You are going to read today’s story — whether you know it yet or not.
[Slice of Life] • 6,161 words
Hy•per•por•ten•tia noun \hī-pər-pȯr-ˌten-t(ē-)ə\
1. congenital fate disorder where the affected receives a disproportionate number of visions, prophecies, or warnings of the future directed at them.
2. severe pain in the butt.
It’s common knowledge among ponies that Destiny is a natural occurrence. Much like a pony’s body, it grows and develops over time. Each pony’s Destiny is as unique and distinctive as their voice. The phenomenon manifests in the physical realm through the appearance of a cutie mark.
Unfortunately, like all natural occurrences, sometimes there’s something off. A misplaced gene here, an excess chemical there, and what was supposed to be true Destiny becomes… aggravating.
So it is with Acacia Tree, the first seer Manehattan has seen in five-hundred years.
FROM THE CURATORS: Reading today’s feature caused something of an epiphany for one of our curators: “This story made me realize that cutie marks and destiny have become old hat topics in recent seasons,” Present Perfect mused. “No one writes seriously about them anymore.” But although the premise may not be groundbreaking, the direction the author took it in certainly was; John Perry called it a “very original take on an old concept.”
As a story about a pony who can see the future but can’t seem to change it, Hyperportentia is “a fun play on Cassandra,” in Chris’ words. While Cassandra’s tale is a very dark one, he went on to explain that in this story, “the fates [were] generally low-key and/or silly enough that it feels like an annoyance rather than a tragedy,” and “the direction felt very much at home in the Magical Land of Equestria.”
In fact, the common theme in all our comments was how at home this story felt in the MLP universe. ” I’ve always liked stories that treat magic as a natural force like gravity or electromagnetism, and this kind of does that by looking at the whole MLP idea of destiny as something that arises from each pony’s genetic make-up,” said AugieDog, while Present Perfect noted that, “From a mid-class Chinese restaurant to a flapper club, to elevated trains, it’s very Earth-like, yet not so far removed from ponies that it’s unbelievable.” But John Perry may have summed it up best: “There’s something I love about the wit and the quick pacing in this story; it reflects the animated city life on display here, making the setting of Manehattan feel integral to the story and not just a background for our characters to dance around in front of. There’s a lot of little moments that make this universe feel very alive.”
Read on for our author interview, in which MyHobby discusses LEGOs, the untriteness of friendship, and why “Acacia Tree” is a perfectly sensible name for a pony who has a prophesy cutie mark.
Give us the standard biography.
I am the quintessential geek. I am fond of reading science fiction, fantasy, and comedy; I enjoy action/rpg video games, though I’m not very good at them; and I spend altogether too much money going to see superhero movies.
When I’m not indulging my inner Jedi, I volunteer at my church’s youth group, and I am part of a program for mentoring boys where I lead the kindergarten-through-second graders. I’m a part-time student working towards an engineering degree one class at a time.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Delusions of internet fame and/or branding! I knew when I started that I wanted my name to be the same no matter what site I was on. That way, if I had a fan of some sort, they could just search for my username and see everything else I’d done.
Considering the only stuff I’ve got worth bragging about is pony… Let’s say “mission accomplished.”
The name came to me in a flash of inspiration as I was signing up for one site in particular. I only want to join the forums of things I’m a fan of, right? These are all hobbies that I have, right? You might even say they’re my hobbies, right?
So, with the fingers of a teenager with too much power and not enough sense, I skillfully typed “myhoby.” I’ve… gotten better with spelling as the years slip past. Honest!
Who’s your favorite pony?
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m one of those individuals that absolutely adores all the main characters. Every pony and Spike has something I can relate to, from Fluttershy’s desire to improve one step at a time to Rarity’s perfectionism.
At the moment, though, Pinkie Pie stands above the rest. “Smile, Smile, Smile” really got to me. That song is pretty much the exact person I dream of being; upbeat and cheerful, and always there to lend a helping hand. I’m not nearly the social atom bomb that Pinkie is, but her level of sheer happiness is something I strive for.
“It’s true some days are dark and lonely, and maybe you feel sad, but Pinkie will be there to show you that it isn’t that bad.” On this particular note, I wanna learn to be like Pinkie.
What’s your favorite episode?
The hardest questions are the ones with no wrong answer, you know that?
There are so many amazing episodes, and quite a few really good ones, too. I’ve found something to appreciate in each one, whether it’s a humorous situation, a great song, subtle character development, or an overused concept that played out differently than I expected.
I’m gonna pick “Friendship is Magic Part 1 & 2.” It’s got clever jokes sprinkled throughout (“Focus, Casanova”), a really cool villain in Nightmare Moon (“The night shall last forever! Mwahahahaha!”), and though the characterization basically amounted to archetypes, they were fun archetypes (“No way! I’d never abandon my friends!”). It was a fun, Disney-esque adventure that set the tone for the entire series to come.
What do you get from the show?
Entertainment! Entertainment in all its forms! Characters to empathise with, a new world to explore, jokes that tickle my funnybone, a rollicking adventure, a quirky slice of life, a surprising amount of action, and above all, an excuse to smile.
I’m still downright astonished at the amount of variety we get between episodes. One week is a fuzzy slice of life about sisters getting along, the next is an invasion of bug monsters that gets stopped by the power of love, and the next is a Warner Brothers-style comedy where everybody gets lost in a castle. There are very few shows that have this level of range and can make it work.
What do you want from life?
To one day be a godly husband and father. There’s never really gonna be a point where I can say “Yeah, I did that,” but there will be plenty of times I can step back and think “Yes, this is worth it.”
I also wanna write and publish a series of fantasy novels. That’s a work in progress.
Why do you write?
I love to build and create. Whether it’s with toy blocks, engineering software, or words, I’ve always enjoyed putting things together and seeing them become something more than the sum of their parts. To me, writing is a lot like LEGO bricks: You start with the same pieces, but you can put them together in unique and interesting ways.
I could have been an artist, but I don’t like to draw. I could have been a musician, but I don’t like to play. I could have been a filmographer, but I can’t afford the camera. But writing, that I can do. That I have the time and ability to do well. That I have the urge to improve my skills in.
And let me tell you, it hasn’t stopped being fun yet.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Firstly, if you’re serious about improving, always listen to the advice of those more experienced than you. But don’t just wait for the feedback to come (you may be waiting a long time). Actively seek out advice. Join a review group, look up a writing guide blog series or twenty, check out the numerous author-created podcasts available on the internet. These people have been through the wringer; learn from their mistakes and successes.
Secondly, one of the more important questions we can ask is “Why?” Why is this a rule of writing? Why do we follow this particular act structure? Why do my readers dislike this particular style choice? Once you know why a rule has been created, or why a convention has grown popular, then you can decide for yourself whether it’s actually any use. You can decide when to break this or that rule, and more importantly, when to keep it.
What was the inspiration for Hyperportentia?
There’s a group on FimFiction, The Idea Exchange group, where authors can leave ideas they probably aren’t going to write in the hopes that somebody else will. GreyNoise came to the thread with an intriguing thought: A dictionary definition of “a congenital fate disorder” known as Hyperportentia. You can see his original idea in the first section of Hyperportentia’s long description (though I added the secondary definition because I’m a goofball).
That post created a spark, one that ignited a bit of kindling I’d had sitting in my brain for a while. Personally, I believe in prophecy. It’s a big part of my Christian faith, as is free will. Of course the question is: How is it possible that the future is foretold to end a certain way, but we also have the ability to act of our own accord? It’s a paradox, basically. But… is it an irreconcilable paradox? Like most big questions, it’s downright impossible to come up with an answer that satisfies everybody.
However, it’s a sure thing that it makes for an interesting story backdrop. The kindling became an inferno, and out of that inferno blazed an interesting situation and fiery characters. I got GreyNoise’s blessing (he even pre-read it!), and went about constructing the story.
Where did the name Acacia Tree come from?
It evolved bit by bit. I wanted a pony pun based around Cassandra, the tragic figure from Greek Mythology, who was given the gift of prophecy but cursed so that nobody would believe a word she said. Problem was, Cassandra is not a pony name, and it’s not exactly easy to make a pun out of it without creating something truly eye-rolling.
But the nickname, Cassy, I could do something with that. I worked backwards from there. What sort of pony name would give her the nickname of Cassy?
The name “Acacia” became a roundabout way to reference another seer with absolutely no luck. Her perfumer parents are proud. Kinda.
And in case you didn’t get the memo that I’m a goofball, she signs her letters “Miss Tree.”
I’m curious to know more about Ritz; everything about him seems to fly in the face of Acacia’s personality and abilities. What was the inspiration for him, and what do you think he means to this story?
At the shallowest level, his mannerisms are inspired by Fred Astaire’s rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” He just about idolizes, and maybe represents, the song’s lifestyle, with the snappy clothes, energetic dances, and bouncy attitude. If you gave that song four hooves and a cutie mark, it would be Ritz.
What he means for the story? That goes a little deeper. In part, the story’s an allegory. He’s the anthropomorphic ponyfication of pure free will to accompany Acacia’s strict predestination. They’re incredibly different, but manage to get along and even appreciate each other. And I would hope that both have something to learn from the other.
In literary terms, he’s her foil; the character designed to deepen another character’s personality through direct contrast. We wouldn’t know Acacia as well as we do if not for Ritz drawing her out, and vice versa. Those personalities bouncing off each other made for some fun banter, but just as important was the development, Applejack and Rarity style!
To that end, he was a sort of anchor-point for Acacia’s “humanity.” She doesn’t get along with many ponies besides him, which can lead to an unlikable, constantly-complaining protagonist. To see her joking with him, having fun with him, and worrying about him went a ways toward making her a more fleshed-out character.
What inspired the inclusion of fortune cookies in this story? Was Acacia originally hired at that restaurant to write fortunes?
Throughout the story, I tried my darnedest to include as many modes of fortunetelling as possible. There’s her cutie mark of a magic eight ball, there’s the riddle appearing out of runny ink, there’s the writing on the wall via divine intervention… the list goes on. I’ve always had fun with fortune cookies myself, and I wanted her to work in some sort of restaurant. The two of them together seemed like the sort of job a down-on-her-luck seer might find.
My intention was that it happened after she already had a job as a server. Acacia had been working there for a few months at the most before her boss, Cho Mein, found out about her super-special talent from Bubble Dancer. He got excited about employing a real live seer, and approached her with an offer. She wanted the raise enough that she agreed with only a little bit of argument.
There’s a good chance Ritz teases her about her double standard regarding horoscopes and fortune cookies. There’s also a chance that when she says there’s a difference between writing fortunes for a small restaurant and for a national newspaper, he gleefully ignores her.
How would writing horoscopes go for Acacia Tree?
Fortune cookies on a much, much larger scale. While the cookies are for individuals, a horoscope is for all the people born during a specific sign of the Zodiac (which probably works a lot differently when your rulers move the Sun and the Moon). Since she can’t help but make them true to the letter, that would mostly result in low-key stuff like “you will meet somebody new,” or “beware stewed alfalfa,” or “you will touch dirt today.”
But when Pisces ponies get their fortune after Acacia sees a message in the stars spelling out “you will find a gray hair,” you can bet that sales of mane dye are gonna skyrocket. Unless Mayor Mare is Pisces.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
That the world isn’t all dark and gloomy, or hardships and strife. It has those things, for sure, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. There’s fun, there’s light, there’s life, there’s success, and if you work towards them, you’ll find them. It might require you to move outside your comfort zone. It may result in you being stretched. It might mean you have to interact with people you don’t like. It may seem like there’s no end to the terrible things you go through.
That’s why we find friends. To be encouragement. To be emotional support. To give guidance and counsel. To rejoice in your victories and comfort you in defeat. If you don’t have friends like this then seek them out. Choose carefully who you spend time with and surround yourself with these sorts of people. If you are this sort of person, seek out people who need you.
Friendship is magic. It’s not trite, it’s truth.