In an oddly literal sense, today’s story is the end-all of My Little Pony fanfics — though in an equally literal sense, it’s got no ending at all.
Que Sera, Sera
[Sad] • 15,437 words
Princess Celestia always knew that Twilight Sparkle was destined for great things, but she never revealed the source of that knowledge, not even to those closest to her. When the day of Twilight’s true destiny finally arrives, can Celestia fulfill an ancient promise to save Equestia’s past, present, and future, even it means saying goodbye to Twilight forever? How can Celestia refuse her mother’s last wish?
FROM THE CURATORS: Yes, that cover image is exactly what it looks like — but it’s okay to figure out that “spoiler” before you go in. “Ponydora’s stories are big on the dramatic irony thing where the big ‘twists’ are totally obvious from the very beginning, and he uses the reader’s knowledge of what’s coming to build tension,” Benman said. “So when he takes you on a time loop story, you know you’re in for a ride.”
And what a ride it is. “I am crying so much. This is why I read fanfic,” Present Perfect said. Horizon agreed: “Thank goodness the boss isn’t in to see me crying at my desk.”
That raw emotional power quickly catapulted Que Sera, Sera into the stratosphere of our top-scoring features, accomplishing for sadfics what Skywriter’s Princess Celestia Hates Tea did for comedies. And, like that story, Que Sera, Sera is exemplary due to its depth. “Powerful emotions, believable worldbuilding, in-character humor where appropriate, and concerned with finding the inherent virtue in even — especially — the most tragic of circumstances,” Chris said. “This is exactly the kind of fanfic I love.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Ponydora Prancypants discusses taxed axons, disordered lists, and the separation of church and cake.
Give us the standard biography.
I am a lawyer, a parent, and a spouse, not in that order. I like baseball, apple pie, horses, and America too. Words and their many uses are a constant source of wonderment. If meat is murder, then I’m a monster. If I were not a lawyer, I think I would be a very good engine mechanic. I am an optimistic sort of skeptic, with no inclination to conspiracism. My tastes are epicurian, esoteric, and callipygian, not in that order. My greatest talent lies in doggerel, so it is fortunate that I am not a cat person. I am compelled to live by the ocean or be stricken with intense claustrophobia, so I suspect my genes express my fish ancestry unusually strongly.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I was inspired by pony silliness and the well-known humpback whale, Mister Splashy Pants.
Who’s your favorite pony?
That would be Rarity.
What’s your favorite episode?
My favorites include “Suited for Success”, “Sweet and Elite”, “Pinkie Pride”, “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, and “The Best Night Ever”. Possibly in that order.
What do you get from the show?
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a cartoon sitcom with fantasy adventure elements and simple stories, starring colorful horse analogues that look much like soft toys, which are purchasable online or at your local Target. There is an overriding sense of positivity and an emphasis on strong friendships and family bonds. It’s concentrated fuzzy feelings, so I certainly see the appeal for anybody who needs a hug from time to time. And doesn’t everybody?
What first drew me in was Season One’s creation of a sort of fantasy early-industrial gaslamp magicpunk nineteenth-century-Europe-meets-Rivendell quadrupedal world with a classic yet interesting internal mythology. Basically all that Lauren Faust stuff.
The show is also a great program for small children, because it is less frenetic and boisterous than most children’s programming and does not make parents (like me) want to cave in their own skulls, and it largely consists of characters having friendly conversations with each other, which I hope and suspect promotes language learning and interest in cooperative group play.
What do you want from life?
Freedom, comfort, security, opportunity, choice, intellectual stimulation, discovery, and love. Not in that order!
Why do you write?
I think I must have a backlog of juvenile dreams stewing in my amygdala that I missed out on due to childhood insomnia, about flying and swashbuckling and magic and adventure and other things that preoccupy children, which have been slowly seeping into the part of the brain that stores my more adult sensibilities, and the resulting electrical stew is always taxing my axons and slowing my synapses until I slop it out onto a computer screen or scrap of paper.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
A writer’s block is a real thing: a penny on the track that can derail your story train no matter how much steam has been built up; a pressing weight that squeezes on your ribs and makes you not even want to get out of bed; or a niggling doubt that calls into question all your best laid literary plans. The only way to get through it is to chip, chip, chip away. Even if you just stare at your screen and think about your story every night, eventually you will break through into the light of day. Of course, the next block is probably not far ahead. Also, try to get paid.
How do you keep events straight when writing a time loop?
In the case of “Que Sera, Sera,” the time loop was easy to keep straight because it is not a clever sort of self-fulfilling time paradox where all of the characters’ actions end up inadvertently setting in motion a future they wanted to avoid, and I did not have to consider changes to the future world based on actions that Twilight and her friends might take. Instead, Twilight and her friends eventually realize that their personal past/objective future only existed because of the actions they took in the present historical past. The story recounts how they (1) create the Elements of Harmony; (2) set up Celestia and Luna to eventually wield them; and (3) ensure that they would be sent back in time in the first place. The “paradox” of how the Elements were used in the first instance if Twilight and her friends had not yet been sent back in time is never addressed.
Because the “hard” questions of time travel are hand-waved, and there is minimal discussion in the story about timelines and possible changes, I think of QSS as less a time-travel sci-fi type of story than a story about relationships, most importantly the special bond between Celestia and Twilight. At the time, the show had not yet touched on the history of the royal sisters, the nature of alicorns (I had already begun writing before Twilight got her wings, which is part of the reason she loses them upon going back in time), the origin of the Elements of Harmony, how and why the “stars” aided in Luna’s escape from her banishment, the apparent coincidence of the Element Bearers all being in Ponyville at the right moment (still unaddressed) and Princess Celestia’s decision to make Twilight her personal student. Trying to fit all of these topics into the story through the vehicle of the time loop was more of a challenge than trying to come up with a plausible, not self-contradicting time travel mechanism (a task which multiple readers pointed out that I did not quite accomplish).
What are your thoughts on depictions of religion on Equestria?
In the story, Fluttershy finds solace and personal meaning in a sort of vague faith that existed in Equestria’s past, and which may or may not have died out in the intervening years before the present day and the coming of the royal sisters.
I figure that even in a magical world where immensely powerful and eminently corporeal beings (you can eat cake or play carnival games with them) control the sun and moon, your winged neighbor might be responsible for scheduling and delivering the morning fog along with your newspaper, and the local tailor regularly dances with her troupe of levitated dressforms, there must be questions that science and magic together have not satisfactorily answered: “Why are we here?” “Where did we come from?” “What’s next?” That sort of thing.
Aside from explaining tornados and frog plagues, those questions are the sort of things that purveyors of faith have always claimed to be able to answer, and I doubt even the apparently unaging alicorns could shed much light on them. Given the preceding, and that the herd mentality of ponydom has been showcased on the show (think “Green Is Not Your Color,” “Sweet and Elite,” and “Leap of Faith,” among others), there is most likely a place for organized and disorganized religion in Equestria. (I am ignoring the apparent priestly garb in “Hearts and Hooves Day,” which could easily be dismissed as some sort of secular funereal attire).
That said, Equestria presently seems to be pretty burned out on bigotry. The ponies are good-natured about being split into district, very differently-capable races, to the point that everyone laughs unashamedly at the casual racist humor in the national Hearth’s Warming play, as if the collective prejudice that Earth Ponies are ignorant rubes, Pegasi are short-fused warmongers, and Unicorns are effete snobs truly isn’t a “thing” that matters any longer. And why shouldn’t they be burned out on bigotry, since the popular history/mythos is that it nearly destroyed their civilization? I suspect that modern Equestrians in general are just as tolerant of each other’s personal beliefs (and other personal predilections), as they are of the anatomical peculiarities that define the different tribes.
For all we know, Twilight Sparkle is pony-muslim, Fluttershy is pony-wiccan, Rainbow Dash is a devout pony-mormon, Applejack is a pony-atheist, Pinkie Pie is pony-buddhist, and Rarity is Jewish. It’s kind of nice to imagine them all getting along so swimmingly, if you ask me.
One of the end results of this story is that Celestia will no longer know what’s to come. How will she face a truly uncertain future?
She will also have some serious ‘splaining to do with her sister, who not only ended up being banished to the moon in part because she felt left out and unloved, but never had even an inkling of her true origins and family tree, and was further denied any opportunity to meaningfully connect with Twilight Sparkle while possessing the knowledge that the once-and-future-past unicorn was her mother.
I imagine that Luna, Celestia, and Spike are in for a very long, very difficult healing process. I further suspect that it is the kind of thing that will require the sisters to take a step back from the daily trials and travails of running a sprawling monarchical federation (or whatever Equestria is). They should probably all move to a cottage by the seashore for a few centuries in order to get right with the world. Whether she could have done anything better or not, Celestia probably owes the other two at least a decade of breakfast in bed.
I reckon that Tia and Lula can let their Uncle Shiny and Auntie Cay-Cay keep the lights on in Canterlot, and maybe encourage them to read up on republican forms of government.
What’s in store for Spike after the story’s end?
Spike is a cute little guy again, but he’s seen some stuff, so to speak. There is an open question as to just what his mental state is after all he’s been through, but I think that dragon minds may be just as mutable as their bodies, and that he has been purged of much of his anger and resentment. I suspect that he and the sisters will spend a long time exploring their unique interpersonal dynamic, and ruminating on their past and future.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A lot of folks have wondered whether the Princesses and Spike will devote themselves to somehow recovering the Mane Six and restoring them to physical existence. I suppose I can imagine Spike getting carried away with such a thing, given his innate desire to tangibly hold and possess the things he cares about. But is being back on four hooves really better than shining down from the firmament (or wherever the girls are)? Scientists (and Moby) say that we are all made of stars anyway. Perhaps to stars shall we return. Celestia, Luna, and Spike have plenty of time to find out.
You can read Que Sera, Sera at FIMFiction.net.