Today’s story will crack open your heart.
[Romance] [Slice of Life] • 4,874 words
Silverstream and her husband Gallus are going to be parents! Everyone is so excited about their egg.
FROM THE CURATORS: Sometimes our search for quality fanfic leads us to the most un-egg-spected of places — in this case, a story everyone was surprised to find themselves enjoying. “Look through my voting record, and it will be very clear that I don’t like shipping,” Soge said in his nomination. “I am also not a fan of the ‘Student 6′. And yet, it seems like putting both together may be a recipe for success.” Present Perfect had a similar reaction: “Having no particular love of the Student Six, I had actually passed this up a couple of times. I was a fool.” Not even unfamiliarity was a barrier, we discovered: “I haven’t kept up with the show since mid-season 7,” RBDash47 said. “I was pleasantly surprised to find this perfectly accessible and enjoyable without any real context.”
Part of that was the exemplary first impression the story made. “It took four, maybe five paragraphs for this story to win me over completely,” AugieDog said. “Before Gallus has even woken up, just the simple act of showing him and their egg through Silverstream’s eyes gives me everything I need to know to enter the story with as firm a footing as I could want.” That led into a tale that worked on many levels, Soge said: “Their relationship is the centerpiece of the story, and it sells the reader on it very well. But beyond that, it also explores many interesting topics, including the future of the rest of the students, the lack of privacy of royal life, the idea of egg-laying sapient species (the way Silver describes the egg in many different scenes is fantastic), the issues with Griffons as a species, and so much more.” He wasn’t the only one commenting on the fic’s vivid descriptions. “Apart from being well-structured, the author does a fantastic job of painting a picture: the multisensory imagery surrounding the egg itself is beautiful, which really helps us see it through its mother’s eyes,” RBDash47 said. “Their nest sounds so inviting I’d like to curl up in it myself.”
And while that vividness was our most common compliment, it was far from the only one. “The character work is just as impeccable as the gorgeous descriptions — I could hear the voices from the show in every line of dialogue,” AugieDog said. “And I will freely admit that the whole exchange between Gallus and Slipstream about the book he got her on the history of stairs made me giggle.” Present Perfect agreed: “This doesn’t just give us the domestic life of young, expectant parents, but of these two characters specifically,” he said. “This story could not work without them. And it very carefully crafts conflict from what little we knew about them after season 8, too.” Ultimately, that chemistry was one of the factors elevating the core shipping, FanOfMostEverything said. “The interaction between the two sells the relationship fantastically, and the background details and other characters’ involvement keep the story from the ‘only two people in the universe’ feel some shipfics can have,” he said. “The emotional and narrative pacing are also top notch, letting dread about Gallus gradually build for the reader until it pierces even Silverstream’s happy eggnant* glow. (* You can all blame the Splatoon fandom for that one.)”
Read on for our author interview, in which Jay Bear v2 discusses unfinished Austen, subtitle curses, and feathered fishes out of water.
Give us the standard biography.
Howdy! I’m a thirty-something dude who’s been a brony since 2011 (back when it was a 4chan meme). Since 2014 I’ve been married to the funniest, kindest, and most cuddly person I’ll ever know, Scratch Paper. We share a house with a dog, a cat, a parrot, and a hoard of MLP collectibles. For my day job I’m a government lawyer — but not the cool kind who puts mob bosses on trial. The nerdy kind who quotes regulations from memory.
When I’m not being nerdy for work or with Scratch Paper and friends, I like to read sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction, go running, and cook. Need a killer mac and cheese recipe? I gotchu.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Jay’s my real life nickname, and when I first joined the fandom, I was a big, grumpy guy, kind of like a bear. Putting them together got me Jay Bear, which sounded enough like a pony name that I registered in FimFiction with it.
Over time I lost some of the grumpiness with help from Scratch Paper, but I kept the name. I also lost access to that old FimFiction account, though. When I got back into fanfic writing in 2016, I had to make a new account and just tossed on ‘v2’ to my old handle. Originally I meant that to be short for “version 2” but I like the suggestion that it stand for “volume 2”.
Who’s your favorite pony?
It’s so hard to choose just one! There’s Gallus with his snark, Zecora with her mysterious background, Ember’s badassery, Thorax’s … oh, wait, did you say favorite pony?
Starlight Glimmer. I’m a sucker for characters who have regrets about their past. Seeing them accept those regrets, learn from them, and find ways to improve themselves and the people around them really connects with me. The show does have a tendency to start that process with magical friendship lasers and time travel spells, but then it’s honest about the follow-through. Redemption is an everyday choice, and seeing Starlight struggle with that choice gives me hope for the rest of us.
What’s your favorite episode?
“A Royal Problem,” the Season 7 episode where Starlight swaps Celestia’s and Luna’s cutie marks. Starlight goes into this episode with good intentions and the drive to prove herself, but she’s still using her old style of solving problems. That backfires. Starlight fails, almost dooming Equestria, and the episode has a happy ending only because the princesses talk through their issues. It’s character development for Starlight, and I’d like to think it’s part of the reason she’s a counselor — someone who helps others by talking through their issues — in Season 8.
What do you get from the show?
That’s evolved since I started watching, and I suspect it will keep evolving even after the end of the series. Originally I watched it for the humor alone, plus a sense of “I’m a grown man watching MLP and no one can stop me.” Over time, though, I started to appreciate its sincerity. The show is a 22-minute weekly toy commercial. Its creators could have phoned it in and collected their paychecks, but they went beyond that, making it with good writing, talented voice actors, and a hope that maybe they can help some of its viewers learn about friendship. That sincerity appealed to me, and I’m glad it’s appealed to a lot of great people, especially Scratch Paper and a bunch of folks who became our friends.
What do you want from life?
My goal in life is best expressed through the mottos of philosophers William S. Preston, Esq. and Theodore Logan: “Be excellent to each other,” and, “Party on, dudes!”
Yeah, yeah, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure isn’t actually the ideal philosophy, but I’d argue it’s pretty close. Life takes a myriad of paths from beginning to end, but it always ends and it never lasts long enough. There’s no guarantee that anything we do will endure or even be remembered. To me, the most important things are what brings happiness now, and what I know will bring regrets later. So if I can get through life being excellent to others, and having fun in the meantime, I think that would be all right.
Why do you write?
I love puzzles and problem-solving. Piecing together clues, testing the rules of the puzzle, and finding a (preferably clever) solution satisfies me in a way a very few other things in life do. I didn’t even like reading very much until my parents got me into Sherlock Holmes.
Writing became another form of problem-solving for me. When I wrote stories as a kid, that was really mechanical: the good guys are in a bad situation, so how do they win? I’d like to think I’ve matured, so I spend more time developing characters, refining style, and making dialogue believable but snappy. However, I’m still most excited when I’m writing a story that I think is a clever answer to a sticky question.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Oh, goodness, why are you asking me? Do what I did and read the advice everyone else gave in their RCL interviews. I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll come up with anything more insightful than what’s in that treasure trove.
What inspired “We’re Eggspecting!”?
The first line in the “Rough Idea” tab for this story is, “Gallus: I don’t know if I’d be a good parent. I don’t really know what parents do.” It stuck with me as a tough question — how does someone become a good parent when they don’t have a lot of exposure to good parenting? — and I wanted to find a good answer.
For a while, the story stayed stuck with Gallus and a partner talking about their anxieties with parenthood. I hadn’t even settled on who his partner would be. Silverstream seemed like the default choice, but I’d also thought about having him married to Sandbar, Ocellus, or Yona since they’ve each got supportive families who could teach Gallus about family life. Ocellus in particular was interesting. Changelings are still learning about sharing love themselves, and the unique family structure of the hive had a lot of worldbuilding potential. Of course, him crawling around inside the hive with claustrophobia would be challenging…
I figured out the ending — and that only Silverstream could help Gallus reach it — when I thought about her past. She grew up in a totally different environment, which the show plays up for fish-out-of-water gags, but in this story she’s back home. Literally in the sense of being in Mount Aris, figuratively in that she’s surrounded by family again. Married to Silverstream, Gallus is the fish out of water, and she’s in a unique position to relate to his struggle. With that, the rest of the story came together (with the typical amount of rewrites, abandoned ideas, hair-pulling, existential crises, sacrifices to the Dark Gods of Writing, and proofreading).
Did you find it challenging to write a romance where the characters are not only already married but are about to have a child?
No on the topic, yes on the genre. Scratch Paper and I have been married for four and a half years now, and while we don’t have any kids on the way, we have talked about becoming parents. Those talks include how it’s an exciting, and scary, proposition. Some of those talks found their way into this story.
As for the genre, I have a confession to make: I’m not really a romance fan. I have yet to finish a Jane Austen novel, and when I’m reading or watching something with a romance subplot, my inner 13-year-old wants to skip past the kissy parts and get back to the fighting. However, I knew there was a lot of great writing in romance, so I decided I’d try writing one to figure out how they work. To keep it entertaining for myself, I also planned to add some light horror touches.
The end result was Shadows Swarmed Below, a dark horror story with a subplot about a failed relationship. I tried again, this time focusing entirely on romance, but the second attempt fell apart before I finished the first draft. Too many plot threads that never came together. After I shelved attempt number two, I realized it might help to, you know, read a few good romances before trying to write one. Crazy, right?
Scratch Paper recommended some stories from FimFiction, and I tracked down a few excellent stories on my own. Reading through those stories helped me understand what can make romance so great, and what elements resonated with me as a reader. For example, in “Stay a little longer?” by semillon, there’s this adorable intimacy between the POV character and their crush that runs through the whole story. Every beat of it made me giddy. Then, in “Celestia’s Desire” by Hyzaku, the story ties together the considerations that go into parenthood with very tender depictions of love. One thing those stories (and others I adored) have in common is that they’re told solely from one character’s perspective. Not knowing exactly what the other character is thinking created a tension that drew me in.
Now that I had a sense of what kind of romances I liked, I went back to that second attempt to see if I could rewrite it using those elements. There were still too many plot threads, so I started a new story that focused on one of the last sentences of my outline: Gallus saying, “I don’t know if I’d be a good parent…”
What curse is the story’s subtitle referring to?
For those who don’t know, “curses, like chickens, come home to roost,” is a proverb that means a person’s misdeeds often return to haunt them. It’s what the title would be if the story were told from Gallus’s perspective and ended before the balcony scene. He wakes up with his wife and the symbol of this new chapter of his life. This is his family, and he knows painfully well just how lucky he is to have that. When he looks at the egg, though, he has a strange doubt he can’t articulate. However, he has the faint but gnawing worry that it’s not how an expectant father should feel. He spends the day casting about for an explanation until he recalls a choice he made as a young cub. He fears his choice back then broke something inside of him, or else it reflects something that’s always been broken. That choice has finally come back, and it may force him to make another terrible choice.
Of course, this is really Silverstream’s story about what she discovers and how she reacts. Therefore, the “curse” stays in the subtitle.
As a storyteller, what attracts you to the Young 6?
I’m not really sure. Part of it is probably that they’re in a sweet spot for writing fanfiction since we know a little of their backstories — enough that a story doesn’t have to introduce them — but there’s still enough left unanswered that can be explored with stories. Another part is probably how they’re from different cultures that we also don’t know a lot about. Compared to the eight seasons we’ve gotten of Equestria, there’s plenty of room to invent yak customs or make up changeling history. But overall, they’re simply fun to write.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
First off, thank you to everyone who read We’re Eggspecting!, and thank you to the RCL curators for selecting it! This was a tough, personal story to write, and the response to it has overwhelmed me.
To Scratch Paper, thank you for editing and the hilarious cover, and I love you so, so much. The rest of y’all should check out her DeviantArt page at https://www.deviantart.com/catscratchpaper !
My parting thought is just to create. Be as creative as you possibly can, whether that’s through writing, art, games, collecting, or being awesome with your friends. Whatever you create won’t be around forever, and that’s okay. You’re here now.