Today’s story is rated PG-13 due to parental guidance.
[Dark] [Drama] [Sad] • 3,617 words
All mothers love their children, and all mothers feed their children. Princess Chrysalis and her mother are no different, except that to a changeling, “love” and “food” are the same thing.
FROM THE CURATORS: While the recent Imposing Sovereigns contest inspired a number of unusual takes on Equestria’s ruling princesses, it also inspired some strong reinterpretations of more well-trodden subjects. “This is certainly not my first time seeing some of these concepts of an alien, uncaring Changeling race with a completely flipped morality system,” Soge said of Motherly, “but the execution here makes all the difference.” Indeed, that execution was remarkably wide-ranging while still keeping a recognizable core. “Touching on subjects like strength and weakness, pride and disdain, power and deceit, this story still somehow felt very Pony to me,” AugieDog said. “A difficult feat for a story with these tags.”
Over and over, it was that well-chosen approach which most impressed us. “The author tends toward the dark,” AugieDog said, “but here, that style really suits the subject matter: the intertwining of love and cruelty in the pre-sherbet-fairy-moose changeling world.” Present Perfect was impressed by how it also intertwined with the show: “This is a really good way to use the changeling canon we were granted in Season 6 — arguably one of the best things to come out of that season.” And while Horizon disagreed, he found just as much to appreciate: “I don’t know how much of the new canon I see in this, but its laser focus on the intersection between emotion and sustenance is really to the story’s credit, and the story it tells with that idea is a strong one.”
But rich characters and character conflicts also helped make this piece exemplary. “The Queen, in fact, is hands-down the best part of this piece,” Present Perfect said, “at first coming off the stern matriarch one would expect from changelings, but showing by the end that she really does care about what happens to the hive, even if changelings have a very strange way of showing things like care. Her self-sacrifice gives her depth and nuance.” And that gave the family drama depth and nuance of its own. “It manages to steadily build up to a surprisingly emotional climax, with some poignant considerations about the nature of love,” Soge said, “and how the feelings in the relationship between parent and offspring can be expressed in complex, and even contradictory manners. Great stuff.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Trick Question discusses interrobang reflections, disagreement hugs, and draconic gut shots.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a transgender woman in her early forties. I’ve been a brony since the start of Season 2, and a furry for most of my life (I’m a wolf). I teach computer science at a large research university. Argembarger (the author of Spiderses) was one of my students. In addition to my computer science background, I have a psychology degree and a minor in visual arts. My side interests include set theory, visual art, game design, hard puzzles, and writing. I struggle with depression and myofascial pain in my teeth. The painkillers I take make it extremely difficult to work on long projects, but I can do something if I really enjoy it. Fortunately, this means I can still teach and write.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
In high school I earned the nickname Trickster for doing magic tricks in art class. My middle name is Trixie. I went with Trick Question because the name Trixie was already taken by the show, and as a teacher I like trick questions. If I were a pony, I’d probably be an earth pony obsessed with magic. My cutie mark is an interrobang reflected into a heart shape.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Pinkie Pie, with Scootaloo and Luna close behind. Nonetheless, most of my stories are about Twilight Sparkle. She goes well with drama.
What’s your favorite episode?
There are too many wonderful episodes to choose between! But in terms of connecting with the message, “Equestria Games” stands out. Spike’s lesson about the importance of being able to let go of your past mistakes hits me square in the gut.
What do you get from the show?
I enjoy the creative fandom, the people in it, the messages and stories of the show itself, and the interplay between the fans and the show. I love most of the characters, and I see a lot of myself in Pinkie and Twilight. Friendship is Magic has the largest number of interesting and well-developed female characters I’ve ever seen in a fictional work, and it manages to cover issues relevant for adults while still being accessible to children.
What do you want from life?
I want to share feelings, messages, and ideas. I want to make other people happy, because I like people. This also lets me be vicariously happy through them, in a sense.
Why do you write?
Reading pony fiction showed me that sad situations can hide happy messages, and my discovery that stories could make me feel such deep things led me to start writing again. I write specifically because I have things to say. With rare exception, everything I write has a deeper meaning nestled within it. Sometimes the meaning is obvious, and sometimes nopony figures it out, but that’s okay. Any tale will be different from reader to reader, because stories are a combination of the author’s and reader’s minds.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Be willing to give up control over your story to the reader, even if that means their mental picture won’t be a perfect copy of yours. When there are unimportant details that aren’t relevant to the story, let the reader’s imagination do the work instead. If telling the reader everypony’s mane and eye color adds nothing to the story, you don’t have to include those details. Don’t try to control a reader’s thoughts by using qualifying adjectives like “powerful” or “angry”. When Trixie says that she’s powerful, is that actually convincing?
Readers won’t believe value judgments if you try to force-feed them. Instead, meet them halfway: provide the reader with visual details, and trust them to form the judgments on their own. Make the reader feel “this thing is powerful” or “this pony is angry” by describing hints that will lead them to draw those conclusions. Good writing will trick your audience into believing that the feelings and ideas in the story came from within themselves. This allows them to become a participant in a shared experience.
What inspired “Motherly”?
FanOfMostEverything had an “Imposing Sovereigns” contest, whose theme was about princesses exerting power over their environment. The Season 6 finale was recent in my mind, and I realized a story about Chrysalis’ rise to power would allow me to humanize her, and to say something important about the nature of love transcending even the most alien mindset.
How hard was it to slip into the changeling mindset for this piece?
It wasn’t hard, primarily because I was working toward a specific ending and the characters were already humanized in my mind. This let me show tiny bits of humanity peeking through as the story progressed.
Even when your stories visit some pretty dark places, you still manage to keep an indefinable air of Ponyness about them. How do you walk that tightrope?
I don’t write morbid for its own sake. Most of my messages have a positive side, one that makes you want to hug the characters even when they do things you might not agree with. I don’t write stories where abuse happens for no reason and without any consequence. The strongest message of the show is to care about others. I want my characters, even when in great conflict, to love each other. I want them to realize how special their friendships are. I want my readers to feel that special connection, even when I take them into dark places.
Do you plan out your stories beforehand, or do you prefer letting them grow in the typing?
I’m spontaneous, like a certain pink pony. I don’t plan my short stories, but I always have the ending firmly in mind before I begin writing. For long stories, I sometimes need a little planning. The Price of a Smile was planned out chapter by chapter because each chapter had a slightly different focus toward the larger message. Broken Symmetry actually required me to draw diagrams before I could start writing. But even in those cases, I allow the individual chapters to grow organically.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Reading even short fiction is remarkably difficult for me because of the painkillers. That’s one of the reasons I participate in the Writeoff competitions hosted by The Writeoff Association on Fimfiction: it forces me to read, and that helps me learn how to write more effectively. Even more valuable is the significant amount of feedback that comes from the Writeoff experience. It’s the main reason I’ve improved so much in my writing over the past two years. If you write, you should seek honest feedback and take it seriously even if you don’t agree with it at first. And as Twilight Sparkle would undoubtedly say, keep reading!