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Fanfiction Reading Update #181 · 4:25am Nov 2nd, 2020

Content Advisory: Contains unmarked spoilers for Circles.

It’s been a few months. Nothing raises the dead quite like a good climatic spooky day. Though, I suppose the real horror, existential dread, and unending hopelessless amidst a sea of despair will happen on Tuesday. Get those blog posts and Discord circlejerks primed and ready when a site devoted to horses and the words associated with them morphs into a Facebook comment section like it’s a Halloween fic where Twilight discovers an eldrich spell book.

Also, I had been planning on reading one of the new featured horror oneshots today. “Surely there’ll be a few on Halloween,” I told myself. Nope. Just porn and comedy oneshots. Not even spooky scary skeletons can snap the Featured Box out of its eternal slump.

Sunken Horizons updates with the reveal that the Crystal Empire is a cannibalistic nation of dark magic corruption, so no real surprises there. What will be surprising is if Cadance is actually alive. Pretty doubtful, though. Oh, and the radar eye thing finally got a mention. Thought that plot point had been completely forgotten.

It’s been a few years since I read Carousel and I’m sad to report little has changed in that interval. The horror genre remains firmly set in it’s ways, very much like one if its protagonists who can’t see the obvious monster lurking behind them. You could say that it’s dead. There are few horror fics left to be written that haven’t been already. That’s why there’s categories now—the “Apple Bloom encounters a monster” fic, the “Ponyville is destroyed by an eldrich abomination” fic, the “Twilight is driven insane by a spell” fic. They’re done and redone, but very rarely altered.

Atmospheric horror fics are still ever so elusive. If anything, they’ve gotten rarer. The unstoppable eldrich horror has spread its tentacles through the genre and taken a firm hold of things. What could be a bigger gutpunch oneshot ending than endless dread and hopelessness knowing your fight was completely futile?

As a result, I’ve read fewer and fewer horror fics over the years. The genre’s become static—the same plot repeated with the same ending. The mystery horror I enjoy just isn’t in vogue it seems. I could say that eldrich horror is easy, which is why it’s so prevalent. An unstoppable monster who the characters have no chance of defeating? How hard is it to write a hopeless or “bad” ending to something like that?

But I won’t. Lovecraftian horror can very much be enjoyable, it’s just drowned the genre. There’s just so much of it these days. An unstoppable monster attacks Twilight, Ponyville, Canterlot, etc. Over and over Equestria is destroyed and everyone dies horrible deaths. You read it once and it’s horrifying and dreadful. By the tenth time you’re hoping it’s really a “Humanity, Fuck Yeah!” fic where a nuke gets shoved into Cthulu’s mouth.

But it’s Halloween (or just after) and if I’m ever going to read a multichapter horror fic, it’s right about now. Maybe this one will be different? Maybe the monster won’t be hopelessly unstoppable or there’ll be a mystery worth the tension and suspense. There’s really only one way to find out.

Things start out with Celestia deciding in the early morning that, enough’s enough. Luna’s acting weird and obsessing over the moon so it’s time to get this horror going. So they decide to have a nice breakfast and clear the air. You see, Luna saw something while she was banished. And it obviously wasn’t an astronaut or this would be an entirely different genre.

Luna regales Celestia with a pretty classical “NMM on the moon” setting. Yes, “on the moon”, not “in the moon.” It’s that setting. The one you’ve probably seen it in dozens of fanarts or fics. NMM, on the moon, gnashing her teeth and spitting out her desires for revenge. But something creepy snaps this from the standard: she sees a set of hoofprints. Ones too small to be her own. And ones which led right to her sleeping body.

Being trapped for another 600 years, she decides to investigate the origin of the hoofprints. There’s suspense in the air as she tells Celestia of her journey. Of the fear and paranoia of something else being on the moon when supposedly only the Elements could do such a thing. She finally reaches the end of her journey to the source of the hoofprints and, somewhat fittingly for a horror fic, receives a decidedly unclear and baffling answer: she winds up in exactly the place where she started, having completely circumnavigated the moon over her months-long journey. A hearty bout of laughter ensues. Good to see she was able to find the humor in all this.

The next day, Celestia brings a box of chocolates they can binge on. Luna’s had another rough day. She’s starting getting circles under her eyes—I mean bags. Sorry, gotta start the thematic stuff at some point. In her next tale, she tells Celestia of a close encounter of the spooky kind. On the moon, she starts hearing the distinct crunching sound of hoofsteps approaching her… despite it being a vacuum and—okay, I’ll stop. They quietly fade away before getting too close.

Celestia, logically, suspects Luna just went insane, but I know she didn’t and you know she didn’t and the story’s tags very clear indicate she didn’t. So Luna offers proof. She saw the mysterious creature. Cool. Or maybe not. You know what happens when the monster shows itself. The creepiness plummets as the imagination isn’t allowed to run wild.

Well, fear not. Luna doesn’t really see the creature. Just a bunch of blurs. And circles. Blurs and circles. Gotta keep that theme running. The blurry creature approaches her. She tries to put up some bravado. She’s NMM after all, but in horror fics it matters not who you are. Her fear overtakes her and she leaps out of the way, just as it passes by, leaving nothing behind but another trail of circular hoofprints in the dust.

Things continue with Celestia showing a shade of genre savviness. Luna’s worried about the creature. That’s why she’s been keeping a watchful eye on the moon, perhaps to spot it. But Luna’s evidently not worried about the blurs or the creatures. She’s worried about where the came from. And faintly, in the distance, the sound of heavy metal can be heard.

Luna’s banishment carried on. The blurs and hoofprints disappeared, like they were never there. But she always remembered them. And, as she braced for their return, that’s when the pony showed up. Guess I was wrong about the creature staying hidden. Well, maybe not.

It didn’t so much show up as linger on her periphery. Always as shadows flicking just at the edge of her vision. Perhaps like those movements you might occasionally see in the corner of your eye that make your heart skip a beat and your head whip over to confirm there wasn’t really anything there. It was enough to drive her insane and make her wander around in endless circles.

The whispering probably didn’t help. Vacuum or no vacuum, whispering always enhances a horror fic. It’s a proven, horrorific fact. It’s not clear what was being whispered, but that doesn’t really matter, now does it? They’re shadows just barely in sight, and they’re whispering. They’re going down the horror checklist pretty efficiently.

Then, they just... stop. No shadows. No whispering. Just the deafening silence of the moon. It wasn’t the reprieve she’d expected. More so when the stallion showed up, his coat black as the night sky. He kept his distance. A hundred feet or so, regardless as to how much she tried to close the distance. But, finally, he starts to close the distance. He edges closer, and closer, and closer. Until he’s just inches away from her and she can feel his wrongness on her fur. Then…

He boops her nose.

Sorry, sorry. Couldn’t resist. What he really does is whisper come home before the shadows and whispers return and tear him apart, leaving nothing behind but a floating black circle in the air. Naturally, Luna’s first impulse is to walk through the eldrich portal because it’s a guaranteed escape from the moon.

Once through, the moon on the other side is noticeably colder and grayer. The sky utterly devoid of stars. But she has all her magic. She can fly, she can teleport, and she’s going to reap her revenge on Celestia and the Equestria high abo—oh. The Equestria that’s utterly destroyed. The planet’s a barren wasteland, devoid of the waterly blue or the lush green. Luna’s now on a moon orbiting a dead world.

And wouldn’t you know, it’s at that moment we get our monster. And… well, there there’s no mystery here. Million eyes, jet black tentacles and tendrils. Large enough to eclipse the sun at noon. Horrifying psychic flashes of the deaths of billions as a planet is devoured. It turns out, we’re not on the moon at all, we’re in Maine and there’s just so much lovely crafting to do. Maybe we can make a few circles.

Luna decides it’s time to leave and backtracks, following her own hoofprints back to the portal. She leaps through but an errant tentacle grabs on and is determined to yank her back through, leaving her stuck halfway through. She fights back, just as the portal starts to close, as all interdimensional portals are required to do when someone’s stuck in them.

It starts cutting her in half and suddenly, she’s no longer consumed by revenge and hatred of Celestia, but a deep, bitter regret she’ll now never get to say goodbye. All those mushy feelings are too much for Mr. Thulu and he lets her go, allowing to return the moon orbiting a still living planet. But boy is that death tag really ominous right now.

Honestly, I think we all know how this story ends now that there’s been that revelation. It’s pretty apparent given the tags. Still, soldier on we must until we get the inevitable circle hanging over Canterlot Castle to bring things to a close.

Luna reveals to Celestia another obvious thing. She’d already seen the blurs through her telescope. Already watched the shadows. And now they’re in Canterlot. In fact, she could see one right that second standing just behind Celestia. Celestia looks, but sees nothing. Same as the guards. Though, if she squints and makes sure to ignore her periphery…

Luna purposes they must do something. The Elements and alicorns and dragons and dirigibles would be pretty useless against something that eats planets, though it would be amusing to see what Discord might do. No, instead, they must follow tradition and seal the monster away, preferably at the bottom of an ocean or in the antarctic. You know, somewhere Daring Do might stumble across it during her next horror fic.

Celestia agrees, but it will still take time to get Twilight and everyone together and debriefed. In the meantime, Luna should really catch some shuteye. The rings around her eyes are getting big enough to open eldrich portals. As Luna departs, Celestia regrets not telling her the truth. Oh boy.

Many centuries ago, a young carefree Celestia stumbled upon a ring in her room. It led to an identical bedroom like hers, only it was grey and lifeless. Ash hung in the air. She might have left the creepy portal alone if not for the small blue alicorn that sat sadly in the room, mourning the death of her world that she still tried to deny had happened.

Ah, come home. Guess the eldrich abominations don’t just spout things for their random creepiness. So Celestia rescued the filly, just in time for a few dozen of the eyes to take note that there was an interdimensional intruder.

In Canterlot Castle, Luna grows suspicious. Maybe Celestia knows more than she was letting on? She did take the whole eldrich abomination story incredibly well. What if she’s known about it all along but kept it a secret? A truth hidden away by the sands of time. Nah, don’t be silly, Luna. You’re just paranoid from the lack of sleep.

And the jet black stallion that just appeared behind you. Who grabbed you and now dropped you into a portal that appeared underneath. The portal that just revealed everything. Your dead home. Celestia’s lies. And, most importantly, that it’s hungry and time to feed. Oh, right. It’s the last chapter. Guess it’s time the tags came for their due.

Celestia still has hope, though. Maybe she can use this doll she had to—oh, Luna’s creepily standing on the balcony to her room. And starting a solar eclipse. And is weeping bitterly as the penumbra—the shadowy circle around it—begins to bleed out its shadows into Equestria. All Celestia and Luna can do is watch and cry. Well. Guess Discord’s pretty useless, then.

In the future, a filly plays in ashen halls, a pink doll her only company. Her parents long ago left, leaving but hazy and vague memories of a cold prosperous empire. But somepony new stumbles across her boredom, kicked through from a strange circle in the air. She’s a purple alicorn filly named Soul. They’re about the same age. They’ll have so much fun together! Just as soon as they leave this nasty ash filled world. Oh, and Soul wants to know what her new friend’s name is.

Flurry Heart. As they step through, the shadows watch as the circle closes. They’re full, they’re content, and they’ll sleep. Until the hunger returns and the cycle, so much like a circle, continues endlessly.

Circles fits itself in the lovecraft blanket, then smothers itself to death. It’s that deep into the genre. It’s a very well done take on the genre. The best I’ve seen in the MLP fandom so far, but like with a lot of these horror fics, I can’t help but be disappointed by the inevitability of it.

I know, I know. That’s the whole point. The inevitability of it all. The existential emptiness of how powerless and futile things are against the vastness of reality and creatures more power than you. It’s supposed to fill you with dread and maybe even a little depression—it certainly did that to Lovecraft. But, well, it’s boring.

Imagine a story where, in the first chapter, you were told what the ending was. Then, you go through the entire story, beat for beat, knowing where the road leads. Yeah, it’s inevitable, but it’s still boring. I can’t help but feel that with every one of these Lovecraft fics. You trudge through the story, knowing each action will be useless. Each plan fail. And in the end, everyone will be dead, dying, or insane.

I’ll spoil something for you. I was writing that synopsis as I read the story. I actually only read the ending of the story after I finished the “Ah, come home” paragraph. I was that confident in how things were going to play out. As it turns out, the horror genre really is quite static.

It’s a flaw no Lovecraft fic will really be able to fix since it’s a premise that’s baked into the very core of the genre. You remove that inevitability and it’s not really that much of a Lovecraft story. Still, I can’t help but yearn for a subversion where the tentacle monster leaks out of the eclipse, and is met with a huge rainbow laser, or a nuke.

It’s for that flaw that I read these things quite sparingly. They are all, ultimately, the same story with the same premise and the same ending. So, if you’re going to read one and get the genre in its fullest form, Circles really is a good take on it. It’s got the suspense, it’s got the dread, it’s got the lingering thematic symbolism sprinkled throughout. And it ends with an existential horror that billions are dead, billions more will die and there’s no escape from the fate of it all. What more could you want in a Halloween fanfic?

Circles receives…

….moustaches out of five and, as a result, is both upvoted and favorited.

For God’s sake, Possible Trackings!

I attempted to read through Of Course but wound up doing a speed run of the second half of the story. A story entirely about OCs you don’t really care about, killing canon characters you kind of do, in an AU setting that isn’t given much depth at all, tends to do that.

It is the beating of his hidious Oneshots!

We find ourselves, once again, in the “what happens to the Trio after they’re stoned?” plot. This time Cozy Glow Is Missing aims itself for the rapid oneshot comedy culminating in a punchline genre. An old favorite of the Featured Box. Overall, it’s pretty standard for the genre. Would have actually been more interesting if the implied gore had actually been played up a bit.

And I Asked Why reminds me why I hate the artsy fartsy genre. It’s 20,000 words of Dash ruminating and naval gazing on her selfishness and egotism after watching the Cloudsdale Weather Factory create a liveleak industrial accident video.

The big problem these stories always have, is they give their main character a Bachelor Degree in English. Dash acts nothing like how she would. She’s not angry or brash or even feeling a little guilt about not preventing the accident. She spends 15k brooding and waxing philosophically—there’s even a mention of tort law. It was incredibly odd to have a first person narrative and feel no connection to the character because it never felt like it was the character.

The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place combines shipping with Who Wants to Live Forever to speed us through a confrontation between Nightmare!Cadance and Twilight. It’s okay enough, but does have that sort of somber oneshot feel you sometimes get from these brooding kinds of fics. As always, I was far more interested in the adventurey backstory than the actual emotional confrontation. It’s always hard to do an emotional confrontation in 4,000 words when there’s really been no build up for it.

Trypophobia is yet another “Ponyville getting mysteriously destroyed by an eldrich abomination” fic, where the plot warps and bends to ensure that everyone is… wholly unable to stop it.

And lastly, in keeping with my annual Halloween tradition, I read The River Reversed without checking the ending first (I looked at Trypophobia’s ending before reading the rest of it) and I gotta say, it didn’t really feel like a horror fic. It felt more like the opening scene of a Star Trek episode where they have to fix some time travel bullshit.

I suppose part of that lay in the fact there’s not a ton of horror present. Yes, a filly is repeatedly drowning, but she’s not aware of it and experiences it new each time, meaning when they eventually figure out how to fix the time travel wedgie, she’ll only have a harrowing memory of the time she nearly drowned. And they will, eventually. You have Twilight, Starlight, Celestia, Luna, Star Swirl (literal inventor of the time travel spell), Sunburst, Discord if Fluttershy nags enough, and whoever else in Equestria can help.

And that's all the fanfics I read for the monthquarter.

# of story updates remaining: 540.

# of “Read Later” stories remaining: 1,226.

Comments ( 3 )
Author Interviewer

been a while :D missed these

Sounds like that story kept going in circles.
But, like, for real. I remember dropping it a third of they way through. Mostly for the reasons you mentioned. I was okay with the everyone gets swallowed by a multidimensional being, but it was so grating, I just gave up.

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