Open your eyes, and you’ll find that today’s story is quite a sight.
The Perfect Little Village of Ponyville
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] [Comedy] [Drama] • 35,747 words
Vinyl Scratch wakes up to find herself the personal student of Princess Celestia, sent to the obscure village of Ponyville to oversee preparations for the millennial Summer Sun Celebration.
Vinyl can only imagine two possible explanations for what has happened: she has tumbled into an alternate universe where she’s Twilight Sparkle, or, after everypony telling her she’d do it eventually, she’s finally gone and lost her mind.
FROM THE CURATORS: Six seasons in, it can be interesting to return to some of the fandom’s earliest tales — and occasionally, quite rewarding as well. “I’ve got some metafiction for y’all, from all the way back in the dimly remembered time of 2012,” Chris said in his nomination. “Don’t be fooled by its age, though: this fic still holds its own, five years later.” And, indeed, we found the quality of this fic leaping right off the page at us. “The narrative voice just drew me right in as did the simple, sweet writing,” AugieDog said. “I dislike the phrase ‘a facility of language’ because it’s so pretentious, but that’s exactly what I found myself thinking it demonstrated about halfway through chapter one.”
The main element drawing our praise, however, was the unusual way this gambled with its structure — and the rich way that gamble paid off. “This is a fic which you have to give the benefit of the doubt, but I found that my tentative acceptance was repaid in spades,” Chris said. “For example, there is in fact a reason why the narrator occasionally interjects to comment on the narrative structure.” AugieDog agreed, with a musical twist: “Appropriately enough for something with so much music in it, this is a perfect example of what I’ve always thought of as ‘con brio’ storytelling,” he said. “Right from the first dozen paragraphs, the author leaps off the narrative cliff while saying, ‘Leap off with me, and it’ll be well worth your time.'” And Horizon appreciated the way it put those choices to deeper use: “It makes no apologies or excuses for its structural oddity, and not only manages to back-justify it, but also manages to use that unique narrative format to unroll character and plot.”
Add that to the richness of detail, and we found this an easy winner. “All the flourishes around the edges really make it shine,” Chris said. “The musical theme of the world (matching Vinyl’s interests) is just the most obvious and the one I’m best acquainted with, and it’s so well-formed.” That those details were integrated so neatly into the story was the icing on the cake. “We’re treated to a smorgasbord of cool headcanon that largely has retained its luster six seasons later,” Horizon said. “I liked, for example, the explanation for Luna’s mane, and the addressing scheme for dragonfire letters — all the more so since that seemingly inconsequential detail smoothly shifts into a major plot point.”
Read on for our author interview, in which McPoodle discusses pessimistic inventresses, confounding satires, and repairing the perfect movie.
Give us the standard biography.
Once upon a time (c. 1994), there was a college graduate with an analytical mind who got what he thought was a dream job of being a software tester. But it turned out that nobody liked being told that their software was flawed, or that deadlines wouldn’t be met, or that software testers should be paid a decent wage so they didn’t have to live in miserable little hovels (aka apartments). So in between bouts of CMIS (Cutie Mark Insanity Syndrome), he took to writing stories set in happy little worlds as unlike his as possible. This lasted through several different employers and fandoms until finally (in 2011) he found a job where people believed he was actually contributing to the bottom line instead of eroding it, and he bought a house, and that’s when the fanfiction ideas stopped coming to him so fast and furious. So, he entered a state of semi-retirement.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I love the old theatrical cartoon shorts, from Gertie the Dinosaur to the Road Runner. “McPoodle” is the obscure last name of the bloodhound character Droopy from the Tex Avery cartoon “Northwest Hounded Police” (1946).
Who’s your favorite pony?
In canon, Rarity, although I rarely get to write for her as lead character. Fanon-wise, that’s changed over the years: Vinyl Scratch (back when I could make her a blind techie that talks and has multiple personalities without anybody complaining), Pinkamena (the sarcastic and pessimistic inventress I saw her as, as opposed to the psychopath or victim of clinical depression favored by others) and finally Princesses Celestia and Luna (again, my versions, but at least this time fairly close to how many people write them).
What’s your favorite episode?
It’s a tie between “Pinkie Pride” (because hey, Weird Al) and “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” (for the waterworks).
What do you get from the show?
A believable world that is nevertheless free of most of the ugliness of the real world, containing characters that believably evolve over six seasons. Granted, that last point makes it really hard to write fanfiction about them.
What do you want from life?
The sense that I’m making an active contribution to the world, that my ideas are making things better instead of worse. But that’s in real life. As far as this site’s concerned, I’m satisfied with entertaining my readers.
Why do you write?
Well besides the rather unhealthy reason given in my first answer, I write for two reasons: First, the usual one of wanting to see a particular scene or scenario in the show, but not finding it in canon or existing fanon. And second, for those rare moments when a story runs away and surprises me with something wonderful that I thought far beyond my current writing level. For “Perfect Village”, that was the character arcs for Spike and Pinkamena.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Engage yourself with everything fictional you encounter, and try to do so in a positive way. If you just finished watching the perfect movie with an ending that completely ruins it, don’t just complain, write that perfect ending yourself. And if you have an idea for a scene that you can’t turn into a story, write it down, because there’s a good chance that someday you will have the idea for the story that scene belongs in.
What inspired “The Perfect Little Village of Ponyville”?
During the first hiatus of the show, there were a bunch of stories coming out exploring alternate versions of The Return of Nightmare Moon. (“A World Without Rainbows”, “The Night That Never Ended” and “Rainbooms and Royalty” are three that stand out.) Too many of the good ones were relentlessly depressing. So I set out to write a satire, but somehow it turned into a challenge to see how many times I could confound my readers’ attempts to figure out what exactly was going on in this world I had created.
Talk a little about the challenges of writing “alternate universe” stories.
The biggest problem is disciplining yourself, because once you decide to wander away from something recognizable as canon, you’re liable to change things so much that readers no longer recognize it as FIM — “FIM In Name Only”, as it were. I find it useful to tie everything back to a divergence point from canon, even if you never end up revealing that divergence to the reader.
How much of an outline did you use to keep all the ins and outs of the story straight?
I’m actually pretty good at keeping that sort of thing straight in my head for stories of this length. It was only when I ventured into the realm of writing fan novels that I needed notes.
With four stories completed in the sequence that begins here, do you hold out hope of someday actually typing its final “The End”?
You know, you’re only the second person to ask me that question in the three years since I finished that penultimate story. I have all my notes for the last story; the problem is that it needs to be written from the viewpoint of a Season One Fluttershy, and I had no insight into how she thinks. Luckily I’ve discovered “Sucker for a Cute Face”, which I think perfectly captures that viewpoint (albeit with Equestria Girls Fluttershy, which is close enough for me), so who knows?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
To anyone trying to go into “Perfect Village” fresh, take your time and pay attention to everything that’s going on. I’m honestly trying to play fair with you as the author. Yes, this picks up plot points from some other stories I wrote earlier, but anything from those stories you need to know is exposited at the appropriate points in this story. Oh, and be aware that I wrote this story pre-“Slice of Life” and pre-“Epic Wub Time”, so my version of Vinyl Scratch probably doesn’t match yours.