Today’s story is a blast from the past.
The Quiescence of the Crystal Empire
[Sad] • 2,569 words
Before Twilight and her friends saved the Crystal Empire, its ruler had to watch it die. Long before she meets Shining Armor and Twilight, Cadence walks through her home for the last time.
FROM THE CURATORS: Whether written eight seasons in, or in the early days of the show, one thing doesn’t change about fanfiction — it shines brightest when exploring past the edges of what “My Little Pony” has shown us. And even when canon later invalidates a story’s approach, it can be enjoyable on its own merits. “This is a fascinating ‘What If’ of Crystal Empire history that was actually written prior to season 3 airing, let alone Cadence’s backstory showing up in the first official novel,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “No Sombra exists to oppose her, only ennui and faithlessness in the face of encroaching winter.”
Unsurprisingly, much of our discussion was about the unique ways this fic engaged us with the benefit of several years’ hindsight. “It’s always fascinating to see what we come up with in a near-vacuum,” FanOfMostEverything said. “Part of the fun of reading this was picking out the grains of canon around which formed this gorgeous pearl of speculation. It also takes how some of the fandom saw Cadence just after the wedding, the Princess Who Doesn’t Do Anything, and turns scorn towards Hasbro’s marketing department into a compelling slow tragedy.” AugieDog agreed, both in the fascination value and in the story’s added depth. “I really like the idea of a ‘preemptive AU’ — you know it’s not gonna be right, but you’ve got an idea you wanna get out there, so you just leap ahead and do it,” he said. “Still, it’s the atmosphere here that struck me — empty, cracking, snow-bound ruins with this one living figure wandering through them.”
Even without the nostalgia, though, we found plenty to compliment. “It’s a chilling tragedy shot through with quietly powerful lines like ‘She didn’t remember what taurine meant’,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything added: “The pacing is incredible, allowing us to appreciate all that has been lost, both in terms of the Empire and of Cadence’s innocence, without crossing the line into maudlin territory.” Soge summed it up: “It has a consistently melancholic tone, which really helps sell the depths of Cadence’s tragedy here. In a sense, it reminds me of a more personal ‘Lost Cities‘, and that is high praise.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Aldrigold discusses adventure ponies, playground explorations, and fun pants.
Give us the standard biography.
I am a researcher at a large university — I wrote the story while getting my PhD. Now I spend more time writing grants than fanfics, unfortunately.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
A different character of mine was named Aldric Goldr — I combined the two.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Applejack. I appreciate her honesty, which I think is one of the most important characteristics anyone can have. I also look up to her work ethic. I wish I could be more like her in that regard.
What’s your favorite episode?
This is a tough one — there’s a lot of good ones, and I really enjoyed the recent Grannies Gone Wild. I think I may have to say the original two, though. When I heard about ponies, I didn’t expect much. I had watched the original from the ’80s as a child, and remembered a lot of the fantasy-adventure-based episodes as well as the far less interesting slice-of-life ones from the later seasons. When I watched MLP for the first time starting with the first two, I was ready to give up quick if I saw silly slice of life, and the immediate quest and epic adventure feeling I got from those two episodes ensured I would stick with it.
What do you get from the show?
For me, it’s mostly reassurance. It’s one of those shows you watch to feel good about life again, or as a way to de-stress. A lot of escapism.
What do you want from life?
For people to remember my accomplishments after I die, and to do that by finding a way to help people. Either through research or my writing, both would satisfy me.
Why do you write?
I can’t turn off the ideas in my head, and for most of them, a book or a story is the best way to tell them. I’ve always found writing a fun way to explore my own creativity.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Keep at it, but also learn how to take advice. My writing when I started was quite awful, despite writing a lot and reading a lot. Every author eventually needs an editor and someone to point them in the right direction when it comes to writing well.
What inspired “The Quiescence of the Crystal Empire”?
Mostly, I was intrigued by the idea of an alicorn ruling a completely different part of the world that wasn’t considered part of Equestria. I was toying with the idea of the health and competence of a ruler reflecting the health of their country, which is touched on in a lot of old literature — King Lear and the like. A fallen empire whose alicorn ruler was too young to manage it correctly seemed like a fun concept, and I also liked the idea of alicorns being born as a result of harmony between a large group of ponies. It also explained where Cadance came from and why she was hanging around in Equestria but not acting as a ruler yet. Of course, none of it ended up being canon, which is fine — but I did love the openness we had in the early seasons, and the chance to explore my own ideas within someone else’s playground.
Posting this story between seasons 2 and 3, you must’ve known the show was going to handle Cadance differently. So how did you see the future going for your version of Cadance?
If I was allowed to write show canon, I would have had Cadance right the wrongs and control the weather of the empire once again after learning how to use her alicorn magic from Celestia and Luna and marrying Shining. Sombra would have been a corrupted unicorn from her past who tried to take over and screwed up ruling worse than she did before. Now that she’s matured, she can rule much more effectively. In a way, that’s not too far from what happened — she is the ruler of the empire, after all. But of course, the Mane 6 had to be the ones to save the empire, and Sombra ended up being way less interesting than I had hoped. Still fun, just not how I would have done it.
Do you plan your stories out ahead of time, or do you prefer letting them grow during the typing process?
For Quiescence, I knew how I would frame it roughly when I started, since it’s short. For longer works, though, I am definitely a pantser — someone who writes by the seat of their pants. I don’t use outlines or plan out chapter by chapter — I just have an idea and run with it. I find writing to be more fun that way.
It’s been more than a year since you last logged into Fimfiction. Why did you drift away?
Once you get the PhD, you have less time, not more. I also write YA novels in my spare time, which hopefully one day will have a shot at getting published. Fanfiction is fun, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I do intend to finish Journey to Equestria at some point though.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks so much for featuring my work!