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Today’s story: Eighty-eight paragraphs.  Two sisters.  One poignant examination of love and loss.

statisticsStatistics
[Sad] • 1,042 words

Sometimes, all we need are a few stats to shed some light on a subject.

FROM THE CURATORS: Our shortest feature yet — which barely clears FIMFiction’s thousand-word minimum — illustrates that what makes a piece of fanfiction exemplary is being exactly as long as it needs to be to tell its story effectively.  “Statistics packs a lot of punch for something so small,” Bradel said. “I read this back when I’d just joined the site … I started skimming it to refresh myself, and even that got me teary-eyed.”

Stories that draw emotional depth from the relationship between Celestia and Luna are common, but we all appreciated the novel twist this brought to the genre. “This uses an original device to good effect, and that is exactly the sort of thing I love for us to feature,” Chris said.  Present Perfect agreed: “For all this looks like an accountant’s ledger, it was rife with emotion and ultimately accomplished what it set out to do.”

And what it accomplished was to imbue those numbers with gravitas — a remarkable feat, considering that the story contains nothing but the titular statistics.  “The typical abstraction of large-numbers math is that ‘one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic’,” Horizon added.  “This is worth reading simply for its inversion of that.”

Read on for our author interview, in which xTSGx discusses moral debates, lion mercenaries, and the Great Hnnnng War of 2012.


Give us the standard biography.

Born and raised in Garden City, Michigan, I currently reside several miles south of the City of the University of Michigan and the City of Eastern Michigan University in the rustic hamlet of Augusta Township. I am fulfilling the federally mandated requirement (see Form 405J) of all fanfic writers to be in their early 20s, live with their parents, attend community college, and be a social introvert who fearfully stares at the top of Fimfiction’s home page every time he gets a PM and puts off reading them as long as he can.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

The “TSG” stands for “The Security General.” In a bygone era (2008), I started writing a lengthy (forty parts) series of Lion King fanfics wherein a mercenary organization incorporated itself into the Pridelands and many wars and complex story arcs would follow. The leader of this organization was called the Security General.

After a couple of years, my interest in the series faded and I gave up after writing one and a half parts of it. I realized that not only was my username kind of cringe-inducing, but it was also incredibly long, so I shortened it to its abbreviated form.

The “x”s don’t have any meaning. They come from watching LPer Overthegun, who would occasionally use the screen name “xOTGx” in some of the games he played. I thought they looked nice and placed them in my username.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Originally, Fluttershy was, but Twilight waged a brutal guerrilla war filled with hnnnng, adorkableness, and time travel that killed thousands of innocents and finally resulted in the April Agreement of 2012 which recognized Joint Best Pony status. Several months later, Twilight broke the Agreement, made me write a “funny” Twilicorn story which made me realize who was truly best pony, and usurped supreme control over best pony status. She’s been Best Pony ever since.

What’s your favorite episode?

I’ve always been a sucker for worldbuilding and canon expansion, so “Cutie Mark Chronicles” for S1, “A Canterlot Wedding” for S2, “Sleepless in Ponyville” for S3, and “Twilight’s Kingdom” for S4. Yes, I dodged the question by not naming one specific episode as my favorite. Better than the “I love all the episodes!” BS answer.

What do you get from the show?

An escape from the hell that is the Pokemon anime. More seriously, I’ve never really gotten a lot from the show. I’ve always ignored the morals at the end of each episode due to how basic and obvious they are, and roll my eyes at the debates people get into over how “wrong” the moral was (I’m looking at you, Feeling Pinkie Keen).

I guess the thing I really get out of the show is also pretty basic — characters, plots, and a setting that can be build and expanded by the fanart, fanfics, and crazy headcanons people come up with.

What do you want from life?

The easiest and most question-dodgy answer would be: to be happy. My “dream” is to write so that people can craft headcanons, fanart and fanfics of the worlds and stories that I create, while complaining bitterly about how I do things and telling others not to believe my lies.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably not the best way to be happy, but I’ll still take it.

Why do you write?

For fanfics, it’s to attempt to build my skills as a writer and improve my communications and criticism taking abilities. For writing in general, it’s the generic “entertain people” answer.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Don’t care about your own opinion. You may think your writing is shit (like I do) or you may think it’s the next Lord of the Rings. It’s irrelevant what you think. What matters is what your readers think. If they think it’s good, then it probably is. If they think it sucks, then it probably does. Readers provide the needed bias free perspective that no author can ever have.

Also, don’t stop writing. Even if it’s just “Proper Noun Verbs a Common Noun” oneshots. Otherwise, you’ll stall and become stuck for eight months while writing a sequel to one of your popular stories.

Do you have any advice for approaching writing a story in an unusual format?

Don’t be afraid to try it from different angles to see what works best. Originally, Statistics was written from the perspective of immediately following Luna’s banishment, with Celestia recounting everything she’d have to go through while waiting for Luna’s return. I quickly realized that that perspective greatly limited the number of statistics that could be used and could potentially strain disbelief. So I shifted it to taking place after Luna’s return, which opened up so many doors that would have otherwise been closed.

The statistics in this story cover everything from the personal to the physical to the political. How did you choose what to include?

Whatever I could think of to pad the thing out. Originally, the story was going to be divided by the “easy” statistics (365,243 days, 12,000 months, etc.). Each one separating the different “groups.” As I got to writing, it became apparent that to get it to the required thousand words, I’d have to use a lot of statistics. I would write one, say “Fifty-one Chancellors who tried to comfort me.” and go “Hey, I could do some government related ones!” and that got the ball rolling.

I tried to think up the various things Celestia would have to do throughout the day and how they could relate to Luna. Wake up? She’d have to have some nightmares relating to it. Eat meals? How much did she binge trying to cope. Run the government? Surely there’d be a lot of effort involved shifting Equestria from a diarchy to a monarchy and trying to cover the whole Nightmare Moon thing up. I soon realized that almost anything can be a statistic — and sometimes quite a sad one — if given a little thought.

How did you keep all the numbers straight?

Some basic math. Three meals a day x three hundred and sixty-five days x a thousand. Then, lop off or add a random number (fifteen thousand, two hundred and thirty-nine) to make it more realistic, because sometimes you eat more than three times a day — especially if you’re a princess attending royal functions. It was the same for everything else. Take a “per day/week/year” stat (meals, laws passed, Supreme Court cases, etc.) multiply it by a year, then by a thousand, then add/subtract a random small number.

For some of the harder ones (“Thirteen thousand, two hundred and eighty-four hours of radio listened to, trying to forget your screams of hurt and betrayal”), I would calculate the absolute maximum (one hundred years of radio = eight hundred and seventy-six thousand hours) and, again, take a random, small number that looked somewhat realistic. It’s all about suspension of disbelief. As long as the numbers seem legit, it’s okay.

It didn’t always work. After several people ran some of the numbers, they were off and I had to do some revising. Can’t have Celestia addressing parliament three times a day, now can we?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I can’t wait for Knighty to upgrade Fimfiction again so another shitstorm can sweep its way through the site.

On that topic, everyone needs to lighten up (myself included). It seems, increasingly, that more and more people are taking the “serious business” approach to the show and fandom. Sometimes, we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and say “it’s just a cartoon.”

You can read Statistics at FIMFiction.net.

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