Friday, December 28, 2012

Feather Sigil's I Am Chaos

Discord, as a character, has engendered a great deal of discussion and theorizing on just how exactly such a creature exists. Is he actually evil? As the spirit of Chaos, does he have any free will or must he always act in a way that is most guaranteed to 'shake things up', even if he doesn't feel like it at the moment? Can he ever not feel like it?

[Slice-of-Life] • 2,900 words
You think you know me so well, don’t you? I’m a spirit of chaos, and nothing else. You don’t even know the half of it! Sit back and indulge me for a little; I’ll make you understand what it truly means to be chaos itself.

Hit the break for a chat with Feather Sigil, and links to I Am Chaos out on the ponynet. As always, ebook copies are available over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I hail from a mysterious and distant land of untold wonders and perils to haunt your soul. My people call it Ontario, Canada.

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

I'm an unemployed student.

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

I was first introduced to the show in the Out-Of-Character thread for one of my play-by-post Dungeons & Dragons games. A completely out-of-the-blue post linked me to the "Winter Wrap Up" song and a handy article explaining in detail that my immediate assumptions regarding the show were complete rubbish. I was moderately intrigued but didn't investigate further until several months later. I don't remember what drove me to do so, but by the time I was finished watching the first half of the pilot I regretted delaying as long as I had. I've been hooked ever since.

Do you have a favorite episode?

"Lesson Zero". Every character in every show that takes itself seriously needs an episode like this.

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)?

Canon only, it has to be Twilight. Canon and fanon, Twilight and Celestia tie for best pony. In both categories Rarity, Fluttershy and Luna tie for second place.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I wanted to write a PM to an author via FIMFiction, so I needed an account. The name just appeared, or at least I believe it did. Perhaps Feather Sigil is my true name in some mystic reality-controlling language, in which case I'm doomed and don't even realize it.

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

I first started writing in my teens. It never went anywhere – nothing published, nothing spectacular – and I stopped after a year or two. The desire to write never left me but I couldn't bring myself to continue, a feeling which lasted for over a decade until I finally changed my mind.

I can't remember what my first works were about, which might be for the best anyway. I Am Chaos is the first thing I've written that is of even passable quality. More importantly, it's the first thing I've written when I actually somewhat believed I could write anything of even passable quality.

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

I read not nearly as many books and FIM fanfics as I should, play way too many video games and watch way too many movies/TV shows on DVD.

Recently I've been playing quite a bit of play-by-post 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, primarily on the Giant in the Playground forums. I think it's a wonderful activity for a writer: a collaborative story and a prose-format RPG merged into one. What more could you ask for?

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

My favourite FIM author is unquestionably device heretic. My favourite of his works is the exquisitely tense and terrifying And The Temptress Came Unto Her.

I don't always read fanfiction beyond FIM, but when I do I prefer The Naked Pen's Mass Effect: Interregnum. It's orders of magnitude better than Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 and probably all those side story novels (I say "probably" only because I haven't read said side story novels and have no intention of doing so). You owe it to yourself to read Interregnum if you have any appreciation for Mass Effect.

I couldn't tell you my favourite non-FIM author or non-FIM story but here are a few stories, not all of them novels, I highly recommend:

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
The Handmaiden's Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Study series, Maria V. Snyder (Poison Study -> Magic Study -> Fire Study)
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
Watchmen, Alan Moore (the graphic novel, not the movie)
Scott Pilgrim, Bryan O'Malley (the comics have the character development and the real Ramona, while the movie has the style and the best action scenes. I recommend watching the movie first so you can properly visualize the events of the comics)
Firefly, Joss Whedon (and its movie Serenity)
Gunnerkrigg Court, Tom Siddell
The Order of the Stick, Rich Burlew (the art style is intentional and improves considerably as the comic progresses. Just go with it even if it's not your cup of tea; what matters is the writing)

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 Am Chaos was written for the Fluttershy in my soul, who was definitely not an ideal reader as she constantly doubted me and my work throughout the process. I felt compelled to show her that I could do it and I'd say the two of us are very happy with the outcome.

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

Perhaps the best advice I can give is something I continue to struggle with to this day (that dull saliva-like taste in your mouth right now is my profound hypocrisy on its way). I'm going to refer to writing but I think any artist can draw wisdom from this.

It's likely you, reading this now, have encountered an incredible story that captivated you in ways nothing else has, but once it was over you looked at your own work and said to yourself, "I'll never be this good/never write something this good." DH's Eternal very nearly prevented me from writing I Am Chaos.

Believe me when I say that this thought is poison, nothing more. I urge you to take it out of your mind and destroy it. If you have a Fluttershy in your soul, give her a hug and tell her everything is going to be fine.

Do that right now. Stop reading this interview, go do that and then come back.

You can do it. You can write something great. It might not happen with the first story; it might not happen with the tenth – and the nine that preceded it might never be seen by the rest of the world. It might take a long time. The final draft might be completely unrecognizable from the first. You might have to throw out all those cute romance ideas you had because they're holding the piece back. If you take what you do seriously, if you open your mind to wisdom and learning (which you ought to do regardless), if you continue to work at it and if you never give up, it will happen. It won't be easy, but it will happen.

Don't allow yourself to think otherwise – this is of the utmost importance, because you are going to think otherwise. This poisonous thought is your Joker: no matter how many times you get rid of it you'll see it again sooner or later, but you have to keep fighting it.

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

My process may change in the future, but for the moment it is quite chaotic. Sometimes I follow my thoughts into an incoherent mess, then go back and fill in all the stuff I skipped over as I struggled to keep up with my stream-of-consciousness. Sometimes I get new ideas and leap ahead into a completely different part of the work. Sometimes I write things out in strict linear sequence. I can't say what triggers each behaviour. I use outlines with some of my current projects, depending on their complexity.

I Am Chaos went through several drafts, though some represented only a few minor alterations. I edited as I wrote and rewrote it, then I went back and edited it again, then when it was finished I went over it numerous times to make sure everything was just right, while asking others to do the same. On that subject, I don't have any dedicated prereaders or editors but a number of people provided valuable advice and support during the project: Deceased, Sukasa, Criticul, quillsaga, Dreec, Varanus, device heretic and Starfall.

What inspired you to write I Am Chaos?

The very first draft was something I wrote for an exercise in a FIMFiction writing group I'm in: Bíonn Gach Tosú Lag. My initial thought process was essentially three words: "Existentialism. Discord. Go!"

What inspired me to keep writing could be expressed as sheer desire. I've wanted to write stories of substance for over a decade, but never had the drive to push myself into it because I lacked – and still lack – conviction in my potential as a writer. Something – I'm not sure what – in me changed and I decided to simply go for it.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing I Am Chaos?

My biggest problem by far was and continues to be confidence (see my advice above). I've come to realize that it affects more than just your drive; the actual writing suffers when you don't believe in yourself. Ideas don't appear as easily – and those that do are often discarded immediately rather than examined and developed because your default mindset is one of self-rejection. The words don't sound the way you feel they should and you can't think of how to fix them. You procrastinate much more readily.

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

I Am Chaos, a deconstruction of Discord, was born out of something I contemplated years ago: the notion of a spirit/god/being/whatever that is fundamentally tied to something, a concept one can find all over mythology and fantasy. If you're OF something, then you're not really you, are you? Your entire existence is based on your association with this thing; even if you have your own personality, itself completely arbitrary, at the end of the day there's no meaningful difference between the thing and you because there is no you. There's no reason for, say, a god of fire to exist because fire already exists and operates just fine by itself. If such a god does exist and is sentient then I, a lowly mortal, would feel rather sorry for him or her.

"Discord" is an awesome character and villain – but he's really neither of those things, at least according to my work. He's chaos voiced by John de Lancie. Q from Star Trek The Next Generation is more Discord than Discord.

Beyond that, there is something of a message closer to the end of the story. Misfortune will always come your way – there's nothing you can do to stop it and no one can protect you from it. It's not completely hopeless, though, because at least you can choose how to deal with your misfortune. Not everyone in this world is so lucky.

Where can readers drop you a line?

My FIMFiction page is always open to PMs.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The wedding is a lie.

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