Friday, March 23, 2012

Cudpug's Hospice

This is slightly different fare than our usual ponyfic. It's a little harsher, a little darker, a little more adult - not in the cloppy sense, mind you, just more... seasoned than most of the fiction in this fandom. As one of the people who recommended it to me said, it will stay with you for a few days after reading it.

[Tragedy] • 64,700 words
Have you ever loved someone? I think that love is a universal theme that defines us all, and is really the ultimate satisfaction in life above all else. Hospice details the relationship between Rarity and an unnamed narrator, and how their relationship rises and falls in the wake of choices that they both make and forces outside of their control. The intention of the story was always to engage with the theme of relationship breakdown; view the story as distinctly metaphorical as these two tortured lovers do everything in their power to remain together.

Hit the break for an interview with Cudpug, and links to Hospice out on the ponynet. You can get ebook copies hot off the presses over at the Downloads page, of course!

Where do you live?


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

I’m a student of history and literature, and I write for an influential publication called BeatsPerMinute.

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

My memory is a little blurry as it was quite a long time ago. The first thing that I ever wrote about Friendship is Magic was in July 2011, and I know that it was after the entire first season had aired, and so I imagine I got into the show sometime in June of that year. I was pretty much a fan from the beginning. I didn’t have any major objection to the show based on its subject matter; I forget where I heard about the show from, but I do know that after watching a couple of episodes I thought it appropriate to continue watching them. This leads me to believe that I was a fan pretty much from the first time I watched it.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Picking a favourite episode is quite difficult as, like most people, I like different episodes for different reasons. At the moment A Friend in Deed is really high up on my list given the incredibly varied animation on display (the felt; the silhouette; the lens-flare effect; Pinkie’s head showing up about a million times pursuing Cranky; the black-and-white film near the end) and Smile Smile Smile.

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)?

In season 1 it was always Applejack. Sadly, I can’t say the same for season 2 because they haven’t really used her very much. It’s hard to keep a consistent favourite when the show barely does anything with them. My favourite now has to be Rarity, as every new episode seems to make her more interesting and amusing. I don’t much care for what the fandom chooses to do with these ponies, and I’m certainly not a fan of stuff like Lyra/Bon-Bon shipping. I like to keep the canon of the show separate from the fanon, else I might one day shoot myself in despair.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Been using ‘Cudpug’ since I was 11. No idea where it came from.

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

Never in a fandom. Friendship is Magic is something of a unique example for me in that respect. I have been writing at a professional level since 2010 in matters unrelated to My Little Pony. In answer to when I first started writing, I have folders in my cupboards of shitty stories that I’ve written from when I was very young indeed.

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

I listen to a lot of good music.

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

It must be rather disappointing to hear, but I don’t personally read fiction. I’m content to write it, but reading fanfiction doesn’t really interest me. I do read a lot of non-fiction, however.

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’d say anyone who is able to identify literary allusions and to grasp greater meanings behind words. I target my fiction at a mature market who want to read stories full of metaphors, moral philosophies and dark, often taboo themes. I am certainly not directing my writing to the clopfiction crowd.

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

It’s in my nature to be rather harsh with people. While I’m often happy to help people out if they need to make something read in a more academic way, some people just aren’t very good at writing. If you have a talent for writing, use it by coming up with something original, rather than flooding an already over-saturated market such as pony erotica. If you require ten people to edit your text for you and it still reads like crap then you probably shouldn’t be writing. Oh, and make sure to go and read a lot of literature if you do plan on contributing something worthwhile to the literary world. It gives you an appreciation for how beautiful linguistics can be.

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

A solitary affair. I would find it incredibly invasive to have other people editing my work. Generally, bar minor edits in large texts where mistakes are prone (authors from William Langland to Samuel Johnson have applied frequent touch-ups to their classic texts after they have been published) I don’t think that any decent writer would really require anyone to extensively edit their work for them. While an idea can be good, if you lack the technical prowess to commit it to page then that becomes a considerable issue. I write during the night in conditions as silent as possible. I don’t write drafts; whatever I write I commit to the page, and rarely do I have to go back and change anything.

What inspired you to write Hospice?

The Antler’s Hospice album and wanting to carve a particular niche. A lot of people have approached me asking if I have personally experienced a loss such as that featured in Hospice. My response is that I do not have to be a carpenter in order to accurately describe a table.

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

A few people telling me that I was mean for killing off a pony. That hurt, man.

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

I set out to write a tale about relationship dissolution, to scratch the surface. However, there are many readings to Hospice. The story is an attack on popular culture and the fashion industry; it is a satire of the pony fandom in general, arguing that if you attempt to sexualise these characters, you arguably kill the subject matter. It is a literary allusion to Medieval fins amor; frequent references to "Sir Orfeo" and an "Owl and the Nightingale"-style of rhetorical debate are prominent throughout. Furthermore, it is indebted to literary tropes of the Middle English period; particularly 13th century notions of Lady Fortune and the later Calvinist doctrine of predestination; this ties into the way in which the text, from the very beginning, establishes what will happen.

It is a homage to The Antler's lyrically outstanding Hospice album; it is a way in which my criticisms of liberal consumer culture can be emphasised through a show that I like. It is an analogy of love, allegorical and didactic in style and execution, steeped in the bathos of high and low culture. It is a criticism of the upper class, of sexuality and of indulgence. It is, first and foremost, a tribute to unrequited love and the romantic tradition of 'love sickness'. People have applied many readings to Hospice and, given its deliberately ambiguous nature, many of these can be supported by the text.

Where can readers drop you a line?

You can contact me at my DeviantArt:

If you want to send a general email, send it to:

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

There is a follow-up to Hospice in the works at the time of writing/I am also putting together a soundtrack to accompany Hospice that can be found here.


  1. Oh man this one is almost my favorite fanfic of all time... Partly because I had a similar situation (minus the "set fire to stuff" part) and the days i spent lying around at home after each chapter, unable to do anything but think about it. wonderful to see this masterpiece receive due attention.

    1. You just made my day with your excellent and encouraging comment. Thank you!

  2. "if you sexualise and attempt to personify these characters, you kill the subject matter"

    Not feeling that, especially the second part. Care to expand on it?

    1. I directed cudpug's attention to your question; he said he'd reply in person here as soon he was able, but for now his point has been clarified slightly in the body of the interview.

    2. I'm not entirely sure why I wrote personify. This has been amended to:

      "if you attempt to sexualise these characters, you arguably kill the subject matter. "

      It is my personal opinion that applying a defined sexuality to these characters can damage the subject matter. Shipping has become so widely distributed that it's a constant cloud hanging over the show, and it can, at times, be difficult to escape from its ominous presence. I don't have anything against people who do write sex-based pony stories, but I do think there's a solid argument behind avoiding it.

    3. I'm not sure there is, really. "Think of the children" is all I can come up with, and that's hardly solid. There's a solid argument behind avoiding grimdark, as it goes against the nature of the show, yet that seems to be popular. I'd like to discuss this further, if you wouldn't mind. :)

    4. The I-character (ICh from now on) comes across as bearing some really horrific emotional scars, to the point where I found it difficult to stay inside the story. It's... dark. I'm gonna withhold judgement for a while since I'm still thinking about it.

      I've read other stories that deal with sexual assault both brilliantly and not (both in [i]Project Horizons[/i]), but not in this indirect, read-between-the-lines way.


      It's not very pony. Like you said, this ain't for the clopfiction crowd, and certainly not the xenofiction folks either. Like, when ICh comments on the innkeeper's wife running the business, I thought, "Well, duh! She's the mare." I thought the whole "sex is an expression of power" theme - ICh seems to think so with his double entendre on the word "fuck," and he certainly projects that attitude upon Cross - feels oh so apeish. Now, yes, I'm an ape myself, so I can identify with it, but it begs the question "Why ponies, if you're going to plumb the dark depths of human-not-pony behavior." Are you just messing with the brony crowd?

      If so, I'll just turn around and say ponies are different. They aren't even close to patriarchal. There is neither biological nor canon support for that interpretation.

    5. @Present Perfect - I don't have a moral objection to shipping and so on, and I don't care about kids seeing it. I just don't personally want to see it applied to something like My Little Pony, and I wouldn't write that kind of stuff myself unless it was part of a satire. I suppose I can use your Grimdark argument against you in this case; you say that Grimdark goes against the nature of the show. I think it's fair to say that sex and lust also goes against the nature of the show. In terms of shipping rather than clopfiction, it's not that I dislike affectionate shipping, it's just the fact that I find it largely unbelievable, unnecessary and overdone. I'm afraid that I'm a big fan of the established canon of the show; unless it shows that the ponies are lesbians, for example, I'm not going to view it as being particularly realistic.

      @Eustatian Wings - Sorry, but I'm not entirely sure what you're asking me. If you're saying that the fact that I'm applying human emotions to ponies is a problem, then I guess I can only suggest that I'm writing for humans, not ponies.

    6. Well, if it's just that you don't like it, that's totally your prerogative and I won't begrudge you that. :) (So long as you aren't one of the jerks who downvotes shipping-tagged stories without reading them.)

      But -- for the sake of argument -- it's far less a stretch to pull shipping out of the show canon than it is to pull out grimdark. The show is about friendship; it's just a hop, skip and a jump from that to true love. The ponies being lesbians or bisexual makes sense with the very low male population we've seen, despite all the on-screen relationships and attractions so far having been heterosexual; that certainly doesn't preclude homosexual romance! As for sex, Word of Faust has already told us that ponies reproduce via "normal mammalian methods" (or some permutation of that phrase), so even if it isn't shown on camera, we know where little fillies come from. :)

      If you're a stickler for pure canon, again I can't begrudge you that, so long as you don't begrudge others what they enjoy. I certainly get hung up on canon about various things, myself. We've seen a whole dozen relationships at this point, most of them among background characters in Hearts & Hooves Day (which taught us the painful lesson that shipping ruins lives). That said, I'm not sure how your original statement, about killing the source material, really applies at this point. (Don't get me wrong, I'm rather enjoying this conversation. :D)

  3. That was one of the most beautiful and yet haunting things I have ever read.

    As I did so, I prepared many - what I thought were well-reasoned - arguments not in it's favour, while meaning to express at the end how much it captivated me. Now that it's done, I can find little I wish to say except that it has been a good long while since I read something that didn't find an excuse to disappoint me at the end.

    In fact, every detail I didn't much like was somehow justified by the idea that the ending just wouldn't have been exactly as it was if everything were not exactly so. I have long complained about MLP fanfics consistently using 'cheap' tactics to get an emotional response; most commonly the death of a family member of character, without working for the impact it creates. This is, of course, the exact opposite. You know the ending from the get-go, and every word builds inexorably towards that point.

    What it really says to me though, is how insane the human race is. I would know, for I have been battling it's insipid nature for many years now, and I am reminded that I'm different. Not unique snowflake different, but because I have earned what wisdom I have in misery and tears, and it has made me better. Better, stronger and wiser that the masses that would seek, unwittingly, to drive me back into depression.

    This story reminds me of the precious things I have gained, and not what have or might lose. That sentiment, I would like to think, is the greatest gift I can return to the author.

    Given with heartfelt thanks.

    - Ex-depressive.
    - Ex-suicidal.
    - Still fighting.

    1. This is, of course, all very encouraging. I'm interested in the 'details [you] didn't much like', but I'm glad that whatever they were didn't damage the experience for you. The intention with Hospice was for the narrative to be taken out of context and to be applied to readers. I completely agree that the human race can be insane, and this is shown in how almost all of the characters in Hospice have obvious flaws. I also like the way that you tied in the 'unique snowflake' motif from the narrative. I'm incredibly grateful that you have gained something from reading Hospice - keep on fighting and take care!