Monday, July 16, 2012

Kkat's Fallout: Equestria

This is arguably the biggest fanfic in the fandom. It's spawned over 250 side stories, translations into multiple languages, and countless pieces of fan art and fan music, and was considered notable enough to be mentioned in Fallout's Wikipedia entry. You can check out all the fan content at the Fallout: Equestria Resource. Marshmallow ponies and post-apocalyptic wasteland... who'd have thought?

[Adventure][Dark][Crossover] • 607,200 words
Fallout. With ponies! Set in an alternate future, one pony must learn to survive in a blasted, poisoned land... and possibly, with the aid of friends made along the way, bring new light into the darkness of post-apocalyptic Equestria.

Hit the break for an interview with Kkat (of which there have been quite a few), and links to Fo:E out on the ponynet. And of course you can grab ebooks suitable for your terminal or PipBuck over on the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

The United States. Pacific Time Zone. I'm afraid I won't give more than that. I like my privacy.

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

I graduated with a minor in English (Creative Writing) and a BFA in art. However, both art and writing are hobbies of mine, not professions. My day job (well, night job) is unrelated to either.

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

I hate to admit it, but I was teasing a friend of mine for loving My Little Pony. He rightly pointed out that if I hadn't seen the show, I had no grounds to judge it. So he challenged me to watch five episodes, just a couple hours' worth... and then, if I still wanted to mock him, he would willingly take it.

I have a lot to thank him for. Not only for introducing me to such a wonderful show, and by extension this community, but for hammering home a crucial life lesson about not judging something without having taken the time to experience it.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Green Isn't Your Color. The story spotlights my two favorite ponies, plus it has all manner of Pinkie Pie goodness. And I love the fact that the central problem is created by the characters hiding their feelings because they care and they would rather sacrifice their own happiness than hurt their friends.

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)?


Bronies are a highly creative group, filled with artists, writers, musical composers and more. A great many of us want to give back to this wonderful community of friends that we find ourselves part of. Likewise, Rarity is an artist. And in Suited for Success, we see her desire to create something beautiful for her friends. We see the effort that went into this labor of love. And we can relate.

Likewise, we can empathize with the hurt of pouring ourselves into a project only to receive a lukewarm reaction. We know the frustration of trying to get proper feedback. (Virtually every artist understands the need and emotion behind "Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!")

The reason Suited for Success was such a marvelous episode was because it wasn't really about making dresses... it was about generosity and giving back.

And then, Rarity went a step beyond that, sacrificing her career, her livelihood and one could even say childhood dream in order to give her friends what they wanted. And when everything came crashing down, she still walked out onto that runway and took the blame.

Rarity may be occasionally greedy and a drama queen, but where it really counts, she is the soul of generosity, and a character who I can not only empathize with but admire.

I do not believe my answer would change even considering the entirety of the fandom. (Although I must admit a soft spot for the fandom's Derpy Hooves/Ditzy Doo.)

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Eerie Kkat was the name of the first character I ever played in a tabletop roleplaying game. When I played a male character in a subsequent game, the other players joked that the character was a "Kkatman". I started signing my emails that way, and the name became my nom de plume shortly after. Years later, I shortened it back to the original Kkat.

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

I have been writing since childhood. I have written as part of shared-universe writing groups. But Fallout: Equestria is the first story that I fully completed since graduating college. Most recently, before becoming a brony, I had written "PipBoy Diary" journals -- a sort of written "Lets Play" for Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. These journals, while never finished, were a precursor to writing Fallout: Equestria.

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

I enjoy tabletop roleplaying games and a select few computer games. I also enjoy reading, but I am a terribly slow reader. I must admit, I also waste a lot of time browsing the internet. Lately, I have spent a lot of my free time enjoying the company of the wonderful bronies in the Fallout: Equestria community. They have been constructing rules for a tabletop Fallout: Equestria roleplaying game, and I've been participating in playtesting.

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

My favorite storyteller would be J. Michael Straczynski, with the epic television masterpiece Babylon 5 being my favorite story. Other favorite storytellers include (in no particular order) Joss Whedon, Stephen King and S. Andrew Swann. I have read Swann's Moreau series multiple times and highly recommend it.

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?

My ideal reader would be a reader who gives me polite, helpful and detailed feedback, whether praise or criticism. My favorite readers were those who wrote reviews and reading commentaries on each chapter as they came out.

Reader commentary was a major part of my writing process. The feedback and constructive criticism I received allowed me to continuously improve Fallout: Equestria as I wrote it. Likewise, those types of comments always helped revive my interest in the story whenever it began to waver. Without that feedback, Fallout: Equestria would never have been completed.

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

There are seven bits of advice I have to offer for people who wish to write:

First: Start writing. Regularly. The hardest part of writing is actually beginning. Once you've started, I've found, the words come more easily. But putting down that first sentence, or even just the title, can be the most daunting part of a day's work.

Second: Keep writing. Even if you don't like what you have written -- your writing will improve the more you do it. The more you write, the better you will become at it.

Third: Write about something you love. You will find writing a lot more fulfilling, and a lot easier to continue, if you are writing about something you enjoy or care about.

Fourth: If you are writing something complex, such as a fan-fic: before you write (whether you are writing the whole story or just a single chapter), take some time to plot out major themes, events and other important notes you want in that story or chapter.

Fifth: Read. Find authors whose works you enjoy and read them. Occasionally pause to think about what made writing work for you.

Sixth: Be familiar with some of the pitfalls that writers, particularly new ones, fall prey to and make it a point to avoid them. For example: know what a self-insert character is and what a Mary Sue character is and put effort into making sure your characters aren't either of those.

Seventh: If possible, find friends or other supportive individuals who will critique your work. This can easily be the hardest suggestion to follow, however. Don't be dismayed or dissuaded from writing if you can't find the response you are looking for. Continue to write; continue to improve.

These are by no means the only or even most important advice you can receive. So here are some links to some more great writing advice: here and here.

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

I spent about forty hours a week working on the story, with only a few weeks off during the eight-month period it took to write Fallout: Equestria. About a quarter of that was spent in online proofreading sessions with a team of two editors and two-to-four additional proofreaders, although I didn't have that team for the first few chapters of the story -- not until after I had moved to posting the story on Equestria Daily.

With Fallout: Equestria, I'd have the bare-bones idea of what the next chapter would entail, and I'd use brainstorming to flesh out a list of scenes or tidbits that I wished to include. To do so, I would read all the feedback from the previous chapter. Then I spend a few days brainstorming and making notes for the chapter, creating what I think of as the "dots" for the chapter. Usually, this involved putting on inspirational music and daydreaming about the story, jotting down notes when inspiration strikes.

On days I wrote, I would be sure to have a good breakfast and a good supply of caffeinated beverages on hand. I would often play music in the background. I built up a sizable playlist of music that I would write to or that I would listen to when seeking inspiration. (For anyone interested, that playlist, with the addition of many songs composed by some awesome Fallout: Equestria fans, is available on YouTube.)

I refer to my writing method as a "connect the dots" approach. After each chapter was posted, I would read all the comments that came in and take a couple days to digest them. I would then spend the slow hours at work brainstorming and creating a list that included scenes I wanted, conversations that needed to take place, and critical plot points that needed to be touched on.

Those would be my "dots". When I sat down to start writing the new chapter, I would know all the "dots", which one to start with and which one to end with, and what the overall picture was going to be. I'd start writing at the first "dot" and proceed towards the next.

This way, I didn't know everything that was going to happen in a chapter, not even as I was writing it. I had room for inspiration to take control. This kept the story fresh for me. I believe that if I had already known everything that was going to happen, writing the story would have become tedious.

After a chapter was written, I would pass it on to my team of proofreaders and editors, who would spend most of a day going through the chapter line-by-line and giving me lists of typos, spelling errors and grammatical errors to correct, as well as suggestions for alterations (usually regarding specific word use or phraseology). I would then make all the corrections, and carefully consider each suggestion before either implementing or rejecting it. Once it was finished would I send the chapter in for Seth to post.

What inspired you to write Fallout: Equestria?

The inception of the idea was an artwork by Dan Shive called "Pony Vegas". It was a wonderful piece, playing on my twin loves of Friendship is Magic and the Fallout series of games. But at the same time, it didn't make sense within the context of the show. My imagination immediately started trying to figure out how you could make the combination of Fallout and Friendship is Magic make sense both chronographically and thematically. I wanted to share Friendship is Magic with my friends in a Fallout online community, and thought that such a story would be a perfect vehicle to do so. (I only moved to Equestria Daily when the story failed to generate enough feedback to help me improve or maintain interest.)

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Fallout: Equestria?

The biggest challenge was writing the characters from the show. I wanted to capture their personalities and make them feel like the characters we all knew and loved... albeit older, more experienced versions of those characters who were now stuck in an impossible situation. I was nervous about my ability to properly write these characters, which is part of the reason that the first Memory Orb isn't viewed until Chapter Thirteen. I waited until I had immersed myself in the show and had read a few other fanfics, and until I was confident that I could write these characters properly and with reverence. The most difficult canon character to write turned out not to be one of the Ministry Mares... but that would be a spoiler.

Another difficulty was writing fatigue. Readers will point out that the speed at which chapters were coming out slowed down considerably in the fall. Part of that was simply because the chapters were getting much larger and more complex, so they took longer to write. But fatigue also played a significant role. There were a few weeks here and there where I didn't write at all.

However, as mentioned before, before Fallout: Equestria, I had a history of leaving works unfinished. I knew that if I allowed myself to take a break from writing for any significant period of time, I would likely never finish. And that helped drive me to continue. Even in the weeks where I wasn't writing, I was constantly making notes, reviewing ideas, or even just listening to music from my "Fallout: Equestria Inspirational" playlist -- a playlist of songs that I associated in some way with the story and that could help inspire me to write.

Infinitely more vital, however, were the fans. Comments which included detailed feedback and writing commentaries always helped revive my interest in the story whenever it began to waver. Without that feedback, Fallout: Equestria would never have been completed.

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

Fallout: Equestria was envisioned as two stories in one. First, you have the standard hero's journey of the protagonist. But this was combined with a sort of "in medias res" story about Equestria itself, from the start of the war to the path it was set to follow after the protagonist's journey is over.

I wrote the story with a few themes and morals in minds from the start. The first theme, as first stated by DJ Pon3 in the chapter "The Truth of the Matter" is that we have all made mistakes. We have all done things that we regret. There is a second half of that truth, but it isn't explicitly revealed until the "Epilogue".

The first of the primary morals, which is revealed in the chapter "The Heart of the Matter", is the classic wisdom that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" -- that by trying to do the right thing in the wrong way, you will likely end up doing more harm to yourself and others.

The second and more important moral comes from the words of the character Life Bloom near the end:

"We have to do better, don't we?"

The second moral, I believe, echoes back to why many of us love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The show isn't happy merely because it is bright and colorful, but because the ponies in the show (for the most part) behave better than we do. There is a reason that the brony motto is "love and tolerance". The morals of friendship are largely about being better towards each other.

Fallout: Equestria has inspired countless artists and authors to create their own works based on your universe. Prior to completing your story, you refused to read anyone else's work - do you plan on doing so now?

I do. However, I am an abysmally slow reader and I have not only a lot of stories (both Fallout: Equestria inspired and otherwise) on my plate to read, but a lot of other things I am doings. So actually accomplishing reading the stories has been agonizingly slow.

Did you expect that Fallout: Equestria would become anywhere near as popular as it has?

Oh my, no!

When I started writing Fallout: Equestria, I was posting it on a Fallout gamer community website. I doubted that I would get many readers, if any. I hoping for a handful of dedicated readers whom I might introduce to the joys of Friendship is Magic through the story.

Later, I started posting to Equestria Daily because the story was suffering from a lack of feedback. But even there, I was hoping was for a dozen or two readers and praying that I would get some who weren't shy about giving me feedback. I was, after all, fusing together Fallout and Friendship is Magic, two universes that most people couldn't imagine having anything in common, in a story that was both epic and completely serious. To top it off, Fallout: Equestria had the trifecta of (at the time) shunned tags: grimdark, crossover and OC ponies. I was rather surprised I had any readers.

I certainly didn't expect the story to blossom like it did under the overwhelmingly wonderful amount of support and response that I got from the brony community. The outpouring from this community so vastly exceeded my expectations that I still feel stunned, humbled and unimaginably grateful.

I was completely blown away by the Fallout: Equestria fandom and the welcoming and positive reactions from the brony community as a whole. I am deeply honored and thankful. I really love the brony community.

Is there anything about Fallout: Equestria you'd like to change?

There are many things I would fix or change if I went back – not plot points, but egregious typos and wrong or missing words; I would replace a lot of uses of "buck", I would reaffirm Littlepip's gender in the first chapter, I would change Deadeyes' name, and I would seriously cut down on exclamation points in the first third of the story.

However, three things prevent me from doing any of this. First, any artist could spend a lifetime continuously trying to perfect a particular piece. I know that a certain self-discipline is required to avoid endless revisions, to call a work "finished" despite its remaining flaws and move on. Second, the story is available in multiple formats from multiple sources, and there is no way I could "fix" them all. I want all new readers to experience the same work and not have to hunt down the "corrected" version. Finally, and most importantly, Fallout: Equestria is being translated into several other languages. The Russian translation is already complete and the six other language translations are many chapters in. I think it would do a disservice to the people working on those translations to go in and change things now.

Where can readers drop you a line?

I have accounts on FurAffinity, YouTube and FiMFiction. I don't check them often, however, and I get a lot of mail, so replies may not happen swiftly.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The brony fans of Fallout: Equestria drove me not only to continue writing, but to try to make the story the best possible version of the story that it could be. I was so overwhelmed by the positive responses, the art, the music, the side stories... and just the sheer love I was feeling from this community... that I knew I needed to do right by all of them. I needed to do my best, and always strive to do better. I owed it to them.

I love you all. This story is as much yours as mine. Without you, Fallout: Equestria wouldn't have been possible. What I will cherish most, however, are the friends I have found in this community over these last few months. Friendship is magic. Thank you so very much.


  1. Well, I'm convinced. *downloads*

    And here I thought Romance Reports was lengthy...

  2. It's really odd how no one has actually answered the Stephen King question within the context it gives >_>' Well...I guess... "I write for myself" is technically an answer.

    Oh well. Great interview. I've yet to read Fallout: Equestria, but this definitely peeked my interest.

    1. Oh, you noticed that too?

      I figure it's something of a Rorschach question, now - it's interesting to see how different people interpret it. Only one or two people have actually understood the question as it was intended (which frankly I see as a failing on my part, not theirs - I obviously didn't make it clear enough from the beginning).

  3. Hey, you got Kkat!

    Needless to say, one of my favorite stories in the fandom. The scope alone is incredible, but it's one of the few stories that actually attempts to work with a moral, and it does so very well.

    1. YES, I found you!

      *fanboy inhale* MOAR SALVATIONS PLZ!!!

      Oh, FO:E is pretty cool, too <-- is favorite fic

      ...that is all