It wasn’t hard to let today’s story conquer our hearts.
Conquering is Easy, Being Conquered is Hard
[Romance] [Comedy] [Drama] [Alternate Universe] • 26,653 words
Rarity’s quest for love led her from Tartarus to Canterlot. Now, wielding powers beyond comprehension, she rules over Equestria.
Now, if only she could understand how Fluttershy’s little cult had gained thousands of members virtually overnight, or why the cult’s second-in-command, Twilight Sparkle, always seems to be one step ahead of her…
FROM THE CURATORS: Writing a story that solidly paints a single theme or tone is difficult enough — and when you’re trying to mix such disparate elements as humor, romance, character drama, and the epic clash of a tyrant with an apocalyptic doom cult, it takes a steadier than usual hand. “This story’s simultaneously dark and high-spirited wackiness is very much a Big Thing Right in my mind,” AugieDog said in his nomination, and the fic quickly earned a feature amid comments like Horizon’s: “I’ve got a special place in my heart for stories which sell an audacious premise, and this squarely scratches that itch.”
One thing on which we all agreed was how elegantly the story’s depiction of its familiar-yet-altered ponies grounded that audacity. “It transcends its crackfic-competition origins for me through the characters and through the comedy,” AugieDog said. “Shining Armor is a high point, still Captain of the Royal Guard, as is Kibitz, Celestia’s old secretary, who Rarity has kept on since he actually knows how the government works.” Horizon added: “A lot of thought clearly went into not only how the circumstances of the unusual AU would have changed all the characters, but also how they would go about pursing their interests.” And RBDash47 chimed in: “I have to second my appreciation for the character work here. Every single one is on point, with a unique, developed voice that fits them perfectly. I don’t think I’d need any dialogue tags at any given time to know who was speaking, and I enjoyed every interaction.”
We found that sharp character work augmented by on-point humor. “The first chapter, especially, is a triumph of absurdity, aware of this fact, and delights in nothing more than reveling in its own whimsy,” Present Perfect said. And exemplary exposition work rounded the story out: “I was delighted by how effortlessly and subtly the author wove the explanations of the AU’s differences into the story,” RBDash47 said. “I never felt confused or like I didn’t know what was going on, even with some fairly big changes to the timeline.” It all added up to a truly head-turning package. “It helped that the comedy was smart and endlessly quotable, but more importantly, the story kept surprising and delighting me at every turn with its central battle(s) of wits,” Horizon said. “I don’t often follow an author on the strength of a single story, but here, that decision was a no-brainer.”
Read on for our author interview, in which ChibiRenamon discusses elliptical planning, regular flossing, and clawing … couches.
Give us the standard biography.
My life has been … delightfully uneventful!
Born and raised in Germany in the 80s, my biggest childhood problems were thinking that David Hasselhoff was awesome and not realizing that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie are infinitely more hilarious in English (the German dub had him talking like everybody else).
I developed a liking for Discworld and BattleTech novels around … 7th grade or so, I guess, and eventually switched to the original English versions, mostly because the translations of new BattleTech books took too long for my liking. Combined with the realization that we could receive Cartoon Network via satellite (at least at the time), this helped develop my language skills and later on heavily influenced my decision to read and write fanfics in English.
Discovering fandoms and fanfiction was a confusing process since back in the days of 56k dial-up and AOL CDs, there was no easy way for me to know that these concepts (especially fanfics) even existed before running into them on sites like GeoCities. (OH GOD I’M SO OLD SEND HELP PLEASE)
I discovered Fanfiction.net years later, just after starting to study Computer Science at a local university and around the time Digimon Tamers aired. Aaand that’s when I realized that the barrier of entry to publish your wild ideas was low enough that I could actually give it a shot, too. Things went pretty well from there, and I had a ton of fun. And even if my writing quality was ABYSMAL in the beginning, I can still look back on those fics today and appreciate the ideas behind them.
The one major stumbling block in my life came a few years later. I was doing okay in my courses and was on track for getting my diploma (we later adopted the Bachelor/Master system, but this was just before the change), my fanfics were getting better … and then I started to have crippling doubts. About everything. Until that point, my life had been progressing pretty much on autopilot in terms of getting an education (I got into CompSci because I was good at math and loved tinkering with computers), and I suddenly realized that I had no idea what I actually WANTED to do. Did I want to become a software developer? Was that my passion? Would that make me happy? (Spoiler alert: No.) What did I want from life and what would be a way to accomplish that? Would I have to give up writing since that was somewhat unlikely to reliably let me pay rent and stuff? Or should I do the crazy thing and drop out of the university this late into the game to fully focus on writing? That was my deer-in-headlights moment, and it stopped me dead in my tracks for far longer than I’d like to admit.
(Aside: Years later, the MLP song “You’ll Play Your Part,” especially Twilight’s opening of it, hit me HARD because it voiced EXACTLY what I had gone through.)
I eventually pulled through after realizing what I wanted to accomplish in life. (More on that further down.) And on the day of that realization, I also found a quote that solved the issue of whether or not to continue with my studies and assured me that I just needed to find balance:
“THE SEX & CASH THEORY: The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs. One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.” (“How To Be Creative” by Hugh MacLeod, Episode 6)
So that was my big “AHA!” moment that established my new roadmap: get my stupid diploma, get a stupid job that pays the bills, be creative when nobody is looking.
And then ponies happened and now here we are, with you interviewing a 35+ year old German web developer who wrote about lesbian horse cultists or something.
Because at some point, reality apparently became its own crackfic.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Trivia time before we go into this: I suck at naming things, characters, places, and so on. If you ever looked at online name generator sites and asked yourself what sad idiot would need to rely on them, then boom, this guy right here.
If it needs a name, don’t ask me. I mean, seriously, in this fic, I named a character after two IKEA lamps. Two. IKEA. Lamps. The alternative would’ve been something like “Clickety Bulb,” and I still can’t tell if that would’ve been a step up or down.
That being said, this was actually my second, alternate penname! I started writing fanfics under a different name (it wasn’t much more creative, trust me) and decided I should get a new, “clean” name when I wanted to try writing smut. Since said smut was for Digimon, and since Renamon was EASILY the coolest character in the then-current season, I decided to name myself after her. (Because this is what happens when you are bad at naming things and don’t want to brainstorm for hours just to post some Digimon erotica.) But then I wanted to tone it down because I tend to prefer adorable to “GRRRRR!” badass, so I put a “Chibi” in front of the “Renamon.” You know, as in a smaller, cuddly version of this badass fox murder machine.
I … want to say that this sounded less dumb (or more creative) back then, but it probably didn’t and I probably didn’t care. After all, this was supposed to be a sort of experimental throwaway penname because surely I wouldn’t use it longer than few weeks, ha ha ha.
Yeah, I stuck around with that name, and it eventually became my main fanfic writing handle since “ChibiRenamon” was by now a part of fan communities and I also wanted to post non-smut stories there without having to maintain two handles.
By now, the name has become a part of me despite being a dated reference, and I don’t even think about it when using it to write non-Digimon stuff.
Who’s your favorite pony?
I generally love secondary and side characters, and I very, VERY rarely go with main/lead characters. Sass, snark and wisecracking are a big plus. In MLP, I often go with folks like Gilda, Blueblood or Trixie. Recent notable addition would be Tempest Shadow, because I can always appreciate characters who are actually competent.
However, this is a somewhat weak preference — I currently don’t have a strictly favorite character in this show.
What’s your favorite episode?
I actually haven’t watched this show regularly in FOREVER. This is less the fault of the show and more me never having a free timeslot to sit down and just watch TV. So don’t expect anything recent or halfway old here. (I also won’t count The Movie as an episode, but holy smokes, that ruled.)
I’ll cite “Party of One” and “Magical Mystery Cure” as hot runner-ups for overall quality, but ultimately, I’ll do a cop-out and go with “every episode where ponies fail to grasp how plows or vehicles in general work” (especially Trixie’s opinion on wheels in “Magic Duel” and Rarity in “Simple Ways”). Because I am easily amused.
What do you get from the show?
It’s a high-quality series filled with memorable musical numbers that shows that conflicts don’t have to be solved with violence and teaches us the value of friendship and kindness — something we should take to heart more nowadays.
But, as I said before, I’m not actively following the series on a week-to-week basis anymore. So for the most part, I just enjoy the community and fanworks on FimFiction and Tumblr. There’s a lot of positivity (and amazing art and fics) in this fandom, and most of these great people found each other because of this show, which is amazing. Love you all!
What do you want from life?
A few great friends and some peace and quiet. I’m a “boring” person, so I rarely seek out parties and gatherings. I’m not hip, I’m not cool, I just want to balance the stress of work with phases of unwinding in silence.
And if I can make a wishlist, some more time to catch up with my shows and to play board games with my friends would be super.
Why do you write?
This ties directly into my biography up there. My big “What do I want to do with my life?” realization was that I wanted to leave “footprints” behind. Something that will outlast me. Short of making some scientific discovery (unlikely, as I didn’t really feel ambitious or smart enough for a career in some scientific position), I reasoned that my best shot for that would be my fiction. Fanfics are a solid start, but ultimately, I want to write a novel. It doesn’t even have to be picked up by a major publisher or make it to some bestseller list — I just want it to EXIST.
I won’t be around forever, but I want to make sure that a part of me will continue to inspire people after I’m gone.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Read. A lot. Read stuff by different authors and from different genres. This goes double when you want to write in a foreign language. Every author has their own style and way of doing things, and it’s important that you understand how things can be done and what works for you so that you can find your own voice. (Related: Write. A lot. Practice is the best way to actually get better.)
Seek feedback on how to improve. Be open to the possibility that you won’t like said feedback and try to decide as objectively as possible if the people who voiced it are right or not. (Speaking from personal experience: if your sole justification is, “You just don’t understand my genius/vision/style!” then chances are that they’re right, sorry.)
Reflection and analysis can be immensely helpful. If you read a book/fic and hate it, ask yourself what didn’t work and what you would have done differently. If you read a great book/fic, ask yourself why it worked so well. Also, sites like TV Tropes can be epic time sinks, but you can learn a lot about what tools/tropes exist and how they can be used effectively.
Be willing to backtrack in your fic/chapter, even if it hurts. I regularly shove entire paragraphs into my scrapheap document (I tend not to fully delete my scrapped writings, just in case), and once or twice, I had to nuke an entire chapter or one-shot because it just didn’t click and I felt that, in order to do it proper justice, I had to start from scratch.
And a lesson I learned over and over again: Tools (in terms of hardware or software) can help you with your writing on multiple levels, but they won’t make you a better author. At your peak, you should be able to write a compelling story on a tablecloth with pasta sauce — yeah, software like Scrivener offers you amazing options to organize your chapters and research notes, but it won’t make you a better author. As Shakespeare once said: “The power is yours.”
… no, wait, that was Captain Planet.
What was your process for taking the three random “Twilight Sparkle’s Secret Shipfic Folder” cards you received as your story prompt and turning them into “Conquering is Easy, Being Conquered is Hard”?
I got extremely lucky with the draw (“Heartless Dictator Rarity” + “Cult Meeting” + “Star Student Twilight”) since RariTwi isn’t exactly a crack pairing. I mean … they actually had canon interactions and didn’t want to murder each other! That’s a lot better than some of my other fics!
Beyond the card titles, I mostly looked at the artwork in the initial phase. Not just of the cards in question, but also the rest of the deck since several characters appear on other cards, forming a loose, implied narrative. For example, “Cult Meeting” features “Cult Leader Fluttershy,” who also appears together with “Heartless Dictator Rarity” on the card “Closed Door Negotiations.” That helped set up a possible setting (Rarity took over Equestria, but now there is a cult working against her, trying to summon an Elder God) to work with.
Since Rarity’s card pretty much directly suggests an Alternate Universe, the big question was what should act as a branch-off point. I initially went with the Grand Galloping Gala (where Blueblood shoots down Rarity’s romantic vision), but quickly moved the point to WAY before Season 1 in order to have Twilight being this big unknown for Rarity.
Once I got a rough setting, characters and a goal, my process for brainstorming is pretty much always the same: I put my overly analytical side of my brain into idle and let my muse smash the building blocks against each other while I quietly take notes about the resulting scenes. I tend to go to the gym a lot during these planning phases — half an hour to an hour on an elliptical trainer usually does the trick. From there I head back home and let my rational side hammer out a concept and a vague roadmap (mostly a handful of scenes acting as waypoints, with a lot of fuzziness between them). Then I try to do some writing to get past the dreaded first paragraph and to develop a feel for the fic — POV character(s), who is where, when exactly does the fic start, stuff like that. Then it’s back to the gym to let my muse figure out if I can build up on what I have. Rinse, repeat.
When it comes to the writing itself, I tend to give my characters a lot of leeway (while reserving the right to backtrack if/when things get out of hand) and let them ad-lib most of their lines as long as they move the plot in the right direction. I figure I can still straighten things out in the editing phase. (Why yes, I did participate in a few NaNoWriMo challenges, how did you know?) Any writing is better than no writing for me.
Did you face any special difficulties in fashioning a romantic comedy that features a ruthless dictator and a suicidal doomsday cult?
The initial hurdle was finding a set of ponies for Rarity (as our POV character) to play off of. My fics tend to be heavy on dialogue and light on prose and descriptions, so I needed characters to interact with Rarity. In addition, I needed opportunities to cover the backstory of this Alternate Universe, and making exposition and history lessons fun is always a challenge. I relied heavily on the royal sisters here because they can get away with a lot of snark and wisecracking.
Smaller hurdles included “How did Rarity take over?”, “How can we make Twilight a cultist without making her actually evil?” and “Should an Elder God actually be called Huggoth?”
The biggest issue popped up about three-quarters in. Until that point, I had written Twilight as a big temptress who had previously seduced Celestia, Luna and Sombra before moving on to Rarity (mostly because I wanted to write a flustered Celestia), but then I realized that this would paint the romance between Rarity and Twilight as one of many, disposable and somewhat shallow relationships and not as something special. Unfortunately, I had written the entire backstory chapter for Twilight by then, so I had to revisit that and some earlier scenes to turn her into a mare who is obsessed with power while also desperately looking for her special somepony. Because Twilight is more fun if she is slightly off-balance and not some larger-than-life Casanova.
Making things worse (or more fun, depending on your point of view), there was a deadline that was coming up fast. (Trivia: I entered the contest not to win or because I needed inspiration, but because I needed a deadline to kickstart my muse.)
How did you keep the characters so true to themselves in such an outlandish setting?
The main characters of the show have quite a bit of depth, which is GREAT … unless you’re an author who is still finding his way around the fandom and hasn’t even watched half of the show. So I tend to focus on as many/few character traits as I can manage and then move them within the space between those.
So for Rarity, I mostly worked with her romantic ideas and her tendency to overreact (and be a drama queen). She is also highly professional (and maybe a tad obsessed) and doesn’t do things halfway, so that gave me a somewhat believable path from a canon plot point (trying to seduce Blueblood at the Gala) to the outlandish part of her taking over Equestria. Throw in a focus on fashion and style, and you got yourself a passable emperor.
Twilight … can just be Twilight in this fic. At the beginning of the first episode, she’s very sure of herself, she’s very smart (though easily baffled if things don’t go according to her expectations), and she’s used to life at the royal court. So I worked with that and just added a bit of ambition and a lot of hope for her idea of a perfect romance.
Do you consider the term “crackfic” to be negative?
I’m not a huge fan of labels in general — they often just strike me as mental shortcuts we take when we don’t want to think too hard about how to judge/pigeonhole something or somebody. Terms like “Trekkie,” “Furry” or “Brony” each cover a broad spectrum, but most people who are not part of that group tend to only think of (often negative) stereotypes when the terms are mentioned.
For me, “crackfic” also covers a wide range of craziness — for example, “Let’s ship Gilda with Shining Armor AND Cadance” probably counts as crack (and I want to read it, like, right now), but it’s not quite in the same league as “Naruto goes back in time to kill Hitler, but Hitler is actually a renegade Time Lord who is secretly looking for the One Ring.” (I also kinda want to read this one …)
That being said, I understand that many view “crackfic” as something negative, but I don’t. For me, crackfics are like those cool kids going all, “Sure, you can go down the stairs like a sane person, but I know parkour!” and then they either grind the railing, jump off halfway down, do a backflip over a table and land perfectly in a seat … or they trip and faceplant with little to no ceremony. I mean, crackfics can be badly written — and many are — but every now and then, an author invites you on a well-written, magical journey far beyond what you thought was possible, and you suddenly realize that yes, the only way for Gilda to be truly happy is to have Cadance watching as she leisurely runs her claws all over Shining Armor’s … checks age rating of interview … couch. Also, dangit, now I really want to read that.
Fics can be good, fics can be bad, and “crack” is just a flavor, not an indicator for quality.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, I would certainly like to thank all of you for deciding that my silly fic was worthy of being included in the Library! I certainly didn’t see this coming, but the PM made my weekend! Also, doing this interview greatly helped me organize and reflect on my personal timeline and what’s actually important to me, so thank you for that, too.
Also, floss. Regularly. Just trust me on that one.
You can read Conquering is Easy, Being Conquered is Hard at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.