• Member Since 14th Jan, 2012
  • offline last seen 1 hour ago

MrNumbers


The magical psychic socialist

T
Source

This story is a sequel to A Beautiful Night


A standalone story in the Beautiful Night setting - reading the prequel is not required

In the shadow of Nightmare Moon's rule, the ponies of Equestria live in uneasy peace. Vinyl Scratch refuses to accept the new status quo, making seditious films in secret out of a hidden basement below the streets of Manehattan.

Octavia, meanwhile, busies herself with running a successful nightclub, finding audiences for illicit screenings of Vinyl's films, and preparing for the day when they draw the wrong kind of attention.

Vinyl might be willing to die for her art, but Octavia refuses to let that happen.

Special thanks to Pearple Prose, Aragon and Carabas for editing, and Monochromatic for prereading.

The coverart has been altered. Click the link to see the original.

Chapters (3)
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Comments ( 32 )

Some extra notes:
First, this is dedicated to the editors of Hollywood in the late 1930s who, upon seeing Triumph of the Will sent to US audiences by Nazi Propagandists, realized they could just play scary music over it. This simple decision would help lead the propaganda efforts to ensure the US entered the war on the side of the Allies.

Second, I'm attempting to do a reading of this story on my Patreon. As of writing this, the first chapter is already up. If that's something you're interested in, it's only a dollar to unlock and download it/them, and then you can cancel immediately after. Or, stick around, and get early and exclusive content when I remember.

This was a really good read. Thanks.

R5h

I really appreciate that you gave it a happy ending. Overall, a very gripping read!

Hohohoooooly shit. That was a positively enrapturing read. A great base to work with with the setting of a Nightmare Moon fascist state, a unique inspiration in the way something as seemingly mundane as cinema can truly speak, and an ensemble cast of diverse, yet wonderfully fitting characters. All of these alone would make a great foundation for a fic, but the thing that makes this work?

The polish. Great ingredients do not necessarily make a good meal without the skill to utilize them— but in this instance I couldn’t find a thing to complain about. Every beat of the story had purpose and reason to be there from the start. Every major character spends enough time on screen to learn about them and understand their personality. The tempo of the story, how things slowly build up, the sense of paranoia at who might be a mole, the absolutely impeccable prose the entire work is written in... Every concept central to the proper execution of this is done and done to great success.

Welcome back, this ‘verse. I had been wondering where A Beautiful Night had went, but after reading this, I am certain that the time spent without any more of it was well spent.

Well, I have to say that forgoing my habit of skipping stories with the romance this time paid off quite well. Just finished the first chapter {book, really... Sheesh} and the paranoia is entrancing.

Also, my money is on Ebon. But she may as well be a red herring. Let's find out!

9840856
It wasn't the scary music, it was the lines and scenes/imagery they chose. You need to remember that personal TVs did not exist in the 1930s, you literally had to go to the movie theaters to see the news (or, lol, read the newspaper). Between the German/Italian/Japanese language barrier, the time it took to fly the newsreels across the oceans and the availability (theres only so many reels to pass around); most of the information in the movie (sentimentalization aside) was completely new to the vast majority of the public.

As for the story itself, its good but a closer movie to be dedicated to would've been Alone in Berlin, or the novel Every Man Dies Alone.

“During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high," was said by Vonnegut many years ago, and it has honestly become embarrassing to see generation after generation of artists sing the praises of art and its intelligence when every generation only further proves that the mechanisms of power really are just as stupid, obvious and impervious to reason as a bush jutting across a narrow path to shove a hiker off the couple inches of ledge they have and into the void.

The story's "fine," though, so far.

This is incredible. I'm excited to continue this story!

I just saw my wife being pushed into a police cart in handcuffs

Probably supposed to be cuffs or hoofcuffs or something.

9840856
The US entry into the war had everything to do with competing colonial interests between Japan and the US, and nothing to do with some news reel. Germany declared war on the US, because they'd signed an agreement with Japan with the intent of encircling the Communists and the Japanese decided they wanted a fight.
Good thing for the Japanese fascists too! Surrender to the US allowed nearly all of them to rehabilitate their careers and carry on quite cheerfully, including Shigeru Yoshida (unrepentant fascist, pro-American and longest reigning PM) and even vocal Nazi lover Nobusuke "The Devil of Showa" Kishi (also a PM under the American installed regime).

The rest of this review/comment will be incoherent, so abide it or not:

The ending drags to mind the stupidity of Kafka's Amerika--which is not a good thing--as the Angel makes read to carry our heroes off into heaven. What clownery is this? It's like you read that criticism of movies like Star Wars about how the protagonists only get to be heroes because the story has no real substance and you read that complaint that Kafka had too much hope and then you just went and decided to be universally offensive.

Hope for what?

All hope no substance. I haven't read the other story, so maybe there's something else there, but here it is all so empty. Oh, wait, there is one solid, real thing: Blue Brass has dental now.

This moment of self-awareness is totally self-defeating. Blue Brass gets his say and he's right because he didn't owe Octavia or Celestia anything, and all that returns is a stupid "clap back." The story wants to mock him for that, but can't succeed. He's got his, and some of the people who used to have theirs don't anymore. Also the old joke about how every fascist is a frustrated artist.

Vinyl Scratch as Michael Moore.

Have you ever heard of My Lai? Heard sitting members of the House of Representatives admit to murder as their justification for not holding others responsible for the same crime?
Have you, in other words, ears to hear or eyes to see?
Because most people don't. They've stopped them up, and slammed them tight. What victory is there in this final broadcast? None. Ignorance is a practical skill. When the USSR wished to erase people, they sent out instructions for how each citizen good could edit their encyclopedias. Anyone can look up into the internet at any moment and see pictures of the obliteration of an entire city block in Philadelphia to exterminate the membership of MOVE, but no one does.

Slight possibility of brilliance in that most of Manehattan lives underground and so can't see the sky. Or do they? Impossible to read the line between metaphor and literal reality here, mostly because the literal reality of millions living forever underground isn't given enough room to play and breath and I don't think reappears in the second and third act at all. This could have been really good with some proper leaning on the keys, given that Photo Finish obviously only had a handful of ponies in mind when she sent her own image skyward, but this story goes nowhere with that. There are mole people, but even the lowest character here lives under the sky.

The sky is property of everypony, and by everypony, I mean obviously that the sky is able to be seen by those few that matter.

The story references the ideas of epic theater, but Octavia is to well realized a character and her life to easy to disappear into. Octavia betrayed by one of the few she didn't suspect. Octavia slumming it when convenient. Selfless Octavia mothering her wife; selfish Octavia convinced her enemy must love her. Octavia whose only connection to the underground is what she finds fun and wants to share with her snooty friends. Octavia holding onto her wedding photos and about to die. Octavia only so happy to have the unterpferd under her hoof as long as Ebon is following orders and being useful. Celestia forbid the singer show some agency of her own, then she'd better be ready to die.

Die for what?

When Ebon and Blue Brass were growing up, did they get to see the sky? Will the next generation of Ebons and Blue Brasses see Vinyl's broadcast? This is a joke question, of course, every Ebon and Blue Brass has always known the way things were. Those outside the propertied circle have always known what it is like for your relatives just not to come home one night.

Being homeless is a life experience you could turn into resume material. Just make sure you have an actual home address to list on your resume.

This story should have dignity to kill its heroes instead it has the disgusting audacity to redeem them. Brecht would snap those dorky glasses of his into a pair of shivs and chase you from his house with the them in hand and run you until you collapsed dead from exhaustion in the Savanna.

I'm trying to get into the better habit of not living in my comments sections, but there's too much here to not address it.

9843817 9843638
The comment was an oversimplification for the sake of brevity.

For the rest of this:

9843817

What baffles me is that most of the criticisms of your comment were my intended reading of the story - just as an example, the story wasn't meant to be mocking Blue Brass, that line was meant to emphasize why people would take enforcement roles in authoritarian regimes. Or, for instance, the fact that there isn't a popular response to the films.

So I'm just very confused why you're so angry at me, telling me Brecht would want to murder me for writing this story or calling it;

A selfish, stupid, pointless, sociopathic spectacle. Dabbles in sympathy, but only skin deep.

9842964

Actually, thanks a lot for this comment. It really, really means a lot to me, and I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.

Damn, if I ain't true.

Comment posted by berrytone deleted Sep 21st, 2019

"Octavia had already taken the canister in it and dropped it down to the basement."
"Photo Finish jumped again, grabbed the film canister from behind the bar, and was back at Vinyl’s side again faster than Octavia could turn her head."
Was the first quote from an earlier draft or somesuch thing? If not, I'm not sure what's going on here.

Photo Finish reeled on her. “Of course I am a fool! Reckless, reckless, always reckless. Pftah. Vinyl, as well. That is why we are able to do that which needs to be done. Caution, caution is tedium.” Photo Finish tilted her head back and forth in thought. “Prison is tedium, though. Dying is tedium...” She shrugged. “I have the faith in you I do not have in myself.”

Mr Numbers

I love your symbolism
And your Totalitarian regime deconstruction trope that seems to be within most if not all of your work. It's quite thrilling indeed.
You give people who focus on happy endings and too little drama a run for their money.

Yours
The Scarlett Mare

“Let’s say all goes perfectly, though. You get your worldwide debut, as it were, and no trail leads back to us. What then?”

Civil War

“Well, it sounds like something she would do.” Octavia shrugged.

Oooooh I love how you write this
Gaaah
I'm completely thrilled

Then, when the door closed with a soft ‘click’, Octavia punched her square in the nose, and felt it break.

What
I'm lost
What
I might know, but like
what?

“Celestia’s old protege Twilight Sparkle wants ponies like you back in Ponyville. Said ‘Welcome to the Resistance’ or something corny like that. I expected most folks to hoof it but, uh... looks like you two could use a lift?” Rainbow Dash looked up at the film playing on the clouds as she hefted Vinyl and Octavia, one under each arm. “So? What’s the plan?”

... YES! YESSS
OH MY GODS
I'm crying. O gods!
What an ending??? I need to read the other story now. It was amazing! And Rainbow Dash swooping in on the end, that was great.
Like, because there wasn't a tragedy tag in the end, I'd be cynical of the ending, but like, all the tension came out and I deflated like a balloon, not one second in this story cued me to that ending. It almost felt like that movie where the main character get's captured and brainwashed in the end? Because this is where it was going.
I feel like this whole comment is a spoiler though. Hm.
I loved the tension, made me feel alive and I might just be through my writer's block after this. Maybe. You helped though. Thanks!
Now on to the prequel? Sequel? Same universe? I'll settle for the latter.

Oh I have to say something
There are many elements to this story that caught my attention and kept me hooked: the mole, the movie, the portrayal of anti-fascist material in a fascist regime, the club, even the court scene had me at the edge of my seat. Especially the court scene. But above it all or rather, behind it all, Vinyl not saying a word the whole time was what spoke volumes. And she is the most expressive character I've seen in this story, a story that wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Vinyl.

And, like, every second of this story was as thrilling as the last. I actually felt hopelessness by the ending.
Oh well.
I guess the only complaint I have is the ending, which is weird, because it's a good ending and after all the drama it's well deserved.
But I don't think... It kind of became too good to be true. It could have been a more dramatic ending, instead. In my mind, you got rid of the drama too fast. Even if it was on the last paragraph. My last comment was a reflection of the knot in my gut that was carefully crafted by the build up from the rest of the story being untied all at once, causing me to burst emotionally. This kind of ending works, because gods know I cried all the times I read The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon, but this specific story could have used drama until the last period or at least until the last sentence. I know, I know, it would have left a lot of people a wreck - myself included - but the more clever a story is, the most readers curse the writer for being too clever and playing with their heart strings, it also makes them crave for re reading the story.

At most I'd say the ending was a touch anticlimactic. That's the word I'm looking for and sticking to.
While still crying because it was a happy ending, mind you.

9843899
Don't mention it. You, Aragon, Pearple, Carabas and Mono have each and all managed to work magic, here-- A sublime mixture of well-written, well-edited, and well-flowing that would have been worse with the exclusion of any of those who helped. You should all, rightfully, be proud of the end result, especially if it comes out like this.

I'm of the opinion that when someone so clearly pours themselves into their work, it deserves recognition. A creator will always be nervous about the quality of what they've made, I find-- Which is why it's so important for someone who enjoyed it to voice their opinion, remind the artist behind the art that what they did has value. I'm simply happy to have been here to enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Looking forward to whatever may come next!

9843860
The idea of a playwright who spent most of his life running from his enemies suddenly turning into a tireless hunter and chasing someone to death was supposed to be so ridiculous it couldn't be taken seriously. Film, and especially the news, is inherently sociopathic, so anything that takes that as an inspiration is going to end up there.
Anyway, I wrote all that in a hurry before bed, and the tensions in the story are what make it worth reading and thinking about. The pull between the story as a satire and character driven; the pull between contempt for the cast and sympathy; the dramatizing of the horrors of the new regime against the living evidence of the horrors of the old regime; etc. It really is one of the better stories on this site. Worth remembering and thinking about, anyway.

The only real, serious actually a complaint I have is the way this story otherizes totalitarianism. They are editing the film, They unperson their enemies, They are watching, They have discovered a new super weapon in erasing someone from a picture. It isn't a They, it is Us who do the work of quickly forgetting atrocities and not asking too many questions when someone who was politically inconvenient apparently decides to commit suicide by shooting themselves in the back of the head. The USSR editing photos is a meme that's spread far exceeds the importance of the actual few photos that were modified and circulated in both versions.
This otherizing is lazy and unchallenging. Those dastardly They, if only They'd stop. It also passes easily into reactionary politics and fascism as demonstrated by the sad path of Alex Jones.

It took way longer to make, and Vinyl didn’t even like hot chocolate. She didn’t even pour herself a mug, cracking a can of beer as Octavia went to sit down in her comfy chair. It was just one of those gestures.

Not like hot chocolate...the philistine (or should I say filly-stine XD) I'll let myself out now sorry not sorry.

My little joke comment aside, I love how you have written this world the ever present sense of something not being right but being unable to put a finger on it. I have a bunch of questions now such as how does Ebony fit into this? Is Vinyl mute or is she like Big Macintosh just more so?
In any case keep up the great work.

"waiting room. admiring just"
Is something missing here?

"You threatened me with it in front of all your colleagues the first time we met."
I'm neither remembering nor finding this? What is she referring to?

"I have the nail in the coffin for Photo Finish’s trial. Everything else you can pin on Vinyl. And Photo Finish is making an absolute mockery of the thing. Can you imagine how it would look if you couldn’t get a sentence on her, just because you jumped the gun on my wife?"
"I have in my possession the full, unedited newsreels that Photo Finish was supposed to edit and show, instead of my wife’s film that was shown instead."
...I'm afraid I also don't understand what happened here.

"Of course I do. If that happens while she and your missus here are in custody, you’ve both got airtight alibis. Photo Finish pleads innocent. You all live happily ever after."
...Or here. I think I'm missing something.

9845287

Octavia took the witness stand after she didn’t know how long, they hadn’t left her a clock in the waiting room. admiring just how much Photo Finish had outdone herself with the courtroom lighting. It felt suitably dramatic and suspenseful. She realized that she was just a side character, that Photo Finish was the protagonist of this movie, and felt comforted by that.

Oh wow you're right that's super odd. I know what's supposed to be there but I'm not sure what edit I clicked off that it truncated like that, and it's in the middle of a paragraph so it snuck by without me noticing.

One sec, I'll clear that up now.

9845395
[reads]
Ah, thanks.

I loved this story and I again love the world you built.

This was a fantastic companion piece, and I loved the role my favorite music pones carried! :twilightsmile:
Intrigued to see other side stories to flesh out this universe, for sure.

Yeeeesssss! I did not expect them to get out of that :D

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