The memories of today’s story will stick with you.
[Sad] • 2,138 words
Twilight, believing something has happened to her memory, seeks out Princess Celestia to see if she recognizes it and can offer a cure. But the answer lies far deeper in the root of her nature and her life as the Princess of Friendship than she would have ever expected.
FROM THE CURATORS: It’s not often that a short fic laser-focused on a single idea — especially an idea without direct roots in the show — makes us sit up and take notice. “At the outset, this looks like a pretty typical ‘bit of headcanon disguised as a story’,” Chris said. “That does, though, sell this fic short in one crucial respect: the author is able to deliver some truly heartwrenching moments in the back half of this. Celestia gets a couple of absolute back-breaker lines, and the final sentence of the fic is heavy in just the right way.” Horizon agreed: “It’s a headcanon fraught with emotional issues, and the author hits the right notes to effectively draw those out.”
That was due not only to the story’s choice of topics, but also the choice of perspectives with which it approached the idea. “I’ve had trouble with my memory my entire life … so the idea of experiencing most of life only ‘in the moment’ doesn’t seem that awful to me,” AugieDog said. “But AlicornPriest does a good job of conveying how devastating this is to Twilight and of following her through the stages of grief as she comes to realize how this is going to affect her and her friendships.” That was brought out further by strong secondary character work. “The story also made an effective decision in Celestia’s characterization,” Horizon said. “Her casual acceptance of the phenomenon just underscores how disturbing the situation is if you actually stop and think about it.”
Those made this work not just as an idea fic but also as a story. “I’ve zoned out while working in the yard and ‘lost’ a half-hour or more before,” Chris said. “Alicorn Time is that feeling, writ large, and it achieved a poignancy as a result which few ‘headcanon fics’ can match.” And the fic’s solid extrapolation of that phenomenon to immortality was what made it exemplary, Horizon said: “I think asking important questions about our own experiences through the lens of fantasy is one of the highest goals that a fanfic can reach.”
Read on for our author interview, in which AlicornPriest discusses tweening, Account Patterns, and zoned-out YouTube flickers.
Give us the standard biography.
Hi! I’m Alicorn Priest. I’m 24, I graduated from college about a year ago — English, as you might expect, though I also earned a BA in Chemistry. (Yes, there are Bachelors of Arts in Chemistry. Whodathunk?) I’ve been a brony since season 2 — I was there speculating when we were wondering what Discord was gonna look like, and I started reading “Background Pony” back when there were only two chapters out. My first fic (if you don’t count the terrible one I sent to the EqD reviewers) was posted up on ponyfictionarchive.net in March 2012. (It’s called “The Table at the End.” Go check it out.)
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It’s kind of a funny story. When I made my first GMail account, I fancied myself a philosopher — really, I just liked to think about complex topics — so I named my first e-mail after my first name (which starts with an A), followed by “philos.” When I started making accounts on Reddit and such the like, I decided to make it easier for myself by making every account with the same pattern: a word starting with A, then a word starting with P. “Alicorn” seemed like the obvious A word, and “Priest” for P was the first word that seemed appropriate. I like the imagery it provides: one who worships and serves the princesses. One of my clients calls me Ali P, which I find adorable.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Twilight Sparkle, almost certainly. I have the same personality as her: studious, awkward, friendly, and a little naive. Somehow, all of my fics seem to include her one way or another. Close behind are Rarity and Pinkie Pie — Pinkie’s my problematic fave, because while I really like her personality and background, I think her depiction in the show is done right only about half of the time. “When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad, she was horrid,” if you know the poem.
What’s your favorite episode?
As much as I’m a season 1-season 2 fanboy, I’ve gotta give it to “Pinkie Pride.” Every song is spot-on, Weird Al’s guest appearance is perfect, and the thematics and character exploration are stellar. It’s the quintessential episode of the show.
What do you get from the show?
I remember when I first got into the show, I was stunned at the attitude and charm it had. The main character is an awkward student who throws snark at everyone she meets? Is that even allowed in kids’ shows? And it had such tension and drama in those opening episodes, I was immediately hooked. I suppose if I had to distill it down to one word, it’d be “relatable.” The characters have real problems, they struggle with their friends, and they overcome through conversation and apologies. The bright colors and poppy songs draw you in, but the relatability is what keeps you watching.
What do you want from life?
… Wow, what a tough question. I suppose I could just point to Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs and say “that,” but I’d better explain a bit more. First of all, I want to be happy, but “happy” is such a poor word. It includes everything from the satisfaction of a job well done to the zoned-out flickers when a YouTube video is slightly more interesting than the previous one. Unfortunately, the latter is much easier to get than the former, so … there’s that. Second, I want to feel as though I’m useful to the world somehow. I want to feel like I’m creating things people enjoy, or helping make people’s lives better — something that has value. I suppose in a venial way, I like getting praised for doing good work, so that’s part of it, too.
Why do you write?
I write because an idea gets lodged into my head, and I want to expand it out into a story. I get a vision of a scene, or a line of dialogue, or a source of conflict, and I want to see how it plays out. The hard part is all the little interactions to get from one major scene to the next — in animation, they’d be called “tweening,” right? Other than that, I write because I have some idea I want to share with the world, and either my blog posts or my fiction is the best way to do that. I come up with a story about how weatherponies came to be, or I want to share a connection between transactional analysis and character interaction, so I write a story about it or create a blog post discussing it. Recently, I’ve had people regularly commenting on my posts, which helps a ton. If I felt I was just spitting into the wind, I wouldn’t keep doing it. (Hence why I went dark a couple years ago.)
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Network. Network, network, network. If you want to rise in the ranks, you need to take writing seriously. Part of that process is talking with the community here on FiMFiction and establishing yourself. Make friends, so that your friends will read your stories, and then they’ll recommend those stories to their friends, and so on. If you’re an introvert like me, this is really hard, I know, but you’ve gotta do it. As to writing advice, it’d be “write what’s important” and “character relationships give you more to work with than each character separately.” And the editor part of me wants to add, “Wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” That’s Samuel Johnson, by the by.
What inspired “Alicorn Time”?
A couple of things. To a lesser extent, ruminating on what it would be like to be immortal, and how the passage of time would feel after long stretches. As Celestia explains in the fic, I felt the sort-of dissociative episodes would be a blessing, to save their minds from having to experience every single moment. (The science behind it is pretty circumspect, I’m aware.) Primarily, however, it’s based upon my own experiences of college and previous. I wasted so much time on books, video games, and the Internet that at this point, it all feels like a blur. I would have done no worse if I had simply blacked out at the start of it and coasted through unconsciously. So Twilight’s resolution to “make every picosecond count!” is my own desire, and Celestia’s response is my resignation at the impossibility of that.
What elements would you consider essential in writing a successful “explainfic”?
Hah! You used my terminology. You really did your research. The biggest danger to writing an explainfic is that the explanation, the caulking to fill the holes in the plot, is all you have going for the story. A good explainfic should also have strong character interactions, an arc as the characters grow and change, a central conflict that the explanation factors into … you know, all the workings of any good story. So in “Alicorn Time,” as Twilight tries to cope with having this new condition, her attitude changes, and she struggles to decide what she’s going to do going forward. A bad explainfic will simply set up a condition for a character to ask, “Why does this thing happen,” a character explaining it, and then the first character saying, “Ah, that makes sense.” I’ll be the first to admit “Alicorn Time” is not a perfect fic, and one of its weaknesses is that the characters simply sit down and talk at each other. This is another weakness of explainfics, and the solution is to write a plot which can involve moving around and interacting with objects.
Do you prefer planning your stories out ahead of time or letting them grow during the typing process?
I love when little details appear mid-writing session, but I can’t rely on that to be the driver of my story. Sometimes personality quirks will change certain scenes, or the way I decide to execute a scene will create connections I hadn’t considered. For example, in a chapter of “Mother and Child” I’ve been working on, I discovered a place to put Cadance in the Beta timeline of Equestria which I hadn’t really planned when coming up with the chapter. I also noticed how the events Pinkie accidentally puts into motion will reflect a later scene where she does the same thing more intentionally. So that’s really neat. However, I’m not a seat-of-your-pants type writer, as much as I pretend to be. I find I get the best results when I can sit down (with a spiralbound notebook, not a Word document) and sketch out the chapter progressions, the character arcs, and the event timeline. Otherwise, I procrastinate because I don’t know what to write. Of course, even when I do plan, I procrastinate anyway, but eh. That’s how it goes with me, I suppose.
Do you think Twilight will ever be comfortable enough in her alicornhood to unconsciously call Celestia by name?
Heh. Twilight and I suffer from a pretty similar problem. When someone superior to us earns our respect, we tend to … idolize them, just a little bit. I do it with all the amazing writers that frequent my blog, and Twilight does it with Princess Celestia. Talking with one of your idols isn’t quite the same as talking to one of your equals, even when your idol is your equal. (We’re all horsewords enthusiasts here, in the end. Even when one of my commenters has 17 times as many followers as I do.) So for me, that means putting them on a pedestal, and for Twilight, that means she can’t quite get over adding “Princess” to the front of Celestia’s name. I’m not sure it’s something she’ll ever get over, perhaps until she finds herself doing as much as Celestia does.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Hmm … the shill in me wants to plug my new monetization strategy, but I’ll leave that for the readers to find on their own. What I will plug of mine, though, is my series of blog posts entitled “Writer’s Workshop.” Every so often, I share a particular trick that can help make your writing more interesting. I’ve used examples from South Park, the RPG Fate: Accelerated Edition, The Arrival of the Mail Train, and the psychological methodology of transactional analysis. I’ve also got a couple other stories people might like if they’re curious — my other smash hit would have to be “It’s Impossible!” (with the unofficial slogan, “The Ride Never Ends!”).
Other than that, I want to thank all the readers out there. Thanks for reading this interview, thanks for making “Alicorn Time” as big as it has been, and thanks for checking out my other writings. Hope you enjoy. :)