Take a wild, whimsical wander through a fairy tale, a literal fairy tale, in this Friday’s featured fic.
The Big Butterfly Brouhaha
[Random] [Adventure] • 14,839 words
“Have you seen a butterfly around here?” I asked Derpy one day. Next thing I don’t even know, we’re saving Equestria from the fairies in Fluttershy’s chicken coop!
FROM THE CURATORS: From the moment, from the moment that you first lay eyes on this story and its unique storytelling, it will be obvious that you’re in for an experience. “I’m not sure if the narrative style is brilliant or completely bonkers (or both), but it definitely fits the spirit of this story,” JohnPerry said. We weren’t unanimous fans of the style, but the clear consensus was best expressed by Present Perfect: “The appropriate emoticon for this story is somewhere between o.O and :D. By the second sentence, I was in love.”
That narration is in service of a compelling melding of MLP with an older and wilder mythology. “It’s a fairy tale, at its core, but a vividly Equestrian one — full of the strangely-ruled magic and mysterious fey-creatures which are the hallmark of such tales, but placed carefully in a setting where magic is practically mundane,” Chris said. That combined with a clever sense of wordplay to engage us with prose as well as plot. “There were many moments in this story where I found myself caught between a desire to laugh out loud and smack my forehead,” JohnPerry said. “‘The gigglers, now turned yellers, are riding hummers’ was one of them.”
However, despite the story’s wide list of strengths, our commentary kept returning to the narration. “it sounds like music! It’s astounding!” Present Perfect said. “The little rhymes, the repetition … there’s a certain timeless poetry about this that doesn’t preclude character or plot.” Chris agreed: “It’s playful, lively, and shows a delightful interplay between narrator and reader without becoming too condescending or grating.” In the end, all we could do was marvel — and offer this Random-tagged tale a well-deserved feature. “What amazes me is that there’s so much here that clashes, that by all rights shouldn’t work, yet somehow comes across as very natural,” JohnPerry said. “Discord would be pleased.”
Read on for our author interview, in which adcoon discusses loyalty, passion, necessity, and a raccoon-based muffin obsession.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a 32-year-old guy from Denmark, currently living on my own. I love ponies (duh) and telling stories, which I suppose is why I’m here, yes?
I briefly studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Copenhagen, with my eyes ultimately set on a future in Bioinformatics, but due to various personal, practical and economic issues around that time, I decided it was necessary to postpone it all until conditions were sufficiently different.
I stumbled into the world of ponies back in early 2011, lured by a breadcrumb trail of pony avatars. What were these pretty pastel pony pictures everypony were suddenly and inexplicably sporting? What mortal soul could resist their seductive siren song or the tantalizing twist and twirl of Rarity’s terrific tail? I had to know more!
I hunted down the episodes on Youtube and was happily and unironically hooked from the first one. I’ve always loved cartoons and didn’t see anything odd about being an older guy watching a girl’s cartoon. I’d happily watched The Powerpuff Girls before, so this wasn’t so different. Going from just watching to making fanart and buying the toys … that was probably a little weird, but I’m okay with that and make no excuses.
I think “Owl’s Well that Ends Well” was the most recent episode at the time, and I watched those first 24 episodes pretty much in one sitting. Then I had to wait like everypony else.
On a whim, I decided to draw a picture of Rainbow Dash, followed by a rather more elaborate (and suggestive) one of her and Fluttershy. I uploaded them to deviantArt and was completely unprepared for the massive and hugely positive response.
I wrote my first piece of fanfiction—actually the first real story I had ever finished—shortly after, based loosely on a favorite story by Lovecraft. Like the art, I posted it on dA and was again blown away by the response, especially after it was featured on Equestria Daily (back in the days when they didn’t have as much quality control.) I still have amazingly fond memories of writing each chapter of that story and reading the comments people left on both dA and EqD.
Before that, I had never really managed to write anything, other than fragments and forum posts. When I was a kid, before I could even read, I would love telling ghost stories. As soon as I could write even half a sentence, I was busy writing them all down. For some reason, I largely stopped as I got older. Ponies rekindled that love for telling stories, and I don’t know where I’d have been if I had never decided to write that story on a complete whim, or if the response had been different.
After half a million words of pony, I now hope to write something more my own, though I’m sure a few more pony stories will still happen on the side.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It goes back to 2006 or 2007, at a time when I was getting myself hopelessly absorbed in the freeform roleplaying community at the Giant in the Playground forums. I was listening to a particular song (a cover of Venom’s “Black Metal” by Cradle of Filth, for the curious) and at one point couldn’t make out the lyrics, but it sounded an awful lot like “deadly raccoon” to me (if I recall, it was actually “deadly black hole”).
Naturally, I decided on the spot to create a silly character named Deadly Raccoon, in the old Disney tradition of giving anthropomorphic characters names that match their animal, like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Deadly was conceived as the racoonish god of Death and (inexplicably) muffins, with an unlimited ability to come back from the dead. Consequently he would die a lot, often in elaborate and creative ways. It was a bit of a joke and reaction to a trend where everyone would bring their invincible god characters to the game.
Years before our beloved Derpy Hooves made her wall-eyed appearance on screen and galloped into all our hearts, Deadly was an adorable, muffin-crazed furball. I don’t know what it is about muffins, but they seem to inspire certain characters to obsession.
As play went on, a story began to emerge around him. The story went that Deadly was actually a young boy named Andrew D. Coon, whose pet raccoon (named Muffin) had died in an accident. Angry at having lost his best friend, Andrew usurped the throne of the racoonish god of Death in order to bring Muffin back from the grave. Thus Andrew became Deadly Raccoon, with his trusty sidekick, Muffin.
Later on, he developed into some kind of cosmic Lovecraftian horror, briefly gained a sister called Dead Lee who was a necromantic doll or something, and all pretense of being a serious character vanished like sanity before the whinnying pipes and bleating drums of the daemon sultan, Azathoth. I guess he kinda jumped the shark, in modern parlance.
But the name Andrew D. Coon and its shortened form, adcoon, stuck with me long after the character went to his metaphorical grave among the stars.
Despite pronouncing it A. D. Coon, like the name it is, I prefer to write it as adcoon.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Rainbow Dash. Hooves down. She’s just raw awesome and really fun and full of life. It’s hard not to smile a little whenever she’s in action. There’s so much passion, as well as a tremendous potential in her. I just love it, absolutely love it.
In a way, Rainbow Dash is the character I wish Twilight had been (that they both could have been, in their own ways). In fact, they have a lot in common. She is top of her game, a natural prodigy, the best at what she does, and we’ve seen her potential as a great leader and coach to both her friends and team as she develops and grows over the course of the series.
Rainbow does all that without ever changing what she is, by always being unashamedly herself. There’s an honesty and integrity in that which I love. Twilight was given wings, a royal title and a castle; that was the show’s way of advancing her to the top of her game. Rainbow Dash remains as proof that you don’t need any of that, that you can succeed purely on your own merits. She doesn’t need to become a princess, or even a Wonderbolt (honestly, I think she’s way too good for the Wonderbolts), she always had everything she needed to wow the world, right from birth.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Twilight, even though I think they could have done better than make her a princess (but what’s done is done). In fact, the above is one of the reasons I really like TwiDash. Both of them being natural prodigies at the top of their game, unrivaled among their peers, they can relate to each other in a way that very few ponies ever could (despite their other differences).
Now, the really mind-blowing thing about Rainbow Dash is that, as the Element of Loyalty, she is really the force that brings them all together and unites them in Friendship. Maybe you thought that was Twilight and the Element of Magic. It’s not. The Element of Magic really seems to be little more than a symbolic figurehead. The real uniting power is that of Loyalty, which makes sense: loyalty is all about sticking together through thick and thin.
Rainbow Dash alone among the six achieved her cutie mark without aid. The others all got theirs (when they did) because of her timely rainboom. What’s more, without her rainboom, the others might never have found their way to Ponyville. Twilight would have botched her test and probably never gone to Celestia’s school, AJ might have languished in Manehatten, Pinkie on the rock farm, Fluttershy in Cloudsdale … only Rarity would probably still have been in Ponyville, but without the others. In short, Rainbow Dash brought them all together.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that all the magic of friendship has involved big displays of rainbows (very much like the rainboom) from the very start, or that it has now developed into Rainbow Power. Rainbow Dash is pretty much the living embodiment of the uniting power of Friendship. Is it any wonder she’s got an ego the size and brightness of the sun? I think not!
I’ve always had a tremendous love for Luna as well (and over time an equal and opposite dislike of her sister). Oh, but I could gush about Luna all day
What’s your favorite episode?
“Sleepless in Ponyville.” Scootaloo and Luna are pretty much my dream team, and when you add Big Sister Rainbow Dash, what’s not to adore about the episode? Nothing, that’s what. It’s flawless.
What do you get from the show?
Inspiration, and awesome people with whom I can share my passion for storytelling.
I love both the show and the comics, but I’ve honestly never been watching the show for its own sake, and most days I’m way more interested in what the fandom is doing (especially my tiny part of it). Show canon is fine and entertaining, but ultimately it’s just one tiny island in the greater sea of fanons, and I’m having way too much fun splashing around in that vast ocean of possibilities with other awesome people to spend much time or energy ashore.
What do you want from life?
I think passion is the most important thing in life. Without it, anything wilts and dies.
Why do you write?
Necessity. There are so many stories in my head that I wish were told, but since it’s my head, there’s only one person who can tell them for me in the exact way I want them to be told. And so I must slave at the keyboard … at least, until we invent perfect mind reading. Then I shall have an entire army of typists to tell every story my mind can dream up.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write with passion, as much passion as you can muster. The greatest and rarest experience of a writer is to be unable to put the pen down, when you just have to keep on writing a little longer. “Just one more page,” you mutter again and again as you type up a storm, your eyes glued to the screen and unable to turn away. Seek those moments any chance you get.
However, teach yourself to sit your ass down and get the work done too. If you’re serious about writing, then you must write, and write a lot. You cannot rely on rare moments of passion and benevolent “muses” alone. Write now, no excuses. You must also consign yourself to endless rewriting and editing until you feel ready to kill a pound of puppies just to get it done sooner.
I know this is way easier said than done—I’m a lazy bum too—but it doesn’t make it less true.
I firmly believe that you cannot truly know or appreciate your story until it has been written. It’s like people: in order to know the real them, you must first spend lots of time together, actually together. It’s not enough to spend lots of time reading their profile and looking at their photos, preparing for the first meeting. Likewise, it’s not enough to spend lots of time planning your story before you write it. Accept that, then let go of all your doubts and just write first, write to discover. You can look back later, with the full experience of having written it, to see the true shape of your story. The first draft will be awful, but then comes the chipping away until the real story emerges like a shining gem.
Don’t fall into the trap of rewriting the first few pages or chapters over and over, no matter how bad you think they are. Trust me, I’ve been there. Persist until the end, or not at all, before you begin to edit or rewrite anything. Write first, write now, no excuses!
If you have the passion for your story, and the passion for writing, if you absolutely cannot wait to uncover that shining diamond and hold it in your grubby little hands, then that laborious process of rewriting and polishing and chipping away will seem less tortuous and hopeless.
The narrative style is strong, distinct, and unusual. What went into crafting it?
I wanted to try my hand at a first-person present tense perspective, which is already pretty unusual and calls for a narrator with a distinct and interesting voice. But what exactly possessed me to give Flitter this particular voice, I don’t honestly know. I think it was a very impulsive thing that just sort of came to me, but I liked how it gave the whole story a sort of half-poetic fairy tale vibe, like the voice of someone whose thought patterns are as twisted and tangled and bubbling with voices as an old hedge full of fairies.
People have compared her voice to Foghorn Leghorn, but I must admit the similarities are a complete coincidence and a surprise to me.
I think it was absolutely the right voice for Flitter, but it wasn’t easy to write, no sir! I spent so much time going over every line with a fine comb, pulling my hair out over commas and other punctuation, trying to make it readable despite all odds against it. I think I spent several hours on one particular sentence alone, fussing over how it should be punctuated.
Her voice does lose a bit of its idiosyncratic pattern as the story progresses. This is partly a sign of how hard it was for me to keep up her voice, but I also liked it as a subtle nod to how Flitter becomes increasingly “sane” (in Derpy’s words) with time. In a sense she gets closer to herself and what she is, and perhaps there is an inner peace in that which is reflected in her thoughts.
What inspired your particular take on fairies?
All the fairy inspiration comes almost entirely from games of Changeling: the Lost.
For the uninitiated, CtL is a supplement to the World of Darkness roleplaying system wherein you play as people (changelings) who have been abducted by fairies from an otherworldly realm and held captive for years as amusement or pets. While in captivity, they were cruelly changed and transformed by fairy magic to fit some inscrutable purpose, becoming a little more like their masters with each passing day. Only a few escape back into the real world, only to find that they no longer belong or fit in with human society or their old lives.
The Big Butterfly Brouhaha is much more light-hearted, as might befit a story about ponies, but it is still essentially a story about Flitter unwittingly stumbling into this hidden world of fairies and changelings with Derpy as her guide.
What made you decide on characters like Derpy and Flitter to fill these particular roles?
I like Flitter, what can I say? She’s such a pretty pony and really kinda cute with that pink bow in her hair. Flitter absolutely has the cutest bow in the show. Sorry, Apple Bloom
Also, her name and cutie mark seemed to suggest a pony who caught butterflies and other insects for study and collection, who probably knew all about them. This made her an obvious and perfect hunter of fairies too, to my mind.
Aside from Flitter, I was looking for ponies who were in some way different or a bit loony, as if they could have been touched by the magic of fairies in the past. Derpy was a natural choice because of her eyes and ditzy nature. I just saw her as an obvious watcher or guardian, one of the few ponies in Ponyville who could see the fairies and keep an eye on the gates to their worlds. It made sense, because of her special eyes.
The “Random” tag is usually reserved for zany comedies, often with little relation to the show. How do you write random without necessarily writing comedy?
I think I may have always used the Random tag a bit randomly myself. A bit willy-nilly. I’m not super consistent in my use of the tags in general. I always choose them a bit by feel.
The BBB is a bit zany, which I think almost by definition makes it a bit funny too. At least, I hope readers find humor in Flitter’s wacky adventure with Derpy, otherwise I’d say I had failed. When exactly that zany humor becomes comedy is probably not very clear. It’s like, when does tragedy become tragic enough to need the Sad tag as well? I didn’t set out to write a comedy, however. I set out to write a zany adventure, and I think that’s why I chose the tags I did.
I think the thing that makes a story random is a certain blatant disregard for conformity and conventions. The epitome of the random story is probably Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, which I’ve never managed to read more than a few pages of myself. Not every random story should be that random, of course. I’d go so far as to say, none should ever be that random.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for this interview, and for reading my story. I’m endlessly baffled and humbled that people actually read my stories and like them. Everypony totally should, though
So a massive “Thank You” to everypony who ever made that happen, from the creators of MLP and FiM to all the fans and the awesome people who’ve spent years of their short lives sharing this passion with me … and to Discord who, in a fit of boredom, must have decided to fiddle with the universal constants until ponies ran wild across the collective subconscious.