fourths’ “You and Her”

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Today’s story aches.

You and Her
[Romance] [Sad] • 7,335 words

[Note: This story contains sexual themes.]

You told me that a young designer from out of town would be coming to stay with us for a few days while she discussed business plans with you. I told you that would be fine, that I wouldn’t mind.

I lied.

FROM THE CURATORS: Relationships are rarely easy. Feelings wax and wane, ebb and flow, and even at their easiest and most effortless, relationships take effort. But maybe you don’t want to put that effort in any more. Maybe it takes less effort to start something new than to maintain something you’ve had for years. Maybe your partner won’t catch on. Maybe they will.

“This story stood out by virtue of sticking with me after reading,” said Horizon in his nomination, “the way the pain from a punch lingers. It’s a blunt, immediate look at the pain of adultery that works almost in a sort of chiaroscuro, contrasting the beauty of their day-to-day life (and Fleur’s denial) with the rawness of the situation.” Others agreed; RBDash47 said it “was skillfully crafted, and yet—and therefore—I did not enjoy reading it at all” and FanOfMostEverything had to admit, “This sort of story isn’t my usual cup of tea. It’s not even in the same cupboard. But I can’t deny that it hits every emotional note dead center.”

Everyone agreed that the author did a fantastic job of bringing a heartwrenching story about a significant other discovering their lover is cheating on them to life. Soge praised its “realistic depictions of cheating, and of a relationship which has progressed beyond the ‘crumbling completely’ stage”; RBDash47 said, “fourths did a great job capturing the floaty, surreal experience of reluctantly confirming your spouse is cheating on you”; Present Perfect said, “while this could have been just another well written story about a dark subject that’s hard to write about, it’s the amount of nuance placed on Fleur’s character that makes it stand out.”

From start to finish, the story’s structure sold the protagonist’s inner turmoil. “The unbalanced nature of the plot itself — the threads left unresolved, the paths left unexplored — function perfectly here to reinforce Fleur’s dazed experience and sense of uncertainty in these moments,” said RBDash47. “We have no idea where she goes from here, because neither does she.” Horizon felt that “the complication and lack of resolution certainly work to sell the messy nature of the situation.”

Read on for our author interview, in which fourths discusses jealous flowers, mid-life crises, and having strong opinions. Continue reading

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anonpencil’s “Broken Bindings”

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Today’s story is a real page-turner.

Broken Bindings
[Dark] [Horror] [Mystery] • 23,036 words

Twilight has given you a new book to read. Well, she didn’t exactly give it to you, you actually just found it in the back of the library. Behind a shelf. On the ground. It looks very old, downright ancient, and it smells like moss and rot. The binding is a little cracked, and there’s no title on it. You can’t help but wonder what might be inside, and the only way to find out is to keep reading.

Just turn the page.

You can do that much, can’t you?

Please?

FROM THE CURATORS: Notable fanfiction can bring to life ideas that are too big for the show — but even among exemplary stories, it’s not every day you see ideas that are also too big for traditional prose.  “anonpencil’s most recent work — I hesitate to call it just a ‘fic’ — is impressive,” RBDash47 said in his nomination.  “Beyond the pure fic/storytelling aspect, pencil spent months building a multimedia experience that takes full advantage of the publishing format: this is not a story that could ever exist in book form, or even really as an ebook.”  And while that novelty caught our collective eye, what earned this a feature was its solid quality.  “There are plenty of other fics which toy with formatting,” Soge said. “What sets Broken Bindings apart is that it does these things well.”

He wasn’t the only one impressed.  “There’s substance in all of this stylish packaging, and it is some beautifully haunting work,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “anonpencil used literary devices as thoroughly and as well as she did hyperlinks and multimedia integration.”  RBDash47 praised the craft in the character work: “From a pure fic standpoint, it tells a compelling story about a mare imprisoned within a book, and is creepy while simultaneously earning the reader’s sympathies for a villain (maybe even a ‘monster’). The turn/reveal/prestige at the end also makes it an interesting commentary on ‘death of the author’ for me.”  And Present Perfect was most impressed by the consistent eye for detail: “I had so much fun finding the little inconsistencies, the seeming mistakes, and the really, really hidden stuff.  It was every bit as much fun watching the story unravel, too.  Muse’s unstable emotional state comes through in chilling ways.”

Even curators turned off by the story’s structure found themselves admiring it.  “I’m here to read a story, not play a game … the concept behind Broken Bindings, though, struck me as a really nice answer to a lot of my objections,” AugieDog said.  “If I’d just stumbled across this story on my own, I would’ve stopped about page 6, but since I was reading it for the RCL, I kept going — and found myself immensely impressed with the character’s voice, the little animations and nutty typography stuff, and the rising tension.”  And in the end, our biggest regrets were not getting to the tale sooner.  “I meant to nominate this one myself. This is what I get for procrastinating,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “In any case, this is a glorious exercise in using the medium to its absolute fullest.”

Read on for our author interview, in which anonpencil discusses brie bathing, editor cheating, and dream infiltration.
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wYvern’s “Of Flies and Spiders”

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Today’s story will ensnare you.

Of Flies and Spiders
[Romance] [Dark] [Tragedy] • 8,065 words

Glitter was banished from her hive because she’s different: instead of feeding on love, she feeds on anger, fear, and sadness. Ponies are easily fooled and more easily manipulated. Staying undetected and sustaining her dietary needs, she goes through life bringing misery to those around her. All changes, though, when he turns up, tearing down walls built throughout a lifetime.

FROM THE CURATORS: Spiders are a common creepy-crawlie, both in the real world—sorry, Australia—and in fiction. Greek mythology gives us the source for arachnid in Arachne, a master weaver who is transformed into a spider; ancient Sumeria’s goddess of weaving was a spider. In some African and Native American folklore, spiders play the trickster role. In modern American mythology, a certain spider teaches that with great power comes… well, you know. Given all this, it’s appropriate that today’s story features a changeling who sees herself as a spider, weaving complicated scenarios to catch her unwitting prey before realizing she’s been responsible for a great deal of pain and suffering.

In his nomination, Soge called it “a very well executed tragedy” and felt that “the main character is despicable in all the right ways, which only makes the conclusion that much more striking.” AugieDog concurred, finding it a “nicely done tragedy where the character chooses the path that she knows will destroy her.” He also appreciated the author’s decision to show rather than tell: “We follow Glitter’s thought process without the author ever having to make the character articulate it for us. The author trusts us enough to let us deduce what’s going on in Glitter’s head, to let us hope along with her that maybe this will somehow work out, and then to smack us in the head with the reality of the situation at the end.”

Everyone enjoyed wYvern’s “unique take on Changelings,” as Soge put it. FOME appreciated both the quality of the story and its culinary flair: “The central conceit is fascinating and explored well; I especially love how Glitter’s taste for suffering translates to favoring material foods with similarly… distinctive flavors.”

Horizon summed things up as only one who is not a changeling can: “The core canon dilemma of changelings — as we see in Thorax et.al. — is being nourished by devouring emotions, and simultaneously having normal sapient emotional needs for those same emotions (and the relationships and friendships that follow). If this were just about that it would have a pretty solid core, but it takes that and turns it up to 11 by also focusing on a changeling allergic to love. That this makes her an outcast from two worlds sets up a powerful tragedy when she finally finds herself in a position to appreciate it, and doesn’t shrink from the resulting tragedy.”

Read on for our author interview, in which wYvern discusses biochemistry, internal conflict, and analyzing what you love.
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Convention break 2018!

We’re continuing our longstanding tradition of taking this week off, to make certain that every story we feature gets its time in the sun.  With many members of the fandom at Bronycon for the weekend, and others at Galacon, we felt that posting a feature might result in an excellent story getting overlooked.

Rest assured, we’ll be back next week with a brand new feature. Have a fun, safe convention weekend, everyone!

Epic Yarn’s “A Slice of (Cake) Life”

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Today’s story bakes up some — PUMPKIN, PUT THAT DOWN.

A Slice of (Cake) Life
[Comedy] [Slice of Life] • 1,178 words

Mrs. Cake’s life isn’t always a piece of cake. The bakery needs running, Pound and Pumpkin are always up to something, and babysitters aren’t always easy to come by.

FROM THE CURATORS: While on the surface this might seem like a modest character piece — “slice of life doesn’t get any slicier than this,” AugieDog quipped — we found that cutting this morsel open revealed a rich, sweet experience.  And we weren’t the only ones.  “Not only is it a brilliant use of dramatic monologue,” Horizon said in his nomination, “but it’s also an Honorable Mention in Everfree Northwest’s 2018 Iron Author competition, from an author new to FIMFiction.”  Along the way to a rare unanimous approval, the story also accumulated comments such as Soge’s: “This was a great read, a perfect picture of the lovely chaos brought by children, but also so much more.”

That was largely due to delicious writing, full of ideas without feeling dense.  “This one is weirdly elegant in its insanity,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “It manages to pack a lot of frantic mayhem in just over a thousand words, but does so in a way that organically flows from one crisis to another. I’m quite impressed by how Epic Yarn managed to fit a complete, satisfying plot arc in such a small space.”  That wasn’t the only thing it did well.  “The comedy shines easily through,” Horizon said, “not just in the brilliant running gags (such as the ‘chocolate’) but also in the natural child-and-parent back-and-forth illustrated by several verbal traps late in the story.”  Present Perfect added, “Like the author said, she didn’t have to dig deep to write about what having children is like, and it really shows.”

The writing style, which only reinforced that, was singled out for repeated praise.  “I especially like how the stream-of-consciousness style doesn’t try to designate what might be speech and what might be thoughts,” AugieDog said.  “It adds so much to the frenzied feel of the whole situation.”  Add that to a laudable look at romance, and you’ve got a recipe for success: “Kudos for the portrayal of the relationship between the Cakes,” Soge said.  “There is this undercurrent of mature love that shines through their interactions, which feels almost Descendant-esque, and it pays off immensely on that sweet, sweet ending.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Epic Yarn discusses minty-fresh children, interruption counting, and Rainbow Dash epiphanies.
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Cerulean Voice’s “Essenza di Amore”

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You’ll grow to love today’s story.

Essenza di Amore
[Adventure] [Drama] [Alternate Universe] • 53,665 words

Orphaned as a filly, a young pegasus named Kaviyayu is raised by an adoptive Earth pony family in a secluded, peaceful village. When a strange unicorn drops by the village, Kaviyayu and the other foals are captivated by her tales of the world, as well as her various spells and illusions for their amusement. But there’s something about the way she doesn’t speak of her own family … how she never removes her traveller’s cloak … how she seems to take a very strong interest in Kaviyayu …

Who is this mysterious mare, what does she seek, and just what is so special about that pendant she wears?

This is the tale of how a seemingly ordinary filly rose to become both a princess and a beacon of love to ponies all over Equestria.

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s common to find fanfic that expands on the show, but sometimes if you want to explore the lives of the ponies we know and love, you have to find stories willing to dig deeper.  “I knew G. M. Berrow had established Cadance’s ascension story in one of the chapter books, but I had no idea canon was so scant until I read Essenza di Amore’s author’s notes,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “This story does so much with so little, taking those few lines and turning them into a living, breathing little society.”  That was what first brought it to our attention, but hardly its only praiseworthy element.  “Cerulean Voice did a great work expanding Cadance’s origin story from the G. M. Berrow book here,” Soge said in his nomination, “weaving a touching coming-of-age story, with fascinating elements of worldbuilding, and a cast of likable and dynamic characters.”

In the characterization department, the entire cast was worthy of mention. “Cadance’s heroic feats feel both suitably epic and entirely appropriate for her, and Prismia’s arc feels plucked right from the show,” FanOfMostEverything said, and Soge agreed: “It also features a sympathethic villain whose arc feels distinctively pony.”  In an earlier review, Present Perfect extended that praise more broadly: “The author was able to create a world separate from Equestria at large that still jibes with ‘Crystal Heart Spell’, and that’s no small feat, given that you’ll find names like ‘Kaviyayu’ here. The writing is excellent, multiple characters get first-person scenes with distinct voices, and the plot is overall interesting and exciting.”

On top of that, as Soge said, “the thematic elements are also very well executed, giving the story enough heft to elevate the material.”  That exemplary solidity of theme was at the core of AugieDog’s feature-sealing vote: “What really struck me here was how the whole piece is grounded in the importance of storytelling,” he said. “The whole village gathers around the fire in the evening to exchange stories; Prismia first appears to them disguised as a storyteller; Cadance’s father stands before the village bonfire to tell the story of how Cadance came to them; Celestia tells them stories when she arrives after Cadance’s ascension; the final chapter begins with Cadance telling Twilight the story of how she became a princess. … Even as the characters are becoming enmeshed into this big epic story, they’re telling each other older stories, and the resolution is about turning the page on a story someone’s been telling herself for years. It’s a really nice structural element.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Cerulean Voice discusses pronking skunks, forgotten forests, and equine dietary changes.
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NaiadSagaIotaOar’s “Who We Are in the Dark”

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Today’s story, unlike its protagonist, doesn’t have to cheat to win your heart.

Who We Are in the Dark
[Equestria Girls] [Romance] [Tragedy] • 11,505 words

[Note: This story contains sexual themes.]

Adagio, who everyone knows is an immortal sex goddess, is determined to give her girlfriend a perfect eighteenth birthday. If only she weren’t secretly a virgin, it would be easy.

FROM THE CURATORS: Our inaugural Siren fic is “a doozy,” as Soge put it in his nomination — and the rest of us quickly saw why.  “What follows the simple-yet-intricate setup is a beautiful disaster, like a train crash in slow motion, and yet manages to keep this undercurrent of optimism through the whole thing,” Soge said. “The conclusion is striking, unexpected, and effective, elevating the whole thing far beyond what I would expect of a typical shipfic. It’s a perfect Romantic Tragedy.”  An equally impressed Horizon added: “The prose just pops off the page, and Adagio’s characterization walks a heck of a tightrope between redemption and villainy that serves the character well.”

That wasn’t the only praise the characterization got.  “Who We Are in the Dark shows Adagio in an innovative light, trying to deal with the aftermath of losing her Siren powers, which has the aftereffect of making her unable to actually read people, since she always relied on her magic for that,” Soge explained — and all of us found that unique and striking.  “Adagio’s portrayal is what takes this above and beyond just being another beautifully written fic,” Present Perfect said.  “I connected on a deeply personal level with her struggle to read faces and body language. I suspect more readers will connect with her inability to know what to do in stressful situations, to say nothing of sitting, helpless, while watching your world fall apart.”

That combined with fluid writing and solid structure to make this coast to an easy feature.  “There’s so much care put into setting up the characters’ desires and letting those play out naturally,” Horizon said.  “And that care is seen throughout; the confrontation scene is properly crushing, and it manages to take the situation into full meltdown without ever taking the lazy way out of making someone the villain.”  All in all, as Present Perfect said, it was the sort of story that turns heads and changes minds about a character: “I came into this story with no particular love for Adagio Dazzle. By the end of it, watching her world crumble was absolutely heartbreaking.”

Read on for our author interview, in which NaiadSagaIotaOar discusses fanfiction optimization, hilarious ineptitude, and squip removal.
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Mr V’s “Sweet Little Lovely: A Gothic Romance”

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Today’s story ticks along to a sweetly chilling conclusion.

Sweet Little Lovely: A Gothic Romance
[Romance] [Dark] • 14,993 words

[Note: This story contains scenes of blood and gore.]

Everyone in their sleepy little town knows that Marvelous, the clockmaker, has eyes for only one mare – the beautiful Little Lovely. Despite her mysterious illness and his amusingly obsessive nature, there’s no question that they make a perfect couple.

But when the truth of Little Lovely’s affliction comes to light, Marvelous begins to realize that her true beauty is … on the inside.

FROM THE CURATORS: This week’s feature makes no bones about its heritage; right in the subtitle, it’s clear what you’re going to get. As Soge said in his nomination, it’s “a really lovely romance story, with genuinely touching moments, interesting characters, and an effective, just-florid-enough writing style that is clearly inspired by 1800s Gothic novels.” Horizon agreed: “The voicing in this is a marvelous style imitation, and the Gothic parts are a compelling enough character drama on their own that in several stretches I forgot I was reading a horror story.”

That being said, astute readers might note the lack of a Horror tag on the story itself, and this may not just be because the story predates the Horror tag—whether or not this was actually a horror story was a matter of some debate among the curators. Present Perfect thought it was an excellent one: “This is a great horror story, full stop, just completely unsettling.” AugieDog had a different perspective; he doesn’t read horror stories, because “they’re too scary. This story, though, I didn’t find scary at all.”

Something all the curators could agree on was “Sweet Little Lovely” managing to require a Gore tag and yet remain almost… wholesome. “The one scene that actually earns that Gore tag is so beautiful and fascinating,” Soge said. Horizon reassures anyone with a weak stomach that “it’s quite possibly one of the most beautiful stories with a Gore tag, and even as a somewhat squeamish person I finished the story over lunch.”

Speaking more broadly, FanOfMostEverything appreciated “that this story’s protagonist is a clockmaker, because this is some beautifully and meticulously assembled prose.” A few curators commented that the setting teeters on the edge of believability within the world of Equestria, but as AugieDog put it, “I’d call it a very Pony story. Because friendship is magic even when your friend turns out to be a sort of—” Ah… that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Read on for our author interview, in which Mr V discusses prose cameras, gummi artisans, and audio adaptations.
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New curator: RBDash47

Astute readers may notice a name in the curator section of this week’s feature which is simultaneously new and old!

Once upon a time, when Benman founded the RCL, its mission statement more or less started out as “Take over where RBDash47‘s legendary Pony Fiction Vault left off.”  Four and a half years later, we’ve come full circle — RBDash47 has volunteered to join the project, and we’re thrilled to bring him on board!  This week marks his first contribution as a curator (though not his first contribution to the Library, as his own feature can be found here).

We’ve updated our About page with the personnel changes, and look forward to continuing our mission with an expanded roster!

Chris’ “Wyrmlysan”

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You’re destined to like tonight’s story.

Wyrmlysan
[Tragedy] • 3,322 words

Prophecy is a dangerous game; meanings which are obvious can become obscure in an instant, and fates are laid bare only in hindsight.

After the fall of Discord but before the rise of Nightmare Moon, a dragon breaks the peace between its race and ponykind, and Princess Luna flies to mete out justice.

FROM THE CURATORS: Longtime RCL curator Chris recently took a step back from pony fanfiction, but he’s built a long legacy — not just of story reviews, but also of quality tales of his own.  While there were no shortage of feature candidates in his catalogue (“Going Up was a wonderful tale of Best Pony at her best,” FanOfMostEverything noted), the sheer ambition of Wyrmlysan gave it a narrow edge.  “This is how you make ‘epic’ happen in a short wordcount,” Present Perfect said. “Every word is steeped in grandiosity, in portentousness.”  FanOfMostEverything elaborated: “At its core, Wyrmlysan is wonderfully mythic in tone, with beings far beyond mortals parlaying over pacts made in the mists of time. Luna is awesome in the original sense of the word, and the way the story foreshadows Nightmare Moon provides a chilling counterpoint to Luna’s actions in service to her ponies.”

And while we found ourselves dancing around the specifics, the tale accumulated unanimous praise for the fine handling of its narrative.  “This is a clever and deceptive story, and saying much about the plot would be doing it a disservice,” Soge said. “Suffice to say that it is very subtle in its presentation, smartly hiding or showing things in order to mislead the reader, but never outright obscuring relevant information.”  AugieDog — whose 2014 Nocturnes contest prompted the story — found that a strength of the author in general: “Chris’ finesse in setting up my expectations and then flipping them sideways is just plain lovely. The flip in ‘Going Up’ when Derpy explains her invention to Carrot Top is as joyful a moment as I’ve had from a story in a long time, while the flip at the end of ‘Wyrmlysan’ is shattering.”

And the story pulled that off while juggling multiple pieces of a richly layered tale.  “This deftly interweaves two solid stories — one about confronting one’s immutable destiny and one about the build-up to Nightmare Moon — in a way that enhances both,” Horizon said.  “It’s telling that the interplay with Luna’s guards feels tenser and more fraught than her fight with the dragon, and the story uses that tension to great effect.”  It all added up, as RBDash47 said, to a piece that not just stood the test of time but transcended it:  “The lore created here is really something incredible, especially considering that it was published a full two years before ‘Gauntlet of Fire’ aired,” he said.  “And far from the usual fanfiction fate of being Jossed by later canon, it’s actually enhanced by it.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Chris discusses brain bugs, hipster glasses, and Golden Harvests.
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