Times change.  Friends change.  But there are some things, as today’s heartwarming story reminds us, that remain constant.

firework-lotusThe Firework Lotus
[Drama] • 16,670 words

The Firework Lotus Celebration, a grand festival which celebrates the dawn of a new year, is a tradition held near and dear to Spike’s heart. But when the winds of change threaten to take this special time away from him, Spike is forced to make a difficult decision. Which is more important: what he knows to be right, or what he feels to be right?

And as Spike soon discovers, it’s a choice best made with the help of some friends.

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s difficult to summarize what it is that gives this story its raw emotional power, as Chris discovered when nominating it: “The only notes I ended up leaving myself on the story were ‘wow,’ ‘super-sweet,’ ‘perfect Spike moment,’ another ‘wow,’ and ‘important theme,'” he said.  But he gave it a second shot: “It’s the kind of sweet but memorable story which sticks with you.  It’s got wonderful, powerful moments scattered throughout, it deals seriously but hopefully with the need for change, and is just generally beautiful.”

The exemplary writing of the story is easy to see from the first scenes, where it follows Twilight, Spike, and the friends and family surrounding them through many years of holidays.  “A shining example of why ‘show, don’t tell’ is such common advice; this is exquisite, exquisite showing, simply playing off the contrasts as the whirlwind of history sweeps around the calm eye of the event itself,” Horizon said.

And even after it unfolds those years and spends most of its length discussing a single, pivotal celebration — with some strange but memorable digressions into the routines put on by the supporting cast — it closes strong with some important and affirming lessons that feel exquisitely and laudably pony. “I love it when stories make me applaud for them,” Present Perfect said.

Read on for our author interview, in which ArgonMatrix discusses Equestrian innocence, authorial road trips, and universal protagonism.

Give us the standard biography.

I’m a 19-year old nerd living near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’m currently taking a year off of school to work, but looking to head to university in the spring to study creative writing. An unhealthy amount of my free time goes towards staring at screens, contemplating little ponies who exist in nebulous states, and making records of these things for the internet.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Uh oh. Time to get even nerdier.

My favourite number is 18. No particular reason why, it’s just always been a gorgeous number to me. Chemistry aficionados will be able to tell you that the 18th element in the periodic table is Argon. Seeing as chemistry was my favourite subject in high school (which may or may not have had to do with my teacher wearing a Fluttershy shirt one time), I developed a love for Argon, and it’s stuck with me so far.

The “Matrix” bit is a little simpler. My favourite movie series is The Matrix, and that’s pretty much all there is to it.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Twilight and Cadance are constantly warring in my mind for that position. But if I were held at gunpoint and forced to choose one, I’d probably blurt out, “Rarity!” She’s a close second, and it saves me having to make a real decision.

What’s your favorite episode?

Magical Mystery Cure, unwaveringly. It’s an unpopular opinion, I know, but I’ll defend that episode to the death. I think it’s the closest the show has ever come to having a perfect episode.

What do you get from the show?

I’m gonna have to get pretty real here for a second.

I’ve been through some pretty heavy stuff in my life. Without getting into too much detail, I’ve had to deal with divorce, abandonment, death, heartbreak, depression, suicidal tendencies, addiction, and trauma in my past—much of that happening before the age of 15. I was forced to grow up very quickly in very dark and serious circumstances, and I’ve been damaged because of it.

Just like anyone else in similar situations, though, I’ve found coping mechanisms. The three big ones are video games, literature, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

For me, the show is more than just a means of entertainment. While the world I live in is dark and cruel and terrifying, Equestria is none of those things. It’s bright. It’s colourful. It’s happy. You can always be sure that, no matter how dire things get for the ponies, they’ll always come out on top—and they’ll be better for it. My life and the world in general aren’t always like that.

I think the word that best describes it for me is “innocence.” The show is the last piece of real innocence I’ve been able to find, and I want to hold onto it for all it’s worth. That’s why I try to avoid things in the community that tarnish the innocence of Equestria for me—clop, gore, etc. I want to be able to watch an episode and just lose myself in it, forgetting everything else for a while and just embracing the security of innocence.

Also Cadance is adorable and I can relate to Spike a lot. That helps too.

What do you want from life?

I want to make other people happy, because that’s what makes me happy.

Why do you write?

I write because reality gets boring quick. A lot of people spend boatloads of time and money to escape their daily lives and go vacationing down in Hawaii or Australia or someplace like that. Thankfully I’ve been given an imagination powerful enough to do that same thing without the need for a plane ticket. If I want to escape to Equestria for a day and see what Pinkie Pie’s up to, I can do that with little more than a keyboard and a thought.

And if other people want to join me for the trip, well, I publish the stories for a reason. Loneliness gets boring quick too.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Think of your story like a road trip. At the outset, it’s important to know where you’re starting, where you’re going, and what interesting locales you want to visit along the way. But you can’t possibly plan for every little eventuality. You could blow a tire. A road might be closed, and you might have to take a detour. A tornado could whisk you halfway across the continent. Fighting against these things won’t solve them. Just let them happen, and deal with them as they come.

In essence, know where your story is going, but let it get there on its own.

One of the big themes of The Firework Lotus is how we deal with change. What inspired you to write a story along these lines?

I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you here. Up until about the halfway point of the story, I had no idea what I was writing about. I had the idea for the firework lotus in my mind, and I knew I wanted the story to end with Spike lighting it, but that was basically all I had when I started writing. I knew I needed a point to it all. A central message to convey. A theme. But I couldn’t figure one out, and the story almost got scrapped for that reason.

But as I kept going, as I allowed the story to flow and evolve on its own terms, the theme of dealing with change emerged in crystal clarity, so I rolled with it. It wound up being the perfect thread to tie the story together, and a pretty good moral to boot.

Everyone has to deal with change at some point in their lives. Change in relationships. Change in circumstances. Change in personalities. Good change. Bad change. Pocket change. And no matter what, it’s never an easy thing to handle. Even when things change for the better, it’s difficult for people to adapt—and some people just can’t adapt. So when dealing with change became the main theme of the story, I wanted to make it an excessively important point. The theme needed to be bigger than the story itself in order to set an example for people.

I’d point to the gem-hunting scene with Spike and Rarity as the best example of why I wanted to write about this theme. I wanted to show people that there’s no one right way to deal with change, but it’s important to deal with it.

The concept of the firework lotus described in the story is fascinating (and, if I may, very well described). Where did the idea for that come from?

First off, thanks for the compliment! I really wanted to describe it in a way that allowed people to see the firework lotus in the same way I did, and I’m glad I achieved that for you.

A lot of stories published to the site—and a lot of episodes in the show, for that matter—like to deal with realistic problems that we can relate to. Things that could actually happen on Earth, but happen to the ponies of Equestria instead. And while there’s nothing wrong with that at all, stories like that can lose sight of something important: Equestria is a bizarre, wondrous, magical place.

Equestria is a place where friends have slumber parties, but also a place where hydras live in the swamps. It’s a place with weddings and sports and sibling rivalries, but also a place with mirror pools and chimeras and poison joke. It’s a place where the characters are relatable and the world is fantastical. People often lose that in writing, and the firework lotus was my attempt to preserve that magical quality.

As for where the concept came from specifically, I couldn’t tell ya. It was just something brewed in the crockpot of my imagination. I will say that the idea came to me while reading a comic called The Balloon Tree, by AquaGalaxy. It’s a beautiful story in its own right, but also a fine example of something strange and magical that could exist in Equestria. There’s a link to it in the description of The Firework Lotus.

I think one of the things that has really impressed readers about this story is the depth of the relationship between Spike and Twilight. Tell us how you view their relationship and how you approached writing it.

This is a very difficult question for me, and I don’t think I’ll be able to give a satisfactory answer. I’ll give it a shot, though.

Twilight and Spike’s relationship is clearly unique. There’s nothing else quite like it in the show, and I struggle to think of similar relationships in other shows, books, or otherwise. Because of that, there’s not really any one word that can describe the relationship. People have tried, though: mother and son, brother and sister, best friends, etc. All of the labels have some merit, but none of them work all the way. None of them are distinctly it.

The Descendant, a friend and fellow author on the site, has a mantra for their relationship: “Whatever they are to one another, she’s his big one, and he’s her little one.” This comes remarkably close to describing the relationship, but it still doesn’t quite fit for me. There are times when Spike can be “the big one” and Twilight can be “the little one.”

The way I see it, their relationship can only be described one way. Not just family. Not just friends. Not quite. Very simply, they are Twilight and Spike.

As for how I approached writing their relationship, that’s tough to describe too. I just needed to write and rely on the hope that I understood their relationship well enough. And to try to understand their relationship in full, you need to consider all the different ways they interact with each other all at once. Keep in mind that Spike is the one who thought Owlowiscious could replace him and ran away from home, but also the one who saved Twilight when she’d blinded herself to reality. Keep in mind that Twilight is the one who let Spike leave when he wanted to find his own identity, but also the one who cares about him enough to jeopardize a test from Celestia by bringing him along.

None of their individual interactions define their relationship, but all of them together do. To write it well, you need to know it well.

Talk about Sweetie Belle’s song in your story. What inspired it, why did you decide to include it in The Firework Lotus, and what was your process for writing it?

I’m honestly floored by the amount of attention that song has received. I originally didn’t plan on writing a song at all for that part, but then I decided that it wouldn’t be too difficult and could add to the story, so I wrote one.

Technically the song’s name is Luna’s Hymn, and you can probably tell that it’s about Luna without actually knowing that. The canonical story behind it is that Luna wrote it herself as a means of coping with her feelings of hopelessness, futility, and inadequacy before she turned into Nightmare Moon. That’s the situation that inspired it, and I really tried to put myself in Luna’s place while writing it out.

I didn’t really have a process for writing the song, actually. I just sort of… wrote it. I made sure it rhymed in the right places, gave it a melody that I could follow while writing it, and just let the words flow onto the page. In a way, it was no different from writing the rest of the story. I had something to say, so I said it.

As for why I included it in the story at all: two reasons—one small and one large. The small reason is that it served as a vague analogue for Spike’s situation in the story. Luna needed to deal with her feelings but kept them bottled up and refused to take action. Similarly, Spike isn’t handling his feelings in the right way, ignoring them instead of dealing with them. It’s a forced parallel, but it’s there.

But the big reason the song is in the story is the same reason Scootaloo’s subplot is in the story. It’s the same reason I included almost all of the main cast’s Firework Lotus Pre-Show routines in such detail. It’s the same reason I made Fluttershy’s performance so eccentric. It’s the same reason I gave Rarity so much exposition in the gem-hunting scene. And it’s the same reason Spike manages to learn his lesson in the end.

It’s because this isn’t only Spike’s story. It’s everyone’s story.

No story takes place in a vacuum, and we’re all the protagonists of our own stories. Inevitably, then, our stories intertwine with one another and impact one another. One of the things I always kept in mind while writing The Firework Lotus—and while writing any story, really—is that other character’s lives don’t stop for the protagonist, and they don’t always bend to the protagonist’s story either. They’ll follow their own paths, even if we don’t see them.

Sweetie Belle’s song needed to be in the story because it was part of Sweetie Belle’s story, and we just happened to be there in time to see it. It wouldn’t have been fair to Sweetie Belle to leave it out.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

To anyone who’s ever read one of my stories: thank you very much. I’m still learning the ropes of this writing business, and your interest and feedback is much of what drives me to learn more and do better. I know I haven’t released much of anything substantial lately, but I promise that things are in the works.

And to anyone who’s read and enjoyed The Firework Lotus specifically, I have a request. If you ever get an inkling to include the idea of the Firework Lotus Celebration in a story of yours, don’t hesitate to do so. I feel like it’s a concept that has a lot of potential, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Don’t feel obligated to write about it, of course, but go nuts if you do get an idea.

Thanks for the interview! Keep on keepin’ on.

You can read The Firework Lotus at FIMFiction.net.