Today’s story is a rare find.
Sassy Saddles Meets Sasquatch
[Comedy] [Random] • 5,886 words
The legend is known throughout Equestria, but there are few who believe. Those who claim to have seen the beast are dismissed as crackpots and madponies. Those who bring evidence before the world are dismissed as histrionic deceivers. There are those who have seen, however — those who know — and they will forever cry out their warning from the back seats of filthy, old train cars, even to those who dismiss them, who revile them, who ignore their warnings unto their own mortal peril.
“The sasquatch is real!” they will cry forevermore, even as nopony believes.
But from this day forward, Sassy Saddles will believe.
FROM THE CURATORS: While many of our features trend toward the emotionally weighty, sometimes you just want a good laugh as a palate cleanser. And this one was quite a find. “I’ve not read a comedy like this in quite some time,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “The jokes are lightning-fast and begin as soon as the story does. This is nothing but wacky pony hijinks and cutting dialogue.” AugieDog quickly agreed while assigning it a top score: “Oh, my goodness, yes.” And Soge was similarly delighted: “I was in the mood for comedy, and this delivers in spades. Whenever a joke fails to land, it is quickly followed up by ten more that do.”
However, what AugieDog found most impressive was the balancing act the story required. “Real, honest-to-goodness goofiness, I continue to hold, is about the hardest sort of writing to do well,” he said. “You need a story that can hold up as an actual story while being bent out of shape and knocked askew from every possible direction. The characters have to do things that make sense in context even though they’re completely absurd. And the dialogue has to sparkle with wit one sentence, stumble into stupidity the next. This story delivers on all possible fronts, from how foundational Sassy’s sassiness is to her entire self-image to the footnote in the middle of the saga of the two rat kings.”
That was enriched by consistent writing, Present Perfect said: “Sassy Saddles is hilariously stubborn in her dedication to sass, in the same way the story is hilariously dedicated to its own ridiculous premise.” And, as Soge said, that made it a solid choice: “Coupled with the pitch-perfect absurd logic with which the story operates, and a colorful cast of supporting characters, it makes for a sure-fire nomination.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Mannulus discusses brony rarity, Rarity beatdowns, and big-box luthiers.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m kind of an odd story within the fandom; a Brony from Mississippi who had been through a divorce only a few years prior when he became a Brony back around 2011 or so. Both of those facts, being from that state and being divorced, were highly unusual for Bronies at the time, according to the sociologists who were studying the fandom back then. I know because they did an entire presentation on the fandom at about the second or third BronyCon, and one of them told me that I was statistically the “rarest Brony” she’d ever encountered.
Otherwise, my background in general was probably fairly similar to some of us; music, theatre, etc. Obviously, I was also a writer. Like a lot of artistically motivated people, though, I didn’t feel like I fit in most places, and Bronies were an inclusive enough group that they made me feel at ease.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I have a minor in Latin, and mannulus is quite literally “little pony” in that language.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Rarity. Her neurosis always amuses me, and I love how she turns perceptions of what it means to be a “girly girl” on their ear. She can whip between being way too concerned over a stain on a dress and ready to give someone a well-deserved beatdown in a moment. That’s endearing to me for some reason.
What’s your favorite episode?
“Castle Mania” always jumps to mind as one that’s fun to watch just about any time, but it’s tough to pick any single episode. I like Rarity, as I said, but the show is empty without the whole formula, and you need to watch a lot of episodes to wrap your mind around all the characters and their dynamics.
What do you get from the show?
From the beginning, for me, it has been this thing that can pull me back from bleak, empty places that I tend to go and linger, often for too long. There’s a lot of ugliness in the world, and occasionally I need some happy, idealistic spot in my existence to focus my vision for awhile, and let it clear. Everything about ponies was that; the message, the art style, and the fandom itself.
What do you want from life?
I hope it won’t seem like too much of a self-plug, but I guess I’m safe here given that I don’t really write ponyfic anymore. In short: I hope I one day become as self-actualized as my version of Derpy Hooves is by the end of the “Misadventures” series I wrote based around her. (SPOILERS) That Derpy is really the epitome of what I think a “good person” is: She’s this self-acknowledged failure who isn’t even sure she’s living up to her own potential, and thinks she might be just a little bit selfish. She keeps making the “right” or “heroic” decisions because she’s always questioning her own motives and has an almost pathological inability to willfully do evil or even to just be cowardly when choosing the easy way out would keep her safe. Then she comes to this day where she looks at herself reflected as something more perfect than she could ever be in and of herself, and that makes her see the value in being what she already is.
I think that for anyone anywhere, to be able to look at yourself without bravado or self-deception and to see that you have value — not merely because you exist, but because you have earned that evaluation of yourself by what you have done — may well be the best thing there is.
But that is so hard to do honestly, and it’s something you have to be very, very careful about telling yourself.
Why do you write?
That changes every time I sit down to do it, and I think that has something to do with why I do it at all, that I’m trying to understand myself and how I relate to the world around me. I think I’m looking for some kind of a big picture or “grand unified theory” that may not even exist, but the point is less to find it than to look for it.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
If you really want to write, learn to love written language. It doesn’t have to be pompous or send the reader to a dictionary every three sentences, but there is a lilt and flow to the written word that needs to be present in order to make a reader want to slow down and dwell on it long enough to appreciate what you’ve made.
That’s a tough thing to find, a tough skill to develop, but human beings are storytellers by nature. If you want it, I think you can find it.
What — in addition to the dare mentioned in the story notes — inspired “Sassy Saddles Meets Sasquatch”?
There is a largely forgotten episode of “Dexter’s Laboratory” where Dee Dee meets a sasquatch in the woods. I just thought it would be amusing to have this garrulous, habitually alliterative character we knew almost nothing about meet essentially the same sasquatch and see how it played out. I really did not intend for it to go as far as it did, but about two thousand words in, I knew it had gotten away from me, and I had no choice but to finish it.
Do you approach this sort of goofy comedy in a different way than your more character-based stories?
Overall, yes; it’s pretty necessary. The issue with a story like this is that we don’t know much about Sassy. She’s appeared in, I think, maybe three episodes, and had only been in one when this was written, if I recall. We know she alliterates frequently, and we know she’s into fashion and has a fairly strong will. Compare that to Rarity, who is similar at least in the sense of being a fashionista, but has myriad other well-established characteristics, and we see an immediate problem: Sassy Saddles is only just barely a character at all. In a way, this is more fun, because it means I get to decide who she is, but it’s also more challenging, because it limits what I can do with her before she becomes less a character and more a walking joke.
In the end, I had to latch onto her stubbornness and self-assured nature, and play up her quirk of alliterating frequently to create gags. I was actually surprised at how sympathetic she ended up being.
Do you find that your music and acting background influences your writing?
Oh, definitely. Music and its inherent lyricism teach you to make words flow in a succinct, meaningful way, and the whole art of acting comes down to understanding characters; why they do things and how. There’s certainly more to writing than just those two aspects, but if you have them, you have a couple of very big pieces of the puzzle.
What’s been occupying your time in the years since your last Pony story?
I’ve done some original writing outside the fandom, and had some limited success selling electronic Amazon Kindle copies. I hesitate to name the title I’ve published because, firstly, I want it to stand on its own merit; secondly, it is dark enough to be inappropriate for some members of this audience; and, thirdly, I’m a bit bogged down in getting the second installment out, and it’s a bit of a personal embarrassment.
I’ve also been in a couple of bands, and I worked at a big-box guitar store as a luthier for awhile. Most importantly, I finally did find a good, stable relationship with a splendid woman whom I wouldn’t trade for anything or anyone else. (For those who might wonder, yes, she likes ponies.)
I don’t know if I’ll ever write ponyfic again, but who knows? As long as there’s a fandom, I might feel the need for that breath of fresh air one day, and sit down to either write something new or continue an old series.
For the moment, though, I don’t write much at all, which is part of why I’ve been so slow on producing the second volume of my original book series. I’m currently in school to be an aircraft mechanic because I need a stable source of reliable income. Art, writing, and music are great, but they don’t always pay. That’s just life, and things could be so much worse.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I only even saw the invitation to fill out this interview because I randomly popped into my FimFiction account tonight to reread some of my old stories and really think about some of these exact questions. So this was good for me; putting words down in print always helps me to understand my own thoughts. Thanks for the opportunity. It’s nice to know a few people are still reading these little stories I’ve left floating around in the collective consciousness of this fandom.