Today’s story is an addicting read.
What is Left
[Dark] [Sad] [Thriller] [Tragedy] • 24,301 words
Five years of cheap thrills in the big city have left Sweetie Belle in bad debt with dangerous ponies. Forced to pay up, she returns to Ponyville to seek money from an estranged sister she loathes with a passion.
FROM THE CURATORS: We’re all here because we appreciate the pastel friendship aesthetic of My Little Pony — but fanfic wanders considerably farther afield, and there’s also beauty sometimes in bleakness. “This is dark and depressing in all the right ways — the closest point of comparison would be the tone of Fallout: Equestria – Project Horizons‘ darkest chapters, honestly,” Soge said in his nomination. “Even when, halfway through the story, this fic leads you to believe things might be changing for the better, it shatters that illusion in three paragraphs in such an amazing way that I had to just step away from the story to process everything. It is a hard read, but very rewarding.” Although all of us commented on that darkness, this earned a feature on the sheer power of its story, as Present Perfect said: “It won’t be for every reader, as the profanity, violence, drug use and general malaise of depression run severely counter to the show which inspired the piece. But this is gritty, troubling and devastating in all the right ways.”
The core of that was how we saw prose quality in every direction we turned. “It helps that the writing is top-notch, atmospheric and evocative in a way that really drives home the despair of the situation, yet managing to contrast the reality of what is happening with well-placed touches of beauty,” Soge said, while Present Perfect was drawn deeply in: “it sure doesn’t hurt that the thriller aspect of the plot is gripping as anything; I accidentally read the whole story in one go because I couldn’t put it down.” Even the elements we found controversial were handled thoughtfully. “The profanity is actually well-used here, the drug-use stuff seems to me to be firmly on the fantasy side, and while I found the set-up to be a little slow, the gut-punch ending makes it worth it,” AugieDog said.
Characterization was another strong point. “While both Rarity and Sweetie Belle are obviously very different than their show counterparts, there is a core of their characterization that is still present, and it helps drive home that this is something that could happen,” Soge said. Present Perfect called them both “excellently flawed,” adding that “the villain is intimidating and memorable. The tragedy is palpable, and that atmospheric, evocative writing Soge refers to suffuses every last instant of the narrative.” What sealed our feature was that this won over even curators turned off by darker material. “I set a higher bar when it comes to dark Ponyfic,” AugieDog said. “If a story wants to have cute ponies not being cute, well, then that story’s got to prove itself to me, and this story proves itself quite handily at every turn.”
Read on for our author interview, in which OnionPie discusses tragic beauty, culmination preparation, and sister hugs.