I’m stuck inside today’s story, trying to find a way out. (Please send help.)
Starlight Glimmer and Sunset Shimmer Are Dead
[Comedy] [Crossover] [Random] • 3,837 words
Two magical prodigies cast in Twilight’s shadow stumble about in somepony else’s story and try to find meaning in their lives.
An affectionate parody of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Which is in itself an absurdist and existentialist parody of Hamlet.
FROM THE CURATORS: With many of our featured authors, we face a difficult choice of which of their RCL-quality stories to spotlight — and in this case, we decided that good things come in small packages. “I’ve been trying for months now to work up a pitch for either of Oroboro’s 100,000+ word epics, The Heart of an Author or Fractured Sunlight, but this story displays all the author’s positives without making anyone take a week off to read it,” AugieDog said.
Chief among those positives was Oroboro’s way with words. “My favorite part of this is how the dialogue changes when it stops being ‘their story’,” Present Perfect said. “Everyone talks like an overblown stage actor; it’s quirky and marvelous and just a fascinating way to show what’s going on.” That deft touch extended from the small touches to some larger ones. “This story certainly chooses its fourth-wall breaks well, and every one of them got a grin out of me,” Horizon said. “The narrator judging the story with ‘Then she galloped off to save her marefriend or whatever’ was a great blend of subtle and satirical. And I love that it effortlessly shifts back and forth from that sort of hilarity to sober discussions of stories and our role in them.”
Our biggest debate was over how authentic this was to the source that it drew from. “This does just enough to distinguish itself from R&GAD to be a fresh take on the subject,” Chris said, “but I don’t think this makes any cogent statement about secondary realities or fictional existence the same way the source material does.” To AugieDog, however, that was a positive: “This takes the idea of the existential metadrama and makes it absolutely Pony,” he said. “Yes, Starlight and Sunset come to realize that the story they’re in isn’t about them at all, but their reactions to this state of affairs are nicely free of angst, and the ending gives the two more leeway than Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get in the last scene of their play.” And Horizon thought this was best evaluated as its own story rather than as a statement on Stoppard’s play: “Whether or not this is meaningful in the meta, it’s profound in the small and does make a statement in the large. Like any good crossover, it stakes out ground of its own in between its two sources.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Oroboro discusses normal speaking voices, great lunches, and Japanese-accented orcs.
Give us the standard biography.
Twenty-seven-year-old IT worker who spends way too much time on the job writing pony fanfiction on my phone.
I took a creative writing course in college, but it wasn’t until 2011 that I first tried my hand at fanfiction. Not for ponies, though: my opening salvo was a crossover fanfiction between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. It wasn’t the best of writing, but I’m still proud of some of what I was able to accomplish, and despite being so incredibly niche, I managed to attract at least a small audience.
Fast-forward to 2013 and, after years of watching my little brother enjoy being a Brony, I finally broke down and watched the show. I mostly resisted because I knew I would get hooked and would start writing fanfiction again. And it’s clear how that turned out.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
“The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The name originates from within Greek language; (oura) meaning ‘tail’ and (boros) meaning ‘eating’, thus ‘he who eats the tail’.”
Of course that’s only half of it. The real reason is that my previous universal internet handle was ‘Orbould’, the name of my orc warrior from World of Warcraft. When it came to a fanfiction penname, I wanted something similar but distinct. Thus ‘Oroboro’, comes from trying to say ‘Orbould’, but with a really thick Japanese accent.
Who’s your favorite pony?
It used to be Rarity. Suited for Success is the episode that really took the show from “this is neat” to “this is freaking awesome.” I’ve always loved her depth of character, her drive and ambition, and the way she can really shine as a supporting character.
These days, though, Sunset Shimmer has stolen the show in my heart. (Best human?) It’s hard to articulate what makes her so great, and what makes her resonate so strongly with me. She’s awesome, she has an excellent design, she’s very relatable. The mane 6 all have their various personality quirks, which are often exaggerated or downplayed depending on the episode or the writer. But as much as we love those quirks, it makes them feel more like cartoon characters.
For whatever reason, Sunset feels a lot more like a real person to me. In part, I think because Rebecca Shoichet uses her normal speaking voice for Sunset, while every other character is specifically a voice actor doing a ‘voice’.
In any case, Sunset has a lot of qualities that make her an excellent leading woman, and so many of the story ideas I come up with inevitably lead to “man, Sunset would make a great protagonist for this.” Seriously, they won’t stop.
What’s your favorite episode?
Suited for Success is one, as mentioned above. I’m also a big fan of musicals, so I really like both Pinkie’s Pride and Crusaders of the Lost Mark.
If it counts, Rainbow Rocks, since that movie apparently made me stop writing about candy-colored horses and got me writing about candy-colored humans instead.
What do you get from the show?
Entertainment. Friends. A good excuse to write and socialize.
If it wasn’t ponies, I’d probably find something else to obsess over. Though these days the show itself isn’t the dominating force in my life like it used to be, I still get plenty of enjoyment from it.
What do you want from life?
Happiness is the obvious answer. For something more specific, my goal is to become a published author, and I’ve recently started diving into the waters of original novel writing towards that purpose. I’ve proven I have the discipline to start and finish long ponyfics, and I’m confident in my skills moving forward.
Why do you write?
Because it’s fun. Because sometimes ideas take hold and refuse to let go. Because I’m good at it, and I enjoy the positive feedback. Because I’m bored, and it keeps me more engaged than playing video games. Because I enjoy challenging myself and trying new things.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
1: Practice. Just keep writing, whether you publish it or not, whether it’s good or not.
2: Edit. Find and make good friends who are willing to help you. I could never have made it this far without my little brother, who edits all of my stories. Watch the mistakes your editors pick up on frequently, and then try to keep an eye out for them when you write the next one.
3: Read. I’m pretty terrible at this myself, but read lots of fiction. And not just fanfiction either — read published authors, pay attention to what they do and how they do it.
4: Learn. I said practice earlier, and that’s great, but it’s entirely possible to spin your wheels forever and never improve as a writer. You also have to be actively trying to improve as a writer, which means challenging yourself, learning from your mistakes, seeking out advice and actually listening to it. I’ve recently been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast on my way to work, in which four professional authors discuss topics on writing, and I’ve found it incredibly helpful.
What are some of the challenges of adapting a piece which is itself an adaptation?
I’ve only actually seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead once, about a year ago. That movie night was also the first time I’d ever actually seen Hamlet too. When I wrote SS&SGAD back in April (originally for the April 2016 Writeoff contest “Forbidden Knowledge”), I did not go back and rewatch R&GAD, or even bother looking up a synopsis. I tried to base my writing more off of the idea of the play that I could remember, using some of the themes and basic mechanics (like the coin flipping thing) while weaving it into a story about colorful ponies, as well as my own general love for metafictional concepts cribbed from other works.
In some ways, I’m not even sure if it really counts as a crossover, but I decided to tag it as such anyway just to be safe.
Why did you use Romeo and Juliet in this story?
I wanted to convey the idea of them being stuck in some crappy story as observers and background characters. Some early concepts thought of having them run around in the background of some incident that would fit right into place on the show itself. But that would require me to write an entire second story, and I’m really lazy.
Using Hamlet would’ve been a bit trite, and it’s a bit too convoluted to really get across in a short space. My knowledge of The Bard’s works is woefully lacking, so I decided to go with what was most recognizable, and would be rather obnoxious to be in the background of.
Although even then, I’ve only ever actually seen parodies of Romeo and Juliet, never the original, so it’s just a pastiche of those tropes in general.
How do you mix existential despair with ponies, without things becoming too despairing?
It’s all about the reaction to it, I guess. You either despair, shrug and go about your day, or laugh at it. The universe is a cold and uncaring place and none of our lives matter and we will all die alone and empty. Who cares? My life is awesome, and I had a great lunch today.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Bragging: I entered this story into the 2016 GeekKon Fanfiction contest, and won second place!
Other than that, I want to thank my little brother, who goes by the username Kalan. Like I said earlier, he edits all my stories, got me into the fandom in the first place, and I never would have gotten anywhere without him.
And thanks to the good folks at the Writeoff Association who reviewed the first draft of this story and helped me realize the original ending wasn’t working.
For a final note: I recently discovered this short story where Shakespeare watches a live performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It’s very excellent, and worth a read. Go check it out.
You can read Starlight Glimmer and Sunset Shimmer Are Dead at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.