• Member Since 30th Nov, 2015
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Rambling Writer

Our job is not to give readers what they want; our job is to show them things they never imagined. --Walt Williams

More Blog Posts149

  • 7 weeks
    Hinterlands Sequel: Bounty Hunters and Necromancers and Serial Killers, Oh My!

    Christmas is approaching! And what other way to celebrate the season than the tale of a necromancer, recently released from jail in a time of political turmoil, struggling to find her place in a world that hates her kind while crashing with the bounty hunter who turned her in?

    TUrban Wilds
    One's an impulsive bounty hunter with a thirst for adrenaline. The other's a reformed necromancer given a second chance at life. Together, they fight the necromancer's self-doubt (and also crime).
    Rambling Writer · 75k words  ·  121  1 · 547 views

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    1 comments · 133 views
  • 11 weeks
    Moondog Fanart

    Moondog got fanart.

    I know! I'm surprised, too! I've never gotten fanart before, but I guess you can share it if you think it's nifty? 'Cause it's nifty. It's of the moment where Moondog first takes up her crown. Art by StainedGlassLightHeart, commissioned by Level Dasher.

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    7 comments · 648 views
  • 17 weeks
    My Little Pony: A New Generation Reaction Blog

    The time has finally arrived. A new My Little Pony movie is here to save us from our sad state of oligomicroalogoria (too-few-little-horsies-ness). I decided to record my reactions to it while watching, because why not? If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I have a brief, spoiler-free review before my reactions.

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    13 comments · 539 views
  • 23 weeks
    The Behind-the-Scenes for the DCEU is All Over the Place

    I saw The Suicide Squad recently. It was pretty good. But it got me thinking: looked at from a film-history perspective, the DCEU is just the weirdest fucking thing. Seriously, look at it:

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    6 comments · 384 views
  • 27 weeks
    1000 Follower Specialganza: Improving my Writing

    I recently crossed the threshold of one thousand followers. Who’da thunk? That’s a grand amount of people who think I’m something special. I guess I’m supposed to have a milestone celebration, right? So here it is: critique me!

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    6 comments · 242 views

Tantabus, Mk. II: A Retrospective · 4:16pm Jun 8th, 2021

So. The Tantabus series. The stories that really put me on the map. Several people have said that Moondog is their favorite OC in the fandom. As of this writing, two of the four stories are in the top ten rated stories of all time on the entire site, another is in the top twenty, and the last is in the top thirty. The first is inching towards three thousand likes. How the Tantabus Parses Sleep is the longest single thing I’ve written and still ongoing.

I banged out the first one in a few days with minimal editing because it was a story that refused to leave my head.

If you take away any lesson from this blog post, take this one: a story that refuses to leave your head until you write about it is probably going to be a damn good story once you polish it.

I wrote a silly story about a self-aware Tantabus and put it up. I still remember it because it was in the days before auto-approval on the site and this particular story took a whole day to go through the queue. (Look at the first-chapter/story publication dates on it; the second one is a day later even though I submitted the story for approval seconds after I published the first chapter.) I’d written all the chapters beforehand and I just tossed it out into the community. No one would like it, I thought. It’d be swept away and forgotten about. I was fine with that. It wasn’t like this was my “real” writing.

Aaaaaaaaand then it only took about a week to hit a thousand likes. During that same time, my follower count increased by nearly two entire orders of magnitude. I was kind of weirded out.

Some people were saying the story was one of the funniest things they’d read. It was? I’d hoped my jokes could get, at best, a little chuckle out. Most of them came from the overall weirdness of dreams. I wasn’t a funny guy. Was I? Apparently, I was. I started taking the idea that I could write comedy a bit more seriously after that. I still don’t know how to write good comedy, though, so I throw a lot of jokes at the wall and hope one of them sticks.

I wrote the next two stories. Positive response. I liked writing them. Having the then-unnamed Tantabus meet Celestia was one of the few ways the second story could go, but I realized I wrote the third story (involving an OC, super-low stakes, and a lot of goofiness) because I liked writing the Tantabus. I had more ideas, but I remembered the pain in clicking back through the “This story is a sequel to…” links to find the first story in a series. I figured the stories I’d write would mostly be one-shots, so I might as well compile them all in one place. That’s why How the Tantabus Parses Sleep became an anthology. Every now and then, I bounce around the idea of taking the first three stories, giving them a little spit and polish (they’re some of my early writing, after all), and putting them right at the beginning, just so absolutely everything is all together for easy access.

When I write the chapters of this story, I usually don’t plan for the future or setups too much; what happens happens. I want to keep show canon in mind, but that’s it, and considering how few post-“Magic Sheep” episodes involve dreams, that’s not that hard. I still keep past chapters in mind, though, since what has happened will always have happened outside of time travel, and it just sort of built its own story threads and character development and relationships from there. I try to make them all different in some way so it doesn’t feel like I’m just treading water because it feels nice.

I semi-based Moondog on computers and artificial intelligence from the beginning because it just felt natural. I’m vaguely interested in real-world AI and an agglomeration of dream magic that turned self-aware was a neat link. A lot of my writing spilled from that. For instance, part of the reason for her genial nature was because I was sick and tired of AI that turned against their masters. I thought: what if a task was assigned to an AI, and they not only willingly performed their task, but loved it? There are several AIs I can think of that come close, but don’t quite reach what I wanted:

  • HK-47 the assassin droid in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic enjoys his job quite a lot, but he’s more closely an example of the “laughable sociopath” archetype. (Not to diss HK-47, though; I love him, he’s just not what I was thinking of.)
  • GERTY in Moon plays with these ideas — the movie sets him up with the HAL 9000 archetype, then shows that, no, he’s just as helpful as he seems to be (Moon is a good movie and you should watch it) — but he’s far more robotic in his interactions with Sam than other sci-fi AI.
  • EDI in the Mass Effect series actively discusses the issue, but while her interactions with the crew are superb, there’s only so much she can do when her main functions are either tied to your spaceship or a humanoid robotic body rather than some sort of networked intelligence.

Plus, keeping Moondog as a happy-go-lucky sort of automaton made the jokes come more easily. I could go into the philosophical implications of what Moondog loving her purpose meant, but that’s hard to get jokes from.

Once I was basing Moondog on AI, the coding bits in her narration came naturally. They’re object-oriented because most of my programming skill is in Java. I tried to keep it easy for someone unfamiliar with programming to know what was going on while still keeping it clear that it was computer-based. With dreams on the general programming level, going into assembly language for the deep subconscious was a logical step; it’s a level down, so to speak. A command-line language for the real world is the next logical step; it’s a level up.

If you’re wondering why Moondog uses PowerShell-esque language in the real world, it’s because (I thought) PowerShell’s “Action-Object” syntax is relatively clear and non-programmers could semi-understand it. I thought about using Bash-esque commands, with, say, Moondog using ls to get ponies, but anyone who doesn’t know Bash would be left scratching their head. So then why is the deep subconscious represented by pseudo-assembly with no attempt to clear it up? Because that’s supposed to be obtuse. Non-programmers have no idea what’s going on, so they know it’s something radically different from dreams. Programmers recognize the syntax and get a deeper understanding of what’s going on, even if they don’t know exactly what — just like Luna doesn’t understand what Moondog’s doing.

If there’s something I wish I could’ve done differently, it’s give Moondog a different psychology compared to ponies. Not necessarily something massive or earth-shattering, just a few statements or actions here and there that would be weird if applied to an organic. Unfortunately, whenever I’m writing, I forget about it. Oh, well.

When I started writing, Moondog was just supposed to be someone who deals with behind-the-scenes stuff we never see in the show for funsies. I never imagined she’d wind up filling a niche that the show itself emptied. It’s one of those weird, rare feelings: “I totally saw this coming without knowing I saw it coming.” I didn’t see it coming, of course. It’s just that I created a backup and that backup coincidentally turned out to be needed.

I might slow down on this story. I’ve got some other things I want to write, and I’m not always the kind of guy who can split his focus between two stories. But I’m not stopping. I’ve still got ideas in my head, including a longform story set eight or nine years into Twilight’s reign where Moondog plays a major role. Just don’t expect monthly chapters anymore.

Thank you all for reading. It means a lot to me.

Comments ( 18 )

Thank you for writing. It means a lot to all of us.

Here's to the future, whatever may come.

While I'm fairly sure this series was the first thing of yours I read, for those of you also here on this blog, it's far from the only incredible thing Rambling Writer has written. They're also excellent at adventure and mystery stories. Most of which are set in the frozen north, now that I think about it.

TCold Wind Blowing
In the middle of the Frozen North sits a lonely inn. Within that inn are six travelers, trapped by a blizzard. As the temperature drops, hostilities rise, and the situation slowly deteriorates.
Rambling Writer · 42k words  ·  30  1 · 707 views
A necromancer with a price on her head. A ragtag team of bounty hunters. The glacial wilderness of the Frozen North. The chase is on.
Rambling Writer · 75k words  ·  172  4 · 1.6k views

I have been loving this series, and always look forward to a new chapter when I see it. Keep up the amazing work, even if it is slowed down.

This is, indeed, one of the stories I most look forward to seeing updates from. And Moondog is, indeed, possibly my favorite OC I haven’t had a hand in making. There is something truly unique, truly inspired about how you wrote them that I don’t think it has been replicated anywhere. Honestly can’t wait to see where you go next with the character.

The Frozen North is an excellent setting for pony adventure stories. The cold provides an extra wrinkle to everything; you need to bundle up if you want to survive and even something as simple as crossing a river can be tricky when getting your clothes wet can make them freeze. Equestria's technology not being as advanced as ours means there's no cell phones or Internet, which creates a sense of isolation, and there's no cars, so adventurers need to do all the traveling themselves. And considering the weather's uncontrollable, a good solid blizzard can easily ground pegasi and force everypony to bunker down in one location. It's just a place that fosters unease.

Makes sense, especially regarding pegasi needing some sort of nerf. Caves also work on that front.

well congrats on leaving me a blubbering mess with the final scene of the last chapter.

Thank you for Writing!

Thank you for doing what matters to you <3

Just as you had many ideas for this story and continued it. It was also the main reason I wanted to write a disgruntled letter in my spinoff story.

I'm glad you created these Moondog stories and I'm glad I got your permission to write a parody story!

I look forward to more of your work in the future


Just a lurker here. I know you probably get this a ton, but thanks for writing. I started reading the Tantabus Mk. II series right after finishing FiM for the first time and have loved every word, a new update for the story never fails to brighten up my day. Thanks again <3

Hell yeah man, happy for you. I’ve been keeping up with your Tantabus series and I really enjoy it. Is it the best comedy I’ve ever seen? No, not at all. But I certainly had good hearty laughs at some of the antics.

What kept me around for the later chapters was the sort of exploratory growth of Moondog. One can tell that you didn’t mastermind-plan out every chapter in advance, but that’s okay. It’s also very clear that your forte is writing chapters as they come to you, and they flow well.

One last note: I disagree with you, in that I actually like what you did with Moondog’s psychology. Because they have a pony mentality; it makes for a more endearing character. Sort of a ‘heart-warming’ undertone that such an inorganic construct can use & enjoy things like laughter, judgement, insight, pleasure, fear. The inclusion of some culture-shock or general confusion helps. The way you handled it can be considered tactful, since there will probably be some neurodivergent people who relate to moondog more than you may have predicted. A great (if a bit shallow) video I show to people is the “OSP Trope Talks: Robots” video. It has a section on human like bots/androids and how they appear in most fiction.

Thanks for your time. I’ll doubtless stick around for your future updates!

I’ve still got ideas in my head, including a longform story set eight or nine years into Twilight’s reign where Moondog plays a major role.

Poggers. I'm looking forward to that story.

Moondog was just supposed to be someone who deals with behind-the-scenes stuff we never see in the show for funsies.

That's what I thought when I read the stories with Moondog in them. I always find it nice when a story or an event is seen from a different perspective.

Anyways, thanks for writing the stories for all of us. We really appreciate it. :twilightsmile: :heart:

I opened this in a side tab and didn't come back to read it until later. Seeing this:

I’ve still got ideas in my head, including a longform story set eight or nine years into Twilight’s reign where Moondog plays a major role.

You have no idea how happy I am (and obviously plenty of others are also) to see that. We were all thrilled when you didn't mark the story [complete]. Given that I've used a prompt (read: entire chapter) that you gave me, if you want to use the one in the comment I made on the story, please feel free to go ahead.
I also may or may not be looking into getting some of that art I was talking about...

Tags are fun and aren't used nearly enough in blogs xD

Honestly this is one of my favorite series, and Moondog is a riot. Keep it up.

May i recommend the comic series Freefall. It does a lot of the things with AI that you talked about. Especially later on it explores a lot of the philosophy and consequences of non-human and artificial thinking while making it both funny and thought-provoking. A few examples.

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