Today’s story is a tale of love written in the sky.
[Romance] [Slice of Life] • 2,968 words
A thousand years ago he was turning Equestria into a hotbed of mayhem.
Five years ago he was growing moss and lichen on his shoulders.
Today he’s asking Celestia out on a date.
Celestia didn’t know such a creature as Discord would be able to change so radically without it being part of some elaborate prank. But what’s more unsettling, she didn’t know she’d be able to change just as drastically. As she finds new feelings for the Master of Chaos, she begins to have doubts toward the integrity of her desires, and suspicions of her sister’s possible involvement.
FROM THE CURATORS: For a story about Celestia struggling with the ambiguity of her romantic feelings, this had some delicious ambiguity of its own. “The best thing about this story is that Dislestia shippers can read it as a straight romance,” Chris said in his nomination, “and people like me can read it as a psychological horror story, and it still works.” And while we disagreed on the specifics of the piece’s depth — “The subtext, especially of that final scene, steers away from the psychological horror interpretations … which is not to say that Luna’s free of mischief, and that extra layer adds a delicious complexity to the piece,” Horizon said — we agreed on its richness. “The storytelling here is so wonderfully measured, like the ticking of a grandfather clock,” AugieDog said. “It’s still sneaky, though, jumping back and forth in time, and more than a little cryptic with its sparse dialogue and frequent silences. So it’s got a nice mix of qualities associated with Celestia, Discord, and Luna.”
Indeed, the story’s portrayal of those three drove much of our praise. “The characters are presented in interesting ways, and it’s a good bit deeper than your average shipfic,” Present Perfect said. Horizon agreed: “The big thing right is the character work here,” he said, “often subdued and subtle but sometimes with the prose just blossoming like a flower. Like: ‘I think that love, in its own way, is a kind of chaos. Thwarting logic, driving us to do the impossible. Sounds like the kind of thing that would come naturally to him.'”
We found the rest of the prose equally quotable. “The author gets a lot of mileage out of the smallest actions,” Chris said, citing the story’s final sentence (to which Horizon responded, “That last line is goddamn perfect”). Chris’ praise went further: “The whole fic is like that, piling import upon trifling actions, and seeding passing fancies and casual memories with a deeper significance.” That layered with its thematic richness, AugieDog said: “The story here does have a somewhat haunted air to it, with all its talk of night and the sea and autumn.” As Horizon put it, that added up to an exemplary package: “All in all, this is solid and poignant and endlessly surprising.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Rocket Lawn Chair discusses thigh proportions, bending backward, and the seventeenth try.
Give us the standard biography.
Bumbling around in my mid-twenties, trying to figure out how to release the dice from my hands in this game of chance we call “life”. A less-pompous translation: I’m very inquisitive, and like trying all kinds of things without actually sitting down to get really good at any of those things. I write. Sometimes I play trumpet. I doodle. Built a Tesla Coil years ago. Huge fan of MtG. And so on.
I studied to be a mechanical engineer, and became one. People told me I should write more when I was in high school, and I guess their shouts finally caught up to me.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Well, it’s been through at least one iteration. Bottom line, though, I love playing with words and playing on words. The phrase “Rocket Lawn Chair” flitted through my head one day, and I had a little chuckle about it. Then I decided to use it as a penname for no better reason than it gave me a little chuckle.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Any episode where AJ does something incredibly stupid makes my skin crawl. Then, when she turns it around, I’m rooting for her all the way. I see much of myself in this country pony, from her level-headed practical attitude to her aversion of the spotlight. I internalize her mistakes, hating her for them as I’d hate myself for them. Though I celebrate her triumphs, I don’t internalize those so much.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Lesson Zero.” Twilight wears insanity well, probably too well. It was a fun break to her typical character, to see what happens when she finally snaps.
What do you get from the show?
Warm fuzzies? Fanfic material? Sometimes I find a lesson, not expecting how serendipitously it would align with my current problems.
What do you want from life?
Ah jeez, one of these questions … alright, it’s fair. I guess I’d like to be remembered somehow. As Ray Bradbury so eloquently put in Fahrenheit 451, I’d like to have “something my hand touched in some way so my soul has somewhere to go when I die.”
And a brandy. I’d really like a brandy right now. Life’s a stingy bastard sometimes.
Why do you write?
See previous question. That, and because words don’t go away quietly when they’re in my head. When they do go away, I feel dirty. Like I let a close friend go. Those words could have been an amazing story.
Writing helps me hunt down parts of myself that I don’t understand and pin them to a page so they can be studied, classified, and put in a little exhibit for myself or other people to see and/or flee.
Besides that, I write for fun, or because I can’t help it, or because my conscience has been nagging me.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
I hear advice all the time, but these two pieces I felt were properly earned:
Listen to smart people with good, interesting ideas. Even if it’s not about writing, you’ll hear nuggets of wisdom that’ll carry over into your craft. For background noise I might dive into a long psychology lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson, or listen to PlagueOfGripes bitch and moan about how he didn’t get the thigh proportions right on his recent sexy drawing. Listening to people work outside writing gives you a new perspective for some problem you may have been trying to tackle in your story for months. On that note, really dig into the meat of what interests you.
And lastly (probably my worst sin) don’t compare yourself to others unfairly. It’s so easy to see all the terrible mistakes you made in your story, then attempt to prop it against some godsend story you read. It feels like putting the Chapel of Florence beside the model you made with Play-Doh. The best way I’ve found to overcome this is to interact with other writers, to learn who they are personally, hopefully even beyond writing. We’re all a bunch of crummy human beings with our own wants and fears. Sometimes that’s hard to see through a magnum opus-tinted lens. Talk to writers to remind yourself that they’re people, too (I’m always down to chat, send me a PM).
What inspired “Star-Crossed”?
A perfect storm of perfectly terrible ideas that originated in a DisLestia comedy ship I’d been trying to write for months. Looking back through my docs folder, I have no less than sixteen false starts for that stupid story; some less than a page long, others containing entire chapters. Star-Crossed came at a time I was so fed up with not having written out a full rough draft for the comedy ship that I decided to crank out a condensed version in a week. What I got wasn’t anywhere near comedy, but I was so happy to finally have something written that I didn’t care. It was me grinding through ideas for how to make this ship happen in my notebook. The cosmic hypnotism idea kind of came out of nowhere, but it really grew on me as I wrote.
So, overall, I’d say it was inspired by feeling lost and aimless, looking for some hint that you’ll still get where you need to go.
Is it the siren call of stability that Discord hears when looking at Celestia?
I wouldn’t say the idea of stability attracts him. He starts to realize as he develops feelings for Celestia that he may be changing. I’m not sure, but somebody may have said that when we bend over backwards for somebody, the entire world starts to look upside-down.
His fear is sort of the opposite of Celestia’s: On one hand, Celestia attempts to rationalize her irrational (she believes) feelings for Discord by assigning blame to her sister. On the other, Discord attempts to chaositize his growing clarity of emotions by withdrawing into uncertainty, where he is naturally more comfortable.
If Celestia is trying to make sense of her feelings, I imagined Discord would try to make nonsense of his. Not a whacky nonsense, but an attempt to remove definition from them.
Which does Celestia mistrust more: her own feelings or Luna’s intentions?
Certainly her own feelings. What she feels doesn’t make sense to her, so she believes there must be a reason for it. It’s a bit like how Twilight acted when she first learned about Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense, where everything silly about it must have been for some reason that could be scientifically deduced.
Celestia tries to pour all her mistrust into Luna’s intentions. It would be more comfortable for her to know that her inexplicable feelings had been controlled by an outside force, and not by something changing inside herself that she could not control.
Did you intend for Luna to come across here more as helpful or manipulative?
I think she came off as more manipulative than I’d intended.
I wanted her to look more helpful, that she was only giving Discord a nudge in the right direction. She speaks cautiously around her sister on the issue because she knows how suspicious she looks, and doesn’t want Celestia to get the wrong idea. She has all the best intentions to simply make her sister and Discord happy. No evil long-term plot. She’s basically doing what the CMC did to Cheerilee and Big Mac, but with more informed tact, and stars instead of love poison.
This is a tricky personal issue for me as I go about seeking my own relationships. Would I want a friend to help set me up with only as much interference as was needed? Or would I prefer to hazard my own way, and possibly never meet that person, but feel it was more sincere?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Hey, this was a real treat to be featured by The Library! I’m humbled and grateful these reviewers took some time to inflate my ego, and allowed me to write oxymorons like the one in this sentence.
Here’s a quick shout-out to two friends I’ve made through fanfiction: Silver Scrolls and 7th Outpost. Without them, I wouldn’t be staying the fanfic course, or have been so challenged to improve my writing.
(Honorable mention to Horizon for being the Chapel of Florence to my Play-Doh castle. In a good way.)