Today’s story will ensnare you.
Of Flies and Spiders
[Romance] [Dark] [Tragedy] • 8,065 words
Glitter was banished from her hive because she’s different: instead of feeding on love, she feeds on anger, fear, and sadness. Ponies are easily fooled and more easily manipulated. Staying undetected and sustaining her dietary needs, she goes through life bringing misery to those around her. All changes, though, when he turns up, tearing down walls built throughout a lifetime.
FROM THE CURATORS: Spiders are a common creepy-crawlie, both in the real world—sorry, Australia—and in fiction. Greek mythology gives us the source for arachnid in Arachne, a master weaver who is transformed into a spider; ancient Sumeria’s goddess of weaving was a spider. In some African and Native American folklore, spiders play the trickster role. In modern American mythology, a certain spider teaches that with great power comes… well, you know. Given all this, it’s appropriate that today’s story features a changeling who sees herself as a spider, weaving complicated scenarios to catch her unwitting prey before realizing she’s been responsible for a great deal of pain and suffering.
In his nomination, Soge called it “a very well executed tragedy” and felt that “the main character is despicable in all the right ways, which only makes the conclusion that much more striking.” AugieDog concurred, finding it a “nicely done tragedy where the character chooses the path that she knows will destroy her.” He also appreciated the author’s decision to show rather than tell: “We follow Glitter’s thought process without the author ever having to make the character articulate it for us. The author trusts us enough to let us deduce what’s going on in Glitter’s head, to let us hope along with her that maybe this will somehow work out, and then to smack us in the head with the reality of the situation at the end.”
Everyone enjoyed wYvern’s “unique take on Changelings,” as Soge put it. FOME appreciated both the quality of the story and its culinary flair: “The central conceit is fascinating and explored well; I especially love how Glitter’s taste for suffering translates to favoring material foods with similarly… distinctive flavors.”
Horizon summed things up as only one who is not a changeling can: “The core canon dilemma of changelings — as we see in Thorax et.al. — is being nourished by devouring emotions, and simultaneously having normal sapient emotional needs for those same emotions (and the relationships and friendships that follow). If this were just about that it would have a pretty solid core, but it takes that and turns it up to 11 by also focusing on a changeling allergic to love. That this makes her an outcast from two worlds sets up a powerful tragedy when she finally finds herself in a position to appreciate it, and doesn’t shrink from the resulting tragedy.”
Read on for our author interview, in which wYvern discusses biochemistry, internal conflict, and analyzing what you love.
Give us the standard biography.
German, male, millennial. Biochemistry PhD student.
I was about seven years old when my father approached me with a book. “You can read now. Read this.” Thus, I read The Hobbit, and soon afterward, wrote the first chapter to a very similar story. I didn’t continue the story, and, although I turned into a fantasy-novel-devouring teenager, I didn’t write anything else, either. The thought of writing fiction eventually had always been in the back of my mind since then, though.
I got into MLP during a rather bleak and stressful time in 2012, and it was exactly what I needed. It was the first time a show compelled me to look into what its fandom had to offer, starting with perusing pony art on tumblr. It was there that I chanced upon a comic adaption of Cloudy Skies’ Building Bridges made by Somepony.
I had my reservations about fan fiction back then, my preconceptions being that it was usually of low quality and of a wish-fulfilling nature, but the comic was unfinished and I didn’t have the patience to wait … so I got onto fimfiction.
After Building Bridges, I went into full binge reading and Cloudy Skies fangirl mode. I wrote him several lengthy mails, and after finding out English wasn’t his first language either, all my excuses for turning eventually into now were gone.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I wanted something that fit into the fantasy setting of MLP, but not pony society; it just felt too innocent and pure for me. I also wanted something that wasn’t yet defined by the show itself. Also, the wyvern’s use in heraldry is fitting … isn’t a penname a sort of crest? It’s a label under which we publish, and, although fimfiction does have the community aspect to it, I’d rather have people associate the handle with my body of work than with the much more flawed person behind it.
The weird capitalization is purely for aesthetic reasons. It gives the word a weird symmetry that I felt drawn to. Also, doesn’t the capital Y look a bit like a snake with a set of wings? I admit, you have to squint real hard, but still …
Who’s your favorite pony?
That’s a tough question … you could ask me who I empathize with, whose personality I admire, and whose antics I like to observe the most, and I’d say Twilight, Applejack, Rarity. If I had to decide which aspect is most important to me, I’d say Applejack.
What’s your favorite episode?
Winter Wrap Up. That might be purely because of the music, though. I put the Winter Wrap Up song on my mp3 player back in 2012, along with other music from the show, and it’s been like sunbeams cutting through rain clouds on difficult days. Today, this emotional connection makes it hard to judge the actual merit of episodes from a storytelling perspective.
What do you get from the show?
Back in the day: Twenty minutes of color in a gray week. A cure for cynicism. Joy.
Today, mostly nostalgia. I have little love for anything past Season 3. I watched newer episodes to not stray too far from canon in some of my writing, though.
During writing: A canvas and a box of paints. Drawing from concepts, characters, and settings, maybe giving them a twist or two in the process, is a lot of fun.
What do you want from life?
Happiness, duh. This means different things to different people, of course, but there are certain tendencies: Humans seem to always need a long-term goal to strive for in order to be truly happy, and helping others seems to be outshining all selfish pursuits in terms of fulfillment. Maybe one can be happy by wanting to be happy with enough practice in meditation, but I think most of us can’t.
Those things in mind, my life goal is to have a positive impact on sentient life. I have to phrase it this strangely because I’m an abolitionist vegan, and now I’ve told you, so I guess I fit the cliché, haha!
Although I’m not free from purely hedonistic pursuits, this life goal informs a lot of my decisions. There are multiple ways to achieve it of course: Effective activism, significant scientific contributions to my field of study, a book that positively affects a lot of people … only time will tell if I succeed, and if so, in which way … or more than one? I don’t like to put all my eggs into one basket, although I must admit the writing aspect has taken a backseat lately, because the science part is going really well.
Why do you write?
I started writing because I liked reading. Reading a good book engages my imagination like nothing else, and I’m fascinated by the process of decompressing words into an experience with sound, sight, smell, thoughts and emotions. It’s a very unique form of communication.
Once I actually set pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), what I found to be the best motivator for writing, and the driving force for my stories, is theme. The funny thing is that I usually don’t pick up on it myself until after I’ve laid out all the plot points, and even then, it sometimes changes during the process of writing. These times, when what I thought was right didn’t feel so when actually put to paper have been difficult, but rewarding. They pushed me to do research, empathize, or self-reflect, and I think I often came out the other end a better person, more aware of the things I value.
So, although I hate to be blatant about it, most writing I’m proud of contains a message or asks a question which I’d like readers to pick up on. It’s important to me that my stories stay with people beyond The End.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
I haven’t really written all that much, and gotten much less of it polished to the point I was comfortable publishing it, so if you seek advice on work ethic, gaining a lot of followers, or getting featured, look elsewhere. What I’ve managed to do, though, is improve my writing a lot from when I first started, so that’s what I’d like to comment on.
Creativity, art, freedom of expression … all these things matter, and have their time and place, but realize that writing is also a craft. This means, while you could just ‘learn by doing’ and get it wrong time and time again until you get it right, you can also go about it with a more rational approach, and study tried and true principles.
This can mean reading books on writing, but the main thing I’d like to stress is analyzing things you love. Never just consume a work of fiction. Novels, video games, Netflix series, animes, movies, comics: Everything employs storytelling principles that you can pick up on and use in your own work. Look for plot points and structure, how characterization is done, how to set the mood for a scene, how to make dialogue sound natural. Even if a work of fiction is bad, realize where it fails, and how it could be improved. You can learn a lot without typing out a single word.
Another thought: Don’t be afraid to approach more proficient writers for advice or editing, and never take their criticism personally. I’ve found the Fimfiction writing community to be full of generous and highly skilled people, who can explain why something you wrote is ineffective. This is incredibly valuable. Be cautious of taking advice from those who can’t explain their line of reasoning, though.
What inspired “Of Flies and Spiders”?
The nature of changeling metabolism has always intrigued me, but I could never shake the thought that they would have an easy time integrating into pony society. Super Trampoline’s story White Space highlights this very effectively. Turning the “feeding on love” to its opposite would make things more difficult for a changeling, because being mean and spreading negativity is generally the less accepted behavior, so I thought there was a story in there.
When I tried to come up with a protagonist though, I started to think about the kind of repercussions spreading nothing but misery would have on a non-psychopath. Probably because I was always more drawn to internal conflicts in writing, which, in turn, is probably because I’m more afraid of facing them in real life.
What I ended up with was a lot of cognitive dissonance and defense mechanisms. That’s when I wrote the first scene, and after its completion, I knew I wanted Glitter to break free. Throw in a certain brown catalyst for that, a twist, a solid structural framework, and you’ve got yourself a story.
How do you see things going for Autumn and Ivory after this?
That’s a tough question … I wrote the story from Glitter’s perspective, and she didn’t give this a lot of thought. After all, her final decision was very selfish.
Ivory … well, I never really got to know her well, to be honest. Readers might argue that she got attached, but I think it’s rather a remnant of attachment to Ivory’s mother which was projected onto Glitter. If Autumn can hide the truth, I think he’ll tell her he argued with Glitter and she left … this way, he’ll take the blame, but keep Ivory from experiencing yet another tragic loss.
Autumn will probably blame himself for what happened. He’s clever enough to connect the dots, realizing he told her to drop her guard and to willingly throw herself into the knife he was holding. He will ask himself if there would have been a possibility for treatment if she had confided in him. But then again, this all happened before changelings were tolerated in pony society, so it’s not like they could’ve asked pony doctors, or that they’d have been any help in dealing with Glitter’s condition.
In the end, maybe he will find solace in the thought that Glitter chose this herself. If only for a short time, she went for what she truly wanted, and these moments meant more to her than a lifetime of what she’d had before.
What effects are you after when you use My Little Pony characters to tell darker, sadder sorts of stories?
The question makes it sound as though there is a lot of conscious control involved…
The darker, sadder stuff is just something I’m drawn to. Even when I was just browsing tumblr, I followed blogs like Ask Blind Rainbow Dash, and over half of the pictures I saved from that time are of ponies in obvious emotional anguish. I’m by no means an unhappy person, which makes this seem all the more counter-intuitive.
Like I said before, I’m drawn towards internal conflict, and these things turn out to be either sad or dark. I never really wrote about ponies or MLP. I’ve used ponies and MLP like you said, but to highlight and explore real-world issues I found myself facing, or wondering about.
If you cast these darker, sadder shades of experience onto the colorful canvas that is MLP, it creates a stark contrast. We’re so used to misery in our own world, we don’t even register the lonely old lady, the bum, the starving child with flies on its face. In MLP, we do.
What elements would you call vital to a well-wrought tragedy?
I wouldn’t want to assume any position of authority on the subject of tragedies. I didn’t have the term in mind when I wrote Of Flies and Spiders, and it took another writer to point out to me that it actually qualified as one. I don’t really concern myself with labels when I write. Also, if I say too much, I can already see a PM flying my way, pointing me to a perfectly brilliant tragedy missing whatever I said here.
An element any good story should have to some extent, but which probably needs extra care in tragedies, is foreshadowing. Adventure stories or comedies can still be good with a mild deus ex machina, but for a tragedy, this would defeat the whole purpose. In my opinion, a good tragedy instills a sense of foreboding before the ending hits, with even inattentive readers being painfully aware of what exactly is going to happen.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank Cloudy Skies, both for his writing and for indulging me in personal emails. Without him, I really wouldn’t be here. I’d also like to thank Scott aka InquisitorM, who has been my editor for this story and other stories. He was somewhat of a mentor figure for me back in the day, and his great patience and willingness to explain have accelerated my learning tremendously.
I’d also like to thank the RCL crew for this opportunity and their patience. Although the length of time it took me to fill out this interview would suggest otherwise, I actually enjoy the attention and recognition.
Also, this is the 3rd paragraph of the ‘anything else’ section — what are you even doing here? Might as well drop me a message on Fimfiction. I’m open to chatting about anything, but I can’t guarantee you’ll have a timely answer.