Today’s story about Equestrian harvest legends will grow on you.
The Legend of the Scorpion Queen
[Romance] [Sad] • 16,226 words
On the eve of the Day of Reaping, the start of the Equestrian Harvest, it is traditional that a legend be told over supper: the legend of how the traditions surrounding the Day of Reaping came to be. It is a story of love, ambition, and vengeance.
Long before Equestria, a grand Unicorn King maintains a splendid garden. On one of his travels he brings a scorpion back to live within it. That scorpion, resentful of being removed from her home, sets out to have her revenge.
FROM THE CURATORS: While MLP offers plenty of material from which fanfic authors can draw, sometimes it’s inspiring to see the ways in which authors use the show as a springboard to dig into more mythic roots. “This is a great fairy tale, resting on classic tropes while weaving a completely original story,” Present Perfect said in his nomination — and while our response to the story’s MLP connection was measured, the comments on its quality weren’t. “This is a touching story about love, trust, betrayal, and redemption, and while I don’t see something like this fitting all too well with show canon, I can see something like this as part of a ‘Pony 1001 nights’,” Soge said, while AugieDog name-dropped prior features: “It’ll make a good pair with The Lighthouse and the Sea as far as ‘pony fairy tales’ go.”
Sharp character work was cited as a factor in its strength. “If anything makes this work, it’s the scorpion herself,” Present Perfect said. “I fully expected her to eventually fall for the King, but the way her motivation changes is interesting and keeps the story moving along.” But theme and tone also were singled out for praise. “I really appreciated that the author didn’t feel the need to force a happy ending, instead opting for a more bittersweet but still uplifting finish,” Chris said. “To me, that felt very appropriate both to the story (being about the nature of revenge, as it is) and to the in-universe conceit.”
That added up to an exemplary package of self-contained mythology. “There’s an effortlessness with which the narrative is presented, and the whole thing really does feel like an actual in-universe story that ponies would tell,” Present Perfect said. Chris’ recommendation summarized the story’s strengths: “It’s probably not a good choice for readers looking for something with a strong Equestrian tone, but for fans of folktales, this is a must-read.”
Read on for our author interview, in which cursedchords discusses arranged sunsets, handy tissues, and prospective accountants.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a 25-year-old Canadian fellow currently working as a software engineer in Calgary, Alberta, though I originally grew up in a tiny, middle-of-nowhere town in Manitoba. MLP is the first universe that I’ve seriously written fanfics for, though I had experimented with short original work for a number of years before that. Something about MLP, though, told me to take it a bit more seriously this time. In my free time, I enjoy tabletop RPGs, as well as the MLP collectible card game, for which I publish a weekly blog and also host a Twitch stream every two weeks.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
There isn’t really an origin story to the name; it was something that randomly came into my head as I sat in front of a registration screen some years ago. I imagine that it must have been related to some music that I was into back then, but I honestly don’t remember.
Who’s your favorite pony?
My Fimfic profile picture makes no real bones about this one. Celestia has always been the character that intrigues me most out of any on the show, since Equestria’s history and world is what drew me into the show, and so much of that story is inextricably linked to her. She fascinates me, because clearly her story must be an epic one, and it’s one that’s been largely untold in the canon. So I just love thinking about her, and trying to fill in these gaps in her past as best as I can.
It’s worth noting that I do have a special liking for Rarity, too. I find her one of the most consistently entertaining characters on the show.
What’s your favorite episode?
So as a general disclaimer before I answer this, I’ve been waiting for the Netflix release of Season 7, so I haven’t seen most of those episodes yet. Right now, Crusaders of the Lost Mark stands for me as the pinnacle of what the show has been able to achieve. Episodes that can evince real emotion always stand high in my regard, and that episode was one of the most satisfying endings to an arc that the show has had so far. All presented in a beautiful and emotional package. There was nothing to criticize to it.
What do you get from the show?
Like I said above, what drew me into the show first off was the world of Equestria. How does their government work? How does their magic work? How do their transportation systems work? I wanted to answer all of these questions. Even now, whenever an episode reveals a hint of elaboration about the show’s world, I have to factor it into everything else that we’ve seen, to build a more complete picture of Equestria.
I was a pretty cynical person when I started watching, and it took a number of seasons for me to leave that behind. One day I realized that I actually cared about this story and these characters, even more than the mechanical questions I still had about the world. Now, each new episode is like reading a new chapter in an epic novel. I want to see where all of these arcs are going, and how they are all going to end.
What do you want from life?
I feel like I’m still young enough to chase after achievements and goals. Right now, the elation at finishing a project or completing some milestone is what I live for. Whether that would be the next chapter in whatever story I’m working on, or seeing a story like Scorpion Queen earn acclaim like it has. If I could some day get a novel published, that would be the ultimate achievement for me.
Why do you write?
Writing, for me, is really a secondary concern. World-building is what I actually love doing, and writing is just the necessary consequence. Writing gives me the opportunity to explore these worlds to their fullest and build them up as my characters experience them. My biggest inspirations to write are the authors who created these massive, sprawling worlds, like Tolkien, Herbert, and Jordan. By creating my own worlds I think I’m chasing after the feeling I had when getting to know these other works for the first time.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Most aspiring authors, I think, have heard most of this stuff before, but it bears repeating, since there really are two pillars of good writing: reading a lot, and writing a lot. At its core, it’s the same advice I would give to a prospective accountant, or a prospective basketball player. Essentially, practice your craft, and learn from the best.
One unique thing that I think I can add to these would be to trust your own creativity. On my computer I have a dozen or so small story beginnings based on random ideas I’ve had, which ultimately didn’t go anywhere. But I think that it’s important to give your ideas a chance to bloom, and see if they work before you decide if they’re worth anything. Ultimately, Scorpion Queen itself began as one of those random experiments, with the only difference being that it happened to blossom on the page into a complete story.
Oh, and another thing: don’t betray your characters because you’re married to your outline. Often I’ll get to a spot in a draft where the outline says one thing happens, but try as I might I can’t steer the plot in that direction without it feeling forced. As I say down below, the ending for Scorpion Queen was one such place. Usually, after some thought I’ll realize that the way the story wants to do it is better anyway.
What inspired “The Legend of the Scorpion Queen”?
Fair warning, this will be a bit long-winded. TL;DR: A few different lines of thought inspired the core pieces of the story, and the main plot grew when I blended them together.
As I said above, I’ve spent a lot of time world-building for Equestria. As an agrarian society, it seemed natural to me that ponies’ calendar would revolve around the growing season, and especially around the Harvest. Since calendars are tied tightly to the stars and their annual movements across the sky, then clearly whatever rituals and traditions are associated with the Equestrian harvest would be tied to whatever constellations and stars were in the sky at the time.
The second element of the story was the sunrise, which came to me by a completely different line. I had been musing about sunrises, and how in our world they are very special because they don’t happen particularly often, relatively speaking, and really nice-looking ones are quite rare. Now, in Equestria, this wouldn’t really be true, as Celestia and Cloudsdale could arrange a colourful sunrise whenever they wanted to. But it’s clear from the show that most sunrises are pretty plain, as they would be in our world. And so the idea struck me that a colourful sunrise could be a holiday thing in Equestria. I had this idea that the colour red would probably be the colour of the Harvest season, its vibrancy symbolic of the earth’s bounty. Similar to how fireworks displays draw people together for our holidays, perhaps in Equestria there was a vibrant, red sunrise to mark the start of the Harvest.
By this time, I had already made up a few constellations that I thought early ponies would have invented, including Regia, the crown, symbolic of the monarch. Where exactly the link between Scorpius and Regia came from I can’t really remember, but the genesis of the story was those four elements coming together: the King, the scorpion, the Harvest, and the sunrise. Everything else grew on its own from that seed. In the original concept, the story was supposed to be a straight tragedy: no glimmer of hope, no happy ending, no nothing. But this happier ending sort of forced itself into the draft unbidden, and I liked it a lot better than my original idea, so I went with it.
What drew you to the idea of writing a piece of Pony mythology?
It’s possible that my answer to the question above could just be substituted in here and things would be clear enough, but essentially mythology was a way to explore the past and use it to explain the present. Once I had this idea in my head about the red Harvest sunrise and the King and the scorpion, the story sort of grew on its own, and its mythological status was just a consequence of the fact that it was explaining these traditions that form part of the fabric of Equestrian culture. I imagined The Legend of the Scorpion Queen to be the sort of story that’s told over the hearth on the eve of the harvest. Then in the morning everypony gets up to see the sunrise and contemplates on the meaning of the legend.
Why have the story take place over such a long period of time?
Scorpion Queen was the first romantic story that I tried to write, and one of the things that I wanted to do with it was properly respect the love that my characters would have. Lasting connections don’t really form over the course of a few days, and so drawing out the action I think allowed Antares and Jupiter’s bond to feel a bit more genuine. It also gives Antares a long time to wrestle with who exactly she is. She undergoes a really profound change, after all, and such things can’t happen overnight.
There was also a much blander mechanical consideration, which is simply that trees needed to grow over the course of the story, so we needed at least a few years for that.
Why not give the story a [Tragedy] tag?
The [Tragedy] tag is a really strange one, I think mostly because it carries with it a lot more baggage than the comparatively simple [Sad]. What exactly constitutes [Tragedy] can be something of a finicky point, and I’ll confess that at the time I didn’t really know if this story fit the bill. Seeing [Romance] and [Sad] means the reader knows that “I love you” is in there somewhere, and that perhaps they should consider keeping the tissues handy. And I think that conveys all of the information that I wanted the reader to have before making the decision to open the first chapter.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
First off, of course, I want to say thank you very much to the kind editors here at the Royal Canterlot Library for offering me this honour. That goes as well, really, to everyone out there who has read and enjoyed any of my stories. Sometimes, seeing a comment or a thumbs-up and knowing that someone out there could be waiting eagerly for my next chapter or story is the inspiration I need to keep on with a difficult project.
Lastly, I just want to say to any aspiring writer reading this: don’t give up. Even a couple of years ago I was still just dreaming of any kind of recognition, then one month I published this little story that had seemed like it might be pretty good, thinking nothing of it at the time. And every day I’m blown away by how well it’s done. Your next story could always be your new best. So keep on trying.