You don’t have to travel to a magical land of ponies to see greatness in today’s story.
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 11,594 words
Pinkie has one month to throw a party that’s out of this world. Which is exactly where she’ll receive the training she needs.
Can she brave the trials of artistic integrity, heavy rainfall, an actual literal gun, and thinking too hard about why she went to Equestria in the first place?
FROM THE CURATORS: One of the things that makes fanfiction great is the way that it pushes beyond the safe and familiar in order to explore more unusual ideas — a quality on full display with Partyquest‘s gentle merging of polar opposites. “As Aragon pointed out in the results post for the ‘Comedy Is Serious Business’ contest, this makes good on its daring decision to mix some genuine drama in with its out-and-out silliness,” Horizon said, and the story won curator praise on both sides of that spectrum. “This is a fic that does everything just right,” Soge said. “The drama feels impactful and gives the whole thing some real weight, characterizations are well done and very well utilized, and, most importantly, the comedy really hits home.”
Our praise for the story, however, extended much farther than its tonal balancing act. “I have a soft spot for EqG humans in Equestria, but this does far more with the concept than simply have technicolor apes be tourists in Horseland,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination. “It characterizes everyone involved with pitch-perfect precision, doing more with Somnambula in particular than literally any other ponyfic I’ve read.” FOME wasn’t the only one appreciating the characters. “Party Favor’s hard-boiled noir narrator shtick is amazing, Somnambula’s excitement over modern Equestria is adorable, and Cheese Sandwich demonstrates why party ponies are so important to Equestria,” Present Perfect said. “But it’s that golden nugget of Pinkie’s insecurity and self-doubts that makes this story work.” And that character work reinforced the comedy, Soge said: “Sci-Twi and Human Pinkie make for a great comedic duo, the situations are clever, the pacing is brisk, and even the referential humor was well realized (like the Blazing Saddles nod).”
That all added up to a story that impressed us on many levels. “Much like the best presentations of Pinkie, there’s solid substance under the fun fluff,” FanOfMostEverything said. Horizon agreed, citing some of the standout moments: “This does an exemplary job making gags out of the little details (‘funslingers’, Sci-Twi’s post-pointing faceplant, etc), and gets some solid running gags in like Twilight’s various book titles,” he said. “With all its laugh-out-loud moments mixed into the consistent cleverness, it’s easy to see why this was one of the contest winners.”
Read on for our author interview, in which R5h discusses filthy hobos, Camden cars, and recursively horsey horsewomen.
Give us the standard biography.
It’s pretty standard. I’m basically just a dude who was surprised how much he liked the show about horses, and then was surprised he started writing about the show about horses. I started writing in 2011/2012, took a break for about two years in 2015, and got back into it in 2017. And life’s been good ever since!
When I’m not engaged in horse-based wonderment, I work in the central US as a software developer.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Back when I was a wee lad, my first online game was Runescape. God, that game was fun in its heyday! Since it was the first thing I ever played with an online account, that was the first time I’d ever needed a username. I chose Runer5h: “Runer” because of the game, and “5h” referring to my address at the time. (Also, I thought it would be unique: all sorts of people had names ending in numbers, but how many had a name that ended in a number, followed by a letter? Even then my genius was apparent.)
Anyway, I abbreviated it to plain old R5h as I grew older, and moved to more mature pursuits. Like writing about horses, and horsewomen, and recursively horsey horsewomen.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Oh, that’s a really tough decision. There’s so many great choices — Sunset, Rarity, Maud, Sweetie Belle — but if I absolutely had to pick one, I guess I’d go with Trixie. I love everything about her: all of her worst traits (cares more about snacks than the Friendship Map; is constantly petty toward Twilight; once fell asleep in AJ’s orchard like the filthy dirty hobo she is) and all her best traits (would literally die for Starlight; is astonishingly brave; has shown unexpected empathy for not only Starlight, but Sunset too [at least, human Trixie has]).
It’s amazing because in a show full of ponies who are constantly trying to be nice and striving to better themselves … you have Trixie, who doesn’t give a shit. She’s just terrible. Which not only makes her amazing in and of itself, but also makes her moments of genuineness shine through all the brighter.
Also, Kathleen Barr does amazing voice work for her. She’s consistently a hoot.
What’s your favorite episode?
And you continue to play hardball.
I think that in this case, I can’t choose just one episode. “Slice of Life” was balls-out from start to finish; “The Cutie Map” was dark as hell and pulled it off beautifully; “Shadow Play” managed to tie together years of ridiculous canon and was a dang good finale at the same time; and “Best Night Ever” features the Mane 6 at some of their craziest. Sorry, but I can’t narrow it down.
What do you get from the show?
Well, as a bunch of us realized to our astonishment about seven-and-a-bit years ago, it’s good. Not all the time, but throughout seven seasons it’s managed to surprise me with its consistency, and I have high hopes for season 8! Seriously, there’s so much feel-good stuff and redemption and humor and surprisingly mature examinations of all sorts of situations, and I love it!
(Also, it airs consistently, unlike a certain other show which shall remain unnamed. Let’s just say it starts with “Ste”.)
Besides that, I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world thanks to this fandom. Nothing quite like a shared interest to bring people together, especially if it’s one which other people frequently look down upon.
(And ends with “ven Universe”.)
Finally, not a lot of shows have a world as expansive and as fanfic-friendly as this one — and not many fandoms are as committed to curating and promoting high-quality content as this one. I mean, look at FiMFiction itself! Look at all the fanfiction contests, and at groups like RCL or Seattle’s Angels! Or the now-defunct Royal Guard, which I used to be part of. The point is, it’s really impressive to me how great the fan content is for this show.
(It’s Steven Universe.)
What do you want from life?
Stability, I guess? A job I can do that makes me enough money to live comfortably, buy cool stuff for my loved ones, and travel to visit them on occasion. And I guess free time for fanfic writing into the mix.
Why do you write?
Originally? Because none of you people were doing it right.
No, seriously — when I got into MLP, I was already really into Doctor Who, and thus I became enamored with Doctor Hooves. I also really liked all the fanon about all the background ponies. So I set out a-questing for something very specific: a Doctor Who crossover fanfic where the Doctor had Derpy Hooves, Vinyl Scratch, Octavia, Lyra, and Bon Bon as his companions.
And I found one!
And it sucked.
So, like Thanos at the end of Avengers 2, I did it myself. Thus I came up with “The Majestic Tale (of a Mad Pony in a Box)“. It was my first fic, my magnum opus, my epic! (Pro-tip: do not try to make your first published story your “magnum opus”. When I ran out of passion for that story, I burned out hard.) But what I found was that I liked it — and that it was challenging in an unusual way for me. Most of the stuff I do is STEM-related, so doing something that’s more creatively inclined is really fun and engaging.
Six years later, I guess it hasn’t changed that much. I write because people like it, I write for recognition, I write because it’s a challenge every time … but I guess most of all, I write because there’s missing stories out there, and someone’s gotta do it.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Well, first of all, I spend a lot of time these days in the #writing-help chat on the FiMFic Discord. So if you wanna know what advice I have, you can probably pop in there and ask!
And second of all, I feel like I wanna give two wildly contradictory sets of advice. One for writing, and one for editing.
When you’re writing … write about what inspires you. And I truly do not care what that is: if it’s sweet as cane syrup, or tragic and super-dark, or just plain weird, write it if that’s where the spirit is moving you. And write fearlessly. Don’t worry about it, just have fun and be yourself.
And then, editing.
The trouble is that while writing is something you do for yourself, editing is kinda-sorta something you do for other people. Namely, me, because I’m in #writing-help and people ask for help a lot. So here’s some editing tips:
- For all you new writers there: read. Read until your eyes are sore. Read Pratchett and Adams and Rowling and King and Vonnegut and Bradbury and Asimov and Christie and Tolkien and, I dunno, whoever you want, but read. Learn how the rules of grammar and spelling work, and how stories go together, and so on. Because trust me, those of us whom you ask for help will appreciate the work you’ve put in.
- When you’re done with your story … put it down. Wait a day. Sleep, eat, jog, etc. Come back to it with fresh eyes, or at least reasonably fresh. You’ll catch more things that way.
- If people are trying to tell you that your main character who has every superpower ever and is perfect at everything might not be the greatest idea for an OC, don’t assume it’s in bad faith. Or really, if they’re telling you anything about your story. You don’t have to agree with whatever people say, but please be open to criticism that doesn’t line up with what you thought the criticism might be.
- Spellcheck might be your friend, but he’s not a very good one. He’ll hang out with you on weekends but he won’t, say, help you bury a body. To put it another way, don’t assume that spellcheck has caught all the typos in your story. Be careful of homonyms and grammatical problems and such.
- Burn your thesaurus. Set it on fire and get rid of it. For the most part, you’re not doing anyone any favors by using overcomplicated quasi-synonyms in place of simple words like, for instance, “said”.
- Kill your darlings. Okay, I’m stealing this one from Stephen King (or Oscar Wilde, or William Faulkner, or whoever the hell said it first), but it’s damn good advice. Everything in your story exists for the purpose of your story. If the best goddamn line in your fic doesn’t advance the plot, or develop a character, or set up a scene, or do anything else except look pretty and distract the reader, there’s a darned good chance you should ditch it. As they say, perfection is achieved not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to take away.
What inspired “Partyquest”?
It’s a multifaceted story, so a couple of things inspired it. About the darker elements… let’s say that some people I know have been going through some troubles recently, and move on.
As for the rest, I’d been trying to think of something to write to kick off the new year, and I figured I’d go meta: a story about writing stories. At least in an oblique kind of way. Making parties is an artistic endeavor, right? Somehow this story idea got mixed up with the darker idea, and that’s when the basic plot of Partyquest came together: half writing metaphor, half vent piece.
Here’s the kicker, though: I was thinking it would take something like 30k to write the story, and I had no idea how to start it.
And then Aragon rolled out his contest, which was perfect for this story, except for that little niggling detail about how it had a hard wordcount limit of 12k words. So I figured, what the hell, why not write Partyquest in less than half the words I thought I was gonna need!
Looking back, shortening the story was definitely the right choice for two reasons. Firstly, it lit the fire under my derriere that I needed to make the story happen (“write a 12k fic in a month” is more urgent and achievable than “write a 30k fic in … however long”). Secondly, that bit I said before about editing, and perfection being achieved when there’s nothing to take away — that’s definitely applicable to Partyquest, or at least the “nothing to take away” part is. This story is about as bare-bones as it can possibly be, like a car left in Camden overnight.
Did you come up with the lessons Pinkie needed to learn first and then decide what characters would teach them to her, or did you pick the characters she would meet and then decide what they could teach her?
The teachers first, actually. After all, there’s only so many party ponies — whether primary (Pinkie Sr., Favor, Sandwich) or peripheral (Luna, Somnambula, and Discord even if he’s not a pony). I guess I’m lucky it worked out as well as it did, with Luna being able to bring up Pinkie’s nightmares directly, and Somnambula’s hope pulling through at the end. As the ponies got less party-y, I was able to incorporate more of Pinkie’s underlying issues in there.
Which leads me nicely into your next question …
How did you go about balancing the comedic aspects of the story with the serious ones?
This one’s a toughie to answer, because at the time it felt like I was just doing what seemed right. Looking back, though, I guess what I’d say is … there was never a point in the fic where it wasn’t serious. Pinkie was under that stress the whole time, and whether it was obvious or not it always played into how she was acting.
And yet on the other hand, the lightness doesn’t ever fully vanish either. There’s humor, and of course hope, even in the darkest of moments. And at the end, even though it’s not all tied off 100% of the way, Pinkie’s able to have a good time with her family.
So I guess the “secret” is, don’t try to “switch” between being comedic and being serious. It’s more about putting different parts of the story to the forefront or letting them take a backseat at times.
Would you say that your experience reviewing Ponyfic for the late, lamented Royal Guard group helped your writing?
Honestly, though. The Royal Guard was a great time for a lot of its existence, and I don’t regret being a part of it, but I think that its impact on my writing was mixed. On the one hand, I got better at recognizing plot issues and grammatical mistakes and such pretty quickly. On the other hand, it certainly contributed to my burnout, which led to me taking over a year off from writing MLP fanfic. So … eh.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I’ve been aiming for the RCL for years, so it’s an honor to finally make it in! Thanks for the feature, and thanks to everyone who helped inspire or edit this story (Aragon, MrNumbers, and Majin Syeekoh for doing the contest; Pearple Prose and Oroboro for prereading; Lia Aqila for the cover art; and other people in my life who shall go unnamed). To all my readers, as well: thanks, and don’t worry. There’s more where that came from!
Now I just have to see if I can get featured twice.
Thanks again, and toodles!