• Published 9th Jul 2013
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Stories and poems too short for individual publication (including some award-winning minifics).

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On Alicorn Fiction

"Oh, well, you see," Celestia said, punctuating the statement with a sip of tea, "alicorns don't write novels."

Twilight Sparkle — who had been nattering about the editing she was doing for the Daring Do fanfic that Rainbow Dash was so proud of, and how Dash's enthusiasm was inspiring her to pen some adventure stories of her own that were thinly fictionalized versions of their exploits, because they say that you should write what you know, and now that Ponyville had multiple aspiring authors she was thinking of starting up a writer's group, and given that there was an entire bookshelf devoted to Celestia in the library she figured that the princess would have some outstanding advice to pass along, and would Celestia consider being a guest speaker even though it might not be quite her area of expertise because Twilight was having a strangely difficult time finding any works of fiction attributed to Equestria's solar diarch — blinked, her brain slamming to a halt.

Then the unicorn simply stared, as if Celestia had sprouted a second horn.

"That's not to say that you shouldn't," Celestia added. "I quite enjoy reading fiction, in fact."

"But."

"Come now," Celestia teased. "Surely this can't be a surprise. You run a library, and you've searched quite hard for my works. The political discourses you stocked my bookshelf with are horrible, by the way. I can't imagine anyone would willingly read them."

"But," Twilight tried again. "Why?"

"They outline hypothetical benefits of a maddeningly vague theory of governance mediated through several levels of bureaucracy that if genuinely implemented would result —"

"I meant —" Twilight blurted out, then snapped her mouth shut, unwilling to interrupt.

"— in institutional paralysis and the complete collapse of …" Celestia trailed off, giggling in that delicate way that always made Twilight feel like she was somehow in on the joke. "Oh, Twilight. I know what you meant. The answer is, we don't need to."

"But," Twilight repeated, as if the word were jammed in the gears of her brain. Her muzzle curled into an unfocused intensity, and the jam worked itself loose with an almost physical crunch. "You're literary. You spend at least an hour each day writing letters. You love puns and wordplay. You gave me amazing worldbuilding advice when I was writing that fantasy history about the Diamond Dog Kingdom. You even made up a lullaby for me, once. I've still got it memorized. How can you not write novels?" She stared earnestly into Celestia's eyes, and added, "Not need to write novels?"

"To write a novel is to be born out of time," Celestia said. "An author can't be satisfied with the world as it is, and must fight with words to describe the world as it could be."

"That's true of all art. You've just described creativity. Surely you're not saying that alicorns aren't creative?"

"But it's not true of all art equally," Celestia said, staring at her teacup in a manner that promised elaboration. Twilight waited patiently as her teacher took a long sip, swirling the liquid around in her muzzle and downing it in first a dainty swallow then a deep one. "Music is a product of its time; I'd be rather surprised if you've ever heard a song older than a few hundred years. Visual art is fragile; it survives despite the ages, not because of them. But words? Stories? They're for those who seek immortality. When you live long enough, Twilight, you learn to take joy in creating as a response to the life that unfolds in front of you. Creating as an act of celebration, not as an act of escape."

"But you've never written a novel?" Twilight sounded horrified. "I refuse to believe it. Refuse!"

Celestia laughed, sweet and throaty. "Such confidence you have in me, my faithful student. May I share a deep and private secret, which you must never repeat to anypony else?"

Twilight's fire sputtered away all at once, a torch carried out into a blizzard of sudden emotion. "O-of course," she said, voice hushed, eyes wide.

Celestia glanced around, then leaned in and whispered conspiratorially: "1837."

Twilight blinked several times. "You … wrote a novel that year?" Her face lit up. "Wait, don't tell me the title! I bet I can discover it on my own." Her smile spread. "I can cross-reference the Royal Canterlot Archive annual publication records with the compiled bibliographies by author to find ponies with only one novel. This is going to be so exciting!" Her eyes flicked around animatedly as she ran her tongue around the inside of her teeth, lost in thought. "Of course, since it was written under a pseudonym —"

"They were."

Twilight's tongue halted mid-lick.

"Every last one," Celestia added, struggling to keep her expression level.

"Every …" Twilight said. "Every." She swallowed. "One thousand eight hundred novels?!"

"And thirty-seven. Under a total of 152 names." Celestia took a measured sip of tea and recomposed herself. "Partially to help me keep straight the various writing styles I've toyed with over the millennia, but mostly for the guilty pleasure of hearing academics hold passionate arguments over which of me wrote the best book of all time." She smiled immodestly. "Depending on the fashions of the age, I'm usually around half of the top ten."

"How … how could you hide that from everyone? Ponykind should know."

"No, Twilight, they really shouldn't," Celestia said with gentle reproach. "Wholly aside from the undesirable effects it would have on my ego, it would be a disservice to them. I am not only ponykind's princess, but their sun; my role must not be to outshine them, but to illuminate them. What would happen if it were to be revealed that I had written several thousand books, and many of Equestria's best-known? At a single stroke, I would destroy the discipline of literature. It would deter many ponies from writing, as they concluded that even a full lifetime's worth of the most magnificent work would only ever be a pale shadow of my own. Then there would be the ponies who would feel obligated to waste their best decades in reading and analyzing my corpus, searching for wisdom they could better find in living their lives. In truth, I ought not dare write at all."

Twilight nodded numbly. "Oh. I … I'm sorry."

Celestia sighed, looking wryly down into her teacup. "But you're right. I'm afflicted with the curse of the literary soul. Each and every one of those novels was a guilty pleasure — a release not unlike a colt exploring himself at night before sleep, hoping his sire and dam don't walk in. At least the ponies whose identities I overtook got some profit and fame out of it — an escape out of a destroyed life." Her face fell. "Though I wonder, often, how much of a blessing it really was. As much as they thanked me, as glad as they were for our deal, to have to go to sleep every night knowing that none of their success was their own, and knowing that they couldn't ever write anything of their own without exposing the scheme …"

Twilight gave Celestia a hopeful smile. "I'd do that. For you, I mean."

"One hundred and fifty-two ponies did." Celestia sipped her tea. "I'd rather you not be one of them."

"I'm serious," Twilight said, stung. "It would be worth it, to see something I knew you'd written. And I can't think of a greater honor than to have such amazing stories written in my name."

"I have never offered my deal to anypony with either literary talent or ambition. I would much rather burn manuscript #1838 than deny the world a single Twilight Sparkle novel." Celestia grinned. "Even if her hero's mentor is so perfect as to make all her scenes excruciating."

Twilight blushed. "Well, I'm hardly going to start inventing flaws."

Celestia gave Twilight a laugh that she didn't quite know how to interpret, and said, "Then I look forward to you finding some."

Author's Note:

I am unjustly proud of the 145-word sentence in this one.

Also, while we're speaking of alicorns, have some song lyrics.

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