Today’s story assembles a unique look at Starlight’s aftereffects.
[Drama] [Sad] [Slice of Life] • 6,378 words
The former equalized ponies struggle to reconstruct their town after Starlight Glimmer’s defeat, and Double Diamond struggles to reconstruct his own identity after being freed from Starlight’s equalization brainwashing.
FROM THE CURATORS: If you want evidence that later seasons of MLP still provide fertile ground for wide-ranging storytelling, “The Cutie Map” is arguably Exhibit A — and this story is an excellent example of why. “In our tenure, we’ve seen story after story that studies depression, anxiety, even PTSD. But brainwashing?” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “If this story has a big thing right, it’s portraying the ways in which Starlight’s conditioning amplifies and exacerbates Double Diamond’s own self-doubts.” The story quickly moved to a feature amid comments like FanOfMostEverything’s: “One does not shuck off mental chains in a single triumphant chase scene, especially not when one was the cult leader’s right hand. His falling into a propaganda-reciting fugue state is a wonderfully chilling image.”
And while Double Diamond’s struggle with his past was the story’s most compelling theme, the world around him also contributed to the story’s power. “Like the characters tell Double-D over and over, he’s not the only one hurting,” Present Perfect said. “And I really appreciate that they never say that to demean him or his pain, but to remind him that he has friends, and those friends are there for him.” AugieDog agreed: “It’s quite a nice portrayal of a group of people coming out from the other end of a trauma,” he said. “And I especially like Double Diamond’s speech at the end, the way Starlight’s maxims are still running through his head even as he largely contradicts each one with the words he’s saying out loud.” And the narrative kept the focus quite solidly on its powerful moments: “It’s got a well-chosen central struggle and a solid message,” Horizon said, “but for me what elevates the story is the way this sets and holds its mood.”
In the end, well-chosen imagery and good use of literary techniques carried the day. “The big thing right is the tension between the townfolk’s old, brainwashed patterns and their new struggles to define themselves,” Horizon said. “It covers that quite heavily, and normally when a story chased its own tail so much I’d get restless, but here Diamond’s backsliding feels consistently fraught, an excellent use of repetition. The vivid imagery certainly contributes to that, and the many little variations on the equals-sign pattern are nice touches, especially the minus of the stacked skis.” RBDash47 agreed, adding: “The notion that DD’s mind would keep turning up that particular signal in the noise of his world is compelling.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Revenant Wings discusses little detours, final fantasies, and paladins vs. giants.
Give us the standard biography.
My name is Revenant Wings, I’m a 26-year-old bisexual college student from Southern California, and besides ponies I have an affinity for gaming, zoos and wildlife, Youtube Let’s Plays, and writing in general. I started writing back in 2008 after seeing a friend of mine finish a 314-page draft of a novel and really wanted to make one of my own because her stuff was so good, so this year actually marks my 10-year anniversary of writing.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I’ve had a lot of questions about whether or not it’s Final-Fantasy-related due to the DS game, but I didn’t hear about it until a year or so later. It was just a cool name for an OC that popped into my head one day and it came with a neat backstory — pegasus with wing issues who gained the ability to fly again in his town’s time of need to alert the Royal Guard, eventually becoming one himself — that I just kept it. Also I had to change it anyways because my old handle was already used by someone else and the system didn’t catch it because I didn’t have a space/underscore.
Who’s your favorite pony?
I find myself lately going back and forth between Big Macintosh and Shining Armor. I like Big Macintosh’s “gentle giant” nature, but I’ve always loved medieval fantasy and Shining Armor being a sort of knight/paladin was right up my alley. Plus I like both of their designs, particularly Shining Armor’s (anthro/humanized art of him is handsome).
What’s your favorite episode?
For a very long time, it was “Sleepless in Ponyville”, which had the emotional moments plus a few laughs that took me by surprise by just how funny they were. And then “The Perfect Pear” came out and, for some reason, it hit all the right notes; I admit I happy-cried by the end of the episode.
What do you get from the show?
When I entered I was skeptical, but also in something of a mildly depressive state, and I warmed up to it because it was disarmingly fun. Now, Friendship is Magic is one of those shows that’s something of a bright spot; if I’m not feeling too good or if I just need something of a pick-me-up, it’s one of those shows that the bright and friendly atmosphere yet impressive writing makes it easy to use it as a moment to rest and recover (I wouldn’t say “hide away”, as I see it as more of a recharge than not wanting to deal with things).
What do you want from life?
Well, I’m almost done with college, so that’s one thing I wanted. I suppose I’d like to have one of my non-pony books hit a top-10 best-seller list — not because of the fame or money but just to say “Look what I did! Isn’t that neat?” I don’t know, really; I don’t have the “big dreams” like most of my offline friends do, I just want a steady partner and companionship and to do what I like to do — study psychology, play video games, and write.
Why do you write?
I’m paraphrasing here, but I once saw a quote from an author that went something like “Write the story you want to read; no one else will if you don’t.” I have a really active imagination and writing was one of the things I could use to express myself and place most of those ideas on paper, especially considering my own talents so far as drawing goes are terrible. Every once in a while I try to input a moral or something like that, but mostly it’s just “Hey, this idea seems cool, I want to see it in ink”.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
It should be noted that I don’t spend too much time on Fimfiction lately, but that’s because I’ve been working on non-pony-related books. Now, when some people heard I started writing with fanfiction, they scoffed at it. However, I see fanfiction as something to be not taken lightly; it’s a nice training ground for working on things and improving yourself and your craft. You make fanfiction and release it, and you have a better chance for feedback and corrections and getting the stuff right, especially with some of the more immediate feedback features like comments and likes or dislikes.
That being said, there is always more to learn. Don’t ever consider yourself great and neglect the chance to continue to work and get better. It’s a lesson told multiple times, but I think it’s because it really is important; no one likes an inflated ego.
What inspired “Reconstruction”?
It took a little while after the Season 5 opening for me to get the idea into my head, but the basic premise was I’d done a little research on cult processes and figured the cooldown time was never an immediate thing, especially with one that seemed as entrenched as Starlight’s did. So from there the next sort of logical step was thinking it can’t have been easy to have their worldview upended so quickly. Now, I did assume some things — a ship hasn’t panned out, there’s no real time-frame given of how long they were under Starlight’s influence — but it was early enough after the episode none of those things had really been explored yet.
In the universe of the story, do you see the villagers ever inviting Starlight back for a visit the way they did in the show?
Around the beginning of season 6, I was originally going to write another one-shot sequel called “Forgiveness” that dealt with Double Diamond realizing she’d done some pretty terrible things but being willing to move on and forgive her, even though it was hard for him, because she ended up being truly repentant. This is something the season 6 finale ended up partially covering, and while I could have retconned some stuff to make the story’s universe match with the show’s and made it work anyways, I ended up working on other things and so I ended up never getting around to it.
Given the Thackeray quote on your Fimfiction user page, what face do you see looking back when you look into the world of Friendship is Magic?
Maybe because it’s a kid’s show, there’s stuff that’s really pointed out to me that I don’t like about myself simply because that world is more pure and I’m most decidedly not. That being said, it’s a good way of seeing the things about myself I could improve, and even as an adult I think there’s some lessons that we learn in childhood but seem to keep forgetting as we grow older by virtue of how our society mostly works and it’s a good reminder of those things. Ironically, the quote comes from Vanity Fair, where most of the main characters don’t seem to learn anything by the end, but I think that was part of Thackeray’s point; they could have learned something from their mistakes and foibles but don’t.
Do you prefer planning your stories out ahead of time or letting them grow during the typing process?
It’s a mixture, honestly. I love typing out outlines ahead of time and making sure that I have some sort of path for the story to follow because it makes the whole process less intimidating. But even with an outline, there are times when something I didn’t expect comes up, but I’ll just throw it in anyways and see where it goes. Then the outline is nice because I can say “Oh, I’m here, I took a little detour here, let’s try getting it back to the main path to help continue” and then I can edit anything that looks strange or wonky in the final product.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“Reconstruction” is probably my favorite work, the one where all the pieces lined up just right and going back to it I can’t really think of adding anything else or taking anything away. That being said, much as I still love reading pony fanfiction, I think my writing time is more often better spent on non-pony works. But, while my time writing pony fanfiction has mostly ended, thank you all for the ride, and I do still enjoy the community, art, and fanfiction the show has produced and seems to continue to produce.
I would love to write that sequel eventually, though.