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Coyote de La Mancha


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With the help of The Apparatus, Queen Twilight Sparkle had gained knowledge from innumerable divergent worlds. Using this newfound mystical power, she had conquered her world, united its varied peoples, and brought peace and prosperity to all through her own benignly neglectful rule.

Then Cadence, Princess of Love and the last of Twilight's family and friends, destroyed the Crystal Palace.

Along with everyone inside.

Why?

(Content Note: While the red tags are technically accurate, this is first and foremost a work of speculative fiction. It is not a gore fest.)


(Chronology Note: The crux of this tale takes place outside of continuity, in several of infinite possible futures. Its driftwood may touch upon any number of dimensional shores.)

A Queen of Light and Darkness story.


This tale was strongly inspired by Larry Niven’s All the Myraid Ways. Though I only read it once many years ago, it left a powerful impression on me, and you can definitely see that in this story.

Special thanks also to B_Munro, for recognizing the stories’ similarities and telling me who wrote that splendid story I’d read as a child, and what the name of it was.


Due to the nature of the discussion which follows this tale, there are comments - including mine - which may contain spoilers to varying degrees (depending on what you consider an actual spoiler). The more serious spoilers are behind the usual black boxes, of course. :twilightsmile:

Chapters (4)
Comments ( 54 )
Comment posted by Krack-Fic Kai deleted Nov 20th, 2019

So, you're saying that knowledge is bad and learning to much will cause you to commit suicide.

9951730
No. But thank you for playing. :twilightsmile:

Ri2
Ri2 #4 · Nov 20th, 2019 · · · IV... ·

9951730
More like the fact that if there's an infinite number of realities then nothing you do matters since somewhere in some other world another you has already done it or did something differently, free will doesn't exist, and all variables are simultaneously true and untrue.

This seems an obvious labor of love, and I thank you for sharing it! Technique-wise it suffers from a fairly talky and exposition-heavy first chapter; I'd like to see the Apparatus introduced a bit more organically.

I have to disagree with the conclusion drawn by your resolution in the strongest possible terms, but that's independent of the craft question and more a question of whether it would be in character or not for simple knowledge of the truth of infinite universes to cause immediate murder-filled psychotic breaks. It is...within the realm of possibility that isolated individuals might have that reaction, but to imply that this mental state is common enough to create any kind of noticeable pattern seems dubious, and Cadance doing in her entire staff and her daughter feels unthinkable outside of actual compulsion. Here it's justified as a product of what seems to be little more than cosmic angst and super-hypothetical trans-universe...survivor-guilt? So we're kind of left with AU:everyone is vulnerable to murder insanity, which leaves me a bit cold. Am I missing something?

Regardless, you've got a good knack for memorable scene-setting. Can't "like" for the reasons listed above, but I do thank you for sharing!

Good to see this Akane turned out better than other Apples who have borne the name.

Hmm. I do wonder if the Scouts ever found the Triptych Continuum.

Twilight citing our pop culture is a strange blend of unexpected levity and a symbol of how distant she's grown from her subjects. And another thing she now has in common with Discord.

...punctuated by the idiosyncratic gibberish he would spout as though it were an in-joke only he could understand.

Precisely.

Oh, that's why GMBlackjack did the whole "bounded multiverse" thing in Songs of the Spheres. I do have to side with Skywriter in terms of the implications feeling overblown—if nothing else, I'd have expected one of the Scouts to have brought this up over the years—but it was a fascinating spectacle, especially the end. Thank you for it.

Don’t be so sad, Twilight, please… there are worlds beyond this one.

I'm getting serious Dark Tower vibes, almost a direct quote.

Every day, until the news came that Princess Cadence had destroyed her own castle… with herself, her daughter, her grand-children, and everypony else still within.

Okay well this entire thing is pretty dark, but also thought-provoking... You're taking the other end of the spectrum I did, and I find it fascinatng. Let's see how this goes.

-GM, master of icons.

The Princess Just Can't Stop Making Friends.

-GM, master of NEVER.

This is amazing. Hands down, applause, Legendary Favorite, recommendations - THIS is a story. A powerful, compelling, dark, philosophical story told through the visage of our princess. There was sorrow, hope, and then sorrow again. From a writing standpoint, this is excellent. I suppose the comments that the first chapter are exposition-heavy are true, but I think this is just that kind of story. It's told less like a narrative and more like a fairy tale, which works well. Granted, one of those darker fairy tales, but y'know.

As for the concept itself, yes, thank you for understanding how truly terrifying Infinity is. I specifically avoid writing of true infinity at all costs because of these problems - if I give true infinity justice, I have to bring up the position that it makes things super meaningless. And even if a majority of characters won't go for this right away, there are enough. Enough that it will have to be addressed. Enough that the point of the story itself will be undercut by the oppressive reality of EVERYTHING.

9952001

Quite. Even if this story takes it to an extreme (and I"m not sure it does) the fact of the matter is that the 'truly endless' idea is strong enough and hard enough to argue against that it will heavily undercut any other theme present in the work. SotS is about choice, stories, decisions, and fate. In true infinity, there IS no fate. Everything just is. On the small scale, things can matter, if you take self-definition as correct (which I do not, but plenty of people do, so it's very well shown in story). But the larger you make your scales in true infinity, the more it becomes obvious how much everything is sand on a beach. Save one world, you didn't save it. Fail, you succeeded. But was it really you? Maybe not, but even in your sphere of influence there are dozens of worlds that experience the exact same thing every few minutes...

SotS was made as big as it had to be. Big enough that the oppressive size of existence could still bring about dark thoughts and incredible power. But small enough so that it was possible for acts to influence the whole. Small enough that a story could be told about all of it.

And yes you are totally right that this fic contradicts everything too much to be included in the League of Sweetie Belles. I can't take it at face value, since that ruins LSB's story, even with the Endless aspect of it. Remember, Cinder just gets sent back, not to somewhere else. And if I included it by virtue of saying "true infinity does not exist", then I do another disservice: instead of ruining my theme, I ruin the theme of this story.

While this Twilight no doubt exists somewhere within the Dark Tower's realm a few times over, I will not do her the disservice of taking her out of the powerful story in which she finds herself.

9951855

Allow me to try to explain this a little better: the feeling that everything is pointless and that everything is permissible has many implications and causes. An increase in violent crime may not be one of them that we can show in our world, but in a world of true infinity, that will definitely happen somewhere. In true infinity, that above world described to us in the text absolutely, definitely exists.

The question remains: is this anything remotely like what we'd experience in our world?

Violent crime I am unsure of. It might make people more prone to exploding, it might not, I'm not sure. But one thing it does do is drive up suicide rates. Our planet (at least in first-world countries) has spent a long time over the last few generations rejecting previous-held ideas of purpose and meaning. Religion loses its spark, faith in government institutions begins to dwindle, and the impossibility of leaving a legacy drives people to think things are pointless. Some people fine refuge in the idea of the self-definition of meaning, but to many (including myself) that fall flat because... well, if we can all define meaning for ourselves, what right do I have to say that it's wrong for that other guy to steal? lie? murder? He self-defined it to be that way. But if we accept true infinity, self-defined meaning is all there is, since all other "absolutes" or "bars" by which to measure ourselves would change and be inconsistent due to the endless. In Infinity, we have God here... but not God there. We have a powerful human institution that raises to the stars and achieves true immortality, or men are truly dark inside. On the small scale, where people don't think of the everything, they can live as though something other than their own personal whims provides meaning.

But if we truly accept absolute infinity, what are we left with?

Would this cause violent crimes to spike? To be fair, probably not. But this kind of thinking and ideas is already proven to, at the very least, drive up suicide rates.

As human beings, we crave meaning. We want to know why we are here. And if there is truly absolutely everything, there is no reason why we're here.

That's what this story is playing off of.

To the author, again, absolutely amazing. I'll be spreading this around to people to help explain why I, personally, avoided this trope.

-GM, master of Almost Infinity.

I don’t know why, but I feel Twilight just barely missed the point...

9952697

but in a world of true infinity, that will definitely happen somewhere. In true infinity, that above world described to us in the text absolutely, definitely exists.

I hear what you're saying, which is why I said the AU thing. Sure, somewhere out there is a version of reality where ponies are so all-fired fragile that the mere knowledge of infinite universes causes them to descend into absolute psychotic kill-self-and-everyone-else murder sprees. Somewhere out there is a universe where Pinkie bakes everyone into cupcakes and Dash grinds up foals to make rainbows. Somewhere out there is a universe where hearing the word "mattress" causes ponies to put buckets over their heads until you sing Jerusalem at them. Sure, it's possible, but that doesn't mean these characters are recognizable to me, either as the specific individuals they're named after or as members of a species and society that makes any kind of sense to me.

Shrug, YMMV. I get the feeling it's a personal taste issue. I have some of the same problems with Fallout:Equestria, and I know plenty of people are all over that like white on rice.

I love your enthusiasm for this author's work!

So do you credit Larry Niven anywhere? This is his "All the Myriad Ways", with Ponies.

I actually find this more believable with Ponies than humans: as Starlight and others show, it doesn't take much to get a Pony to descend into crazed supervillainy. :pinkiecrazy: Although in Niven's story it was the scouts themselves, being most familiar with the multiverse, that were the most susceptible to madness: why do they seem immune in this story?

I'd note that multiple universe theory is based on _quantum_ divergences, not macro-scale events: the world splitting when, say, Julius Caesar decides whether to cross that bridge or not is a fictional convention, not based on actual physics at all. Rather, there is a near-infinite number of universes already with him at the bridge, and in some of them, he will indeed not cross, but the universe will have diverged before then, long enough for quantum variations to add up to macro changes, It's not _you_ that makes all the decisions, its more that the universe has created enough you's that some of them will be different enough to make different choices. (Of course, some people do argue that human consciousness itself is a quantum phenomenon, but personally that strikes me as the intersection of two types of woo-woo, "quantum is magic" woo-woo, and "human consciousness is magical" woo-woo.)

UC

Oh i get where this is going.
Although... the people with the truly high education should know better than to assume actually infinite amount of worlds based on finite evidence.

9952697
Personally, I believe in Alternate Universes dwelling in an infinite space, that reality splinters off for every choice we make in our lives, both big and small.

Here, I'm a lazy, somewhat depressed wannabe writer. Somewhere else, I'm probably a successful writer who likes to jog in her spare time. Heck, there's probably a universe or two where I'm a guy, a secret agent, or a giraffe, and yeah, that sounds kind of cool and depressing when I start dwelling on the many 'What Ifs' out there, which happens a lot more than I like to admit :twilightblush: You wanna know how many 'What Ifs' I go through in a day? I've got R-rated stuff going on in here 20% of the time :derpyderp1::derpyderp2:

But I was born into this universe/reality/dimension, so this is the life I currently live. I think about the 'What Ifs', yes. About the things that I Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda, but I can't go back and change things, so I learn from them instead. The fact that I likely did do it right somewhere else is a depressing thought, but those Mes aren't the Me that I am right here, right now. That I understand and is what keeps me grounded, keeps me from being depressed ALL the time, keeps me from pondering about the super-scary-existential terror lying right below the surface, because I spent a large majority of my life succumbing to it in my early years.

Nothing is more paralyzing than the thought that you will die one day and you have no idea what will happen next.

But I stopped thinking about that because I was just sick and tired of being afraid. Do I believe in Infinity? Yes. Am I gonna let it rule me? Not anymore.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way....

Wow, that turned into a life-affirming rant o_O;; Wasn't aiming to do that....

(Friendship remains magical, of course. :twilightsmile: )

UC
UC #19 · Nov 21st, 2019 · · · IV... ·

Okay.
Well, the existence of an actually infinite number of worlds requires more evidence that "well, there are a lot of worlds and they are all different".
But let's suppose that there are infinite worlds and we do know it.
Obviously, any system of ethics or motivation or meaning that considers "everything that exists", independent of your self, falls flat. You cannot change the world. The existence is everything, and everything exists.
But systems of ethics and meaning and motivation that are oriented on oneself, in any way, still work. For example, if you care about yourself not dying and being happy, and I don't mean "anyone that looks and thinks like you", but yourself, the one who is having this subjective experience, you will still be able to care about that in an infinite existence. Most people care about that.
How about caring about your loved ones? Existence is infinite, but even then, you only have one mother and one father. Or everyone in your world? Or, how about extending that to "everyone you are directly aware exists" or "everyone you can reach" ? That basically functionally brings us back to the "normal" utilitarianism. Almost. Kinda. Yes, before the entirety of existence, those things are absolutely nothing, but not before you.
"Normal" virtue ethics don't even stop working in the infinite existence, they hardly feel the difference. You can still live a virtuous life. You can still take care of afflicted, avoid killing and stealing, donate whatever fraction of your wealth you want to donate, etc. Libertarian ethics also work fine.

How about trying to transcend infinity? Sure, an infinite amount of copies of you are currently trying to do so in every possible way, and are obviously failing to actually influence everything in existence because you remain suspiciously uninfluenced by any of them. The system is evidently impossible to cheat. But, well, who says you should care? You'll never know if you don't try.


9952697

Damn, Infinity sounds addicting, never really considered that. I suppose I always depended on my puny human brain never being able to comprehend the concept keeping me safe from getting that far gone.

9952697
Thank you so very much! I had been avoiding reading your work before now, frankly, because I didn’t want to risk being too influenced by it while writing this. Now, at last, I can. :twilightsmile:

And yes, I was most certainly thinking of Roland when I wrote that line.

As for the violent crime aspect, I confess I went out on a little bit of a limb there. I don’t have any evidence of causation between a person having everything that gave their life meaning provably stripped from them, and the potential for violence. But from what little I have observed, it felt reasonable, so here we are.

Thank you again for your insightful words, all of them.

And now, speaking of influences...

9953050
No, I hadn’t. I read that story once when I was about 8 or 9, and couldn’t remember anything about its author or enough about the story itself to look it up while I was writing this. Thank you for solving that particular mystery for me; I certainly will credit him now. :yay:

That being said, I don’t think this is just a rewrite of his tale with ponies, though I was certainly (and obviously) very strongly inspired. Looking his story over again (and thank you for the link!), there was essentially just short-sighted and broken spontaneity in the motiveless crimes of his world. The implication being that the only reason people didn’t give in to their more destructive impulses was a fear or consequence, or the illusion of an absolutism of morality. And that without those illusions people were likely to shatter, becoming disorganized-style serial killers. The world and its problem were the main character, the humans and their response to stimuli were more of a vehicle to show that problem.

In this tale, Twilight was the main focus, her world’s problem merely the backdrop. I sought to explore not only the relationship between concrete proof of infinite realities and cosmic nihilism (through the eyes of Twilight Sparkle) but also some of the possible different responses to each, and why each of those responses might exist. Some of those possible responses, of course, I didn’t show... for example, while it might seem funny for me to say it after this tale’s various “endings,” I don’t see this Twilight (these Twilights?) becoming a quadruped Rick Sanchez. But that is another possible response to the “if everything is real how can anything matter” koan that such discoveries would present.

I haven’t read much of the current infinite reality theories, so I will take your word on how the quantum events have been observed. This is, instead, about my infinite probability theory, which revolves around both will and chance, which I find especially more interesting for stories. As theories go, it is therefore just chock full of “woo-woo,” natch. But this is more a work of philosophy than science, so I think I can be forgiven. :twilightsmile:

I can definitely see your point regarding the fragility of ponies (with Starlight as a prime example), though that wasn’t an intentional aspect of the story and I’m not sure to what extent I would agree with it...

9953057
9951855
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9951730
Someone said at one point that when we write about ponies we write about people, and I think that is certainly true. Everyone has some way in which they are fragile. And for some, that fragility is associated with needing something absolute to give them meaning. Not many, I would think. A vast minority. But that is what we’re talking about, too. The transformation wasn’t sudden (or there would have been a discernible pattern much sooner than twenty years - and even then, Twilight almost missed it), nor was it vast (or else every university, library, news stand and book store would have been a slaughterhouse). But, for a very, very few, it could be there. And for those under tremendous pressure, grief, or desperation, it could be more likely to take its toll.

But as peace reigns and education expands, the population increases before leveling out. Ponyville had become a thriving metropolis. Universities were a worldwide event, and disease and starvation were things of the past. So, even the most uncommon event (such as bizarre acts of suicide/homicide) become more noticeable and more frequently encountered, even though they are not more common per capita.

Twilight, meanwhile... to me, what matters is not that there are infinite choices she makes, but why she makes each one. She is the main character in the tale, and the choices she makes are hers. Her branching evolution, and the choices behind it, is something that I wanted to really bring out in it. That, and the idea that if there is infinity (and there seems to be), so long as there is room for despair, there is also room for infinite laughter.

Which, in turn, probably shows my response to cosmic nihilism. :rainbowlaugh:

9953058
As close to a universal constant as you can get. :twilightsmile:

One of my favorite comic books ever was (of course) a What-If in Marvel Comics. It was What if Doctor Strange Had Become a Disciple of Dormammu? In one scene, the Ancient One and his disciples are surrounded by a seeming eternity of evil spirits and magical attacks, all trying to break through the golden shield that surrounds them. And the disciples, understandably, are freaking out.

But the Ancient One is completely calm, reminding them that even a single spark of light against an eternity of darkness is still light.

And yes, the barrier holds against the forces of evil. Because light is always light, regardless of how much darkness surrounds it.

To me, that also describes the magic behind FiM.

9953105

How about trying to transcend infinity? Sure, an infinite amount of copies of you are currently trying to do so in every possible way, and are obviously failing to actually influence everything in existence because you remain suspiciously uninfluenced by any of them. The system is evidently impossible to cheat. But, well, who says you should care? You'll never know if you don't try.

Indeed. What are cosmic windmills for, if not to be tilted at?

(I was hoping that posting this tale would inspire discussion, and I am delighted that it has. So I answered all of you in one post, in the hopes of continuing to encourage conversation. Hopefully that didn’t violate some netiquette tradition of which I am not aware.)

I had my suspicions earlier, but this chapter confirmed it. The old adage holds that ignorance is bliss. And That's no less true on the verge of the multiverse. While some people are capable of comprehending infinity, it's not the norm to be able to do so. This leaves individuals broken, wondering "What matters?" even close personal friends of mine.

As Rick Sanchez once said, in a rare moment of wisdom for him "The answer is don't think about it."

UC
UC #24 · Nov 21st, 2019 · · · IV... ·

9953180
By the way, your story is absolutely amazing, I think I forgot to mention that somewhere there.
Also, yes, cosmic windmills are definitely for that. https://youtu.be/jFsRX7rj2jY

9953203
I think I’ve never heard that song before. How marvelous. Thank you. :twilightsmile:

EDIT: Okay, now I’m collecting their songs on YouTube. They are so beautiful, thank you again!

I just want to thank you for writing this story. After my many many long months of editing chapter of Song of the Spheres for GM I've come to find and cultivate my own ideas about infinity and what it truly means.

The concept is simple "There is all everything forever always, all the good, bad, pretty ugly and all else you ever do, think of doing, or don't do. All forever always in all the everywhere in all times and places" It's the very furthest extreme of 'infinity' that can be possibly conceived in thought.

Everyone has their own reaction to this concept, ranging from love to hate and all in between, but the most important reaction is the formation of the question. The question itself is as simple as the concept: "If there's everything instead of only some things, why does anything I do matter?"

SOTS is written by a person that is terrified of this question, he's found that he doesn't like what he finds, and so his way to counteract it and find his own purpose is to make a limited version of infinity, one that's finite and while large still has some things over everything. In my time discussing this concept with people, the ones that tend to be less dismissive of it are the religious sorts. They treat infinity with respect and as something that's wrong and terrifying and powerful. I've found that those that are more indifferent to religion or opposed give no more thought to infinity than "that's what it is, I believe in infinity because I'm smart." But never go into detail or really ponder the true potential of the idea.

There's then of course another set of people that simply don't think of infinity at all, they tend to be the less educated more down-to-earth sorts. The very same that were unaffected in your story. Those that would more realistically chat to their friends about their day at work than look up and the stars and replay "what If" countless times in their heads.

As I said, there's countless different reactions, I could name fifty more I've encountered and still not cover everything, but the philosophy I side with is akin with Speckle up there actually.

While I do believe in true infinity, and try to give it the highest of respect as it it a powerful idea, I treat my own experiences; the subjective this version of myself as the one that matters most to this version of myself. I understand and consider that there's truly no end to the variation of who I am. In one life I'm a simple factory worker, in another I'm a family man and a father, in another I'm a postal worker, sanitation, explorer, movie star. Consequently there's no end to the worlds where I was alive but due to my actions I've died again and again and again. But while those people share my name they aren't truly who I am. They are a conceptual theory with no tangible connection to me or physical effect on what I do or experience. They are no more me than I am my mother.

If I am to roll a 6-sided die in an infinite universe, there is a 100% chance that all sides are rolled, but that's when you're looking at the scale of all. on the more workable scale, I only rolled a... looks like a five right here. (Yes I rolled an actual die to determine the end of that sentence. XD) If the infinite multiverse were to be represented by an office space with each universe a cubicle. Six workers just rolled a die each and each of them got a different result. I'm not omniscient, so I was only inside one cubicle when the six dice were rolled. The cubicle I was in rolled a five.

It's honestly a matter of perspective, to me there's 7 billion people on earth, but I only realistically interact with a few of them. less than a percent of a percent of a percent of the human race. It doesn't matter if there's 7 billion, 7 million, 7 thousand, or 7 infinities, the fact is they don't change who i am or what I do.

Then of course there's that pesky question of free will. "If there's universes where I do all the options, how did I make any decision at all?" And to this somewhat more complicated question I posit that having more options doesn't mean your choice is meaningless. if all of me simultaneously chose to purchase all cars in all the universe I'd still have chosen a Delorean DMC-12. Other mes chose differently, but they aren't my concern, I'm only in control of one of me at a time, and that one of me got the BTTF car. Nuts to the others that got all the other cars, or made any other benign or consequential decision, they aren't who this version of my subjective experiences are. I say until you can actually experience those lives for yourself, then they aren't relevant to your life. You could find and marry a version of yourself, and they'd really be no more than just your partner, in the end.

So yeah, sorry I didn't talk about your story much, but I feel like I'd do little more than praise it for being a conceptual idea fully realized and didn't linger too long. You had an idea, you explored it to a satisfying level, and you got out. easily in my two five stories on all of fimfiction. Even if the ideas presented don't line up with my personal beliefs.

Thanks for writing it. Now do a time travel story.

9953251

In my time discussing this concept with people, the ones that tend to be less dismissive of it are the religious sorts. They treat infinity with respect and as something that's wrong and terrifying and powerful. I've found that those that are more indifferent to religion or opposed give no more thought to infinity than "that's what it is, I believe in infinity because I'm smart." But never go into detail or really ponder the true potential of the idea.

There's a difference between thinking about it and overthinking it. Especially considering we have no evidence of any sort of multiverse besides math suggesting there might be one. As long as there is no concrete evidence, the conversation will just be how much people fear an unprovable concept. Which ironically seems to correlate with the usual attitudes of religious people and atheists.

9953197
Its not really Comprehending infinity, its more like coming to terms with it and coping. Getting used to the idea that, in the most real sense, nothing matters because its A, been done, B, being done, C, will be done again, and D, over done. But coping doesn't have to be difficult if you take a bit of a narcissistic viewpoint. It does matter, because I said so, and because its something I want.

I've tried several times to truly comprehend infinity, and not just the representation when you see the symbol. And it makes me sick to the stomach whenever I get to a certain point. It is big. It is terrifying. It is not meant to be known to a brain made of finite meat.

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It doesn't have to be real in order to think about it, people don't actually think there's going to be a zombie invasion when they make they zombie plan. But you must treat it as real for the sake of conversation and discussion. I'm not sure anyone actually believes there's a multiverse out there, just that they like to (or don't) consider it from time to time.

9954432
That wasn't necessarily the point I was trying to get across in my big monologue up there. The main thing I was talking about was the difference between being afraid of infinity and not being afraid.

9952001
My thoughts are also basically this, with the addition that Twilight not continuing to make new friends seems out of character. Like, she could have at least spent one day a week mingling with folks. Plus, rather than jumping to the extreme of murder or suicide, I feel like most creatures would react like Morty did and just waste a bunch of time watching TV.

9953050

So do you credit Larry Niven anywhere? This is his "All the Myriad Ways", with Ponies.

THANK YOU!

As I read the last chapter, I realized what this story was, and that I had read this before in the view of a police officer investigating a case, but I could not remember who/what/where.

9953178

Someone said at one point that when we write about ponies we write about people, and I think that is certainly true.

While it is certainly the case that the ponies we know and love are basically people in pony suits, any time we write a story about any supposedly alien character, the story has to be understandable by people. That means that the alien character has to be in some way shape or form be a person.

In Babylon 5, the Narn and the Centauri were basically Rome and Greece.
In Star Trek, Spock, despite supposedly an alien, was basically idealized Western philosophy of enlightened knowledge.
In Schlock Mercenary, Schlock himself is basically shown as alien, and the other characters even comment that he is the most alien thing they are likely to ever encounter, and yet he is still about 75 to 80% recognizable as a gun hungry human.

9954621
With respect, Twilight did continue to make friends. She connected with the Scouts, despite her determination to stop making connections for the pain that such connections brought. Even in the height of her desperation, even when trying to exile herself from everyone else, she couldn’t stop being who she was.

And most beings did either ignore the situation, watch TV, or whatever. The vast majority, in fact. Had a high percentage of the population responded in such extremes, it would have been caught much more quickly, and the pattern would have been such that it would not have taken someone with Twilight’s brain and resources to uncover it.

9951855

…So we're kind of left with AU: everyone is vulnerable to murder insanity, which leaves me a bit cold. Am I missing something?

Thank you for asking. And well, to my perception, yes.

Recall that it took around twenty years of exposure to “proof” of infinity for the police to feel overwhelmed… and then consider how many deaths we would actually be talking about for that to happen.

Equestria is not normally prone to the kind of violent crime rates of, say, USA cities in our own world. I think that much has been shown in the series. And Queen Twilight brought forth an age of extreme peace and prosperity, at least for a time. So, let’s figure what the population of the area might have been like by the time that Ponyville had become a ‘growing and thriving metropolis’ rather than a small town, and go from there.

If we assume for the moment that Ponyville only has one million ponies living there, then if a solid one percent of the population went mad and committed mystery crimes, you would see a sudden upspike of ten thousand such deadly crimes. Even in St Louis, Missouri, which is one of the most violent places to live in the US (crime index of 1 out of 100), that would almost triple their overall violent crime rate, let alone the rate of murders and suicides (St Louis having a population of around one million).

But that’s St Louis. Ponyville would be one of the safest places to live in the world, in all likelihood, and would have a much better crime index (95+). And, to match, a much lower population of police per capita… even as it had a higher city population overall to match the golden age of the Pax Equestria. Also, a population of one million is hardly what I would call a ‘growing and thriving metropolis’ by modern standards.

So, let us say for the sake of this argument that Ponyville’s population is around two million when Twilight hears the news (Los Angeles having a population of about four million).

It would not be anywhere near one percent who responded to the idea of infinity in such a nihilistic fashion, especially at first.

If we assume that our story takes place at the height of this philosophical crisis (which I think is reasonable), and that perhaps 0.01% of the population has responded horrifically to the scenario this year, then in the last year alone mysterious crimes of homicide and self-destruction have increased by a staggering two hundred events.

To those of us who live in major US cities, that may not sound like much. But if you live in such a city, you also live in a place with a crime index of probably 10 or less (again, out of 100, with 100 being the safest). Your law enforcement is accustomed to dealing with violent events by the thousands per year… and even then, if that kind of an upswing in fatalities happened in any US city it would be alarming, to say the least.

In a largely peaceful culture such as Equestria, where such things are considered rare and strange, it’s going to be completely overwhelming. The police force simply isn’t going to be ready for it.

Of course, even that response rate would be rather high at first. Death is a very drastic response, by most standards. But recall that the response rate wasn’t that high at first. It wasn’t even noticeable. It was only that high when Twilight got involved, years after the effect started.

So consider (in this example) if the response rate had gone up by two hundred this year, but “only” by fifty last year (0.0025% of the population), and then by (let’s say) ten or less the year before that, and then by decreasing but still mystifying numbers going back maybe ten years, maybe twenty years, the numbers are so small by then but the crimes so bizarre that now when you look at it again you can’t be certain…

Yeah. The cops are freaking out. They just aren’t equipped to handle this. Not in numbers, and not in training.

Meanwhile, the snooty nobility is safely insulated from it all. Even if they hear of it, why should they be concerned? If the peasants are having problems, and killing each other or snuffing themselves off… well, it is a ghastly affair, after all, but such matters are why there is a constabulary in the first place. Besides, the nobles have another, far more pressing matter at hand.

War.

At first, there were small resistance bands, here and there throughout the world. Now, nations beneath their rule are beginning to arm themselves, to mobilize. And while the words have not yet reached Canterlot – why would they? – there is a clarion call common among all these uprisings and resistances, in various phrasings and in various languages:

There are worlds in which we are free.

And as for Cadence, those people suffering from traumatizing grief would, IMO, be more susceptible to breakdown. Especially over time, if they were not recovering. Twilight wasn’t the only one who had suffered loss, after all. With Shining’s death, Cadence’s loss ran far deeper and was far more traumatic… and she had been struggling in silence for a long, long time. With the level of magical power that the Princess of Love possessed, her suicide wouldn’t require an extended action. Only a momentary break, a flash of lost perspective and terrible desperation.

If they had all been human, and Cadence had been going for a bottle of pills or a weapon, she could have been talked down. Her daughter would have had time to help her see what she was doing, get her to disarm, and get her help. But Cadence wasn’t human, and she wasn’t using instrumentality. She was an ancient alicorn. Her mind was a supernova, and in an instant of damaged reasoning she set it off like a bomb.

All it took was a moment.

I had thought about detailing things out more in Dividing Infinity, but I ultimately determined that it would bog things down too much, making it too long and distracting from the central story I wanted to tell. I suppose it could be argued that I sacrificed too much detail about the world and its problems, but I wanted to keep the focus tightly on Twilight and her personal journey… keeping the option to focus on other things later, in other stories.

Ultimately, I think there was no option here that did not involve sacrifice. So, I sacrificed describing the world’s struggles in detail, relying upon implication instead. And I do think it works better that way, overall.

Meanwhile, that also means there are plenty of other stories to write: about various Twilights, Scout teams, and even kingdoms and empires within this framework. (I would be delighted if other authors also wanted to write some of those stories, but while I am hopeful I’m not holding my breath.) Some of them I already have sketched out. But for this piece, I wanted to write a fairy tale that would polymorph its way through speculative fiction and into a philosophical discussion, and I think that in that much I have succeeded.

Thank you again for having the courtesy of asking, rather than simply condemning the story out of hand. And for that matter, thank you for your comments overall. I really appreciate your feedback. :twilightsmile:

9953251
Okay, first of all, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts in such detail. And please don’t feel like you need to talk about my stories anywhere near as much as the ideas behind them. I wrote this story in particular in the hopes that it would spark thought and discussion, and I am delighted that it has.

(I mean, sure, I love praise; I’m an egotistical swine. My ego self-inflates, and can mash most action heroes to the wall in the process. But much as it pains me to say it, the story wasn’t about me. :raritywink: )

And if you liked it despite its meaning flying in the face of your own beliefs, well, that is too awesome for words. But, by virtue of its very subject, I can only truly know what the story means to me, not what it will present to anyone else. You were kind enough to share your views with me, and that is beautiful.

So, continuing the discussion, here is what the story (mostly) means to me, and (mostly) what I was trying to say when I drew back my very finite arrow to take aim at an infinite sun.

To me, infinity is all about the possibilities. If I were to meet another Me, my first question might well be “Oh, so you did _____. Cool. How did that work out for you?” And so long as he was not a total jerk (in which case we might have a problem) it would be fine.

(Okay, my first question might also be “Why are we so awesome?” But it has been suggested that I have issues.)

But Dividing Infinity also acknowledges that people will not all respond to the idea of infinity the same way. Many to most will ignore it, or just give it lip service and then go on about their day. Some will contemplate it without a problem.

To me, infinity is very much like a tiger. It is magnificent, awe-inspiring, breathtakingly beautiful. Its potential is not confined to its beauty, of course, and one should respect that. But at the same time, while its beauty does not negate its strength, its power does not negate its beauty.

All that being said, while they would be in a miniscule, infinitesimal minority, there could also be people who respond to infinity by acting out of sheer despair… maybe even by having a psychotic break. And that pattern of response could build over time until the ‘we have minimal violent crime in Equestria’ law enforcement ponies just didn’t know what to do with it. And so, that’s what I showed.

But to me, all that’s just the setting for the story. My primary focus was on Twilight’s journey out of her retreat and back into the light again. Her discovery of not only the implications of infinity and their effects upon some of her subjects, but through them a rediscovery of herself, her capabilities and their implications, and above all her choices and what they signify about who she truly is.

Because to me, when facing infinity… not only is free will not eliminated by infinity, it’s almost literally all we have. That, and random chance.

Imagine three analogs meeting, if you will…

“Hey.”
“Hey.”
“Hey you guys.”
“So. Which one are you?”
“I’m the one that took a left turn.”
“Which one are you?”
“I’m the one that took a right.”
“What about you?”
“Well, I was going to go left, but I got hit by a truck.”
“Oh, dude. Suck.”
“Yeah. Sorry, bro.”
“It’s okay, that’s how I met my wife.”

In an infinite universe, opportunity and choice are therefore all that define us. I’m the Coyote who had my opportunities, and made my choices with them. Much like the example you used with buying a car, that’s how you can distinguish me from the other Coyotes out there. It is literally all that defines me. And it is literally all I need. Because at the end of the day, I’m not only me, I’m the ‘me’ I have chosen to become.

So, I think you captured a lot of the story when you asked, “If there's everything instead of only some things, why does anything I do matter?” Because what I really wanted to explore in this story was Twilight’s reactions to infinity, and through her, some of the (IMO) healthy and unhealthy responses that a person can have to the concept.

And Twilight has a lot of in-her-face infinity to deal with. Infinite lifespan. Infinite power. Because of the first two, infinite possibility. And, ultimately, infinite reality.

And, like a lot of people will when faced head-on with the concept of infinity, Twilight started out by retreating.

She denied the ‘life value’ of her eternal life and shut the world out, as much as her conscience would allow by shutting out the world. I’ve known very loving people who made similar choices after just a few years of repeated loss. In the series, Twilight has shown herself consistently to be motivated by anxiety and self-doubt almost as powerfully as by love and duty, though not as often. And again, she’d endured centuries of loss. But she was still Twilight, and thus she could not exist in a pure social vacuum. Hence, the Scouts and their bond of love.

She denied the implications of her own power and ignored its ramifications. It was easier than admitting that she had become so Discord-like in her power and certainly far less scary. But the rest of the world would not ignore her, placing her on a pedestal of fear instead.

She denied the consequences of her far-reaching influence, desperately trying to avoid the importance of who she had become politically and socially. But in so doing, she allowed for the descendants of those she’d treasured most - and monuments to an era she’d treasured - to be destroyed.

Her retreat was a desperate bid for control, and like most such attempts do when made out of fear and pain… it ultimately failed.

And, when faced with the failure of that desperate act, with the consequences of all of these mistakes, Twilight ultimately began to force herself to stop her retreat. It took the tragedy of Cadence’s death to bring Twilight back out of the protective cocoon she’d wrapped herself in. But, to her credit, she did bring herself out. She recognized her mistakes, and started trying to make things right.

To me, that’s when her hero’s journey began. And facing the world around her, she began, in turn, to face herself, and ultimately to face the infinities she had been hiding from for so long. Her life, her power, her influence… even the implications of Discord and his gleefully nihilistic take on eternity. And, ultimately, the implications of the Apparatus itself.

I think each of the endings is a possible one within the character of Twilight… but none of them are, IMO, inevitable for anyone. Could Twilight, under such strain, do the kind of destruction that some of her selves did? As I showed earlier in the tale, with her level of power it would only take a momentary break, a violent lapse of perspective. The kind of effort one of us might put into hurling a coffee cup against the wall. And everyone has a cracking point.

At the same time: viewed another way, could those destructive decisions be seen, in some realities, as another form of retreat?

I won’t say it’s impossible. Therefore, it is a possibility.

On the other hand, could she, with new resolution and insight, instead determine to be the monarch she should always have been? To truly rule her people and guide them the way they deserve, both out of love for them and in penance for her years of negligence?

Oh, absolutely. In my opinion, that ending is by far the most likely, and one of my two favorites.

My other favorite being, of course, when she ascends.

Because, dude. I am all about the ascension.

The first “ending” is the only one I showed which is independent of will. There are still enough unknowns about the true nature of resiliency that I treated it for narrative purposes as being at least partially a matter of chance. That’s why I included the story about the pegasus and the boxcars: both to be able to include it as a possible response to forced acknowledgement of infinity, and also to avoid a person breaking under psychological strain being condemned by the story as having done so out of personal choice.

(As an aside: people who break under strain are not weak-minded, nor did they choose to become damaged. Saying otherwise is rubbish.)

That initial “break” ending aside (in which Twilight is defined by her tragedy), at the conclusions of the story, Twilight finally, truly, defines herself. She finally takes her destiny by the horns and makes her decisions, good and bad, about how she’s going to handle her various infinities… or if she’s going to handle them at all.

And that/those choice(s) define(s) her. All of her.

Because at the end of the day, she is herself.

And that is all she needs.

9952001
Well, in all fairness, the reveal was Twilight’s, not the readers’. I figure the readers probably figured out what was basically going on somewhere between Sweet Apple Acres and the commissioner’s office. Possibly as early as the intro.

9956370
Always interesting to see different people's opinion on what is or isn't in character. Thanks!

9956371

I'll try my hardest not to address everything you said, because anyone that's known me long enough can attest that I'm very much capable of exactly that and if I didn't stop myself I'd likely write a thesis, XD

I think of all your endings I appreciated most the one where Twilight decided not to let the power get to her and instead connect back with her world and her ponies. It connects with me on a personal level because it's one of willful dissonance. When you get to the point in your life where you think nothing matters and there's no grand design, that all consequences are made of choice instead of a plan. That's when you are almost required to develop a disconnect to keep your own sanity. You need to treat the simple life and complex truths as two different things.

It's no different from treating Santa as being real around kids to keep the magic of the holidays with you even though you don't believe in the jolly man yourself. It's still a lie, sure, but that doesn't matter, you're putting your truth and cynicism of adulthood to spread - and consequentially join in - happiness and good feelings. I certainly enjoy telling my nephew all sorts of crazy untrue things about the world. His smile and laugh are so precious it makes some of the darkness of the world melt away, even if only for a short time.

Now this isn't to say you ignore what's wrong, you disconnect the two, giving respect to both the small moments and the big picture. I think the same applies regardless of scale. I'm a person that under different circumstances would be labelled as a nihilist as I believe there is genuinely nothing that matters. But I've never let that define me. After all, just because the universe is an empty room doesn't mean i can't fill it with things important to me.

And things are important to me, my friends, my youtube videos, the contentedness of strangers I meet in my day to day life. They all mean a lot to me, because those are real, they're right there, I can see them. Our universe may or may not be empty (hard to say, we know so little) but the Earth is filled with people, all living their lives and doing stuff. They vote, they work, they dream and they dance. Human beings do stuff and that's so vitally important to keep in mind when you start getting lost in your own problems imagined or not.

And that's the philosophy I like to have in life: No matter how hopeless I get, or how little there really is or how infinitesimally insignificant I am compared to the vastness of the universe, or even the multiverse. There will always be people going about their days, doing things and having stories. Whether I get depressed contemplating infinity, my neighbour will still mow the grass once a week. And when you take the time to appreciate those small things, it brings a wave of calmness to any ramping insanity you may encounter trapped in your own world and head.

And that's where I'll purposefully stop myself from going on, as much as it hurts since I have all the things to say forever >.< That said though, would you ever be interested in collaborating? I'm a sucker for a good concept, fully realized or not (A Week With Pinkie Pie and The Advisor being examples of this in my own writing) And I'd love to see where we can go if we clack our skulls together on something.

9956933

I'll try my hardest not to address everything you said, because anyone that's known me long enough can attest that I'm very much capable of exactly that and if I didn't stop myself I'd likely write a thesis, XD

Yes, um, I have no idea what that’s like... :moustache::rainbowlaugh:

I do think that it’s vital to not allow one to be defined by one’s circumstance, though that can be difficult at times.

Your post also reminds me a bit of that quote from The Crow, on the opposite end of the spectrum: “Believe me, nothing is trivial.” I think there’s truth in that, as well.

Someone once said that the opposite of a small truth is a falsehood, but the opposite of a great truth is another great truth. I don’t know that I would truly want to paint with a brush that is quite so broad as that, but it is an interesting perspective to play with.

I do think collaborating with you could be awesome, but I recently had a collaboration that ended badly, and am still smarting from it. I would want to finish processing before doing another team-up. Would it offend you if I took a rain check?

*peels self away from keyboard*

9957127

No it wouldn't offend me if you turned down the offer, XD You're the first person I've asked to colab that said it'd be awesome, so you're already doing wonders. That said, we could start with something inconsequential like brainstorming or just chatting, test the waters a bit. PM me if you're interested.

“And if that’s the case,” she whispered, “then nothing… means anything .”

twilight was consumed by her need of knowledge. to fill the whole those around her left behind in their departure from her life. she couldn't cope with her own eternal nature so she secluded herself to the one thing she thought would never abandon her, despite her own infinity: knowledge and power. and those who could acquire that for her. now, in an ironic twist of fate, with her own involvement and attempt at reconnection to the world and ponies she sought to leave behind and disconnect from, she has robbed the meaning away from the only thing she had left: she has taken away the meaning and purpose of knowledge. the one thing she has depended on, even more so that the scouts, has become utterly meaningless. knowledge means nothing now, and it probably never meant anything ever. especially power.
nothing means anything.

9952697
so you are saying that in infinity, where everything simply is, nothing has meaning?
or maybe, because everything exists, it ALL has meaning?

i don't know...the whole concept of infinity is beyond complicated.
maybe it was an idea never meant to be grasped. maybe we will never truly grasp it. and that is ok.

in a literary sense however, the concept of infinity is hard to tackle on, simply because it robs stories of their conflict and meaning. if you make a story where every possibility not only can happen, but has already happned and will continue to happen, you essentially rob that story of any kind of meaning it can have. all conflicts are meaningless and the struggles and achievements of your characters, simply become one number of an infinite concept that only keeps growing, never to cease.

i am a believer of the concept that we, as individuals, impose meaning onto the things that surrounds us. we define the world, and ourselves. no one can take away the meaning we impose into the universe. as long as the will is strong, only yourself can take away the meaning and purpose of things.

even if the choice of imposing meaning into the world is, in it of itself in an infinite multiverse, by definition, meaningless.

anyway...where was i going with this? i had a point...
oh yes!

i just wanted to share my thoughts with you and tell you that i now understand why you write songs of spheres the way that you do. it is way more fun to write about a multiverse that has the potential to be infinite but isn't.

this story was a rollercoaster of emotions. it was a fun but somewhat melodramatic read. i really enjoyed this. i am actually surprised by how good this is.
all i can say, if what i say has any real meaning, is to keep up the good work!

After reading these comments, it gave me a better understanding of this story. Which is neat.

9960035
Thank you. I can definitely assure you that your words mean a great deal to me. And I will do my best. :twilightsmile:

10005414
*nods* This story has my favorite set of comments. I especially love the exchange of viewpoints and ideas people have been engaging in. :pinkiesmile:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

As cool as the ideas are, this was surprisingly dry.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Yeah, I like this better as a first chapter; just needs a few paragraphs of explaining things like the Apparatus and Scouts.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Starting to see what this one might be about. :V

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