Give in to the temptation of reading today’s story.
As Horns and Halos Surround You
[Slice of Life] • 4,809 words
Rarity’s little Temptation ends up on pins and needles. Literally.
With her shoulder-devil out of commission, other Temptations pop into her life to pick up the slack from their fallen sister.
FROM THE CURATORS: The recent “Make Rarity Not Garbage” contest produced quality stories up and down the line — such as this fun and imaginative romp, which finished outside the top three but caught our eyes with its creativity regardless. “The big memorable thing here is obviously the concept,” Soge said in his nomination. “It’s a fresh take on the idea of autonomous consciences, and one that feels distinctively pony — the kind of effortless worldbuilding that seemed to be more common during earlier seasons.” Others agreed: “The concept is so wonderful, it pretty much bulldozes all other considerations to the side,” AugieDog said. “What’s here is great fun, though, and the characters are spot on.”
A large part of that was the way the story used its premise to reflect on canon. “I love how the little shoulder devils we meet reflect not only the characters but the Equestrian setting,” AugieDog said. “Yes, Twilight’s Temptation keeps wanting her to make more use of her alicorn powers, but toward benevolent ends — or at least as benevolent as publishing academic papers can be — and Fluttershy’s is still celebrating the way Fluttershy stood up for herself during ‘Fame and Misfortune.'” AugieDog wasn’t the only one appreciating the way this story looked from a fresh angle at the characters we know and love. “It is a very comfy kind of fic, but with enough substance to it to keep me interested,” Soge said. “It explores its theme admirably, and ends up making some really nice considerations about the Mane 6 and their lives.” And Horizon had similar praise: “The side characters stole the show. I laughed out loud at the fate of Twilight’s Temptation.”
That entertainment value was one of our most frequent compliments. “This was fun!” Present Perfect said. “And it taught me that stories where what’s metaphor for us is common reality for ponies are my favorite kind of ponyfic.” So it was a bonus pleasure to find the story not just entertaining but educational. “Googling the story’s subtitle taught me that little good and bad sprites like this are a part of the Islamic tradition,” AugieDog said. “The things one learns from reading Ponyfic!”
Read on for our author interview, in which Norm De Plume discusses equine homecomings, Canadian musicians, and scimitar-flinging fairies.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m 41, Canadian, and an original G1 fan. 8 years old, sitting there watching colourful ponies like Bow Tie, Firefly, Medley, Glory, and probably worrying my parents. (“The boy’s watching girls’ shows! Why does he want pony toys?” Joke’s on them. Now that I’m in my 40s, I have all the ponies I could ever need.)
I’ve been through a few fandoms. Started off writing my own terrible stories in G1 from about ‘93-‘97, then moved to Sailor Moon fandom briefly. I joined the anime multiverse for a few years, writing for a friends’ fanfic series that flung his own self-inserts around like chew toys. Then, after college, I joined the Harry Potter fandom in 2004 just in time for the Goblet of Fire book markdown (Whee, 50% off!). That lasted until 2011 when rumblings reached me of a new MLP series taking the internet by storm. Once I saw it, I knew I had to come home again.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It comes from Lorne Elliott, a Canadian folk musician, standup comedian, radio host, and rival to Adagio Dazzle for wildest hair. He once joked that his pen name would either be Norm De Plume, or B.S. Elliott.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Applejack! It did my heart good to see her in G4, but she was there mostly because her and Spike’s trademarks were the only ones Hasbro hadn’t somehow lost over the last 30 years. It took me a couple episodes to get used to the ack-cent. And the hat.
Now, I say Applejack is Best Pony, but who do I write most often? Rarity. Rarity is so different from Best Pony, it’s comical how often I do fics with her. I can’t help it. Rarity’s the one who steps out for new experiences, who doesn’t rely on routine or get caught in a rut (Applejack’s Day Off), and who pitches the most marvelous fits.
But I gave Applejack Fancy Pants to date, to love, and to move in with. That means I love her the most.
What’s your favorite episode?
At the moment? “Rock Solid Friendship”. I appreciate Maudelina Daisy Pie more here than I do in any of her other episodes. Although once the show makes a Limestone Dirtnap Pie episode, that will take over top spot.
What do you get from the show?
A connection to my first fandom. I wrote G1 fanfic back in the mid-90s in high school, before the internet was invented. Twin red and black unicorn OCs along with my super-powered humanized self-insert. Dear God, I was such a teenager.
Now, 7 seasons later? I get the joy of watching fanfic writers get Jossed with each new episode.
What do you want from life?
Chacun a son goût. (Hey, lots of people would like to see me be more bilingual. Don’t know what their problem is, since I already speak French twice a year.)
I’m a collector. That’s a dangerous thing. What we want most is what’s next on the list, that piece that isn’t in your collection but you know is out there. This is followed closely by the hope that when you’re all done collecting, someone else will take all this crap off your hands for more than you originally paid.
Why do you write?
If I didn’t write, I’d be an editor. Writing is preferable because at least I can yell at myself for the crap I come up with. When I yell at other writers, it doesn’t go so well.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
After 222 RCL posts, there isn’t much I can say that previous honorees haven’t covered. Other than “Don’t listen to me, I’m an idiot and a hypocrite” (See above: yelling at other writers).
Still, if you insist, and if you take writing fanfiction seriously (although not to the point where you are ‘Writing’), don’t rest on your successes. Because you will go back to that success in a month or two, and immediately every flaw and bad word choice will smack you in the face. You will want to fix everything right then and there.
Remember that feeling and put it towards your next effort.
And for God’s sake, be original. Safe, tried, and easy will get you popularity, but fame is fleeting. Pride and a sense of accomplishment will go much, much farther.
What inspired “As Horns and Halos Surround You”?
I’d saved this idea for a special situation, and the “Make Rarity Not Garbage” contest run by The Barcast team was ideal. I like shoulder angel/devils overall. Kronk’s from The Emperor’s New Groove, Good Excel blowing away Bad Excel and being arrested by Police Officer Excel from Excel Saga, etc.
There’s a sort of expectancy that, if one appears, the other is close behind, because there’s balance. So what if illness meant a shoulder devil didn’t show up one day?
The original inspiration was a ASMR video where a woman doctor produced a Conscience and Temptation from the viewer’s ears (not seen on screen), but the thought that they were part of a physical, medical procedure, originally struck me as a starting point.
My first concepts rarely reach fruition in their original form, and while I pinged various “Critter combos” with other fic writers, the story took shape where Rarity received a loan of other Temptations. The first draft felt like a bunch of “Here’s Rarity’s next friend’s devil, doing things she doesn’t agree with!” and it was only when I envisioned the shoulder critters as a union executive that the final product made some sense.
Why make the various Temptations we meet here not as wicked as the traditional “devil on the shoulder” we’ve seen for so long in cartoons?
Ponies are way higher on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They pretty much start with ‘self-actualization’, as their full potential is embodied in a cutie mark. The Mane 6 might even have reached self-transcendence, giving themselves to Equestria as Elements of Harmony. Now how do you disrupt that? I mean, obviously, you can, but I believe ponies are meant to be happy, so they’ve done a fairly good job at wearing down the diabolical schemes of their Temptations.
As Cold in Gardez said in Completely Safe In The Reference Section, ““Applejack is a complex pony with a wide range of interests and characteristics, Rainbow. Not only is Honesty her Element and primary value, but she is also a loving, hardworking and determined mare.“ The most temptation she’s succumbed to is kicking a snoozing Rainbow Dash out of her apple tree.
Temptations have their pony’s best interests at heart, to the exclusion of all others, and if they’re to keep their ponies happy, they must adjust their missions somewhat. Also, herd animals tend to be more aware of the other members, so Temptations can’t cause too much trouble, or you’re no longer part of the herd.
Were you familiar with the Islamic concept of the Kiraman Katibin before writing the story?
I was not aware of their origin before I began my research. But naturally, the Noble Writers are Islamic, the angels who record the deeds of man to report to Allah. Looks like the West went “Hey, yeah, good idea. Let’s tweak that a little.”
The pony versions don’t report to any higher authority other than their executive councils. The councils are voted on, and Honorable Recorders do get a day off to cast their ballots. It’s when most pitchfork mixups happen, in the voting booth.
Have you considered putting together more Tales of the Noble Recorders?
The possibilities are endless, I admit. Zealous Sparkle alone, the 2nd Temptation of Twilight Sparkle, is a pony I’d love to take a deeper look at. Or maybe the Pie Family Recorders.
At the same time, I hate sequels (says the man who spent 20 months finishing the final third of a trilogy with Sirens, only to need an epilogue to wrap it all together. x.x) and who knows what I’ll do next.
My main goal is originality, even when I’m flailing around knee-deep in 15K+ words of clop, and it’s hard to act like a movie studio and go back to ‘tried, tested, and true.’
Although if I did come back to the Recorders, I could commission more lovely critter art from JennDyLyon. :D
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Looking back at it, I’m surprised no one wondered just how Twilight procured a second Temptation. If Honorable Recorders come in pairs, where’s the other Conscience that should be with that Temptation? Do Temptations change appearance to match their pony if they get reassigned? Or does one have to wait until a new Recorder is born/comes along on a baby’s laugh, like the Disney Fairies of Pixie Hollow?
[Offhand, Disney Fairies are tiny badasses. Go watch The Pirate Fairy and or Legend of the Neverbeast, even the Pixie Hollow Games. Zarina is a few inches tall, but can hold her own duelling Captain Hook in his prime and fling full-sized scimitars through solid oak. Bad. Ass.]