The sands of today’s story hold a magical and timeless mystery.
[Romance] • 17,452 words
As the prince of Saddle Arabia, Altair wants for nothing, but a chance encounter shows him the one thing that he lacks: love. Desert Rose intrigues and excites him with the mystery of her past and the beauty of her form. Only she can teach him the secrets of the desert: open his eyes to a world with riches beyond gold, and power beyond a scepter.
The sands cannot be caged, but the desert winds will set Altair free.
FROM THE CURATORS: Although this is tagged Romance, the first thing that impressed us about it was how much narrative depth there was beyond the love story. “(The protagonist) Altair is going on a classic hero’s journey,” Chris said, “but the particular angle is interesting, and the setting is well realized.” Present Perfect agreed: “It’s got a lovely fairy-tale feel and a very memorable character arc. I can remember it right now despite having read this months ago.”
Like the previously featured A Faded Touch Of Blue, this “is a great look at Saddle Arabia,” as PresentPerfect put it, with loving attention to worldbuilding that brings the desert nation to life. “The prose is delightful, and the setting is brilliantly realized,” JohnPerry added, “exotic yet conveyed with a certain familiarity at the same time.”
But Desert Rose is exemplary in an entirely different way. “It’s much less nuanced than Faded Touch,” Chris said, “but it’s got evocative writing, fun characters, and a timeless moral.” That’s because Desert Rose, at heart, is about the mystery of its titular character, and her mystery is a compelling one. “She’s as intriguing to the reader as she is supposed to be to the protagonist,” JohnPerry said. “A hearty recommendation from me.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Golden Vision discusses lyrical inspiration, Whooves polarization, and punching evolution in the junk.
Give us the standard biography.
Well, I’m just zis guy, you know? Got my start over in the Naruto/Harry Potter fandoms on FanFiction.net around 2010 or so under the pen name Sage of Seals. I migrated over to FimFiction a few months after I first got into ponies, which was probably around the beginning of Season 2 (after Discord, but before Lesson Zero).
My first real home in the fandom was Ponychan’s /fic/ board — and later the MLPChan board of the same name — where I first found my niche in the fandom as a member of an isolated, smarmy elite comprised of stuffy reviewers and artsty-fartsty horseword creators. Ever since I first started writing in this fandom, the sense of community’s been the strongest thing keeping me here, whether in IRC or Skype or (somewhat less so) FimFic groups.
My first story in the fandom was entitled Another Day For the Whooves, which was, as its title suggests, a fun little romp going into some depth on the exact makeup and dynamics of the Whooves family. I strongly suspect that at least half of my followers turn up their noses at anything I release that isn’t a Doctor Who crossover, and that the other half groans whenever I release something mentioning a TARDIS. Their probable reactions: “Oh, no. Not this shit again.”
I’ve bounced all over the writing part of the fandom, going from a reviewer/editor on /fic/ to a member of WRITE on FimFiction. I’ve been invited to Seattle’s Angels and hosted panels at Bronycon. I helped co-found The Royal Guard on FimFiction and do some other stuff that I think is pretty cool.
(What’s an ego?)
I’m actually just coming back from a several-month hiatus at the moment, but right now, I’m one hundred percent focused on getting back to work and restoring any bridges and muscles I might’ve let rot over the summer. This fandom and my writing habit are honestly two of the best things that ever happened for me, and I know I wouldn’t be anything without the friends I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned here.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It’s actually kind of embarrassing. I made up my name while I was still a younger high school student, and I was in a bit of a “euphoric” futurist phase. So, I thought, why not come up with a pen name that reflected my golden vision for the future? Hardee har har. Still, I can’t deny that I appreciate the multitudes of nicknames it’s earned me: GV, Geeves, Gee-Veezy, Goldie, Golden_Showers, and many, many others.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Twilight Sparkle, just barely edging out Shining Armor. Both of them just remind me of myself so much — and, more than that, my relationship with my younger sister — that it’s almost impossible to relate more strongly to anypony else.
Plus, Twilight’s just snarky and awesome and cool. I’d love to start a book club with her and geek out over The Dresden Files or The Wheel of Time for an afternoon or two. Shit’d be hella tight.
(You thought I’d say Doctor Whooves, didn’t you?)
What’s your favorite episode?
Yeurgh. This one’s a toughie, if only because I have a really shitty memory. Let’s see…
Well, am I allowed to cheat and say three? I am? Kewl.
First off, I’m gonna have to say Wonderbolt Academy, if only because I’m a sucker for a good maturation episode. When I first saw this episode, I didn’t just love it for the awesome jerkass-ness of Lightning Dust (though she is a fun-as-hell non-villain to play with), but because it represented, for me, three seasons’ worth of payoff insofar as Rainbow Dash’s growth and development were concerned. To me, it represented that this show wasn’t another Spongebob: that MLP was going to actually let its characters grow and change in ways that would reflect the best parts of themselves.
My second choice is kind of similar: For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls. Sweetie is easily my favorite CMC, and with all the development she’s gotten in S4, it’s (I think) hard not to see why. She’s stepping into a leadership position amongst her peers, taking over from Apple Bloom in S1 and S2. She’s growing as a person and learning what she really wants to do in life, trying new things out and not just for the sake of a Cutie Mark. I was surprised by her character in this episode — happily so — and loved the fact that she could actually use magic in a continuity-established way. Plus, the fact that Luna was there with the first realistic dream physics I’ve seen in a show since the 90s probably had something to do with my opinion of this episode.
Finally, there’s Twilight’s Kingdom. Purple Smart was actually pretty kewl when you look at the way she’s come since S01E01 — and I’m not talking about the bullshit “maturation” of Games Ponies Play, or The Crystal Empire either. Discord was fantastic, and Tirek was everything Sombra should’ve been. Plus, that fight scene was absolutely fucking incredible.
So, uh, yeah. Woo.
What do you get from the show?
Entertainment. Inspiration. A sense of community. Over time, I’ve realized that “the show” has taken less of a central presence in my life, but it’s stayed there as a baseline I can return to. It’s a common interest — an anchor, if you will.
What do you want from life?
To be a cool dude who doesn’t afraid of anything.
More seriously, though, I want to be someone who sees what humanity can do. I want to see what great works of art or literature come out in the years to come. I want to see the technologies and advances we make. I want to watch us get on our own two feet, look several million years of evolution in the eye, and then punch it in the dick.
Call me a humanistic voyeur.
Why do you write?
Gosh, I dunno. Cuz I don’t suck at it? My first and — I think, most accurate — reason is that I feel like I have something to say. There’s a quote out there by some famous author (probably Mark Twain, as he seems to be the guy where we get all the inspirational writing quotes from) that says “if there’s a story out there that you want to read, but doesn’t exist, then you must be the one to write it.” Half the time that I’m writing something, I don’t feel like I deserve the accolades for doing so. Rather, I feel like the story itself deserves to be told — like I’m a medium rather than a creator. It’s my responsibility, then, to make sure that my means of recording these stories is the best it can possibly be.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write, write, and write some more. Get a second — and third, and fourth — pair of eyes on your work. You’ve got to learn to depend on nothing but yourself while simultaneously learning that your intuition is useless and your opinions are nothing but unhelpful biases.
Somewhere out there, there’s a story that needs you to write it. Don’t let your pride or ego get in the way, but don’t let your fear stop you from getting that story down on paper.
My understanding is that Desert Rose began as a writeoff entry with the prompt “Time and Time Again.” Did the prompt serve as a help or a challenge when you were writing this story?
Helped, I think. I always shuffle my iTunes music while trying to come up with or develop ideas for a story, and something about the prompt made me think of the phrase “sands of time.” Lo and behold, Desert Rose by Sting comes on in my headphones (I never said I was original in my titles) and the fic was born.
What inspired you to write a Saddle Arabian romance?
If you’re familiar at all with Sting’s work, you’ll know that he’s a brilliant musician who’s as good a poet as he is an instrumentalist. The lyrics of the song just stood out to me so clearly that I felt like I had no choice but to write the story, like Desert Rose herself had appeared to me with the tale already written on papyrus. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:
I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in vain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand
I dream of fire
Those dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire
And in the flames
Her shadows play in the shape of a man’s desire
The world-building in this story is exquisite, and I noticed that a couple of phrases were actual Arabic. What kind of research went into writing this?
I must confess that I made some mediocre effort in glancing at Wikipedia and Google Translate, namely to find phrases that could evoke an Arabian feel without going too far into “real-world” ideas. I can’t remember where I found it, but the opening description of Bridylon (I’m so punny, hon hon hon) was inspired by a picture I found of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Altair’s name comes from a star from the constellation Aquila (named by the Arabs in their Golden Age of Learning). Funnily enough, Aquila is often associated with the eagle who kidnapped Ganymede, a son of one of the kings of Troy, to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods. Sound familiar?
Namus (the father of the mare Altair is to marry) is named after an Arabic word for virtue, “used in a strong gender-specific context of relations within a family described in terms of honor, attention, respect/respectability, and modesty.” Qahwa, the name of the merchant in the first part of the story, was an Arabic word meaning wine, though it later came to refer to the types of coffee first cultivated in Yemen. Fitting, huh?
In your mind, who, or what, is Desert Rose?
Honestly? I like to think that she’s a creature of the desert, as old as the sands. Older than Celestia and Luna, perhaps. She’s been here since the first constellations rose over the Saddle Arabian desert and will be here when they set for the final time. She’s not a very social being, but it amuses her, I think, to appear as a simple Equestrian pony when she visits Bridylon — at least on this occasion.
Her true nature is actually what inspired me to write this story (relating back to the prompt), as well as the final scene of the fic. Time and time again, indeed; what small, short-lived insects we must seem to one who has seen millennia pass, kingdoms and empires falling in what must be the blink of an eye.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Shameless plug here (am I allowed to do this?), but you should totally go read my latest story, In Memoriam. If you like worldbuilding (like Desert Rose! But in SPACE — I mean, the Crystal Empire), love mysteries and fight scenes, and think that Shining Armor and Cadance got the short end of the stick when it comes to characterization, I definitely think you should check it out.
A big thanks to you guys at the RCL for this opportunity. Seriously, you guys rock. And cheers to all you FimFic peoples who’re reading this. Horseword on, you crazy pones.
You can read Desert Rose at FIMFiction.net.