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Ponyfeather Publishing Release: Badge Granted, a Friendship Is Optimal Collection · 6:36pm Nov 24th, 2021

It feels stupid to keep opening these announcements with plays on "this has been a long time coming," but it keeps being true: the first invitations for this anthology were sent out almost exactly two years ago, in November 2019.

I'd been intrigued by Iceman's "Friendship Is Optimal" since first reading it back in 2012 or 2013, but as a novella it wasn't long enough to meet Ponyfeather Publishing's 50,000-word print minimum. However, I knew that FIO had spawned its own subfandom with many authors contributing their own takes on the scenario Iceman had envisioned, so I thought perhaps PFP could produce a volume that collected the "most important" stories set in the Optimalverse. (Though I didn't know what they were.)

So I went to Iceman, to see if he'd be interested in both allowing me to print "Friendship Is Optimal" and offering guidance, as master of this particular universe, as to which other stories would make sense to include. I also went to the Optimalverse FIMFic group and solicited feedback on which stories were "most important" to the canon-compatible lore of the 'verse.

We hit a fairly major snag almost immediately: just about all of the stories that people considered "most important" were novels in their own right, not suitable (let alone practical) for a single-volume collection. Works like Eakin's The Law Offices of Artemis, Stella & Beat, Chatoyance's Caelum Est Conterrens, pjabrony's Spiraling Upwards and All the President's Horses...

I didn't have the bandwidth to devote to an entire series of Optimalverse prints, so I went back to Iceman and we talked it over: would we rather have a book with a just handful of (long) stories and authors within it, or do we try to strike some kind of balance between "most important" and "wider representation"? We opted for the latter, and while I fear there may be some element of "try to please everybody and you'll end up pleasing nobody" at play here, I'm quite proud of the collection we assembled.

In the end, Badge Granted features fifteen authors and fifteen works of varying lengths, genres, and tones in an attempt to provide something of a survey of the possibilities of the Optimalverse while recognizing the authors who have contributed much to the 'verse, even if their best-known contributions couldn't be included. It contains:

Iceman also wrote a preface for the book, giving a bit of perspective on both the original novella and what it's been like watching the Optimalverse grow over the past decade.

Fifteen stories might not sound like much, but this is a doorstopper: at a quarter-million words and over 700 pages, it's the second-longest volume Ponyfeather Publishing has produced (only barely losing out to The Worst of Bad Horse). Featuring evocative cover art by DimFann, it is available now in both paperback and hardback via Lulu, though as I pointed out in my last post, you may want to wait and see what kind of coupons they make available in a few days for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

A very big thank-you to each of these fifteen authors for participating in this anthology, and an extra thank-you to Iceman for all his time and effort spent collaborating with me on the story selection and on the extra work of writing an introductory piece for he book.

Happy reading and happy holidays!

Comments ( 13 )


Oh, this is wonderful! :pinkiehappy:

An awesome accompaniment to the Optimized World contest print from a couple months ago: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/958645/friendship-is-optimal-contest-physical-anthology-printing

By the way, in case anyone hasn't seen it, we did a panel a while back at LooneyCon. If anyone wants to see some analysis and exposition from outside the stories, y'all should check it out!

This satisfies my values.

Given the blood, sweat and tears that went into the formatting of my PFP book, and the fact that my entry to this anthology was a poem, I'm sure that RBD is grateful I only account for two of those 700 pages. :scootangel:

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It was pretty great just copy/pasting your piece out of Songs and into Badge!

But honestly a ton of unusual formatting work went into this, which is part of the reason it took so long to get it released; moreso than just about any other PFP book, I wasn't able to just drop the content into my print template and call it a day. I mentioned at my panel at EFNW that I can go from cleanly formatted text to at least a first pass of a print proof in a few hours -- that was absolutely not the case with Badge Granted.

The usual PFP format's styling, developed with the show's Equestrian, vaguely-turn-of-the-19th-century aesthetic in mind, didn't feel appropriate for a book set in our present (and future) world. After all, even when stories in this book take place entirely in Equestria, they're really taking place within a digital simulation of Equestria. So things like titles and headers are set in a modern sans serif font instead of the usual Garamond, there's a new scene break divider (which is a bit of an Easter egg, I'm wondering if anyone will notice/recognize it), etc. They're subtle tweaks but all told I think it sets a much more appropriate tone for the content.

And that's to say nothing of the custom formatting that was narratively required by some of the stories. Shoutout to 5610755 for writing pages and pages of chatroom dialogue, requiring the development of an instant message style that went through multiple rounds of print proofing to get the look right and had to be manually applied to each message. And multiple stories have "achievement unlocked" popups -- the anthology's namesake -- and other various instances of on-screen/UI-based text that needed special treatment.

(To be clear, none of this is griping -- I loved every minute of the work. It was a delight to revisit styling that's been set in stone for years and come up with solutions to the formatting problems this book posed; it will always be a special publication for me because of that.)

how dare you call me out like this

Congratulations on shipping! This has been a long time coming.

This is all awesome, and I hope the immense labor of love here gets the acclaim it deserves.

(Seriously, some of us thought you were dead)

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