There’s some impressive work behind today’s story.
The Mare Behind the Mare
[Slice of Life] • 9,688 words
What sort of mare would turn down the chance to help a friend? Twilight’s been there for me so many times in the past, but now she’s a princess with all the new obligations and duties that come with that. The transition… hasn’t been an entirely smooth one. Who better to lend her a helping hoof and show her how one deals with nobles, courts, and politics than moi?
I only hope it doesn’t end up costing one of us our sanity along the way.
FROM THE CURATORS: There are some stories so powerful that it’s always a little shocking to see their author featured for anything else. Hard Reset — one of FIMFiction’s top-10 upvoted stories, and a contender in our upcoming “Ponyfic: There Can Be Only One” Bronycon panel — is one of those. But it’s ineligible for RCL refeature due to its Pony Fiction Vault interview, and Eakin has written no shortage of other strong contenders.
What caught our eye about The Mare Behind The Mare was how effortlessly it demonstrated strength in a very different genre from Eakin’s biggest hit. “It is this delightful mix of comedy and political intrigue, with the kind of sharp-witted prose that really manages to elevate the whole thing,” Soge said. It even sparked favorable comparisons to an acknowledged master of that genre: “This was supremely funny,” Present Perfect said, “in precisely the way GhostOfHeraclitus’ Civil Service stories are.” AugieDog felt similarly in his nomination. “It starts from a premise that I’m sure I’ve seen before in Ponyfic: Rarity tutors the new Princess Twilight in the ways of the Royal Court,” he said. “But even though it doesn’t have a Comedy tag on it, its second chapter takes it off in a a delightfully devious little ‘comedy of manners’ direction that’s reminiscent of GhostOfHeraclitus’ Civil Service stories. (Dotted Line even makes a Ghost-approved off-stage cameo.)”
That cameo was virtually the only character not singled out for praise. “It’s a pure pleasure to watch Rarity work here,” AugieDog said. “Twilight’s written a bit naïvely throughout, but she steps up at the end to put together all the pieces Rarity’s laid out for her.” Soge admired the princesses: “It is propped up by some amazing characterization for all involved (I particularly like Celestia hamming it up for the benefit of the court), and a vision of a might-have-been for Twilight getting used to power. Great work all around.” And Present Perfect’s protagonist praise was part of a broader compliment: “Every time I think I fully understand the concept of ‘show, don’t tell,’ a good author like Eakin comes along and shows me how to step up my game,” he said. “The scene with Rarity talking to the disinterested reporter, turning an off-handed comment into an Equestria-wide panic, was a marvelous linchpin for the entire thing.”
But even more than that, we appreciated the tale’s balancing acts. “Stories like this need a very delicate balance of idealism and cynicism, and Eakin pulls it off exactly right,” AugieDog said. Horizon cited another: “The first and second chapters are fantastic in very different ways. While the plotting is indeed tightly written and gorgeous to watch, the extended tea metaphor in Chapter 1 is exquisitely balanced — strong enough to carry the story, but not so strong it drowns out the nuances of the surrounding writing.” Ultimately, all those factors led to no shortage of enthusiasm for the feature. “This was a very good fic,” Present Perfect said. “I love watching a plan come together, and I will heartily support the nomination.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Eakin discusses Platonic alicorns, cooking chickens, and butchered quotes.
Give us the standard biography.
While I’ve largely moved onto other things by this point, my brony days were when I was a graduate student on the East Coast of the US. I’ve gone West since then, and work for a software development company now.
Writing isn’t as big a part of my life as it used to be, but I do still try to work on a few hobby projects here and there.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It’s actually my IRL middle name.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Still Twilight, though I suspect if I sat down and watched more of what the show’s put out over the last couple years, it would either be Starlight Glimmer or Sunset over on the EqG side.
What’s your favorite episode?
It’s been too long since I’ve watched any of them to pick one out. Mostly what sticks in my memory are particular jokes or the songs.
What do you get from the show?
I kind of came into the fandom during a rough patch in my life, so a source of good-natured positivity with just enough self-awareness that it never felt like it was talking down to anybody was welcome at that point.
And of course all the fan creations that were springing up during those first couple years were as big a draw as the show itself, if not more.
What do you want from life?
Just to leave things a little bit better off than I found them. I’m pretty content with having modest ambitions.
Why do you write?
I’m fairly introverted by nature, but I have a very active inner life running through my head a lot of the time. For me there’s no better way to structure and explore the different ways something might play out than putting it onto paper, and try to imagine how people with different perspectives or different subsets of the information would react and bounce off one another.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Honestly, there’s too many different genres and styles for any sort of one-size-fits-all advice to be useful. To butcher George E. P. Box’s quote, all writing advice is wrong, some is just useful. Never just follow a writing rule or piece of advice from anyone without understanding why you’re doing so, because then you’ll understand when and how you need to break that rule.
What inspired “The Mare Behind the Mare”?
We didn’t have a ton of Rarity and Celestia interactions up to that point, but it always seemed like they would have fun together. Celestia (well, fanon-Celestia) is every bit the epitome of the Canterlot nobility Rarity’s always idolized, the Platonic ideal of the benevolent, refined upper class that really appreciates the finer things in life the way Rarity does. And for all her melodrama, Rarity has enough small-town, rural sensibility (not that she’d ever admit that) to always sort of be ‘in’ on Celestia’s grand, somewhat offbeat jokes at the nobility’s expense. And there were all those questions after season 3 of just how on earth Twilight could take up a Princess mantle, with all that would entail. So of course the two of them would discuss that if they ever got together for a casual conversation.
Really, the whole ‘scheming chancellor’ role is a natural extension of her talent for making other ponies look good.
Why switch person and tense for the second chapter?
The first chapter was all there was of this for a long time. I posted it in my flash fiction collection as a standalone thing, without really having any plans to expand on it. By the time I did come back to it, I was finished writing an entire trilogy in Twilight’s first-person voice, and decided to try to adapt the same style to another character.
To reference some of your other titles, do you ever feel any “Magnum Opus Dissonance” with regard to the Time Loop Trilogy?
Not to that extent, thankfully, but I learned an important lesson about biting off more than I could chew. Fate could have used a few more drafts to coalesce all the ideas I had for it into a more coherent whole. I feel like the other material I’ve put out on this site has gotten plenty of attention and accolades, and I’m confident that if I ever wrote a sequel about (say) Scootaloo attending cooking school, people would be all over it.
What are you working on these days?
I’d love to publish something non-pony under my real name, but I’ve never gotten further than a couple of false starts. Maybe someday, though!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
So long and thanks for all the ponies!