Today’s story might offer up some cold comfort.
[Dark] [Human] [Sad] • 3,209 words
[Note: This story contains sexual themes.]
Even in our darkest moments, the stars shine coldly down — distant and remote, but bright in the blackness. Refuse them, shut them out, and they remain. Let them in, and they may convince you of the warmth in their embrace.
This is not a story about stars.
This is a story about people and ponies, and what they visit on each other in moments of darkness.
FROM THE CURATORS: While most of our features are exemplary because of the ways that they reflect the show we all enjoy, sometimes we run across a story that draws its power from its willingness to use pony as a lens onto far darker problems. “This is not an easy story to read,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. “It deals with a difficult topic, but unfolds it in a way that is insidious, pervasive, and excruciatingly gentle, up until it kicks you in the teeth.” We quickly reached broad agreement on its quality. “It manages to establish a nice balance between sadness and melodrama, talks about trauma without glorifying it, and despite the bleakness of the situation, it ends on a good and positive note,” Soge said.
For AugieDog, it was that emotional balancing act which tipped the scales toward a feature. “It’s the protagonist’s initial anger toward the unicorn that really makes the story,” he said. “She wants to be tough, capable, realistic, not needing any unicorns … but finds a different kind of toughness: the toughness that doesn’t turn away a unicorn’s help.” Both main characters’ portrayals were hard-hitting, Chris said: “The unicorn’s matter-of-fact declaration about giving and taking is something wonderful, a credo delivered with such certainty when most it’s needed. … This is a harsh piece of writing, as anything that tackles this subject would have to be, but the way it doesn’t flinch away from the toll taken on the girl feels necessary rather than exploitative.” And Soge noted the power of the raw premise: “There are a lot of metaphorical implications of meeting a unicorn after that particular situation, and I’m glad to see the ways the fic explored that.”
Beyond its quality, much of our discussion centered on the fact that “this is almost non-pony fiction,” as Present Perfect put it. “Outside of a reference to two royal pony sisters, it looks like urban fantasy.” And ultimately, for a majority of us, quality won out. “I don’t know that this is a great fanfic per se, but it’s a great story, and the fact that it’s presented as fanfic doesn’t harm that story,” Chris said. “In the end, I’m going to have to come back to Benman’s ‘Aren’t we here to spotlight the coolest shit our community has done?’ standard; this could be published in any fantasy magazine right now, with zero changes to the text.”
Read on for our author interview, in which AShadowOfCygnus discusses Boswell watersheds, anachronism stewpots, and poking holes in the world.