Today’s story reminds us that the one constant in life is change — so keep your coin purse close by when you pay with a big bill.
[Slice of Life] • 2,361 words
When the time of monarchs and royals ends, what becomes of Princesses who live on?
FROM THE CURATORS: This is exactly what it says on the tin — a story about a pony coming to grips with modern capitalism. We started out worried that such a premise seemed like a recipe for soapboxing, but this story quickly vaulted past those doubts to unanimous approval. As JohnPerry said, “I think it says something when a story gives you a premise that’s hard to swallow, but still manages to impress you.”
The biggest factor in that was Selling Out’s arresting portrayal of its protagonist. “The voicing really is the draw,” Present Perfect said, and JohnPerry was more broadly appreciative: “The characterization of Luna is absolutely marvelous, and the larger historical landscape this story merely touches upon is very intriguing.” Horizon, meanwhile, found the two sides of Luna poignantly juxtaposed: “The contrast in tone between her regal narration and her out-loud dialogue is proper heartbreaking.”
It wasn’t only the characterization that impressed us, but also its excellent choice of character. “Seeing Luna in this situation, harboring all of her pride and past hurts, is so much more heartbreaking than seeing Celestia, or Cadance, or even Twilight would be,” Present Perfect said. “Luna’s the one who’s already fallen once, and she fell so much further than this.” The story’s nuanced portrayal of the world around her sealed the deal. “What strikes me the most is the ‘long view’ of Equestrian society,” AugieDog said. “Yes, ponies will learn and grow and discover new and different things, but they will always be ponies. And their princesses will always be there when they’re needed — even if what they’re needed for changes and shrinks and grows back differently as the pendulum of the centuries swings to and fro.”
Ultimately, by treading a careful path across the razor’s-edge of modern cynicism, Selling Out left us with a thought-provoking message. “The idea of balancing duty, pride, and commercialism is one that’s more applicable to many of our real-life idols than we might like to admit,” Chris said.
Read on for our author interview, in which Kaorin discusses technological singularity, paycheck relevance, and post-apotheosis continuations.
Give us the standard biography.
I am, I suppose, Kaorin. I edit more than I write, and I’ve held more jobs than I can count. I like to learn what it is to do the work that keeps the world moving. I am a cognitive neuroscientist by training, though I took a long look at academia and decided that I could never accomplish what I wanted were I to follow that path.
Instead I decided on the lucrative career of whatever the temp agency gives me on any given day. Seriously, I actually recommend to anyone out there that they spend some time with any such agency and go from job to job just learning how and what people do out there every day.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I’ve always had a yen for cute shows. Back when the internet and I were both young I watched a little anime called Azumanga Daioh. A simple slice of life about a group of girls and their everyday adventures as they grow up. In the show there’s a girl whose spastic character amused me in her contrast with, and similarity to, myself. I chose to adopt her name as a moniker in my forays online and it has stuck with me since.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Twilight Sparkle without hesitation. It helps that she is the central character, the one who receives the greatest care and attention from the writing staff, but she would be my favorite even if that were not so.
The Monomyth, also called the Hero’s Journey, describes Twilight’s character arc. What makes her journey remarkable is that it is largely couched in terms of a modern coming of age, what it is to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. There’s the occasional hydra or Equestria-shaking threat, but outside those her challenges are all quite relatable. Squabbles with friends, insecurity, pressures to perform, failure and success. Each time she rises to the occasion and becomes more for it without ever losing who she’s always been: an adorkable bookworm.
I think what truly cemented her as my favorite, however, is that once she reached her apotheosis the story continued. The tacit lesson that even once you attain your goals, once you grasp what you’ve reached for, there will be more challenges and more room to grow. It’s an extension of theme that is seen but rarely and I treasure that. Also, she’s just my type.
What’s your favorite episode?
A question with no answer. At least, that would have been so had I not seen “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” The lesson is superb, the call-backs and tie-ins graceful, the character exploration handled expertly, and best of all the Tantabus! Oh wow the Tantabus. Visually stunning and conceptually brilliant.
What do you get from the show?
Life is not always vibrant or full of good cheer. It is always a pleasure to have something cute to hand as a remedy for dreary days. An abnegation of sorts. Setting aside the cares of the world and refreshing oneself with clean art, quality voice acting, compelling stories and characters, and relatable life lessons will rarely go amiss with me.
What do you want from life?
It is good you did not ask me what is best in life. I would have a rather different answer. I want from life what most do: to live long enough to be part of the transhumanist revolution and join in the technological singularity.
Why do you write?
I write because I have a story I must to tell. It is both as simple and as complex as that. I write because there are things I wish say, and I write because I need to create, and I write because I enjoy the challenge.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
The most common bits of advice are to read the works of masters past and present, and to write and keep writing. These are uncontroversially the best things any writer can do to improve, but I will share something I personally do when approaching a writing challenge: derive from first principles.
In any situation you face while writing, there will be things that came before that must shape the outcome. It’s a simple way of making sure you as the author know how and why things came to be, and it will help show you where they must go. Your characters are motivated by things that have happened to them, and your world will always be shaped by its history. Make sure you know about it!
What influences shaped this story’s view of a “modern” Equestria?
As I said, I try to derive from first principles. With Selling Out the idea kernel was “Wouldn’t it be funny to see Luna in a modern style commercial?” In order to write about that I had to figure out what would have to change about Equestria to allow one of the royal sisters to engage in crass commercialism. I decided they would need to be deposed yet still remain meaningful as symbols, and for that I looked to the retirement, for lack of a better term, of the state powers of the British monarchy. The rest flowed naturally from there.
How did you decide which archaisms to keep and discard for future Luna’s voice? Any voicing tips for Luna authors?
Just like each of the Mane 6 has a distinct silhouette, they each have an easily identifiable set of linguistic idiosyncrasies. I decided early on that I needed Luna to have something that hooked a reader’s interest. Not merely the cadence nor the vocabulary, but a distinct vocal tic. I chose a flexible exclamatory noise by the expedient that I needed a way for her to roll her eyes internally.
I decided to discard the anachronistic speech patterns since it is set some few centuries after the show, and I do believe Luna would do her best to inculcate a more modern pattern. The exception being, as I well know from my own slips into the accent of my birth, when she’s excited or upset. I did, however, decide to keep a particularly barbed and haughty tone, as I believed that would fit in with the snarky and decidedly bitter Luna I felt needed to exist if she was to star in a commercial.
As to voicing the less even-keeled of the two royal sisters, my advice would be to remember who she is. Were I to write the story now, I could not in good conscience make her as snarky and jagged-edged as I did back when we had seen hardly a trace of her in the show. Now that we’ve seen her more regularly I feel confident in saying that Luna is aloof by dint of a self-flagellating seriousness, and has chosen to armor herself in the imperious role of Princess. To write her well, I believe, would require a certain understanding of what it means to seek redemption for wrongs already forgiven, and what it means to see yourself as alone even when surrounded by friends.
Luna says the job provides her with meaning as well as money. Did you write that sentiment as sincere, or to illustrate a character in denial?
Absolutely sincere. I firmly believe that we are what we do and this bled over into writing Luna. The Paycheck is relevance. Luna, a public servant for millennia and admitted seeker of public recognition and adoration, is absolutely in no need of mere money. Indeed I imagine the two sisters would be rather well to do no matter the changes of the world. What that sort of money cannot buy is a sense of purpose in life. So Luna decided to seek that in the spotlight, and though she evidently feels often slighted, she also feels needed.
This is quite a tale for a first FIMFiction story. What are your plans for future fanfics?
I am an exceptionally inconstant writer. I have many ideas for stories, but I have a nasty tendency to set challenges for myself that make those stories far more difficult to produce than they ought to be. In light of that, and I stress I can make no promises of any kind, but there is a story I have been working on which takes place in the same Equestria as Selling Out, but focuses on Spike.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s more than a little surprising that this little old story of mine caught the notice of this group, I’m rather gratified. And if anyone just happens to need an editor, well, I do rather enjoy it.