Correct the Record winner: bookplayer’s “Lost Time”

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(Editor’s note: Imploding Colon [aka previous featuree shortskirtsandexplosions] declined a refeature for Austraeoh, our top vote-getter.)

Our recent “Correct the Record” contest asked readers to help us choose authors whose previously spotlighted stories weren’t the best showcase of their writing strengths.  Fitting, then, that today’s feature is about a romance being forgotten.

Lost Time
[Drama] [Romance] • 59,897 words

Rainbow Dash can’t wait for her first date with Applejack; they always have an awesome time hanging out, and a relationship just means there are even more physical activities they can try together. So when the dumb zap apple harvest postpones their date, she decides it’s the zap apples that are going to have to change their plans. Equestria should know by now that wild, ancient magic is no match for Rainbow Dash, especially when she might get laid.

Everything is going according to plan, until she crashes. Or, rather, until she wakes up after crashing and fifteen years have gone by. Fifteen years during which she seems to have been a very busy pony.

Now Rainbow Dash has to adjust to a life she never thought she wanted, and figure out if she’ll ever get to live the life that brought her here.

FROM THE CURATORS: The case for correction here was both simple and compelling. “[Previous feature] Of Cottages and Cloud Houses … does not reflect bookplayer’s claim to fame: shipping romance,” Catalysts Cradle said in Lost Time’s nomination.  “This is a really well planned and well executed story that touches on a lot of deeper themes absent from many other ship fics.”  Our curators quickly agreed.  “All I can say is, our audience has great taste,” Horizon said, amid superlatives like AugieDog’s: “This beat a story of mine in a contest and is also one of my favorite pony stories ever written.”

The main element driving our appreciation was the story’s novel approach to its central romance.  “In a lot of ways, Lost Time takes the idea of ‘Alien Shipping Syndrome’ and turns it inside out,” AugieDog said, “throwing Dash into what seems to her to be a sudden relationship with AJ and then not only showing us how that relationship developed but showing us the characters as they are now beginning to develop a new relationship.”  Horizon also commented on that multi-layered approach: “What’s remarkable about this is that it’s three stories in one — the romance with displaced Dash, the relationship drama with older Dash’s family, and the character drama of displaced Dash’s lost 15 years — all of which work both individually and together.”  And Present Perfect praised the core maturity: “This is, as I put it to myself, a very ‘grown-up’ fic,” he said.  “It’s very focused on the minutiae of a relationship, the meaning of marriage, the full weight of responsibility that having kids requires of a person. You just do not see people writing fanfics about that, and it’s the reason I love this as much as I do.”

The icing on this romance’s cake was exemplary character work.  “Dash is really marvelously used in the central role, contrasting her self-centered approach to daily life with her core loyalty, and naturally building a compelling drama out of that tension,” Horizon said.  “And the children are fantastic supporting characters — whip-smart without being written as tiny adults. Trying to maneuver around them adds an extra layer of complexity to the relationship difficulties. The dinner-without-vegetables scene in particular sticks out in my mind as heartbreaking.”  But equally compelling was the work put into the plot: “On a story level, too, everything dovetails so very nicely,” AugieDog said.  “The revelations in the last chapter are the best sort of revelations because I didn’t at all see them coming, but looking back, I can see them all making perfect sense.”  It all added up to a story deserving of its accolades, as Present Perfect said: “This is really just one of the absolute best fics I’ve read, period.”

Read on for our (all-new!) author interview, in which bookplayer discusses prompt tag, sizzles sold, and Star Wars rejections.

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Correct the Record winners: Aragón’s “Evil Is Easy, Governing is Harder” and HoofBitingActionOverload’s “Spring is Dumb”

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Our recent “Correct the Record” contest asked readers to help us choose authors whose previously spotlighted stories weren’t the best showcase of their writing strengths.  Today, we’re offering a double feature with two of our three contest winners!

Evil is Easy, Governing is Harder
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 18,246 words

One day, just like that, Celestia decides she’s going to go mad with power.

FROM THE CURATORS: The need to correct the record here ran deeper than Aragón being best known for his comedies.  “His current featured story was written in the style of another author,” MrNumbers said in the story’s nomination.  “This one, though, is some of the tightest comedic construction I’ve ever seen, in a style I don’t think any other author on the site could pull off.”

Not only did voters agree, but Evil is Easy also accumulated superlatives both from FanOfMostEverything’s “Imposing Sovereigns” contest (where it soared to an easy first-place win) and from our curators.  “This is Aragon at his best, and it’s a must-read,” Present Perfect said.  The reason was simple.  “It’s ding-dang funny,” AugieDog said, and Horizon agreed: “Fires on all cylinders.  It’s Pratchett-level wizardry to keep an 18,000-word story so unwaveringly fast-paced and hilarious.”

And there was consistent depth here beyond the hilarity.  “I was extremely impressed by how Aragon managed to weave dozens of different running jokes into a coherent, and even surprisingly poignant plot,” Soge said.  “It is complete insanity from start to end, but there is a method to the madness.”  Present Perfect echoed that sentiment: “The ponies in this story aren’t so much out of character as they are infected with a type of blithe insanity, to which only Daring Do is immune, the poor dear.”

 

 

Spring is Dumb
[Comedy] [Romance] • 9,255 words

Rainbow Dash knows one thing for sure, she is definitely not a barbarous, uncivilized dolt who doesn’t know polite conversation from a hippopotamus’s rear end. And also that she’s definitely not the one who’s wrong. Rarity is wrong. Rainbow Dash is absolutely, totally, a hundred percent sure of it.

But then why did Rainbow just buy a wagon load of apology bouquets? 

FROM THE CURATORS: RCL-wise, this story was the victim of unfortunate timing — when it was published for the Raridash group’s “The Four R’s of Spring” contest (where it was unanimously declared the winner), we had just approved HoofBitingActionOverload’s previous feature for posting.  Spring is Dumb has received acclaim from around the fandom in the meantime.  “An absolutely hilarious story with an amazingly voiced Rainbow Dash,” Titanium Dragon said in this story’s nomination.  “This shows HoofBitingActionOverload’s breadth of skill … a number of his romance stories and comedies are excellent, and I’ve always considered Spring is Dumb to be his best work.”

We agreed — not just that this was a solid romance, but that it’s a superlative story, period. “As someone that always seems to dislike shipfics, I was immensely surprised at just how good this story is,” Soge said, and Chris’ recommendation echoed that: “Unless you’re absolutely 100% allergic to main six shipping, you should check this one out.”

Among its core strengths was its portrayal of the ponies we know and love.  “Characterizations are fantastic all around, including all the side characters,” Soge said. “That it manages to be this funny without ever being caricaturesque is nothing short of an achievement.”  And AugieDog had special praise for the narrative voice: “Re-reading it now, I’m struck again by how effortlessly the author makes it seem to craft a completely consistent character out of someone who contradicts herself every third or fourth paragraph.”

Read on for a few words from our spotlighted authors, in which Aragón and HoofBitingActionOverload discuss Indiana Jones sincerity, Rainbop Dashboard, and how these stories exemplify their styles.
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Ether Echoes’ “Through the Well of Pirene”

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Flow through a mythological epic with today’s story.

Through the Well of Pirene
[Adventure] [Human] • 369,088 words

As a child, Daphne knew of a world where magic lived, where an immortal princess reigned over a beautiful kingdom, and longed to journey there beside Leit Motif, the filly she’d grown to love in the woods behind her home. But one day, when she needed her most, Leit Motif was gone, and she never came back to show her the way. As she grew, she put aside her childish dreams, and taught herself to believe the lie.

When forces beyond her knowing take her sister Amelia, though, she discovers that her childhood fancies were entirely too real, and is thrust into a journey that will take her back to that land she longed for, back to the childhood friend she’d abandoned, and to worlds she’d only dreamed of.

FROM THE CURATORS: Today’s feature shatters our length record for a featured story, doubling the size of the previous record-holder (and clocking in at 8/10ths the size of the entire Lord of the Rings series).  But Through the Well of Pirene justified that wordcount.  “It’s always got something interesting to do,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “The slower parts allow for character revelations, lush imagery and world-building, or just doling out fascinating headcanons.”

And there was one element of that which quickly stood out as exemplary.  “If there’s any one thing I think you folks will enjoy, it’s the world-building and the plethora of mythologies,” Present Perfect said to solid agreement.  “The mythology here is remarkably Gaimanesque, and I say that as a compliment because the man writes some damn good faeries,” Horizon noted, while Soge praised its breadth: “I’m a sucker for fics that mix Equestrian lore with human history and myth, and this delivers that in spades, going well beyond its obvious Greek influences.”

But for the most part, that wasn’t we talked about in one of our group’s longest discussion threads — which often touched on the character work.  “I love The Morgwyn so much,” Horizon said.  “Trying to figure out his long game is keeping me remarkably engaged as the protagonists’ knowledge of the world around them deepens. Everything about the goblin castle Amelia was taken to is great. I can’t stand most of the (ex-)human characters, but it is very much to this story’s credit that, despite that, I’ve been so consistently engaged.”  Present Perfect acknowledged that “the characters, especially the main ones, take some getting used to,” but noted that “they grow and change over the course of the book in natural, if frequently staggering, ways.”  Horizon quickly agreed: “Amelia is the clear standout, and the story’s at its strongest when it examines her slow descent into villainy and the all-too-understandable motives that continue to drive her to fix things even when she’s crossed a line,” he said.  “But the moral struggles of characters like Maille and Flash keep the story powerful when the focus shifts.”  Those side characters were part of a greater richness, Soge noted: “It’s full of little details which show just how much the author cared about this world and its story, such as the differences in lingo between the Goblin factions.”

And while there was some curator ambivalence as the scope of the story expanded — “just about everything I liked was balanced by something I didn’t,” AugieDog said — the ultimate consensus was that it did the important things powerfully.  “It was the fact that it delivered on its promise of epic that kept me looking forward to the reading,” Horizon said.  “This also always wrote with an eye toward theme, and so in hindsight what I remember is the story’s big statements, which is exactly what I should be remembering.”  AugieDog had similar praise: “I love how the scope here is intensely epic and intensely personal at the same time, and with the fate of the entire multiverse hinging on two sisters not getting along, well, you can’t get any more My Little Pony than that.”  That added up to a story that met its high ambitions, Present Perfect said: “This is the best HiE I’ve ever read — though it’s certainly far more than that — and it comes by that status honestly.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Ether Echoes discusses executive meddling, puréed myths, and punishing children.
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AlicornPriest’s “Alicorn Time”

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The memories of today’s story will stick with you.

Alicorn Time
[Sad] • 2,138 words

Twilight, believing something has happened to her memory, seeks out Princess Celestia to see if she recognizes it and can offer a cure. But the answer lies far deeper in the root of her nature and her life as the Princess of Friendship than she would have ever expected.

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s not often that a short fic laser-focused on a single idea — especially an idea without direct roots in the show — makes us sit up and take notice.  “At the outset, this looks like a pretty typical ‘bit of headcanon disguised as a story’,” Chris said.  “That does, though, sell this fic short in one crucial respect: the author is able to deliver some truly heartwrenching moments in the back half of this.  Celestia gets a couple of absolute back-breaker lines, and the final sentence of the fic is heavy in just the right way.”  Horizon agreed: “It’s a headcanon fraught with emotional issues, and the author hits the right notes to effectively draw those out.”

That was due not only to the story’s choice of topics, but also the choice of perspectives with which it approached the idea.  “I’ve had trouble with my memory my entire life … so the idea of experiencing most of life only ‘in the moment’ doesn’t seem that awful to me,” AugieDog said.  “But AlicornPriest does a good job of conveying how devastating this is to Twilight and of following her through the stages of grief as she comes to realize how this is going to affect her and her friendships.”  That was brought out further by strong secondary character work.  “The story also made an effective decision in Celestia’s characterization,” Horizon said.  “Her casual acceptance of the phenomenon just underscores how disturbing the situation is if you actually stop and think about it.”

Those made this work not just as an idea fic but also as a story.  “I’ve zoned out while working in the yard and ‘lost’ a half-hour or more before,” Chris said.  “Alicorn Time is that feeling, writ large, and it achieved a poignancy as a result which few ‘headcanon fics’ can match.”  And the fic’s solid extrapolation of that phenomenon to immortality was what made it exemplary, Horizon said: “I think asking important questions about our own experiences through the lens of fantasy is one of the highest goals that a fanfic can reach.”

Read on for our author interview, in which AlicornPriest discusses tweening, Account Patterns, and zoned-out YouTube flickers.
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Interview edit notice

We have received several complaints regarding a recent interview response which advocated, and appeared to incite, violence against people of different political beliefs.  We have removed that material, and would like to apologize to our readers for our error in judgment in publishing it.

Publishing sometimes involves tradeoffs between competing principles.  When we originally reviewed the interview before publication, it was the first time in 3½ years that we’d received such an inflammatory statement.  We faced a choice between free speech (one of our goals is to give our featured authors an open platform that lets them present themselves as they wish to be) and community standards (one of our goals is to make positive contributions and draw people closer together in the spirit of the show).  In hindsight, we made the wrong choice.

It’s easy — and tempting — to err on the side of free speech by drawing a mental line between the words that we write and the words that we copy-and-paste from the featured author.  But that’s also incorrect.  We are ultimately responsible for all the words put out under our name, even if they were written by someone else.  Publishing advocacy of violence was an abdication of that responsibility, and that isn’t the sort of example we want to set.

Czar_Yoshi’s “Stay Determined”

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(Note: We’re looking to re-feature three of our spotlighted authors, in order to offer them spotlights on stories more representative of their writing!  Our “Correct the Record” contest runs through Sunday, April 23.  Weigh in with your votes and nominations on our FIMFiction thread.  For a “ballot” with a compiled list of nominations and voting links, check this spreadsheet.)


The quality of today’s story is exemplary because today’s story is of exemplary quality because the quality of today’s story …

Stay Determined
[Alternate Universe] [Dark] [Sad] • 15,000 words

My name is Starlight Glimmer, and I hate bad endings. It isn’t fair when some ponies win and others lose, purely by chance. If I had my way, every pony would be equal. Every pony would win. After all, the only other fair thing would be for us all to have a bad ending, and who would want that? This colorless world is bad enough already as it is.

So far, my record is flawless. Never once have I prematurely ended someone’s story, never once have I hurt someone more than they can bear. And every time I spare a life, make a new friend? I get stronger for it. Eventually, I’ll be so strong I can fix the entire world.

No matter what the world throws my way, I’m never going to give up.

FROM THE CURATORS: This unusual time-loop story was a medalist in FanOfMostEverything’s recent “Imposing Sovereigns” contest, so it was initially puzzling that the contest results post was so vague about its strengths … at least until we read it.  “I can see why they had to hew and haw so much about what to say without spoilers,” Horizon said in his nomination.  “The joy of this story is sitting back as you’re reading it, or after you’re done, and blinking as piece after piece falls together in your mind. The moment when this graduated from interesting read to nomination was when I looked at the impossibly bleak and somewhat overwrought Alternate Universe that the story had warned me about in its tags — and then realized exactly how seamlessly it linked to canon, on multiple levels, including some lovely and subtle statements about changelings.”  And while those links became a subject of hot debate, we found there was plenty to enjoy regardless: “I didn’t catch the changeling angle at all, so I’m going to upvote in a fit of bewilderment,” Present Perfect said.

Among the (non-spoilery) exemplary qualities on display was the way it built up its central theme.  “A little something like Starlight wondering for a moment where Twilight and the rest have gone would’ve been nice, but the still, gray air of self-contained isolation that permeates the piece is another thing that really grabbed me,” AugieDog said.  And that went along with multiple levels of careful construction.  “I could wish for tighter writing — but it weaves a story that’s entirely and perfectly and elegantly self-contained, and when you step out of the story you realize there’s also a greater elegance at play,” Horizon said.

It was that careful alignment of the story’s elements that let us glimpse the story’s true strengths.  “The two Starlights we see are mirror images of each other, and the whole story is set up like two mirrors facing each other, infinitely reflecting themselves off into a fathomless distance,” AugieDog said.  “I kept thinking of the line from near the end of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead where, with the nooses around their necks, one turns to the other and says something like, ‘Next time, we’ll remember.'”  And that was made even more impressive by the dark-horse quality of the contest placing.  “This is a little gem of a story from an author with three stories and a dozen followers,” Horizon said.  “I love the fact that contests can bring this sort of overlooked talent to our attention.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Czar_Yoshi discusses flag-raising, Undertale perfectionism, and the wearing of multiple ties.
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Super Trampoline’s “Feeling That Way”

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(Note: We’re looking to re-feature three of our spotlighted authors, in order to offer them spotlights on stories more representative of their writing!  Our “Correct the Record” contest runs through Sunday, April 23.  Weigh in with your votes and nominations on our FIMFiction thread.  For a “ballot” with a compiled list of nominations and voting links, check this spreadsheet.)


Today’s story brings home the consequences of war.

Feeling That Way
[2nd Person] [Drama] [Slice of Life] [Tragedy] • 1,020 words

You’re drenched in sweat and ennui. She’s fighting the enemy, and you’re fighting depression. Stuck forever in a nowhere town, you try to rise above inertia, but you only end up feeling useless. You’re always feeling that way.

FROM THE CURATORS: When stories tackle challenging topics and perspectives, it’s all the more impressive when they stick the landing.  “While war fics are often a hard sell, this one works by recognizing that,” Present Perfect said in Feeling This Way’s nomination.  “The threat is nebulous and frightening, and since the idea of war doesn’t fit into pony society, the recognition of that makes this feel like a distinctly pony piece.”  And he wasn’t the only one impressed.  “This is certainly a great story, capable of imparting powerful emotion in so few words, subtle in its details, and yet very direct in its approach,” Soge said.  “It walks that fine line between melodrama and genuine emotion splendidly.”

But this story’s main claim to fame is more unusual: This is the RCL’s first feature with the Second Person tag.  “The use of second person strikes a very tight balance,” Present Perfect said.  “Third person would have been too distant for the emotions to hit home, while a first-person narrator likely would have been too familiar, spending time contemplating what certain emotions mean. Instead, we’re fitted into this pony’s life in no uncertain terms right at the start, and get to live out the story through his eyes.”  AugieDog agreed: “For me, the 2nd person works in the sense of the character talking out loud to himself, and I found it quite effective given the dry and dusty sense of madness lurking around the edges.”  And even the dissenters, like Horizon, were impressed with the power of the story. “I’m not as sold as PP on the benefit of the second person here, but that’s not the draw,” he said.  “The big thing right is the effective and efficient storytelling that is packed into the story’s thousand words.”

That quality of writing was apparent both in the large and small.  “I love how it manages to paint a history so rich in details without actually being explicit about any of them,” Soge said, while it was its thematic solidity which impressed Horizon: “All of the beauty is abstract and environmental to contrast with the personal doubt and pain, nicely reinforcing the main theme. The wham line at the end of the mine-tailings discussion is delivered basically perfectly, and adds a sense of layered tragedy.” The overall effect, as AugieDog said, was a hard-hitting short story: “This is very much about being frozen in place, but it still manages to present the reader with an entire world and a couple of characters who have to live in that world.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Super Trampoline discusses olines, happy horse noises, and strap-on horns.
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Kris Overstreet’s “An Orderly Transfer of Power”

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(Note: We’re looking to re-feature three of our spotlighted authors!  Our “Correct the Record” contest runs through Sunday, April 23.  Weigh in with your votes and nominations on our FIMFiction thread.)


Today’s story will oh-so-politely take over your funny bone.

An Orderly Transfer of Power
[Comedy] [Random] • 8,892 words

Straight from the Canterlot archives, this collection of documents retells the rise and fall of Princess Twilight Sparkle, Enlightened Despot of Equestria, Defender of the Peace, Lawgiver, and Commander of Fort Libris.

Twilight Sparkle is, of course, known to historians as the first usurper to seek to schedule a coup d’etat by appointment. But for other details- such as, “What is the longest recorded time a pony has gone without sleep?”, “Is it true what they say about swans?”, and, “Why is there an owlbear in the Equestrian Witness Protection Program?”- these documents provide the answers and much, much more.

This is ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS HISTORY from primary sources. If anything makes you think this is silly, ludicrous, or unbelievable, blame Discord.

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s a testament to the quality of the entries in FanOfMostEverything’s recent “Imposing Sovereigns” contest that a story as consistently excellent as this one could walk away without a medal.  “This is start-to-finish hilarious,” Horizon said.  “It would have been good just with the core joke of Twilight Sparkle wanting to schedule a coup, but it takes that premise, starts sprinting with it, and doesn’t slow down for 9,000 words.”  In his nomination, AugieDog said much the same: “This hits every humorous note of its premise spot-on, from Official Historian Moondancer’s side note to Discord at the beginning to Twilight’s final two-word message.”  Present Perfect’s praise was even more glowing: “This is marvelous right from the get-go, a masterpiece of in-universe writing and bureaucratic comedy rivalling the originator of the genre.”

What was even more remarkable, we agreed, was that this story “maintains its tight comedic pace while sticking strictly to the epistolary style,” as Horizon put it.  “The letters that tell the tale are well-chosen, and the story it tells is rich and robust.”  Present Perfect appreciated the story’s diversity: “The breadth of document types keeps things both fresh and realistic.”  And Chris approved of the story’s careful balancing act.  “The choice of which documents to show strikes a great balance between overly specific and too unfocused, giving the reader plenty to chortle over without bogging down under the weight of its own epistolism,” he said.

That this could entertain us so greatly despite the ways in which it distorted canon was the cherry on top.  “You do have to accept a certain amount of Trollestia as the price of entry … but the author then uses that premise in a variety of wonderfully funny ways,” Chris said.  That was ultimately what won Present Perfect over: “Though I’m usually a stickler for Twilight and Celestia’s relationship,” he said, “the ridiculous way Twilight goes about staging a coup helps ground her actions in her character, and it’s certainly not as hard to swallow Twilight getting fed up with taking Celestia’s crap.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Kris Overstreet discusses thermonuclear cherries, token rednecks, and discovering empathy for Rarity.
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MrNumbers’ “The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon”

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When it comes to romance, today’s story aims high.

The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon
[Alternate Universe] [Romance] [Sci-Fi] [Slice of Life] • 150,923 words

In a world of brass and steam, Twilight Sparkle had thought she had made a life-changing discovery with the invention of the telescope. For better or worse, she was correct.

Now her discovery has not only changed her life, but the lives of those she seeks out in her desperate attempt to contact the only other creature as lonely as Twilight herself.

It all would have been much simpler, but it had to be the one Twilight could only call The Mare on the Moon.

Decidedly not within walking distance, then.

FROM THE CURATORS: Part of the problem in featuring longfics is that we have to wait for them to be completed — but in cases like this, the payoff is worth the wait.  “I’ve been salivating over the prospect of being able to nominate this for months,” Horizon said.  “It’s almost outrageously fun.”  As it sailed through our voting process, it accumulated further superlatives — AugieDog’s among them: “In a few places the plot machinery creaks a bit too loudly, so I can only call the story really, really, really good instead of mind-bogglingly excellent.”

In a way, there was almost too much to like about this fic.  “It is, in fact, two stories, in tone and style; the first is a steampunk slice-of-life about Twilight meeting the girls and falling in love with an idea, while the second is a rollicking intrigue/adventure tale of plots, counterplots, lust, and occasionally massive explosions,” Chris said.  “But although there’s a fair bit of awkwardness to the way those two things are put together, the piece as a whole remains a rewarding reading experience.”  Horizon appreciated it all: “Even though its central romance had me cheering, the real highlight here is the inventors’ tense struggle against both physics and government attention.”  And AugieDog praised the sharp writing throughout both halves: “The narrative voice has just the right mix of snark, seriousness, and ‘sense of wonder’ to carry the piece through the emotional — and literal — roller-coaster of the storyline.”

We all agreed that among the highlights was the story’s treatment of its dynamic and memorable cast.  “The characters are all unmistakably themselves, but they’ve been bent in a number of interesting ways by the world the author has conjured up,” AugieDog said. “That world is the star of the show, especially since — for all the setting’s enormous differences — it all hinges, as a proper AU should, around one simple change to the canon chronology.”  Chris agreed:  “Seeing how the setting has changed the characters is a source of continuous interest.  This story builds them up, bit by bit, slowly revealing layers to each of their personalities, in an organic manner which mirrors Twilight’s own learning about them.”  And, as Horizon noted, it does that without losing sight of its essential poniness: “The story walks the tightrope over the chasm of grim Tyrantlestia without ever straying from a world where friendship is an active, driving and redemptive force.”

Read on for our author interview, in which MrNumbers (and several guest footnoters!) discuss ugly oil-lamp beauty, copyright-compliant weapons, and grand theft bat.
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McPoodle’s “The Perfect Little Village of Ponyville”

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Open your eyes, and you’ll find that today’s story is quite a sight.

The Perfect Little Village of Ponyville
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] [Comedy] [Drama] • 35,747 words

Vinyl Scratch wakes up to find herself the personal student of Princess Celestia, sent to the obscure village of Ponyville to oversee preparations for the millennial Summer Sun Celebration.

Vinyl can only imagine two possible explanations for what has happened: she has tumbled into an alternate universe where she’s Twilight Sparkle, or, after everypony telling her she’d do it eventually, she’s finally gone and lost her mind.

FROM THE CURATORS: Six seasons in, it can be interesting to return to some of the fandom’s earliest tales — and occasionally, quite rewarding as well.  “I’ve got some metafiction for y’all, from all the way back in the dimly remembered time of 2012,” Chris said in his nomination.  “Don’t be fooled by its age, though: this fic still holds its own, five years later.”  And, indeed, we found the quality of this fic leaping right off the page at us.  “The narrative voice just drew me right in as did the simple, sweet writing,” AugieDog said.  “I dislike the phrase ‘a facility of language’ because it’s so pretentious, but that’s exactly what I found myself thinking it demonstrated about halfway through chapter one.”

The main element drawing our praise, however, was the unusual way this gambled with its structure — and the rich way that gamble paid off.  “This is a fic which you have to give the benefit of the doubt, but I found that my tentative acceptance was repaid in spades,” Chris said.  “For example, there is in fact a reason why the narrator occasionally interjects to comment on the narrative structure.”  AugieDog agreed, with a musical twist: “Appropriately enough for something with so much music in it, this is a perfect example of what I’ve always thought of as ‘con brio’ storytelling,” he said.  “Right from the first dozen paragraphs, the author leaps off the narrative cliff while saying, ‘Leap off with me, and it’ll be well worth your time.'”  And Horizon appreciated the way it put those choices to deeper use: “It makes no apologies or excuses for its structural oddity, and not only manages to back-justify it, but also manages to use that unique narrative format to unroll character and plot.”

Add that to the richness of detail, and we found this an easy winner.  “All the flourishes around the edges really make it shine,” Chris said.  “The musical theme of the world (matching Vinyl’s interests) is just the most obvious and the one I’m best acquainted with, and it’s so well-formed.”  That those details were integrated so neatly into the story was the icing on the cake.  “We’re treated to a smorgasbord of cool headcanon that largely has retained its luster six seasons later,” Horizon said.  “I liked, for example, the explanation for Luna’s mane, and the addressing scheme for dragonfire letters — all the more so since that seemingly inconsequential detail smoothly shifts into a major plot point.”

Read on for our author interview, in which McPoodle discusses pessimistic inventresses, confounding satires, and repairing the perfect movie.
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