• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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PaulAsaran


Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords, and reviews both independently and for Seattle's Angels. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

T
Source

This story is a sequel to Becoming Them


Manehattan has fallen. The princesses are silent. Coco Pommel and Babs Seed are unlikely partners struggling for survival in what's left of a world gripped by death. As they cling to one another through hope and despair, they pray for the chance to escape and meet other survivors. Then, one miraculous morning, it seems their prayers are answered in the form of a new ship at harbor.

Yet salvation comes at a price neither of them may be willing to pay...


Part one of my collaboration with the inimitable RainbowBob.

Preread by RainbowBob (of course), edited by the talented Hopeless Appraisal and SpaceCommie. Thanks guys!

Cover art commissioned from Kvernikovsky, the awesome artist behind the Researcher Twilight ask blog.

The Them Series
Chronologically from Top to Bottom:
Origin of Them
Feed Them
Entertain Them
Hunt Them
Becoming Them
Guide Them

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 45 )

Oh that's right, it's the 13th today. So this is part one huh? And it involves a "ship coming into harbor" . . . Well I guess I know what I'll be reading tomorrow.

Happy Columbus Day!

5136954
Ooh. I didn't realize he had saved this for Columbus Day. Makes the story even more fitting.

5136954
But, it's the 14th... :trollestia:
anyway, I'll check this (and Feed Them) out after work.

Oh gods... You and Bob have a horrifyingly well written piece here... You have undone yourself with the horror here, I've never seen a post-apocalypse religious cult illustrated so well. Thanks, for now I will not sleep.

So if this is a collaboration between you and RB, then is this related to Burn The Fallow Land?

Dear Mr. Paul.
Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope (clicks read later and saves it for tomorrow) so much nope!

All joking aside I usually stay the right f%#k away from anything with a dark tag. But your cover art combined with the release on a day culminating in the anniversary of darkness, intrigues a side of me I'm only recently discovering I have.

Here's to pleasant nightmares, Sincerely Yours, The Cake Devil.

Why do I have a feeling the Goddess was Fluttershy?

The living is worse than the dead.

5137413
Columbus Day and the 13th. 13th was the goal, Columbus Day was a happy coincidence. :yay:

5137538
Bah, sleep is for the weak! Like me. :ajsleepy:

5137683
No, Burn the Fallow Land is entirely unrelated to the Them universe. We just happened to release on the same day.

5137761
:rainbowdetermined2:

5138259
Have fun exploring the dark side. It's quite the fascinating topic.

5138350
Is it? Isn't it? There are five more stories coming, maybe you'll find out through them.

5138790
And that is the whole point.

5138827 I...really loved this. Something tells me I need to do a collab with Rainbow Bob now.

5139678
It's not over yet! We've got five more stories to release in the coming three weeks... although I am a little worried that real life issues could hamper our intended schedule.

It's really hard for me to read anything by you that I haven't gone over; your other editors aren't me and hence aren't as skilled as I am don't share my specific preferences. For example:

A thick fog hung over the choppy waters, pressing down on the small row boat in the twilight.

all those prepositional "the's" in the very first sentence just about drove me bonkers! But I digress . . .

You did a really could job of establishing that this world has been well and truly fucked early on; for me, the defining moment for Barbra Seed came when she said, "there's only two." That single utterance was so telling on so many levels. Likewise for Coco when she leafed through the old magazine.

Also, I really liked how Babs was obviously the one who has accepted that the world's screwed, and is dealing with it, and it's the older mare who can't seem to accept the current situation.

I look forward to seeing the rest of these.

5147905
Once again, FIMfiction fails to alert me that you've commented on this. No matter, I'm aware now. It does make me wonder just how many comments there are out there that I just don't know about.

Glad you think I did a 'could' job. :derpytongue2: Given what I've seen of Babs and Coco in the show, their very different reactions to the end of the world seemed quite natural for me. I was aware of the odd, backwards nature of their respective views, though.

Unfortunately, it seems Bob's laptop crashed (or so he told me this morning), so in all likelihood he won't be getting his stories in on time after all. :fluttercry:

5150848
Yeesh. Hope he had his work backed up off-com.

I'm crying... Poor coco...

5183972
"Poor Coco" indeed. :fluttercry:

So, was the holy mother Celestia?

So far, all of these stories are horrible.

Not as in poor quality; they're very good. By horrible I mean...

I mean...

I need a fucking shower. A long, long, long shower.

5374779
That's simply the kind of stories they are. If it makes you feel any better, this isn't the only kind of story I write. :unsuresweetie:

5374844 The worst part is, I don't read these kind of stories anymore. Yet I read these, because I want to know just how hopeless these...zombie-things ave made the world of Equestria.

P.S. Right now I'm investigating whether or not Spitfire died at the end of Hunt Them.

I think the one that hurts most to read was Entertain Them, simply because of that ending.

*Sniff* Rest in peace, Vinyl Scratch...and know that, just like how you attempted vainly to live, I will watch PaulAsaran struggle as I end his life for what he's done to you.

5374926
And just think, there's four more stories coming that won't be any brighter. :fluttershyouch:

Also, don't read Twilight's Inferno. If you're that upset that I killed Vinyl in such a way, I can't imagine what you'd be reduced to after what I did to Twilight in that fic.

Go read something cute and fluffy to cheer you up. :twilightsmile:

5374982 Meh.

Twilight's okay.

But I don't like her nearly as much as I like Vinyl.

5375019
Oh, is that all this is about? I thought it was the hideous end, rather than who exactly it was happening to.

5375236 Well, it was both.

But it's always worse when it's a character you love. Am I right?
I.E. My favorite character is Rainbow Dash. So when I read the first one, I was all like

*Twilight is a disturbing zombie-thing*

Ew. Gross. Wonder who else that happened to.

*Spike walks in with Rainbow Dash as one of Them*

I WILL EAT YOUR FIRSTBORN CHILD PAUL!

5375266
Two things.

First, I didn't write Feed Them, RainbowBob did, so in that instance direct your vengeful hellfire in his direction.

Second: it's rarely about whether I love a character or not. If I'm writing about it, you can bet I care about the characters involved. I felt just as terrible doing things to Vinyl as I did to Coco Pommel, Spitfire or Twilight.

However, I will note that when things happen to Celestia or Luna, I tend to get particularly... 'fired up.'

5375292 Right. Keep forgetting RainbowBitchBob wrote the first one.

The one that started it all.

Wait!...I'm getting ideas!

This series inspired me to write a story! Currently hatching a plan...

Howdy there, Paul. B_P from WRITE here, responding to your request for a review. My hope is that, even if you’d rather I focused on the plot, you won’t mind me getting some mechanical/stylistic gripes out of the way beforehand. Let’s get right to it.


Mechanics and Style:

Every now and again, there would be an area where the pronouns are too unclear to quite parse who’s doing what, at least at first. Example:

Coco’s ears lowered as she stared at her, a tight feeling in her chest. She opened her mouth… then let it close. Her attention returned to her food and she tried not to let her worries get the better of her.

“She”/“her” is being used to refer to both Babs and Coco here, so there’s no real way for me to know, say, which is staring at which. Some of it is implied by this all being locked to Coco’s perspective, of course, but I still had to stop and think about it harder than I should probably have had to.

Coco was going over the day in her mind; the empty streets, combing the building on the corner of Western and 43rd, the brief battle on the fifth floor.

A semicolon is for connecting two independent clauses, but what you’ve got to the right of it is a fragment of a list that elaborates directly on the first clause. That’s pretty much exactly what a colon is made to handle.

This could just be me, but I felt that you were perhaps a bit over reliant on single-sentence “gut-punching” paragraphs. There were so many that they started to stop feeling impactful and instead feel cliché. Take

Hiding in the bathroom for three hours had been the worst of it, but Babs came through as she always did. Really, though, it was a pretty average supply run; neither of them expected to ever make one and not run into trouble.

It came with the times.

as an example. We’re far enough into the story (and you’ve done a good enough job establishing things) that we understand the world and their situation perfectly well. To have a gut-puncher about the state of the world like that all on its own this late in the game isn’t informative or shocking. In fact, it implies a conscious split in Coco’s mind—it reads like she separated that thought off from the previous block of thoughts. In that way, it comes off to me as angsty more than anything, and even if that’s what you were going for, I’d say again that you’ve established things well enough for me to already know that Coco is downtrodden. If that gut-puncher was at the end of the previous paragraph instead, I think the feeling would be a better one: to me, it would be more like a simple, automatic thought on Coco’s part, and its nature as automatic would imply more to me about the situation than the thought on its own ever could. But again, maybe this is just me.

The song attempt was passable. ← Vote Burraku_Pansa for Top Snob, 2015
Seriously, though, the rhyming got a bit forced, the theme struggled a little, the meter felt all over, and the breaks and/or continuations between lines aren’t always clear, but lordy have I seen a lot worse around this fandom.

It didn’t matter that it was caked in rust, right now this behemoth was the most beautiful thing she’d ever laid eyes on.

There’s occasional issues with comma splices, where a comma is doing the job (connecting independent clauses on its own) of a semicolon or an em dash.

I can’t say I noticed any pervasive issue with repetition, but there was at least one spot in the story where a word happened to come up too many times too quickly.

It only took a moment for her to regain her orientation, and she gasped as a pony with only half a face slammed against the cage just inches from her face. She turned away, legs prepped for flight, only to find the cage door slammed in her face.

“Face” three times, right in a row. Sucked me out of the moment. “Slammed” twice, too.

And of course, there’s minor typos to be caught. Certainly not here to catch all of them, but here’s a couple.

For some time they remained that way, Babs(’) quiet weeping hovering over their heads.

Babs heaved a sighed and began to row once more,

Babs followed suite and they were soon on their way.

Apart from all of that, though, this was a remarkably well-edited story. The prose felt a bit bland at times, but not anywhere near cripplingly so, and there was nothing consistently wrong that I picked up on, mechanically. Very good job.


Characterization and Plot:

Before I started in on Guide Them, I looked over all—unless I happened to miss one—of the other currently published stories in this universe: Feed Them, Entertain Them, and Hunt Them. They’ve got their individual problems, but what bothered me was that all three seemed to share the same basic plot: a survivor has been driven insane by the way things are now, and this leads to said survivor and every other survivor in the story dying, give or take a slight change.

In Feed Them, the broken survivor who dies dies because of what could be called a flaw in his character, and so his death at least feels properly tragic even if not brilliantly executed. This is marred by the fact that the story dragged on notably to me (even for its short length), and that anything that could be called a plot twist was at least mostly ruined by the cover image.

In Entertain Them, the one who’s insane doesn’t happen to die, but the one that does dies through no fault of her own—just an hour or two after being passively saved from death in the first place, no less. The characterization (excepting perhaps some niggling things about how Octavia is portrayed) in this one, as well as its opening scenario, makes it my favorite of the three, but it all feels sort of meaningless to me. Plus, again, the twist is ruined by the cover image. And also the title, kind of. Was it even supposed to be a twist? Octavia was letting on about it really hard even without the cover and title.

In Hunt Them, just… Spitfire acts cautiously, and characters die because of it, implying the reversal she’ll go through will be that she’ll become less cautious. But then she becomes less cautious (she goes to the address), yet it’s caution that gives her the upper hand at the start of the final confrontation. But then she stops being cautious and the enemy gets the upper hand, and then characters die because of it. Everyone is dead, possibly even Spitfire in the coming minutes, and then finally she abandons caution for good, but by then it’s meaningless. Beyond that, good on you for not giving away the twist in this one, but the twist itself was kind of lackluster—you’d built up to the revelation of the antagonist’s identity so much over the course of the story that nothing, and especially not something that wasn’t reasonably foreshadowed, could have lived up to the hype.

Essentially, coming out of those three stories, here’s what I was hoping to get from Guide Them: an eschewment of the “insane character causes the deaths of folks” formula, a satisfying twist if there’s any twist to be had, and that tragedy (if there’s to be any) be meaningful and actually tragic rather than just ironic. And, overall, to read an entry in this series that doesn’t simply pack in as much hopelessness as possible by the end—a bleak setting is great, but non-stop hopelessness can, y’know, get kind of boring.

Guide Them starts out strong, though. The hook wasn’t as excellent as Entertain Them’s (really more of a quiet fade-in than any kind of attention-grabbing scenario), but the pair of characters on display here feels more fully realized than the pair there. And it keeps that strength going longer than ET did.

But I’ve just reached the first moment where the Lowly Father appears, and I’m already worried about the state of the twist. When his necklace was mentioned, I had a look back at the cover image. Here’s my guess: the Holy Mother is Fluttershy, and that’s her warped and chained up on the wall. I hope I’m wrong, or that at least the story doesn’t treat that like the huge revelation that I can’t imagine it not being.

And now he’s being almost as obvious to Coco as Octavia was being to Vinyl. Vinyl I could give the benefit of the doubt, since she was out of her head with hunger and dehydration, but Coco? Why doesn’t she catch that he just told them he wants to become a zombie?

At least they caught his meaning later. And at least this story’s token insane character is more reasonable than the others’.

Babs’ turning follows firmly from her flaws of overconfidence and carelessness. Nice job. That’s probably the strongest tragedy I’ve yet seen in this series. It was perhaps a little too sudden to really satisfy as a twist, though, so I can only continue to hope I’m wrong about how the story’s larger twist will play out.

And then… it all falls apart by then end, pretty like I knew that it would but was truly hoping it wouldn’t. The cover image again represented the story’s most weighty twist, ruining it utterly. The insane character sets in motion the meaningless death of Coco. I mean, if the cover hadn’t been there to set it into my mind that the Holy Mother scene was locked in from the beginning as a pivotal moment in the story, I would even say that Coco’s death seemed like something you as the author wrote in more because you felt like you had to than because it made sense in the plot—that it felt contrived.

If I’m not being perfectly clear, let me try a bit harder: it doesn’t bother me an ounce that Coco died. What bothers me is that she died not because she made a real mistake, and not because “that’s just the way things are now”, but (it feels like to me) because at this point, it’s like you and/or Bob are set on having every sane character die no matter what.

After Hunt Them, part of me really didn’t want to open up Guide Them. I can handle darkness and sadness, mind (I love both, in fact), but this is really getting excessive in a boring sort of way. If another story in this series comes out, I don’t think I’d bother reading it—why take the time, when I can be all but sure that it’s going to play out like all of the rest of these?

Sure, there might be interesting characters. There were here, after all. But they’re just going to die by the end, and odds are that the deaths aren’t going to feel artistic or meaningful. Past the characters, each of these stories, again, follows roughly the same mold in terms of plot, so there’s not much to look forward to there. Beyond that… what? The writing is good, but it’s not so incredible that it can make me want to keep reading on its own—especially considering that I haven’t been fully satisfied by a twist yet.

One last thing before I give my overarching thoughts. It’s (I imagine purposefully) not yet been covered in this set of fics, but the hints seem to indicate that something went wrong with unicorn magic, and using it is what turned folks into the first zombies. For my own edification, am I near the mark with that?


Conclusion:

Here’s what I’m going to suggest, assuming you’re going to make more (or help Bob make more) stories in this series:

1.) Don’t ruin the twist with your cover image. Granted, the commissions you’ve been having done are amazing, but what I would recommend is that, if you’re getting a picture of the big reveal, you put it in the story and use something more generic for the actual cover. You won’t draw in quite so many readers, but you’ll entertain the ones you do get a heck of a lot more. And in general, you may not want to be quite so forward with your twists within the actual narratives—again, I would have seen Octavia’s secret coming a mile away even without the cover image, she was letting on about it so strongly in the dialogue. It feels bad when I have all the information that the characters do but can easily figure something out from it that they apparently can’t.

2.) Let a sane major character leave the story alive, and not empty-hooved. Maybe don’t even introduce an insane character into the mix in the first place. Really step back from your stories, look at the formula, and recognize that you have to do more than change the variables to keep this series feeling fresh.

3.) Internalize the differences between tragedy and irony. Edit after posting: I've only just thought to check, which is silly of me, but I now see that none of these stories (excepting Feed Them) are actually tagged as tragedies. In spite of that, these stories all read like tragedies to me—the narratives all seemed to be trying to give the deaths that particular kind of weight. I think it would be better if you didn't only half go for it.

That said, this is perhaps the strongest entry into the series, its major flaws pretty much all revolving around its ending, whereas the other stories had issues woven throughout. The characters were excellent, the plot was strong for the most part, and had the ending not been what it was, I would have been eager for more.

Good luck with whatever’s left to come.

i.imgur.com/XQ3L6Jj.png
-- Burraku_Pansa, WRITE's Trainer Admin and Resident Namesmith

5705902
Mechanics and Style:
Yeah, I have to agree with most everything you offered. The only one I'm 'meh' about is the song, which (in all honesty) I didn't try my hardest on. It doesn't help that I haven't tried to write poetry with any level of seriousness in over a decade. There's a reason I tend not to try it in my stories that much.

Characterization and Plot:
The similarities are definitely there, and I suppose it's due to our lock on of the theme that 'the ponies are more dangerous than the zombies,' which is something Bob insisted on maintaining. I fully acknowledge that the covers spoil the twists – while that was probably a mistake, I simply couldn't resist the temptation when commissioning the artwork to show those scenes. Call it a weakness in willpower. As to the deaths, we don't know if Spike or Spitfire died so I at least have that to add to my defense (flimsy though it may be). Regardless, in the minds of Bob and I the deaths were purposeful and most certainly not contrived, but I guess after seeing it so many times you've come to the conclusion that we're just writing these stories for the sake of trying to come up with ways to kill good ponies. That isn't the case at all, but I'm only not sure how to counter the conclusion.

Despair was always intended to be a major theme in these stories, but you raise some good points about them being a bit too commonplace. I may have to keep this in mind for the future stories, although two of them are locked and won't be changing their methods due to the overarching nature of them. Those, you may not care for if you were to read them.

Let's see, you asked a few direct questions, so let me look for them...

Why doesn’t she catch that he just told them he wants to become a zombie?

I'm not exactly sure of which scene you're referencing here. He hints at this in both meetings, and she actually did catch on that they worshiped the zombies. Perhaps I just didn't describe the moment properly?

One last thing before I give my overarching thoughts. It’s (I imagine purposefully) not yet been covered in this set of fics, but the hints seem to indicate that something went wrong with unicorn magic, and using it is what turned folks into the first zombies. For my own edification, am I near the mark with that?

So few people picked up on the hints for this kind of thing, so I'm glad you've asked. For the sake of avoiding spoilers for any future comment readers I can't give out specifics, but I can say that you're thinking in the right direction. Not necessarily accurate, but definitely the right direction. One of the planned future stories will be elaborating on this.

Conclusions:
1) I already addressed the cover art issue above.

And in general, you may not want to be quite so forward with your twists within the actual narratives

I must admit, my work with Octavia's dialogue was feeling a bit too thick as I wrote it, but I wasn't confident in my doubts (if that phrase makes any sense at all). It's certainly something I'll be keeping in mind in the future stories.

2)

Let a sane major character leave the story alive, and not empty-hooved. Maybe don’t even introduce an insane character into the mix in the first place. Really step back from your stories, look at the formula, and recognize that you have to do more than change the variables to keep this series feeling fresh.

That butts heads heavily with the 'despair' theme that we've been going for, and given the outcome of the remaining four stories has been largely decided upon, it may be tricky to handle this. I can think of ways to alter one of them to achieve this, and there's a second one that uses a very different formula from the others but still isn't at all happy. The other two are hopeless in this regard, one because the events have already been mandated by the events of the previous stories and the other because... well, in that instance I can't say for spoiler reasons. I'll have to have a discussion with Bob about what, if anything, we can do about this for the other two.

3) Noted.


All in all, this is exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. Thanks a ton!

5706137

I'm not exactly sure of which scene you're referencing here. He hints at this in both meetings, and she actually did catch on that they worshiped the zombies.

I'd meant the first meeting. The first time the term "Blessed" comes up is in this context: "I am the Lowly Father, Prophet of the Holy Mother and Guide of the Children, who hopes one day to become Blessed and ascend to the glorious state of being that is the Holy Father." It just felt a tad odd to me that once he explained what he meant by "Blessed", Coco and Babs seemed to only focus on how he said he was surprised they weren't zombies, failing to make the connection that he said he wished to become one just a second ago.

But that area of my review was pretty much beat-by-beat reactions as I was reading the story. I felt it was made up for, for the most part, by how they do indeed catch Father's later meaning about what they'd have to do to come on the ship. Just, for the conversation up until that point, it felt like they were idiots.

That butts heads heavily with the 'despair' theme that we've been going for

As you say, you can go with an entirely different basis for your plot and still wind up with story that centers on despair. And I think you might've mistaken what I meant by "empty-hooved". If Coco hadn't died at the end of this story, Babs still would have been dead. Coco would have her life, and maybe a purpose (something like "leave this place however I can and find somewhere green") even if unattainable, but would still have been utterly alone and likely despondent. In essence, I'd even go so far as to say you saved her from despair by killing her off—where she would have probably endured a lifetime (or at least, like, a month or two) of disappointment and loneliness, she died quickly. If despair was the goal, why end it for the sake of horror? Anything is better than every story in this series resetting to nothingness by the end.

And happy to have helped. I'll be around for the stories that break the mold, certainly.

5706235
I didn't misinterpret at all, I just know that one of the planned stories has a set-in-stone ending that doesn't allow for adjustment, and so is doomed with this flaw. One of the planned stories is also locked and will definitely be a bad ending, but at the same time will have that sense of purpose you suggest. The third story is also locked in, but I may be able to tweak the ending to give it a since of continuity, aka not "resetting to nothingness by the end," as you put it. There's really only one story that has a good chance to be heavily modified, and I've already developed a way to do it. Now I just need to get Bob on board with the idea.

Well that sucked majorly, letting those insane jackasses win like that. Fucker. I don't like ANYONE or any story that lets the morons, insane or bad win and/or get away with deeds like that.

Shove it up your fucking ass.

Congratulations! You and I are apparently the only FiMFiction writers who wrote stories with both Coco and Babs as main characters!

7085510
And someday, you'll finish yours and I can read it for review! Yes, it's on my list.

7085589

Can't wait for that! Well, your reading it, not finishing it.

7155288
Yes, it's her. No, Blueblood can't talk to her. He's just gone nuts.

Is their any plans to continue this series or is it dead?

8069720
The plans exist, but I cannot say with any confidence that I'll ever get to writing the continuation. And to be honest, I'm not sure people would like how it is supposed to end.

That said, I still welcome expansion written by other authors whenever they feel the desire to do so.

8069858
Well, if you ever do or hear word of someone continuing it, please do PM me and let me know!

The world was darkness.

•_• whoah. Its funny, I was actually speculating a half-bad-half-good ending, but I suppose I shouldn't focus on the carrot when there's a bus-sized stick right behind it.

5929701
fuck off

Will there be a finale to the Them series?

10083758
I do have an ending in mind. The real question is when/if I'll ever get to it.

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