• Member Since 22nd Jan, 2013
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Ceci n'est pas un cheval.


For four years, a pair of alien observers have been living in Ponyville under assumed identities, performing cultural studies and avoiding unwelcome attention. But when a piece of advanced technology is stolen from them, the observers must do everything in their power to get it back—preferably before their superiors decide to blow up the planet.

A crossover with the 'Culture' novels of Iain M. Banks. No prior knowledge necessary for reading.
— Featured by Equestria Daily, Seattle's Angels, and The Royal Guard.

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 80 )

Author's Note

Just a quick thing I kicked out over the last couple days—though I have to admit, I like it rather a lot. Many thanks go to Horizon and GhostOfHeraclitus for the pre-reading on this one. One of them is a big Culture addict and the other knows of the stories but hasn't read any of them. Both seemed to enjoy this a great deal, so I'm feeling pretty good about its accessibility to readers who don't know the secondary source material.

Man, we really do need a Sci-Fi tag on fimfic. :ajsleepy:

My only exposure to the Culture novels is through another story here on FiMFiction, but this was fantastic. I do love portrayals of Ditzy Doo that are more than meets the misaligned eye, and the addition of Lyra was icing on the muffin. Or something.

In any case, great one-shot featuring best pony. Thank you for it. :twilightsmile:

(That said, I can never remember which tracks you're supposed to follow to find skellenic hadropods. Is it snarks or Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?)

Author Interviewer

Is this actually a takeoff on Curious Incident in any way?

In absolutely no way. But all the other title ideas (Ghost and) I could come up with kind of sucked for describing it...


Also, I've got a bit of a tradition of using literary-sounding titles for things.

ETA: Actually, I shouldn't say in no way. Holmes's explanation is somewhat relevant, in the end.

Author Interviewer

Darn. :B To the to-read nevertheless.

First I stumble across a eclipse phase crossover,
And now a culture one,I mean, I just , wha is this I don't even

Seriously though, good job, hope to read about their adventures

(Unrelated-ish, you get my first ever comment, because Culture)

Yes, yes we do. Even EQD has one, for their submissions, but not us.

Very happy to hear this is continuing to be accessible to people who don't know the Culture stories! I was definitely worried about that while I was writing, but the idea was just too fun to resist.

You'd probably be surprised how many people here love Iain M. Banks. I know I always am. I still think it's probably a pretty small number overall, but this is far from the only Culture crossover on the site, I'm pretty sure.

Also, a Normal tag, because sometimes you can't choose anything and the tags Random or Slice of Life are your only options (truthfully I think the Random tag isn't even needed most of the time, but that's just me :ajsleepy:).

I absolutely adore Iain M. Banks, and Iain Banks as well! Very much looking forward to reading this tonight.

Ah, this was a lot of fun! I've read quite a few Culture novels but I don't think I could write one :pinkiecrazy: I love the Love. I wonder what it's planning. I'd love it if you wrote more! :trollestia:

It's good, certainly worth an up thumb. I kept getting a distracted feeling when reading it as though I really would be enjoying this more if I knew the core material, but you've painted the alien culture well enough that I'm interested in knowing more about the Culture books, so good job there. (From the brief glimpse we see here I get sort of a And Having Writ vibe from the aliens, dunno how close to the mark I am with that.)

Title was a bit distracting, as I have in fact read The Curious Incident... and this fic had little if anything to do with that book besides the presence of a dog. But given some of the titles the show's writers riff on with no clear referent in the plot, I can hardly say that this isn't true to the universe at least. :pinkiehappy:

Ahhhh, Ditzy = Diziet, how did I not see that COMING.

Excellent story.

I keep forgetting that there's even a book with that title. The reference (for what little it's worth) actually comes from where the book got its title, Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes story "Silver Blaze". I don't actually know anything about the book except for a tiny bit of what it's about.

Well, I suppose it's a little unfair to say the title comes from "Silver Blaze". It comes from Ghost, who I'm assuming got it from "Silver Blaze", and that's where I recognize the reference to be from. All I could come up with were "Observers" and "Of Trees and (Robo)Terriers", neither of which felt all that great to me.

I didn't have that hard a time writing this story, but I had a heck of a time trying to find a title for it.

Hah. This was fun. I don't think I have that much to say on the matter -- the Diz revelation got a big smile, and some more CMC would have been nice to see, but that's about it.

He really was a fantastic author. I think I've only read about eight of his books (seven with the 'M' in them), but I enjoyed them all a great deal. Well, I suppose I must have, or I wouldn't be writing Pony–Culture crossovers.

I don't have any immediate plans to come back to this, but I have to admit I enjoyed the premise (and Leshe-Marbian really didn't get much chance for screen time here). It's a bit like "Three Nights"—I don't know what I'd do if I came back, but I enjoyed the scenarios and character-building that I definitely might be interested to do so.

Oh, I should mention... From what I could glean from the wikipedia page, no, I don't think there's a whole lot of similarity (aside from the overarching tropes). It sounds like the folks there were a bit more actively interested in pursuing an agenda. Contact, the Culture diplomatic service, seems to be a bit more of a middle ground between open intervention and Star Trek style hands-off observation, at least in most cases.

Then again, since I'm working off of a wikipedia brief, maybe I totally don't understand the similarities and differences. That... wouldn't surprise me.

Actually, I have to admit it snuck up on me, too. I picked Ditzy and Lyra straight off, because Lyra's an obvious choice and because I kind of loved the idea that there was a good reason for Ditzy's eyes being out of alignment. But since I was writing Ditzy in first person, I didn't have much reason to use her name until about halfway through the story. And then, as soon as I wrote it out, it was kind of plain as day. She even gets called Dizzy as a nickname in "State of the Art".

More CMC is almost always nice, though I have to admit, writing in cybernetic dog perspective is kind of hard to do. Especially when you're explicitly trying to make your cybernetic dog not sit up and play fetch. Or discourse on the appropriate ways to worship Rarity. Whatever.

oh crikey... diziet. I've just gone back to check. Yep, I DO know that name. Hah!

What's this, surprise Bradel story? I actually liked this more than I thought I would, given I'm not usually in to sci-fi, especially hard sci-fi. I did feel a little like things were flying over my head, but that's to be expected given it's a crossover and it wasn't so bad. I got the main sci-fi tropes.

My jaw drops. That last assignment changed me? From Lyra "I want hands again", "how do ponies sit", "can we blow up that treehouse like they do in the movies" Heartstrings?


Ah! You aren't actually familiar with the source material!?

Wow, my bad. I was so confident I'd heard you mention it at some point too... :twilightoops: Oh well.

Anyway, I'm glad you liked it! It's fun to surprise you guys every once in a while. :twilightsmile:

Ooh, if you're interested in sci-fi, you might want to go check out the blog post Horizon just tossed up. It's ostensibly about this story, but it's got a very nice list of other good sci-fi on the site (including Eclipse Phase). Also, Horizon's just an all-around good guy to know about.

ETA: I suck. Link fixed.

Oh great. Now, I'm never going to be able to see Ditzy/Derpy again without thinking of this story! (Which was a heck of a lot of fun, BTW! :pinkiehappy:)

You're thinking of Ghost. He's the one with epic level knowledge of all things cultured and cultural. I'm hopeless.

Well, that was a delight! I certainly wouldn't mind reading more.

3959769 What was the other Culture crossover you read? I'm mildly surprised there's more than one!

My only complaint is that there is not more.

You know, eventually Luna's going to find that funny-looking 'star' up there and stick it where it belongs, regardless of if it wants to go there.
"Captain, we're slipping out of orbit again."
"Well, apply more power."
"We're at max already, and still moving."
-Meanwhile, below-
"Celly! Stop messing around with my stars! You've got this one all out of place, and it's a royal pain to stick it back where it's supposed to go!"

I absolutely adore that you went ahead and did this, Bradel. It makes me happy to see my two favorite utopias bouncing off each other.


Outside Context Problems. I like it, but it's probably even more enjoyable when the reader is familiar with both halves of the crossover.

3961322 well got bookmark that link, thanks!

Yup. I got it from the Silver Blaze story, not from the book. I'm a bit of a recovering Holmes addict[1], and it came to mind quite quickly. And, besides, it was an incident, it was at the night-time, it was curious, and it involved a dog which did nothing. That's truth in advertising that is.

Oh, you

Funnier still, Culture ships don't have captains being controlled by fully independent hyperintelligent Minds. So it's more like:

"I need to get us into orrr—oh meat that's an odd sensation. Right on my outside field envelope. Right back into orbit we g—mmm. That's... that's a very strange feeling. Mmmm. I think I sort of like it."

[1] Worse yet, I'm the sort of curmudgeon who thinks Sherlock is rather nice, but is still inferior compared to the Granada series.

A near little, and pretty original fic. I goota say I could go for more chapters filled with a frustrated, suspicious twilight :derpytongue2:

Ooh, this was a very fun piece, and it's got me interested in Culture now too, if the books are anything like this in terms of tone. I hope you decide to do more with this at some point, I think it'd make for a very entertaining universe. :twilightsmile:

Heh. Diziet.
Do I understand correctly that the mission on Arbitrary was the one from "The State of the Art"?

I gotta say, it's hilarious how much Love and Tolerate sounds like the name of a Culture ship.


Oh my god, I laughed so hard at that line that my eyes are watering.

That was everything I was hoping for when you mentioned this story in a blog post and then some.

Oho. Here we go. I'm once again put in the uncomfortable position of having a really good author put out a story with a tag I generally avoid at all costs* only to discover that either my aversion is unwarranted or they're just that damn good.

I like how you make the reader feel clever for realizing the narrator is Derpy almost immediately, and yet in retrospect it's really frickin' obvious. Gosh, we've had changeling Derpy, changeling Bon Bon, and now limited contact field agent Derpy. Sorry, Ditzy. Bah. There's something about this group of background characters that makes them really work for writers of this kind of fic. They're depicted as just out there enough in the show that there's plenty of ways to write them as completely unexpected yet very interesting characters in a way that perfectly explains their eccentricities.

I haven't read the Culture series, - indeed, I hadn't even heard of it until your recent blog post teasing this story - so I have to say you did a darn good job of writing something where I really didn't need any side knowledge to get a pretty good picture of what that series must be like. I was left with a few interesting questions though. The most pertinent I think being exactly what field agents are. Evidently they are given fairly accurate replica bodies, given that they seem to have the complete organic experience, including, apparently, attraction to the natives.

When they decided to camouflage the "like they do in the movies" explosion as a meteor strike, I immediately knew it would not pass examination by Twilight "Monitor Everything" Sparkle. I have to say though, I was a little confused as to why she would quiz Ditzy "I Just Don't Know What Went Wrong" Doo outside Sugarcube Corner about last night's alleged meteor strike until I realized you intended this universe's Twilight to be suspicious of her, specifically, not being what she appears.

*Slight exaggeration. The only tag I really avoid at all costs is [Anthro], because there is literally no good reason for that, ever. Interestingly enough, I didn't even consciously realize it existed until recently when I was coding up a new table view and needed to scrape all the tag types. The only other crossover I've ever given a chance is that one by Paper_mate_pony, because best thing is allowed to be crossed over with ponies, but it seems to be kinda dead. On that topic though, since Ghost brought it up, I have been enjoying Sherlock, but as far as visual adaptations are concerned, Jeremy Brett is absolutely the One True Holmes.

Wow, well done, Bradel! I love Banks' writing in general and the Culture novels in particular, and as far as I'm concerned, you really nailed the feeling of a Culture story. The character naming was brilliant and hilarious, and the interactions and quirkiness of all of the Culture characters was familiar and fun.

I really didn't try to read this from the perspective of someone who hasn't read anything Culture - because I'm lazy that way, and it was my lunch time, dammit! ;) But it strikes me as written in a way that others can connect with, and hopefully get interested in reading Banks. I would love to see you write more in this vein.

My favorite bit? Twilight Sparkle: 0. Diziet Sma: 14. I laughed pretty hard at that section. Just lovely.

Rating: High oxytocin levels all around! :twilightsmile:

I love Bank's Culture, and this was an excellent crossover. Some things were a tad predictable, but I was smiling the whole time. It was a bit like seeing old friends again after a long absence. A heckuva fun short! :derpytongue2:

Okay, that was fun. I can see I'm going to have to read the Culture books now. But one thing still bothers me.

Why is it called the Love and Tolerate? Besides the obvious out-of-universe joke, I mean.

*Grins and slowclaps* Bravo.

Wow, it's been too long since I was replying to comments here!

3961627, 3962239
Glad you folks enjoyed it! Like I think I might have said elsewhere, I'm in no way opposed to doing more of this. I haven't gone and done sequels to anything yet, but both this and "Three Nights" lend themselves very well to sequels, I think—this because it's really just a fun pacing exercise and idea introduction, and "Three Nights" because it introduces a couple OC's and a setting I quite like.

We'll just have to see what happens. And, if the show's going to be running another five years, well, there's plenty of time for a lot of things to happen.

That made me laugh. I like the idea of Luna doing that to a spaceship rather a lot. (And we'll just ignore Ghost, shall we, because it's still cute!)

I honestly can't even remember where the idea came from... Though 3962767 and I have been making up jokes about the Love and Tolerate for a while now. Along with a number of other ships whose names I couldn't actually remember when it came time to write the story... :raritydespair:

If I were to come back to this, I think you're right on the money—suspicious Twilight is one of the more fun things going on here, and I suspect it wouldn't be too hard to spin a story around her. She's so far in the background of this story and I never get much farther than giving hints about what she thinks that I know there's a lot of fertile ground left unplowed with her.

Unfortunately, I think the tone here is pretty different from the tone of the Culture novels (though if someone cares enough to disagree with me, please feel free). I always think of the Culture as a sort of halfway point between fantastic (i.e. like fantasy) sci-fi like Star Wars and hard sci-fi like Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars book. It's usually very serious stuff, but it's really well written (if dense, like KSR). Giving it a zany madcap humor spin is, I suspect, pretty much all me.

You would be absolutely correct. The strong implication I'm going for here is that this follows directly on the heels of "State of the Art". I kind of wanted to write the story without actually referencing humans or Earth, though, because I felt that to people unfamiliar with State of the Art, it might feel a bit too strongly like Earth thrown in for the sake of cheap pandering, rather than Earth thrown in because it's a legitimate part of the crossover material.


LCU "Sufficiently Advanced Friendship", GSV "Anticipation of a New Alicorn's Arrival", GOU "Friendship Problems"

That line actually took a bit of massaging, and I'm still not super happy with it myself—so I'm glad to hear that it's firing pretty well. One of the reasons I struggled over it so much was because I was trying to keep continuity with the second AFX-7 section, where I was eliminating all words beyond the 400 most common English words for scriptwriting (which you can find on Wikipedia), with a couple carefully selected additions like proper names and cutie marks, which I figured the Crusaders would probably say so often that they'd have to be part of any language-learning algorithm. Doing robot speak without being able to use more traditionally robot-y words like "require" and "information" is kind of hard.

That makes me happy to hear! Smiling the whole time is pretty much what I was shooting for. It might have been good for me to shoot for a bit less predictability in this, but I was mostly trying to focus on the pacing and getting this to cover as much ground in 4300 words as I could, without making it feel like I was skimping on details.

Anyway, thank you for the comment. I'll try to look out for this more, moving forward, and see if I can strike a better balance on predictability when I'm trying to keep the pacing up. It's a good thing to shoot for, I think.

All of the ships in Banks's Culture novels have sort of amusingly sarcastic names. Here's a list of a few favorites:
– GCU Of Course I Still Love You
– GSV What Are the Civilian Applications?
– GCU Funny, It Worked Last Time...
– GCU Ultimate Ship, the Second
– GCU Just Another Victim of the Ambient Morality
– VFP Resistance Is Character-Forming

Glad you enjoyed it!

Thank you for making me feel good about this story and my writing ability in general. I had a bad week or two on the, "Why do my stories suck so much" front.

I have a tendency to avoid crossovers, too.

Actually, that's an understatement. I'm still kind of worked up over the fact that I've written a story with Ghost's Spinning Top ("A Filly's Guide to Not Making Headlines", for the kids following along at home), and 3960360 has written Dotted Line into his Cadance of Cloudsdale series, and in "Three Nights" I've written a Cadance story that draws on G.M. Berrow canon rather than Skywriter fanon for Cadance (which I put on pretty much equal footing, because Skywriter). In my mind, that means that either "Filly's Guide" and "Three Nights" are incompatible and one of them, properly, should have an AU tag, or I've got to toss a multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics at pony so Ghost's OCs can be allowed to exist in two conflicting storylines.

This legitimately makes me upset. Not like, angry at Skywriter. Upset like should I curl up in the corner and cry over the fact that I've single-handedly broken the universe?

Yes, obviously, I'm a crazy person.

3962767 frankly has a much better handle on the Culture stuff than I do, but yes, I think the certainly have the technology for Dizzy and Liera to go switching bodies. Worst case scenario, they're in sleeper chambers in the hangar Love refuses to let them use, and they're wearing neural laces. But I suspect the Culture can just move 'em on over to other bodies, when necessary—though I suspect that's not a whole lot of fun. As for falling for the natives, well, yeah, I think that's pretty typical Culture behavior. They're... open-minded.

The bit with the meteorite actually was supposed to fool Twilight in the first draft, and the only reason it didn't was because my pre-readers thought the ending felt rushed and needed a more gradual let-down. That led to expanding the Sugar Cube Corner scene and then adding the final Love scene, which was entirely absent in the first draft. I was going for a bittersweet ending with Dizzy looking out the window at Applejack, and... basically it worked about as well as the Octavia ending on "Three Nights", from the feedback I was getting. I have to admit, I do like the expanded ending better, even though it meant slowing things down from the pace I tried to use through most of the piece, but that's probably good for the reader anyway. But I'm dodging around the point. Twilight figuring it out was actually kind of an accident (though Twilight's role overall was smaller, i.e. she wasn't mentioned much early on, in the first draft, so the issue of whether she'd figure it out might not have been so pronounced). So... um... I'm glad I somehow made it work in the end!

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Actually, I've been thinking all this time that I may not be giving people a very good idea of what the Culture stories feel like, because my memory of them always paints them as so hard-core and hard-hitting, and this... well... is a comedy. Though I guess maybe the pacing here does help bring it more in line with Banks's stuff. Hmm. It's an interesting question. But it does seem like this has peaked a lot of folks' interest in the Culture stuff, which is kind of wonderful in my mind, given how awesome it is. I'm really happy that this has been so well received.

Also, yes, I really liked the score line, too. I wasn't sure if it'd be confusing for people if I did something other than 0:1, because you'd have a hard time justifying Dizzy racking up that many points right here. I was hoping it would read like she was constantly keeping score—and it sounds like that panned out! I thought it was a nice bit of characterization, and funny, but... yeah, again, I was just worried it might wind up being confusing.

I saved up a whole dedicated comment for replying to you, but now I'm out of things to say!

Eh, I know what it's like to sweat it, but no need to sweat it. I think there's a hundred thousand shadows of Equestria, we're each seeing either one or a handful, and anything that looks like a contradiction is obviously just happening in a slightly different parallel version. I like to get Dotty as close as I can, but the Sun-Nag as she appears in the Cadance stories is different than the one that appears in the Civil Service tales, so I have no illusions (or aspirations) toward a formal unification of our writing universes. Where would I put all the footnotes, for one thing?

Incidentally, I view the "Alternate Universe" tag not as "something in this story is incompatible with canon as presented" but as "four of the Mane 6 were raised as sky pirates and they are currently being hunted by Captain Twilight and her faithful assistant Rarity."

3988019 Now you have me thinking of Dottie being told that there are a multitude of timelines in which Dotted Line exists, therefore in at least one of those lines, there is always a Dotted Line who has tea, which would be an immense comfort to him.

Pfft. More likely, he will conclude that between the lot of them, there can never, ever be enough tea.

What about "one of the Mane 6 dies during what would have been Season 1"? Or how about "Spike never existed" (or "... hatched", if you prefer)?
Ooh, ooh! What about "Twilight is a Pokemon trainer"? :trollestia: (Spike, you see.)

Since I'm punching with this, what about "dragons are ancient vintage AIs"?

I think the key for me is "at some point in its chronology, does this story universe basically resemble the one we see in the show." So "never existed" would be AU but "(x) died early" would not.

(x) is incidentally best pony. I love (x).

Not as much comfort as actually having the tea, mind.

I'm pretty much on the same page as Skywriter for what counts as proper use of the AU tag... I think. (I just don't necessarily think of AU in terms of the tag, I usually think of it as compatibility between stories.)

That said, I kind of wanted to weigh in because I think the first two are probably things that ought to be tagged [AU], the third one ought to be tagged [Crossover], and the fourth one...

...is just a clever Idea Story concept, cf. my recent blog.

Oh, I guess 3988906 responded while I was typing this. What'd he say?

Yeah, I think I'm a little more permissive on what deserves [AU], but just a little. As for (x), at the risk of getting all political, let me just point you in the direction of something from my Facebook feed: somebody from Arizona who doesn't like (x) very much.

But but but season 1!

Or, to express that without the affected histrionics, how much resemblance and how recently is needed? For example, would Twilight staying in Canterlot at the end of Season 1 instead of returning to Ponyville count? What about 'Season 1' happening completely differently, so that Season 2 happens the exact same way but for completely different reasons, if the fic is set post- Season 2? What about if Spike hatched a couple months/years later? (Or earlier?) What about swapping out one or more ponies within the Elements, without otherwise changing anything? (Well, except of course the resulting divergent character interactions.)

Wait a minute there, mate. What if Skywriter's stuff is the AU there?

3988933 Two things:

(1) No it's not, not by itself at least. There's not enough to it to hang a story on all by itself. It would make a good Major Background Detail, the way the Grand Galloping Gala was a Major Background Detail to its trilogy in S1, but it needs something else to pull it into being relevant. It could be one 'Thing' of a two- or three- 'Thing' story.

(2) I read that article you linked, and... that's horrible. I mean wat.

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