It’s always a good season to read today’s story.
[Drama] [Sad] • 21,493 words
With a heavy heart and an empty journal, Rarity heads north.
FROM THE CURATORS: “Cherax is more well known as a musician,” Soge said in his nomination, “but in Sundowner Season she shows quite the writing chops. In it we follow Rarity, taking a long trip to the farthest reaches of Equestria, with a purpose in mind which only becomes clearer to the reader — and to her — as we reach the end of the trip.” Along the way, there was plenty to like. “I loved the atmosphere and the sundowners themselves,” RBDash47 said, with AugieDog adding: “Rarity’s voice in the journal sections and in the third-person POV parts is simply phenomenal. She changes during the course of the story, but she’s always recognizably herself.” And while the story also accumulated some critiques during our voting process, we collectively found it winning us over. “It starts at such a slow burn that I had to begin the story four different times before I made it past Canterlot,” Horizon said. “And yet I was won over by how artfully everything was done … I came away impressed.”
The digressions during that lengthy unfolding were polarizing, but there was one thing on which we were unanimous: the exemplary touch provided by the story’s many well-chosen details. “I liked how Rarity kept traveling to progressively smaller and more remote settlements as her ability to deny the reason behind her journey dwindled,” FanOfMostEverything noted, while RBDash47 said: “I also got a kick out of the formatting choice of setting flashbacks off by right-aligning them; I feel like it was a nice way of accentuating the ‘back and forth’ of Rarity’s inner turmoil.” Although a few details were unintentionally personally disorienting: “Why am I in this story?” Present Perfect asked.
And what tipped the vote was the story’s lush, deliberate pacing. “The big thing right for me was the slow drip-drip-drip of revealing exactly why Rarity was feeling what she was feeling and why she was going on this journey to begin with,” RBDash47 said. Horizon summed it up similarly: “It was that slow rolling reveal most driving my vote; it worked well in concert with the story’s pacing and the gentle leavening of the distractions,” he said. “This is a tightly controlled story which asks the reader to follow along exactly in its footsteps, but I found it repaid that investment of trust.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Cherax discusses interstate buses, snow biomes, and pastel distances.
Give us the standard biography.
A pony musician of moderate obscurity, who dabbled in fanfiction and dramatic readings back in the hayday (sorry) of the fandom, and has since gone the Way of the Digibro and transitioned into a standard anime nerd.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Cherax comes from my musician name, Cherax Destructor, which is the intimidating-sounding Latin name for the not-at-all-intimidating common yabby. I’ve retired the name officially, but will still always answer to Cherax or Cherry D.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Rarity. It changed many a time, but she took the lead when she took Manehattan and hasn’t lost it since.
What’s your favorite episode?
If not Rarity Takes Manehattan for its oddball humour, Sleepless in Ponyville. I loved it so much I wrote a song about it! Scootaloo’s worries are genuine and relatable, and her being ‘adopted’ by Rainbow is an incredibly sweet bit of catharsis. Plus, there’s appearances by almost-best ponies Sweetie Belle and Luna!
What do you get from the show?
MLP, at least in its glory days, was an unabashed celebration of femininity, emotional vulnerability, and sincerity — all things I felt were important, but lacking in my life. I’m sure that being exposed to these and embracing them helped me (and surprisingly many others!) to discover and accept my transgender identity. Nowadays I’m out of the loop with the current season and fandom, but I will always hold Pony in my heart as a beacon of those values and a reminder to uphold them.
Also, it looks real pretty!
What do you want from life?
Peace and quiet…
Why do you write?
Music is my main mode of expression, but there are certain ideas I have and certain feelings I want to expel that only seem to make sense in prose. There’s a bit of escapism in there, but it’s also a way for me to deal with some of my more complicated emotions by distancing myself from them. Even though they’re still facets of myself, I can prod my characters more easily and indelicately than I can prod my internal monologue.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Nothing original, but the common tidbits that resonate the most with me are: write what you know; if it feels good, go with it; always be reading, paying attention, and absorbing; write drunk, edit sober.
What inspired “Sundowner Season”?
Angst, to be sure! Rarity is such a character, in the sense that she is often putting on airs, and is probably aware of it. It made me wonder what was behind her mask of melodrama — how she would deal with a genuine emotional crisis, beyond the stress of her job or misplacing some fabric. Back in 2014, I went on a wild trip across North America after a particularly bad existential crisis of my own, mostly staying on the couches of internet pony friends. I know I’d had some basic ideas for Sundowner Season in mind before then, but the many interstate bus rides and my lingering emotional troubles helped them grow. I took a lot of inspiration from reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea and listening to La Dispute’s Wildlife (both very harrowing experiences!).
Are the places that Rarity visits based on actual locations?
Gran Chivalo is based on my memories of visiting the Swiss skiing town of St. Moritz during off-season, many years ago. It was so blissfully quiet. A little bit of the real Vancouver made its way into the scenery descriptions of Vanhoover (Soul Searcher makes a reference to West Haystings, one letter away from a real street). Oddly, I think Lonely Prairie and Gael’s Tears are inspired by environments I found exploring snow biomes in Minecraft.
What do you suppose it is about Ponies that makes them so good at conveying existential angst?
I don’t know why cute colourful ponies dealing with immense emotional trauma, so hilarious in concept, is so engrossing in practice. It shouldn’t work, but it does! Maybe the sweetness makes you drop your guard? The show has given us some (mostly) well-rounded characters with very human faults, characters we can see ourselves in — like I mentioned earlier, maybe it’s easier to explore our own darkness when we put it at a safe, pastel-coloured distance.
Do you have any thoughts on how the show itself eventually portrayed Applejack’s mother’s father and his relationship to the Apple family?
I’m just glad that they didn’t directly invalidate anything in my fic! There are enough details left unspecified to let Sundowner Season still seem plausible, I think. It’s a terrifying position to be in when a show is still running and could easily fill in a blank that you’ve already tried filling in yourself.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Rarity, if you read this, I’m sorry for everything I put you through.