Broadcasting on all frequencies, today’s story comes to you from an Equestria that’s turned dark in more ways than one.
The Mare In The High Castle
[Alternate Universe] [Dark] [Drama] [Mystery] [Sci-Fi] [Thriller] • 161,695 words
“Hello, hello, hello, this is Thorny Bends coming at you live on Radio Free Canterlot, and from where I’m sitting, folks, the Land of the Eternal Moon is looking lovely. Well, except for that nasty smog cloud rolling toward us from the coast, but hey, that’s the price of progress. Still, if you’re heading outside you might want to think about an Easy Breezy-brand respirator, guaranteed to make the air taste like new. Buy yours from all major retailers today!
“As I’m sure you all know, it’s been almost a thousand years since the founding of our great civilization. And as the big day approaches, I sure hope the High Castle set their clocks right. I’d hate to find out it was really last Thursday. Ha! But seriously, folks. I’ve been doing a fair bit of thinking about our fair Canterlot, and I’ve realized it isn’t just somewhere we all live. It’s what we build together into something greater as we all reach for the moon. A symbol for a way of life and a state of mind. So, in honor of the thousand years, I’m taking an eye in the sky peek into the lives of the ponies on the streets, and a few in the penthouses too. I don’t often do real news on this show, but these are some genuine equine interest stories, folks. In their own small, unique way, these ponies are as vital to the city as the princess of the night herself. So settle down, get comfortable, and don’t touch that dial.
“You won’t want to miss this, I guarantee.”
FROM THE CURATORS: This story’s path to its feature started with a suggestion on our recommendation thread, and despite its 160,000-word length, it caught our attention right away with its vivid portrayal of an eternal-night Equestria. “This story is far from being merely a pony re-write of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle,” JohnPerry said. “The level of thought that went into developing this nightmarish — yet eerily familiar — alternate world and its cruel philosophies is astounding, and it manages to combine an epic scope with surprisingly intimate portrayals of its characters.” Chris agreed: “This is a wonderful use of the AU tag. It takes a single conceit — that something went differently a thousand years ago — and projects how that one change would reverberate to the present, butterfly-in-China-style.”
We all agreed that the characterization which followed from that shift was exemplary, and Horizon cited one of High Castle’s central examples. “Twilight Sparkle spends the vast majority of the story as a reprehensible alcoholic racist haunted by nightmares,” he said, “and yet the entire setting and theme of the story are crafted so as to make it clear that she is that way because their world is fundamentally broken, and the Twilight we see is just a reflection of that.” JohnPerry agreed, adding, “it’s incredible how ponichaeism managed to make the characters recognizable in spite of all the horrors of the world they are subjected to.”
The story doesn’t flinch from presenting those horrors as necessary to explore the dark corners of its premise, which earned high praise from Chris. “Can we take a moment to talk about Granny Smith?” he said. “Because she’s where the author most impressed me on the pacing front. … She’s slotted in right where she needs to be to have maximum impact with minimum premise-questioning by the readers, and (up until the end) that’s how I felt about most of the big revelations.”
But The Mare In The High Castle isn’t just a parade of bleakness. “It has a lot to say about the earth counterparts of the things it ponifies, but it has a lot to say about the ponies at the same time, and this is fundamentally and unquestionably MLP at heart,” Horizon said. “For instance, this is the finest Flash Sentry story this fandom will ever produce. He’s just as broken as the rest of this world, but he owns it, and he stands up and shows us that there can be beauty regardless. I want to feature it for that alone.”
Read on for our author interview, in which ponichaeism discusses Gnostic sects, uncarved blocks, and the curious collision of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski and Philip K. Dick.