When two very different cultures collide, it can feel like an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object. Today’s story brings us a glimpse at one of the ponies caught in the middle.
A Faded Touch Of Blue
[Romance] [Sad] [Slice-of-Life] • 13,990 words
[NOTE: This story contains sexual themes.]
Moxie gazed over the stallion in front of her, as the crowd stared at them in turn. Fellow nobles, dignitaries, and her parents had all gathered here, in the balmy mansion of her birth, to witness this occasion. The final words had been said, and they were now officially husband and wife. But she was not happy; this was not her wish.
She ran her hoof down the lock of blue hair entwined in her mane. Her whole life had been decided for her, everything coordinated to the tiniest detail. What she had learnt, how she spent her leisure, who she knew, whose company she enjoyed, whom she had pledged herself to, everything… except the one trip she had taken to Canterlot without the permission of her parents, that is. The glimmering blue strands linger as a testament to her last free action…
FROM THE CURATORS: This is a story about consequences. Most stories create a series of circumstances that force the protagonist to make choices; this is one of the rare inversions where the main character’s major choice already occurred, and the tension is in seeing the ways that choice spreads out to impact everyone in the rigid, hierarchical culture around her.
One of the story’s strongest features is its nuanced portrayal of that supporting cast. “I was consistently impressed by how the author neither took the easy way out and made Saddle Arabia the ‘bad guy’ of the story, nor simply played the cultural relativism card and wrote off serious issues as ‘just the way they do things there,'” Chris said. Horizon agreed: “For all that her culture has hurt her, it’s still a culture full of ponies who want to do the right thing in the only way they know how.”
Most of us felt that the central moral question of the story was presented with similar finesse. “The fact that the reader is left to decide if the hope at the end is real or just another name for resignation (or both) really made this one stick with me,” Chris said. While our voting for this story was the most polarized we’ve seen out of any of our features, what tipped the balance was Tofazz’s willingness to tackle those questions without flinching: “This is one of those rare stories that feels important,” Present Perfect said. “It feels bigger than me.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Tofazz discusses the speed of names, the theft of dreams, and the evolution of cultures.
Give us the standard biography.
What can I say? I’m a 24 year old male from Norway, I’ve studied game-design, with focus on the story aspect, and starting for a bachelor in English this fall; perhaps a masters later. I live in the middle of the forest with bad cellphone reception and lousy internet.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
A funny story, that. I came up with it ten years ago while creating an MMO character for the game City of Heroes actually. I tried to write Too Fast as the character name, and at that time I struggled a lot with my dyslexia so it turned out as To Fass. My big brother saw it, and suggested I altered it to Tofazz to make it sound more like a name. I’ve sorta kept it as a pen name, and online name, to keep reminding myself how far I’ve gotten from that point.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Of the mane six, I would say Fluttershy, for obvious reasons. If we look at the background ponies, I would say Ditzy. As for the princesses, Moonbutt is the obvious choice.
What’s your favorite episode?
I don’t really have one to tell the truth. I seldom watch things multiple times, so the only thing I can say for certain is that I really enjoyed season 1 and 2, very mixed feelings about season 3, too much fan pampering in there, I feel at least. Sadly, I’ve not been able to see much of season 4, but I loved the Rainbow Falls one. Mostly due to the fun I had with Snowflakes’ (Bulk Biceps) character, him and the Ditzy appearance is what makes that episode one of my favorites.
What do you get from the show?
I think what I get/like most about the show is the lessons, trust your friends and family, and lessons can be learned from every mistake that’s done. Also how certain episodes do have the ability to make me smile even when I’m having a bad day. So I think I get the same out of it as most other people.
What do you want from life?
To be happy, that’s what I want, and I think that’s what everyone wants. A part of that, for me, is to live a life where I can make do by telling my stories; to live as an author is what pulls me forward. Anything else I’ll take as it comes.
Why do you write?
Why does anyone write? We have a story to tell, I just happen to have many. I write because I enjoy it, it’s a hobby I can sit down with and just escape into my own world. I also use writing to digest things that happens in my life, when I wrote ‘The Love I Left Behind’ I had just lost my pet for 15 years, and in many of my stories you’ll get a little piece of me, I guess.
For whatever reason, it helps me to do so, much like drawings does for some artists.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Someday will take your dreams away.
If you have a story you want to tell, write it now, not someday. Try to write something every day, it doesn’t have to be much, but a paragraph, that’s 50 words, or a page, that’s 400 words. Edit your own work as you progress — with experience you will be able to see the flaws you did before, and learn to avoid them. One of the most important things I can say is, take criticism, it will help you improve greatly. Talk to other creative people, explore your own ideas in the presence of people that can make it flourish.
And if you’re stuck somewhere, take a break, listen to some music, take a walk, and come back refreshed.
There are times you will find a song that captures the scene you want to show perfectly; listen to it over and over again, till you have captured that emotion just as wonderful as it can be.
For me, classical music and orchestra music is a great for that, but each have to find their own method.
It’s also important to remember that there are no definitive rights and wrongs when you write, but there are certain things that will work better than other.
But most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help and opinions.
What message or messages were you trying to convey with this story?
Each character plays an important role in what I tried to show with my story. What’s in the core of my story, though, is really that life isn’t always as you want it, and it might seem like everything is better somewhere else. But you are dealt a set of cards, you can’t change them all and you have to make something, the best, out of what you got.
Due to how I was raised by my mother, seeing how she struggled throughout her life with the disadvantages she got; she always gave everything she could for me and my brothers. That’s what I tried showing with Afraa, that while she was bound by the strict social conducts in Saddle Arabia, she tried to the best of her abilities to prepare her daughter for a life bound by the same rules. Everyone might not agree with her methods, but those were the options she had without getting strong reprimands from society. And even if Moxie thinks otherwise, it is clear that Afraa’s love for her daughter goes far beyond what society thinks due to her imperfections.
And Athaal, with him I tried to show how everything have two sides. And how anger can severely change a person, making him act far different from what one normally would.
Ghalib worries more about his family’s reputation — forces his way forward, ignoring the needs of his daughter. Negligence can hurt more than many realize.
What made you chose to use Trixie in this story, as opposed to another character or an OC? What do you feel she, specifically, added to the story that another character wouldn’t have?
I think that answer is going to disappoint many: using Trixie was not my choice, simply put. A good friend of mine had a habit of shipping people who hated each other together, with drawings; because she could, I guess. She posted her idea on a social forum, and eventually it came to a point where a poll was made for various ships, and I were to write a story of the winning pair. She’s the owner of the OC Moxie, and I can tell you, she hates Trixie’s guts.
That being said though, the reason the story became as it did, was a lot thanks to the design of Moxie, it is very exotic compared to the ponies you see in the show. And how perfect Trixie’s rebellious nature is to show how two very different cultures can clash when faced by the extremes. I will get more into this on a later question.
This story treads the line between moral relativism and objectivism — Saddle Arabian culture isn’t presented here in a positive light by any measure, but neither is it presented by the narrative itself as inherently evil. How do you personally feel, morally, about their culture as you’ve written it, and how do you hope a reader will react to it?
The culture you’ve read about was originally not intended for ponies at all, it’s part of something I’ve been working on during my free time. But due to Moxie’s design I just couldn’t pass the opportunity up to ponify just a little bit of it. And later, even more it seems.
Saddle Arabia favors the rich, and puts power in the hands of those unfit for it, the birthright of nobles.
In my story Coming Home, I introduce a character named Saif. I also show the darker side of the Saddle Arabia, where one gets a better understanding of how far the older nobles would go to keep their position over the young and rising.
The use of wedlock to gain political ties and power was pretty common in our own history not too long ago. Much like in Saddle Arabia, such acts often steamroll the wants and needs of the women in that culture.
So I wouldn’t morally say that it is evil, but out of date. Everyone acts as is expected of them, and so the trend never stops until one that isn’t afraid to stand up to the old and bitter will break it.
I hoped any reader would look at it as a growing and evolving culture. The way not only hurts the women in its ways, but also the males, which are the next in power following the doctrine of the country. I also wanted them to see that not all the old ponies are bitter and power-hungry; the priest we meet is a good person, but afraid to take action and reach out due to his job. Persons like that can guide the younger ones on their way to power, but their inaction can also hurt more than they know.
Along those same lines: it seems various readers have come away with very different takes on Moxie’s decision at the end of the story. Do you think of this story as having a happy ending? A sad one? A tentatively optimistic end, or a bitter one?
Many people have contacted me about that, some disappointed by how the ending didn’t fit to how they viewed the rest of the story, and others just wondering in general.
Some seems to take it as a ‘Moxie vs the world’ sort of setup. That was not really the intention. Some also expected Moxie to assert herself against Athaal.
But, she made a choice, she could struggle towards the culture alone, or she could take what life has given her; and strive to change what she could together with a husband that does in fact love her. She found that building something good in a bleak world is not impossible, but to do so, you will need the support of those close to you.
Without going into too much detail, I know a little bit more about what happens with Moxie and Athaal after the story ends. From that I would say it is a happy ending, Moxie gets what she wishes for. What that is exactly is something people will need to read about in the sequel.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A couple of things I’d like to add. While I wrote the story to the best of my abilities, I did so in collaboration with the owner of Moxie, I can tell you guys, she’s an absolute joy to work with, and she works with me on the sequel as well. I also have my pre-reader Enix to thanks, along with my editor Root Note, without them, there wouldn’t be a story.
Projects like these are really what makes writing fun for me, I gained a few friends in the process which I now value deeply, especially Hathound during the project itself. And in the aftermath of it, Lumenglace and Spectty. (Using their aliases for obvious reasons.)
Since Hathound was my partner in making this story, and the creator of most of the art for it, I feel like she should at least get a little bit to say here.
So, here’s a few words from my good friend, and very talented artist, Hathound, about her thoughts on the story.
A Faded Touch of Blue was made entirely from a joke over my extreme dislike of Trixie. From that, it turned into a beautiful story and I made a great friend from it. I didn’t know Tofazz very well at all when the story first began, but we were great friends by the time it was published.
I was never too keen on reading My Little Pony fanfiction. A lot of it seems to revolve around common towns in Equestria, backstory of the mane six, a supporting character or background pony, stuff like that. A Faded Touch of Blue was so outside of the box and even touches some sensitive subjects, so I was (pleasantly!) surprised at the positive feedback for it.
Drawing the cover was a lot of fun, if not mildly challenging. I really liked the look of rougher lines and smudgy shading here and there as opposed to something smoothed out and polished.
There’s a fine line between a frown of uncertainty and a frown of sadness, I didn’t really want it to be sad. There’s also Lyra way in the back next to one of my other characters. And looking at it now, man, there sure are a lot of naked horses attending her wedding.
I did learn from this whole experience that I’d be a pretty great horse fashion designer. Too bad there isn’t much of a market for that.
And I’m absolutely thrilled that this story has been enjoyed by so many, and the fact that I got this interview makes me overjoyed. So to the whole community, I would like to say, thank you.
You can read A Faded Touch Of Blue at FIMFiction.net.
Damn it, Chris, you only had two lines and the first contains a typo! Whatever am I gonna do with you? :p
I prefer to think of it as going 75-for-76 in using the correct words, thank you very much.
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The main characters of this story use the world culture way too much. It feels like someone took westerners, plopped them into Saddle Arabia and let them live out their lives there without ever telling them that they are foreigners. How else would you explain their clearly modern-liberal values and bizarrely external perspective on their own culture. I also cannot help but feel that they story would have been improved if the main character had at least some struggle with the concept of filial duty and that she might actually owe something to the ponies who birthed, nurtured, educated, protected and educated her. Add a little bit of internal struggle and some moral complexity to the story, you know?