Today’s story just might transform you into a fan of unusual romance.
A Stallion For The Time Being
[Romance] [Comedy] • 21,026 words
Minuette is determined to have a nice date with a nice stallion, no matter what that takes.
Twilight Sparkle just wants her to stop wreaking havoc on the time-space continuum.
Things get complicated.
FROM THE CURATORS: “This is the sort of story that could only come out of fanfiction,” Horizon observed as this story was collecting a rare unanimous approval from our team. “The complete absence of non-brain-damaged stallions in Ponyville creates a sequence of events which leads to Twilight Sparkle turning herself into a stallion for a date. Yes, it’s a textbook Rule 63 romance … but it’s a magnificent mix of earnest and ridiculous; both tones are applied with precision, and the two never get in each other’s way.”
R63 romances have a reputation for shallow fanservice, but there was so much else to like that this drew us all in — even as we disagreed on its strongest features. “The comedy was, for me, the real highlight here … even as it shifts more toward romance in the second half, it never abandons its essential goofiness,” Chris said, and AugieDog seconded that: “Fun all around.” Present Perfect appreciated the story’s subtle profundity: “I love the ‘what is Twilight the princess of?’ joke, and I adore how much this ends up being about her wrestling with princesshood,” he said. Horizon loved the prose: “Little touches like the internal monologue over pronouns are highlights of great voicing throughout.” And, as JohnPerry pointed out, the central story was excellently executed as well. “Brilliant comedy, with some gentle prods at shipping tropes, and a heartfelt, realized romance to boot,” he said. “This is a story that excels at both its tagged genres.”
All this from a story that started life as a whimsical exploration of the title’s double meaning. “The origin of the title (explained in the Author’s Note in the epilogue) is astounding, and just goes to show what you can accomplish if you’re willing to look at things in a novel light,” Present Perfect said. We were all impressed by that, but Chris put it most eloquently: “It’s almost the opposite of episode 100. Rather than take something that, at its best, is heartfelt, and make a joke of it, A Stallion for the Time Being takes a joke of a premise, and makes something heartfelt from that.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Sharp Spark discusses pulp changelings, Type II fun, and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Give us the standard biography.
Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, was born in Texas on August 27, 1908. He was elected vice president of the United States in 1960, and became the 36th president in 1963, after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. During his administration, Johnson initiated the “Great Society” social service programs, signed the Civil Rights Act into law, and bore the brunt of national opposition to his vast expansion of American involvement in the Vietnam War. Johnson died in Texas on January 22, 1973.
Sharp Spark is a person who writes stories about colorful horses.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
In the least interesting way possible: I was primarily internet-associated under a different username, but at the time I started writing I wasn’t certain if I really wanted to have it tied up with ponies. So, I came up with something vaguely pony-style in around fifteen minutes when I had a story I wanted to post. Since then, I’ve become way less concerned about what people think, but ended up sticking with the name.
…Maybe I should have just answered this with a joke. Something about being forged in the crucibles of Mount Doom? I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader. Please show your work, it will be 30% of your final grade.
Who’s your favorite pony?
There’s nothing good that can come of this question. Rarity is emphatically the best of the mane six, and Apple Bloom is greatest crusader. But favorite pony overall fluctuates. I like a lot of the background and side characters: Minuette, Lyra, and Silver Spoon are all generally top-tier. And while I don’t really like the mane six in EQG style, somehow their villains are uniformly amazing. I love the design of Sunset Shimmer and the Dazzlings. So I guess everypony is bestpony.
What’s your favorite episode?
Suited for Success. Because of the song but also because of the message, which… well, ostensibly is some garbage about not looking a gift horse in the mouth, but scratch past that surface and you’ll find a subtle examination of how creative people work and how that can clash with the expectations of an audience.
Either that or the first half of Magical Mystery Cure, which for me summarizes the core themes of the show in a resonant way. I don’t even think the second half is bad, either. It’s just that not much of anything happens in comparison.
What do you get from the show?
I was initially drawn to the sincerity and happiness – plus, it comes packaged in a tremendously expressive, lethally cute art style. Over the past couple of years, my initial infatuation with the show has died down, but I still get a lot out of the fandom. It’s such a rich setting to play around in through fiction. These days it is unfortunately a little bit harder to get as enthused about the episodes, particularly when I’ve read stories that I think handle the same concepts far better, but I love the capacity of the universe to encourage those very stories.
What do you want from life?
As a man once said: Comfortable shoes. If you’re not wearing comfortable shoes, life is just chaos.
Why do you write?
Because I enjoy it. It’s very type II fun; I find the in-the-moment of writing to be miserable, but I love being finished with something. And I’m comfortably narcissistic and enjoy seeing other people read the things I write. Fiction writing like this is never something I’ll make a career out of, but I find it to be a valuable skill in a sort of… developing as a well-rounded human being way. I think everyone needs some kind of creative outlet.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Plenty of other people have emphasized the importance of constantly writing, so instead I’ll say: never stop thinking. Learning from the examples of others is not just a matter of reading lots of good stories, but doing so in a purposeful way. Once I began writing, I found myself looking at fics, books, movies, TV shows, all in a new light. When something works just right – how? When something falls flat – why? You can learn a lot by paying attention to how other talented people pace narratives or structure the timing of jokes. But it takes an active willingness to engage with the material, not just sit back and have it wash over you.
And then when you are preparing to create your own work, keep the ideas constantly churning in your head. For some people this is an internal process. Others keep physical notes or type out their brainstorming somewhere. I’m in the middle depending on how far in the process I am, but whatever works, do it. You should constantly be refining and chipping away at your concept – possibly the hardest part of writing is learning to translate originally nebulous ideas onto the page through concrete, professional execution.
How does being the physical embodiment of a metaphysical concept differ from being a pony with a cutie mark of that concept?
Dr. Whooves / Time Turner may have a cutie mark relating to time, and possibly even a special talent in that area, but Minuette is literally Time. The mechanics of this are complicated, to put it mildly. The tricky bit is not how Minuette could possibly exist as a concept, but how Time could possibly exist as a pony. My own internal logic as to how this all works is fairly robust, but never spelled out directly – it’s easier to go back and clear in the fuzzy parts later if I’m deliberately circumspect with the details. Suffice it to say that in this version of Equestria, there are certain ponies who are these embodiments (like Discord–>Chaos, or Death) and others who simply have strongly associated powers (like Celestia’s ability to control the sun). I’d like to explore the distinction more in text, but have not thought of a particularly appropriate opportunity yet.
What went into crafting Minuette’s various failed dates?
It’s tricky to trace all the influences, as it’s been awhile since I wrote everything. A large part of the credit goes to my editor, Exuno, who came up with the original premise and worked with me closely on putting everything together. And the rest probably goes to the mess of tropes and various media swirling around in my head – a lot of the way I write is grounded in stapling together bits and pieces of things I’ve enjoyed elsewhere to make a new, complete whole. For instance, several readers have noted the scene with Lucky as taking inspiration from The IT Crowd, which it does. But it also draws from an episode of Black Books, a different British sitcom (by the same showrunner!) that’s comparatively far less known. And the idea for Caramel, of course, comes from MLP:FIM itself. He’s a canon two-timer: he gets sweet on two different mares in the duration of a single song. I mean, dang, you kind of have to respect that.
Also Hugh Jelly. I think I may never write something I enjoyed as much as Hugh Jelly. Every story needs more Hugh Jelly. Where was the advice for other authors section again?
Since this was written prior to season four, what did you intend Twilight to be the Princess of?
Twilight is the Princess of Science, of course. What, you think she’s going to be a Princess of something like friendship? That’s not even a real thing!
What can we expect from the sequel?
The sequel is a particularly odd creature. It’s only vaguely a continuation of the story, and doesn’t maintain the exact same tone – in specific, some of the romance elements have fallen by the wayside. Instead, it only uses these versions of Twilight and Minuette, two of my favorite characters, to explore telling short joke one-shots. The majority of the chapters are an excuse for me to blow off some steam and write with far less seriousness than normal. It’s unapologetically Twilight and Minuette solving a problem of the week, and thus as a whole it lacks the depth I like to think I put in Stallion. But then again, they’re so fun!
That being said, there are some distinct issues I’d really like to eventually explore in that context. For one, many people call out as problematic how Minuette is attracted only to males and not Twilight as a female, and I’d like to look at that in a serious way – I think it’s a completely legitimate issue that doesn’t have an easy answer. Love conquers all, you know, but it’s naïve to assume romantic attraction and sexual attraction always naturally coincide. Also, I have a few distinct ideas still working their way through my head, including one story involving this Twilight visiting an alternate universe (and in the process explaining a few previously unmentioned details about her own universe), and another centered around Minuette’s sister. We’ll have to see if and when they ever make it to the page.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Being a little selfish, I’ll take the opportunity to plug a new project of mine: Do Changelings Dream of Twinkling Stars? It’s a noir-influenced pulp story, using a lot of OCs and revolving around a particularly twisty mystery. (In other words, nothing even remotely close to A Stallion for the Time Being.) I’m very excited about it because it was originally pretty far outside my comfort zone in terms of writing, and it’ll be my longest story to date upon completion.
But other than that, I’m just honored to have a story in RCL, and hope that my readers enjoy it as much as I did writing it. Cheers!