rereading, and judging we finally have our winners for the Everfree Northwest Scribblefest 2017!

    I want to first congratulate all of you who submitted your hard written stories!  We had a field of 36 contestants, and that’s amazing!  Thank you so much for all your hard work that you do!  Now, without further ado, our finalist and their respective categories!

    Twilight Sparkle Award

    Ebon Quill with “Slouching Towards Canterlot”

    https://www.fimfiction.net/story/366340/slouching-towards-canterlot

    Twilight was a tough fight, and it got down to the wire in the end between the final four stories!  Excellent job, Ebon Quill, writing a story that showed you did the research and made sure everything was picture perfect!  Just like Twilight herself would love!

    Rarity Award

    Loganberry with “The Book of Ended Lives”

    https://www.fimfiction.net/story/365846/the-book-of-ended-lives

    This story was gorgeous, and it was a clean sweep with all 6 judges voting for it.  Both pieces in this category had beautiful, flowing prose, but ultimately the gorgeous flair that Loganberry had for his piece won him the prize!  Beautifully written, Loganberry!  

    Rainbow Dash Award

    Novel-Idea with “The Cycle of Flame”

    https://www.fimfiction.net/story/366378/the-cycle-of-flame

    To win in this category, the story had to be 200% cooler than all the rest, and Novel-Idea’s piece swept this category with all 6 finalists voting for it.  It was a tough decision, but his ability to write action, turmoil, and involve a side of Philomena that we don’t see in the show made for an amazing piece of fiction.  Way to be awesome, Novel-Idea!

    Pinkie Pie Award

    Posh with “The Next Best Thing”

    https://www.fimfiction.net/story/366330/the-next-best-thing

    We wanted to have a funny, snickering, hilarious story to win this category.  Posh actually manage to make us smile in this one as well.  His piece was equal parts funny, heartwarming, and sarcastic, just like we’d expect if Diamond Tiara were interacting with Spike and Starlight Glimmer.  Posh, you were nominated in 4 categories, and we all loved your story by degrees!  Excellent work!

    Applejack Award

    Apple Bottoms with “Nihtmer Niht”

    https://www.fimfiction.net/story/366417/nihtmer-niht

    The Applejack Award was one of the most contested categories we had for judging.  Ultimately, Nihtmer Niht ended up winning out in the end for being very true to the show.  The theme showed strongly throughout the story, and we loved the Aesop at the end, which really made this story win.  Hard work paid off in the end, didn’t it, Apple Bottoms?

    Fluttershy Award

    The Hat Man with “Freedom Flourishes”

    https://www.fimfiction.net/story/366521/freedom-flourishes

    The Fluttershy award has to be my personal favourite category, because I love heartwarming stories.  This story made all of us tear up at the end.  The Hat Man expertly blended past with present through a series of flashbacks in this heartwarming tail, that took all of the judges by surprise.  Freedom Flourishes was an extremely touching piece, The Hat Man.  Fluttershy would be proud.

    18 comments · 1,169 views
  • 6w, 2d
    SA Reviews #102

    8 comments · 1,102 views
  • 6w, 2d
    S7E1-2 - All Bottled Up / Celestial Advice

    167 comments · 3,641 views
May
12th
2017

Flow through a mythological epic with today's story.

Through the Well of Pirene

[Adventure] [Human] • 369,088 words

As a child, Daphne knew of a world where magic lived, where an immortal princess reigned over a beautiful kingdom, and longed to journey there beside Leit Motif, the filly she'd grown to love in the woods behind her home. But one day, when she needed her most, Leit Motif was gone, and she never came back to show her the way. As she grew, she put aside her childish dreams, and taught herself to believe the lie.

When forces beyond her knowing take her sister Amelia, though, she discovers that her childhood fancies were entirely too real, and is thrust into a journey that will take her back to that land she longed for, back to the childhood friend she'd abandoned, and to worlds she'd only dreamed of.

FROM THE CURATORS: Today's feature shatters our length record for a featured story, doubling the size of the previous record-holder (and clocking in at 8/10ths the size of the entire Lord of the Rings series).  But Through the Well of Pirene justified that wordcount.  "It's always got something interesting to do," Present Perfect said in his nomination.  "The slower parts allow for character revelations, lush imagery and world-building, or just doling out fascinating headcanons."

And there was one element of that which quickly stood out as exemplary.  "If there's any one thing I think you folks will enjoy, it's the world-building and the plethora of mythologies," Present Perfect said to solid agreement.  "The mythology here is remarkably Gaimanesque, and I say that as a compliment because the man writes some damn good faeries," Horizon noted, while Soge praised its breadth: "I'm a sucker for fics that mix Equestrian lore with human history and myth, and this delivers that in spades, going well beyond its obvious Greek influences."

But for the most part, that wasn't we talked about in one of our group's longest discussion threads — which often touched on the character work.  "I love The Morgwyn so much," Horizon said.  "Trying to figure out his long game is keeping me remarkably engaged as the protagonists' knowledge of the world around them deepens. Everything about the goblin castle Amelia was taken to is great. I can't stand most of the (ex-)human characters, but it is *very* much to this story's credit that, despite that, I've been so consistently engaged."  Present Perfect acknowledged that "the characters, especially the main ones, take some getting used to," but noted that "they grow and change over the course of the book in natural, if frequently staggering, ways."  Horizon quickly agreed: "Amelia is the clear standout, and the story's at its strongest when it examines her slow descent into villainy and the all-too-understandable motives that continue to drive her to fix things even when she's crossed a line," he said.  "But the moral struggles of characters like Maille and Flash keep the story powerful when the focus shifts."  Those side characters were part of a greater richness, Soge noted: "It's full of little details which show just how much the author cared about this world and its story, such as the differences in lingo between the Goblin factions."

And while there was some curator ambivalence as the scope of the story expanded — "just about everything I liked was balanced by something I didn't," AugieDog said — the ultimate consensus was that it did the important things powerfully.  "It was the fact that it delivered on its promise of epic that kept me looking forward to the reading," Horizon said.  "This also always wrote with an eye toward theme, and so in hindsight what I remember is the story's big statements, which is exactly what I should be remembering."  AugieDog had similar praise: "I love how the scope here is intensely epic and intensely personal at the same time, and with the fate of the entire multiverse hinging on two sisters not getting along, well, you can't get any more My Little Pony than that."  That added up to a story that met its high ambitions, Present Perfect said: "This is the best HiE I've ever read — though it's certainly far more than that — and it comes by that status honestly."

Read on for our author interview, in which Ether Echoes discusses executive meddling, puréed myths, and punishing children.


Give us the standard biography.

For most of my life, I've grown up and lived in various parts of California, aside from a brief foray to Idaho and a briefer one to North Carolina. I've been a professional writer and an IT technician, and my hope is to become a full-time writer, but we'll just have to see if I can pick it up, and until then become at least a part-time writer. Pirene is my first novel, and it taught me that I can write a whole novel and have it be well-received.

More personally, I'm a humanist, and I like to read and play video and tabletop roleplaying games in my spare time when I'm not writing.

How did you come up with your handle?

I like the word Ether and Echoes fit along with it. The rough idea I had in mind was a space explorer, since I'm rather fond of space and science. In a way, Ether Echoes is kind of a way to refer to the process of thought and writing — I create "echoes" in the "ether" of imagination, because when you consume anyone's work, you're recreating it in your mind.

Who's your favorite pony?

I like most of them, and I'm going to buck tradition and say that I like Twilight, Rarity, Rainbow, and Sweetie the most, and you can't make me choose between them. Twilight and Rarity speak to me as the dual intellectual gifts of learning and creativity, while Sweetie is just the most precious thing. Rainbow is awesome, tomboyish, and kicks ass, so really what's not to like?

There's also a special place in my heart for Celestia and Luna, who are just wonderful.

What's your favorite episode?

That's a tricky question, because there's a lot of them that I like for different reasons. If there was one that I would say could be my favorite out of any of them, I'd probably have to say Sleepless in Ponyville. It's possibly the best Luna episode I can name, and it's got wonderful, touching moments.

What do you get from the show?

So, this may surprise some people, but I don't get nearly as much from the show as what I create out of it.

To unpack that a bit for you, I think the show has a problem, a handicap that prevents it from being as good as it clearly could be, and from what I've read, that's almost certainly down to executive meddling. I think there was enormous potential for it as a legitimate fantasy series with a rich mythology and complex continuity — think of Steven Universe, Adventure Time, or Avatar and how they take entertainment for children and elevate it to an incredible degree. MLP is smarter than it used to be, sure, and there's definitely stuff for adults to sink their teeth into, but for whatever reason it's been hamstrung and forced to maintain the status quo with rare exceptions. I feel like we've been had, and I hope one day MLP can be reclaimed for an older audience in some form so that executives don't grind it into dust like they did here.

Pirene let me adapt and create a rich, textured mythology from the hints and starts. That's what I got out of the show.

Also, I like horses and they're cute <3

What do you want from life?

My ideals are to be both comfortable and happy. Since life is a pain and entropy is ever approaching, both of those are ideals that I constantly have to work towards.

Form a less philosophical bent, I'd like to take my writing full-time, as I mentioned before. I can't imagine a more fulfilling line of work for me personally. I'd like to get more involved with progressive causes, particularly around LGBT concerns, other social issues, and more equitable laws. I'm a futurist, and I expect the world will change radically and irrevocably within my lifetime, and believe that we need to be prepared for it.

Why do you write?

I grew up devouring fiction, and pretty much from elementary school I've tried to write it in turn. My early efforts were pretty crappy, but it's like any skill, and now that I'm actually good at it, I think I can take it to the world, and I think, if nothing else, Pirene proved to me that I have that capacity.

The act of telling stories in written format is deeply fulfilling and fascinating to me. I like taking ideas that exist and reworking them, reprocessing them to suit a different vision. The most remarkable and gratifying part of writing, though, is the messages I get from fans telling me that my work brought them to tears or that it changed their lives. Every time I worry that I'll never be any good as an author in the wider world of original fiction, I remember those people.

What advice do you have for authors out there?

Read.

Study not only fiction (which you should read a lot of, to see what's out there and what to avoid), but science, politics, economics, psychology, and mythology. If you have a firm grasp on science, you understand how the world works much better, and the causes of things. If you have a firm grasp on politics, economics, and psychology, you understand how people work, whether individuals or groups. If you're deeply read in mythology, you're going to have access to a rich body of stories and ideas that you can pillage to your heart's content.

Probably the best advice I can ever give, though, is that when you're reading someone else's work or watching a movie, ask yourself, "How could I write this, only better?" It's how I started.

Through the Well of Pirene contains mythologies from numerous traditions, both real life and My Little Pony. What can you tell us about your influences?

Oh gods, where do I begin?

Just to list off the ones on the top of my head, the clearest influences are Greek, Norse, Judeo-Christian, and Western esoterism (otherwise known as occultism, itself informed by all of those mythologies).  By no means are those my only influences — you'll find subtle or blatant references to Hindu, Japanese, Egyptian, and many other mythologies in the text. There's even a hint of Atlantis myth woven into the prelapsarian aspects of it.

As I mentioned earlier, I am familiar with mythologies from many different cultures, and in Pirene I don't so much put them in a blender and hit "puree" as I do tie them together at the common points and let them grow together naturally like cuttings of a tree (like Yggdrasil, if you catch my drift). A lot of works that use multiple mythologies use them as almost like a salad or a melting pot, throwing them together without a good eye towards harmony, and if I could get paid good money to keep writing Pirene, you'd see even more of that going on.

Mythologies from around the world have a lot of commonalities, and a lot of Pirene came down to asking myself: "If all this was real as I propose here, what happened?" The human Earth in Pirene is full of unintelligent animals, one sapient species, and no magic, and I had to reconcile that existence with a world where the opposite is true, and multiple species live together and chat about how adorable they are.

All of this really starts with the Golden Bridle myth, and I could go on for a long time about the terrible original format of the novel, but pretty much the entire plot spread out of the Biblical comment that Man be granted Dominion over the animals — and in a world where sapience is not limited to mankind, that's a horrifying thing. The Golden Bridle, though originally a Greek idea (and in the novel, it's used against a Greek figure initially), becomes then an agent of Dominion, of oppression that reduces people to beasts. This gave me the root of how and why Equestria exists, and the rest sort of bizarrely fell into place.

Oh, and I love the movie Labyrinth, so that had a bit of influence too! It's also the first thing I ever tried to write fanfiction of as a little girl, so I guess I've come full circle. The goblins partially came out of there, but mostly they came out of a large body of myths about faeries and other liminal beings that sort of fit into the spaces of the world, thus the Ways and Mag Mell and everything wonderful about that.

MLP mythology fits in with the aspect of Harmony, and I realized right away that Harmony is related to Order, and the battle between Order and Chaos is probably one of the most important in mythologies all across the world. Harmony is why so many races could live together in Equestria, why it was so comparatively peaceful and kind, and the implication here is that because a group of cruel humans broke that compact, they and their world fell away from grace and lost their magic — the events of Pirene (and the works that were to follow) were partially about humans reclaiming that place in the sun from their (in many cases undeserved, sins of the father and all) Fall.

What were the challenges associated with writing a character who eventually becomes the villain of the story?

So many challenges. I knew from the start that she would never be universally liked, but I stand by what I did and everything regarding that arc.

Originally, the character of Amelia was an innocent, a child with very little in the way of reasoning capacity. She is forced to grow up by her experiences, and at the end willingly surrenders the Bridle and kills Nessus, taking his place and cementing how much she'd changed.

That was preserved, but one key thing was changed, and I honestly think it made the novel: Amelia changed from an innocent who did bad things because she didn't know any better, to a reluctant, bitter protagonist who transitions as a result of her own choices. I based her largely on my own experiences as a troubled, difficult child who was too far ahead of her peers — at the same age as Amelia, I was reading books meant for people 20 years my senior, thinking seriously about science and the problems facing the world, and struggling to deal with bullying and a lack of people to relate to.

There's a lot of challenges inherent in turning someone like that to darkness, and it required a lot of delicate plotting, because if certain things happened it would have halted her rise or deflected her from her course or given her the emotional strength to stop herself early. It's challenging to inflict pain on a child and have her inflict it in turn, to drive her into a bitter corner, weeping and broken, until she's willing to do anything to make it stop — and even when she does take the reins, literally and figuratively, what does she attempt to do except make things better, even if it's in a twisted way?

Ultimately, the greatest challenge was that I wanted Amelia to be seen as tragic. She’s someone who lost her childhood and will never get it back, someone who never intended to be a terrible person, but who was made terrible by circumstances. I think I succeeded, but she's a deeply divisive character, and I know for a fact that a lot of people stopped reading Pirene as a result. There's tons of people who think that she should have been punished more, and many conversations were had between me and fans about the role of justice, punishment, retribution, rehabilitation, and responsibility. I wrote a short story about an Equestrian who wanted to kill her, and their conversation is, in a way, a symbolic airing of the audience's feelings for violating many of their (and my) favorite characters.

Change is a strong theme throughout the novel. Did changes in your own life impact your writing?

Oh, absolutely.

I've always had a fascination with transformation, not least because I've suffered lifelong dysphoria. Raw change, transforming a character from one species to another, is only the tip of the iceberg, and change is woven throughout the novel. As in any bildungsroman, the characters grow and change throughout the narrative; Daphne, Leit Motif, Amelia, and frankly a lot of other people all grow into adulthood, sometimes literally. Equestria changes, its innocence shattered as it's exposed to a new world and new species and threats. The human Earth is changing, though it's only the opening threads of it. Society changes as a result of what happens in the course of the novel. The goblins are all about change, about chaos and instability. The Morgwyn changes quite dramatically, and as unwillingly as everyone else. The CMC change. Change is baked into the start of the story, too, with the changes the Earth underwent to be split in two.

There's been a little discussion about how the Major Arcana of Tarot fits into Pirene (for the Minor Arcana suits inform the goblin nations), and the short version is that they're flexible and apply to different people — and different events — at different times. Daphne is the Star, the Morgwyn is the Devil, the confrontation between Leit Motif and Amelia is the World, the CMC are the Lovers (in that it refers to innocence), Amelia is the Fool, Celestia is the Empress, and so on — and the story as a whole is Death, which means the end of the old and the beginning of the new.

Change is something I deeply desire in my life, and well before Pirene I devoured every story I could get my hands on about transformation, and any story which featured the characters of the novel dramatically changing as people and becoming better, whether physically or metaphorically, was an instant classic in my mind.

If there was a tagline for Pirene, it would relate to change, and I think it would be something like this:

"You can never go home again."

The Morgwyn has such an alien viewpoint compared to any other character in this story. What went into designing and writing for it?

I've always had this idea lingering in my head of a shadowy figure who waits at the beck and call of a little girl. It would enact terrible violence, protecting her, and she would come to regret its presence enormously.

The Morgwyn grew out of this original seed and into a variety of other things along the way. Its start in the story was when Amelia got lost, and it just kind of popped out of nowhere, and suddenly I understood that this was the hidden shadow behind all the other events that I needed to tie together, the missing piece that explained why Daphne and Leit Motif had failed to meet up again, and indeed why Daphne's destiny was subverted to begin with. It protected Amelia by frightening, injuring, or even killing things offscreen (this is brought to Amelia's attention directly in the Cup Palace, but it was happening without her awareness throughout the novel). When Daphne imagines it, it's aware of that fact because there's minimal difference between a memory of the Morgwyn and the Morgwyn itself, making it a weirdly nonlocal being.

What it grew into was a remnant shard of the mythological conflict of Order and Chaos I described earlier. Like Apophis in Egyptian myth, the Morgwyn is from the time before the Ordered universe, which is presented as something that confuses and frightens it even as it shapes and changes it (like Apophis), and seeks to return it to that state it understood best — again, like Apophis.

What Amelia ends up doing to it was probably one of my favorite things in the entire novel, and I'm glad I got to tell that story a little more.

In order to write for it, I had to get into the mindset of a remorseless, almost nonexistent being that views gravity and mathematics as an insult, but who is aware that their present shape and thoughts are still channeled through that medium, meaning it loathes itself as much as it does everything else, which is the only thing that lets me write for it at all!

That's a lot to keep in mind, but it makes sense in context.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Well, aside from some signal boosting for the follow-up novel Three Nights in Manehattan and the hardcopy book of Through the Well of Pirene, I want to thank you and everyone else who's read and loved this novel for your time and attention. I'm glad I could touch so many people, and it makes my life so much more worth living. Even though I'm not super into MLP, Pirene was a massive, big deal for me, and so it will always have a place in my heart.

While it's an adventure novel first, I want people to take something from it, whether it's exposure to a much richer history of myth, understanding of the self, or just an appreciation for good fiction that treats its characters and setting seriously.

For those of you who are thinking about reading it, do, and get back to me — I want to hear from you, even if you didn't like it.

Finally, I'll be going to BronyCon 2017, so if you want to meet me and you don't live in the Bay Area, well, there's your chance! I'll be putting out some new short stories and releasing the hardcopy as print-on-demand in preparation, so this interview couldn't have come at a better time, honestly!

Thank you, all of you.

You can read Through the Well of Pirene at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

Wanderer D
Moderator
#1 · 2w, 3d ago · 7 · ·

Hands down one of the best stories out there, both in the fandom and outside of it. I can recommend this story to anyone that loves good fantasy stories.

#2 · 2w, 3d ago · 2 · ·

I'm honestly surprised that this wasn't in the RCL, but it definitely deserves it. One of the most gripping reads on the site or off it. And I'll be sure to look for Ether come BronyCon.

#3 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

I'd like to get more involved with progressive causes, particularly around LGBT concerns, other social issues, and more equitable laws. I'm a futurist, and I expect the world will change radically and irrevocably within my lifetime, and believe that we need to be prepared for it.

Echoes, would you be interested in joining the Socialist Party? :pinkiehappy:

#4 · 2w, 3d ago · 2 · ·

>>4529543 >>4529515 Absolutely!  If there were ever a ponyfic to point someone on the fence to (immense size notwithstanding), this one would be it.  An outstanding high fantasy novel with incredibly rich mythology that requires both Equestria and Earth as we know it, but stands tall on it's own merits.  A fantastic tale, and one I am proud to have on my bookshelf.  Very cool to hear that it's going to be opened up as Print-on-Demand for those who missed the initial run.  

Also, I definitely picked up on the Labyrinth strains in it, though I didn't realize they were intentional.

#5 · 2w, 3d ago · 2 · ·

>>4529515

>>4529543

Aww~ you sweethearts. :twilightsmile:

>>4529574

I would, but I think the First Past the Post system precludes third parties in America. :raritycry:

>>4529592

My favorite movie as a wee filly :pinkiehappy:

#6 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4529684 Thats why I'm a big proponent of ranked choice voting or some similar systems. Maine voted to adopt it for local elections in 2016 so I'll be watching to see how that turns out.

But our focus isn't electoral politics for the most part. We do lots of local stuff like fighting excessive police surveillance, developing strategies to resist ICE, working with local and national unions, holding educational workshops, etc. Our 2016 presidential candidate, Mimi Soltysik is a super chill dude who I'm friends with on Facebook and in real life, and see at the LA meetings every month.  It sounds like you're in the bay area, and I would be more than happy to hook you up with some comrades up there. Even if you decide the party isn't for you, we are always happy to have allies in our fight for a better world.

Solidarity!

#7 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

>>4529698

I'd be willing to look into it. Poke me on PM.

#8 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

Huh... So it's good? Tried to read it but drop it after one of the girls meet Mane Six.

#9 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

It's about time.

#10 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

>>4529713

You definitely stopped in the wrong place, then~

She didn't meet the real Mane Six.

#11 · 2w, 3d ago · 2 · ·

>>4529713 If you stopped where I think you did, then keep reading.  There's more going on behind it then the scene lets on.  Get through the end of chapter 4.

#12 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4529729

Actually, I've expected something like this because they are so OOC that my first though - they definitely fake ones.

#13 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4529742

Trust your instincts!

I left lots of clues for that reason.

#14 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

I've got the print version on my bookshelf. Money well spent. :twilightsmile:

#15 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

About time this got featured. IMO the best story on the site right now, and one of the best stories I've read period.

Also, will the on-demand copies have the bonus chapter in it? Because if so, I might have to buy a second copy. And will Three Nights ever be available for purchase as well?

#16 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

Extremely well-written. Very in-depth. Fantastic characterizations. Convincing characters. Exquisite writing. Absolutely loved the riddles. Ridiculously poor end-result for the villain (the little girl). Villain of the story gets a TON of Ponies and other creatures hurt and killed and gets off scott-free, really, REALLY cheesed me off. Otherwise, nothing but good things to say about it.

#17 · 2w, 3d ago · 2 · 1 ·

>>4529814

The on-demand will have the bonus chapter.

I'd love to print Three Nights. I'd need a suitable cover is the only hesitation, and the 100 bucks minimum is a bit much for me right now.

>>4530007

As I've argued before and will continue to argue, there's no point to punishing Amy. Keep in mind her punishment is in Celestia's hooves - the goblins don't really give a shit.

Consider the options:

A) Execution. Leaving aside that I doubt ponies even have capital punishment, this has no value. In theory you execute someone who's unrepentent and will harm again. Celestia knows she will not. Killing her eliminates a valuable ally.

B) Imprisonment. The theory behind imprisonment is to keep them out of trouble while you rehabilitate them. Amelia requires no rehabilitation. She is working from that moment on to make up for what she did and improve things in general.

C) Community service. Redundant, considering this is what she's already doing to herself.

Amelia has been punished - she's cursed with pain and responsibilities that will last her several lifetimes, with trauma and heavy burdens.

If your concern is about how the victims feel, well, first of all, making the victim feel better with harsh punishments is really not good for society, but second I direct you to Little Equestria, which was written with a mind to this question.

I stand by what happened in every sense.

#18 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · 2 ·

>>4530052 I do not remember anywhere where she expressed actual remorse. I'm not talking about some little 'I'm sorry' apology where it does nobody any good. I mean like actually breaking down, sobbing brokenly for the deaths she was directly responsible for. How about forcing her to talk to the families of those who perished and forcing her to attend their funerals so she can get a real feel for the enormity of her numerous crimes? How about ANYTHING in which justice is served. I'm not talking about revenge and I'm not talking about 'making her pay', I'm talking about some scenario where she actually acts like she KNOWS what she did, who it affected, and EXACTLY how much damage she inflicted. I'm sorry, but after all the loads of crimes, any adult would have been turned to stone or worse. Enslaving Celestia? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? And she just walks away from it? My sense of justice was so put off by the end that I genuinely felt ill. The ONLY reason she got off with no punishment was because she was a child, even though she KNEW what she did was wrong, she did it anyway without caring one whit about who it affected, injured, or killed. To be blunt, she gave no fucks and did not learn a single thing, except that she can do whatever she wants with absolutely no repercussions whatsoever. I am perfectly fine with letting somebody off lightly, so long as they express a true measure of realization of what they have done and express sorrow and repentance for their misdeeds. I do not remember any of that.

I'm going to give it another read-through and see if I feel any different. Perhaps my perceptions have changed since I read it the first time.

#19 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4530074

To be inaccurate, she gave no fucks and did not learn a single thing, except that she can do whatever she wants with absolutely no repercussions whatsoever.

Fixed that for you.

Amelia displays great guilt and remorse, as is clear in all her writing. She's not an emotionally demonstrative person. If you think she didn't give a fuck, you are simply wrong. There is no possible way to read that interpretation from the main book and if you think you did, you are incorrect.

Read that short story I posted for you. It's a lot more blunt than the subtle stuff in the main book.

I do not remember anywhere where she expressed actual remorse.

Have you forgotten her arc words?

"Sorry isn't good enough."

She says she's sorry, but she doesn't make a show of it because the words don't matter. Action does. Results do.

Everything she did in the climax was driven by guilt and self-loathing, an attempt to fix what had gone wrong, and only by accepting her actions and the world made by them was she able to break free of her vicious cycle and do better.

If she didn't give a fuck, the climax never would have happened, because she cared deeply about fixing everything.

Also, I'd remind you, Celestia will forgive anything so long as the villain makes a good effort to reform. Three is nothing remotely out-of-place for Equestria here.

#20 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

I'm so glad that this story is getting more recognition. It was one of the first fanfiction stories I ever found that could easily have been made into a book. I've read almost more Fanfictions than I've read actual literature, and that's saying something indeed. A lot of Fanfictions are either short stories, NeverEnding messes that go on and on forever, or else have arcs and are treated the same way TV shows are.  Each of those are good in their own right, but wouldn't make for very good books. They lack a level of cohesion that this story offers in spades. And that's to say nothing of the amazing characters, the trials they go through to become the people they need to be, and the overwhelmingly rich and deep lore that goes with it.  

Through the well of Pirene is perhaps one of my all-time favorite stories, fanfiction or otherwise.

#21 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4530091 Where is the short-story you mentioned? Is it the bonus chapter on the end of through the wells?

#22 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4530135

I've always appreciated your comments, Lamplighter~

>>4530338

Here.

#23 · 2w, 3d ago · 3 · ·

>>4530354 Shorter than I anticipated and it doesn't quite feel as organic as the rest of the story... but the attitide shown here is EXACTLY what I was hoping to have seen in the main story. Genuine feeling, sorrow, and openness about her numerous crimes, THIS is what I was asking for. I am going to go back and read the main story again. I do not remember her becoming an Alicorn at all. Perhaps I read a really early version where it was not included.

#24 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

>>4530385 Most of the main cast become Alicorns at some point after the end of the main story.  From what I've read, it seems like Alicorns aren't a species, per se, but an evolution of a current form.  At least some level of People, Ponies, and other beings possess the ability to use Sacred magic (Grace, Ichor, Alicorn Magic, etc).  That ability just lays dormant until it's developed or drawn out.  Amelia and Daphne both have this potential because they are descendants or Pirene.  Even if Amelia never took the form of an Alicorn in the main story, she can still wield a lot of magical power.  The Mane six are tied to the Elements of Harmony, which is fueled by Sacred Magic, which is probably why they all ascend at some point.

I'm not sure if everyone has this potential to ascend or not, but within the next 50 years or so, there are enough people/ponies to justify opening a school just for them, as we see in another one of the short stories.

This is all my interpretation after reading the series notes and stories.  I may be wrong on some marks here.

#25 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4530453

>>4530385

Most of the main cast become Alicorns at some point after the end of the main story.  From what I've read, it seems like Alicorns aren't a species, per se, but an evolution of a current form.  At least some level of People, Ponies, and other beings possess the ability to use Sacred magic (Grace, Ichor, Alicorn Magic, etc).  That ability just lays dormant until it's developed or drawn out.  Amelia and Daphne both have this potential because they are descendants or Pirene.  Even if Amelia never took the form of an Alicorn in the main story, she can still wield a lot of magical power.  The Mane six are tied to the Elements of Harmony, which is fueled by Sacred Magic, which is probably why they all ascend at some point.

Correct, on all counts. Amelia's spark was ignited by contact with the Bridle, specifically.

It's sort of played down, but Amelia, Daphne, their mother, and their grandmother all end up becoming ponies on a more-or-less permanent basis in the end. All prior (and deceased) blood members of their family live with Pirene on her island in the celestial realm as mares.

I'm not sure if everyone has this potential to ascend or not, but within the next 50 years or so, there are enough people/ponies to justify opening a school just for them, as we see in another one of the short stories.

Everyone does. Marcus refers to this as a person's magnum opus - their personal Legend. Following your Legend, being brave and clever and true to yourself, is how you awaken and ignite your Spark if you weren't born with one.

#26 · 2w, 3d ago · 1 · ·

>>4530579

Everyone does. Marcus refers to this as a person's magnum opus - their personal Legend. Following your Legend, being brave and clever and true to yourself, is how you awaken and ignite your Spark if you weren't born with one.

Well that's good.  Otherwise the door to the school wouldn't feel quite right.  It would be like a Muggle knocking at Hogwarts.  Knowing everyone has the potential to hit that point is good.

#27 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>4530585

I cannot state anything in recent fiction that makes me feel as ill as the idea of "muggles" who will always and ever be nothing but. I would feel so fucking cheated.

#28 · 1w, 6d ago · · ·

>>4530074

>>4530091

While I never quite went to the levels other commenter parses, as you well know the feeling she's not sufficiently apologetic/etc in the epilogue is hardly unique to one person alone, silly :rainbowwild:

Though of course the LE bit helped some there, but I've pretty much accepted I am always going to loathe her and that's ultimately ok :duck:

#29 · 1w, 6d ago · · ·

>>4535888

I never thought it was unique. I just don't think it has a basis in fact :D

#30 · 1w, 5d ago · · ·

>>4535898 Piffle!

But that's me as author of a gazillion too-subtle writeoff stories being all too aware what seems bliiiiiiindingly obvious to me is completely foreign to others!

Login or register to comment