Today’s story will leave its mark on you.
The Cutie Mark Allocation Agency
[Comedy] [Random] • 35,789 words
‘Unseen and unheard: They must never know’.
That’s the motto of the CMAA, the Cutie Mark Allocation Agency. Nopony knows who they are or what they do, but they’re vital to the workings of Equestrian society.
This is the story of two of these unsung heroes of the pony world, who selflessly sacrifice their time and energy for those blasted mysterious cutie marks that the ponies seem to like so much.
FROM THE CURATORS: In the hands of many authors, this story’s core idea — that a band of snipers targets foals and fillies with Cutie Mark guns — would have become a brief and forgettable one-shot, but it doesn’t take long for this story to transcend its roots. “There’s nothing I love so much as watching an author take a crackfic idea seriously, plant the seed, and then have something beautiful blossom from that,” Horizon said, and as soon as we’re introduced to the gnome Glummwriggle and his employer and coworkers, that beauty is apparent. “The cast is probably best described as ‘David the Gnome meets Office Space‘ (a thoroughly intuitive pairing, I think you’ll agree),” Chris said, “and Hoopy’s knack for observational comedy and asides in general shines in that setting.”
There were plenty of other things to appreciate, as Present Perfect noted. “This story is a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s quirky, it’s whimsical, it’s charming, and I really enjoyed reading it. The stakes are always clear, the pacing is quick and smooth, and the idea behind it is so goofy, yet plays out in a perfectly serious way.” Horizon similarly appreciated the crispness of the storytelling — “the pacing here was dynamic; I never felt that nothing was going on” — while Chris was enchanted by the comedic twists of the prose: “My notes on the story are pretty much just a bunch of funny lines that I highlighted.”
Even the bit parts contributed to the story with outsized flair and memorability. “Shadeswell is a perfect example of everything this story gets right, a smart blend of ridiculous, serious, and self-subversive,” Horizon said, and AugieDog offered an insightful suggestion as to why: “What I liked most about this story was its deft use of so many cliches. Too many authors use them as shortcuts to avoid doing any creative thinking. So when an author actually uses cliches in a creative fashion, it always gets a grin out of me. Knowing when to undercut a cliche is important — such as with Shadeswell — but it’s also important to let some cliches play out, and the author does both to good comedic effect throughout.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Hoopy McGee discusses Shyamalan subversions, Tirek tea parties, and garden gag gifts.