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What a tangled Web today’s story weaves!

areteArête – Princess Alicorn of Hackers
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] [Sci-Fi] • 35,168 words

Dinky leads a double life. In the real world she is an average pony in her final year of school, slightly timid, bored with everything around her. In the Dream-Web she is a hacker who wants to make a name for herself.

One evening she stumbles on something that has both her lives merge in one, as she seeks to find whether the Web really is run by deities, or is this just a trick by the Starswirl Conglomerate.

FROM THE CURATORS: While we had a spirited debate over the relative merits of this story, there was one thing on which we all agreed.  “The cyberpunk aesthetic and page-turning, pulse-pounding action are the big things right,” as Present Perfect put it, and it was our collective enjoyment which solidified the story’s feature.  “It has been a while since I read a story that was this much of a romp,” Chris said, and Horizon agreed: “It was a page-turner.  I read this over most of a week, and every time I returned to it I was looking forward to seeing what happened next.”

That gripping pace was part-and-parcel of the faithful way the story executed on its genre.  “It’s got all the big hallmarks of ’80s-style hacker/cyberpunk,’ for better and for worse,” Chris said.  “On the downside, it sometimes flattens its characters, and its dramas are awfully convenient. But that’s part of the charm of this piece: piling on the technobabble and twists without ever bogging down or being difficult to follow.”  AugieDog agreed that that accessibility was another of the story’s core strengths.  “The only computer class I’ve ever taken in my life was back in 1982, learning to write BASIC programs on Radio Shack TRS-80 computers,” he said. “And yet I really enjoyed this.”

Much of our debate focused on the story’s other genre choices.  “The narrative style turns every little thing into a major crisis, which effectively keeps the tension up … but sacrifices the sense of emotional proportion,” Horizon said.  “It’s very Young-Adult novel, which is a genre I usually appreciate from a distance.”  That was also a tough sell for Soge.  “I found the whole teenager drama aspect to be uninteresting,” he said.  “But the idea of a dream web is interesting and imaginative; the hacker-pulp angle gives the story a nice, upbeat rhythm without being straight-up ridiculous; and Diamond Tiara is fantastic throughout.”  And AugieDog found that same writing style a strength.  “The ‘teen angst’ stuff is what made it for me,” he said.  “As YA pony cyberpulp, this stands up and dances.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Lise Eclaire discusses cat factories, glacial ridges, and the million-word threshold.


Give us the standard biography.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much details (because of work). I’m originally from Eastern Europe, though I do tend to move about a bit (I’ve been on 4 continents :)). As for my work, I’m part of the computer game industry and have worked on a few AAA games. Other than that, I’m a mystery who writes on an iPad. :P

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

It was created a while before I joined Fimfic so I could be incognito for research. I just adopted it (since my research was already done). The nick itself is based on a French phrase (anyone with a bit of ingenuity and Google Translate could figure it out. :))

Who’s your favorite pony?


My favourite FIM pony, though, is Celestia — the one who has the power to solve all problems in the blink of the eye, but is forced to grind her teeth and pretend to be useless in the face of danger so that her ponies could learn to fend for themselves.

What’s your favorite episode?

“Escape from Midnight Castle”.

FIM-wise: “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3”.

What do you get from the show?

Ideas and relaxation.

I tend to watch anything I can get my hands on (anime and sci-fi included) because it significantly helps me with my work. When the series gets me to smile, that’s a huge plus. Also, indirectly, it’s thanks to the show that I got to be involved with Fimfiction and found a lot of friends there.

What do you want from life?

Everything good, I guess. :) Mostly, joy at this point.

Why do you write?

Work aside, I love to travel, and writing (along with reading/watching/playing) gives me that. It also helps me relax.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Oh dear. I’ll say something that probably goes against all the advice given so far:

  1. Start with the longest, most complicated, world-shattering epic you could imagine.
  2. If you still want to continue after you fail with that, try something slightly smaller.
  3. Don’t ask for any advice or read any (style) books until you’ve written 1M words. (Chances are you won’t adequately understand the advice given anyway.) Nature is merciless — when you start feeling something is wrong, you’ll want to find ways of fixing it on your own.
  4. That said, listen to people who give advice, but don’t just copy it.
  5. Pain and shame are the greatest teachers. The bigger a fool you make of yourself, the faster you’ll learn the lesson. (If you really want to learn, that is.)
  6. Your first 10 stories don’t count.
  7. Experiment with different genres/stories/approaches.
  8. Read a lot.
  9. Online is the only place you can be nice without consequences, so take advantage. (If this doesn’t make sense now, it will in time. :))

What influenced the style and aesthetics of this story?

It was a compilation of elements that did it for Arête.

Firstly, I’m a huge sci-fi fan (books, shows, games), with cyberspace/cyberpunk being among my favourites. Thus gems like Tron, Serial Experiments Lain, and Ghost in the Shell left their mark.

Secondly, two great stories by two great authors (with whom I’ve become friends with) inspired me to think in a pony direction: This Game of Mine by Swan Song, and Her Knight in Faded Armor by Doccular42.

Thirdly, the Rage Review contest (F*** this prompt!) that the story was originally written for: Equestria is getting a new Alicorn Princess.

How do you drop a reader into a brand-new world while balancing the amount and rate of information you give them?

I have no idea… :) I tend to imagine things visually and at times I get it right. Personally, I start with something a reader can relate to, then proceed to describe the world around it.

[i]Meowing. This was the third time this week a bloody cat had woken me up! I was definitely going to have a word with the archmages next door and their cat factory![/i]

What is the significance of the name “Arête”?

Originally it was supposed to be the name of the Greek goddess of moral virtue and excellence (Arete). I added the ê for coolness. It turned out that meant a ridge formed by two glaciers… which was my plan all along! O:)

As Amethyst says, people lived double lives before the Web. Do you think using the internet changes us as people? How so?

It made things easier, I guess. For the greater part, people are just text on a screen, and as that text, they can be anyone they choose. In a way, that can let us show ourselves in a light we (think we) want to be. Dinky might be Harpy, but she rarely dares to act that way in the real world.

Who is FLT?

FLT is a speaking character in the show who, I’m certain, has a significant number of followers. ;)

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A huge thank you to the RCL, Fimfiction, and all the readers who enjoyed this insanity!

Also a special thanks to everyone who helped write and edit the story: Verbose Mode, Elric of Melnipony, Malefactory, Swan Song, Doccular42, Zaid ValRoa, kaelenmitharos, Ceffyl Dwr, and anyone else I’ve poked for advice on it!

You can read Arête – Princess Alicorn of Hackers at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.