alarajrogers’ “Sleep While I Drive”

Tags

, , , ,

Today’s story drives its characters to extremes.

Sleep While I Drive
[Dark] [Adventure] [Sad] [Sci-Fi] • 12,791 words

Celestia and Discord, as teens, flee their destroyed homeworld to a new world promised by a letter from Luna. But Discord can’t escape his nature, nor Celestia her memories. Being a chaos mage on a starliner is a death sentence, and yet, Discord has to keep using his mind-control powers to take Celestia’s emotions away, at her request, because otherwise she wants to die. And Gray Celestia, the discorded Celestia with no emotions but the drive to protect herself and Discord, will do anything that needs to be done to save them both.

FROM THE CURATORS: When a story tackles ambitious ideas, our commentary sometimes gets as wide-ranging as the fic itself.  “This has got tragedy, mental illness, friendship and horrible things done in the name of survival, all in spades,” Present Perfect said in his nomination, and on its way to a rare unanimous approval, compliments like FanOfMostEverything’s stacked up: “Alara excels at building a universe and finding a place for everyone in it, especially Discord,” he said.  “That skill is on full display here, blending ponies, sci-fi, and the interplay of harmony and chaos into a seamless whole.  The actual story that takes place in this universe is a breathtaking one, tackling the themes of love, loss, survivor’s guilt, prejudice, duty, and more in an interstellar narrative arc that hurts to read in the best way.”

With so much worldbuilding for the story to do, it walked a fine line between competing extremes, both in tone and character.  “The technobabble felt purposeful, and in its relatively short length it manages to build a whole universe, much darker than anything in MLP proper, but still remarkably faithful to the show — remarkable, considering Celestia’s actions throughout the story,” Soge said.  AugieDog, meanwhile, remarked on the power of its theme: “The two characters are pretty much destroying themselves in order to save the other, not becoming whole together but becoming echoing, hollow shells,” he said.  “It’s a story that could easily wear the ‘Tragedy’ tag if we didn’t know where things ultimately are heading, and maybe even then.”

Along the way, the story also offered some unique accomplishments.  “I’m unable to think of the last time I read a story that successfully pulled off both an in medias res opening and a ‘fade to black’ ending,” AugieDog said.  “Granted, it helps that we know who these characters are and what will eventually become of them, but to take a piece that doesn’t really begin and doesn’t really end and still make it into a story, that’s some writing right there.”  It was a package that added up, as Soge said, to an impressive whole: “This is a fantastic fic, full of character, amazing worldbuilding, and a dramatic flair that gives the whole thing heft and purpose.  I don’t think I’d heard of alarajrogers before, and what an introduction this was.”

Read on for our author interview, in which alarajrogers discusses deity elections, well-meaning extremists, and dining-room takeovers.
Continue reading

Advertisements

R5h’s “Partyquest”

Tags

, ,

You don’t have to travel to a magical land of ponies to see greatness in today’s story.

Partyquest
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 11,594 words

Pinkie has one month to throw a party that’s out of this world. Which is exactly where she’ll receive the training she needs.

Can she brave the trials of artistic integrity, heavy rainfall, an actual literal gun, and thinking too hard about why she went to Equestria in the first place?

FROM THE CURATORS: One of the things that makes fanfiction great is the way that it pushes beyond the safe and familiar in order to explore more unusual ideas — a quality on full display with Partyquest‘s gentle merging of polar opposites.  “As Aragon pointed out in the results post for the ‘Comedy Is Serious Business’ contest, this makes good on its daring decision to mix some genuine drama in with its out-and-out silliness,” Horizon said, and the story won curator praise on both sides of that spectrum.  “This is a fic that does everything just right,” Soge said.  “The drama feels impactful and gives the whole thing some real weight, characterizations are well done and very well utilized, and, most importantly, the comedy really hits home.”

Our praise for the story, however, extended much farther than its tonal balancing act.  “I have a soft spot for EqG humans in Equestria, but this does far more with the concept than simply have technicolor apes be tourists in Horseland,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination.  “It characterizes everyone involved with pitch-perfect precision, doing more with Somnambula in particular than literally any other ponyfic I’ve read.”  FOME wasn’t the only one appreciating the characters.  “Party Favor’s hard-boiled noir narrator shtick is amazing, Somnambula’s excitement over modern Equestria is adorable, and Cheese Sandwich demonstrates why party ponies are so important to Equestria,” Present Perfect said.  “But it’s that golden nugget of Pinkie’s insecurity and self-doubts that makes this story work.”  And that character work reinforced the comedy, Soge said: “Sci-Twi and Human Pinkie make for a great comedic duo, the situations are clever, the pacing is brisk, and even the referential humor was well realized (like the Blazing Saddles nod).”

That all added up to a story that impressed us on many levels.  “Much like the best presentations of Pinkie, there’s solid substance under the fun fluff,” FanOfMostEverything said.  Horizon agreed, citing some of the standout moments: “This does an exemplary job making gags out of the little details (‘funslingers’, Sci-Twi’s post-pointing faceplant, etc), and gets some solid running gags in like Twilight’s various book titles,” he said.  “With all its laugh-out-loud moments mixed into the consistent cleverness, it’s easy to see why this was one of the contest winners.”

Read on for our author interview, in which R5h discusses filthy hobos, Camden cars, and recursively horsey horsewomen.
Continue reading

Dromicosuchus’ “The Rise and Fall of the Dark Lord Sassaflash”

Tags

, , ,

There is much Love in the craft of today’s story.

The Rise and Fall of the Dark Lord Sassaflash
[Dark] [Adventure] [Crossover] • 116,239 words

Wanted: Porter, assistant, jack-of-all-trades, minion. Applicants should be strong, loyal, pain tolerant, cold tolerant, unambitious. Must be capable of following simple instructions. Ideal applicant should be of low to average intelligence and mildly deformed, but exceptions will be made for extraordinary candidates, with extraordinariness to be determined by employer. Must be willing to begin work immediately.

Remuneration will be in the form of room, board, and insight into the true nature of the cosmos. Extremely generous bonuses up to and including subcontinents may be awarded if merited and if circumstances permit. Interviews for the position to be conducted at 108 Haybale Lane at 10:00 AM sharp on 4/7. Applicants are expected to be punctual.

—The Dark Lord Sassaflash

FROM THE CURATORS: “This story does just about everything right,” AugieDog said, “but I want to feature this just for the opportunity to write ‘Nyarlathotep is Best Pony.'”  And while the Outer God was a memorable character in a work jam-packed with them, our reactions more closely mirrored Augie’s first statement.  “A truly fantastic read,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination, and Horizon echoed that sentiment upon assigning this a top score: “Oh my yes.  One of the best things I’ve read in recent memory.  This is the sort of story that makes me happy I read fanfic.”

At the heart of those glowing reviews was an unusual yet sublime fusion of ideas.  “What the author’s Mendacity does for fae folklore, this does for the Cthulhu Mythos, seamlessly integrating it into Equestria and making you wonder how we never noticed it until now,” FanOfMostEverything said.  And it did so with a remarkable adherence to pony themes.  “We’ve already featured At The Mountains of Discord, which was an excellent Lovecraft tale that happens to be about ponies, and I think this is near the other end of the spectrum: this is a fantastic pony story that happens to be about Lovecraft,” Horizon said.  “It’s fundamentally hopeful and redemptive in a way that keeps MLP firmly at its core.”  That caused AugieDog to note: “The story also made me realize just how Lovecraftian some of the canon bits of Equestria are: the crawling chaos of Discord; the parasprites as sort of ‘rats in the walls’; just the Everfree forest in general, really, or the way a dragon can show up to take a nap and doom the entire realm. And, well, Swamp Fever, anyone?”

Magnificent character work was one of the factors bringing those ideas to life. “Sassaflash and the Mule are perfect together, and I love how Sassaflash pretty much speaks the way Lovecraft writes,” AugieDog said.  “The world-building is wonderful throughout — I was especially impressed by the way the author made the not-yet-reappeared Crystal Empire so vital to the story.”  FanOfMostEverything agreed: “Sassaflash makes for a fascinating protagonist, utterly driven by her quest but not immune to the magic of friendship even at her most obsessed.”  And the story around them was consistently exemplary, Horizon said: “This just kept surprising and delighting me around every corner. Even the screaming left turn of the story’s final arc, which in the hands of most authors would have faceplanted into confusion and plot holes, is seamless and brilliant.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Dromicosuchus discusses dream Jives, Marx sprays, and Skyrim inspirations.
Continue reading

Bookish Delight’s “Being Juniper Montage”

Tags

, , ,

Today’s story will really get into your head.


Being Juniper Montage
[Equestria Girls] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 42,118 words

Mere weeks ago, Juniper Montage was a spiteful girl, a thief, and even—for a short time—a magical menace. However, Starlight Glimmer and the Rainbooms managed to reach her, and extend the hands of forgiveness and friendship. Juniper has been grateful for the second chance ever since, and eager to show that she can be a good friend herself.

While touring Canterlot High School with Twilight Sparkle, she comes across two girls in dire cinematic straits. Juniper knows she can help, so she decides to step in. However, in the midst of her attempt, her past—all of her past—returns to haunt her, and her self-esteem pays the price.

Now Juniper must discover for herself what it truly means to be a friend, while also fighting an angry, fearful voice in the back of her mind that continues to insist that she’s not worth anyone’s friendship… and keeps getting louder.

FROM THE CURATORS: Maybe the most basic reason Pony fanfiction exists is to take characters and situations we know from the show and explore them at greater depth. A good piece of fanfiction, though, works even if the reader isn’t familiar with the particular character or situation. “I knew nothing at all about Juniper Montage going in,” Horizon admitted during our discussions, “and this story made me curious enough about her background to get me watching Juniper Montage’s episodes.”

“Bookish Delight,” Fan of Most Everything said when nominating this story, “has an almost inhuman talent for taking the bipedal cutouts Equestria Girls calls antagonists and turning them into fleshed-out, multidimensional people.” AugieDog agreed, saying, “The ‘Ex-Villains’ Club Sleep-Over’ made me very happy” with Horizon adding, “the whole cast is unerringly interesting.”

“What I liked the most here,” AugieDog went on, “was the way the story digs so deeply into the process of redemption.” Horizon noted, “This brings a lot of context to the inner struggle involved in the redemption we see characters breeze through in the show.” “Juniper’s inner demon,” AugieDog said, “is just that—an interior force—and her realization that she has to find a way of dealing with this thing at the core of her personality drives the story.” “Plus,” Fan of Most Everything concluded, “it’s a good meditation on the creative process as a whole.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Bookish Delight discusses core idealism, glasses-wearing nerd girls, and playing, not working.
Continue reading

Timaeus’ “Coming in From the Cold”

Tags

, ,

Settle in and warm up with today’s story.

Coming in From the Cold
[Romance] [Slice of Life] • 11,961 words

Starting over is never an easy thing to do. Lost, alone, and cold, sometimes a friendly smile and mug of cocoa are all that’s needed to warm the heart.

And right now, Bon Bon is very cold.

FROM THE CURATORS: With winter and spring currently engaged in their annual slippery baton pass, here’s a story, as AugieDog put it, “where the cold and the warm are practically characters.” But the main focus lies squarely on Lyra and the mare now known as Bon Bon, newly arrived in Ponyville after the dismantling of her previous life and full of uncertainty.

“Bon Bon’s unsureness about who she is,” Present Perfect said, “was a great place to start” with FanOfMostEverything noting that the readers “get behind Bon Bon’s eyes and stay there for the whole story, the evocative imagery selling everything from struggling through the storm to the anxiety of Lyra getting uncomfortably close to the truth to the warm fuzzies at the end.” Lyra’s equally well painted, AugieDog said, “working as a waitress back home in Ponyville after failing to become a musician in Canterlot.” They’re “two lost mares,” Augie went on, “meeting at the exact moment they most need a friend.”

And more than friends, of course. “I may be a little biased,” Present Perfect said, “as LyraBon is a long-standing OTP, but…the flirting was top-notch.” “Yes, the attraction is mostly physical,” FanOfMostEverything added, “but they’ve only just met and are still getting to know each other, much as Sweetie Drops is still getting to know Bon Bon.” Soge brought up “how well the author utilizes ponies’ physical actions to convey emotion, like ear flicks, tail movements and the like. That helped sell me on their flirting, and the progressively more intimate actions made for a really well realized progression throughout the story.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Timaeus discusses writing as a social activity, second chances, and “playing wild.”
Continue reading

MagnetBolt’s “The Doom that Came to Tambelon”

Tags

, ,

Seeing why today’s story is great is child’s play.

The Doom that Came to Tambelon
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 4,397 words

Starlight Glimmer. Trixie Lulamoon. Tempest Shadow. Three ponies that are definitely really great with foals. But there’s no way they’ll mess this up, right? They just have to keep Flurry Heart out of trouble for one night — what could happen in a couple hours?

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s always a pleasure to find stories which can successfully fuse the best parts of classic MLP and the newest canon.  “Here we have Grogar, goat villain extraordinaire from the original G1 series, spiriting Flurry Heart away to his banished city of Tambelon while she’s being babysat by Starlight, Trixie, and Tempest,” AugieDog said in his nomination. “And it’s one of the ding-dang funniest stories I’ve read on the site in quite some time.”  That sentiment was echoed repeatedly as the story sailed to a rare unanimous approval.  “This is absolutely hysterical — never once afraid to take pot-shots at the characters, or have them snipe at each other,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything quipped: “Oh, this glorious bit of madness. … Horrible people doing horrible things in the funniest way possible, only in this case, they’re wonderfully horrible in canon. The three heroines (for a given definition of the term) play off of each other and the obstacles they face fantastically, and I always love seeing a serious villain facing silly heroes.”

But regardless of its silliness, there was a core of authenticity in the humor that drew widespread praise.  “It’s humor that’s the opposite of character destruction — the kind where an author says, ‘Let’s take how these characters are in the show, tighten the focus, and dial that up just a bit’,” AugieDog said.  Soge agreed: “It is a really funny comedy executed with great flair, and a sense of how to stretch the characterization just enough to avoid concerns of them being out-of-character, yet making all their actions as fun as possible.”  And Horizon loved its touch with details: “MagnetBolt has a master’s eye for extracting hilarity from the little quirks of the show.  Starlight’s solution to entering Limbo is priceless, as is Trixie’s reaction when Grogar rings the bell.”

That eye for detail extended throughout.  “It is full of delightful passages, to the point I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite,” Soge said, while Present Perfect appreciated its callbacks: “The G1 building material was handled really well, crafting a legendary Tambelon that lives and writhes and all that other good stuff, and yet is in no way safe from being skewered.”  All in all, as Horizon said, its exemplary humor made this stand out even among the author’s other major works: “The Witch of the Everfree would have been my go-to for a MagnetBolt feature, but this was hilarious start to finish, to the point where I had to awkwardly explain to my boss why I was grinning at my desk.”

Read on for our author interview, in which MagnetBolt discusses all-star zones, insufficient explosions, and Bowie anatomy.
Continue reading

OnionPie’s “What is Left”

Tags

, , , ,

Today’s story is an addicting read.

What is Left
[Dark] [Sad] [Thriller] [Tragedy] • 24,301 words

Five years of cheap thrills in the big city have left Sweetie Belle in bad debt with dangerous ponies. Forced to pay up, she returns to Ponyville to seek money from an estranged sister she loathes with a passion.

FROM THE CURATORS: We’re all here because we appreciate the pastel friendship aesthetic of My Little Pony — but fanfic wanders considerably farther afield, and there’s also beauty sometimes in bleakness.  “This is dark and depressing in all the right ways — the closest point of comparison would be the tone of Fallout: Equestria – Project Horizons‘ darkest chapters, honestly,” Soge said in his nomination.  “Even when, halfway through the story, this fic leads you to believe things might be changing for the better, it shatters that illusion in three paragraphs in such an amazing way that I had to just step away from the story to process everything. It is a hard read, but very rewarding.”  Although all of us commented on that darkness, this earned a feature on the sheer power of its story, as Present Perfect said: “It won’t be for every reader, as the profanity, violence, drug use and general malaise of depression run severely counter to the show which inspired the piece. But this is gritty, troubling and devastating in all the right ways.”

The core of that was how we saw prose quality in every direction we turned.  “It helps that the writing is top-notch, atmospheric and evocative in a way that really drives home the despair of the situation, yet managing to contrast the reality of what is happening with well-placed touches of beauty,” Soge said, while Present Perfect was drawn deeply in: “it sure doesn’t hurt that the thriller aspect of the plot is gripping as anything; I accidentally read the whole story in one go because I couldn’t put it down.”  Even the elements we found controversial were handled thoughtfully.  “The profanity is actually well-used here, the drug-use stuff seems to me to be firmly on the fantasy side, and while I found the set-up to be a little slow, the gut-punch ending makes it worth it,” AugieDog said.

Characterization was another strong point.  “While both Rarity and Sweetie Belle are obviously very different than their show counterparts, there is a core of their characterization that is still present, and it helps drive home that this is something that could happen,” Soge said.  Present Perfect called them both “excellently flawed,” adding that “the villain is intimidating and memorable. The tragedy is palpable, and that atmospheric, evocative writing Soge refers to suffuses every last instant of the narrative.”  What sealed our feature was that this won over even curators turned off by darker material.  “I set a higher bar when it comes to dark Ponyfic,” AugieDog said.  “If a story wants to have cute ponies not being cute, well, then that story’s got to prove itself to me, and this story proves itself quite handily at every turn.”

Read on for our author interview, in which OnionPie discusses tragic beauty, culmination preparation, and sister hugs.
Continue reading

AndrewRogue’s “The Destiny Trap”

Tags

,

Enjoying today’s story is in the cards.

The Destiny Trap
[Adventure] • 7,746 words

Returning from a trip to Manehattan, Trixie has a brand new magic trick that she’s all too eager to share with Starlight.

Unfortunately, when things don’t work quite as expected, Trixie and Starlight are forced to go on a journey across Equestria to find the pony that gave her the trick and make things right once more.

FROM THE CURATORS: We look far and wide for the best of MLP fanfiction, but sometimes great stories are right under our noses.  “As soon as I saw this nomination, I said to myself, ‘A great story, sure, but of course we’ve already featured AndrewRogue.  Haven’t we?’  Then I went and looked at our archive, and I can only say that my shock knew no bounds,” AugieDog said.  The reason why is readily apparent from the fic.  “It is a perfectly executed show-tone adventure story, exciting in all the right ways, with some amazing characterization for Trixie and Starlight, and a villain which works perfectly as a foil to both,” Soge said in his nomination, and it didn’t take us long to agree: “Even with the time it took me to re-read this, it’s going to go in our shortest-time-to-feature bin with a four-hour turnaround,” Horizon noted.

Our praise was wide-ranging, but one of the repeated comments was how gracefully the story extended the show.  “This has got everything that makes recent seasons great, wrapped up in a tidy package with a bow on top,” Horizon said.  “Which is to say, this is a Season 7 story with a Season 1 aesthetic, perfectly capturing the core friendship message of the show through a cast of redeemed villains who have learned those lessons the hard way.”  And that cast hit all the right notes.  “The character work for all three characters is solid, from Blackstone’s motivation to Trixie showing the true friend that lurks beneath her veneer of bluster and arrogance,” Present Perfect said.  “I even appreciated how well the street magic patter was worked into the narrative; that’s not something I’ve seen in prose before.”

That wasn’t the story’s only claim to novelty.  “Given how standard the ‘disappearing magic shop full of monkey’s paws’ setup is, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised, yet I got surprises in spades,” Present Perfect said, prompting Horizon to note: “Its Writeoff Association gold medal was a well-deserved win against tough competition.”  There was so much to appreciate here, as Soge said, that “how it works in a very well-crafted thematic element surrounding Starlight’s and Trixie’s redemption is only icing on the cake.”

Read on for our author interview, in which AndrewRogue discusses friendship mines, earthbound prompts, and Smackdown jams.
Continue reading

New curator: FanOfMostEverything

Alas, not even the Library is immune to the passage of time.  While founding member Chris stuck with us through 4½ years of highs, lows and quality fanfiction, he has withdrawn from the project due to life circumstances significantly impacting his pony time.  He hopes to continue blogging at One Man’s Pony Ramblings as his schedule permits.

Fortunately, we have a new curator eminently worthy of filling his formidable horseshoes.  FanOfMostEverything has joined us, bringing a lengthy track record of acclaimed stories, vast reading habits, episode/comic encardenings, and general positivity.  His commentary will start showing up on features in the near future.  Welcome, FOME!

We’ve updated our About page with the personnel changes.  Including Soge’s bio, which was found in a corner inside a puddle of suspicious green goo.  Horizon denies everything.

Norm De Plume’s “As Horns and Halos Surround You”

Tags

,

Give in to the temptation of reading today’s story.

As Horns and Halos Surround You
[Slice of Life] • 4,809 words

Rarity’s little Temptation ends up on pins and needles. Literally.

With her shoulder-devil out of commission, other Temptations pop into her life to pick up the slack from their fallen sister.

FROM THE CURATORS: The recent “Make Rarity Not Garbage” contest produced quality stories up and down the line — such as this fun and imaginative romp, which finished outside the top three but caught our eyes with its creativity regardless.  “The big memorable thing here is obviously the concept,” Soge said in his nomination.  “It’s a fresh take on the idea of autonomous consciences, and one that feels distinctively pony — the kind of effortless worldbuilding that seemed to be more common during earlier seasons.”  Others agreed: “The concept is so wonderful, it pretty much bulldozes all other considerations to the side,” AugieDog said.  “What’s here is great fun, though, and the characters are spot on.”

A large part of that was the way the story used its premise to reflect on canon.  “I love how the little shoulder devils we meet reflect not only the characters but the Equestrian setting,” AugieDog said.  “Yes, Twilight’s Temptation keeps wanting her to make more use of her alicorn powers, but toward benevolent ends — or at least as benevolent as publishing academic papers can be — and Fluttershy’s is still celebrating the way Fluttershy stood up for herself during ‘Fame and Misfortune.'”  AugieDog wasn’t the only one appreciating the way this story looked from a fresh angle at the characters we know and love.  “It is a very comfy kind of fic, but with enough substance to it to keep me interested,” Soge said.  “It explores its theme admirably, and ends up making some really nice considerations about the Mane 6 and their lives.”  And Horizon had similar praise: “The side characters stole the show.  I laughed out loud at the fate of Twilight’s Temptation.”

That entertainment value was one of our most frequent compliments.  “This was fun!” Present Perfect said.  “And it taught me that stories where what’s metaphor for us is common reality for ponies are my favorite kind of ponyfic.”  So it was a bonus pleasure to find the story not just entertaining but educational.  “Googling the story’s subtitle taught me that little good and bad sprites like this are a part of the Islamic tradition,” AugieDog said.  “The things one learns from reading Ponyfic!”

Read on for our author interview, in which Norm De Plume discusses equine homecomings, Canadian musicians, and scimitar-flinging fairies.
Continue reading