It’s always sunny somewhere in the world, and it’s always a good time to dig into the mysteries buried in today’s story.
[Mystery] [Slice of Life] • 11,639 words
Once every month, a mare appears on a remote beach, far from her home. She plays, she reads, she sleeps, and she wastes precious, precious time.
FROM THE CURATORS: Princess Celestia taking relaxing vacations on an idyllic beach — certainly not the first thing you’d think of when browsing through the archives of FIMFiction’s new Mystery tag. But this one was positively arresting in the slow build of its revelations. “Wow, what a remarkable piece,” Present Perfect said. “Hardly anything made sense throughout the story, until the final chapter tied it all together in the most satisfying way possible.” Chris agreed, adding: “The real brilliance of this story is in how often Celestia or the narrator does something that doesn’t seem to make any sense, even as the story gives you enough clues and assurance to convince you that yes, there’s a reason for all this. And when that reason comes, it’s invariably satisfying.”
That’s not to say that the mystery here is the only thing to appreciate. “The narrative voice is unique, and I really appreciated the way it manages to pull off multiple levels of headfakes as it slowly unrolls its core plot,” Horizon said. Chris also appreciated the characterization: “This story manages to tell us a lot about both Celestia and the narrator, in ways both obvious and subtle.” And AugieDog found Analemma’s pacing exemplary. “Puzzle stories like this are really hard to do; they’re all about doling out the information at exactly the time the reader needs it,” he said. “This one added each compelling detail just when I needed one, and kept that pace right up to the end. Even the point-of-view switch in the last chapter, something that throws me out of a story 99% of the time, didn’t bother me that much.”
It all added up to a story that left us unanimously impressed. “The story makes a lot of promises and fulfills them all, which is an exemplary quality in a mystery,” Horizon said. Chris summarized it as “a clever little bundle of a story,” and Present Perfect found it “a joy to read” throughout. “In the end,” Present Perfect said, “it shows us that there are still creative new ways to tell age-old stories.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Miller Minus discusses poetry creeping, trampoline jumping, and magical husband lamping.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a 22 year old Canadian engineering student who writes fanfiction when his friends aren’t paying attention.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It comes from competitive trampoline, actually, which was something I did back when I was in high school. I could talk about this stuff for hours, but I’ll keep it short.
Basically, there’s a famous trampoline skill which is known as one of the toughest skills that can still be competed. It’s a double flip with three full turns in it, and it’s called a “Miller”. And if you’re a total BAMF, you can add another turn to that, which is called a Miller plus. It only ever comes at the end of the routine. The big finish.
The toughest skill I ever landed was called a “full-in, full-out”, which was one full turn fewer than a Miller. It didn’t have any other name, but technically, you could call it a Miller minus. It’s a reminder of one of my favourite parts of trampoline: There’s always a tougher skill to learn. The only limit is me.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Back when the show was first starting, and future bronies were casually glancing at it and wondering why it seemed so enticing, the sonic rainboom episode happened and hooked a lot of people into not only watching the show, but also deciding that Rainbow Dash was evidently best pony, bar none. Nowadays, though, they’ve all had time to experience the other characters and choose some different ones as their favourites.
Let’s just say I think they could all learn a thing or two about loyalty.
What’s your favorite episode?
See above. As someone who used to compete in athletics, I can appreciate practicing something difficult for months, only to forget about the basic concepts as soon as someone has said your name to a crowd. Also, some good, old-fashioned heroism goes a long way with me.
What do you get from the show?
I’d say it’s the universe they’ve created. Characters, voice actors, animation — it’s great that all that stuff is on point, but if it weren’t for the allusions to what life is like in Equestria and all its different parts, how it was created, who runs it, and all of that goodness, I probably wouldn’t be watching it. Heck, it’s what inspired my two most popular stories, so I’d go as far as saying it makes me a better writer.
… I guess not having to create the universe myself is a cop-out now that I think about it, but it’s too late to change my answer.
Oh, and thanks to the show I get 22 minutes a week where I get to feel like a kid again. And I need at least that much to function at my actual age.
What do you want from life?
Come back to me on that one. In at least 10 years.
Why do you write?
I’m gonna bare my soul for a quick second here, but I’ve been suffering from the same headache for, oh, two and a half years now? I’ve always been someone who likes to learn new things, and feeling hungover for this long has made focusing enough to take in new memories and experiences nearly impossible. BUT! For some reason I can’t explain, I’ve been able to write. And not only write, but actually improve as though I were learning something new. The headache doesn’t go away or anything, but I can still focus somehow.
Oh! And I can follow that up with this question’s cliché: The ideas just pop up in my head, and by god, the only way I’m getting rid of them is by writing them down.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Wow, okay. I’m woefully underqualified to answer this question, and there’s frankly an absolute plethora of great resources for authors of every caliber out there already. I could probably give specific advice to authors if they messaged me personally, but, uh …
Actually, this reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite artists. So I’ll just leave that here.
“Everyone is full of wonderful advice that they won’t hesitate to thrust upon you at the slightest chance. Everyone is full of something else, too, so you might want to pass on the advice.” —Winston Rowntree
What sort of spell was Celestia using to travel to the beach?
That spell was something that the engineer in me wanted talk about for at least 700 words, but it didn’t have anywhere to fit, and it would have been too distracting.
Can you tell I’m happy that you asked this question? Feel free to skip this part, ’cause I’m going in-depth.
To start, it would have to be an extension of the typical warping spell that we’ve all seen. One thing we know from Tirek and Twilight’s tribute to Dragonball Z is that the amount of magic used in the warping spell is proportional to the distance. It might not be linearly proportional, but the more magic you have, the further you can go. That way, if a magic-user needs to actually put in the magic themselves (rather than getting it sucked out of them, Eragon-style), then they can decide beforehand how far they want to go, look which way they want to go, close their eyes and say a quick prayer. That looks like how Twilight does it, anyway.
For Celestia, we have a lot of magic to work with, but the spell is a little more complicated. The first time she teleported, she didn’t know where she wanted to end up. And in which direction would she go?
For me, magic in the show is a form of wish fulfillment. That’s not unique, but it works well for cartoons like this one, because it allows for a lot of creativity without being anarchic. So, if you have the magic prowess and a clear enough idea of what you want to happen, then it can be done. “I want to be over there.” “I want to pick up that lamp and hit my husband with it.” Maybe you use an incantation to really remind yourself what you’re looking to get done. As long as you can picture it happening in your head, magic will make it so.
Celestia wanted a few things. She wanted to be far away. She wanted to be on a beach. She wanted to be somewhere where it was morning, shortly after she had lowered the sun on her side of the world. To do this, she would need to have a a pretty good idea of which direction to travel, too: underground. By cutting through the earth, you can really shave the distance. I think we can assume she’d know that, what with the star manipulation and such.
Side note: Another thing she would need to do is make sure she does not teleport into the ground or really high in the sky. That wouldn’t be a problem for a regular teleportation spell, but this is a special case.
So, so far we have: far away, on a beach, morning, downwards until above ground and no further. We’re getting there, but that’s still asking a little much of magic. Our solution space needs to be a little smaller. Sigh… If only there was some point of reference we could use to pinpoint exactly where we wanted to go. Like some sort of object with which Celestia is extra familiar.
Here’s an idea: Can we use the sun as an origin? Everyone needs a coordinate system — even goddesses. Can we just visualize a specific distance from the sun to the beach in our mind and warp that far? Unfortunately, no. It’s tough to picture the distance between stuff in space because those numbers are big and dangerous. The sun isn’t even going to be in precisely the same spot every time! And 1% error is a lot of kilometers.
But what’s easier to picture is what a sunrise looks like. All Celestia has to do is project the image of the sun onto a vertical plane at the horizon from where she wants to be (ballpark), which is a technical way of saying “see a sunrise”, and she can more clearly define what she wants to see when she opens her eyes.
That’s a lot to keep in mind, but she’s a smart girl, and if she knows anything, it’s the sun.
After the first time, it’s a lot easier for her to picture that same place again, so for the rest of the story, she’s in business. At this point, I haven’t fully explained why she wasn’t in the exact same spot every time, but I’ve had my 700 word fill, so I’ll leave it at that. And that’s not even getting into energy conservation! Blending science and magic is so much fun. You get to violate both at the SAME TIME!
Did you run into any difficulties in revealing, or not revealing, the narrator’s identity?
If by that you mean “keeping the narrator’s identity a secret,” then surprisingly not really. Readers are really easy to distract when you have something more interesting to look at. The first half of the story isn’t about the narrator, anyways, despite what they would try to tell you, so that half focuses on Celestia. Why she’s there, what she’s doing, etc., with a few bits and pieces about the narrator thrown in to remind the reader that they’re there. The second half has more to do with the narrator, but it’s mostly just whinging about Celestia, which brings the attention back to her. It’s only the final chapter when the identity of the narrator is actually important, so that’s when I revealed it.
Now, if you meant “writing the big reveal,” then holy crap, yes that was difficult. After having all the pieces in place to have it happen, and even a clear idea of how the two were finally going to meet, I was still stuck scowling at an empty page on my computer. I was almost sure I’d written myself into a corner with “mediocre ending” painted on both the walls. I wanted to explicitly reveal more stuff that the narrator didn’t know about, and I really didn’t want to jump into Celestia’s head because she wasn’t exactly an unbiased source at the time. Thankfully, the suitors came to the rescue along with the maid, AKA my favourite character in the story.
What went into crafting the narrator’s voice?
A whole lot.
When I first stumbled over the idea of a mysterious story about someone watching Celestia from the same spot once a month, it was naturally a lot different than the final product. The narrator was originally some stallion I was going to make up. Celestia was just going to be in her castle, staring wistfully off the balcony or something, and the narration was going to be really poetic and probably very purple, and I think it was that last part that got me to change everything up. I mean, a lot of my previous stories (see: all) had narration that was really formal, and came across like I was trying too hard (at least to me), and I was starting to get tired of writing like that. Not that it’s a bad way to write, just that I needed a break.
Besides, somepony watching Celestia in her window is hella creepy, and the only way to make it creepier would be with poetry.
On top of that, other than the parallel to the definition of an analemma, the story essentially had nothing to it. No conflict, no important resolution, no longer any resplendent prose — just me being clever for a few hundred words, then reminding everyone how clever I was for a few extra thousand.
And that sucks.
So I decided that I was going to have fun with it. I came up with an idea for who was narrating that people might actually care about, and started bringing in the conflict via Luna. The grandmother, the council — this stuff all came later on as I was writing. It was all about the two sisters and what someone with no idea what was going on would think of them.
But before I wrote the first sentence, I thought about the narrator’s voice and remembered that they didn’t have one. Or a country of origin that might give a clue to their accent. At first, I thought that was a hitch, but then I realized that no information from the show meant I could do anything (within reason). So for the last touch, I put on my robe and wizard hat and said, “Hocus pocus, the narrator is now Australian,” and I got started.
Honestly, the voice was my favourite part of the story. Absurd fun.
What sort of book was Celestia reading?
It was a gift from Luna, actually. There was a ‘deleted scene’ from chapter 7 where Luna brings it up and asks her sister if she liked it. Celestia would then sort of brush it off and say it was okay, and Luna would say something about how she found it kind of slow but at least the ending really brought it home.
There was a lot of stuff that was cut, actually. Bringing up the book again was cut due to length. The spell spiel from three questions ago was supposed to be in there, but that was cut due to length. I was even going to have the story be 8,888 words long, but that idea was cut due to length .
As for what’s in the book, well, that’s not important to the story, so that’s for the reader to decide. Personally, I picture a long-form adventure with a lot of innocent comedy, but the author wrote a surprisingly mature and dramatic ending. Either because 500,000 words of immaturity got boring for them, or they wanted to remind the reader that innocence sometimes ends.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank you for this opportunity again. I’m blown away by the traction this story got, and I’m especially thrilled that people got immersed in it. I’ve always loved being immersed, and to hear that I was able to do that for other people is pretty unreal. So thanks.
Also, I’d like to very vaguely and very suggestively say that I’m incredibly excited for the future.
Oh! And I want to thank Pre-reader 63.546 for his help and guidance on my last three stories, including this one. That guy’s a real bro. And big shout-out to Dav for always being my friend-buddy-guy.