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Today’s story is about rocks.  It’s about lots of different kinds of rocks.  Because not all rocks are the same.

The Collected Poems of Maud Pie
[Comedy] [Random] • 1,018 words

Maud Pie has written thousands of poems.

Here are some of her poems.

They’re about rocks.

FROM THE CURATORS: When you think about Maud’s poetry, if you do at all, you probably don’t think of it as anything more than a gag about Maud’s emotionless obsession with rocks.  This story nails that joke; Horizon said it “works on the level of a character study; it’s a reflection of its dull, singleminded author.”

But there’s more here than just a thousand words worth of dull.  As Chris explained, “it starts off with just enough of what you’d expect to set the rest up as variations on that theme, and Farming Rocks was such a perfect and unexpectedly serious poem that… well, that I remember the name without even clicking the link to the story.”  Horizon concurred: “A piece like “Farming Rocks” sneaks up on you, just when you had your expectations set, and blows you away,” and highlighted several other poems that catch the reader off-guard in a refreshingly thoughtful way.

But whether it’s being stolid or surprisingly deep, the one thing this story always was was entertaining and well-written.  JohnPerry said “the poems themselves are actually really well-written, and do an excellent job capturing the voice of Maud Pie.” Horizon added, “the occasional author’s note, and the author’s contributions to the comments section, both reinforce the voice of the poems”; Chris concluded “These are clever, memorable, funny, and as many other superlatives as you want to throw out there.”  

Besides, as JohnPerry put it when he nominated this story: “it’s Maud Pie. Do I really need to say more?”

Read on for our author interview, in which Titanium Dragon talks about how overrated gold is in the D&D draconiverse, the importance of being an editor, and what he has in common with James McAuley and Harold Stewart.

Give us the standard biography.

Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of wealth and taste.

Or so I like to think, anyway.

I’m the Titanium Dragon (yes, the same one you find if you Google for my name), and I went to Vanderbilt University to study biomedical engineering. Naturally, as befits such a broad degree, I’ve never had a job actually doing biomedical engineering in my entire life. My first real job was quite literally watching ink fade from paper at Hewlett Packard (albeit at about several hundred times the natural rate), which I followed up by doing material compatibility testing and later going to work for Energ2 making magical black dust that makes electronics work better extremely high quality nanocarbon which is used in batteries and ultracapacitors. More recently, I went on to try and write my own sort of pseudo-steampunk tabletop roleplaying game (coming out any year now, I swear).

None of that really describes me, though — that’s all the what, not the who.

I am an intellectual. I am constantly curious about the world around me. I always want to know how things work and am trying to learn new things. I read academic papers about everything from nanotechnology to psychology to economics, just for the sake of doing so and acquiring more knowledge. I read about legal decisions and read the actual text of various laws in order to better understand the judicial system. I read about game design, art, writing, and just about everything and anything which takes my fancy, simply for the sake of growing as a person and being able to acquire new skills and knowledge in my everyday life.

I have high standards. I suspect it is from a variety of sources, but in the end, a lot of it probably goes back to the fact that I simply have read a great deal, and have spent a lot of time looking into things, which means that things which are of higher quality are more appealing to me because they are more novel to me. If I can experience something mediocre or something awesome, why go for the mediocre experience?

And of course, being a dragon, I sleep on a pile of gold at night. Precious metals are surprisingly comfortable.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I came up with it a very, very long time ago — indeed, it predates my presence on the internet. Back in third grade, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. I started out with the basic boxed set, then went on to get the all-important AD&D Second Edition Monster Manual. Being a voracious reader, I read through the whole thing, from Aaracocra to Zombie, and thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

Naturally, it being Dungeons & Dragons, the section on dragons in it takes up an enormous amount of space. You’ve got the chromatic dragons, the gem dragons, and of course the metallic dragons. In addition to the standard set of five each, they also threw in other kinds of dragons — steel dragons, mercury dragons, deep dragons… but, well, what is the most awesome metal there is? Titanium, right? So, why wasn’t there a titanium dragon?

So I had my mother photocopy the blank sheet at the back of the monster manual several times and came up with several monsters, the first of which was, naturally, the titanium dragon, which is clearly the most awesome monster ever, because dragons are awesome, and titanium is awesome, so a titanium dragon would, by definition, be the most awesome creature possible.

A couple years later, when I started establishing a presence on the internet, I had to come up with a name for myself. I knew that you weren’t supposed to use your real name on the internet — strangers might find you and do bad things to you! But what would be a good name for myself? Obviously, the most awesome dragon there is — the Titanium Dragon!

For the sake of consistency — and because it is a totally awesome handle — I’ve kept it ever since. Indeed, I use it so much, it has actually gotten to the point where I call myself TD and dragon in my own head moreso than my given name. And given that I use it everywhere, and that it is linked to my real life name, it isn’t exactly very anonymous. But whatever, no one is going to hunt down a dragon on the internet. Well, except for the dragonslayers, but I just give them the wrong address when they email me.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Rarity. Of all the characters on the show, I feel like she most epitomizes what is great about the show, and I also think that of all the characters in the cast, she has the most depth of character — as well as the most potential for humor of any member of the cast.

On the surface, she is vain, petty, shallow, selfish, obsessed with fashion, and hates getting dirty. But what makes Rarity so interesting is that a great deal of her persona is a deliberate act on her part, in character — she deliberately plays up aspects of her own personality to manipulate others, avoid doing things she doesn’t want to do, and simply because she enjoys doing so. Her persona is real, but it is also an act; she doesn’t like getting dirty, so she pretends to absolutely abhor dirt — something she conveniently forgets if it ever becomes necessary. She deliberately overacts, getting into her drama queen persona and exaggerating her reactions simply for the sake of doing so — but she can (and does) immediately drop the dramatics if they would actually inconvenience her, resulting in seemingly rapid emotional shifts which are caused by her simply overacting. She is a large ham, and knows it, and deliberately plays it up.

All of this leads to a great deal of comedic potential on her part, as she can be incredibly catty, a drama queen, overreact to things… and yet still be on balance a real person, who is acting like a large ham because she likes doing it. She likes to be a proper lady, but isn’t afraid to threaten dragons or kick a manticore in the face without hesitation when the situation calls for it.

But best of all it also helps her mask some of her darker tendencies — she actually IS genuinely quite concerned with appearances, worried about failure, and selfish (an ironic, but interesting, flaw for the Element of Generosity to possess), but she is also aware of her own failings to some extent and can compensate for them, albeit imperfectly.

All of this combines to make an interesting, deep, and funny character who can be used in a wide variety of situations, and who can definitely have fun back and forths with many members of the cast — especially Applejack.

That’s not to say that I don’t love everyone, though; I just love Rarity a bit more than I love the others. Though Rainbow Dash does sometimes beat her out.

What’s your favorite episode?

Suited for Success. Rarity is wonderful throughout the episode, her song (and the reprise) are quite good, and the rest of the cast work excellently in the episode. The conversation that the rest of the cast has outside of her door towards the end of the episode is one of the best pieces of dialogue in the entire show, as it is funny and shows off the personality of the entire cast in just a few lines. Likewise, everyone’s demands of Rarity during the episode are quite funny but also give some insight into their character — Fluttershy’s “freaky fashion knowledge” was first exhibited in this episode, and Rainbow Dash’s “20% cooler” line is a thing of beauty, but everyone gets a bit to show off their personality, without taking away from Rarity’s central internal conflict of trying to appease people who don’t really know what they want in the first place.

What do you get from the show?

Entertainment. I come to the show to be entertained. I laugh, I smile, and I enjoy the character interactions. Without the characters, the show simply would not be what it is; without the humor, though, it tends to lack something. This doesn’t mean it always needs to be funny, but the magical land of Equestria is a little bit silly, and I think it is nice to have that be reflected in the episodes, even if it is not the focus of what is going on.

What do you want from life?

Immortality. The rest can come later.

Why do you write?

I write things to share them with others, because I find it to be enjoyable, and because practicing writing means that I’m better at telling stories in the future. Everything I’ve published was written so that other people might enjoy it; there are many more stories that I could tell, but I try to tell the ones which are most interesting to other people, because those are the ones that they will enjoy reading the most – and what is the point of publishing something on the internet if not to be read?

My enjoyment of writing comes from my enjoyment not only of storytelling, but also the satisfaction of a job well done. I like getting feedback, and when I’m editing a story, I feel like I grow from the feedback I’ve been given; not only does the story improve, but I improve, as a person.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Editing is the most important part of the writing process. Write your story, then go over it and learn how to make it better. Getting others to look over your writing — particularly others who aren’t afraid to tell you what you’ve done wrong, and give you specific advice on how you can make things better — makes you a much better writer. You learn more by editing a story than you do by writing it; anyone can hack out a story, but it is in editing that you grow the most as a writer.

I would also recommend getting some experience editing the writing of others. Editing the writing of others not only helps you figure out how to better write your own stories, but also helps them improve as well; it helps with knowledge sharing, and also helps you see how a story can shape up before it is published.

What was your initial plan for this story?  Did that plan change as you wrote?

Not really; I had the overall structure of the collection in mind the whole time I was writing it, though I wasn’t sure it was going to be exactly 20 poems long until the end; that was a bit fortuitous.

This was published only a few days after the episode “Maud Pie” aired.  Were there any special challenges in writing something so quickly?

Not especially; I wrote the entire collection in the space of a few hours.

This is a pretty common for me when I know what it is I want to write; the first chapter of Shotgun Wedding was written in under an hour, as was Abandoned Sanctuary. The Wraith of Ponyville was written in a single day, though that was due to a deadline; I would have liked to have taken more time to polish it, but it was for a contest. Likewise, Temptation (including all five of its original endings, of which only two have ever been published) was written and edited in a single day. Both We Can’t Turn Back Time and The Stars Ascendant were written, edited, and published within two days.

That is not to say that it is always so easy for me; sometimes, I do get stuck on something, and can’t figure out how to make it work, and my longer works do take longer to put out. But when I have a good plan of action and am fully focused on writing, I can put out a considerable amount of text quite rapidly.

Did you write all the poems in the order you’ve published them in?  If not, how did you decide what order they read best in?

To the best of my recollection, the poems were written in the order in which they appear. That being said, it was most definitely not random; the poems were written in the order they were written in for a reason. Indeed, it all starts with the summary:

Maud Pie has written thousands of poems.

Here are some of her poems.

They’re about rocks.

The summary primes the reader for the first couple poems, which are, indeed, modernist poems about rocks. The trick is, that’s not all there is to it; while a few modernist poems about rocks would be funny, reading twenty of them in a row would be significantly less funny for most readers. This is why the collection does not, in fact, consist of twenty modernist poems about rocks.

How did you expect readers to react to the suddenly serious Farming Rocks (aka poem #14)?

Farming Rocks was the poem I spent the most time working on; after I finished writing them, I actually went back to make the symbolism in it even more obvious. The reader had to understand that the poem wasn’t about rocks, but was about something deeper and more meaningful to Maud. It, along with Boulder (poem #7), show that Maud really is trying to express herself with the poetry. And I was very glad to see that people reacted to the poem the way they did – they liked it, and felt that it was sweet.

But it also does something else important as well — it establishes that Maud is capable of using symbolism. Well, probably. I mean, she couldn’t have just accidentally written a poem that just sounds like it is about her family, right?

This makes the reader question their assumption about what they’ve just been reading — have they really just read thirteen dumb modernist poems about rocks, or was there deeper meaning there as well, hidden amongst those poems?

If you look at the poems after Farming Rocks, they’re all fairly long. Is Maud trying to trick the reader into ascribing them meaning where none was intended? Or is she genuinely trying to tell the reader something? Has she been trying to tell them something all along?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t write poetry very often, and I never write modernist poetry; I just came up with the idea for this and decided to roll with it. It seemed like a lot of fun, and it was a lot of fun to write modernist rock poetry. And now it is the highest rated poetry collection on FIMFiction. I feel almost like James McAuley and Harold Stewart, except unlike them, I intended for my audience to appreciate my work.

At the time I wrote it, I thought I’d quickly come up with more poems for it, but when I went to do so, I realized that I couldn’t; the final poem, Geology, is how it has to end. That’s not to say I’ll never write more Maudern poetry, but if I do, it won’t be stuck on to the end of this, and I’ll have to come up with some other game to play with the reader.

If you take anything away from this, let it be this: don’t feel constrained by what you normally do, and don’t think that just because you’ve never done something before doesn’t mean you can’t ever learn how to do so. Experiment with new things — both in the realm of literature, and outside of it. If you ever see someone else do something awesome, something that you would like to do, try to do it. You’d be surprised how many things you can learn how to do, and at the very least, you’ll gain a better appreciation for it.

You can read The Collected Poems of Maud Pie at FIMFiction.net.