Phoenix_Dragon’s “Without a Hive”

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Today’s story will sneak into your favorites.

Without a Hive
[Romance] [Dark] [Adventure] [Sad] • 180,748 words

Young Nictis had one dream: to serve his hive by becoming an Infiltrator, the most vital and vaunted role a changeling could aspire to. To hide in plain sight among the other species, blending in, while gathering the vital emotional energies that fueled his people. Few were deemed worthy of the dangerous job. He was one of the few nymphs selected for training, in the hopes that one of them would develop the skills needed to be entrusted with such a treacherous task.

But when a training expedition ends in tragedy, Nictis finds himself thrust into the role not to serve his hive and people, but to preserve his own life. Separated from the hive, alone, he must put what little training he has to the test. He must blend in with the hive’s greatest source of food, and its most dangerous enemy: the ponies of Equestria.

FROM THE CURATORS: Let’s face it — our fandom loves changelings, and authors have done so much with them that changeling stories have to clear a high bar to stand out from the pack.  So when Present Perfect said in his nomination that “Without a Hive is one of the best season-two fics I have ever read, and might just be the best changeling story on top of that,” we had to see for ourselves what the fuss was about.  “I wish I’d read this years ago,” FanOfMostEverything quickly said.  “This may be the gold standard for old-school ‘changeling in Equestria’ fics, made all the more notable by forgoing the usual ‘crashed somewhere after the invasion’ plot device.”  And Horizon was equally effusive.  “Perhaps I am — for Glitterbug-like reasons of academic interest, and CLEARLY none other — predisposed to a good changeling story, but this was consistently gripping,” he said.  “It covers all of the tropes we expect a changeling redemption fic to have, but with exemplary nuance. The tension of being trained as a sociopathic predator who feeds on positive emotions, while also feeling those positive emotions, drips from every word here.”

That was only one of several compliments on which we all quickly agreed.  “Central to this piece is its fantastic characters,” Present Perfect said, with Horizon adding: “This works as well as it does because every individual we ever meet is vibrant and sympathetic.”  FanOfMostEverything praised the development of the protagonist: “Watching Nictis grow in spite of himself is wonderful — the changes coming subtly enough that he doesn’t notice until it hits him all at once in the worst possible way — to say nothing of all the other emotional arcs he goes through.” And all of us had a hard time picking favorites from the colorful supporting cast.  “The ponies Nictis befriends have lives of their own,” Present Perfect said.  “Nowhere is that more apparent than in a late chapter, when our hero meets two ponies named Violet and Grace. They exist on the page for a few scenes only, yet after a short introduction, one gets a deep and abiding sense of who they are.”

It was in the collision between those ponies and the central changeling that the story shined brightest.  “What made me smile above all else were the several times during the first half or so of the story — usually in scenes where Nictis was interacting with Big Shot — when the author took a step back to remind the reader that the cute and clever character we’d been rooting for was in fact quite literally a monster,” AugieDog said.  “It made for a great contrast with Nictis’ wanderings in the last few chapters when the character’s monsterhood is unmistakably slipping away.”  And that left a lasting impression, several of us such said — such as Horizon: “I was legitimately upset when the story ended.  I had an almost physical need to see how things shook out with Spark. Fortunately, there’s a sequel!”

Read on for our author interview, in which Phoenix_Dragon discusses esquire numbers, book commitments, and corporate weddings.
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J Carp’s “It Turns Out They’re Windmills”

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Turn to today’s story for some cross-dimensional drama with heart.

It Turns Out They’re Windmills
[Equestria Girls] [Romance] [Comedy] [Drama] • 64,228 words

As Fluttershy’s birthday approaches, she learns two jarring things: not all of her friends are as fine with her new relationship as she had previously thought, and her human counterpart is extremely closeted.

This is a story about queerness, friendship, bunnies, humans who think they’re bunnies, magic explosions, and extremely terrible flirting.

FROM THE CURATORS: When we discuss a story which is posted as a sequel, usually our conversation drifts to whether to feature the series’ first work instead.  But in this case, discussion shifted from the original to the sequel once we realized everyone was even more excited about it.  “Everything that makes the prequel, I Am Awkward (Yellow), great is amplified fivefold in Windmills,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “The jokes are further between, but they are adamantly memorable. The pure relationship drama has been replaced by a coming-out story that uses the dual-dimensional setup of Equestria Girls to perhaps its fullest extent. I mean, just the ethics of whether knowing a pony is gay means that you’ll out their human counterpart, alone, makes this worth exploring.”

The number of superlatives in our discussion quickly made the breadth of our appreciation clear.  “This knocked it out of the park,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “It has everything: Romance, drama, action, comedy, parallel universe shenanigans. … The story passed by in an amazing rush — mine, not the pacing’s — making the plotlines sync together in brilliant, seamless passes from one narrative arc to another.”  AugieDog, meanwhile, gushed about the story while assigning it a top score: “The author’s character work is gorgeous,” he said.  “There’s a scene in the first chapter where Fluttershy quietly seduces Moondancer that is funny, adorable, and sexy all at the same time, and the jaggedness under the surface of Twilight and Moondancer’s relationship gets completely exposed and explored during an arc that I can only call harrowing.  That the author brings in the Equestria Girls characters as well allows the story to explore their similarities and differences in a way I don’t recall seeing before in a fic.”

That was made even more impressive by the number of moving pieces this juggled.  “What stands out most, perhaps, is how good J Carp is at writing nuanced characters,” Present Perfect said.  “One has to imagine it was already hard enough to write two versions of the same character — and there are a lot of characters in this story — but every canon character has had their motives and personality thoroughly considered in order to drive the narrative. And that’s to say nothing of the one important OC.”  All those factors added up to a compelling argument for time-starved readers to dive into the middle.  “The only things you need to know,” AugieDog noted, “are that Twilight has hired Moondancer to move to Ponyville so they can study the Everfree forest, and that Moondancer and Fluttershy have fallen quite deeply in love.”

Read on for our author interview, in which J Carp discusses planetary rankings, mumblecore maturity, and superior Carolinas.
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Krickis’ “Each Small Step”

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Today’s story looks at some big problems.

Each Small Step
[Equestria Girls] [Romance] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 13,137 words

[Note: This story contains themes of sexuality and self-harm.]

It’s been a long time since the Battle of the Bands, and a lot has changed for Aria. One of the bigger changes has been Sunset Shimmer. The two of them were never supposed to happen, but they somehow still did.

Not that it matters. Nothing good ever lasts, not for Aria Blaze.

FROM THE CURATORS: While stories like last week’s feature draw emotions from MLP by playing the show’s themes straight, there’s also a great deal of power in going the other direction — colliding the show with real life to show characters with all-too-familiar struggles.  And this Honorable Mention in the recent Sunset shipping contest left us all feeling a little punched, in the best way.  “This hit close to home, and it was really a tense marvel to sit through,” Present Perfect said in his nomination, while Soge was likewise drawn in: “Even when going through slice of life scenes, there is this undercurrent of tension to the prose, as if everything could break apart at any moment.  It is this well-constructed web of people doing the precise wrong thing at the wrong time, because that is just how they operate.”

Most of our discussion became praise for the way this illustrated its protagonist’s problems.  “The moment we see Aria’s state of affairs in this story, it’s obvious she’s suffering from depression,” Present Perfect said.  “It also quickly becomes obvious she has no idea what that really means; ergo, the word is never once used. Instead, we’re shown a long, painful snapshot of a woman self-destructing.”  AugieDog agreed that was exemplary: “As someone who’s never experienced anything close to this level of depression, I find myself so glad that fiction just plain exists,” he said.  “This story does such a fine job of showing rather than telling, too, not trying to explain Aria’s situation to me but just plain putting me inside her head to let me see the world as she sees it.”  And while the story goes to some dark places, it never abandoned pony’s sense of hope and friendship.  “It was a great choice to never come right out and say ‘Aria is depressed,’ and I did like the message — you don’t have to go it alone,” RBDash47 said.

Moreover, digging into the meat of the fic revealed depth beyond that solid portrayal.  “There’s some clever prose which brings the full weight of the emotions to bear,” Horizon said.  “Although Chapter 1 is arguably the biggest train wreck, the callback at the end of Chapter 2 is exquisitely painful.”  That plus exemplary character work rounded out the experience.  “I think this might’ve been the best Sonata I’ve ever read in a fic,” AugieDog said. “In just one conversation on the telephone, the author brings her completely to life — I mean, I totally want to read about her and Trixie’s adventures now.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Krickis discusses open worlds, messy ships, and misspelled rabbits.
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CoffeeMinion’s “Petunia and the Coelacanth”

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Dig into today’s story.

Petunia and the Coelacanth
[Slice of Life] • 2,705 words

Sometimes young Petunia Paleo’s dreams seem impossible.

Good thing dreams are Princess Luna’s specialty.

FROM THE CURATORS: Oddly enough, our first exposure to this sweet, feel-good story was a kerfluffle in our discussion thread.  “Ding dang it, PP!  I was just finishing up my own recommendation e-mail for this one,” AugieDog said immediately after Present Perfect’s nomination landed.  Present shot back, “Obviously, this was a good idea, then,” before Soge quickly greenlighted it: “A good idea it was indeed.  This is simply a slam dunk of a story, charming and unpretentious, yet chock full of narrative depths.”  Still, the choice of story got some good-natured pushback: “Honestly,” FanOfMostEverything said, “my only regret is that Coffee’s going to get featured for this and not To Serve In Hell.”

There were reasons we found this so eye-catching, though.  “Written very much in the style of a children’s story — it practically begins with the words ‘Once upon a time’ — this is just plain charming from top to bottom,” AugieDog said. “And while Petunia’s pint-sized pluck and determination are of course the center of the story, it’s the characterization of her parents that really got to me.”  Both those factors were cited repeatedly as exemplary.  “Despite being written in that ‘bedtime story’ style, it never seems to forget the presence of older readers, managing to make its style work in favor of establishing both atmosphere and character,” Soge said.  “And speaking of character, the characterization work here is amazing. All of the involved pop from the page. And it does all that in its sub-3k word count without ever feeling dense.”

Along the way, we found plenty to surprise and delight us.  “The story is filled with clever bits like the logical consequences of publishing a journal that contains Rainbow Dash’s thoughts on meeting the real live Daring Do,” FanOfMostEverything noted.  And several of us loved, as RBDash47 put it, “the concept that Luna is concerned with aspirational dreams as well as nighttime ones. This was a very logical continuation from several elements in the show, and a very satisfying one at that.”  But in the end, it was Present Perfect’s nomination e-mail which summed our enjoyment up best: “This is a fast-paced story that stuffs a whole ton of childish hopes and dreams into itself, before letting them burst forth in a display of pure positivity.”

Read on for our author interview, in which CoffeeMinion discusses guarded faith, self-compression, and yesterday’s sacrifices.
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MrPeaches’ “Wonka Vs. Applejack”

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Today’s story goes down better than a Scrumpdiddlyumptious Bar.

Wonka Vs. Applejack
[Adventure] [Comedy] [Crossover] • 14,202 words

Zap Apple season’s in full swing on Sweet Apple Acres when a most peculiar visitor arrives — Willy Wonka, world-famous candymaker! Thinking that the apple will be the perfect ingredient for a new line of candy, Wonka tries to convince a hesitant Applejack to part with some! But with Wonka things are never quite straightforward; when interdimensional magical mechanics and a legendary tree enter into the picture, our heroes might have been safer battling Hornswogglers, Snozzwangers and rotten Vermicious Knids!

FROM THE CURATORS: There’s no getting around it: this story came completely out of left field (or perhaps fell from the sky in a Great Glass Elevator). “I was extraordinarily skeptical of this story when it was recommended to me,” RBDash47 said in his nomination, “and delighted to find I had a great time with it.” “Wow,” Horizon said. “At the beginning of this story I was wondering if I’d make it through to the end. By the end of Chapter 5 I had favorited it.” FanOfMostEverything couldn’t resist either: “It took a while for me to warm up to this fic, but once I had, it was melt-in-your-mouth good.”

Everyone agreed that the author presented their audience with a pitch-perfect Willy Wonka. Present Perfect was “absolutely in love with this piece the moment Wonka showed up. It’s truly a triumph of character voicing.” RBDash47 was just as impressed at how “the author succeeded in capturing some essence of Wonka, some spirit of the mad chocolatier, and did a passable job of blending both the movie’s and the books’ interpretations of the character and the Elevator.”

Even better, this larger-than-life candymaker turned out to be a perfect fit for the magical land of Equestria. Horizon felt the author truly nailed the crossover: “It’s got such a gorgeous understanding of the themes and tones of both of its sources. (It’s an E-rated adventure! How often do you see those?) And the way it meshes pony canon, Dahl canon, and original whimsy is stellar.” FanOfMostEverything enjoyed how “the pastel deathworld of Equestria and Wonka’s OSHA-violating whimsy combined in a magnificent blend of wonder, mortal peril, and candy (which, since it’s Wonka, is itself a blend of those first two).” RBDash47 isn’t usually a fan of HiE, but thought “this might be the first ‘human in Equestria’ fic I’ve ever read where not only is the human’s presence not jarring, it feels right.” Present Perfect agreed that “it felt like Willy Wonka was honestly meant to be here and have this adventure.”

In the end, AugieDog summarized the curators’ feelings as effortlessly as the author captured their imaginations: “Unlike your average chocolate Easter bunny, this is solid fun from top to bottom.”

Read on for our author interview, in which MrPeaches discusses big brothers, everyday adventures, and riding bulls. Continue reading

RandomNPC’s “Winning, and the pitfalls therein.”

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Give today’s story a chance to conquer your heart.

Winning, and the pitfalls therein.
[Comedy] [Random] [Alternate Universe] • 42,517 words

What if the villains were allowed to win without a fight? Would all of their plans bear them the fruits they so desired?

Probably not, especially when their royal adviser is Twilight Sparkle.

A collection of (continuous) one-shots in which our heroes don’t have any epic fights with villains, and simply allow the power of logic to crush all of the hopes and wishes of the would-be rulers of Equestria.

FROM THE CURATORS: “It’s a question every would-be tyrant has to face eventually,” FanOfMostEverything quipped in our discussion.  “You’ve conquered the kingdom/world/galaxy/universe. Congratulations. Now what?”

As this week’s feature shows, that’s a question with a surprising amount of depth — a depth matched by the story itself.  “It’s hard to categorize this genre-wise, except that it’s relentlessly clever and methodical about finding ways to end-run around the show’s plot holes,” Horizon said in his nomination, and our debate was marked by repeated comments about that cleverness.  “The writing itself is somewhat flat, but the world presented therein is anything but,” RBDash47 said, while FanOfMostEverything half-disagreed: “I honestly didn’t notice the flat writing; the brilliant ideas shine through it.”

Those ideas sparked comparisons of the best kind.  “This feels an awful lot like the gleeful deconstruction of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, mashed up with the themes of redemption and friendship which make MLP stories feel ‘pony’, and I’m in love with the result,” Horizon said.  RBDash47 was equally a fan — but for very different reasons.  “I just finished a re-watch of The West Wing,” he said, “and I’m reminded of that series here, in that it’s both optimistic and features competent characters coming up with clever solutions to seemingly-intractable problems that make everyone happy. I very much enjoyed following along with Twilight as she mercilessly attacked her antagonists with nothing but pure reason, and gradually found herself as the power behind the throne in the balance.”

But what sealed the deal for us was strong character work.  “Where it really shines is how Twilight isn’t always right,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “Logical and internally consistent, yes, but not always right. The avenues she goes down add to both the humor and the depth of the story at every turn, and the increasingly absurd team of advisors she builds as time goes on only adds to that.”  AugieDog praised that as well: “When Twilight almost immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion at the beginning of the Chrysalis section, it did a lot to make this version of the character work.”  (“The entire Chrysalis arc is just gorgeous on toast,” Horizon added.)  Ultimately, we found that made this story stand out amid a sea of others tinkering with the show’s results: “‘Fixfic’ can be a dirty word,” RBDash47 said, “but I have to admire this one.”

Read on for our author interview, in which RandomNPC discusses SCIENCE, sibling relations, and a few different kinds of character redemption.
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Piccolo Sky’s “The Sweet Spot”

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Today’s story will hit the spot for fans of the MLP movie.

The Sweet Spot
[Drama] • 15,679 words

The Cutie Mark Crusaders have dealt with all kinds of ponies having trouble finding their true calling in life, but none can compare to the special request they receive from Princess Twilight Sparkle herself, or the shock they receive on discovering who it is: Fizzlepop Berrytwist, possibly the most hated and feared pony in generations. Can a pony who’s spent most of her life rejecting her true calling possibly find it now? Can the Cutie Mark Crusaders help a pony who almost everypony else in Equestria has rejected?

FROM THE CURATORS: Long-running series like My Little Pony often revisit their characters to explore their full stories on-screen.  But when a compelling character shows up in a one-shot movie, that offers fertile ground for fanfiction to dig in.  “This one is fairly simple on paper: The Crusaders help Tempest Shadow get a Cutie Mark,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination.  “What follows is one of the best redemption arcs I’ve read in this fandom, if not ever.”  Present Perfect was equally impressed back when he first read it: “I homaged it in my own ‘Tempest Shadow gets her Cutie Mark’ story,” he said.  “As my first introduction to how that concept would play out (aside from the one in my head), it was a delight.”

And while several curators thought the story could use trimming, it won us over regardless.  “Everyone, from the Crusaders to the background ponies, feels perfectly in character, and Tempest’s struggle for redemption fits the series’ best mold,” Horizon said.  That characterization came in for repeated praise.  “I think that it more than succeeds on the strength of its characterization, and the way that this angle informs the conflict resolution,” Soge said.  “It also deserves praise for how it eschews an easy solution to its central conflict, and how ‘pony’ everything felt. And, despite the bloat, it additionally works as a solid comedy in many places.”

Regardless, it was the exemplary show-like approach which we singled out for praise over and over again.  “The vision of the ‘Tempest episode’ here is gorgeously realized,” Horizon said, “and while the plot points it hits feel predictable, in a way that’s part of its charm, making it feel less like fanfiction and more like a discarded Hasbro script.”  Present Perfect went further: “It gave me everything I wanted, while also being perfectly show-tone and full of solid drama. Not to mention the creative approach to Tempest’s special talent.” In the end, FanOfMostEverything said, that led to a thoroughly satisfying story: “The ending feels earned, the dramatic beats are on point, and the whole thing makes you wish the show could afford to get Emily Blunt back for an episode.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Piccolo Sky discusses dead space, failed coups, and Guard bandwagons.
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PapierSam’s “We Are Forever”

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We are impressed with today’s story.

We Are Forever
[Equestria Girls] [Comedy] [Slice of Life] • 9,973 words

The pilot episode of the Rainbooms’ reality television show, in which the band breaks up.

As expected, mild drama, washout humour, awkward pop culture references, and character bending to breaking point ensues.

FROM THE CURATORS: While it’s a truism that stories should work with the strengths of prose rather than try to mimic another medium, it can be a joy to find tales which effectively break that rule.  “Here’s a story that genuinely made me feel like I was watching TV,” Horizon said in his nomination.  “The way it imitates that tightly cut, fast-paced style not only works brilliantly, it also centers golden dialogue and witty repartee that carries the story.”  On its way to a feature, the story accumulated significant praise on that point.  “The way it plays with the medium shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, and yet here we are,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “All told, this is a brilliant collision of the modern music industry, reality TV, and a certain septet of multicolored humanoids.”

And while that was a combination which invited comparison, the fic found itself in lofty company.  “I was getting serious ‘This is Spinal Tap’ flashbacks all through this fic, and that’s a very good thing indeed,” AugieDog said.  “The story even manages the amazing feat of parodying the characters we know from the Rainbooms while still remaining absolutely true to them, something else that ‘Spinal Tap’ did so very well.”  That wasn’t the only story element whose execution pleasantly surprised us.  “It even manages some visual gags that by all rights shouldn’t have worked — I’m specifically thinking of the running gag with their cell phones — and works in some great running musical references that might be seen as fourth-wall breaking but to me just came off as endearing,” Horizon said.  And Present Perfect loved several different aspects: “The droll narrator helps keep the fast pacing natural, while also providing us with a huge helping of the comedy,” he said.  “The ability to juggle so many characters, and make all their contributions to both halves of the story meaningful, was impressive.  But mostly, I just love how well the constant cuts to the Interview Area were handled.”

It all added up to an oddly endearing package.  “This got weird at times, and I mean that in a good way,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “Overall, it was a great read, somehow combining sincere seven-way friendshipping with the sort of characterization and casual mockery I usually see in goofy crackfics.”  Present Perfect agreed: “Oh god, the references. This was a marvelous, original piece, something completely unlike anything I think I have ever read, fanfiction or otherwise.”

Read on for our author interview, in which PapierSam discusses cheese brags, common pianos, and multitalented block parties.
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Poptard’s “A Familiar Feeling”

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I’ve got a feeling that you’ll appreciate today’s story.

A Familiar Feeling
[Romance] [Sad] [Slice of Life] • 11,142 words

After months of pleasant dating, it’s time for the inevitable meeting of the family. For Sugar Belle, it should be easy as cake. She’s already met three of the Apple Family members, after all. She only has one more to win over.

It’s more complicated than that, she finds.

FROM THE CURATORS: Romance fanfics face something of an uphill climb in consensus processes like ours.  Non-canon ships tend to be divisive based on readers’ connections to the characters, and canon ships struggle not to retread ground already covered by the show.  So when a shipfic overcomes those hurdles, it’s worth noticing.  “This one I’m recommending on the strength of its portrayal of the relationship of Big Mac and Sugar Belle,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “I have read scores of shipfics in this fandom, and so few authors are willing or able to get the little things right: the cute moments, the use of closeness for comfort. A relationship isn’t all about making out or grand romantic gestures. This story convinces me these two ponies are good for each other.”

As our discussion continued, there was one thing on which we all quickly agreed.  “It is pretty darn cute,” AugieDog said.  Soge agreed: “Belle and Mac are really cute together.  I liked the characterization work, and I thought that the scene in Sugarcube Corner was something special.”  The handling of the story’s central romance was repeatedly singled out as exemplary.  “There are some fantastic moments between the couple, doing far more to develop their relationship than the show has,” FanOfMostEverything said. “Seeing them interact with one another without any contrived sitcom plots does a lot to sell the relationship for me, especially subtle touches like how Sugar Belle can get Big Mac to open the verbal spigot.”

And it turned out that A Familiar Feeling had some pleasant surprises in store.  “I appreciated the generally solid writing and many quotable moments, but I wasn’t sold until I hit the second chapter,” Horizon said.  “The ‘wandering hooves’ effect was vivid and well portrayed, and the emotions connect and provide a satisfying coda.”  That ending brought a unique and memorable touch to this romance, FanOfMostEverything said: “The last scene and its setup were a peculiar form of quietly creepy-sweet that I’ve almost never seen.”  It all added up, as RBDash47 said, to “a pretty perfect balance of soft, snuggly lovingness and a believable conflict that avoided melodrama. … At the end of the day, it passed the most basic of tests: I had a great time reading it.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Poptard discusses friendswording, Flash vindication, and alphabet remixing.
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Undome Tinwe’s “And the Serpent Said Unto the Princess”

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Today’s story was too tempting for us to pass up.

And the Serpent Said Unto the Princess
[Dark] [Romance] • 2,785 words

In the beginning, there was Harmony. Then Discord stole Fire from the Alicorns.

FROM THE CURATORS: “Who doesn’t like a good creation myth?” RBDash47 said in his nomination — and judging by our unaminous approval, this fic blew past “good” with room to spare.  Along the way, it picked up both top scores and praise like Soge’s: “Oh boy, is this fic special in a way few fics are.  The multi-layered narrative, the allusions to all kinds of human myths, and most importantly, the twist at the end that brings everything into sharp focus. Everything works in synchrony to deliver the author’s grand vision.”

That was quite a feat given how many big ideas the story brought to the table.  “I can’t remember the last time I saw something with so many layers,” Present Perfect said.  “There’s the creation myth, which is perfectly excellent storytelling on its own. Then there’s Discord as both Lucifer and Prometheus, poisoning ponies with his fire. And then there’s the Hero, and the revelation that what we know as ponies is not what always lived under Celestia’s rule. Of course, the omission of Luna from the tale reinforces that this is almost assuredly not historical truth, which is great. What starts out as seemingly anti-Discord religious tract becomes full-fledged insanity by the end, and I loved watching the tale unravel.”  FanOfMostEverything commented on that as well: “If anything, the friction between the scripture and reality only emphasizes the devotion of the congregation.”

We found the story’s vision reinforced by excellent voicing and pacing.  “It’s got the language and rhythm of a revival-tent cult meeting down so well, the temptation to read lines aloud in my best ‘fire and brimstone’ voice was nearly overwhelming,” AugieDog said.  “And the slow unwrapping of the Hero’s identity is one of the finest reveals I’ve read in quite some time.”  On top of that, as Soge noted, the story’s big ideas squarely kept the show front and center: “Through all its depths, it still remains fundamentally pony, the kind of thing that can hardly be achieved outside fanfiction.”  That came together, as Horizon said, to a simply enjoyable read: “Smooth execution of a novel idea?  Sign me up.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Undome Tinwe discusses exploding pythons, wedding crashers, and $250,000 savings.
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