Long before you ever looked at today’s feature, Princess Celestia knew that you would end up reading it. Don’t worry; it’s all part of the plan.
A Wake Of Mist And Flame
[Slice-of-Life] • 13,730 words
Darrilon has proudly served Princess Celestia for many years, and risen to the rank of Captain of the elite squad known as the Solarian Patrol. But every day is a new challenge when your superior officer (and divine ruler) has no respect for protocol or procedure.
FROM THE CURATORS: We could talk about how this story has — as Vimbert puts it — “a neat OC, a fantastic Celestia interpretation, and a fun writing style that puts characterization at the fore,” but we’re all too aware that that’s exactly what she wants us to do.
Chessmistress Celestia is a common cliché in the fandom, and where this story truly excels is in its vibrant inspection of a trope that many authors use carelessly. “This story does a remarkable job of making Celestia truly divine, which is to say, she operates on a completely different level from us mortals,” Horizon said. “The scene with her lunch is a great example of a little thing that really sells that alienness … and engages with that theme on a deeper level.”
Read on for our interview, in which Heliopause discusses astronomical affinities, Faustian fanworks, and solar social subterfuge.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m an older brony. I live and work in Los Angeles — Hollywood, to be precise. I work in The Industry, but my role is of a technical/computer nature and not related to writing in any way. I majored in Computer Science, but I’ve been a fan of animation since before college.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
The show used to (still does?) have a special affinity for astronomy. At the time when I needed a handle to create my FIMFiction account, the Voyager spacecraft was crossing the heliopause. It seemed somehow auspicious. The heliopause marks the boundary of the solar system, the region of space where the sun and its solar winds hold sway. If you associate Celestia with our own sun, then the heliopause marks the boundary between show canon and fanon.
Who’s your favorite pony?
If you had asked me when I first started watching, I would’ve told you Twilight Sparkle. The first story I wrote was about Twilight, because I didn’t know if writing fanfics was something I’d do more than once, and if I only wrote one story I wanted it to be a Twilight story.
Something funny happened, though. Rainbow Dash wormed her way into my heart and if I’m honest I have to say she’s my favorite. She sits perched atop my Macbook and watches me as I work. She has, to me, the most appealing personality, in terms of what makes an interesting protagonist. Her strengths and flaws are fertile ground for compelling, character-driven plot lines.
I’ve written a few scenes of a Rainbow Dash story that I really like, but the story as a whole never gelled and these other stories got in the way. I’ve got stories for other ponies too, half-completed, jostling for attention. Somehow one of them pushes itself to the forefront, and I’m only able to work on that one story. Rainbow’s story hasn’t made it to that point, yet.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Sonic Rainboom.” The narrative structure is perfect. I’ve always wanted to ask M.A. Larson if he consciously patterned it after Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, because it’s such a beautiful example of that framework. If you’re not smiling after watching “Sonic Rainboom,” you don’t have a soul.
What do you get from the show?
MLP:FiM taught me that a good story can come from anywhere.
I resisted watching the show for a long time. The previous seasons of MLP were examples of everything that’s wrong in television animation. I’d heard people praising the reboot, but I couldn’t believe anything based off of My Little Pony could be worth watching.
I finally gave in after seeing Physics Brony and thinking that if someone could love the show so unabashedly, proudly even, that I had to give it a shot. I would have been impressed it it had been merely watchable, but to see that it was so sincere, so compelling… I was astounded.
I had thought it impossible to turn My Little Pony into good television. Now I know a good story can come from anywhere. There is no idea too inane, no property too damaged, that it cannot be the source of a good story.
Of course, the more challenging the source material, the better your creative skills need to be. Lauren Faust and her team deserve every accolade.
What do you want from life?
I don’t believe there’s a proper answer to this question. I find the answer changes every time I achieve what it was I thought I wanted.
Why do you write?
I write because the world and characters Lauren and her team created are so compelling.
I’ve had the idea to write for children’s television for a long time, but never started anything. I never wrote any fanfiction before MLP. I think the reason there’s so much fan-created material is that these characters and world beg to be played with.
On her deviantArt page, Lauren says that if the internet had been around when she was young, she would have been an avid fanfic writer. That seemed to me to be a clarion call. It was enough to tip me over the edge.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Don’t be fooled by the tip of the iceberg.
There’s so many good stories on FimFiction and elsewhere, and I’ve seen fledgling authors grow desperate when they read something they really like and think, “My writing sucks. I’ll never write as good as this.”
It’s easy to look at the final product and imagine it flows effortlessly from the author’s pen without revision. That’s not the case. What you see is merely the tip of the iceberg, the end result built upon hours and hours of writing and rewriting and revision. I guarantee you, the first draft of Wake of Mist and Flame was more wretched than the worst trollfic you’ve ever read. If you like the story, you’re responding to the sheer amount of effort I put into it and not some magical gift I have for writing.
If you think your own work is no good, then you already have the talent to tell good writing from bad. Rewrite your first draft. If it’s still no good, rewrite it again. It doesn’t even have to be better, just different. After eight or nine or ten drafts, through sheer stubbornness you will eventually write something that makes you think “Hey, that’s not bad.”
Then you win.
Where does Darrilon’s name come from?
This is one small instance where I diverged from show canon. The show seems to give ponies concrete names, but I prefer abstract names.
The problem I have with concrete names is when they become a little too on the nose. A baker named Chocolate Truffle, or an optometrist named Far Sighted. It’s easy, and cheap, and I don’t trust myself not to fall into traps like that.
But there are two canon ponies with somewhat abstract names: Scootaloo and Cheerilee. I like those names, so I took the phonetic pattern and masculinized it. I don’t mean to imply that Darrilon is related to those ponies; I just like their names.
What do you do to balance the framing conflict of Darrilon’s insecurity with the more transient conflicts of Celestia’s day-to-day trials?
I look at it in terms of story arcs.
Depending on how you cut it, there’s five or six different story arcs in Wake. Having them play out one after the other, with one arc starting as the previous ends, would be monotonous. So some of them are linear, but then Darrilon’s arc overlaps almost the entire story, and Whitewater’s as well turns out to have a more complex resolution.
Once I had the overall structure of the story, I started to find places where the different arcs could interact with each other. Perhaps not directly, in terms of plot points, but in terms of theme. For example, Darrilon could think back to the Silver Spurs arc and use something there to apply to Grandgait. I hoped to blend the various pieces of the story together so it felt like a cohesive narrative.
The story never reveals exactly how much Celestia plans ahead of time and how much she makes up as she goes along. How do you leave that ambiguous while still conveying that she’s in control?
My very first idea for writing this story was to do a travelogue of sorts. A kind of a visitor’s guide to Equestria, with Celestia as the tour guide. But I also try to write as close to canon as possible, and having a narrator who is omniscient and omni-benevolent is omni-boring. So I introduced Darrilon as a POV character. With Darrilon I wanted somepony who was as close to Celestia as possible, without actually knowing for sure what she was up to. In that way, we never get a direct peek into her mind.
I also owe a great debt to one of my pre-readers, Daetrin. In an earlier draft of the story, Celestia was much more explicit and heavy-handed in the exercise of her powers, doing things like moving a cart one foot to the left, setting it up so that the next day the right pony would stumble over it. Daetrin suggested it’s much more interesting to see Celestia manipulating ponies with social skills instead of magic or precognition. And that does reinforce one of the central themes of the story. Celestia has great powers, but she also has great restraint.
How does Luna fit in with this interpretation of Celestia?
That’s an interesting question, and not one I’ve given much thought to. Luna plays a tiny, tiny role in this story. Originally she wasn’t in it at all. Her character has wobbled a lot in the canon, going from little girl to overbearing bully to mistress of dreams. I wasn’t as comfortable using her in my story as I was her sister.
The central conceit of my story is that Celestia’s one thousand years of experience is a greater power than anything magic can do. Luna missed out on that. She may be her sister’s equal in terms of magical power, but she lacks Celestia’s depth of experience.
Having said that, she is a fan-favorite character for good reasons. The relationship between two sisters is one that’s ripe for exploration, and it’s something the fan fiction has been quite good at. It’s too bad the show itself doesn’t explore the Celestia/Luna relationship, but I suppose the other families provide plenty of sisters for plotlines.
As a side note, if you haven’t seen Frozen yet, go do so. It’s another great exploration of the relationship between two sisters.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank everyone who gave this story a thumbs-up, or who recommended it to friends. MLP is the first fandom I’ve been a part of. The comics, the videos, the music, the pushies… there’s so much creativity on display here. I’m happy I could make my own small contribution to this amazing community. I said before that Lauren and the show prompted me to start writing, and that’s true, but having this community here was also a big factor. So I thank all of you, for helping to show me what I was capable of.
You can read A Wake Of Mist And Flame at FIMFiction.net.