Take a closer look into tonight’s story.
[Tragedy] • 3,755 words
Bitter from her defeat and exile, the Mare in the Moon watches Equestria move on without her.
FROM THE CURATORS: Some of My Little Pony’s central tales, such as Luna’s banishment and return, inspire an endless variety of reinterpretations. And it’s fanfics like this week’s which make it rewarding to keep returning to that well. “I’ve seen a lot of different takes on what exactly it was like to be imprisoned in the moon by the Elements, but nothing quite like this,” RBDash47 said. “I love the idea of the Mare in the Moon as a Sauronesque eye, inspecting Equestria during the full moon, marking its changes. That’s worth the price of admission alone for me. But then the author uses this conceit to tell a wonderful story with a perfectly unreliable narrator about how Equestria and Celestia responded to Nightmare Moon’s banishment.”
That combination was bolstered by vivid and compelling writing. “It’s full of atmosphere and emotion,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “The Mare in the Moon is clearly unhinged, her desires changing at the drop of a hat. It also approaches her imprisonment from numerous angles, not just her own perspective — we get the thoughts and actions of Equestrians, her former knights, and of course her sister.” A strong emotional focus contributed to the story’s power, AugieDog said. “The whole piece just overflows with Nightmare Moon’s paranoia — it reminds me of Twenty-Eight Boulders, where Chrysalis is convinced that everything around her is spying on her. But when we cut at the end to the POV of the ponies back on Equestria, it shifts the whole story’s perspective in such a fine way by showing us exactly how unreliable a narrator Nightmare Moon has been.”
And ultimately, what sealed the feature was how evocative the details were, from start to finish. “What hits me is how perfectly the core image of the candle reflects and encapsulates the themes of the story,” Horizon said, while Present Perfect said: “Watching Luna misinterpret Celestia’s actions was maybe the saddest part of this.” And those included links to the show, AugieDog noted: “I love how it gives us the historical event that could’ve inspired the Nightmare Night traditions we see in ‘Luna Eclipsed,’ especially the whole thing about Nightmare Moon wanting to gobble ponies up.”
Read on for our author interview, in which SheetGhost discusses tough love, Greek traditions, and burner accounts.
Give us the standard biography.
I’ll spare you the tragic backstory, it’s too edgy and while it’d be great for a YA novel, I got bigger fish to fry. I’m a nerdy white dude who is creeping closer and closer to middle age. I was in my mid-twenties when I wrote Moonlight Vigil. Now I work in computer programming and have a boring middle-aged life in a boring middle-aged town doing boring middle-aged things. Let me tell you all about how I’ve started dieting or about my herb garden. Wait, where are you going?
When I wrote Moonlight Vigil I was working a dead-end night shift job at Wal-Mart and slowly drinking myself to death. I didn’t see much of a future for myself, so I wrote My Little Pony fanfiction.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I like sheet ghosts, they’re silly and a little mournful. I was looking for a name I could easily distance myself from. I got used to creating a lot of burner accounts in my teen years due to excessive parental monitoring and never quit the habit.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Sunset Shimmer is best human.
What’s your favorite episode?
“It’s About Time.” It was the first time I saw the patterns of anxiety attacks and panic attacks that I have to deal with depicted on television. The visual metaphor of Twilight winding herself up so much she walks grooves into the floor in a clockwork circle was a great gag and a great piece of visual storytelling as well.
What do you get from the show?
For the most part, it was just an enjoyable cartoon. I got to practice a lot of real-world social skills I had missed out on in my childhood by interacting with bronies, which was nice.
What do you want from life?
Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey and more money.
Jokes aside, I’d like to have a family at some point. I’ve mostly let my dreams of grandeur slip with the slow realization that it doesn’t matter how sharp or charming or cool you are, the game is largely fixed. Social mobility has slowed to a crawl and I’m lucky enough to have gotten on the last train to suburbia. I’ll take what I can get.
Why do you write?
I don’t anymore. I run Dungeons & Dragons to scratch my creative itch, but that hardly counts.
Why did I write? I had vague aspirations of being a novelist, but I don’t know if I have a novel in me. Maybe a novella if I really tried. As well, when you’re working the kind of dead-end jobs I was working while writing, you need something to pour all that pent-up mental energy into. Now that I work a job that uses my brain meat all day, there’s less of a screaming need to produce.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Try not to fall into the trap of perfectionism that I fell into. Get the mantra of ‘Good Enough’ in your head when your internal critic starts picking at your work. The most important thing is to keep writing, even if you don’t feel like it, even if it’s garbage. You’ll either get better over time or your natural talent will begin to shine through, but the fact of the matter is almost no one craps out anything perfect on their first go. Accept criticism, but don’t be defined by it.
Not that I actually practice what I preach.
What inspired Moonlight Vigil?
My first fic Schedule Break was too short to get put on Equestria Daily. I was mad about that, so I wrote another fic that was longer and focused on depression rather than anxiety and was about the more popular princess.
I mean, I wasn’t satisfied with the narrative around Luna when the story was produced, so I wanted to push out some of the venom that must have been there for her to have done what she did into the fandom’s collective consciousness. I was also annoyed with all the ‘poor Luna’ narratives that popped up and presented Celestia as an abusive figure.
But the reality was I wrote something with purely cynical motivations.
Is the tragedy here more than Luna doesn’t understand other ponies, or that they don’t understand her?
The inability to communicate is the crux of the tragedy of the story, but Luna is the one who needs to change and is undone by her inability to face her character flaws, in the Greek tradition. Luna in this story has limited emotional tools to bring her in line with how Nightmare Moon was presented. She thinks she can only express her need for love and affection through anger, jealousy, and dominance.
You might think you can love people like that into normalcy, as the other ponies did, but in the end they need to be the ones to make the first steps towards understanding their methods of expressing themselves aren’t working.
Not advocating tough love here, just saying you can’t love the toxicity out of someone.
Is a redemption like we saw in the show possible for this Mare in the Moon?
I haven’t read the thing in a couple years, but there’s references to like the ‘celestial capital being destroyed’ or whatever, and I figured it was just displacement. Nobody died or anything. She knocked over a cloud fort. I had the notion that whatever Luna did to become Nightmare Moon was what caused the Everfree to exist and the former castle and presumed city around it to be abandoned and I wanted to get into that. She needs to learn to express her needs and fears in a healthy way, but I considered the character to be the same one as the one in the show and tried my best to create a throughline between Luna as we saw her in season 2 and what we saw of Nightmare Moon.
I don’t think anyone noticed, but the whole story is a backstory for Nightmare Night as a tradition, so it comes back around and the thing she did that doomed her also later saves her. I thought there was some poetic irony in that. I thought about putting in something to make it explicit, but I couldn’t think of a way to make it seem natural.
What is it that pulled you away from writing My Little Pony fanfiction?
I quit the show about midway through season 6. Twilight had finished her arc back in season 3 and the show had been pedaling water for a while. Starlight Glimmer did not suit me as a replacement protagonist for various reasons, some of which are personal. If you like the character, that’s fine. It’s my own baggage, I’ll check it myself.
I also got my first non dead-end job and started building a life for myself. Writing in general fell by the wayside as I got out of the black hole my life had been for a long time. I still tinker with stuff from time to time, but if I wrote any more I’d want to do original works rather than fanfiction.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I wanted there to be a very ‘mythic’ quality to this fic. Celestia and Luna were essentially demigods in the eyes of the fandom at the time of publishing, and I wanted to play on that. I wanted it to be like the old myths though, full of weird rules for magic and brief mentions of things from long-lost books you’ll never get to read. I think I may have shaved a lot of that off in editing though.
A lot of the show’s later seasons invalidated a lot of this fanfic, but maybe you’ll enjoy it anyways.