Mannulus’ “Sassy Saddles Meets Sasquatch”

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Today’s story is a rare find.

Sassy Saddles Meets Sasquatch
[Comedy] [Random] • 5,886 words

The legend is known throughout Equestria, but there are few who believe. Those who claim to have seen the beast are dismissed as crackpots and madponies. Those who bring evidence before the world are dismissed as histrionic deceivers. There are those who have seen, however — those who know — and they will forever cry out their warning from the back seats of filthy, old train cars, even to those who dismiss them, who revile them, who ignore their warnings unto their own mortal peril.

“The sasquatch is real!” they will cry forevermore, even as nopony believes.

But from this day forward, Sassy Saddles will believe.

FROM THE CURATORS: While many of our features trend toward the emotionally weighty, sometimes you just want a good laugh as a palate cleanser.  And this one was quite a find.  “I’ve not read a comedy like this in quite some time,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “The jokes are lightning-fast and begin as soon as the story does. This is nothing but wacky pony hijinks and cutting dialogue.”  AugieDog quickly agreed while assigning it a top score: “Oh, my goodness, yes.” And Soge was similarly delighted: “I was in the mood for comedy, and this delivers in spades.  Whenever a joke fails to land, it is quickly followed up by ten more that do.”

However, what AugieDog found most impressive was the balancing act the story required.  “Real, honest-to-goodness goofiness, I continue to hold, is about the hardest sort of writing to do well,” he said.  “You need a story that can hold up as an actual story while being bent out of shape and knocked askew from every possible direction. The characters have to do things that make sense in context even though they’re completely absurd. And the dialogue has to sparkle with wit one sentence, stumble into stupidity the next.  This story delivers on all possible fronts, from how foundational Sassy’s sassiness is to her entire self-image to the footnote in the middle of the saga of the two rat kings.”

That was enriched by consistent writing, Present Perfect said: “Sassy Saddles is hilariously stubborn in her dedication to sass, in the same way the story is hilariously dedicated to its own ridiculous premise.”  And, as Soge said, that made it a solid choice: “Coupled with the pitch-perfect absurd logic with which the story operates, and a colorful cast of supporting characters, it makes for a sure-fire nomination.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Mannulus discusses brony rarity, Rarity beatdowns, and big-box luthiers.
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SheetGhost’s “Moonlight Vigil”

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Take a closer look into tonight’s story.

Moonlight Vigil
[Tragedy] • 3,755 words

Bitter from her defeat and exile, the Mare in the Moon watches Equestria move on without her.

FROM THE CURATORS: Some of My Little Pony’s central tales, such as Luna’s banishment and return, inspire an endless variety of reinterpretations.  And it’s fanfics like this week’s which make it rewarding to keep returning to that well.  “I’ve seen a lot of different takes on what exactly it was like to be imprisoned in the moon by the Elements, but nothing quite like this,” RBDash47 said.  “I love the idea of the Mare in the Moon as a Sauronesque eye, inspecting Equestria during the full moon, marking its changes. That’s worth the price of admission alone for me. But then the author uses this conceit to tell a wonderful story with a perfectly unreliable narrator about how Equestria and Celestia responded to Nightmare Moon’s banishment.”

That combination was bolstered by vivid and compelling writing.  “It’s full of atmosphere and emotion,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “The Mare in the Moon is clearly unhinged, her desires changing at the drop of a hat. It also approaches her imprisonment from numerous angles, not just her own perspective — we get the thoughts and actions of Equestrians, her former knights, and of course her sister.”  A strong emotional focus contributed to the story’s power, AugieDog said.  “The whole piece just overflows with Nightmare Moon’s paranoia — it reminds me of Twenty-Eight Boulders, where Chrysalis is convinced that everything around her is spying on her. But when we cut at the end to the POV of the ponies back on Equestria, it shifts the whole story’s perspective in such a fine way by showing us exactly how unreliable a narrator Nightmare Moon has been.”

And ultimately, what sealed the feature was how evocative the details were, from start to finish.  “What hits me is how perfectly the core image of the candle reflects and encapsulates the themes of the story,” Horizon said, while Present Perfect said: “Watching Luna misinterpret Celestia’s actions was maybe the saddest part of this.”  And those included links to the show, AugieDog noted: “I love how it gives us the historical event that could’ve inspired the Nightmare Night traditions we see in ‘Luna Eclipsed,’ especially the whole thing about Nightmare Moon wanting to gobble ponies up.”

Read on for our author interview, in which SheetGhost discusses tough love, Greek traditions, and burner accounts.
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Unwhole Hole’s “The Murder of Elrod Jameson”

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Today’s story is some killer noir.

The Murder of Elrod Jameson
[Dark] [Mystery] [Sci-Fi] [Human] • 234,343 words

[Note: This story contains scenes of blood and gore, sexuality, and a depiction of rape.]

Elrod Jameson: a resident of SteelPoint Level Six, Bridgeport, Connecticut. A minor, pointless, and irrelevant man… who witnessed something he was not supposed to.

Narrowly avoiding his own murder, he desperately searches for help. When no living being will help him, he turns to the next best thing: a pony.

FROM THE CURATORS: This week’s feature — and its content warnings — might seem a little unusual for a My Little Pony fanfiction site.  And indeed it is, in Horizon’s words, “a shining example of how to write ponyfic that strays nearly as far from the show as possible while the MLP content remains front and center.”  But for those willing to stray from the light-hearted tone of the show, Elrod offers a unique journey.  “The author has very carefully constructed this bizarre world of sci-fi trappings, mutant humans and world-ruling corporations so that by the end, if ponies don’t make sense for the world, they at least make sense for the story,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “What lies within this twisting labyrinth is lush, depressing scenery; a twisting mystery involving genetics, corporate protection and a worldwide bounty; and plenty of surprises.”

Indeed, the novel quickly inspired comparisons outside of our equine niche.  “In the cadence of its writing it reminds me of some of the best classic sci-fi,” Horizon said, while AugieDog adding: “It reminds me of Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon novels or Jeff Noon’s Vurt series in a lot of ways.”  However, Present Perfect said, it’s got plenty to offer to pony fans: “You could not sand the edges off this and rebrand it as something original.  It deserves to be evaluated as fanfiction.”  That wasn’t a unanimous opinion — with AugieDog noting, “I’ll disagree with Pres and say that this could be turned into a non-Pony novel pretty easily” — but our consensus was, as Horizon put it, “it deserves special mention for the subtle, logical, compelling way that it works in its pony content.”

The strengths of the story were enough to send it to a feature despite curator reservations.  “Not gonna lie, after reading chapter 16’s explicit on-screen rape, I put this one down for a week,” Horizon said.  “But there is more than enough here to justify sitting through that (and the book’s ongoing need for editing). Elrod‘s at its best assembling its vision of a noir, dystopian future world.  This also does an excellent job with the pacing of its mysteries and world reveals … the overall picture fit together extremely satisfyingly.”  And the story won over some doubters.  “If I’d just run across this on my own, I would’ve quit before the end of the first chapter,” AugieDog said.  “But by the last line of that first chapter, I was completely and totally hooked. ‘Cause this is an incredible example of just plain ol’ storytelling. A lot of it comes from the author’s deft use of hard-boiled detective tropes, and there’s a real narrative voice here once things start firing on all cylinders.”

And that wasn’t all.  “The characters are doubtless the strongest part,” Present Perfect said to quick agreement.  “Elrod is an enigma wrapped in a mystery, and figuring him out was really rewarding. Twilight has a great deal of depth to her; important, since she’s actually the main character. There’s the other Twilight — it makes sense in context — who on her introduction is a breath of fresh air, and whose arc provides a lighter counterpoint to the grim and gritty main story.”  Horizon agreed: “Morgana (Twilight) and Elrod are largely overshadowed in their own story by a vibrant supporting cast, and the book wisely realizes this and rolls with it. You could remove the entirety of Book 3 — the other Twilight’s arc — without impacting the A plot in the slightest, but if you did, you’d rip out the beating heart of the story.”

Ultimately, that added up to a package that was more than the sum of its parts.  “This is what I would call a hidden gem,” Present Perfect said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what else Unwhole Hole has come up with, because the expansiveness of this world is in many ways astounding.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Unwhole Hole discusses mocking bridges, furniture stains, and aquarium power trips.
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Grimm’s “Don’t Open the Door”

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Today’s story lingers like the curling mist in a dark forest.

don't open the doorDon’t Open the Door
[Dark][Horror] • 13,654 words

After an expedition into the Everfree Forest ends in disaster, Applejack and Rainbow Dash take refuge in an abandoned cabin until morning.

This is probably a poor decision, but it’s only one night, after all. How bad could it be?

FROM THE CURATORS: “I don’t care much for horror stories,” AugieDog mused. “But this one does so much right, I found myself really impressed.” Present Perfect thought it was “simply one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read,” and Soge agreed “one-hundred percent” that “this is pitch-perfect horror from beginning to end.”

In his nomination, Present Perfect praised the author’s ability to set a scene and draw the reader in. “The atmosphere is lush and offputting, right from the start. The Lost Cities-style description of the abandoned cabin was a great way to set the tone, and throughout the story, new details emerge that keep things creepy.” AugieDog was similarly impressed by how well POV was handled: “the narrowing from omniscient at the start to alternating close 3rd-person between Dash and AJ for the bulk of the piece was absolutely the right approach to take.”

Everyone was surprised by how well this dark horror fit in with Friendship Is Magic. Soge pointed out that excellent character work played a role there, with the author “putting very well-characterized canon characters into a situation which, with some modifications, I could see appearing in the show proper — and given that the show is dead, that would be extra spooky.” Present Perfect lamented that “so many pony horror stories are basically, well, horror stories inflicted upon ponies,” so he was thrilled to find “this story, beyond the profanity and the image of words carved into a table with a knife, fits very well into canon. This is just another strange beast of the Everfree, more terrifying than the show might have explored, but nevertheless not impossible as a creature that exists in the world.”

“A lot of horror stories fall down for me,” AugieDog said, “when it comes to the monster. But here, the author shows us a monster who is big and horrible and devious but maybe not very smart: a monster who is in every way a character in the story. And the description when we actually get to see the monster didn’t disappoint in the slightest.” Though in true horror story fashion, the reader doesn’t get a perfect image; Present Perfect appreciated that “the monster itself is never fully revealed, its identity never given, beyond just enough details to make it terrifying.”

That careful management of information resonated with the other curators as well (“I love the way that the story plays with what is real and what is not,” Soge said, “in a way that you can never feel confident about anything that is going on”) and allowed for a satisfying conclusion (“a perfect cliffhanger,” in Present Perfect’s words) that still let the readers’ mind run wild. “My favorite part,” AugieDog admitted, “is the ambiguous ending. I really appreciate that the author gives a wimp like me enough evidence about the monster’s nature to legitimately conclude that everything turned out all right. I’m sure that, if I wanted to go back and read more closely, I would discover even more evidence that everything did not in fact turn out all right, but when the author gives me an out, I will happily take it.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Grimm discusses caring about what you write, open endings, and darkness in a cartoon for children.

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TwilightFlopple’s “The Celestial Mechanics in Midsummer”

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It’s always the season for a fic as great as today’s story.

The Celestial Mechanics in Midsummer
[Slice of Life] • 8,716 words

“My dear Twilight Sparkle,

Thank you for your recent letters. And I must apologize to you first and foremost that I have not responded back in kind to each and every one. I imagine has this concerned you, but please don’t worry. Things have been very unsettled here in the castle as of late. Princess Luna has been researching Equestrian history, and I find myself in a strange kind of mood…”

FROM THE CURATORS: One of My Little Pony’s greatest strengths was always offering us characters we loved to spend screen time with.  And when it comes to fanfic, sometimes a story can earn its power simply by giving us that quality time.  “This story is absolutely gorgeous,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “Very little actually happens, but through these glimpses of day-to-day life, we see just how much Celestia and Luna love and care for each other.”  AugieDog was similarly enchanted: “The ‘slicier’ a slice of life piece is, the better I’m likely to like it. And this one’s that in droves.”  That was also wrapped around excellent character work, RBDash47 said: “It’s all a perfect exploration of how Luna might have evolved in the early seasons of the show.”

But while we were united in our appreciation, there was one issue on which we split down the middle.  “It’s told from Celestia’s and Luna’s perspectives in turn, and though Celestia’s scenes are the stronger, each princess has her own unique voice that suits her perfectly,” Present Perfect said. Horizon immediately disagreed: “I think the Luna scenes are stronger, thanks in part to the pitch-perfect Rarity cameo. But both parts work in concert to set up a fascinating portrait of reconciliation.”  That led RBDash47 to quip, “it’s so interesting to see how the same story affects different people,” before agreeing with Horizon: “I absolutely loved the middle section, from Luna’s POV. Everything from the worldbuilding vis-à-vis seasonal day/night cycles to the wonderful Rarity appearance to the celestial scarf-gift.”

Ultimately, all those things anchored an exemplary exploration of the show’s mythic princesses.  “What struck me especially was how the story starts with the easy characterizations of the sisters — Luna the bratty younger, Celestia the patient elder — and then starts deepening them, opening them up as they become reacquainted with each other and in the process become reacquainted with themselves,” AugieDog said.  That added up to a classic, Horizon said: “Later canon developed the sisters in different directions, but this nevertheless stands the test of time.”

Read on for our author interview, in which TwilightFlopple discusses film shooting, Nintendo inspiration, and Disney distaste.
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Chiko’s “She Kills Monsters”

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Today’s story will leave a monster of an impression.

She Kills Monsters
[Adventure] [Drama] [Equestria Girls] • 15,000 words

After losing her sister, Rarity buries herself in her work.

Just as lost, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, armed with a personal Ogres & Oubliettes module, try to help the seamstress open more than just her boutique.

FROM THE CURATORS: We have an informal policy not to nominate contest entries until after the judging is complete but with this silver medalist in FanOfMostEverything’s “Imposing Sovereigns II” contest, it was hard to restrain ourselves.  “I see positive comments from one or two of you on it already, so maybe I’m stealing this out from under you,” RBDash47 said in his nomination, “but you snooze, you lose!”

The story sailed through our process even after recusals from the contest judges, and it wasn’t hard to see why.  “This has more depth than any story I’ve read in recent memory, and not only begs but rewards rereading,” Horizon said, while Present Perfect called it “absolutely devastating. … An excellent story, tackling a difficult subject in an unusual and memorable way.”  All of us commented on the strength of the story’s rigid structure: “The bare fact of of making each chapter precisely 500 words reinforces that a lot of care and work was put into this,” RBDash47 said, while FanOfMostEverything noted in the contest judging: “This is a master class in how to say a lot with a little.”

There were plenty of other things to praise, too.  RBDash47 lauded the breadth of its emotional impact: “A fantastic hook. The first few chapters set a melancholy mood without being maudlin or melodramatic. And then out of nowhere, some of the funniest comic relief I’ve read in recent memory, that made me laugh out loud at my desk.”  Horizon appreciated the way it re-envisioned its source material: “It deserves kudos for using the play as a base and finding a way to build from it that brought the story out.” (“The fic uses the play’s premise and pretty much nothing else,” Present Perfect added.)  And FanOfMostEverything appreciated its construction in his judge’s commentary: “The framing device, the flashbacks, and the many ways Rarity needs to come to peace with Sweetie Belle’s death come together into an incredible work.”

And an already exemplary fic was enhanced by the reading experience.  “This is a beautiful, tragic kaleidoscope of a story,” Horizon said, “in the sense that reading through story comments is almost as enlightening as the story itself: everyone seems to be seeing it from a slightly different angle, and all of them are giving me new and awesome things to consider that I never saw myself.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Chiko discusses Herzog narration, Starlight confusion, and Playstation Portable storytelling.
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DannyJ’s “Just Dodge!”

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The quality of today’s story is hard to escape.

Just Dodge!
[Dark] [Comedy] • 9,961 words

Lyra thinks Discord is an idiot for not thinking to dodge when the Elements of Harmony were about to strike him. Discord thinks this is the perfect opportunity for a game.

FROM THE CURATORS: As a new year starts, the same old curators return with a new every-other-Friday schedule and a six-year-old story that’s proven its staying power. “It went from 21k views to 22k while I was reading it,” Present Perfect noted.

We all praised the character writing. “Discord is a touch toned down from his appearances in the show,” RBDash47 said in his nomination post, “(which I don’t mind; translating his visual wackiness to prose can be more annoying than funny), but I can hear every line in de Lancie’s voice.” And AugieDog added, “the version of Lyra here reminded me of the character we meet in the ‘Slice of Life’ episode: essentially good-natured but a little cranky when faced with the unexpected.”

Still, it’s the challenge Discord presents to a skeptical Lyra that makes this story sing. “What’s most impressive,” Horizon said, “is that it’s written well enough and thoughtfully enough to provoke the sort of discussion it received.” “Hundreds have commented,” Present Perfect pointed out, “trying to come up with ways that Discord actually could have avoided the Elements.” “This leads,” RBDash47 said, “to a fun exploration of the limits, or lack thereof, of the Elements’ power.”

Present Perfect neatly summed it up: “On the whole, the quality of the writing, the approach to the what-if scenario and the inspiration of hundreds of imaginations is what sets this apart.”

So read on for our author interview, in which DannyJ discusses dark edges, skewed perceptions, and self-defeats.
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Where Have We Gone?

Hi, everyone. I’ll bet you’ve been wondering what’s happened to the Royal Canterlot Library recently.

Well, the fact is, after Bronycon, life just kind of hit all of us hard in one way or another. Without going into details, that’s why story features slowed to a trickle before stopping. Heck, that’s why we haven’t even said anything about the unplanned hiatus until now! With the holidays on the horizon, we’re not likely to find ourselves awash in free time anytime soon.

But fear not! Like the rest of the fandom, the RCL isn’t going away anytime soon, though it may behoove us (heh) to make a few changes. Right now, our plan is to restart regular features in 2020 with a biweekly schedule instead of the old weekly one. There are still new stories from unfeatured authors we’ve got our eyes on, but a slower pace will help us keep up with whatever slings and arrows are thrown our way, not to mention keeping our stress levels down.

For now, though, we’ll be going silent and working on our current list of nominations in preparation for the new year. We’ll let you all know if anything changes. Until then, have an early Happy Holidays from all of us here at the Library, and we’ll see you in 2020!

Signed,

The Curators

River Road’s “Mr. and Mrs. S.M.I.L.E.”

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Today’s story is classified at the highest level … of enjoyable.

Mr. and Mrs. S.M.I.L.E.
[Equestria Girls] [Adventure] [Comedy] [Drama] • 10,530 words

For centuries anything magic, alien and supernatural has been handled and covered up by the Supernatural and Magical Intelligence League of Earth and their agents. A small city in the heart of [REDACTED] in particular has been designated to always have someone from the agency at hand, even though nothing of note has happened there for so long that nobody even remembers why that policy was implemented in the first place.

Get ready for action, drama, paperwork and misguided marital counseling as you follow the adventures of the two poor idiots dedicated agents currently appointed to watch over the sleepy town of Canterlot, where supernatural events don’t happen regularly so please stop posting videos of them on MyStable.

FROM THE CURATORS: While the march of canon has left many stories’ premises in the dust, every once in a while you run across one which improves with time.  “This story was having fun with the interactions between a Chrysalis and a Tirek long before Grogar forced them to work together,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination. “By making it the human analogues’ job to actually prevent mayhem, it makes them even more entertaining, since they act as a fantastic two-person peanut gallery for the goings-on at Canterlot High.” But it shouldn’t have taken the wisdom of hindsight for us to see how great it was, Horizon said: “I am ashamed that I didn’t nominate this back when it won first place in the Villain Exchange Program contest.”

Behind that win (and our feature) was an underlying factor which all of us praised.  “The dynamic of these two characters is the centerpiece, and it’s just marvelous to watch them work,” Present Perfect said. “They may be the good guys, at least from the reader’s perspective, but Tirek as straightman and Chrysalis as wildcard fits them both perfectly.”  AugieDog echoed that: “The characters are so perfectly presented, they make up for every possible minus.  I would devour a series of stories that followed these two around having their own adventures.”  Horizon’s agreement was more succinct — “the characters leap off the page” — while FanOfMostEverything found that dynamic elevating the whole story.  “This isn’t just a pile of wacky hijinks,” he said. “The two show great character depth and care for one another at times, along with some great off-hand comments that add plentiful depth to the human world. The overall effect is a thoroughly entertaining supernatural buddy cop series.”

Our critical acclaim extended beyond the character work, though.  “What’s most amazing about this is just how effectively it works with the strengths of its format,” Horizon said.  “The framing device squarely introduces the story, keeps it focused on the highlights, and then pulls the two halves of it together at the end. And on top of that is a story which unfailingly hits its comic beats and sketches out a cool and enticing ‘Men in Black’ style background for the EQG world.”  It even won over AugieDog despite initial doubts: “This is just great gobs of fun from start to finish,” he said, “and I absolutely loved how it pushed straight through all the roadblocks my pesky little brain wanted to throw in its way.”  All in all, as Present Perfect said, it was exemplary on multiple fronts: “Funny and insightful, it’s easy to see why this was a winner.”

Read on for our author interview, in which River Road discusses stick-figure comics, reader kicking, and Blueprint duplication.
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Heartshine’s “We Were Bunnies”

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We think you’ll come back to today’s story.

We Were Bunnies
[Mystery] [Slice of Life] • 5,231 words

Fluttershy asks Twilight what happens after death. Or if there is anything that occurs before life. The answer, it turns out, is complicated.

FROM THE CURATORS: As we read through this fic, we found the things we appreciated about it multiplying like … well, bunnies.  “I was just continually surprised at every turn this story made,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “What starts with a fairly common but ultimately limitless philosophical question bends around Fluttershy’s inability to express herself easily, diving into the realms of dreams and finally landing with a surprising connection to another pony.”  AugieDog agreed: “I really enjoyed the long, odd meander from the question that starts the story to the largely unrelated answer that ends it.”  And that journey inspired FanOfMostEverything to say, “This is a fascinating piece both metaphysically and metafictionally.”

The core of that was an exemplary look at Fluttershy’s character and her friendships.  “The rest of the cast dragging Fluttershy through the process of discovery is also a plus for me because of the way it illuminates so nicely how the six of them fit together,” AugieDog said.  “The idea of ‘not wanting to be a bother’ is so fundamental to some of us that it can easily override every other consideration, so the moment when Rarity tells Fluttershy that the others are already getting together at Twilight’s to talk about all this just made me grin.”  FanOfMostEverything agreed: “The way she has to have plot developments dragged out of her makes perfect sense from a character and cultural standpoint. It’s also a great way to preserve the mystery.”  But Fluttershy was far from the only highlight, AugieDog said: “The others are equally well-voiced throughout.”

And along the way there were plenty of details to appreciate.  Horizon praised “moments of brilliance” such as “the ‘somepony’ distinction and the bit about tea and dinner and breakfast.” FanOfMostEverything appreciated how neatly everything wrapped up: “The conclusion is satisfying and matches the hints we’re given.”  And the story kept its greatest strengths front and center.  “No one writes emotionally vulnerable characters like Heartshine,” Present Perfect said.  “This is the best Fluttershy I’ve ever read.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Heartshine discusses rainbow-pilling, British surliness, and equine Johari windows.
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