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What would Equestria be without the rule of its solar princess?  Today’s story speculates that the answer might be “nothing” in a more literal way than anyone suspects.

equestria-from-dustEquestria From Dust
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] • 69,579 words

Celestia awakens to see an empty world, white sandstone stretching the horizon. She wanders the world as she builds it from her imagination, filling it with life, but as time passes, the world that she created begins to seem like little more than a lucid dream, conjured from the dust.

FROM THE CURATORS: “Mythology fics are always going to be divisive,” Chris warned us when he nominated this one, but he had nothing to worry about — this one solidly won over its critics.  “Even though I generally don’t care for premises that hinge on Celestia and Luna being gods, this story does too many things too well for me not to support it,” JohnPerry said.  Similarly, Horizon got hooked: “We’ve seen so much great Equestria mythology come through here that the merely good is getting underwhelming … but once the world had fully come together, Equestria From Dust grabbed me enough that I read all 70,000 words in a single sitting.”

What made the story so compelling?  “Celestia,” Chris said. “It paints a vivid picture of who Celestia is in relation to Equestria, and does so while crafting a suitably grand parallel for her budding awareness in her shaping of the world.  I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a great example of how to paint a character in a memorable, expansive manner.”  JohnPerry found other elements to like: “The characterizations, in particular, felt right (which is high praise from me whenever Discord is involved).  Going through it, I kept fearing that moment when it would slip up as we moved from ‘creation’ to ‘ruling’ to ‘fighting evil,’ but it never did, thanks in large part to the clever stylistic choices the author employs.”  And Horizon found its use of narrative tension exemplary: “Not only is there a compelling mystery in the darkness that Celestia fights, but the relationships we know from canon are also kept dangling over the characters like the sword of Damocles.  It won’t end how you expect, but it will tie everything up beautifully.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Soundslikeponies discusses Lovecraft’s reality, redeeming artistic flops, and trial by bear.

Give us the standard biography.

I grew up 3 miles north of desolation and 2 miles south of despair on a quaint little tourist trap of an island off British Columbia’s western coast. From there I escaped to a larger island, swimming across a narrow ocean strait with my desk, my computer, and my large flat screen tv roped across my back. On the other side of the strait I was greeted by one of the northwest’s many tribes of man-eating black bears. With nothing left to lose, I conquered their tribal leaders in bear-handed combat and stole their bear wives, winning the respect of the rest of the bear tribe.

Then I started a computer science degree for some god awful reason. I guess I wanted to make video games.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I like handles which are 3 words long and start with the letter ‘S’.

No, really. That’s all there is to it.

Who’s your favorite pony?

It seems to change constantly as time passes.

I love Rarity’s charm and class, and her character always fascinates me when it comes to her dealing with conflicting emotions.

Applejack has a warm kindness to her and a sweet southern gal charm that’s wholly different from Rarity’s. Also I’ll be darned if I don’t admire her character.

It’s hard not to relate to Twilight, being a bit of a geek. It also helps she brings out my absolute favorite element of the show, that being the more epic fantasy aspects.

They say confidence is attractive. I think Rainbow Dash is a great example of someone who is confident, boastful, and cocky, but understands how to build herself up without pushing the people around her down (sans one or two episodes). As a result, she brings energy and positivity to those she’s around.

Sadly, despite still liking them, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy don’t seem to place in the same tier as the others in my mind. Some of my favorite episodes are centered around them, but that’s more the episodes than the characters.

What’s your favorite episode?

“Sisterhooves Social.”

As a little brother it hit pretty close to home for me. My brother was several years older than me and was always really impatient with me. Now that we’ve both grown up and moved out, there’s a still a fairly wide void between us, both distance-wise and personality-wise. Seeing Sweetie Belle go through the same thing I did and seeing the Apple sisters act like loving siblings, made me think about what I might have missed.

It filled me with a lot of happiness to see Sweetie Belle get the sister she always wanted in the end, as by this point I think that ship has sailed for me.

What do you get from the show?

I really enjoy the character stories — usually the episodes where a character has to overcome some internal conflict rather than an external one. That said, what really hooked me into the show were the fantasy elements. The lore of the two princesses at the beginning of episode 1 carried me all the way to Dragonshy, which is where I got my second dosage of fantasy and really got hooked.

What do you want from life?

To live comfortably and create things people really enjoy.

Why do you write?

I honestly don’t know how to answer this question. Back when I actually read a fair amount of fanfiction, I wrote my first story out of dissatisfaction with other stories that existed within the genre. Romance fics were, at the time, mostly soul-less fluff. They lacked any real conflict or drama, they lacked characters who struggled with inner turmoil, and they lacked flawed protagonists.

After that, the inherent satisfaction of creating something got me hooked — and the satisfaction of doing something you’re good at.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Keep in mind the reader. Always write the story you’d want to read. Always write the story you think should be there and be famous, but isn’t.

Do you often write yourself into a corner, as one of your author’s notes discussed?  What lessons have you learned about dodging those traps?

Nothing. I’m my own worst enemy. I run things up and up, more and more complicated, and then the complexity leaves me in a tangled mess. The more I plan, the more complicated I make things. I can write more plans to avoid getting stuck in a corner, but I don’t think they’ll ever truly cure me of it.

Is reality just what we create, or is there an objective, definable Real?

One of H.P. Lovecraft’s characters said it well: “Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them.”

I toyed with reality in Equestria from Dust quite heavily, blending dreams with reality and reality with dreams. I’ve always found the exploration of such blurred lines fascinating.

With dreams such a major element of the story, what are your own dreams like?

My actual dreams are all either nightmares or utterly pointless things. My waking dreams are much more interesting. I spend a lot of time wrapped up in my imagination.

Making Luna an explicit creation of Celestia seems like it would naturally lead to a role similar to Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. What was behind your decision not to focus on her fall and make her the ultimate villain?

I didn’t feel having Luna as a villain would serve the story’s ideals. Primarily I wanted to create a feeling that everything that happens is a part of Celestia’s creation. Luna was created out of Celestia’s desire for companionship and stability. I wanted her to adhere to this role strongly.

What I really sought to do with this story is write about the inner turmoil and self-conflict a living god might have. Everything in the world of Equestria from Dust is in some way a reflection of Celestia, as she was the one who created everything. For that purpose, it served better to have a darkness grow steadily from within Celestia.

With Season 4 and its supplemental works having further fleshed out Equestria’s canon past, would you write this story differently if you were to write it today?

Nothing in particular. I’m quite comfortable deviating from canon wherever I feel it would serve some purpose. At the end of season 2, the fandom’s preconceptions about Celestia and Luna’s power died when Chrysalis struck down Celestia. I feel acknowledgement of anything beyond that point would also force my story to acknowledge that, and so it’s unlikely I would.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

When I first published Equestria From Dust on fimfiction.net, it fell just shy of getting featured. After three or four days, it sat at just ~130 views. Compared to my other stories, Equestria From Dust was a complete and utter flop. It was a bit of a soul-crushing experience. I put more artistic effort into it than anything I wrote before it. I spent over a dozen nights lying in bed thinking about it. I like to pride myself on putting effort and care into everything I wrote, but still, I have no doubts I put more into Equestria From Dust than the others.

From a slow-but-steady stream of updates, word of mouth, and an Equestria Daily feature, it’s climbed to just under 8,000 views on the first chapter. I want to say popularity doesn’t matter, but it’s not the same if the stage is smaller, you know? I had trouble justifying writing more chapters when that time could be spent writing another story that more people would read. When the story first climbed over 1,000 views with the Equestria Daily feature, I felt a huge sense of relief; I had an audience to write for.

So to any readers: never underestimate how much a kind word means to an author, even if they don’t reply directly to it. I don’t want to promote hugboxing any more than it already is on this site, but if you do sincerely enjoy a story or feel you got something out of it, please leave a comment saying so. It’s more uplifting as an author than anything else. And despite not necessarily replying to them, we do read them. All of them.

You can read Equestria From Dust at FIMFiction.net.