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Two crowns for two sisters, in two different senses of the word: today’s story is a double accomplishment.

sisters-coronetThe Sisters’ Coronet
[Sad] • 1,923 words

A collection of poems about Luna’s growing discontent, her fall, and her eventual return and redemption.

FROM THE CURATORS: Structured poetry requires a very different approach to reading than prose — being willing to slow down and savor the imagery, the rhythm, and the sound of the language, not just the tale being told — but there was no question in our minds that this was a piece which rewards that effort.  “I’m recommending this on ‘it’s damned good poetry’ grounds,” Present Perfect said.  “Oh my, yes,” JohnPerry responded, and Chris chimed in: “I am completely in awe.”

What primarily provoked that reaction was the mind-blowing technical achievement of the structure of the piece.  “It’s a double heroic crown of sonnets,” Horizon said, and explained: “First you write a sonnet (a 14-line poem with tight metrical and rhyme requirements).  Then you write 13 more sonnets expanding on the same theme.  Then you take the first line of each one, string them together, and furiously edit your poems until that’s also a proper sonnet, and you’ve got a heroic crown.  THEN, to double it, you take the last line of each one, string those together, and fiddle with your poems until THAT’S a proper sonnet too.  If you think that sounds like a ridiculous amount of work for 2,000 ponywords, you’re beginning to understand.”

As you might expect from an author capable of such a feat, the construction of the piece was impeccable.  “The rhymes were all perfect. There was maybe one foot that felt out of place,” Present Perfect said.  However, as Chris noted, the construction wasn’t the only element to appreciate.  “If it was ‘just’ a double heroic crown, it would still be worth celebrating simply for the quality of its craftsmanship,” he said, “but it manages on top of that to tell a meaningful story, and to find a place for itself within the history of its setting, and to utilize that place to say something about its principal characters.”

Ultimately, Horizon said, this was worth celebrating despite its daunting first impression. “Highbrow poetry can be a tough sell,” he said, “but the bottom line is, I’ve never seen anything else like this, in this fandom or any other.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Fable Scroll discusses simple ponies, untapped potential, and offering comfort via time-travel.

Give us the standard biography.

Born, raised, and still living in Germany, I’m now in my late twenties and training to be a high school teacher in Math and English. I’ve identified as a fantasy and sci-fi geek since my early teens, probably thanks to watching a lot sci-fi or fantasy cartoons back then, as well as my mother introducing me to the original Star Trek series and movies like The Black Hole, Dune (the 1984 version), and of course The Last Unicorn, The Neverending Story, and Momo (and a variety of horror movies once I was old enough). I stuck with it through Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs, Magic: the Gathering, Warhammer Fantasy/40k, and video games, as well as my reading and writing.

When I first heard about Friendship is Magic, I didn’t care much, but more and more of my friends started to mention it, and the image macros kept cropping up on game forums. At some point towards the end of Season 1, I grew tired of not getting the jokes because I didn’t know the characters, so I decided to check out the show, starting with the pilot. I probably don’t need to explain what happened after.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of stories, and thus also with the bard class in D&D. So when I came up with the OC to use as my avatar, I asked myself: What would I like to do in Equestria? The answer that came to mind was travelling through Equestria and nearby lands to collect old myths and legends. I couldn’t come up with any punny or properly descriptive name, and eventually found myself thinking that he’d be using scrolls to collect the fables, making them fable scrolls, and the name just stuck for lack of any better.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Rarity, since she’s an artistic soul seeking to create beauty. She also has a very clear idea of what she’s aspiring towards (disregarding the silly dreams of a Prince Charming, though I can somewhat relate to those as well), and she’s doing what she can to work towards her goals. And of course, I can relate to how often she runs up against a deadline and works herself to the bone to finish in time.

Applejack is a close second, though, being a very grounded mare with an outstanding work ethic who knows her place in life and is quite happy with it. Sometimes I almost envy her the simple life she leads.

What’s your favorite episode?

That’s a tough question, and I’ve never quiet been able to pin down just one. My top five in varying order are “Sleepless in Ponyville”; “Flight to the Finish”; “Twilight Time”; “Testing Testing 1, 2, 3…”; and “Lesson Zero”; with “It’s About Time”; “Sisterhooves Social”; and “Green Isn’t Your Color” trailing close behind. In general, I prefer a well-written and well presented slice-of-life episode to the more adventurous episodes.

What do you get from the show?

Simple, innocent smiles and laughter, and a bit of reaffirmation of my faith in humanity. After all, for the most part the show doesn’t talk down to its actual target demographic, doesn’t descend into uninspired slapstick or mean humor, and sometimes dares to tackle serious issues like Scootaloo’s potential flightlessness, which is outstanding for any cartoon. The thought that older fans enjoy the show for what it is and dare to admit it instead of pretending they only like it ironically helps as well.

What do you want from life?

To watch my enemies driven before me… Wait, wrong notes. Honestly though, a warm and comfortable place to stay, decent food, time to myself, and a few good friends to share the ups and downs of life with would be all I really need, with a couple of good books being a nice bonus.

Why do you write?

I firmly believe that art in all its forms, be it paintings, music, writing, or any other form of media, can reach people and help them become better. Not by telling them what to think or feel, but by leaving them with a lingering trace in their minds or hearts that encourages them to examine themselves, even if only subconsciously.

Sometimes I just write to calm down my restless head, though: Pin ideas down on paper to get them out of my head. And at other times, just for fun, to amuse myself or to escape from some stress. But those snippets are never published, since they’re usually terrible.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Read as much as you can, across genres, time periods, styles, and authors. Don’t be afraid to imitate and keep what works for you, but experiment and find your own voice and subject.

Be passionate about your writing, but don’t be touchy. Learn to accept well-meaning constructive criticism, and get a pre-reader you don’t know personally so you will receive honest feedback.

Study the language you write in; vocabulary, synonyms, idioms, homophones and other puns, connotations, but also grammar and other structural features.

Never be afraid to revise, rewrite, or completely abandon a piece of text, but take an extended break before making a final decision.

Plan big projects ahead of time, but don’t waste too much time in the planning stage and don’t feel tied down by your plans.

And whatever you do, don’t be like me: Start small, and keep it reasonably small, instead of letting an idea fester into a daunting behemoth of a project.

The question on all our minds: What goes into the writing of a Double Heroic Crown of Sonnets?

Theme, images, the volta, meter, rhyme, and a spark to bring it all together?

Joking aside, passion and a lot of time, as well as a decent thesaurus and a rhyming and pronunciation dictionary. Plenty of patience and planning; scrapping, rewriting, and revising as well as a lot of feedback. The very first draft I wrote for the first frame poem was a disjointed mess and I threw it away and completely rethought my approach to creating the frame poems. Luckily, in the roughly one and a half years it took me to write these poems after I actually started working on them (the idea had been conceived even earlier) I had plenty of time spent waiting for tutoring students.

The introduction sets up historical context as well as a bit of mystery. So who might Sun Net be?

I value reader response much higher than authorial intent when discussing the meaning of a work of literature, since only one person can ever know the latter, but the former sticks with the reader after putting the text down. That said, I have received a number of interesting interpretations: Scholars who stumbled across hints about the true events revolving around Nightmare Moon and wishing to honor the fallen princess of the Night; any of the princesses, perhaps working in collaboration; Luna writing those poems by visiting the dreams of poets while trapped in the moon.  If you felt so inclined, you could probably argue that they were left by Twilight going back in time to try to cheer her beloved mentor up during her millenium alone, though we’re getting into silly territory here. Still, depending on what stance you take you can probably interpret the tone of the poems in a number of ways. As far as my own interpretation while writing them is concerned, I urge you all to take into account the location the poems were found and their widely varying age, and the gradual shift in tone that hopefully I did not mess up. That is to say, I envisioned [Princess Celestia writing those poems to cope with her feelings, reminding herself of a happy past and hopeful future during the thousand years of Luna’s banishment]. (highlight text to view spoiler)

What do you feel is poetry’s place in this fandom’s body of literature?

I might be tempted to say “unappreciated” after being rejected by a certain website on grounds of length alone, but I understand they must be buried in submissions and have to filter somehow, so I bear them no ill will. The positive response here on Fimfiction after I submitted the Coronet to a poetry group was a little overwhelming, in fact. I had hardly expected to receive any comments at all, and instead I received several detailed responses, as well as a few short ones theorizing about possible interpretations.

This fandom feels remarkably welcoming of fan authors yet at the same time seems to uphold very high standards, seeing all the reviewing, curation, and pre-reading and feedback groups, and poetry is no exception. It may not reach as wide an audience as prose fiction, but the poetry groups show me that a reasonable number of people show interest in it. Still, I believe there’s untapped potential, and with all the talent we see in this fandom — not just poetic, but musical, visual, and performing — we could perhaps create something outstanding.

Is there any line or passage you’re particularly proud of?

Honestly, I have a hard time singling out any passage in the poem, as any passage taken by itself feels slightly awkward to me and leaves me thinking I could have improved it. However, I am proud of the whole, of its structure, and the fact that the framing poems make even a lick of sense to anybody but myself. Then there’s the detail that I managed to write all of these poems without using the names of the Princesses, any explicit mention of ponies, or even any variation of the word “somebody”.

If I really had to pick one specific passage, though, it would be the very first line with its subtle reference to the concept of the sun chariot that doubles as a horse-related pun, closely followed by the line about “[shrouding] the beds in which they sow their dreams.” I’m also quite fond of any passage in which the meaning can change by shifting the pause.

Pride is a dangerous sentiment, though. After I had finished the first draft, I had to put the poems down for a month before I could start revising them. After I finished the second revision, it took me a few weeks to overcome the fear of criticism and submit it to the poetry group. And after I received such a positive response, month passed before I could pick up a pen without thinking “I’ll never measure up to those standards again.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

With any luck, I might finally manage to get to work on a project that actually predates The Sisters’ Coronet, which is at the same time more and less ambitious: Perhaps a simpler form, though longer and more closely connected. Given that years after I started taking notes on the idea, I still haven’t started writing the first scene of the first act, I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

So to any potential authors out there: Don’t be like me. Just get started if you want to write. The results might turn out better than expected.

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