Friday, April 13, 2012

device heretic's Eternal

I was talking about story length last week, and then this week we have an even longer one. I hope you like reading! (If you don't, why are you here?) This is another story I effectively couldn't put down, an epic tale of Celestia's immortality and hubris, and her special relationship with Twilight.

[Adventure][Tragedy] • 159,800 words
Many years after sending her beloved protégé to Ponyville, unease sits heavily on Princess Celestia's heart as her relationship with Twilight Sparkle seems to have cooled despite all they've accomplished together. On the advice of her sister, Celestia sets out to investigate and resolve the lost connection with her most faithful student. What does it mean to be a Faithful Student... or a Princess of the Sun?

Hit the break for more words - all the words! - from device heretic, and links to Eternal online. You can grab a long, long ebook over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Milwaukee, WI, USA. Right across from a corner store which is almost certainly a front for the Russian Mafia -- I say this because it's much more interesting than it just being run by a nice old immigrant couple.

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

So about how I churned out a story the length of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a month and a half... I'm super unemployed. Anyone need an media analyst? Anyone? Anyone?

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

As a permanent internet person, I became aware of the phenomenon pretty early on -- Feeling Pinkie Keen had just come out when I watched MLP:FiM for the first time. Fell in love instantly -- my girlfriend left for work that day as I said: "I'm going to watch this terrible show and mock everyone who likes it," and when she returned, I was like "OMG PONIES".

Do you have a favorite episode?

I tend to like the episodes that are really thoughtful about character motivations and really play off the flaws in their personalities rather than in the situations, so: Lesson Zero is probably my favorite, followed by Sonic Rainboom, Art of the Dress, Party of One, The Cutie Mark Chronicles, Applebuck Season, and Luna Eclipsed.

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)?

My favorite character purely in-canon is probably Dash when she's at her best (Sonic Rainboom, Hurricane Fluttershy) rather than when she's being an idiot (Mysterious Mare-Do-Well) or a bitch (May The Best Pet Win). When Dash isn't being awesome, it's almost certainly Rarity, who manages to be really hilarious even when she's being awful ("Who said camouflage had to be drab?" is probably my favorite oblivious Rarity line ever.).

Out in the fandom, by which I really mean my own headcanon, it's Celestia, without question. A thousand years of regret and solitude, and she's still a magnificent shiny princess... even if she's lonely as all get out. Good thing she has that unicorn running around...

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Long ago in the distant past, when I was in undergraduate college, my roommate and I were playing Halo 2 (which had just come out -- see why I like Celestia? I sympathize with how OLD SHE IS) with a friend. There was this one map in that game which had this glowing gravity lift thing that would propel you across the level... I called it "the device" for lack of anything better to call it.

So anyways, three people playing Slayer means that the two of them were ganging up on me, and I was (and remain) terrible at Halo. So I made it my mission in life to get to the device as many times as I could before they killed me, laughing like a maniac as I did so. And so I became the device heretic, violating its sanctity, since according to the logic of that situation only my roommate and our friend were "allowed" to use it for whatever reason.

Were we drunk? Oh, very much so. But I remain the device heretic to this day... and that story tells you a lot about me, really.

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

I have a master's degree in political communication, so I've been churning out words like you would not believe for the last six years. Writing stories is just as much work, but twice as fun.

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

The correct answer is supposed to be "applying for work", but...

What I USED to like to do when I wasn't writing was play video games, but my computer died and I'm stuck with a $150 box that can, with some tweaking, run YouTube for the time being. Writing is what I do, now.

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

Without question, it's Terry Pratchett. This is probably obvious from how I ape his writing style shamelessly... but I envy his ability to be subtle and profound while also being hilarious and writing in a universe with trolls and dwarfs and things. Of his books, Thud! is my favorite, followed by Going Postal and The Fifth Elephant.

More "seriously", I'll read Kurt Vonnegut or Hunter Thompson any day of the week. I have a thing for bitter old bastards complaining, being one myself.

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?

Well, I think I'll have to twist that question a bit, sorry... in his introduction to the short story collection Bagobo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that every story should be directed at one person, and one person alone, and if anyone else gets something out of it, great. I was kind of meh on this philosophy until I began working on The Wayward Knight, and quickly realized it was directionless almost for this reason alone.
Eternal was written for me. If you get something out of it, I'm sorry; that suggests you resemble me in some way, a dark fate for any human person.

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

Only the ones that allowed me to succeed:

1. Every sentence should either describe something, move the plot forward, or elaborate on one of the story's themes.
2. Every character should want something, even if it's just a cup of water, and everything they do should reflect that. I could tell you the motivation of even the throwaway guard in the epilogue, Lieutenant Whitecloud, even though she has like... three lines.
3. There should be a theme to the story and the plot and action should serve the theme, not the other way around. That's what makes stories powerful; they're more than just a laundry list of stuff that happened. There's a point.

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

I have a terrible writing process that I am almost embarrassed to admit, but:

I write all the way through a "chapter", e.g. a completed scenario, and then I go back and tear through it. I just have to get things down so that they're down and I have a starting place for any major revisions. There were a couple chapters of Eternal that are completely alien to the original draft... but I had to get a baseline down to work from. It's very organic, and extremely hard to edit, but...

What inspired you to write Eternal?

Well, I read Composure and Romance Reports, and got to thinking about character psychology, and...

Also I was really depressed. A year of unemployment and poverty will do that to you... so I wrote chapter one of Eternal just to see if I could. I've always wanted to write stories, which are the only things that really interest me in life; so I thought, hey, why not take a shot? Might be decent.

Turns out I'm awesome. Sort of.

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

Often. Many times I hit the wall.

I guess the biggest one was my Nightmare Celestia section. I wrote this horrible, Silent Hill-esque abomination scene and was like: gods of asgard, this is awful -- totally against tone, and really violent and disgusting. So I chatted with Varanus (author of Composure) and he proposed the really passive-aggressive scene to set up the theme of guilt. He's a clever man that one.

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

There are three major themes to Eternal:
1. Change is inevitable.
2. Decisions matter, and have consequences both negative and positive.
3. Real friendship is sharing pain, not happiness.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?


Actually, just wanted to thank everyone for their support, especially given the madness with the "hacking" and so on. Glad you all enjoyed my little story.


  1. Replies
    1. This is definitely a *fanfic* first and foremost. In that respect, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

      As a *story*, I'd say it was lacking. The dream sequence goes on a LONG time, and then it switches to the 'extra-planar' sequence, which is just as long again, if not more so. Great stuff for us fanboys, but geekism does not a good story make.

      I think it's the fact that Device Heretic tries to explain everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Too much for one story, I think, and there are two sides to that problem. One is the sheer volume of information to be handed over. As I said, that is less of an issue with us ravenous fanboys, but it's still very noticeable. The other problem is that the more you try and explain, the greater the risk of something not quite making sense, either to the reader, or in relation to the established backstory, AND the less mystery there is to keep a reader hooked.

      Then there's the cop-out with Celestia's punishment. Undercutting a built up and execution (that were already too long, in my opinion) by simply avoiding the tragedy kinda ruined the ending completely for me.

      Lastly, speaking of ending, this is a fantastic example of an author not knowing when to end the story. It could have ended after the dream sequence. It could have ended after Celestia's revelations. It could have ended after the first wave of bonus time. Each time it didn't, it left me feeling adrift as the reader. It didn't feel well paced because all it seemed to do was build, without the back-and-forth that makes a good story. If you build too long, even the best suspense becomes a bit samey.

      All that said, I sincerely thank Device Heretic for writing the story, and I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Eternal is one of my favorite MLP fanfics, so it's nice to get a bit of background... and a recommendation! I've not read Composure, so I need to go find that one.

  3. When Eternal was wrapping up, I had been in the process of trying to finish my own lengthy story. I felt like I was failing at the time (and many argue that, ultimately, I did, but that's neither here nor there)--I felt that I was just dragging the story on and on with no end in sight.

    The running joke with my primary reviewer was that if I needed to hammer out some words for the sake of not getting mired, I'd have my focus characters sitting around talking over tea or food, as that had been a recurring trend in my story. It became a taboo subject with me, mostly because I felt that if I had characters sitting around just talking over tea, no one would be interested in reading that.

    Then I read the final chapters of Eternal and felt a lot better about the subject : P

    Of course, you executed your premise a hell of a lot better than me, but it's nice to see how it should be done.

    Now, that aside, I'll say that I enjoyed your story, for the most part. I felt that Celestia's "punishment" was sort of a cop-out, in that it was almost a reward for essentially raping another sentient being for its power over the course of a thousand years. It's tricky when you get venture into the mindset of immortals, since it's not like we have a good frame of reference, so what's believable behavior to you might just feel bizarre and alien to me. YMMV is the term, I believe.

    But yes, your writing, while lengthy as all get out, is quite enjoyable, at least from what I've read: your story about knowing Celestia, and your other story about *cough* knowing Celestia.

    In one way, it's a shame that you won't be writing for the fandom anymore (if I understand correctly), but that's just a selfish desire to get something good for free. I have a not-quite-friend who's done self-publication, and it sounds like an interesting path to tread. I wish you the best of luck, and hey, if you're interested, maybe I could connect you two if you just want another perspective. If so, PM me on FiMFiction.


  4. Glad to see this on here. As shining examples go of how to masterfully incorporate themes and ideas within natural dialogue, this is a great one. Beautiful character development.

  5. Sharp wit as usual device heretic. Also Skype stalked for reasons.

    Great writing tips, finally I understand why some fics I read seem like they meander too much despite being so much shorter than Eternal.