Take a bite of today’s story for a classic tale of culture shock.
[Drama] • 3,891 words
How much can change in a hundred years? How much can change in a thousand? The day of the Nightmare’s defeat Princess Luna finds herself adrift, a thousand years away from the world she knew. With her home in ruins and Equestria changed beyond all recognition, is there anything left for her when even apples are strange?
FROM THE CURATORS: Back in the earliest days of the fandom, speculation about Princess Luna’s troubles adjusting to the modern world was a common fanfiction topic. The past few months have seen some resurgence of interest in classic premises — and this modern interpretation was “fun, fun, fun,” as AugieDog put it. “Red Apples stands out from the pack of ‘Time-Lost Luna’ stories,” Present Perfect added —and Writeoff Association readers agreed, awarding this first place in their August 2015 competition.
One of the factors elevating the story was the vivid and often surprising way in which it portrayed the world surrounding the princess. “The ways it demonstrates what ‘one thousand years’ means are really gripping,” Present Perfect said, and AugieDog elaborated: “It’s an ode to the power of small details, not just in the construction of an effective story, but in the living of an effective life.” For example, Chris praised its subversion of the all-too-common Luna vs. Dubstep cliche: “It does a great job of showing how even things like music, the universality of which people so often take for granted, can change beyond recognition quickly.”
But we were equally impressed by its handling of its central characters. “I love that Celestia is trying to help her sister acclimate to things in full Trollestia mode, leading to some great bonding moments,” Present Perfect said, and Horizon agreed: “Luna’s nostalgia is just what this story needed to reconcile the two roles Celestia plays, of supportive sister and incorrigible prankster.” And that nostalgia, as Present Perfect noted, was itself handled elegantly. “What Red Apples really does well is get us inside Luna’s head,” he said. “This is about the second episode of Season 1, but her thoughts are all Season 2 Luna, a clever reconciliation of the two sides of her that few have attempted before.”
Read on for our author interview, in which billymorph discusses cyberpunk dystopias, childhood RPGs, and the abolition of gender.
Give us the standard biography.
Hi, I’m billymorph. I’m a semi-professional writer, self published author and closet pony fan. I’ve been writing in the MLP fandom for a year or so and it’s wonderful to see so many people enjoying my writing.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Ooo, that’s going back a long way. Billy Morph was not the first fictional character I came up with, but one of the few I still remember. The name isn’t great, as I was about eight at the time and trying to come up with a name for a Traveller RPG, but I’ve carried it with me as my internet tag as no one else has ever been silly enough to use it.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Of the main cast, Scootaloo. I’ve a soft spot for the whole CMC with their ‘never give up and never think things through’ attitude. Casting the net wider, I might favour Trixie, but that’s more because she has the best fanon, not canon.
What’s your favorite episode?
The Show Stoppers. The CMC get all the best songs.
What do you get from the show?
I love the setting. It’s amazing to find something that works so well at every level, from horrible monsters to simple slice of life moments, all wrapped together with some wonderful bits of worldbuilding.
What do you want from life?
Ask me again in ten years.
Why do you write?
I’ve always been a storyteller and writing is my way of getting all the images in my head out for everyone to see. People reading is just an added bonus.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Criticism is the hardest thing to hear and the most important by far. Praise should motivate you to write. Critique should motivate you to get better.
This fandom is full of stories about Luna adjusting to her thousand-year absence; what would you say makes this story unique among that crowd?
Funnily enough, I think I’ve only read a couple of those stories. I joined the fandom only a year ago, so missed most of the early bandwagons and fresh eyes may be helping me out quite a lot. At a more deliberate level, I went out of my way to emphasise just how long a thousand years really is, focusing far more on the things that we think are as old as dirt rather than the eponymous toaster oven. I also shifted the focus from technological to social aspect. While there are a number of inventions highlighted, such as fireworks, dubstep and the flying chariot, most of Luna’s stress comes from the change in the social order and how unpredictable everyone around her is.
Most people reading probably think they could cope with the technology of the future, and they’re probably right as we’re trained from the cradle to accept these things are changing. They’d find it far more disconcerting to step through the time portal and discover, say … that in their absence, gender has been abolished. By focusing on these changes in fundamental social structures I hope I managed to bring across the sheer alienation Luna felt far more clearly than by focusing on trains.
What made you decide to have the end center around a very small, personal link to the past, rather than a larger or grander one?
If I can turn the question around, what grand gesture could there be? Kingdoms have fallen, the land has been reshaped and the fabric of society has changed beyond recognition. The only constant is Celestia herself and even that is tenuous, as a thousand years is a terrifying amount of time. I suppose I could have had Celestia preserve a throne, or a sword, or even a song, but it’s been so long those things have lost all meaning over the millennium. I think that the little ‘I’m still here. I’m still me.’ was all that could be offered, and it was all that Luna needed.
This story started off as a contest entry, and the original version was written in just three days. How did that version differ from the final version you’ve posted to FiMFiction, and what sparked those changes?
There weren’t a huge number, to be honest. People can still go and read the original submission on writeoff.me if they are intersted in a side-by-side comparison. The only thing that I think would leap out, beyond the spelling and grammar (which was rough without a pre-reader), would be the ending. The new ending took most of the revising time as the initial ending was by far the weakest part of the fic. This was something I was aware of when I submitted, but when the clock is against you there’s not always time to make things perfect. Other than that it was only tweaks for tone and voice.
Although the Equestria Luna returns to has changed a great deal, it has a lot more in common with the one she knew than would be the experience for someone from our world who had disappeared in 1015 AD and reappeared today — the language is basically the same, political theory and civil/personal rights seem to be similar, and of course, Celestia’s still there. How do you think Luna would have handled a completely different world? Would she have been able to at all?
Okay, there’s a story waiting to be written where Luna returns and Equestria is a cyberpunk dystopia with no sign of Celestia. Excuse me while I put that in my notebook.
Anyway, I think Luna is strong enough as a character to adapt to that kind of thing. Personally, I played up on these issues in Red Apples more than the standard. A lot of people write Equestria as an eternal kingdom, where Luna’s absence was little more than an interregnum. Red Apples had a complete shift in politics, prosperity and a pony’s place in the world happen in her absence. In an even more extreme case, it would be years of work and be extremely difficult to adapt, but Luna is immortal. A person can get used to anything in time, and she has all the time in the world.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Two little plugs. First, if you’re interested in improving your writing or just cutting your teeth on some awesome short stories you should really check out the Writeoffs — they’re a great way to polish your skills. Second, I hope people will take a look over the rest of my library. I think anyone who loved Red Apples should definitely check out A World Without Kindness — it’s another character piece set after the end of Equestria. I’ve also just started a new novel starring Trixie called Broken on the Wheel, which you should also give a shot.