(RCL NOTE: We’re attempting the hopeless task of choosing the fandom’s Single Best Story™ at a special panel at Bronycon. Help us pick the competitors! Details here. Voting is open until July 13.)
Do not skip today’s story.
Do Not Serve These Ponies
[Comedy] • 21,083 words
Lyra knows the truth. Lyra knows that a shadowy conspiracy dating back to the very dawn of Equestria is responsible for manipulating every major event for the past two thousand years. And Lyra does not care how many museums she has to destroy or how many transdimensional rifts she has to open in her quest to inform the public.
FROM THE CURATORS: Today’s feature is a bit unusual — it’s the first which has gone through two separate rounds of RCL consideration. “I laugh more when reading Thanqol’s stories than almost any other author’s,” Chris said in his original nomination in 2013. “Thanqol has a real knack for understatement, and for finding a straight pony for every situation. This is my favorite of his that isn’t ineligible.” At the time, Do Not Serve failed to get through our voting process — but after several years and near-total RCL turnover, it was one of the stories which inspired a debate over how to fairly revisit decisions which new curators disagreed with. Ultimately, once everyone had weighed in, we added up both old and new scores, and discovered that it had won majority approval.
Primarily, that was because — with the benefit of hindsight — the story’s hilarity survived the test of time. “I still look back on this story fondly as a mile-a-minute comedy that never wears out its welcome,” Present Perfect said. FanOfMostEverything agreed: “Like Lyra, it throws itself into every insane moment of escalation and has a wonderful time while doing so. It’s just pure fun.” But, importantly, it also didn’t lack in depth. “It is centered on a very real core of the friendship between Lyra and Bon-Bon, which leaves it grounded just enough to not let the random aspect of the fics simply take over,” Soge said. It also played with early-season fanon in ways that now seem fascinating. “There’s a section where Bon-Bon wonders whether Lyra is a secret agent, which is an interesting foreshadowing of Season 5,” Horizon noted, “and some clever extrapolation is made from Lyra’s background in Canterlot.”
No matter how wide-ranging our praise got, however, the story never stopped being funny and quotable. “It’s peppered with laugh-out-loud lines, imagery, and running gags — the Cone of Shame deserves special mention,” Horizon said. RBDash47 agreed, while also comparing the prose to one of the great comedic masters: “It seems like every other line has me cracking up (‘Hello,’ said Rainbow Dash. / ‘Ah. And the oppressor shows her true colours. And it’s all of them’). The humor and style strikes me as being Adamsian without actually being a straight lift from Douglas Adams’ work — it’s got that same sense of wry wordplay and expectation subversion.” Ultimately, as Present Perfect said, that made it stand out despite competition from tales both old and new: “This story proves that well-worn fandom tropes like ‘Lyra’s obsessed with humans’ can still be used in original and highly entertaining ways.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Thanqol discusses Shakespeare horror, collateral happiness, and Closing Statement.