The Star In Yellow

by Blueshift

Author's Notes

This is probably the story of mine which most needs author notes appended to the end by way of "what were you thinking of Blueshift?" so here we go!

There are some obvious influences, and less obvious ones. The story as a whole is based on the 19th century book 'The King In Yellow' by Robert Chambers. This is generally referred to as a proto-Lovecraftian tale, and inspired a lot of the later Lovecraft mythos. That's not to say this is a horror story of course, far from it! It is very much 'The King In Yellow' though a pony filter, meaning it's much more lighter. I can't help but think I disappointed some people by not making the story horror, but then I don't feel that outright horror has much place in Pony.

The King In Yellow is actually a quite odd book, and I'd urge anyone who hasn't read it yet to do so. It's not an outright horror as we know it - there are no monsters, exploding heads, gore, any of that. Instead the horror comes from the fear of the unknown and strange unsettling events that are designed to unnerve the reader. Part of The King In Yellow revolves around a book that drives you mad if you read it, and it is that at the most basic level that I homaged for this story, though there's also an attempt to replicate the 'unsettling' atmosphere, albeit in a different manner to the original.

The other big inspiration is of course, Yellowstar. This story is about fanfiction, our reactions to it and more importantly, where the drive to write it comes from. Not in a snide, mocking way, or a gushing hugbox way, but a genuine attempt to explore how we respond to the world and other fictional works through writing. As such I really wanted to use an actual 'original character' and thankfully Mast88 was kind enough to both allow me to use her, and happy for me to use her in the way I had planned.

As a story about fiction, it was really an attempt at exploring our relationship with fanfiction, something that really interests me. It could almost have the alternate title of "How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Mary-Sue". What drives us to write? What is the real role of the author and the reader? Is the act of writing one of catharsis or creation, intellectual or emotional? Are we trying to explain reality or bridge the gap between our expectations and reality? And of course in the end, Twilight deals with the events of the story by writing her own fan fiction. You are completely free to ignore all this though, I do like to have lots of themes floating in the background, but they're not integral to enjoying the story, which is a narrative of its own.

Yellowstar is a strange case in herself. She was created by Mast88 (check out his Deviantart page here: ) and soon became infamous for a series of comics written in broken English in which Yellowstar wanders about Ponyville being the most blatant Mary-Sue possible. She teaches Rainbow Dash how to fly, she lectures Fluttershy on how to look after animals, she flabbergasts Rarity with how stylish she is, and so on. Oh yes, also she's the seventh Element of Harmony (solidarity). This should sound awful, but at the same time it's very charming and a lot of artists have picked up the baton and drawn a lot of fantastic art about her. In my mind, she's pretty much the ambassador for Mary-Sues, though of course in this story her origin is far different.

Yellowstar in this story IS fanfiction. She is a Mary-Sue who is trying to break into the 'real' world, the world of the show. She can't, of course. Despite all her good intentions, the Mary-Sue can't exist side by side with reality since it would tear down the narrative framework. The tragedy is that she wants to be real without wanting the baggage of reality that comes with such a feat, and so instead reinterpret reality as dragging Equestria into the equivalent of a children's storybook. Interestingly enough, that sort of simplistic, conflict-free environment was pretty much what G3 was. Is it dramatically better? No. Is it morally better? I'm actually not sure.

I actually found myself liking Yellowstar the more I wrote the story. In the early conception stages she was going to be more obviously a villain - some malevolent force that attempts to trick Twilight or destroy the world though her general Mary-Sueness. But that's the easy way out. No-one is ever really motivated by just being evil; Yellowstar genuinely wanted to help others and felt trapped by her fictional existence. The results of her actions would have been bad, but she was in no way 'evil'. There's a bit of a bait and switch here for the audience too - by the conventions of the genre, the reader is sure that the book is evil (we are even told this explicitly by one of the characters) and so Yellowstar must be evil and must be trying to trick Twilight. Only she's not. I like to think that there is added value in being able to go back over the story and read it again once you know what it is about and gaining a completely different appreciation of events.

While it wasn't a huge inspiration, I always had in mind a poem by Lucy Clifford from the cult 1882 book 'Anyhow Stories.' This is a really weird children’s book with some of the most unsettling stories written for children you'll ever read. The whole text is here:

In the poem 'The Paper Ship', the writer sails away to sea in a paper ship and comes to a strange land made out of card and paint and meets the dolls that live there:

"What shall we do to be real?" they cried,
"What shall we do to be real?
We none of us feel, though we look so nice,
And talk of the vague ideal."
And all of them seemed to know so much,
But none of them laughed or sang;
And none of the fires had ever a blaze,
And none of the bells e'er rang.

And people walked and talked of life,
And all of them looked so grave;
Yet none of them ever had life, my dear,
Or ever a soul to save.

Not sure about you, but I get the chills.

Another big influence that crept in is Grant Morrison's Animal Man comics. For those of you who aren't huge nerds, in the 80s Grant Morrison wrote a comic for DC about the obscure 60s hero Animal Man. It starts out bizarre and gets even more and more stranger as Animal Man slowly discovers that he is a fictional character, and that the job of the author is not to make a character happy, but have bad things happen to them for the amusement of the reader. It ends with Animal Man confronting Morrison, who apologies for not being a better writer and being unable to find a way around pandering to the baser instincts of humanity with shocks and violence. It's amazing and I urge you to pick up the trades today!

Finally the songs by Pink Floyd 'Two Suns In The Sunset' and 'The Gunner's Dream' factored heavily in the writing!

Why does the story end like it does? A few people have mentioned that they felt the ending was strange. That's very, very deliberate on my part. That was the plan from the beginning, and if you go back to chapter 1, you'll find plenty of clues there. The true victory is that Yellowstar spends the tale attempting one way to break free from her narrative and become 'real' and eventually does so by prematurely ending the story of which she is the main character, causing the entire narrative to break. There's no final confrontation and the main 'finale' takes place unseen, relayed as a story within a story. It's supposed to be unsatisfying, in a strange satisfying way - there's a lack of catharsis, a gap which has to be filled by the act of writing. The ending with Twilight caps this off, saying 'yes, I know, now what?' I'm very interested in stories where there is an uncomfortable disconnect between the reader and the text at some point. Sometimes it works, sometimes people don't like it, but it is always on purpose.

Of course, if the authorial voice has no control over the interpretation of the story, does that change the ending where so much of the explanation of what has happened hinges on the correct authorial interpretation by the writer of the book? (In my mind, for the record, what is said is what has happened).

I'm sorry if I've waffled on a bit, but this is a story I really enjoyed writing, and it fills me with delight whenever I see any feedback on it, so please let me know what you think if you've not already!

Lastly, let's have some art!

"The Star In Yellow" by CSIMadmax

"Yellowstar Is Best Pony" by C-Puff

"Goodbye, Twilight Sparkle" by me!