Today’s story arrives from the past to look at the future.
Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger
[Adventure] [Sci-Fi] [Human] • 66,605 words
The star system Omega Centauri was just another oddity on a map to scientists in the not too distant future. However when they found the star was orbiting an earth-sized, earth-like planet instead of a black hole as its motion had suggested, a mission was scrambled to investigate this most unusual of celestial behaviors.
Hamstrung by politics, and nearly crippled before it began, the ‘Lone Ranger’ mission was reduced to just one crew member and left to his own devices.
These are the logs of Arrow 18 and its lone commander. This information is classified TOP SECRET by the Global Space Agency.
Do NOT tell the princess.
FROM THE CURATORS: “What we have here,” Horizon said when nominating this story, “is an early-fandom classic HiE (first chapter publication date: 2012), but with a twist: the HiE arrives not via handwavey magic but on a spaceship from 23rd-century Earth. What follows is a curious blend of standard HiE tropes, science-fiction first contact, unique Equestrian science worldbuilding, and a very pony story of friendship across a language and culture barrier.”
This reflection of ponyness and humanity was a common theme in our discussion. “The thing that really wowed me,” Present Perfect said, “is that this is a story about humans meeting ponies for the first time, where we, the reader, learn about ourselves through the eyes of ponies, through the eyes of the human protagonist. This weird feedback loop of discovery was really what kept my spirits high through the whole story, regardless of what was going on.” “The ponies’ reactions to a benign alien all ring true,” FanOfMostEverything added while Soge said, “I was just left with this pure, wholesome feeling inside at the end, just glad to see the characters’ relationships progress to that point.”
Soge went on: “Most of all, this is HiE without all those typical HiE pitfalls: The protagonist is witty but never annoying; he sees the ponies as equals; and most importantly, it does all that without a speck of the misanthropy that seems to plague even the best examples of the genre.” And that, FanOfMostEverything concluded, makes it “a very pony story in terms of its central message.”
Read on for our author interview, in which AdmiralTigerclaw discusses conceptual thunderstorms, strange nostalgia, and the curse of cursive.
Give us the standard biography.
I grew up on the north side of Austin, Texas. A more or less typical sci-fi geek and partial shut-in by any standards. In 2010 to 2014 I attended ITT Technical Institute in Austin and earned my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Communications Technology. Along the way, I’ve learned to write music by ear using midi software interfaces, and have geeked-out on all things aviation and aerospace.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
The Wing Commander Movie from the late 90s, early 2000s. The TCS Tiger’s Claw. I compacted it into ‘Tigerclaw’ and stuck ‘Admiral’ on the front. There may or may not have been some involvement in the name pick from playing Stellar Frontier at the time. I can’t remember if it did influence it or not. That was a long time ago.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Chrysalis, actually. I’m a logical person and difficult to offend, making me good around people with otherwise abrasive personalities (such as the down-side mood swing of Bipolar Disorder). Such a temperament makes me feel like I’d make a good ‘Straight Man’ to Chrysalis’ emotional outbursts and bouts of superiority complex (I’m surrounded by idiots!).
What’s your favorite episode?
I don’t have a favorite. In terms of writing, nothing’s really ever stuck with me enough that I would choose to watch it over any of the others. ‘Luna Eclipsed’ and ‘Lesson Zero’ are two I would jump to for a laugh first, however.
What do you get from the show?
Humor. And a strange nostalgia. The character set often reminds me of Sailor Moon in the interactions between the main cast. I may also enjoy cuteness a little more than is considered healthy by your average overly macho male member of society. MLP seems to roll the kind of feel of a 90s anime and an entire cast of cute mascots into one box.
What do you want from life?
A sack full of hundred dollar bills. They key to the White House, and the answer to who shot Kennedy. (This answer was prepared by ‘Standard Answers Incorporated’. Standardizing all your answers since forever.)
Why do you write?
Hilariously enough, I used to hate writing when I was young. Hand-writing made my hand cramp up as I would grip the pencil with the force of a workbench vice. Also made my handwriting atrocious, and the speed was garbage. Also, cursive. Screw cursive. It can die outside its use as a calligraphy-like font and signatures. However, once my keyboard speed picked up, I found the ability to put my thoughts on paper almost as fast as I can think them to be useful. That, combined with an over-active imagination, and writing is really the only way to bring an almost cinematographic way I see things in my head work. We’re talking not just stories, but mental camera angles, music scores applied to the right moments, that kind of thing. Writing is probably the closest I’ll get to bringing that to life short of being a movie director. And being a movie director is not a job I desire to have.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write in a manner that works for you, but remember your audience. Juggling the stuff you have in your head against the audience you’re ultimately trying to entertain is no mean feat. You have to find that balance between controlling what you write, and following advice. No story will ever be perfect, and nobody has all the life experience to get every aspect of every situation absolutely perfect in every way. Don’t be afraid to tell your audience right to their face: “I have no idea how this works, but I’m writing it anyway.” But always give the critics a polite ear… Provided they’re being polite. If they aren’t being polite, kindly slaughter them with a rabid squirrel. And of course, apologize to the squirrel for the inconvenience.
This story was filled to the brim with verisimilitudinous space flight jargon. What’s your experience with aeronautics and/or space travel?
I’ve always been a bit of a sci-fi and space geek from the time I could watch the classics like Star Wars and Star Trek. I even have the tech manual. But since say, 2006 or so, I started creeping into flight sim materials and aerospace. Both of those took off around 2010 when I started trying to fly in FSX on real settings. I picked up orbiter, learned to fly spaceflight in that, and added Kerbal Space Program as I went. Mods got added to Kerbal, and I studied the technical aspects of how everything worked until I’m at a point where I could almost instruct others. Not just the flying aspects, but the principles behind the building aspects. There’s a certain sophistication with elegance that goes into aerospace. Simplicity stacked on simplicity until it looks complex.
What went into planning the future that leads to this mission?
Literally nothing. I was sitting in a semiconductor fab, a job that was 12 hours a day of waiting for something to act up and imagining the ships from Orbiter interacting with ponies. I started scraping a sequence of logs together on the computer while I was sitting there just to keep from going nuts. The future was just ‘whatever was convenient’.
Can you tell us anything more about the political situation that led to Randy being sent out alone?
It all amounts to nobody being able to agree on representation for a historic long range flight of an FTL vessel, and bickering like children. Except instead of scrapping the project or begrudgingly slapping a B-team together, it results in an admittedly unrealistic case of ‘just send this guy, everything else is automated anyway’. I didn’t think much beyond that except to provide some kind of narrativium to kickstart it.
What was your approach to balancing comedy with the more serious tone?
I’ve grown up with what amounts of a continuous feed of bad, worse, and ugly news from about the world. I see horror movies, tragedies, and things with downer endings and wonder why anyone would want to torture themselves by consuming media that just makes them upset when the world already provides in spades. So I focus on a light mood, even when serious. In doing so, I keep things rolling along in a more or less steady mellow tone, but with comedy spaced in like CAPITAL LETTERS space in paragraphs. I also try to utilize more situational comedy and less crude ‘potty humor’. Intelligent jokes and wry humor beat a cheap fart joke any day.
What lies in Randy’s future in Equestria?
Imagine a buddy cop show where Randy and Rainbow Dash fight crime, while Chrysalis is their ever-angry police chief and Twilight is their go-to tech expert.
…Okay. I lie. Honestly, I’ve never considered anything beyond the closing. Status Quo is king, and Randy at this point is waiting for Earth to send full support. I imagine that more or less the fun, light-hearted adventure of one man lands on a planet of sapient horses is going to turn into a political drama rife with red tape and other bureaucratic nonsense. I painted the positive side of humanity because I wanted readers to feel good after going through this. Too many writers are so busy painting humanity like a cancerous scourge waiting to infect happy watercolor pony world that I really just don’t feel like exploring the complexity of the future situation and I wouldn’t want to put a sophisticated plot together anyway. That, and I feel that with MLP’s later seasons, the tone on the friendship concept feels almost ‘cult’ like. (Knock on the door Hello sir! Have you discovered FRIENDSHIP today? It’s amazing and will solve ALL your problems-” SLAMS DOOR …)
The last thing I want to do is write political drama going head to head with over the top ideological sappiness. That sounds like a good way to make a supercell thunderstorm. Only with concepts instead of wind, heat, and moisture.
Do we even WANT to know what a tornado made out of filibuster would do to a city? I sure don’t. And we have Pinkie Pie. She would make it happen just to spite physics.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Given some engine thrust mechanics I’ve been dealing with recently, I think the Raven might actually be a hybrid nuclear-thermal propulsion system augmented with scramjets. It’s the only propulsion system that produces enough thrust, with a low-enough fuel consumption, to pull off what that Raven does in terms of hovering. This will probably go over the heads of most people reading this, but imagine it as nuclear steampunk. Because the propellant best used here is actually water, for several reasons I won’t go into.
Have fun with that.
– Admiral Tigerclaw
Writer, geek, techie, musician, aerospace enthusiast… In no particular order.
“It takes skill to win, power to destroy, and wisdom to know when.”