Friday, July 12, 2013

Horse Voice's The Writing on the Wall

The term "tragedy" as a genre gets thrown around a lot, and is often used as a synonym for "sad". So when a true tragedy comes along, a subtle masterpiece of horror and sorrow, a dark tag is necessary to convey the depths of despair the tale will plumb.

[Dark][Adventure] • 6,200 words
Daring Do can't believe her luck when she is asked to help explore the most ancient tomb known to ponykind. But terrible danger awaits her, for beneath the earth rests something beyond equine understanding.

Hit the break for an interview more suited to a master of comedy, and links to The Writing on the Wall out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

You know how some people say they want to move to Equestria? Well, I went and actually did it. And let me tell you, you can have it! There's no angry music, almost nobody sells meat, and I can't find a 7-Eleven anywhere.

What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)

I'm a full-time collector of publishers' rejection letters.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

I promised myself I wouldn't start watching, since everyone who tried it seemed to get addicted. But I go on the Internet for the same reason regular people go to zoos: to look at the exhibits. I thought, what could be the harm in checking out some fandom weirdness?

I happened to go to Equestria Daily when The Thessalonica Legacy was posted. That story crossed ponies over with a franchise I had fond memories of, so I thought, "Why not?"

It kept alluding to stuff in the show canon, so I had to start watching to understand it. At first, I was only modestly amused when I wasn't annoyed, and intended to only watch enough to understand Thessalonica.

But later, a funny thing happened. While I was out and about, my mind began drifting back to what I had been watching, and even looking forward to seeing what came next.

They get under your skin, man, and then they've got you.

Do you have a favorite episode?

"Boast Busters II: The Wrath of Trixie."

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?

Our first meeting was the stuff of fairy tale romance. I looked across that courtyard and saw her, in that boring yellow dress, jerking around spastically to the music, with her face scrunched up and her tongue flapping around.

And I thought, "That's right, honeypie – work that business."

It's a funny world. Before that moment, I never thought I could be attracted to a chick with a hairy back.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Originally, I planned to produce a YouTube show called Tales From the Glue Factory, in which I would do dramatic readings of dark pony fiction. The handle seemed fitting.

When I found out the cost of quality recording equipment, I chickened out, and decided to write stories instead of read them. But the alias stuck.

Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?

I majored in creative writing, because I wasn't good at anything else. I thought a ravenous consumer of a medium would be able to easily produce it. Being completely wrong, I spent a couple of years as the classes' whipping boy before people finally started laughing with me instead of at me. After they beat the suckiness out of me, I got hand-picked for the college newspaper. Eventually, I reached the point where my work consistently got rave reviews.

When I graduated, my muse promptly ran away. Months later, she came back smelling like a horse. And here we are.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Lately, I've been trying to learn the guitar. Give me a couple more years, and you may find your eardrums graced with such musical triumphs as, "Bronycon's Burning," "Equestria Uber Alles," and "Anarchy in the EQ".

Someday, I hope to release the first-ever pony album with a "Parental Advisory" sticker on it.

Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?

Hunter S. Thompson, and his nonfiction novel, Hell's Angels: the Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, which I have read about five times. Other notable influences include Roald Dahl, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Alan Moore.

Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" – the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?

I write the type of stories I want to read, but no one else seems to want to write. Other people liking my stuff is an unexpected bonus.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

Always have at least one person look at your stuff before you publish. With The Writing, I tried to get away with doing it on my own. Equestria Daily's prereader insisted on a change to the ending, which I at first resisted, but which I later realized was an improvement. If I had workshopped it first, I'm sure we would both have been spared the hassle.

Before anything else, master English mechanics. That way, you won't write a zillion-word epic, only to find out half the sentences need to be re-structured. Plus, once you know the rules well enough, you can start finding good places to bend them.

Read every damn type of thing you can find – fiction and nonfiction; stuff you agree with and stuff you don't; stuff you like and stuff you don't.

Everyone has his own way of going about the actual writing. The key is to figure out what works for you.

Most important, remember to think outside the box.

What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)

Back in college, I had time to write and proofread exactly one draft per assignment, and now I'm stuck in the habit of doing it all in one go. I don't recommend this to others, as most people need at least two drafts to make a piece as good as it can be.

Some stories, such as this one, require that an outline be written beforehand. In other cases, it's best to let the story surprise you as you write it.

On a given day, I work on whatever part I feel like, and later stitch them together, piece by piece (and now that song is stuck in my head). Once a draft is done, it's best to sit on it for at least a day or two, then look at it again, with a fresh mind, to catch as many errors as possible before workshopping it.

What inspired you to write The Writing on the Wall?

Would you believe... porn?

Back when Ponibooru was still around, I stumbled across John Joseco's "Adventures of Human Daring Do". It was basically a modern-day Tijuana bible: short, silly, black-and-white, pornographic. To most people, it would be amusing for what it was. But that's not how my mind works.

For me, the ending was just too darn happy (she got a "happy ending"). Something compelled me to write a Daring Do story that was its thematic opposite. And since I had been reading about [spoiler redacted] around that time, the whole thing sort of formed in my mind, all at once.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing The Writing on the Wall?

Procrastination is my great weakness. Just look at that word count. It should not have taken six weeks to write this thing.

When you set out to write The Writing on the Wall, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Absolutely. A number of people said the story inspired them to learn about [spoiler redacted]. That, more than anything, was what I was going for.

Someone on EqD said the title must be a reference to Pink Floyd's "The Wall". Actually, it refers to the book of Daniel:

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. [...] Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation.

Fittingly, the king's reaction here resembles a lot of people's immediate reactions to The Writing.

Where can readers drop you a line?

PM me on FIMFic. PROTIP: If it's a long message, back it up in case of 502 errors.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of my readers for their support, especially the following.

GaryOak, for being my partner in crime.
V-invidia, for proving that very different people can be friends.
Cynewulf, for believing in me from the beginning.
JerryQWERTY, That_one_guy, and Prime 2.0, for being my original fans.
Horizon, for giving better critical analysis than my work probably deserves.
Minalkra, for Lost Angel, and for being a generally chill guy.
Bad Horse, who vouched for me during the Biblical Monsters drama storm.
Lucky Roll, Truth_Seeker, Steel Hoof, and A-hardie, for being such great readers.
Bradel, EldritchSpires, and others too numerous to mention, for gracing my work with in-depth critiques.
Obabscribbler, for all the TLC she put into the Biblical Monsters audiobook.
Vimbert, for insisting on that crucial change to the end of The Writing.
And RBDash47, for giving me this chance.

No doubt, by the time this interview goes up, I will have thought of others who deserve special thanks. Much respect to anyone I miss.

Be well, everyone.

Horse Voice

(Man, I hope these red bumps are just heat rash...) Huh? Are you still recording? Oh sh--


  1. Yes, the term tragedy gets thrown around a lot, and in this case I think it's excruciatingly wide of the mark.

    " . . . a dark tag is necessary to convey the depths of despair the tale will plumb."

    Sadly, I think you were reading a different story to me.


    1. What is your favorite ponyfic (or ponyfics)?

    2. My absolute favorite is still Chicken Vortex's Getting Lucky. CV has such a wonderfully light touch with comedy that I haven't read anything else that touches it's class yet, investing me in the characters while delivering outright belly-laughs.

      More conventionally, I'd have to call out T.D.'s Cup of Joe for being one of the most fundamentally complete and engrossing stories in the fandom, and I don't expect to find much disagreement there.

      Present Perfect's ACT OF WILL is one of my favorite short stories because strikes an immaculate balance between informing me and keeping me guessing until the end. have never heard of the 'Machine of Death' series before reading it, I can appreciate many people not finding it so engaging.

      For it's sheer sense of empathy, I skip past Cold in Gerdez's more popular works and zero right in on The Proper care and Feeding of Monsters. To my mind, his best story by a landslide. Poor Fluttershy.

      Discovered in the early days of your very own vault, here, I have an extremely soft spot for Beyond the Wall. Again, I've heard that it's virtually ripped from something else, but since that something else is beyond my knowledge, this story hits hard for it's chilling presentation of a very real-world problem.

      I hate shipping, but I'm a sucker for anything with a solid emotional core. Jot Jiggety Jog's Ribbons and Lace completely blew me away with Rarity's internal struggle. It's the only story I'm presenting here that I have some outright issues with, but it's also proof that a reader's investment can overcome many such issues.

      I suppose I ought to give a cursory nod to Fallout: Equestria at this point. As many and varied as it's problems may be, it's like the soap-opera of the pony world. No-where else did I get to follow characters that I became so invested in as they faced trial after trial that made me give a damn.

      Lastly, I want to give another nod to Cudpug's Hospice. I don't know if I like or loathe it, but it will be stuck in my brain until I die, and that has to be worth something.