Today’s story offers a stellar glimpse inside the long road to lunar redemption.
The Lost Place
[Slice of Life] • 3,813 words
The most important day of her young life, the hardest challenge she’d have to face, and she failed… or had she? The thunderous sound, the dazzling light, the surge of magic… then she wakes up in a place bereft of all light and shape and sound, alone…
Sometimes, it just takes a spark to rekindle the light.
FROM THE CURATORS: Reading this story made us unanimously agree on two things: one, that we really dislike stories “starting with the protagonist blinking in confusion at a surrounding sea of featureless darkness,” as AugieDog put it. “They make me purse my lips like I’ve just taken a bite out of a lemon.” And two, that The Lost Place solidly earned its feature nevertheless. “It works here because of the context,” AugieDog said, while Horizon’s attention was captured by the sharp prose: “‘If this earns my vote,’ I said to myself while I was reading, ‘it will be the line about setting herself on fire which pushed it over the edge.’ It did, and that was.”
What happened to redeem the opening cliche? “The author took two well-used tropes and set them together delicately to create something infinitely greater,” Present Perfect said. “Twilight learning to believe in herself, coached by a still-banished Princess Luna? That’s some really heavy, emotional stuff.” AugieDog also praised that characterization: “The story also gives us a filly Twilight who is definitely on her way to becoming the character we know from the show, and gives us a link between Twilight and Luna early on in Twilight’s career.” Horizon thirded that: “The story’s at its best when it’s showcasing the interplay between the two characters.”
We were also impressed that the story just kept serving up surprises. “There was one sentence which brought tears to my eyes … it turned the whole story on its head,” Present Perfect said. Horizon agreed, noting that “this is a story which rewards the reader’s patience,” and AugieDog summed it up: “It’s a quiet story in which stuff nonetheless happens, and I always like it when authors can pull that off.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Martian discusses amusing wrecks, stellar accomplices, and gas station haute cuisine.
Give us the standard biography.
Really, there’s not much to say; I read a lot as a kid and wanted to write stories since then. Sadly, my motivation levels are low due to crippling insecurity, so I never really get very far. My main hobby these days is building and crashing self-designed RC aircraft. Sometimes they even fly for awhile before crashing, which is especially fun, but a good wreck is amusing in itself.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It was pretty simple; I just had to consider the fact that I am outta this world.
Really though, I’m just a hobbyist space nerd and have always liked Mars. It was also helpful that the movie John Carter came out shortly before I made my account.
Who’s your favorite pony?
That position has wandered around over the years I’ve been in the fandom, but it seems to have stabilized firmly on Pinkie Pie. She’s everything I could never be.
What’s your favorite episode?
A big question, and I don’t really have an answer for you. I am easy to please when it comes to ponies, and so long as it has colourful horses doing fun and exciting things, preferably while singing at the same time, I am happy. I even liked Magical Mystery Cure, though this admission may cause me to be shunned.
I do have a small list of episodes I don’t like, but they are far outweighed by those I do.
What do you get from the show?
It’s a small dose of escapism for me. There may also be a touch of learning in there too, as I am not a particularly friendly or sociable person … but I was a much more awful person before the show got its hooks into me. Hell, even for my first year or so in the fandom I was a somewhat toxic individual, though I hope I’ve shed most of that behaviour from my life.
What do you want from life?
To be left alone, really. I’m a hermit and like quiet solitude far more than being around people. I’ve already got an area in mind to settle down in once I manage to secure my real job. It’s remote, in the way that requires a small amphibious aircraft to reach it.
Why do you write?
Always wanted to since I was a kid. I used to read voraciously, and that habit usually rubs off as a need to emulate. Sadly, I don’t write much and certainly haven’t written anything recently due to combined pressures of trade school, crippling depression, and caustic self-doubt. I am feeling better these days, at least.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
– Read more. In particular, read more of your most favourite authors and look at how they write — the technique and wordplay they use. Learn from them and try to work their techniques that you like into your own works.
– Write more. Like any other skill on the face of the planet, we are not born being amazing at something — you have to work at it. You are going to make mistakes, and that is how you learn.
– Take advice and critique graciously and with an open mind, but do not be scared to experiment. Some of the greatest works out there were experiments that have been poo-pooed and shamed by grammar nazis, simply because it did not hold up to their arbitrary literary standards. The English language is one of the most fluid and flexible in history; play with it to your heart’s content. It might not work most of the time, but when it does …
What inspired “The Lost Place”?
The seed of it was planted with ‘The Stars Will Aid in Her Escape’ PMV by Mmmandarinorange, set to ‘Cosmic Love’ by Florence + The Machine.
If I were to sit down and actually write all the feels and thoughts I get while watching, this answer might go on for several pages. Suffice to say that the video and song put a lot of questions into my head, and I was lucky enough to find a story in the answers that my imagination produced.
Do you find that music helps your writing process?
Absolutely. In fact, several stories have been directly inspired by the music I was listening to. Brother came out of a talented double-bass player doing a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dance is from a short Andy McKee tune, and Freeform is… from some song. I really wish I had written down which one.
The right kind of music lights a fire inside me, and it has got to find fuel to burn. Sometimes that fuel is words.
In the author’s note, you mention that it took you some time to finish the story. What difficulties did you encounter writing it, and what brought you back?
The muse is a fickle beast, and mine is a temperamental one to boot. In the first draft I simply could not get the imagery to flow correctly, the meeting with Luna was something completely different and much more hacked together in a ‘you are the chosen one’ way, and there was even to be a glimpse of the Nightmare wandering the plains.
It was going to be awful, so I abandoned it to my Drive and went on with my life.
Tried to get on with my life.
Thing is, the seed the song had planted in my head had sunk its roots deep, and I never really forgot about it. Every couple of weeks I came back and tried to fix it, but this always resulted in frustration, a fair amount of swearing, and a lot of self-loathing. The last third of the entire story was written and deleted roughly a dozen times during this cycle.
In the end, I linked friend and talented author KitsuneRisu to it and asked him to tell me if I could fix it, or if I should delete it and move on. Happily, he thought I could fix it and offered a few points of advice at critical points, and from there it became what you see. The way was made clear thanks to him.
Oh dear. Maybe there is something to this whole ‘friendship’ business after all.
The story’s opening paragraphs set a scene that seems to occur again and again in MLP fanfic. Did you deliberately set out to work with this image?
Yes and no. Twilight waking up in the dark place was a conscious decision — the PMV pretty much demanded that I start that way, but I did not go into it thinking ‘I am going to take this well-used trope and turn it into something glorious’.
It would be nice to think I was like those top chefs who can turn gas station food into haute cuisine, but I ain’t; I just had an excellent resource of visual and aural inspiration, and the help of a talented buddy.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am humbled by the attention I’ve been getting. Certainly I appreciate the praise, and love that others are enjoying my feeble scratchings, but I’m just this guy, you know?