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Today’s story looks to the future, with a tale of first contact gone horribly awry.

Outside The Reaching Sky
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] • 106,310 words

(Curator Note: Although this story is a sequel, it requires no knowledge of the original work.)

Eighty years after the events of The Dread Chitin, Equestria is a radically different place.  The arcane science of the late Duran Thirk and the information found on the Star League library core have combined to catapult the nation’s science ahead by hundreds of years.

Now, facing the possible aggression of a completely unknown alien power, Twilight Sparkle and her friends have to gather together once more, leading a crew of the best ponies they could assemble in a voyage outside their own star system.  They seek to learn about their potential foe, to explore the galaxy around them, and possibly find allies and friends to stand alongside them.  Who knows what they will actually find?

FROM THE CURATORS: Outside The Reaching Sky is science fiction in the best classic tradition — “straight-up space opera,” as Horizon put it. “It’s got the same sort of verve as Star Trek: gratuitous space battles mixed with character drama.”  Equestria stumbles into a galactic war and conspiracy as they bootstrap themselves off their planet, and the ponies’ new frontier is richly realized. “The worldbuilding and technical additions feel ‘real’ in a way too few stories do,” Chris said, and Present Perfect agreed: “Karazor’s done a good job crafting alien mindsets, not just in the actual aliens the ponies encounter, but for the ponies too.”

Like much classic sci-fi, it lingers richly over the details of its civilizations and  technologies.  That attention to worldbuilding was too much for some curators, but a majority of us dove in and found ourselves quickly swept up.  For instance, Present Perfect did a double-take after getting sucked into a multi-hour reading marathon: “Wow, I’m halfway through already?” Chris was similarly sucked in: “I read a couple of chapters right before bed, and found myself too worked up over what an idiot Fluttershy was being to get to sleep.  Any fic that gets me that invested in its characters deserves a feature.”  Horizon summed it up: “If it doesn’t grab you within the first chapter or three, it won’t; but if you enjoy it, it’ll reward you right through to the end.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Karazor discusses birthday panic attacks, eighty-year changes, and the language of infinite monkeys.

Give us the standard biography.

Oh, the biography?  I’m sure I’m quite boring.  Perhaps I’m a student.  Or an accountant.  Or a grandparent.  Then again, perhaps I’m the third in a series of identical clone bodies produced to house a particular consciousness, peering at Earth from my perch on the frozen world of Yuggoth and trying to understand a different form of identity as practiced by the inhabitants of that burning world.  Or I could be a Shining Spear exarch on the craftworld of Saim-Hann, finding a place that resonates with the Infinity Circuit and using it as a way to grasp desperately at the Paths I lost when I became trapped on the Path of the Warrior.  Then again, I could be a gateway to the Dimension of Infinite Monkeys and Typewriters, taking a break on my endless quest to perfectly reproduce the works of Shakespere. (We got it in French once, but we’re still working on the English version.)  Everything I just said is probably false.  Of course, it could all be true, too!

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Believe it or not, it was a character’s name in something I was working on back when I was in Junior High, and I’ve sort of used it as an Internet handle ever since.  (The story was wretchedly bad and long since consigned to a dumpster, but the name stuck around.)

Who’s your favorite pony?

Twilight.  Easily.

What’s your favorite episode?

Goodness, that’s actually a rough question.  I think the one that really grabbed my attention early on was “Sonic Rainboom,” and I think it’s definitely one of the better ones.  I also quite liked “Testing, Testing, 1,2,3” and “Lesson Zero,” as well as “Nightmare Night.”  Hard to narrow it down to just one, you know?

What do you get from the show?

Me, personally, I get to watch well-developed characters interact.  That shit is like cocaine for me.  The earlier seasons also had these interesting gaps that I could fill in with various forms of worldbuilding, and that’s like cocaine squared.

What do you want from life?

To crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentations of the women. Not much, honestly.  I’m a boring individual with few desires and no ambition!

Why do you write?

Because there’s stories I want to tell.  Or because there’s stories I wanted to read, but I can’t find them, so I make them.  Or to see things happen, because I had an image in my head and I wanted to have something around it to frame it with.  Or just because I liked it, ha ha.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Advice?  Heh, I’m a terrible source of advice.  If I were to pick something, I’d just say to write stuff you’d want to read, and it doesn’t matter if anyone else reads it or even wants to, so long as you want to read it, you’re golden.

Why did you decide to extend the lifespans of the mane cast rather than use a cast of OCs for your characters?

Because they were characters I liked, and characters I wanted to use.  I wanted the stuff that happened in *wince* Dread Chitin, bad as it was, to actually have an impact, and I wanted to see how the stuff that happened in that story effected Rainbow and Twilight.  I also really, really wanted to do space opera, because I love space opera, and I thought it wasn’t too much of a stretch to assume that the Elements might have some additional effect on their bearers.  I actually planned to use more OCs for the sequel I’d planned to Reaching Sky, but I haven’t really been able to do much with it so far, sadly.

How do you balance the way 80 years can change characters with keeping them recognizable to the reader?

That is a hard line to walk, and I hope I did decently with it.  The core of the idea was that time changes people, but it generally doesn’t make them unrecognizable, you know?  People’s interests might change, but who they were when they were younger shapes who they become, and you can usually see the kid or the young adult in older people if you talk to them for long enough.  That’s what I was trying to do with the main cast in Reaching Sky, trying to look at where they might go (given the changes that Duran made to the setting) without losing sight of who they started as.  If that makes sense.  (It probably doesn’t.)

If Duran hadn’t jump-started the Equestrian space program, how would the Council have treated their world?

Badly, bluntly.  The Council as a whole would likely never have heard of the place until much, much later, and the infiltrator service was already planning to knock them back to the stone age (literally) to prevent conflict in the probationary seats.  They’ve done it before.  They’d probably have been encountered another century on, and had teams of xenologists observing a collapsed society, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.

What is the deal with Wingblade?

Hahaha, you probably think she’s a Changeling, don’t you?  Most of the folks I’ve talked to personally who’ve read Reaching Sky think she was.  She’s not; Changelings don’t handle the datalink well.  ‘Blade’s actual deal is that she’s had that interface implant since she was about six.  Her parents were convinced that earth ponies and pegasi needed to have the ability to interface directly with arcanotech, and that the best way to develop that ability to its utmost was to grow up with it.  So convinced, in fact, that they gave their daughter one of the implants as part of a study.  This is, by the way, massively illegal; nopony’s supposed to be given an interface implant before the age of eighteen or so because of various concerns about safety and the way the devices might interact with a growing mind.  And a growing body; ‘Blade actually had to have her implant updated every year, which wasn’t a terribly pleasant experience.  Interface implants have an adjustment period after they’re installed, and most ponies wouldn’t willingly go through it twice.  ‘Blade went through it every year, once a year, generally the day after her birthday party.  She’s actually phobic towards birthday parties and birthday cakes; it probably sounds funny, but it’s not.  I don’t just mean it makes her uncomfortable; she has panic attacks.

Anyway, her parents didn’t manage to keep it secret forever.  When ‘Blade was about twelve, one of their lab techs couldn’t handle it anymore and let one of the department heads in the Bureau of Technology know what was going on.  ‘Blade’s parents were arrested, tried, and convicted, and lost their accreditation with the BoT.  The court also took ‘Blade away from them, and because of the way the whole situation could potentially have haunted the filly the court records were sealed.  The court needed some place to send ‘Blade, and wound up reaching out to the Border Wardens; it’s got these sort of crèches for foals whose parents are on extended duty.  They contacted Dash directly, since she was one of the two ponies who ran basically everything in the Wardens, and she was the one who made sure ‘Blade was put in one of the foalcare crèches.  She also made sure that nopony knew about her implant apart from the ones taking care of her, plus she’d stop by periodically to make sure ‘Blade was doing okay.  She was sort of a combination surrogate mother and aunt to ‘Blade, and ‘Blade’s fiercely loyal to her.  She’d decided by the time she was thirteen that she wanted to be a Warden, and signed up the second she could.  She and Dash had a couple of arguments on the subject; Dash wasn’t sure it was the best idea in the world and kind of tried to dissuade ‘Blade, but it didn’t work.  They’re both worried about favoritism, given their history, so Dash goes out of her way trying not to show ‘Blade any, and ‘Blade likewise goes out of her way to watch for it.  Dash tries to keep ‘Blade out of her direct chain of command because of it; Dauntless was the first place they’d served together.

How would you characterize the ponies’ ultimate success in their first space exploration, given their apparently severe lack of preparation?

Oh, they prepared, or tried to.  They just didn’t know for sure what they were getting into, and it’s hard to prepare for something so completely unlike anything you’ve ever done before.  I’d say they did a pretty decent job of it, overall; yeah, they’re not Picard’s Enterprise (or even Kirk’s, ooooh, shots fired!) but as literally the first interstellar trip their nation had ever taken, it wasn’t bad.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Oh, not really.  I actually liked Reaching Sky, and I’m glad some other folks did, too; my work is usually execrable, and part of the reason I’m having so much trouble doing the sequel I’d wanted to do is because it’s … kind of intimidating.

You can read Outside The Reaching Sky at FIMFiction.net.