You’ll learn something important from today’s featured story … something that you won’t want to forget.
More Than You Know
[Dark] • 8,869 words
Princess Celestia has been keeping a dark secret from her subjects for a very long time.
It’s not an easy truth to tell, but if anyone can accept her after learning it, it will surely be her most faithful student.
FROM THE CURATORS: Our memories of this fic, despite the horror of its core premise, are unanimously pleasant. “This is the sort of fic that gives the Dark tag a good name,” Horizon said. Present Perfect concurred: “It never turns to gore or jump scares or even a visage of evil to send shivers up the spine. It’s about trust and authority and power, and the best part is —”
(Wait, where was I? Was someone speaking? Oh, right —)
“— it makes perfect (if twisted) sense within the context of Equestria,” Chris said.
And that faithful reflection of the canon world and cast was part of what made it such exemplary My Little Pony fanfiction. “It’s a thought-provoking and terrifying horror story that still somehow feels true to the spirit of the show,” JohnPerry said. Horizon added: “It plays beautifully off of young Twilight’s eager naïveté. Her character voice really reinforces the sense of wrongness.”
That wrongness was controversial — “I feel like Celestia does have a point,” Bradel said, and he would have preferred to see more discussion of the morality behind the story’s premise — but even so, he found the story exemplary for its effectiveness. “Obselescence picks his pieces very effectively to make the story more horrifying,” Bradel said. “The sheer weight of menace in the ending is absolutely amazing.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Obselescence discusses sticky misspellings, overstated victories, and how to give writers better advice.
Give us the standard biography.
I am he who is Obs, a construct of beards, puns, and sunglasses. Occasionally I’ve been known to wear hats and cavort with fairies. It happens, sometimes.
I’m an author, or I’d like to think so, at least. I’m also a mod for Fimfiction.net.
There’s not a whole lot to tell regarding my history with ponies. There was a pretty big MLP subculture on a Terraria forum I used to frequent. One day I figured I’d see what all the hype was about, and… well, here I am.
Interesting thing is that I’d never actually written all that much before I decided I’d start putting up fanfiction. I’d always kinda styled myself as a wordsy person before that, but it’s only with the power of pony pony that I ever managed to start putting out finished works.
Go figure, huh?
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I’m bad at spelling.
That’s… pretty much it, honestly. For no particular reason, I used names starting with “Obs” on various websites.
And then the one I’d misspelled stuck.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Sweetie Belle is incredibly adorable.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Sleepless in Ponyville” remains one of my all-time favorites, just because there are so many little bits and pieces from everyone that make them great. Rainbow Dash and Scoots are the obvious ones, but there’s a bunch of stuff from all the other characters that gets worked into the side scenes. As a collection of character moments, I think it’s pretty tops.
Sweetie face. ‘Nuff said.
What do you get from the show?
Inspiration, mostly. The world is vast and fascinating. Vastcinating. It’s a setting that makes me want to write stories in it, and I think that’s a pretty rare and valuable thing.
What do you want from life?
Complete and total dominance of all that exists within it.
That’s a complicated question, honestly. Life’s big, and there’s a lot of things to want from it. I’ll take what I can get, I guess.
… I think most people who have definite answers to this one are either oversimplifying things or preparing for a job interview. Maybe both.
Why do you write?
I have a lot of stories in my head that I feel ought to be told by someone. Since asking other people to do things for me always feels really awkward, I guess I’m the one who has to tell them.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
I think general advice is hard to give for writing, because at some point it really boils down to “You just need to learn how to write.” Which I don’t mean in a bad way. It’s just that generalized advice like “Show, don’t tell,” and even slightly more specific advice like “How should I write an interesting character?” often ends up failing to help people. Because nine times out of ten, they’ll understand the words of the advice, but fail to really understand how to apply the spirit of the advice to their writing.
I saw a thread once somewhere where someone asked how to make a character more interesting. One of the responses on it, and I’m paraphrasing here, was essentially “Consider giving them a mental illness.”
Which, on the surface of it — is not actually bad advice. Consider a hero character who grapples with megalomania, for instance. Or a supporting character who’s manic-depressive. Obviously it’s not like something you sprinkle in, but in some cases, done well, they could put really interesting spins on traditional character dynamics.
But … well, at the same time I kind of cringed when I read that advice, because I knew how it would inevitably be interpreted. We all have some sense of how this ends. Everyone’s read at least one story where a mental illness was depicted as either a superpower or an angst-generator — I’ve seen at least a few that’ve botched multiple personality disorder pretty bad — and to anyone who needs to ask how to make a character more interesting, you can sense that this sort of advice will eventually lead them down that road.
On some level, you can always improve the quality of the advice. Qualify your simple statements, expand on any mnemonics like “Show, don’t tell,” or whatever. But ultimately, I think the best advice for people who want to write better is to teach them good habits and let them work out how to write on their own. When they reach the point where they need better than that, the best advice will be specific to their own writing. Not a generalized slogan.
So, y’know. If you want to learn how to write more interesting characters or sharpen your prose, I think one thing you ought to do is look at how better authors do it. Pick up some novels of your favorite genre, read the best authors. See how they construct their sentences and set up their characters. Think about how you could use anything you glean to improve your own writing. Write lots of stories yourself, challenge your boundaries, and experiment often to see what works.
Just … learn how to write. Y’know?
This story has been described as “a uniquely Equestrian take on darkfic”. How can dark fiction elements be worked into, or gleaned from, the show’s setting?
I think there’s a certain amount of darkness to Equestria’s setting in the sense that, like … everything in Equestria feels very managed. The weather’s handled by pegasi, the ponies take care of all the animals, and even lives are considered to be subject to “destiny.” It’s something that doesn’t really get a lot of thought on the whole, because Equestria’s such an idyllic setting and everything seems to work out perfectly there. No one in canon MLP wants to — or even thinks of — presenting an opinion contrary to this state of affairs.
But if you take these concepts and distill them, I think some of them would be a bit unsettling to people. Managing everything works great when everyone involved is a willing participant, as happens in the cartoon. It’s when you get some dissenting voices — as will inevitably happen in reality — that these ideas start to get weird for people.
I think that’s where a lot of the dark charm for stories like The Conversion Bureau and the Optimalverse comes from. A benevolent We-know-what’s-best philosophy that’s fine when we’re watching colorful ponies live it on TV, but doesn’t really gel with people when we’re forced to confront it ourselves.
Does violation of a person’s free will, even out of a desire to help them, preclude an action from being truly benevolent?
One of my favorite things about moral discussions is that there are no absolute statements. Or, uh, if there are, there probably aren’t that many of them and I can’t think of any off the top of my head right now. You can almost always set up a hypothetical that disagrees. “It is always wrong to kill” meets “Would you kill Hitler if you knew it was the only way to prevent the Holocaust?”
Obviously a lot of the hypotheticals don’t really apply to practical situations, but the point is that there are very few moral absolutes, if any. The rest of it’s mostly either subjective or contextual.
I think that there could be cases where violating free will — or, at least, free action — for someone’s benefit could be moral and/or benevolent. Even in real life we have various laws, rules, and set-ups that exist essentially for the purpose of keeping people from hurting themselves. Buckle up, folks.
Of course, how far those ought to go is often the subject of heavy debate.
I don’t think that what Celestia does in More Than You Know is particularly moral or agreeable on the whole of it, though. Maybe in some isolated contexts it could be considered a good thing. Probably not as a policy or a philosophy.
What are your feelings on the subject of memorializing victories vs. defeats?
Trying to focus on the best of the past and trying to forget the worst of it is just a thing that happens. There’s a reason we’ve got a whole set of terms for remembering things as better than they were. Nostalgia goggles, rose-colored glasses, etc. Speaking as an American, I’m pretty well aware that remembering the victories is something we like to do a lot. Heck, most of the time we tend to overstate just how incredible our victories were.
DO I HEAR A “THANK YOU” FOR WORLD WAR II, BRITAIN?
NO? HOW ABOUT WORLD WAR I?
OKAY, WELL, AT LEAST WE CRUSHED YOU IN THE REVOLUTION.
Interestingly, I have a Hungarian friend who often notes that Hungary dwells too much on various perceived injustices it’s suffered in the past, so I imagine that getting too hung up on the worst of it is also a realistic possibility. And presumably it’s just as unhealthy, if not a little more so.
Ideally we should be trying to remember as much of the past as possible, as it happened. Feel good about the victories, but learn from the defeats.
In a world where powerful beings can rewrite thoughts, can we ever be certain that anything we read truly happened?
Nah, probably not.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I love you all.
You can read More Than You Know at FIMFiction.net.