Today’s story is a controversial, yet powerful look at a meeting of cultures gone horribly wrong.
[Tragedy] [Dark] [Human] • 10,947 words
At 3:15 AM, Adams woke me with a loud knock on my front door.
“Put your boots on,” he said when I answered. “There’s a biblical monster in my house.”
FROM THE CURATORS: As a glance through the story’s overflowing comments section will show you, this is a piece which is not afraid to be thought-provoking. Its final chapters take a swerve from quiet tension into some of the most unflinching Dark fiction in the fandom. What makes Biblical Monsters remarkable is how effectively it supports that twist. “Horse Voice did a great job setting up his character and motivations to make the ending a tragically logical inevitability,” Chris said. Benman added: “The clues were there all along. The core themes and conflicts are constant throughout.”
We all agreed that the story, in Chris’ words, “practically screams ‘literary.'” The quality of the writing is exemplary. Benman went even further: “I decided a while ago to limit my FIMFic favorites list to ten stories. This is currently one of them.”
Read on for our interview, in which Horse Voice discusses thematic twists, anonymous villains, and lessons learned while handling controversy.
Give us the standard biography.
I was born on the side of a highway with a steering wheel in one hand and a sawed-off shotgun in the other. While being raised by a family of beavers, I taught myself to read with a bag of scrounged Reader’s Digests. I’ve worked as a night clerk, editor, paint salesman, lighthouse keeper, and full-time collector of publishers’ rejection letters. I majored in Creative Writing because I wasn’t good at anything else. When I graduated, my muse promptly ran away, and when she came back a year later, she smelled like a horse. The rest is history.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It comes from the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids. In the translation I read, the mother goat tells her kids that the Big Bad Wolf disguises himself in a goatskin, but may be identified by his black paws and “horrible hoarse voice”.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Twilight. She’s the one most similar to me—overtly in some ways, subtly in others.
What’s your favorite episode?
All of the two-parters are tied for first place. Through them, we get a glimpse how far these characters and this world can be taken when liberated from the constraints of a 22-minute episode. This is also why I’m grateful for the IDW comics.
What do you get from the show?
It’s clean fun and good for some laughs. More important, it’s excellent raw material for fan work. I wouldn’t even have started watching if it wasn’t for the fandom’s creativity. So yeah, I’m one of those people.
What do you want from life?
Some peace and quiet. I don’t seem to be doing a good job of finding it, though. Maybe I should stop throwing stones at ideological hornets’ nests.
Why do you write?
Two reasons. First, these ideas won’t leave me alone until they’re written down. Second, these are the sorts of stories I would like to read, but no one else seems to be writing. If someone out there is writing stories along the same lines as mine, I would genuinely like to know.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. Learn all the mechanics of the language. You’ll save yourself and your readers a lot of trouble. While it’s good to approach writing (or any art) from the heart, it’s also important to use your head.
Take the tagging system more seriously than I did. I didn’t initially put much thought into what tags Monsters should have, and on several occasions was (perhaps rightfully) criticised for mislabeling it.
If the time comes that you start getting flamed, don’t fight fire with fire. I did, and soon wished I hadn’t. Calmly addressing legitimate criticisms, and ignoring illegitimate ones, is better for everyone in the long run.
Finally, remember to use spoiler warnings when appropriate. For example: EVERYTHING PAST THIS POINT IS A SPOILER.
To what extent, if any, are Adams and the narrator meant to represent humanity as a whole?
On the surface, they are very different people. But if you dig deep enough, you find the one thing shared by all people everywhere.
This is a story about fear.
Do you think either of the human characters could have prevented the outcome of this story, or are they too hemmed in by cultural strictures?
Is it a cultural stricture to want to defend yourself, and perhaps your entire species from an apparent threat?
Evil actions may be influenced by culture, but culture is not the root cause. The reality is far worse. To make most people do bad things, you must only convince them that they, or things they hold dear, are in danger. Bigotry, war, and genocide are only a few of the evils fueled by fear. Don’t think for a moment that you are immune, just because of your particular culture or belief system. Control your fear, or it will surely control you.
To answer your question, yes, they could have—if they were not so fearful.
There is a wealth of stories that depict humans fighting back against an invading force as heroes. In Biblical Monsters, the cultural misunderstandings between Twilight and the humans she’s with present a real possibility that an Equestrian force coming to Earth would indeed be detrimental to the human race. Would you say Adams and his compatriot are heroes?
They certainly think they are, don’t they?
And we’re all heroes from our own point of view. Many people are wrong about this, but not all of them come to realize it. That realization is one of the worst feelings in the world. This, by the way, was one reason I put that stinger at the very end. I didn’t want the two characters to get away with what they had done. At the very least, they will soon learn that they are not heroes at all.
Why did you decide to leave the narrator unnamed in the text? Did you have a name in mind for him?
I never had any name in mind. There are plenty of stories out there with nameless everyman protagonists, but few make him the villain, and even less often, a villain who thinks he’s doing the right thing.
One thing I should not have done was specify that the Narrator was male. Leaving him sexless would have broadened his scope as an everyman, and more effectively driven home the theme. The worst part is, I only specified his sex because I wanted to take a playful jab at cloppers. (Said jab is near the end of the first scene in chapter three.)
The fear that ultimately drives the characters in this story stems from colonization, not religion. Why did you decide to wrap so much of the story in Biblical and religious references?
I wanted to invoke the death of James Cook. When he arrived in Hawai’i, the natives mistook him for one of their religious figures. To make a long story short, things went south for him after a while, and as he tried to leave the islands, he was ambushed, knocked to the ground, and stabbed to death. The Hawaiians then gave him a funeral in the manner of their own culture. Sound familiar?
But this was only part of the reason. With my first two stories, I discovered a talent for misleading readers and delivering themes by way of plot twists. In those cases, people liked to be fooled and surprised. This time, it looked like I was setting up a condemnation of religion. Then the fourth chapter came out, and the two characters with opposing ideologies put aside their differences to do a bad thing. After a whole story spent contradicting each other, they both arrived at the same wrong conclusion, for more or less the same reasons. Other stories have plot twists; this one has a theme twist.
I knew the fallout would be bad, but not as bad as it was. Some people who had been enthusiastic readers for the first three chapters started writing essay-length comments explaining why I was a horrible person. The initially huge number of favorites, followers, and green thumbs dropped rapidly in short order. People weren’t even trying to prove me wrong with logic or reason; they were spewing bile. For a short period of time, in a single comment section, Fimfiction resembled YouTube.
The pony thread on spacebattles.com, which until that point had given my story good reviews, might as well have been renamed the “We Hate Horse Voice” thread. In the end, they had to make a separate thread just to talk about how wrong I was, and how a first-contact scenario should happen.
Then there were those who wanted to see not only the two humans destroyed for what they had done, but also all of humanity. I expected the other two reactions, but this one surprised and distressed me. I can understand wanting to see the guilty punished, but what sort of person wants to see an entire species wiped out for the crimes of two nobodies?
Just as my two characters turned on Twilight when she said things they didn’t like, so too did these readers turn on me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The is the story I kind of wish I had never written.
The ending hurt some people much worse than I would have guessed. I recall some saying they felt the effects for days: insomnia, nightmares, nausea, and so on. By writing a story about ordinary people becoming villains, I became something of a villain myself, at least in their eyes. A few questions ago, I said it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. This is one of the reasons I took such a long hiatus after the dust settled.
(By the way, if you think the last chapter is painful to read, imagine how much so it was to write. I took the darkness in my heart and poured it onto the page. It’s effective therapy, but the result is never pretty.)
This leads into a request I have for everyone reading this. In the days that followed the story’s publication, Minalkra wrote and published an optional fifth part. He wrote it in the space of a few hours and published it practically unedited. Regardless, I liked it a lot and still do, because it introduced something to my story I could not provide: forgiveness. More important, it eased the pain of the aforementioned readers who were still recovering from the fourth chapter. At the time, it was exactly what we all needed. But several times in recent months, it has been unfavorably compared to the original. I would ask that people not do this anymore. Minalkra is not a bad writer, and I don’t want his reputation to be damaged because of first impressions.
One more thing. Often, when this story is mentioned somewhere, it causes heated discussion. Please direct all complaints to me, and be civil to each other. It’s my cross to bear.
You can read Biblical Monsters at FIMFiction.net.