Today’s story has a clever plan to steal your heart.
[Slice of Life] • 5,527 words
Blank Slate is the greatest thief of his generation. He has robbed countless nigh-impossible marks, and his talents as a master of disguise are beyond par — truly, nopony knows who he is.
And now he’s preparing the greatest heist in mortal memory: the treasure vaults of the Princesses themselves.
But you have to get up pretty early in the morning to get one past the pony who defines when ‘early in the morning’ is…
FROM THE CURATORS: Like all its characters, this story of a daring theft gone wrong has a little secret — in this case, that there are two chapters. “It’s bizarre to say, as JohnPerry did, that the best thing about this story is how it sticks the landing,” Horizon initially wrote after be failed to notice Chapter 2, but quickly amended his statement: “It stuck the landing.” All of us agreed. In Chris’ words: “The ending is great, no argument.”
But there’s more to this story than a great twist, and it was that richness throughout which propelled it to its feature. Present Perfect cited the writing’s redemption of an often-poorly-used technique: “This makes good use of talking heads, something that’s hard to do.” And Chris appreciated the heist’s construction despite his ambivalence toward the genre: “Too often, the number one rule of good mystery writing is ignored — the reason it worked ought to be, if not solvable, at least conceivable pre-reveal. This story does a nice job on that front.”
Little Deceptions’ richness extended to its ideas and its setting. “What really struck me about it was the world-building,” Present Perfect said. “We get an explanation for why a pony would turn to crime. All those magical gems … make sense, and the methods of disguise are entirely believable.” Horizon seconded that: “The heist is a joy to read, and plays with Equestrian worldbuilding in marvelous ways. I was debating whether to nominate it simply on the strength of Chapter 1.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Taranth discusses fertility, flowers, fandom justifications, and Shining Armor’s criminal history.
Give us the standard biography.
That’s the internet standard these days, isn’t it? Or was that like five years ago? I can’t keep up with you young’ns.
I work in IT (despite promising myself at the end of university that I would never actually do this for a job), making sure that software does what the company asks it to do. Which is, as anyone who works in IT will tell you, very different from what the company actually wants it to do — and I spend much of my day staring at things that I know are not what the company actually wants, but without the authority to actually change them, because they technically follow the letter of the request. It’s great!
I spend even more of my working day reading pony fiction on my work computer, which is why I get the occasional comment of “How do you have so many favourites?!”
I really hope my boss isn’t reading this.
Outside of work and pony, my hobbies are board games, cooking, desperately trying to work off the gut resulting from my cooking, the occasional minor bout of roleplay (Previously D&D, leaning towards Earthdawn these days) and playing video games that ceased being relevant years ago. Just finished Assassin’s Creed 2! How about that big reveal, huh? Next … Pokémon Gold. Cutting edge!
Outside of this precious little invention called “The Internets”, give or take a plural, I am likely one of the most boring people you would ever care to meet. On the internet, however, I am filled with words. So very, very many words. And someone just gave me free rein (ha ha, horse pun) to write all the words I like to answer questions. And now you get to read them! Aren’t you lucky.
Settle in. This’ll probably take a while.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
That is, regretfully, a remarkably boring tale. An original story I was working on with my friend in high school (involving the tale of a young anti-hero wielding epic necromantic power on an evil quest to save the universe. It was awesome, we planned the whole thing out, and then never actually wrote a single page) had a main character named “Terant”. I liked the name, but my friend came up with it, so I twisted it around a bit and ended up with “Taranth”. It’s stuck with me since.
Fun fact: A quick bit of google searching used to reveal that “Taranth” was the name of a goddess of fertility and flowers or somesuch; however, upon trying to confirm this just now, all I’m getting is that it means “Lord of the Stars/The moon”. And y’know what? I’m entirely okay with this.
Who’s your favorite pony?
I’m a shameless Sparkle fan. Sure, it could be that she’s a comparatively blank personality for the watcher to work with; could be that she’s the one I identify most with (at least in the early seasons); but in the end, our adorkable unicorn just can’t be beat.
Second place is a lot harder to pick, and would very much depend on what I was watching, reading, or just the general mood I was in at any given time. If it was coming down to who I would actually like to hang out with in real life … I don’t know that I’d have the energy to get along with any of the others of the mane six, at least. Luna would probably take #2 spot in that case.
If it’s down to who I actually like reading/writing/conspiring about, then it’s definitely the other princesses. They’re just so full of possibilities! <3
What’s your favorite episode?
I really couldn’t give an answer to this. I’m horrible with picking favourites of anything. It would heartily depend on what I’d watched lately, whether I was in a silly or serious state … yeah, not much help here. As much as I enjoy the show, I’m actually far more interested in the fandom and the worlds and variants produced in the fanfics than the episodes themselves — I see them somewhat as a template to build on, rather than a finished product.
What do you get from the show?
Which segues nicely into this question! Inspiration and ideas would be the most important things I get from the show. One thing I absolutely adore about this fandom is seeing all of those weird little things that don’t really make sense in real life — the singing, the cartoon physics, the control of weather and celestial objects, the blatant marketing and moralising — and then watching the folks in the fandom start justifying them, trying to make them work in an actual logical, realistic framework, and coming up with my very own additions to that.
But that’s a little bit sidetracked … from the show itself, I get a few good laughs, some solid feel-good moments, and consistently surprised by the quality. Time and time again, I’ve seen the summary of the next episode and gone “Ehhh … I don’t see how that’s going to be entertaining …” and yet! Awesome. Pretty much every time.
What do you want from life?
Immortality and power overwhelming! Or, alternatively, a comfortable and healthy life without too much stress and bother. Not a very interesting answer, but as previously stated, I’m a very boring person off the internet.
A girlfriend might be nice though. *wistful*
Why do you write?
Because I get IDEAS in my HEAD and they WON’T GO AWAY. Why won’t they stop? I just want to sleep …
Well, I do get random ideas, and they have a tendency to stick and rattle until I get distracted with something else. If I’m lucky, I will have taken that time to actually start writing something, at least a plan.
But honestly, it’s as much because my ego demands feeding. I love comments, I love watching that number of alerts trickle up day by day, knowing that people are actually enjoying what I wrote. It’s selfish and silly, but eh, if I get to be selfish by making other people laugh, I’m entirely okay with that! =D
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write. For the love of god, write. Do it more than I do, because if there is anything we have seen so far, I am horrific at actually getting things out. Plus, the more you write, the more I have to read. Everyone wins!
Learn to write good well. Pay attention in English class. Join groups dedicated to improving. Do that whole NaNoWriMo thing. Practise.
Aside from the generic above, personally I find there is nothing more off-putting than bad grammar and spelling. I actually physically wince every time I see a they’re/there/their or similar mistake in an otherwise perfectly set up story. It doesn’t matter how magnificent your plotline and characters are if I can’t bring myself to slog through your poor sentence structure and wording, and I will drop a story without mercy if it’s poorly written, regardless of how interesting the concept might have been.
Get an editor. There are groups all over the site who offer the service. It doesn’t matter how perfectly you think you’ve written something — trust me, you haven’t. A second pair of eyes can and will make all the difference.
And seriously, write more than I do. It’s really not hard. It’s almost hard NOT to.
Little Deceptions shares some structural similarities with The Usual Suspects, but an entirely different approach. Were you influenced by that movie at all? What were your influences in heist fiction in general?
I have never seen this movie! I’m almost certain it’s on my shelf somewhere, along with about two hundred other movies I really should watch someday. I’m really bad about watching movies. But yes, if it inspired me, it did so unconsciously and retroactively, so it must be a very impressive movie indeed.
The only heist movies I can think of that I’ve seen off the top of my head are Ocean’s Eleven and Swordfish; neither of these gave me any conscious inspiration.
Honestly, the setup in the fic was mostly an afterthought — the original idea that spawned it was actually dealing with a cult/subversive element panicking and shutting down everything rather than a thief. The original draft actually didn’t involve the discussion with the guard at all — instead being Blank talking with First Principle and explaining he was planning to turn himself in. All the tricks were explained in the narrative, and it was both extremely tell-y and completely lacking in comedy.
If I can pull off an accidental comparison to that level of movie, I’m not going to complain, though!
Does technology play a role in your Equestria beyond subverting magic?
Not amazingly! I’m rather fond of the idea of Equestria being fairly ye-olden style in technology (with some crazy bits of anachronism) and being very, very dependant on magic. I’m not keen on seeing fics where suddenly bits of very obviously modern technology make their way into Equestria — CD players, gas lines, computers, etc — without a good explanation (or a comedy tag); it’s not a dealbreaker, it won’t make me downvote or stop reading, but it does break the suspension of disbelief for a bit.
I like the idea of the other nations outside Equestria having to have higher tech to make up for the apparent magic monopoly held by the ponies. Two of the major fics I have in the works are about the culture shock between heavily magical and non-magical species, and having it be entirely one-sided is boring.
What’s the ideal balance between an Equestria that plays by its own rules, and an Equestria that behaves like Earth?
As far toward the former as I can get away with!
As I mentioned earlier, I love fics which start trying to explain the impossibilities of the pony world. The idea that the pony world is a place of magic that just happens to vaguely resemble what we know and understand, rather than starting with something we recognise and then adding magic, is one of my favourite concepts.
The best work I’ve read on this theme is “Sharing the Night” by Cast-Iron Caryatid. From the nature of Alicorns, to the nature of the world itself, the setting described is alien — for a non-spoiler instance, the world is spherical, but the sun still rises and sets everywhere in the world at the same time. Because the sky is an inherently different plane than the earth. It’s magic. And that’s only the beginning, especially with the reveals in the latest chapters. I cannot recommend this one enough.
“Human” is another excellent example of the pony world being a setting that is just inherently not like our own, combined with a focus on narrative as an actual power — another concept that I’m quite fond of, as some of my other fics on this site might show. “Days of Wasp and Spider”, in a very different way, probably also belongs on this list.
I plan to add my own piece to that list once I’m done with my current fic — a first contact scenario between humans and ponies, where the boundaries aren’t just social but metaphysical — the ponies and humans aren’t simply alien to each other, but effectively eldritch abominations. </shameless plug>
Should be at a fimfiction near you in about five years or so, at my current rate of publishing. </self-deprecation to make me feel less guilty about shameless plug>
Everypony in the story has their own little secrets. What’s the guard captain’s?
The guard captain is actually a reformed criminal too. In fact, the entire royal guard, to a pony, is composed of ex-criminals who have turned over a new leaf and started a life in service to the society they once plagued.
Of course, none of them want to remember their pasts or hurt morale, so nopony talks about it. As such, only the higher ranks are actually aware of the fact that everypony has a secret criminal history. The enchantments on their armour are actually to prevent ponies recognising that the pony they brought to justice a few months ago is the one standing guard beside them today.
Shining Armour is included in this. He actually kidnapped princess Cadance as part of his acting out as a teenager, since Twilight was getting all the attention. Cadance, on the other hand, was under the impression this was an elaborate courtship ritual (having been reading some rather interesting romance novels recently) and converted him back to the side of good by agreeing to go out with him, confusing him enough to make him drop his barrier and get captured. To this day, she’s not actually aware that he was completely oblivious to her interest until she kissed him.
I leave Flash Sentry’s sordid past as an exercise for the reader. Waifu stealing is too easy. Although the idea of that being an actual crime in Equestria is almost entertaining enough to make up for that.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Anything I would add here would simply be additional blatant self-plugging. So all of you get back to work! I only had like three of my favourites update all day yesterday. How am I supposed to bludge at work when there’s nothing updating?
What? Blatant hypocrisy, you say? I’ll show you blatant hypocrisy.
Oh. Right. I just did.