Summer Dancer’s “Sandbox”



Today’s story doesn’t play around when it comes to adorable-yet-poignant pony portrayals.

[Slice of Life] • 3,045 words

When trying to focus on her studies, Sunset Shimmer is stuck watching an annoying little filly who just won’t let her study.

FROM THE CURATORS: “This is a short, sweet, and magnificently characterized glimpse of Twilight’s formative years, back when Sunset Shimmer was still in Celestia’s good graces and accidentally influencing her successor,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination.  And while you might look at the “Everyone” age rating and hnnng-inducing cover art and assume that “short and sweet” is the entirety of the story, there’s far more to it than that.  “The layers are what really impress here,” Present Perfect said.  “You have the very clear comparison being made between Sunset and Twilight, without it ever being stated outright.  Then there are the machinations going on in the background, that are a bit more subtle but nevertheless present.  And Sunset being mean to foals is its own reward.”

What sent the fic over the top in our voting was the care with which it walked that tightrope and brought its show backstory to life.  “It’s always lovely when an author knows how to take a bit of headcanon and turn it into an actual story,” AugieDog said.  “Too often, writers will just have the characters state the idea without going through the process necessary to truly shape it into a narrative.”  But those characters came in for their share of praise, too.  “Twilight feels like herself, not just some generic cute filly doing generic cute filly things,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “All of Sunset’s layers are in full force, from the noble person she’ll become to the massive jerk that’s years away from getting knocked down a peg. And the ways Sunset unwittingly molds Twilight’s young mind are brilliant and somewhat tragic by turns.”

And yet, for all its drama, we still found the story melting our hearts.  “The whole thing wraps up into a perfect little slice of life-from-the-past,” Present Perfect said, and AugieDog was equally effusive: “This story is just sharp all the way around.”  All in all, not only was it a story exemplary on multiple levels, it was also an economical one.  “It is one of those stories that manage to do a lot with very little,” Soge said, “interlocking some powerful pre-canon character interactions, a bit of worldbuilding, as well as highlighting very well the differences — and similarities — between Sunset then, and Twilight later.  That it manages so much in just 3k words is nothing short of impressive.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Summer Dancer discusses teen definition, ponk bias, and post-bandage sarcasm.
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Lost + Found Features: “Conversations with Eternity” / “Chuckling Over My Cheery-O’s”


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Occasionally, exemplary stories earn our approval for a feature — but the author opts out of our interview, or we’re unable to complete the interview process despite repeated effort.  We’d like to see these great stories get their time in the spotlight too, so today we’re presenting a pair of RCL-approved tales for your reading pleasure.


Conversations with Eternity
By Sunchaser
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] • 6,078 words

Far off to the west of Equestria lay The Eternal Lands, an immense expanse of desert that holds at its heart a precious jewel: the city of Gallopfree, sprung up around a peculiar bit of water known as the Well of Eternity.

Prodded by a little whimsical intuition, Princess Luna finds herself walking those winding streets of her ancient past, and holding conference with the enigmatic Steward of the Well…

FROM THE CURATORS: Some premises — such as modern Luna coming to grips with her past — have been covered so thoroughly that it’s difficult to make a story about them stand out. This, however, turned our heads with its rich and rewarding details.  “The prose is marvelous, dense yet economical,” Present Perfect said.  “The actual conversation, pep talk if you will, is fantastic, putting this leaps and bounds ahead of numerous other ‘Luna dealing with having been Nightmare Moon’ stories.”  Former curator Chris’ nomination lauded the care which went into its construction: “The fic shows us her emotional reactions, leaving us to place their sources for ourselves.  A quick, inattentive reading here might result in the reader thinking Luna’s actions are abrupt and unbelievable, but in fact those actions are hints that paint a much larger picture of both her, and the world at large.”  It quickly qualified for a feature amid reactions like AugieDog’s: “It’s always nice to see visions of Celestia and Luna’s lives before they came to Equestria, and this one’s very nicely realized.”

It wasn’t just the character work singled out for praise.  “Sunchaser does a commendable job with the setting, too,” Chris said, prompting Present Perfect to agree: “Gallopfree is rendered in full detail, not just in terms of imagery, but also history.”  And the themes added a great deal of power, too: “I quite like the idea that breaking just allows for a stronger reassembly,” AugieDog said.  “It give the last line all kinds of weight.”


Chuckling Over My Cheery-O’s
By chrumsum

[Comedy] • 4,419 words

Pinkie Pie’s simple morning ritual threatens to shatter her very perception of reality, life, and choice in breakfast cereal.

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s very rare for love-it-or-hate-it stories to make it through our voting process — so when they do, it’s a sign that they get the most crucial things right.  “This story contains everything anyone could ever want from a ‘Pinkie has an existential crisis’ fic and even more,” AugieDog said in his nomination.  “Unlike any other Pinkie Angst story I can think of, this one pulls other ponies into the miasma, and seeing Rainbow Dash succumb to the atmosphere of uncertain dread that Pinkie is exuding is a pleasure in and of itself.”  The entire cast was repeatedly complimented: “Something about the characters kind of hearkens back to the ‘good old days’ of the early seasons for me,” RBDash47 said, while FanOfMostEverything quipped: “It’s delightful seeing Pinkie spiral deep into her own navel, or possibly the aftertaste-ridden grainy ring of a Cheery-o … there’s excellent use of every character involved, and a great way to come up for breath at the end.”

What divided us was the contrast between tone and content.  “It is incredibly overwritten, to the point of being distracting,” Soge said, spurring several spirited defenses such as Horizon’s: “To me that artificial melodrama enhances the absurdity, giving it the edge it needs to be genuinely funny.”  RBDash47 agreed: “A couple lines, like ‘Tears blossomed along her cheeks. “It’s only as evil as we are,” she whispered’, made me laugh out loud.”  In the end, it was that comedy which put it over the top: “This was a great little romp,” Horizon said, “too over-the-top to take seriously and yet too serious to feel unmoored.”

[Note: Present Perfect recused himself from nomination and voting for this story.]

Read more features right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

ChibiRenamon’s “Conquering is Easy, Being Conquered is Hard”


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It wasn’t hard to let today’s story conquer our hearts.

Conquering is Easy, Being Conquered is Hard
[Romance] [Comedy] [Drama] [Alternate Universe] • 26,653 words

Rarity’s quest for love led her from Tartarus to Canterlot. Now, wielding powers beyond comprehension, she rules over Equestria.

Now, if only she could understand how Fluttershy’s little cult had gained thousands of members virtually overnight, or why the cult’s second-in-command, Twilight Sparkle, always seems to be one step ahead of her…

FROM THE CURATORS: Writing a story that solidly paints a single theme or tone is difficult enough — and when you’re trying to mix such disparate elements as humor, romance, character drama, and the epic clash of a tyrant with an apocalyptic doom cult, it takes a steadier than usual hand.  “This story’s simultaneously dark and high-spirited wackiness is very much a Big Thing Right in my mind,” AugieDog said in his nomination, and the fic quickly earned a feature amid comments like Horizon’s: “I’ve got a special place in my heart for stories which sell an audacious premise, and this squarely scratches that itch.”

One thing on which we all agreed was how elegantly the story’s depiction of its familiar-yet-altered ponies grounded that audacity.  “It transcends its crackfic-competition origins for me through the characters and through the comedy,” AugieDog said.  “Shining Armor is a high point, still Captain of the Royal Guard, as is Kibitz, Celestia’s old secretary, who Rarity has kept on since he actually knows how the government works.”  Horizon added: “A lot of thought clearly went into not only how the circumstances of the unusual AU would have changed all the characters, but also how they would go about pursing their interests.”  And RBDash47 chimed in: “I have to second my appreciation for the character work here. Every single one is on point, with a unique, developed voice that fits them perfectly. I don’t think I’d need any dialogue tags at any given time to know who was speaking, and I enjoyed every interaction.”

We found that sharp character work augmented by on-point humor.  “The first chapter, especially, is a triumph of absurdity, aware of this fact, and delights in nothing more than reveling in its own whimsy,” Present Perfect said.  And exemplary exposition work rounded the story out: “I was delighted by how effortlessly and subtly the author wove the explanations of the AU’s differences into the story,” RBDash47 said.  “I never felt confused or like I didn’t know what was going on, even with some fairly big changes to the timeline.”  It all added up to a truly head-turning package.  “It helped that the comedy was smart and endlessly quotable, but more importantly, the story kept surprising and delighting me at every turn with its central battle(s) of wits,” Horizon said.  “I don’t often follow an author on the strength of a single story, but here, that decision was a no-brainer.”

Read on for our author interview, in which ChibiRenamon discusses elliptical planning, regular flossing, and clawing … couches.
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Coyote de La Mancha’s “Twilight Sparkle Was Shot”


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Today’s story starts with a bang.

Twilight Sparkle Was Shot
[Adventure] [Equestria Girls] [Alternate Universe] • 9,173 words

After the reformation of Sunset Shimmer, the Mane Six united their powers against all manner of threats. Then, Twilight Sparkle joined their number, and over time the bonds between the Mane Seven have become stronger than ever.

They have called upon their power to aid their friends, to protect the innocent, and even to defend their world.

Never have they called upon their power out of anger, or to seek revenge.

Until now.

FROM THE CURATORS: Vengeance isn’t a goal typically associated with a hero, especially a hero in the My Little Pony franchise. And yet in this week’s feature, the drive for vengeance that binds together our protagonist and antagonist in a yin and yang of pain feels almost breathtakingly real.

FanOfMostEverything saw this immediately: “It tackles serious issues with the severity they deserve,” he said in his nomination. “For all this story is about violence and vengeance, it handles them in a very pony way, even if most of the cast isn’t technically equine.” AugieDog applauded “how the author neither shies away from that darkness nor takes it all the way off the edge into grim territory. The world, the characters, the themes, they’ve all been shoved way over to the far end of the scale, but they’re still on the scale, are still recognizably Pony.” PresentPerfect was drawn in immediately: “This is a gritty, hard-hitting drama that utilizes tension like a master chef utilizes spice. I was not prepared to be gripped by the shoulders from word one, but I loved every moment of it.”

The story uses this powerful self-assurance to explore something canon has chosen to ignore, in perfect fanfiction fashion. “Its inventive solution to the Two-Sunsets Problem is so simple, I’m shocked I’ve never seen it before,” PresentPerfect said, and AugieDog also praised “the way the story deals the basic question of what happened to the EQG-world’s Sunset Shimmer.” “What I really love is the attempt to address where exactly Sunset’s human-born counterpart has been,” said RBDash47, “and the completely believable character work that went into both her backstory and her reaction to discovering this interloper in her world.”

The deft characterization on display was a highlight for everyone. “The perspective work is also done very well, placing the reader firmly behind a given character’s eyes and letting us appreciate everything they’re going through,” FanOfMostEverything said. RBDash47 “really felt for everyone involved,” and found that “all the characters’ behaviors in this painful situation are completely believable.” AugieDog pointed out “the author is even able to take Fluttershy into this darker world and still have her be one hundred percent Fluttershy—nothing short of impressive.”

In the end, PresentPerfect summed things up neatly for the curators when he said, “This is what I look for in EQG stories.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Coyote discusses the draw of My Little Pony, the importance of research, and the joys of alternate realities. Continue reading

Jack of a Few Trades’ “Without Another Word”


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We’d like to give you a good word about today’s story.

Without Another Word
[Drama] [Sad] • 11,912 words

Seven years have passed since Grand Pear moved to Vanhoover, and time has dulled the pain of leaving Pear Butter behind. Though the scars remain, life for the Pear family has done its best to return to normal.

But one day, a letter from Ponyville comes in the mail.

FROM THE CURATORS: The Perfect Pear is one of the most moving and beloved episodes of MLP’s recent seasons, so stories based on it have a high bar to clear — a challenge which this fic exceeded with grace.  As Soge noted in his nomination, “Powerful stuff … Without Another Word does what fanfiction does best, by exploring the empty spaces left behind by canon.”  And Present Perfect summed up our assessment: “Grand Pear is perhaps the greatest tragic figure of MLP:FiM, beating out even Cranky Doodle Donkey’s decade-long search for love. This story gets how someone could do what he did, how they could live with it, and how none of it would be easy. Every last drop of possible emotion is wrung from a pure, natural understanding of his character.”

That was accomplished, Soge said, “thanks to some very well realized characterization work, and a tone which manages to feel heavy and yet avoid falling into melodrama.”  Several other curators also praised the treatment of the Pear family, such as AugieDog: “The character details elevate it right into the clouds — Grand Pear’s relationship with his wife and with the griffon bartender especially, but also with his other children and the folks who come into his shop,” he said.  “It displays a real understanding of the sort of person who would do this to himself and to his family.”  And FanOfMostEverything added, “The fleshing out of his wife when the episode gave us absolutely nothing to work with was fantastic.”

The character work was also enhanced by a finely crafted structure.  “I feel the strongest part of this story is its use of unreliable narration,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “At first, we see Grand Pear how he wants to be seen, as the strong central pillar of his family, the source of order in the chaos. It takes an emotional breakdown, other perspectives, and too much straight whiskey to peel back the layers and show what’s really been going on.”  And ultimately, what that added up to was something all of us commented on — the raw emotional power on display.  “This story hit me hard,” Soge said, and AugieDog concurred: “This doesn’t pull any of the punches Grand Pear’s got coming.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Jack of a Few Trades discusses starry-eyed phases, fruit glue, and hailstorm baptisms.
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Flutterpriest’s “Feathers”


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Fall into today’s story for some gripping drama.

[Dark] [Drama] • 2,466 words

When the pegasi lose their feathers, they also lose the ability to walk on clouds. The answer to ‘why’ is lost to time. The real question is … what happens to Cloudsdale?

FROM THE CURATORS: Some stories are compelling because they’re driven by a premise which grabs you right from the start.  And when that happens, it’s doubly exciting to find execution which is just as exemplary.  “The central idea of Feathers is immediately powerful and uniquely pony (if you spot it the existence of TV),” Horizon said in his nomination, “and it keeps a tight focus, driving a claustrophobic mood which is jarred quite effectively by the few outside encounters we see.”  Feathers cruised to a feature amid a chorus of similar praise.  “I compared this story to The Twilight Zone, with its ability to build tension through a sense of dread, which all pays off in one of the best final lines in this fandom,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything agreed: “I have to say that this is an incredibly impactful story that gets a lot of mileage out of its oppressive atmosphere.  This is far from my usual taste, but I’m happy to push this one over the edge … and given the subject matter, I apologize for the incidental puns.”

One element of the powerful mood was the story’s excellent framing, keeping the audience focused for maximum emotional punch.  “It very much feels like a small slice of a much larger crisis, and the small stakes of the protagonists just underline their terror and lack of agency,” Horizon said.  Soge noted that it did a remarkable job of drawing horror from the mundane: “The fic creates some wonderful atmosphere with a uniquely Equestrian plague, which turns a familiar environment into a hostile one, and the concept behind it is extremely interesting — being trapped in your own home, on your own furniture, no chance of escape.”  Or, as Present Perfect put it, “Who cares about lava when the floor is clouds?”

But the character work also made a strong contribution.  “Rainbow Dash’s parents feel distinctly true to their canon characters while having the over-the-top exuberance dialed back just a tad,” Present Perfect said. “They’re definitely about the last ponies you’d expect to star in a horror fic, but they work as the stars here.”  FanOfMostEverything commented on that as well: “I think the moment that stands out the most for me is when Bow argues against helping the mare all but begging for assistance,” he said.  “This is what this plague has done. This is how far this stallion has fallen. … I swear I’m not trying to make these puns. They just keep happening.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Flutterpriest discusses nice blankets, seen tomatoes, and Sparkledeath Metallidash.
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fourths’ “You and Her”


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Today’s story aches.

You and Her
[Romance] [Sad] • 7,335 words

[Note: This story contains sexual themes.]

You told me that a young designer from out of town would be coming to stay with us for a few days while she discussed business plans with you. I told you that would be fine, that I wouldn’t mind.

I lied.

FROM THE CURATORS: Relationships are rarely easy. Feelings wax and wane, ebb and flow, and even at their easiest and most effortless, relationships take effort. But maybe you don’t want to put that effort in any more. Maybe it takes less effort to start something new than to maintain something you’ve had for years. Maybe your partner won’t catch on. Maybe they will.

“This story stood out by virtue of sticking with me after reading,” said Horizon in his nomination, “the way the pain from a punch lingers. It’s a blunt, immediate look at the pain of adultery that works almost in a sort of chiaroscuro, contrasting the beauty of their day-to-day life (and Fleur’s denial) with the rawness of the situation.” Others agreed; RBDash47 said it “was skillfully crafted, and yet—and therefore—I did not enjoy reading it at all” and FanOfMostEverything had to admit, “This sort of story isn’t my usual cup of tea. It’s not even in the same cupboard. But I can’t deny that it hits every emotional note dead center.”

Everyone agreed that the author did a fantastic job of bringing a heartwrenching story about a significant other discovering their lover is cheating on them to life. Soge praised its “realistic depictions of cheating, and of a relationship which has progressed beyond the ‘crumbling completely’ stage”; RBDash47 said, “fourths did a great job capturing the floaty, surreal experience of reluctantly confirming your spouse is cheating on you”; Present Perfect said, “while this could have been just another well written story about a dark subject that’s hard to write about, it’s the amount of nuance placed on Fleur’s character that makes it stand out.”

From start to finish, the story’s structure sold the protagonist’s inner turmoil. “The unbalanced nature of the plot itself — the threads left unresolved, the paths left unexplored — function perfectly here to reinforce Fleur’s dazed experience and sense of uncertainty in these moments,” said RBDash47. “We have no idea where she goes from here, because neither does she.” Horizon felt that “the complication and lack of resolution certainly work to sell the messy nature of the situation.”

Read on for our author interview, in which fourths discusses jealous flowers, mid-life crises, and having strong opinions. Continue reading

anonpencil’s “Broken Bindings”


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Today’s story is a real page-turner.

Broken Bindings
[Dark] [Horror] [Mystery] • 23,036 words

Twilight has given you a new book to read. Well, she didn’t exactly give it to you, you actually just found it in the back of the library. Behind a shelf. On the ground. It looks very old, downright ancient, and it smells like moss and rot. The binding is a little cracked, and there’s no title on it. You can’t help but wonder what might be inside, and the only way to find out is to keep reading.

Just turn the page.

You can do that much, can’t you?


FROM THE CURATORS: Notable fanfiction can bring to life ideas that are too big for the show — but even among exemplary stories, it’s not every day you see ideas that are also too big for traditional prose.  “anonpencil’s most recent work — I hesitate to call it just a ‘fic’ — is impressive,” RBDash47 said in his nomination.  “Beyond the pure fic/storytelling aspect, pencil spent months building a multimedia experience that takes full advantage of the publishing format: this is not a story that could ever exist in book form, or even really as an ebook.”  And while that novelty caught our collective eye, what earned this a feature was its solid quality.  “There are plenty of other fics which toy with formatting,” Soge said. “What sets Broken Bindings apart is that it does these things well.”

He wasn’t the only one impressed.  “There’s substance in all of this stylish packaging, and it is some beautifully haunting work,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “anonpencil used literary devices as thoroughly and as well as she did hyperlinks and multimedia integration.”  RBDash47 praised the craft in the character work: “From a pure fic standpoint, it tells a compelling story about a mare imprisoned within a book, and is creepy while simultaneously earning the reader’s sympathies for a villain (maybe even a ‘monster’). The turn/reveal/prestige at the end also makes it an interesting commentary on ‘death of the author’ for me.”  And Present Perfect was most impressed by the consistent eye for detail: “I had so much fun finding the little inconsistencies, the seeming mistakes, and the really, really hidden stuff.  It was every bit as much fun watching the story unravel, too.  Muse’s unstable emotional state comes through in chilling ways.”

Even curators turned off by the story’s structure found themselves admiring it.  “I’m here to read a story, not play a game … the concept behind Broken Bindings, though, struck me as a really nice answer to a lot of my objections,” AugieDog said.  “If I’d just stumbled across this story on my own, I would’ve stopped about page 6, but since I was reading it for the RCL, I kept going — and found myself immensely impressed with the character’s voice, the little animations and nutty typography stuff, and the rising tension.”  And in the end, our biggest regrets were not getting to the tale sooner.  “I meant to nominate this one myself. This is what I get for procrastinating,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “In any case, this is a glorious exercise in using the medium to its absolute fullest.”

Read on for our author interview, in which anonpencil discusses brie bathing, editor cheating, and dream infiltration.
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wYvern’s “Of Flies and Spiders”


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Today’s story will ensnare you.

Of Flies and Spiders
[Romance] [Dark] [Tragedy] • 8,065 words

Glitter was banished from her hive because she’s different: instead of feeding on love, she feeds on anger, fear, and sadness. Ponies are easily fooled and more easily manipulated. Staying undetected and sustaining her dietary needs, she goes through life bringing misery to those around her. All changes, though, when he turns up, tearing down walls built throughout a lifetime.

FROM THE CURATORS: Spiders are a common creepy-crawlie, both in the real world—sorry, Australia—and in fiction. Greek mythology gives us the source for arachnid in Arachne, a master weaver who is transformed into a spider; ancient Sumeria’s goddess of weaving was a spider. In some African and Native American folklore, spiders play the trickster role. In modern American mythology, a certain spider teaches that with great power comes… well, you know. Given all this, it’s appropriate that today’s story features a changeling who sees herself as a spider, weaving complicated scenarios to catch her unwitting prey before realizing she’s been responsible for a great deal of pain and suffering.

In his nomination, Soge called it “a very well executed tragedy” and felt that “the main character is despicable in all the right ways, which only makes the conclusion that much more striking.” AugieDog concurred, finding it a “nicely done tragedy where the character chooses the path that she knows will destroy her.” He also appreciated the author’s decision to show rather than tell: “We follow Glitter’s thought process without the author ever having to make the character articulate it for us. The author trusts us enough to let us deduce what’s going on in Glitter’s head, to let us hope along with her that maybe this will somehow work out, and then to smack us in the head with the reality of the situation at the end.”

Everyone enjoyed wYvern’s “unique take on Changelings,” as Soge put it. FOME appreciated both the quality of the story and its culinary flair: “The central conceit is fascinating and explored well; I especially love how Glitter’s taste for suffering translates to favoring material foods with similarly… distinctive flavors.”

Horizon summed things up as only one who is not a changeling can: “The core canon dilemma of changelings — as we see in Thorax — is being nourished by devouring emotions, and simultaneously having normal sapient emotional needs for those same emotions (and the relationships and friendships that follow). If this were just about that it would have a pretty solid core, but it takes that and turns it up to 11 by also focusing on a changeling allergic to love. That this makes her an outcast from two worlds sets up a powerful tragedy when she finally finds herself in a position to appreciate it, and doesn’t shrink from the resulting tragedy.”

Read on for our author interview, in which wYvern discusses biochemistry, internal conflict, and analyzing what you love.
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Convention break 2018!

We’re continuing our longstanding tradition of taking this week off, to make certain that every story we feature gets its time in the sun.  With many members of the fandom at Bronycon for the weekend, and others at Galacon, we felt that posting a feature might result in an excellent story getting overlooked.

Rest assured, we’ll be back next week with a brand new feature. Have a fun, safe convention weekend, everyone!