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Today’s story might polka hole in your conception of party ponies.

mandatory-funMandatory Fun
[Dark] [Random] • 2,650 words

The Alicorn Amulet twists its wearer into madness and megalomania. Nopony can wear it without repercussions, both for themselves and others. Nopony is safe. Nopony is exempt.

Still, nopony expected him.

FROM THE CURATORS: One of the best things about fanfiction is that it allows in-depth exploration of ideas or characters that Friendship is Magic only lightly touches — and one of the things we most love about our work is unearthing stories which do so in clever, original ways.  “How is it that this fandom has been given Weird Al Yankovic as a character to work with, and yet this is the first time I’ve read something that makes good use of this golden opportunity?” JohnPerry said.

This tale of Cheese Sandwich’s reign of hilarity terror … hilerror? terrarity? … “is played very straight,” Horizon said, “but it’s narrated by Cheese himself (with all the narrative whimsy that implies), and sweet stars above, the juxtaposition works, like salted caramel ice cream.”  Other curators agreed — “I don’t see the Dark and Random tags together nearly often enough, and I see a story that fits both even less often, but damn does it work here,” JohnPerry said — and found this exemplary in the uniqueness of its reading experience.  “The writing is solid, and I’m coming out of it with a feeling of mixed amusement and terror that I think is perfectly appropriate for what this story said on the box,” Bradel said.  “My brain’s all fuzzy now, but in a very positive way.”

Ultimately, what sells this bizarre collision of ideas is the strong writing underneath.  “The wordplay is deep, rich, and unapologetic,” Horizon noted, and even pun-hating Present Perfect begrudgingly agreed: “This is the first story I have ever praised for its use of puns.”  Chris appreciated “the reveal at the end, which managed not to render irrelevant everything which had gone before while still playing with expectations — a shockingly rare combination for this kind of story.”  And JohnPerry pointed out another rare feat: “Major props have to go to the author for managing to weave in so many pop-culture and meta jokes without taking away from the tone or ever losing sight of the story,” he said. “That alone is a huge accomplishment.”

Read on for our author interview, in which FanOfMostEverything discusses Lord High Executioners, unponies, partillery, and the metasignificance of Cheese Sandwich’s Cutie Mark.

Give us the standard biography.

I’ve always had an active imagination, and I’ve lived in my head for much of my life. I was still playing make-believe when I was in my early teens, and other people’s fictional characters featured in many scenarios. When I first heard about fanfiction, my reaction was essentially, “Wait, you mean other people would want to read this?” So I started transcribing the scenes in my head.

Some years later, my first encounter with Friendship is Magic was through some Rainbow Dash image macros on the MS Paint Adventures forums. They pretty much got a shrug from me. Then some friends showed me Fluttershy singing “She’s an Evil Enchantress” on YouTube, and I caught the clip of Rarity’s Icarus impression in a promotional spot for the show. At that point, I was intrigued. This was between Seasons 1 and 2, so the episodes were still easily found on YouTube. I watched the season, and I knew I had something spectacular on my hands. I’ve been here since.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

You may have noticed the absence of personal information in the above biography. I’m kind of obsessive about remaining as anonymous as I can on the Internet. As such, when I started frequenting webcomic forums, I decided to use the most generic username I could think of: “A Fan.”

Unfortunately, this proved a little too generic. I was suspected of being a troll or a spambot a few times.

As such, when the time came to pick one for Fimfiction, I thought about the nature of my fandom. My thought process went something like “Well, I’m a very good audience. I’ll give almost anything a chance. Just about the only things I won’t are gore and death for their own sakes.” And then, in a characteristic moment of free association, my mind went to Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. If I wasn’t a fan of executioners, then I must’ve been a fan of most everything.

(On an amusing note, I just took a look on Wikipedia, and the character is actually the Lord High Everything Else. Eh, mine sounds better.)

Who’s your favorite pony?

Derpy Hooves. As a part of my brony inculcation, my friends showed me the 4chan thread that first captured the animation error in “Friendship is Magic, Part 1” and gave her her name. For reasons that I still cannot explain, she captured my heart. That she got a speaking role was a delightful surprise. That we got to see her again after the resulting brouhaha was an even better one. The only piece of pony merchandise I own is a Funko figurine of her.

As for characters who haven’t ever been declared unponies by Minitruth, it’s a tossup between Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie. They’re the ones with whom I can best relate. Take their average, and you more or less have me. I try to write from the characters’ perspectives, so the easier it is for me to get inside their heads, the better.

What’s your favorite episode?

Oof. This is not an easy question for me to answer. I look for something to like in every episode, and I almost always succeed. Even “Spike at Your Service” supplied more information on timberwolves.

If I had to choose, it would be “Pinkie Pride.” I’ve been a tremendous Weird Al fan since back when Running With Scissors was his newest album. Seeing two things I love combined and combined well pushes that episode to the top of the heap. Furthermore, it confirms that Pinkie is not a unique aberration; party pony reality warping is a documented aspect of pony magic. And really, what can compete with literally duelling musical numbers, complete with a polkafied pony song?

What do you get from the show?

Entertainment and idea fodder. The show itself is an enjoyable, well-made cartoon that rises far above the thirty-minute toy commercial it could’ve been, but on its own, it’s not that great. What is is the world it creates. Equestria is a fascinating place, a blend of established and ambiguous details that allows for a vast, diverse catalog of headcanons. For me, half the fun of reading the stories on this site is seeing the many interpretations of the world.

What do you want from life?

Stability. I am an anxious person. Given an excuse, I will worry. A lot. As such, I’d like to spend as little time thinking about the necessities of life as I have to. Love would be nice. Working an idea into something I could publish would be fantastic. But above all else, I want to get myself into a position where I don’t have to be concerned about what lies ahead. I know I will be regardless, but ideally, I won’t have to be.

Why do you write?

The same reason I worry. My mind takes ideas and runs with them. It combines, inverts, folds, spindles, mutilates, permutates, correlates, and otherwise futzes with anything that catches its attention. The end results have proven to be fairly popular, and I enjoy producing them. The English language is a very fun toy.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

It’s been said, but it bears repeating: read. Read a lot. Not just fan fiction, but also professionally edited works. You will learn how language works, both in general and in a narrative context. Your vocabulary will naturally expand through simple exposure. As you read from ever more authors, your understanding will be greater, your sources of inspiration will be more numerous, and your means of expressing yourself will be more comprehensive.

Furthermore, visualize, both when reading and when writing. The greatest novel in the world is just ink on wood pulp or a mass of pixels if you don’t engage your imagination. And if you can see what the characters are doing in your mind, then writing is just a matter of transcribing and describing the scene.

Most importantly, never be afraid to experiment. Your mind doesn’t work quite like anyone else’s. Try new styles, new genres, new characters. See what gets your creative juices flowing and what dries them up. Learn your strengths and weaknesses, then work with the former and around the latter.

What was the inspiration for Mandatory Fun?

Part of it was the cover image. I know it’s a ponification of the Weird Al album cover, but the idea of Cheese Sandwich with the Alicorn Amulet was such a wonderful juxtaposition that it lodged itself in my brain and got me thinking. It was a perfect opportunity to put out some long-held headcanon about party pony magic, but I needed a motivation for him.

That was where the work of scoots2 came in. Her stories do a great job of exploring the esoteric magic behind party ponies and make a fantastic case for CheesePie. Between those two properties, they gave my muse the push needed to produce the story.

A concept in this story I really enjoyed was the party pony training, or “the five steps of transcendence.” Tell us how you came up with that.

We know Pinkie Pie is fourth-wall aware. She interrupts the iris out to address us in “Friendship is Magic, Part 2,” an episode written by Faust herself. But as Terry Pratchett noted, there’s never just one of anything in nature, and magic is a natural part of ponies. A few more gags, like Mr. Cake lampshading the explanation for his twins’ phenotypes and Granny Smith winking at the camera in “Sleepless in Ponyville,” gave me all the justification I needed to make medium awareness part of earth pony magic.

However, when I was coming up when the idea, nopony else was quite on Pinkie’s level. Clearly, there are gradations of this ability, either different shades of natural talent or progressive levels of learned skill. I looked at other ways in which Pinkie differs from other ponies. What if there were hazards to this gift? What consequences would there be in understanding the truth behind one’s own fictionality?

Well, that’s been answered plenty of times: insanity. Deadpool and the Joker are fine examples of the mad and medium-aware. Even when such a truth doesn’t make people murderous, they’re still dismissed as crazy, and we’ve seen just that with Pinkie. “She’s just being Pinkie Pie,” ponies say, a mental defense mechanism against That Which Pony Was Not Meant To Know.

Thus I had the base. Then, as is often the case with me, Magic: the Gathering got involved. As a thought exercise to flesh out the concept of transcendence, I made a series of cards built around the theme of accessing knowledge you shouldn’t have. The names and flavor text of those cards served as the outline for the blog that explains transcendence in greater detail.

Something that struck me about this story was how truly menacing Cheese Sandwich is. Talk about your process of crafting that character.

I began with what we know in canon. Cheese Sandwich is basically a caricature of Pinkie: he has a bigger budget, more powerful partillery, the ability to charm entire towns within moments of his arrival… and nothing else. Between parties, he’s an aimless wanderer whose only friend is a rubber chicken and who seems to have no initiative beyond where he senses the next party will be. He appears to be a puppet of his own precognition, spreading joy where and because he is fated to do so. It’s right there on his cutie mark, a sandwich that is also an accordion, for a Sandwich destined to be an instrument.

Meanwhile, the Alicorn Amulet is an artifact of both gross and subtle power. It turns Trixie, a versatile but not exceedingly powerful unicorn, into an arcane force of nature capable of outdoing Twilight Sparkle. It also slowly drives her mad. Trixie saw nothing amiss about her distrust of wheels, and this is Trixie we’re talking about. If any character on the show can be described as “strong-willed,” it’s her.

So, we have a magically potent stallion whose life is devoted to following supernatural compulsions wearing a magic item that augments its wearer’s abilities and imposes a very powerful supernatural compulsion. Throw in transcendence, and that stallion is already much less than entirely sane and can casually violate the laws of reality. This is a very dangerous combination.

The most important aspect for Mandatory Fun was that Cheese wouldn’t realize how he was changing. Everything needed to seem entirely reasonable from his warped perspective. I think that’s where a lot of the menace comes from; for all of the Amulet’s corruption, he’s still Cheese Sandwich. There’s no malice in his actions, only a sincere belief that they’re for the greater fun. The best villains never think of themselves as such.

What do you think a world run by Weird Al Yankovic would look like?

I think he’d declare a few changes to some of the more ridiculous ways things are run, then take a laissez faire attitude, stepping in only when truly necessary. Oh, and he’ve have an incredible recipe for waffles. We were warned…

Of course, he’d never want to rule. Not unless some kind of megalomaniacal mental influence was added to the equation…

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

In general? Don’t take ponies too seriously. We can make incredible worlds from the source material, but the source material is still a cartoon. It’s not worth going nuts over it or most things based on it. No puppies are being run over, no baby seals are being clubbed.

As for the story, I’m still kind of astonished that it did this well. To those who made it possible, from el_pepsicano for creating the cover image to scoots2 for providing the springboard to everyone who read and enjoyed the story to whoever nominated it for the RCL, thank you.

You can read Mandatory Fun at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.