What a tangled Web today’s story weaves!
Arête – Princess Alicorn of Hackers
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] [Sci-Fi] • 35,168 words
Dinky leads a double life. In the real world she is an average pony in her final year of school, slightly timid, bored with everything around her. In the Dream-Web she is a hacker who wants to make a name for herself.
One evening she stumbles on something that has both her lives merge in one, as she seeks to find whether the Web really is run by deities, or is this just a trick by the Starswirl Conglomerate.
FROM THE CURATORS: While we had a spirited debate over the relative merits of this story, there was one thing on which we all agreed. “The cyberpunk aesthetic and page-turning, pulse-pounding action are the big things right,” as Present Perfect put it, and it was our collective enjoyment which solidified the story’s feature. “It has been a while since I read a story that was this much of a romp,” Chris said, and Horizon agreed: “It was a page-turner. I read this over most of a week, and every time I returned to it I was looking forward to seeing what happened next.”
That gripping pace was part-and-parcel of the faithful way the story executed on its genre. “It’s got all the big hallmarks of ’80s-style hacker/cyberpunk,’ for better and for worse,” Chris said. “On the downside, it sometimes flattens its characters, and its dramas are awfully convenient. But that’s part of the charm of this piece: piling on the technobabble and twists without ever bogging down or being difficult to follow.” AugieDog agreed that that accessibility was another of the story’s core strengths. “The only computer class I’ve ever taken in my life was back in 1982, learning to write BASIC programs on Radio Shack TRS-80 computers,” he said. “And yet I really enjoyed this.”
Much of our debate focused on the story’s other genre choices. “The narrative style turns every little thing into a major crisis, which effectively keeps the tension up … but sacrifices the sense of emotional proportion,” Horizon said. “It’s very Young-Adult novel, which is a genre I usually appreciate from a distance.” That was also a tough sell for Soge. “I found the whole teenager drama aspect to be uninteresting,” he said. “But the idea of a dream web is interesting and imaginative; the hacker-pulp angle gives the story a nice, upbeat rhythm without being straight-up ridiculous; and Diamond Tiara is fantastic throughout.” And AugieDog found that same writing style a strength. “The ‘teen angst’ stuff is what made it for me,” he said. “As YA pony cyberpulp, this stands up and dances.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Lise Eclaire discusses cat factories, glacial ridges, and the million-word threshold.