Friday, July 19, 2013

shortskirtsandexplosions' Gift

Generosity can be a double-edged sword.

[Tragedy] • 17,600 word
Over the course of several years, Rarity has achieved a fabulous career, contributing to both Equestrian fashion and the Ponyville community. She is admired by her clients, envied by her peers, and cherished by her dear friends, proving that she's a dependable shoulder to lean on.

Then one day, a mysterious pony visits from out of town. She wishes to meet Rarity, but not to thank her.

Hit the break for a chat with SS&E and a link to Gift out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Second Dr. Pepper to the right and straight on until morning sickness. And then when I'm not living in the shadow of my own existential ennui, I'm spending the bulk of my time floundering about the Mos Eisley of our collective subconscious, committing sins of abominable quality. Oh, and I occasionally astral project myself to Sedna to write poni poni poni. Because death.

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

I sell video games for a living and try not to sob myself to sleep at night. I once went to school, if only for the express sake of one day being asked if I went to school and outright denying that I ever did as a clever Seinfeld tactic of excusing my blatant stupidity. Whoops.

Still, for what it's worth, I actually have a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in English with a minor in creative writing, which--when it comes to making a living in the real world--is the educational equivalent of bringing a spork to a Detroit prison break. For the time being, my real life is an ongoing quest to find peace with my insignificance, dodge kidney stones, and avoid impregnating shower drains between here and Ragnarok.

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

I was an avid member of's TF2 servers. It's not f***world, it's Fugworld, with a "G."

When I wasn't healing people with mediguns or burning bodies to smoldering husks with a degreaser, I occasioned upon the site's forum/chatbox, and I noticed a growing trend of Valvevophiles obsessed with pastel colored ponies. I tried watching one episode, something about a lesbian winghorse trying to break the sound barrier. Whatever. It didn't intrigue me.

Then, after lurching half-naked across the digital cosmos, I stumbled upon more tempting pieces of equestrian foreshadowing, so I decided to give the Strawberry Gem Pound Transformer Bears thang another try. I marathoned the first season, and around the time I started freaking out about the CMC hogging the spotlight from the Mane 6, I realized that I was giving a shiet about giving a shiet.

Do you have a favorite episode?

This is certainly a tough one. I really do love the episode where Robin has to protect Annie from her evil dad voiced by Ron Perlman. Then there's the episode where the personnel of the 4077 try to sit down and have a movie night but the projector keeps breaking. Also, I like the one where Odo has to put together the details of a murder that was committed mysteriously years ago when the station was still called Terok Nor. But when it comes to that basement child bridle show:

Best Episode: "Green Is Not Your Color"

Favorite Episode: "Cutie Mark Chronicles"

Most Adoracute Episode: "Sleepless In Ponyville"

Most Warm Fuzzy Omg It's Rainbow Dash Looking Adorable In a Hospital Bed Episode: "Read It and Weep"

Charlie Don't Surf: "Sisterhooves Social"

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)?

Rainbow Dash is best pony. When the universe began, there was a giant simian paw extending her sleeping form out for all of the swirling galaxies to see. The proto-Oans witnessed this first via a portal through space and time, and that's how reality split, forming the heterogenous dust and gases that we would later call... the History Channel.

Lyra is best background pony, because she looks good in hoodies and may or may not be the most cuddable thing in the living spectrum.

Scootaloo is best filly. Anyone who disagrees with this is already dead inside; they're still living in the dark, moist cave of the passive-aggressive goddess who decided halfway through labor not to give birth to them.

Octavia is prettiest pony, and Applejack is best poni who is totally not my waifu but if she were to lose the hooves and tail then maybe she can callmekthankxbye.

As for fanfiction's take on ponies, I wouldn't know, since I don't ever read anyone else's fanfics. I agree with the fanon's take on Pinkie Pie, in that she's secretly an agent for the Manehattan government, out to prove that every pony is actually the size of cats, and that they've been denying it since the dawn of equestrian kind; she's just been using her overtly comical personality as a diversionary tactic... wait... what? That's not the fanon take? Never mind, then. Pinkie Pie sucks toes.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I really don't enjoy reading. I'm just... too stupid and lazy. The best thing I'll ever use my diploma for is giving zombies papercuts across the jugular once the Chinese flu reaches America through an outbreak at Epcot.

So, as it stands, I've always wanted to do kaizo things to make writing more interesting. If marsupials out there like their Pride and Prejudices or their Finnegans Wakes or their Beloveds, then so be it. I wanted only stories that could keep my interest, and that usually doesn't happen unless there are copious amounts of napalm drops or panty flashes.

So, in high school and college, when I took part in creative writing classes, and I was forced to read some less-than-spectacular works of fiction (and believe me, there was quite a bit of said drivel out there) then my quasi-secret and not-even-remotely-snarky-in-any-way code for indicating how sucky the student literature was, apart from my superficially trite attempts at editing the material, to finish the review with the phrase: "needs more short skirts and explosions." If the marsupials didn't understand what I meant by that red-lettered drivel, then fine, they could go on to be... far more successful and sane contributors to society than mesa. F'naaaaa.

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

Gawd, I hope not.

It would be a shame to think that I've been writing fanfiction for over fifteen years, in genres including but not limited to Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Batman The Animated Series, The Legend of Zelda, X-Men Evolution, Resident Evil, and Teen Titans. It would be an utter travesty to imagine me giving up most of my personal and social life between the years 2004 and 2005, writing two and a half million words of a single Gary Stu fanfic, plus an unfinished three hundred thousand word sequel. It'd be utterly vomit inducing to think that I even had a wonderful forum full of faithful marsupials dedicated to talking about such drivel, especially since I would have deleted and then reposted the stuff under a Nietzsche-forsaken author name months upon months ago while shifting about in the depths of my own personal angst. I shudder to imagine someone lacking that much of a life, that he would actually attempt re-writing the entire bulk of his comic hero saga before crashing and burning once again.

As for professional smex, I'm really not cut out for that. If you really need a clue, look at all the schizophrenic diatribe preceding this paragraph. For the most part, I just don't have what it takes to write condensed, cohesive, logically-sound works of fiction. I'm not an intelligent person, and I certainly could use a few lessons (or a million) in refining both my grammar and vocabulary. As it stands, poni poni poni stories are a wonderful niche for me, because I don't have to think smart, write smart, or act smart. I can just pour my lemur milk into the cereal that's already been flavored by the audience's anticipatory headcanon and work from there. It's like the readers have done half the work for me already by the time I've started hammering down words into their virginal retinae. Trying to peddle original works upon a legitimate audience birthed from today's heartless snarkiness is like shooting bullets straight up into the air and hoping to catch them on the way down in my urethra, or some other blatantly pornographicalized Scottyism. Quality and skill are good, but they mean nothing if you don't have an audience. And MLP gives me an audience, even if it's marginalized and uber-silly; it's still an audience, an audience that I happen to lurve with all of my hormones. Well, okai, most of them.

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

Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes

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

This would be a supremely relative question if I actually read anything.

That said, I munch on most of the stuff that SATGF (Spanish Announce Table Goes First) writes. So, if you want delicious smex, go choke on the vanilla flavored wordsmithery of Propmaster, theworstwriter, RazgrizS57, Vimbert the Unimpressive, Chromosome, theBrianJ, Mist Twister, and RedSquirrel456. I'd also mention Darkflame, Pilate, and Warden, but they edit/draw more than write/vomit. All in all, the guys are fantastic lemur extraordinaires who have singled-tentacledly saved my written works from being super sucky time and time again. Instead, it just remains regular sucky, but I owe them all big time regardless.

There's also Ponky, Mr. Renaissance Stalker himself, and his ridiculously charming "Sisters Doo." Cold in Gardez is a pretty cool guy who doesn't afraid of anything, quite literally. But if I had to pin one fanfic as my absolute favorite, it has to be "Home is Where the Harp Is" by Blueshift, which you absolutely must read. If you're not reading it right now, then abandon this Nietzsche-forsaken interview blog and go check it out this very damn second. If you're not sitting in front of a computer, then head towards the light; you're probably already dead.

As for favorite stories in general, I'd have to go back into my deep past where I was actually pretending to be intrigued with literature. I'd list stuff like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. For the most part, when I read, it's comic books, and I'm big on Brian Michael Bendis' badass Daredevil run or The Watchmen by Alan Moore or Fabian Nicieza's work on Robin and Red Robin.

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?

Stephen King... didn't he write that one story that took place in Maine?

I dunno. I'm not smart on analyzing writing. Maybe I too would have to be hit by a speeding car first. The way I see it, there's only one type of writing that's worth getting one's lacy pink panties in a perfumed tangle over: enjoyment. If you don't enjoy what you're writing, then what's the friggin' point?

I have marsupials whom I write for, for sure, and I certainly do whore the attention I get (if there was a stripper pole on the feature box, I'm certain it'd have my initials carved in it by now... f'naaaaa). But my success is owed to two things: insanely selfless editors and pure dumb luck. I really can't say for sure what got my name passed around so prominently like a Viking drinking bowl, other than the fact that I struck a one hit wonder and used that as a springboard to produce drivel that three thousand plus Internetters immediately see. All in all, I'd say I'm just a lucky bastard who likes what he does and has a bunch of people who likes to watch me write how much I like to watch them watch me liking stuff, like, for real? Very likely...

As for ideal readers, I dig any marsupial who provides thoughtful, specific, and critical commentary. Oh, and fanart. Fanart is my bloodline. /[Wil werk 4 fann 4rt plz]\

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

If you're doing stuff professionally, aiming for quality and jazz, then get some editors, take what they have to say seriously, and practice patience as you hammer and re-hammer and re-re-hammer stuff out.

If you just wanna get attention in the poni poni poni realm, however, then consider... y'know... shouting "buck it" and uploading your crap before the defecation has a chance to harden. I can't count how many fellow lemurs I've met across the ponified interwebs who edit and re-edit and slash-and-burn their material, so nervous and anxious about uploading what they have, for fear that it may be crap. The key to getting noticed is to realize something: it is all crap. So don't give into the fear, and instead give into the writing process, throwing caution to the wind. Will you produce quality? Probably not so much. But through quantity and sheer magnitude of pretentious overflowing wordsquirts, people will take notice, and sometimes sheer ambition alone is enough to inspire marsupials to cling to your material. Dedication speaks for itself, after all.

Writing tons of stuff also gets the juices flowing, as t'were. Do what that car injury guy in Maine does; write one thousand words per day. Set the bar low, but just so you can feasibly dance your limbo beneath the goal every twenty-four hours. You'll find that plot and character structure and scene dynamics will happen almost automatically. It's like exercise in that manner, only you're using ninety percent of your brain and ten percent of your genitalia. Those juices have gotta come from somewhere, f'naa?

That said, follow such advice with a modicum of reserve. I'm not a good writer; I just write a lot. I'm perfectly content with the attention this has gotten me, but it takes an entirely different mode of thought to actually produce stuff that's artistic, that's thought-provoking, that's mesmerizing. If you wanna be remembered by less people, but have those fewer individuals respect you a million times more, then go to real writers for advice: lemurs like Cold in Gardez or Obabscribbler or Blueshift or Vimbert or Skywriter or Chromosome or Propmaster. They'll point you down the straight and narrow, whereas attention whores such as myself will burn in the darkness where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth and minimal supplies of Dr. Pepper.

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

I don't write nearly as much as people think I do. Perhaps there was a time when I did, but that was ages ago, a time when dinosauric clouds of nebulous inspiration stalked the globe, raking the fertile soil with their claws of righteous conviction and integrity and (GUNSHOT)

Really, though, ever since I abandoned End of Ponies, I've only written when the impulsive will to do so inspired me, and even then I would simply write in manic bursts. Once upon a potty, my nightly ritual involved sitting down at a computer, rereading my previous day's drivel, outlining a basic plan, then pacing circles through my humid, dimly lit garage with music from my Zune blasting into my eardrums. Somewhere between meandering waves of thought and caffeinated gulps of Dr. Pepper, I'd get high off creativity, then sit down on my tailbone to get to work. I'd write for three to four hours into the dark shadows of the naked morning, and after about fifteen or so pages of progress, I'd feel satisfied, and resume my regularly scheduled practice for death (sleeping).

Nowadays, I just.. sort of fumble around and write oneshots when I'm feeling cruddy enough. Oh, and then there's Imploding Colon, whom I stalk and take photos of for about forty-five minutes per day, after work and before supper.

What inspired you to write Gift?

Like most of the crud I produced in 2012, I just wanted a break from Background Pony.

Honestly, though, I have this big fetish for protagonists undergoing existential crises or severe metamorphoses. I think unreliable narration is uber sexy, and makes for nifty ways of playing tricks on the reader's mind.

For months, I had sworn not to write anything changeling-related. I wasn't a huge fan of Queen Crapolis in the finale to Season Two, and I wanted nothing to do with her addition to the lore. I even rambled about this in multiple blog posts.

So, naturally, I had to be a hypocrite and change gears, considering what it'd be like to write a story where the main character was a changeling and didn't know it. This soon evolved into a completely different narrative altogether: where the reader is forced to assume something about the narrator, and then the truth turns out to be something else entirely. I always wanted to write a story where a character has a clone taking his or her place, but then deals with the long-term consequences of such a switcheroo. Gift was my chance to do that.

As for the ending, I wanted a sting to make the story stick in marsupials' heads, while at the same time analyzing the concepts of generosity in a super grim-dark fashion. I remember sharing this story concept intently with a co-worker during a dull shift together. I think I... depressed him. Somewhere between long faces and shifty-eyed glances, he suggested I run with it. He also suggested I get some help too.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Gift?

All things considered, Gift is an insanely flawed story. It's way too dayum long and could use a great deal of trimming. It was a certain wise zebra himself who suggested that the story be changed so that it starts right at the Sugarcube Corner scene about halfway in. Like a good egotist, I acknowledged his fine wisdom and promptly left the story as it was.

The biggest challenge of the story was hiding the identity of the narrator, while at the same time drenching every bit of dialogue and action with sopping wet foreshadowing. Sharp critics of the story have mentioned how lopsided it is, in that it takes for friggin' ever for the plot to take off. My hope was that the story could be reread and thoroughly enjoyed a second time for fresh new reasons. Indeed, I've had marsupials confess they've gone through a second pass of the fic, seeing the nature of the narrator and her interactions in a whole new light, summoning waves of thermonuclear feels.

I'm actually rather proud of this fic, and I especially like how I tried, for better or for worse, to apply the policy of not identifying the narrator outright towards the story's end, when she interacts with her double, and neither one of them ever once refers to the protagonist by name. They both know who she is; they don't need to weigh the moment on formalities. All that matters is the situation at hoof, and they both deal with it sincerely and emotionally.

Also, the sting at the end was something that needed an uber delicate balance. I didn't want to outright tell readers what happened. I wanted to simply show them the elements of the story and let them come to a conclusion as to what took place, so that their hearts could feel the weight of the revelation simultaneous to their minds processing it. Did this involve some heavy-handed, pretentious metaphor syrup? Sh00r, but it apparently worked, ‘cuz people are still talking about the fic this day, even in the darker hovels of the Internet.

When you set out to write Gift, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

I originally wanted to name the story "Give In Take," but that title was already taken. I felt that I wanted to analyze the goods and evils of giving things up, but to the extreme. The protagonist and the changeling would both be examples of giving and taking. While the changeling has taken everything from the protagonist, the protagonist has come to the point where she's willing to give everything.

However, the changeling has developed new motivations since the day she swapped places with the protagonist. The faux pony now wishes to give, in order to achieve some sort of redemption for her cruel actions. The protagonist wishes initially to take the changeling's life, but then switches to wanting to give the changeling everything, but her motivations for such is no different than her wanton assassination attempt. She has given into defeat and desolation, and her generosity is intrinsically a selfish and melodramatic thing, because she no longer has the will or courage to pick up the pieces of her life from where they were first pilfered from her.

There are different ways of looking at the protagonist's action. In one way, it can be seen as a supremely noble and honorable sacrifice. Her selflessness helps maintain a status quo that, conceivably, is the best for all parties involved: not just the changeling, but the friends that the changeling has helped evolve over time.

And yet, there is nothing at all noble about the narrator's sacrifice, for it is a nihilistic surrender to death and destruction. There is no room for self-improvement, and several logic burps still exist: such as the legitimate threat her perpetual absence may have on Equestria or her closest friends as a whole.

I'm sure we all know by now that this is a friggin' Rarity story. Lots of bronies don't entirely like Rarity, and while I understand why that may be the case, I find her to be a very fascinating character. On top of being imperfect (imperfect characters are sexy), she's got this duality to her. She's both extremely generous and extremely selfish. It's this sort of split motivation that inspired me to write Gift. I think Rarity has a heavy fixation on the power of superficial gift-giving-and-receiving, and when she deals with the sort of crud that the plot of Gift involves, her only conceivable solution involves doing something severe and dramatic, because she can't accept some middle ground. She has to do something in the extreme, even if it involves the culmination of her life and the beginning of another's.

At this time in my MLP fiction career (:twitch:twitch:), I was predominantly known for Background Pony, as well as for taking photographs of Imploding Colon as he produced his epic Austraeoh. It was refreshing for once to produce a story that got such critical reaction. Marsupials weren't resorting to the abysmally typical "THE FEATURE BOX WILL TREMBLE" or "ONCE AGAIN SS&E IS AWESOME" or "LEARN TO USE A NIETZSCHE DAMNED THESAURUS YOU PURPLE FINGERED BABOON." Instead, people spent considerable time and effort drawing up elaborate arguments and critical commentary concerning themes of generosity and suicide and deceit. I may have been seeking more of a positive reaction at the time, but I'm happier with what I got. Regardless of whether or not this story was intelligent, intelligence was what it answered with, and I found that very invigorating. I would very much like to produce future works that could get a similar reaction from the minds of the marsupial alumni.

Where can readers drop you a line?

You can try PMing me at... y'know... Fimfiction. Beyond that, I have a Twitter, a frightening youtube page, a bland Deviantart thingy, and an e-mail address that I never use ( Though, to be perfectly honest, I'm a lazy slob of a wannabe writer who rarely talks his head off to random marsupials... unless of course I'm in the company of friends or writing ridiculously long answers to Pony Fiction Vault interview questions.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

My best friend Ponky is away in Italy for two years, KO'ing spaghetti slurpers with Joseph Smith hadoukens. For a good time, go stalk his author page, attend his fimfic shrine, or bask in his awesometastical videos.

Beyond that, live long and dash apples.



  1. You know, I was just talking with some folks about how little I read of the interviews anymore. Usually it's just best pony, best episode, where'd your name come from, and even that has grown uninteresting over time.

    But this. This is the best interview that has ever been posted to this site. It's like a Joyceian fever dream. I'm familiar with skirts's general tone in his journals on fimfic, but this was absolutely riveting as a read. I can't even think of what needs to be said about it, other than I'm halfway convinced that SS&E is in fact a computer who can only communicate via Markov chaining.

  2. Of all the SS&Es in the world, you're the SS&E-est.