Today’s story looks at some big problems.
Each Small Step
[Equestria Girls] [Romance] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 13,137 words
[Note: This story contains themes of sexuality and self-harm.]
It’s been a long time since the Battle of the Bands, and a lot has changed for Aria. One of the bigger changes has been Sunset Shimmer. The two of them were never supposed to happen, but they somehow still did.
Not that it matters. Nothing good ever lasts, not for Aria Blaze.
FROM THE CURATORS: While stories like last week’s feature draw emotions from MLP by playing the show’s themes straight, there’s also a great deal of power in going the other direction — colliding the show with real life to show characters with all-too-familiar struggles. And this Honorable Mention in the recent Sunset shipping contest left us all feeling a little punched, in the best way. “This hit close to home, and it was really a tense marvel to sit through,” Present Perfect said in his nomination, while Soge was likewise drawn in: “Even when going through slice of life scenes, there is this undercurrent of tension to the prose, as if everything could break apart at any moment. It is this well-constructed web of people doing the precise wrong thing at the wrong time, because that is just how they operate.”
Most of our discussion became praise for the way this illustrated its protagonist’s problems. “The moment we see Aria’s state of affairs in this story, it’s obvious she’s suffering from depression,” Present Perfect said. “It also quickly becomes obvious she has no idea what that really means; ergo, the word is never once used. Instead, we’re shown a long, painful snapshot of a woman self-destructing.” AugieDog agreed that was exemplary: “As someone who’s never experienced anything close to this level of depression, I find myself so glad that fiction just plain exists,” he said. “This story does such a fine job of showing rather than telling, too, not trying to explain Aria’s situation to me but just plain putting me inside her head to let me see the world as she sees it.” And while the story goes to some dark places, it never abandoned pony’s sense of hope and friendship. “It was a great choice to never come right out and say ‘Aria is depressed,’ and I did like the message — you don’t have to go it alone,” RBDash47 said.
Moreover, digging into the meat of the fic revealed depth beyond that solid portrayal. “There’s some clever prose which brings the full weight of the emotions to bear,” Horizon said. “Although Chapter 1 is arguably the biggest train wreck, the callback at the end of Chapter 2 is exquisitely painful.” That plus exemplary character work rounded out the experience. “I think this might’ve been the best Sonata I’ve ever read in a fic,” AugieDog said. “In just one conversation on the telephone, the author brings her completely to life — I mean, I totally want to read about her and Trixie’s adventures now.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Krickis discusses open worlds, messy ships, and misspelled rabbits.
Give us the standard biography.
Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria, ponies lived and played peacefully. It was a happy land, the occasional cataclysmic evil notwithstanding. But this world of happy ponies was, if anything, too happy. And so, Krickis the winged rabbit descended from the heavens to make all the horses cry. And cuddle. And sometimes cry while cuddling. They continue their noble goal to this day, always seeking out ways to harvest a fresh crop of pony tears.
Alternatively, I could be twenty-eight, live in Florida, and struggle with mental health issues and poverty. But that’s kinda a downer. I dunno, I normally talk about my writing when people ask stuff like that. I’m also queer as heck, polyamorous, and bad at open-ended questions ^^’
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Ah, a story about videogames, gender identity struggles, and rabbits. When I was a kid one of my favorite games was Suikoden, and my favorite character from it was Kirkis. I didn’t read names very carefully back then, and misread his name as Krickis.
I then named my favorite stuffed animal, a rabbit, Krickis after what I thought was my favorite character’s name. Being a storyteller by nature, I gave my stuffed animals personalities and what not, and Krickis’s was mostly based on a more idealized version of me because favorite. Originally, Krickis was a boy rabbit because I was a boy and that’s just how that sorta thing tends to go. Then one night I just kinda thought “What if Krickis was a girl?” and then thought of her as a girl from then on (trans rabbit for the win!)
I started using the character I made for her as a character in stories. She was already a more idealized version of me, and I didn’t know it at the time, but her being a girl played into that. Like many teens with a self-insert, I used her in everything. First my own stories, but then as the character I’d play in videogames that allow you to design your own character. It gave me a way to roleplay that person I wanted to be, and a defense when people asked why I was playing as a girl. When I started to have a larger online presence, I thought about how I wanted to be represented. Krickis was the obvious answer. By this time, I’d realized I was genderqueer (realizing I’m trans came later) and was interested in being gender neutral in how I represented myself. Using a rabbit as an avatar and the name Krickis allowed me to have a consistent name and “face” without any gender stuff to go with that.
Who’s your favorite pony?
It varies between Fluttershy, Twilight, and Sunset. Fluttershy is my favorite when watching the show, but she does lose some charm in fanfic since you can’t see her. Twilight is the character I most relate to, what with her hyperfocus and anxiety issues. And Sunset just has so much story-telling potential.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?”. It was surprisingly dark and heavy for ponies, and I really appreciated the unexpected message about self-harm. Plus as a sucker for surrealism, dream sequences are always gonna draw me in. Add in some great jokes, strong characterization, and actually using the citizens of Ponyville to help solve the problem, and it’s pretty much everything I could want from an episode.
What do you get from the show?
Mainly it’s just a feeling. I’ll never be the type of person who’s super critical of the show, because as long as it has that pony kind of feeling, that’s all I really want. As someone who struggles with depression, the positivity, general fun, bright colors, and uplifting messages mean a lot to me, even if I don’t pursue that particular style in my own writing.
As a writer, I love the openness of the world. It lends itself extremely well to the fanfiction medium — there’s just so many stories that can be told in it. And while the looseness of the world is objectively a bad thing, it allows for different interpretation of events and characters, which lets me do my heavy social issues stuff and others do their Equestria is a land of understanding stuff, and both options fit into the world just fine.
What do you want from life?
Probably the most common answer to this question ever, but I’d like to make it as a writer in some fashion. It’s what I’m best at and the lifestyle appeals to me. Preferably I’d like to be a novelist, but I’m also working on an (as of yet unannounced) animated series as a scriptwriter, and that’s been awesome and would be a career I’d love to step into. Basically I dream of that middle-class life and I hope I can get there with words.
Why do you write?
Wow, do I ever have a depressing answer for that! Okay, so, I can’t maintain happiness. My brain is just not wired correctly and while I feel all the same emotions as anyone else, including positive ones, I can’t hold onto that for any real length of time; as soon as something that makes me happy is done, all the happiness is gone with it. Antidepressants help keep me from plummeting into negative feelings, but at best I go about life feeling kind of neutral. Doing something I can look back on and feel accomplished of is sorta close to lasting happiness in a way. Writing may not make me happy (aspects of it do, sure, although that fades quickly as all other happiness does), but it makes me feel accomplished, and that makes me want to keep on living.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Try workshopping stories. Writers have this natural inclination to think that working alone is the right way to do things, and that working with others should only come after writing via proofreaders/editors. But bringing ideas up before they’re written can help you figure out scenes that are giving you a hard time and get you to see other ways you might do things. And since you still maintain 100% control over which ideas you use, you can still make it completely your own vision.
What inspired “Each Small Step”?
A while back I wrote a story about struggling with anxiety called “In Quiet Moments”. It wasn’t very widely read, but it remains a story I look back on and think that I actually did something really good with it. It was a way to write about things that I deal with and made me want to keep writing about mental health issues more. So then when the Sunset Shipping contest rolled around, I thought about what kind of story I could tell in the 15k limit that would be meaningful and stand out from the rest of the entries, and decided depression was something I should try to tackle.
Also, Sunaria is a great and underrated ship that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time now, so that was a plus.
How challenging was it to write a story about depression without ever actually using the word?
It wasn’t something I set out to do, but thinking of it now, it probably would’ve been harder to fit the word depression in there in a way that didn’t feel forced. I was writing from my own experiences for much of the story, and I struggled with depression for well over a decade before I ever acknowledged depression was indeed what I was feeling. I think most of the time figuring out terms like that comes after deciding to try to figure out what’s going on and make a change.
Nearly every one of your stories has a “Romance” tag, but your user page talks about you “feeding off the negative emotions of fictional characters.” How do these two things fit together?
Romantic drama is where it’s at. I love romance — it’s a fascinating subject to me and I get all giddy and happy when I see it. But I also love realism, and real life is messy. One of the things that got me writing is how often shipfics portray couples as inherently happy, with conflict generally coming from outside of the relationship. I love fluff to no end, but as someone who has been with the same person for almost 12 years now, that just feels incomprehensible to me. So basically, I’m just all about those hurt/comfort fics!
Have you found that proofreading for other authors helps with your own writing?
Definitely. Seeing how others do things is always beneficial, and proofreading makes me take a closer look at that than I otherwise would. A couple of authors in particular really made an impact on how I write (shout-out to regular collaborators Wendy Gowak and Char Char Chan there). I just wish I had more time to do it these days.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for the feature, and I hope I haven’t bummed everyone out with my answers!