Today’s story is a strong addition to our collection of tales about Equestria’s distant past.
[Dark] [Tragedy] • 7,723 words
They say minotaurs live by the scars they bear. Bismuth’s hide is a map of the world: his life was the blade, and the blade was his life, carried unto a hundred red fields, down a thousand roads, singing among elk, deer, and dragons. He stood at ramparts long since fallen, and was counted a hero in lands forgotten, when ponies had only begun to dream.
Maybe it’s all true, but now he only rocks in his chair, stirring at embers, while his deeds turn to rust in the shadows. What kind of scars call that living? And if you ask him, would he tell you?
FROM THE CURATORS: Connoisseurs of classic ponyfic will find a little extra bonus in today’s feature, as Chris pointed out when he introduced this story to us. “This borrows its setting from Jetfire’s It’s A Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door stories,” he said. “But I believe The Weak stands on its own. All of the things it borrows are gleaned easily enough from this story itself.” And the rest of us quickly discovered that it was richly rewarding even without the context of its source. “Having forgotten pretty much all of Dangerous Business in the four or five years since I read it, I didn’t have any trouble with the set-up,” AugieDog said. “The writing is top-notch, and the revelation at the end of who Bismuth is telling this story to was just the perfect cap.” Present Perfect agreed: “Unfamiliar with those stories as I am, this comes off as just another excellent piece of world-building. The fantastic writing, the solid character voice, tell a story of the horrors of war with all the fantasy a Tolkien or Tolkien-after reader could ask for.”
It wasn’t only the power of that prose which brought to mind another blast from the past. “I’d compare this story to our previous feature The War and What Came After,” Chris said, “in that it doesn’t seem like a particularly ‘pony’ story until the end — at which point it ties itself back to its Equestrian setting in a way that not only justifies its being written as an MLP fanfic, but also perfectly encapsulates the tone of the world it’s set in.” Other curators also singled out for praise the way in which The Weak connected its original writing and the show we love. “I’m impressed at how ponies pervade this story while barely appearing in it. It’s very Outside Insight that way,” Present Perfect said.
But no matter how many fond memories of other stories this invoked, there was never any question that The Weak earned its own place in our hearts. “I’m most impressed with the writing,” Present Perfect said. “It’s hard not to adore a line like ‘I tried to feel dry’.” Chris agreed: “Once the narrator stops addressing his audience and starts telling his story, the word choice and ability to paint striking visuals are consistently engrossing. All in all, this was a gorgeously written story which has a lot to offer to a reader.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Wisdom Thumbs discusses unwilling farming, animated salves, and lawn-based characterization.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a farmer in central Texas, though not especially a willing one. I’m mainly the hired hand for my family while the operation is dug back out of its hole. But now that I live on my own, I have a lot of time to write and draw. One day soon I hope to take art classes. I’ve drawn since I was two.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I had just busted both of my thumbs in youth sporting activities (such as skiing). They ached horribly, they could barely move to play video games, and they were swollen like my grandmother’s arthritis. I needed a new username at the time, so … I thought of “Wisdom Thumbs.” My thumbs have felt older than the rest of me ever since. Then people began to call me by that username, and I realized I needed to try to live up to it.
Who’s your favorite pony?
It’s maybe a strange thing to say, but I’ve never really picked favorites. I like all the best ponies, you know? It varies day by day, episode by episode. Whichever pony I drew last, or discussed with a friend.
What’s your favorite episode?
Honestly? The season 5 finale still has me charged up. Twenty amps.
What do you get from the show?
A sense of relaxation, mainly. It’s nice for there to be something so upbeat and hopeful out there, and it’s a great break from a lot of the other things I do and like. Driving tractors, banging my knuckles inside engines and on plows, playing video games with friends … even today’s best movies can be hard on the soul sometimes. MLP is one of the world’s salves. I think that’s what all great cartoons aspire to be.
What do you want from life?
In a very Applejackian manner, I only have one answer: family. That includes extended relatives and close friends.
Why do you write?
To learn. To get these stories in my head out and take other people on wild rides. To educate, in what little way I can.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Never, ever stop. If you have to take a break, that’s fine, but get back on that horse. Or the horse will own you. And you can’t support a horse’s weight, so don’t even try. Metaphorically speaking.
It says in the story’s description that it’s “Inspired by Jetfire’s “Dangerous Business” and “Besides the Will of Evil,” and although The Weak can be read independent of those stories, the connections are obvious to anyone who’s read Jetfire’s stories. How did you go about balancing the use of another fanfic’s setting and lore with the need to be accessible?
It was mainly about acknowledging that my work in this fandom has all been inspired by Jetfire’s headcanon about deer, the weather control, and so on. The Weak was that acknowledgement that my headcanon is spawned off of his. And I wanted to thank him for his comments on my DeviantArt, as well as thank him for getting me hooked on this fandom’s writing.
Did you worry, when you wrote this, that ending the story with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote would be seen as disrespectful or distasteful? More broadly, what do you feel constitutes “respectful” use of real-life historical figures figures and struggles in the context of a My Little Pony fanfic?
That quote has resonated with me since the day I heard it. I’ve tried to live by those words and similar philosophies, and The Weak was written right after I came out of a very dark place in 2014. I think it’s an important quote to hear and be reminded of, because there is always some better way to address your fellow human beings, whether you be arguing or considering violence.
All of us commented on the consistent excellence of the writing in this story, and not simply as regards editing: evocative word choice, appropriate use of metaphors and nonstandard imagery, and vivid descriptions were all specifically mentioned. What did you do to craft an appropriate — and consistent — voice for this story, and what advice do you have for authors when it comes to these aspects of writing?
All good writing is good editing, done a few days after you churned out the bad writing. I took away a few bits and added a few bits with each review. Boring parts died on the chopping block. As for the character voice, that’s something you just have to pay conscious attention to. Good, stunning sentences come from going out between sessions to walk in the woods, or stare at the sky, or water the lawn. Or buy groceries. Appreciate the moment you are in right now, then describe your perceptions of the world around you down to the details of lighting and smell. Do this regularly and expand your knowledge of grammar, and your knowledge in general. Play with words in your day-to-day life. Bend the rules where your character would.
Building on the last question: we’ve all seen poorly-executed examples of “purple prose,” where an author aims for dense, rich writing and vocabulary, but instead creates a morass of adjectives and archaisms. Do you have any advice for using rich descriptive language effectively?
Cut the clutter. All of it. Keep only relevant details and those that will be relevant later. It helps to keep a limit on your story’s word count. Mix up your sentence structure, make one sentence reflect the next and vice versa. Have best sentences for every scene, and keep each sentence in-line with your scene. Details, especially, can interfere with good action. But a few handpicked, especially vivid details …
Do you view the Hart as a villain? Do you consider him more a product of his environment, or do you view him (or rather, those of his sort) as the cause of that environment?
His perceptions are influenced by his culture and his sense of entitlement. He operates under the belief that his actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of empire and order. He’s probably a terrific warrior, an advanced tactician, and an organized leader. After all, even Asterius is under his command, and Asterius is a minotaur’s minotaur. Really though, the Hart is just a racial supremacist, and that’s his idea of a strong moral code. He’s the hero of his own story, the villain of this piece, and something of a scared accomplice to destruction.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for adding my story, and thanks for interviewing me. If you liked The Weak, you can find art of its characters on my DeviantArt and in my FIMfiction journals. Thanks!