There are any number of reasons to read today’s story.
[Dark] [Drama] [Sad] • 2,038 words
Queen Chrysalis has spent years in hiding. She has been very careful to avoid being caught, but her time spent alone and in constant fear has worn away her sanity.
FROM THE CURATORS: One of the strengths of pony fanfic is the opportunity to read about characters far removed from ordinary life — so stories focusing on unusual viewpoints can be a treat to find. And this tight, focused look at the far side of sanity hit all the right notes. “I’m a sucker for a nicely done unreliable narrator, and this one pulled me right in with its harrowing, intense voice,” AugieDog said in his nomination. “We’re locked with Chrysalis inside her head, and it’s a place even she doesn’t much want to be.”
And indeed, that was our most common compliment about the story. “The voicing is very, very good — I am completely sold on Chrysalis slowly going crazy in her self-imposed isolation,” RBDash47 said. “The author mentions that they went through a lot of editing and rewriting to get the tone, and I think they nailed it.” Horizon, too, found that compelling: “I think the big thing right here is the portrayal of her descent into insanity. Schizophrenic people work by an internal logic which, while disconnected from reality, makes a strangely elegant almost-sense on its own terms.” And FanOfMostEverything added, “I have to agree on how well the story conveys that. It all makes sense to her; otherwise she wouldn’t do any of it.”
We also found meat on the bones of the exemplary presentation. “The real joy of an unreliable narrator is piecing together the reality they’re denying,” Present Perfect noted, while Horizon spent some time puzzling it over: “The question of whether she’s going back to the same lair over and over again or moving around is a fascinating one, with plenty of evidence to sift through.” Meanwhile, AugieDog praised the economical storytelling: “It’s just the right length for this sort of character study, too.” All those factors came together to heighten the core tragedy of the piece. “The paranoid, vengeful, negative-sum strategy that barely kept her hive fed culminates in her being unable to so much as comprehend mercy on the part of her former subjects,” FanOfMostEverything said. “It’s an excellent capstone for the tragedy of Chrysalis, and an excellent study of karmic justice in action.”
Read on for our author interview, in which AstralMouse discusses weapon padding, imagined chitin, and black as the new black.
Give us the standard biography.
Well, I’m 31 and live in Washington state with two roommates that I am very close to. I have only been writing for about 3 months now, but it’s quickly become something I enjoy doing. I am also casually into swordfighting with foam-padded weapons (specifically Belegarth) but would love to get into HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) proper.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Astral is one of those names that was kind of a fusion of my first and last name. I am also a general fan of astronomy, especially as presented by Carl Sagan and the like. Mouse because when I became a furry and a good friend helped me decide on a character, a mouse seemed fitting; I’m generally pretty shy, but can be adventurous when confident.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Fluttershy, because I identify with her a lot. Aside from the reasons above, I also just love animals. Her becoming more confident over time kind of mirrors my own experience, as I used to be much more closed, but I did want to be able to open up more, and thanks to a close friend, I really have come a long way in the last 9 years or so.
What’s your favorite episode?
This is a question I always have trouble answering. I think I have to say “The Perfect Pear” because it was just a beautifully bittersweet story told very well. Close behind would be “Sounds of Silence”, “Amending Fences”, “Bridle Gossip”, “The Cutie Re-Mark”, “A Royal Problem”, and probably a few others.
What do you get from the show?
As much as I do love the show itself, the best thing about it for me has been the community. From the very first season, fans were already pouring their hearts into fan projects. The love the show’s creators put into MLP is really reflected in how much the fans care about it too. The G4 pony universe was always just so rich with its own lore, and is so satisfying to build on and see how others build on it.
What do you want from life?
Enjoy the time I have, and help others enjoy theirs too.
Why do you write?
It started when my PC died. With just a tablet, I couldn’t really play too many things to pass spare time. I had written a little bit in the past, but not a lot. Then I read a story that gave me the idea for my first story, and after I wrote it, I was very pleased with the comments I had gotten. Then I got other ideas I wanted to write, and my fourth story made it to the featured box, which far exceeded my expectations, and made me incredibly happy to have made something that people enjoyed.
Making things that people like is just a really wonderful feeling for me, so I just wanna keep doing it. That, and now I get ideas that I just want to write, and it’s a great way to get them out.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
As a new writer myself, I worry about giving advice, but I will say what has worked for me. Write what you enjoy. For me, writing something boring slows me down to a crawl and makes me want to stop and work on something else. So I usually do just that.
Love your stories. Put effort into them and I’ve found that really pays off.
Don’t be discouraged by failure, either. Embrace criticism and be open to changing your beliefs or opinions about your own writing.
What inspired “Twenty-eight Boulders”?
The main story that inspired me to start on this was After I Looked Up, The Stars Had Gone Away by The Seer, on Fimfiction. I am also a big fan of short impactful stories, and the main two short-story collections that have continually inspired me are Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew and Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.
Did you find it difficult to maintain such a close focus on Chrysalis’s paranoid POV?
Not particularly. I made it a point to try to imagine myself in her… chitin? Anyway, I’m rather familiar with severe anxiety, so I tried to use that and cranked it up to eleven, while trying to keep her sense of pride intact. So, like internally breaking down while externally showing few signs and suppressing the feelings while they slowly boil over inside her.
It was just a perspective I had a lot of fun with, and enjoyed rewriting a lot of sentences to fit the voice I had imagined for her.
Do you see any hope for your version of Chrysalis?
Unfortunately, in my mind, no. When she attacked what she thought was a peaceful ambassador, it kind of solidified her fate of being on the run forever. That said, it can easily be interpreted with some hope, in that she has a lot of time to change her ways and her only real enemies are those that she creates herself, and they would still prefer to befriend her. At the very least, I think it’s a long and hard road for her from where I left her.
How do you feel the show should deal with Chrysalis during the upcoming final season?
My dream scenario that I doubt will happen is that she will be reformed just like Thorax and Pharynx, turn into a giant colorful moosebug, look down at herself in disgust, then immediately use her transformation powers to revert to her original form. Then when everyone prepares for a fight, she just says “Oh, relax, I just think it looks better.”
Bonus points if some of the other changelings follow suit.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, I am not really one for self-promotion — but I was a little disappointed by this story, and my response was to write my next story, Silver Tears. It deals with a different kind of mental illness through the eyes of the sufferer, and I feel like it was the better story.
That said, I am incredibly honored to have been selected for a spot in the RCL and I’m deeply grateful and pleased that so many people liked Twenty-eight Boulders. Thank you all for reading!