Ask not what sort of reading today’s story offers; ask why you’re not yet reading today’s story.

taxing-eveningA Taxing Evening
[Slice of Life] • 2,735 words

Most of the year, Written Script enjoys his job as town treasurer–but not when tax time rolls around, and everypony thinks they’re paying too much.  Then he becomes the most disliked stallion in all of Ponyville.

FROM THE CURATORS: By the numbers, this easily sailed past our featuring threshold — the major debate we had during voting wasn’t about its quality, but whether it worked specifically as MLP fanfiction. “My first reaction was: ‘This isn’t pony enough,'” AugieDog said. “But after letting it stew in my brain all morning, I’ve decided that it’s absolutely pony enough.  As Cold in Gardez is fond of saying, ‘Stories about ponies are stories about people,’ and people are never more peopley than when taxes are involved.”  Horizon found himself won over after similar initial doubts. “I want to recommend this just for the thoughtfulness of its argument in favor of taxes, which seem to be a favorite whipping boy of anyone with political opinions … but I don’t think that’s enough for the RCL threshold,” he said.  “That’s where the writing comes in. The characterization here is compelling and authentic.”

The “crisply-drawn” characterization, as AugieDog put it, topped our list of exemplary features, getting us emotionally invested in the story and its put-upon protagonist.  “You can feel the resignation wafting off Written, and it’s hard not to empathize,” Chris said, and Horizon agreed: “It’s hard not to cheer for the heartwarming ending Written Script earns.”  While the characterization was top-notch, we found its writing compelling as well.  “I found this story immensely charming,” JohnPerry said.  “It’s simple, it’s very relatable, and yet it’s also profound.”

Ultimately, it was that sympathetic look at an often-vilified occupation that captured our hearts.  “What it is above all is relatable,” Chris said.  “For example, I’ve had the ‘schools’ conversation from this fic in real life almost verbatim, and where Admiral Biscuit really shines is when he’s showing us these common, everyday bits of idiocy, ponified and localized to the story.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Admiral Biscuit discusses soothing quadrupeds and and and nonexistent deer.

Give us the standard biography.

Standard biography, huh?  Hmm.  Okay, well I’m 38 now.  Also, male.  I’ve always been a guy, at least as far as I know.

We never had a TV, so I had to get interested in something, and that something was books.  Well, Legos first, then books.  Anyway, by the time I was seven or so, I’d made my first pass through the Lord of the Rings.  (Interestingly, even then I had enough of a sense of the flow of a story, I figured it was over after the ring was destroyed, and didn’t learn about the Shire burning until I was in college.)  By middle school, I’d memorized the Dewey Decimal System, since paper card catalogues slowed me down.  

I’ve always been interested in just about any topic, which caused me to be considered a font of useless knowledge in high school.  This has served me well, because I actually enjoy doing research for my stories.

I got a college degree in theatre, with a minor in English.  Since that basically made me unemployable, I worked a variety of factory jobs—which means I can tell you the difference between blow-molding and extrusion molding.  I got a job driving a wrecker, then moved on to being an auto mechanic.  I currently also work part-time with developmentally disabled adults, and am in two theatre groups.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Back in high school, I played Magic and Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of friends.  One night, we decided we’d try something different and played a sci-fi RPG.  Since I commanded a spaceship, I figured I ought to have a fitting rank.  Since we never took things too seriously … well, that’s where the Biscuit part came from.  The name stuck well enough that my first car was named the Millennium Biscuit.  Fast forward a few decades, and I knew when I set up my user profile, I’d want a name that was easy to remember but didn’t get very many Google hits.  Of all the different choices, this one was the best: the only Google results were for Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Rarity.  Applejack’s a close second.  I can credit fanfiction for giving me an appreciation of Rarity.  Applejack just is, and she’s good at it.  The Applejack abides.

What’s your favorite episode?

Agh, that’s a tough question.  I watched the first two seasons for pleasure, and after that, I watched more for worldbuilding purposes.  Since I generally don’t write stories featuring the mane 6, that means I paid more attention to what the background ponies were doing than what the actual point of the episode was.

I guess my overall favorite episode was Sisterhooves Social, because Rarity, and because I have a younger brother, and we didn’t always see eye to eye.

What do you get from the show?

Another toughie.  I started getting into the brony culture while I was working with a terrible client, and looking at pictures of ponies was about as far from dealing with his issues as it was possible to get.  It was about six months later that I finally watched some episodes—the local library had a copy of Friendship Express.  I wasn’t sold on the first two episodes, but I think that one moment where Sheriff Silverstar runs out of pies and just stands up and puts his hat over his chest is when I realized how good the show was.

I guess that didn’t really answer the question.  Each episode is like a little morality play, and there have been a few episodes that have set me to thinking about situations and events in my own life.

Besides, after a miserable day, it’s just soothing to watch furry little alien quadrupeds.

What do you want from life?

I don’t plan that far ahead.

Why do you write?

Because I can.

Because storytelling is one of the things which separates us from the animals.

Because I have ideas, and people need to hear them.  Conceited?  You bet.

I was always telling stories about my toys and stuff, and I read a lot, so it was kind of a natural fit.  By middle school, I’d moved beyond telling stories about the toys I had and into the realm of pure fantasy, then by high school I was actually writing it down.  

Maybe a better question would be when do I write, and to that I’d say whenever I have an inspiration.  Whenever I see something in real life and ask myself what if?  When I need to get a feeling I have out, or when I want to commit a memory to paper.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Write down everything you think of.  Whenever you meet an interesting person, ask them questions about what they do.  Imagine how they got the way they are now.  Role play—it’s a great exercise in being someone who’s not you.  Get life experience wherever and however you can.  Publish to a hostile audience—they’ll tell you what’s wrong with your story, and that’s how you learn.  Don’t worry about not knowing the technical nuts and bolts behind English.  I don’t; I let my pre-readers fix those things for me, and I hopefully don’t make the same mistake again.  Experiment with narrative style.  Move out of your own comfort zone.  Spellcheck is your friend.  Research the hell out of everything you write: not only will it keep you from sounding like a fool, but it might open up a new plot thread you’d never thought of.  Give the background ponies some love.  Trust your readers—don’t over-explain.  Trust yourself.  If your gut says to go for it, do.  And don’t start a sentence with and.

I heard this story was inspired by real-life events. Would you mind telling us about that?

Well, I went in to the township offices to pay my property taxes, and the gentlemen in line in front of me was arguing about having to pay for police protection, since the township had voted to shutter their police department in the last election and just contract it with the county, but the annual contract hadn’t expired yet.  After going back and forth for a while, the treasurer pointed out that his share of property taxes which were going towards police protection were $1.48.

That was sort of the genesis of the idea: what if ponies paid property tax?  What would that be like?

I actually didn’t have to do too much research for it, since it didn’t really get into the technical nuts and bolts of property taxes.  Most of the stuff mentioned in the story I already knew, although a few details were added by my visit—things like the zoning map.  Yes, I did look at it to find the little wedge of property that’s mine.

My boss’ dad is a township treasurer, and we’ve occasionally talked about township taxes.  While I didn’t reference anything specifically that we’d ever discussed, it would be fair to say that Written Script’s character was at least partially inspired by him.

Have you worked for a bureaucratic institution before? I have to say, there was something I found rather refreshing about the sympathy for a bureaucrat shown in this story.

No, I haven’t.  Not in the sense that you’re asking the question, anyway.  

I work a service job, though, and the principle is pretty much the same.  In any occupation, there are going to be a number of people who understand what you do and why you do it, but that number is unfortunately usually a very small number.  

I’ll say this, as well.  I don’t like paying taxes.  I can’t imagine that anyone does.  But it’s a necessary evil.  It’s easy to think of the programs you don’t like, but think about the ones you do.  I’ve got a paved road in front of my house, and in the winter, a snowplow clears it.  Mail is delivered to my mailbox every day except Sunday.  Zoning regulations keep my neighbors from building a rendering plant in their backyard.  If I need the police or a fire truck or an ambulance, all I have to do is make one phone call, and they’ll show up.  I may never need those services—I hope I never do.  But they’re available to me if I need them, and it’s all thanks to those checks I write twice a year.

On top of that, the treasurer is just doing her job.  She didn’t value my property, and she didn’t pass the laws that regulate how much I pay.  Even if I’m unhappy, it’s not her fault.  But that guy who was in front of me in line?  I bet she deals with people like him all day long.

The appearance of Golden Harvest in this story was rather touching. What inspired that scene?

This is going to be a bit circuitous, but bear with me.

One night when I was driving wrecker, I got a call to pull a Porsche out of the ditch.  It was an older car, but it was set up for racing—not a wannabe racer, this was the real deal.  The car was off the road about a thousand feet past a 90-degree curve posted for 25 mph.  I didn’t have the right truck for the job, so while we were waiting for the flatbed to show up, I asked the guy what had happened.  He said, “You want to know what I told the cops?”

I laughed.  “You told them you swerved to avoid a deer.  What really happened?”

He nodded, and took a drag at his cigarette.  “I took that curve at 65.  Held her on the road for two spins, then I lost it.”

So, what inspired that scene?  For the English majors out there: it reinforces the theme of community.  We can imagine that one day they’re going to start a family, and thanks to the tax bits that everypony in the community pays, their foal will get an education.  She will be delivered at a public hospital.  Their community of two or three is analogous to the town, because the town is simply a big family.

It also reminds us one last time that he is human (or pony, I guess), and he has a life outside of his job.  He has his own hopes and dreams which go beyond his desk.  He’s really no different than you or I.

And if you’re an English major, you shouldn’t read this paragraph.  Because the actual reason is that feeling of rightness when you come home after a long day at work and snuggle up against your sleeping partner.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a couple of things.  First, Golden Harvest + Written Script is totally canon.

Second, the timing on this is perfect.  In Michigan, property taxes are collected twice a year.  This story was written when spring taxes were due; my fall tax bill is thumbtacked above my computer.

Finally, and most importantly, I’d like to thank my readers.  I write stories, but the magic that brings them to life is in you.

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