Today’s story will leave its mark on you.
The Cutie Mark Allocation Agency
[Comedy] [Random] • 35,789 words
‘Unseen and unheard: They must never know’.
That’s the motto of the CMAA, the Cutie Mark Allocation Agency. Nopony knows who they are or what they do, but they’re vital to the workings of Equestrian society.
This is the story of two of these unsung heroes of the pony world, who selflessly sacrifice their time and energy for those blasted mysterious cutie marks that the ponies seem to like so much.
FROM THE CURATORS: In the hands of many authors, this story’s core idea — that a band of snipers targets foals and fillies with Cutie Mark guns — would have become a brief and forgettable one-shot, but it doesn’t take long for this story to transcend its roots. “There’s nothing I love so much as watching an author take a crackfic idea seriously, plant the seed, and then have something beautiful blossom from that,” Horizon said, and as soon as we’re introduced to the gnome Glummwriggle and his employer and coworkers, that beauty is apparent. “The cast is probably best described as ‘David the Gnome meets Office Space‘ (a thoroughly intuitive pairing, I think you’ll agree),” Chris said, “and Hoopy’s knack for observational comedy and asides in general shines in that setting.”
There were plenty of other things to appreciate, as Present Perfect noted. “This story is a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s quirky, it’s whimsical, it’s charming, and I really enjoyed reading it. The stakes are always clear, the pacing is quick and smooth, and the idea behind it is so goofy, yet plays out in a perfectly serious way.” Horizon similarly appreciated the crispness of the storytelling — “the pacing here was dynamic; I never felt that nothing was going on” — while Chris was enchanted by the comedic twists of the prose: “My notes on the story are pretty much just a bunch of funny lines that I highlighted.”
Even the bit parts contributed to the story with outsized flair and memorability. “Shadeswell is a perfect example of everything this story gets right, a smart blend of ridiculous, serious, and self-subversive,” Horizon said, and AugieDog offered an insightful suggestion as to why: “What I liked most about this story was its deft use of so many cliches. Too many authors use them as shortcuts to avoid doing any creative thinking. So when an author actually uses cliches in a creative fashion, it always gets a grin out of me. Knowing when to undercut a cliche is important — such as with Shadeswell — but it’s also important to let some cliches play out, and the author does both to good comedic effect throughout.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Hoopy McGee discusses Shyamalan subversions, Tirek tea parties, and garden gag gifts.
Give us the standard biography.
I’ve always been a fan of animation, and I’m old enough to have seen the first movie back when it was broadcast on TV. I was surprised by how good it seemed — aside from the Moochick and a couple of fairly painful songs — since it was a girl’s show, and girl’s shows at the time were completely unwatchable to me. And if I were to make a list of Most Menacing Villains from 80’s Animated TV, Tirek would have easily made the top 3.
Of course, Hasbro immediately started to ruin anything good about the show with giggly tea parties, and I lost interest quickly.
I became aware of the new show back during the middle of season 1, when pony memes suddenly started flooding various message boards I was part of. This show actually seemed a lot less cutesy than the previous seasons, and I vaguely remembered finding the movie interesting, so I gave it a shot. I was hooked within the first 30 seconds of the first episode.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I always liked the name “McGee” as a sort of generic last name. So, I knew when I created my name on Fimfiction I’d want something with McGee in it. “Hoopy” I got from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it just fit.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Oooh, that’s a tough one. For the most part, it’s whatever pony I’m watching at the moment, or Twilight whenever I’m not watching the show.
What’s your favorite episode?
Gonna go waaaay back to season 1 here, because I still absolutely love Cutie Mark Chronicles. Though, again, I have lots of favorites, and it’s hard to pick just one.
What do you get from the show?
Lots of things, really. From the show itself, I get a nice, stress-free half-hour every now and then were I can watch and enjoy the antics of these wonderful, silly, lovable ponies. But the show also produced one of the coolest fandoms it’s ever been my pleasure to be a part of, and has given me lots of ideas for stories to write!
What do you want from life?
Happiness would be nice, along with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Good friends and family can’t be beat. And lots of fun, can’t forget that!
Also, I wouldn’t mind winning the lottery.
Why do you write?
A few reasons, really. Mainly because I enjoy the act of creation. There’s also the indescribable feeling of being able to share something I created with an audience that appreciates it.
When you’re writing a story and you get a real feel for the location and the characters, it almost feels like you’re coming home. And, the cool thing is, you can recreate that feeling just by writing more!
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Consider every story you write as practice for the next one. Don’t worry that you might make mistakes or that your story might not be all that good. Instead, study what works and what doesn’t, because that’s how you’ll learn and grow. Listen to feedback when it’s given honestly, think about it carefully, and decide for yourself if the person giving the feedback has a point or not.
What were your influences for this story?
I work in an office. Office politics can get crazy and amusing, and I wanted to write a story that reflects that.
Also, I wanted to explore just where the heck cutie marks came from in the first place!
Why gnomes? Was it just to make all those amazing names?
Pretty much, yeah!
Actually, I wanted to use a fairy-tale creature as the main characters. I was rolling this idea around in my head one day when I saw the garden gnome in our backyard that my brother-in-law bought us as a gag gift. I knew then that it had to be gnomes.
How did you decide which ponies to have know about the secret world of the Agency?
I had the ending in mind from the very beginning, so I knew what ponies would have to know.
Shadeswell is built up as a sinister figure, but resolves in something of an anti-climax. Why the undercut?
Honestly, I just thought it would be funny. I regret not building him up a little more, actually, just to give him a bit more menace. I really enjoy occasionally subverting audience expectations. Not all the time, of course, or I’d be known as “the subversion guy”, and we know how well that worked out for M. Night Shyamalan.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I had an incredibly fun time writing this story, and I hope anyone who reads it will enjoy it as well. Also, this story gives an example of just how generous this fandom can be: I originally had some god-awful cover-art I’d made myself in MSPaint. A reader named Zemious wasn’t going to allow that to stand, so they made the awesome cover-art that the story uses now, completely unsolicited. I mean, how cool is that?
Also, a sincere thank you to anyone who reads my stories, and especially anyone who takes the time to let me know what they think about them (good or bad). You folks are a big part of why I keep writing!