Friday, January 25, 2013

Amit's Solace

How do you deal with your vibrant, full-of-life best friend dying?

[Tragedy] • 4,100 words
Pinkie Pie stands vigil over a dying Rainbow Dash.

Hit the break for a delightfully rambling chat, or perhaps monologue would be slightly more appropriate, with Amit, and a link to Solace. Don't forget to download your own copy over at the aptly-named Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I live in the Republic of Singapore.

Now, usually the first thing people think to say when they hear that—if they know about the place, of course—is ‘oh, it’s very clean’.

Now, allow me to say first that that is bullshit. It’s not the cleanest place in the world insofar as it has the most cleaners; if it weren’t for the half-broken backs of the thousands of old men and women and immigrants that carry the weight of Singaporean gluttony the place would be so piled high with rubbish you wouldn’t even be able to take a breath long enough to say something that might land you in prison.

If you’re still reading this, you might think ‘oh wait Amit isn’t this just a simple tiny question with a simple tiny answer?’ and to that what I would say is ‘no it isn’t and the nice interviewer man said I could be loquacious’.

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

I’d call myself a student if I were currently studying anything as an academic subject; my full-time occupation at the moment is being a petulant child while writing words.

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

To be honest, I can’t really remember which. Quite probably it was either the TVtropes articles on one of its fanfictions or a song played out through voices, like “I Want To Kill Everypony In The World” but not that.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Did Lenin have a favourite bourgeois?

Probably; I don’t.

(I don’t have a favourite episode, that is, not a favourite bourgeois; I’m my favourite bourgeois.)

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)?

If we’re working off the show’s canon, I might say Pinkie Pie by virtue of familiarity—she reminds me, however, enough of my own neuroses and insensitivities (by having them) that me liking her would be like Link liking Shadow Link.

There’d be lots of Rule 34 is what I’m saying.

As it is, I like Twilight Sparkle for being a moderately uncaricatural depiction of a nerd (perhaps before her later flanderisation; I’m not too familiar with what episodes go into what seasons). While there’s certainly a bit of author projection, she isn’t too Sued and so remains startlingly relatable.

If we’re to take fanfics into account, however, the Star Sparkle of archonix’s Xenophilia stories is best pone all pones per pone ad pone conjugation pone.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

It’s the first part of my real name; it means, by itself, limitless, and in its full form my entire name can be poetically transcribed to mean something like (if I’m reading the Sanskrit right) Eternal Enlightenment, Teacher-Priest of the Lamp-Lit Village.

If I’m reading the Sanskrit wrong, it’s Preceptor of the Hidden Village and I’m actually descended from a line of Indian ninjas.

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

The only surviving manuscripts—from when I was around eleven—are fanfics for Ragnarok Online, which I’d only ever played on private servers and of whose lore I never gained a comprehension; they were both about heroic women maiming rapist men.

Looking back, it’s almost certain that all of my early writings were feminist parables.

Besides that, I used to roleplay on Nationstates—great place to worldbuild if you don’t mind playing with people masturbating over their numbers—and I’m rewriting a novel I more or less started and finished a year ago.

I guess I also did translation videos for a few songs from Ar tonelico; the community is awful, sure, but the songs are actually generally quite good. Hymmnos was the first and only conlang I ever learnt, and it was great practice for Chinese.

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

CoDBlops II, gamertag xXx_SgTpInOyQuIcK360720sCoPeSg420_xXx. Swag, yolo, &c &c.

Seriously, though: I generally just write, lurk or whatever play games I can run. My time-waster is sometimes the latter, and I’ve recently wasted quite a lot of time on Blacklight (though my occasional infatuation with computer entertainment is like a menstrual period: cyclical, unpleasant and only situationally pleasurable). When I get the chance, I try to teach my mother how to read or coerce my father into reading my manuscripts.

This has had the side-effect of causing him, in a quintessentially Indian fashion, to share my pony fanfiction with everybody in the world; I recall him going to Bangladesh and calling me over the line to ask me to send him all my pony fiction so he could distribute it to his contractors and business partners.

He wanted everything I’d ever written, including everything he hadn’t read; I had to convince him that the clop was un-Islamic.

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

The tragedy with these little things is that they’re always contemporaneous and fickle; my perception of a story can be influenced by things as petty as whether I’m listening to Seven Mile Fragrance as I read it. I can’t exactly list any novel I’ve ever read, because the only ones I remember writing tend to be my favourites. I’m terrible at qualitative comparison and quite simply I’ve never liked a story for the author, so any author I’d list would be being listed based on a particular body of work.

I love a great deal of the stories I’ve read equally, but the unfortunate constraints of my immediate memory cuts this list down to a barely manageable size while still disregarding the question’s stipulations altogether.

(Fuck the police.)

I’ve written essays on most of the fanfic writers’ works in question on my FIMFiction blog, so if you really want more than a tiny paragraph on each I guess you can go look them up there.

For fanfiction:

Chuckfinley’s stories create a genuine sense of human feeling, and are extremely enjoyable. He is not distinguishable by his spectacle or even by his wit, even if the latter features prominently; his prose distinguishes itself through its unwitting invocation of the soul. The plots are essentially quotidian, and in the process they feel like genuine expressions of a world that—though fundamentally different—maintains its pure reality even in spite of its fantastic protrusions.

That isn’t a metaphor for penis size, mind you; I’m pretty sure the penises are average.

You’d have to ask him.

He’s the horse penis expert here, not me.

Archonix, despite his charcoal taste in literature, is an excellent carbon compressor and the man who awakened me to the truth of Star Sparkle being best pone all pone &c &c. The world he creates (I’m aware that it’s not his, but I’m putting the credit in the hands of the man who’s written a sociological treatise on the evolution of its marriage rituals) through the Xenophile’s Guide stories is nothing short of astoundingly real in its own context—an entirely new thing, as opposed to a world that’s a glorified shadow of another. His account—from Lyra’s perspective—of the human being’s eternal fall is so poetic as to make me come paper.

Also, he sounds legit pleb.

Chicks dig the proles.

darf has the interesting capability to write both sexuality and emotion in the most essentially human of ways; despite the occasional overexposition, a great part of his stories remain fundamentally interesting and genuinely heartfelt. There is a general feeling of rightness about his writing that permeates the work, allowing one to feel quite simply as if he knows what he wishes to portray and knows it well, doing so with will and talent I’d expect from a published author.

Even if he sometimes gets a bad case of pretence and the porno caps.

HamGravy—despite ellipses, technical imperfection and overwrought introspection—is like Chuckfinley with more foal rape and higher-wrought drama. The scenes and coincidences so on are impeccably crafted and intertwined with the magical bits, and while in doing so they gain a certain character of artificiality it remains, first and foremost, a marvel of characterisation and it stays that way. The characters themselves genuinely continue to feel less like moustache-twirling fucksticks than they do actual, damaged people with serious problems, even despite their somewhat cartoonish villainy.

Except for Fancy Pants.

Fuck Fancy.

Fiddlebottoms, despite all the base nihilism, is generally very good; his stories are basically both thoughtful and fun, things that one rarely finds combined in fanfiction. There’s no real connection to reality beyond the point that it can be lampshaded, but that only underscores the surrealist, metafictional brilliance of his work.

There’s also gore and stuff but you don’t need to hear about that.

One Terrible Writer is just funny as hell.

Huh. I guess the list’s sorted by realism now.

Anyway, the best fanfic I’ve ever read is Patchwork Poltergeist’s Somewhere Only We Know; I say this because even now just thinking of the title is almost enough to bring tears to my eyes, and if a story can give me PTSD then I’ll be damned if it isn’t a really good story.

TheOnly’s My Little Stashie, not to be confused with the awful My Little Dashie, is as profoundly touching as it is hilarious.

Sorcanon’s Thousand Son in Equestria, though occasionally nonsensical and titled such that pedants like Vargras would whinge about the ordinal laying unused if it were ever to end up on FIMFiction, is a startling example of the greentext medium’s capability to express emotional and physical complexity; it is easily to greentext what Chaucer was to English, and just like Canterbury Tales I still don’t know what on earth happened to the most important characters.

Chaos Mark Crusaders...


As to non-pone, my memory constrains me further:

George Orwell’s fundamental humanity, in spite of his surface cynicism, is really quite inspiring; his depiction of the execution of a man in Burma is so beautifully horrid and so full of genuine emotion and so devoid of false sentimentality that it invokes the human soul without bowing to its excesses.

While I cannot say I greatly like most of Jennifer Diane Reitz’s writing, (I’ve read hardly anything by her under her current penname Chatoyance and I think doing so will ruin my already fractured opinion of her so her name will suffice) she’s had a very profound impact on my worldview, to the extent that I’m still terrified of the vagina’s inner workings.

Bill Watterson, on the other hand, literally made me literate. Can’t argue with that.

My favourite work of fiction is Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which is a goddamned artistic triumph in every way. I can’t say I fell ‘victim’ to the monster Humbert’s deceptions like anyone else—either I’m a sociopath or all Anglophones are closet paedophiles or both (not to insult paedophiles, of course, by comparing them to the kind of person that watches Toddlers and Tiaras)—but as it stands the thing really has to be read to be believed.

As a side-note, it’s actually why I’ll never read anything by Pen Stroke; between Nabokov’s open lampshading of bad writers’ lack of intricate characterisation for one-off characters and Pen Stroke’s public disparagement of intricate characterisation for the very same sort of character, I must say that I trust Nabokov more.

My favourite book is almost certainly Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East; it’s essentially rageporn, but it’s a deeply concerning kind of rageporn that, after the initial disgust has faded, makes you hate every organisation in the Middle East while retaining the fundamentally human quality of the people within it; in doing so, it cunningly quells the genocidal impulse as it inspires it.

Unless you’re my mother, of course, who will argue that it is better that they be dead rather than suffering.

If you are my mother, I’d like to point out that Operation Spectrum is common knowledge and that alluding to it is not grounds for a libel suit from the Party.

In a similar vein, V.S. Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now paints a vivid picture of the class inequalities and social mindset of India in the 90s and before, utilising historical context to frame it. He is called postcolonial, but the truth is that he is entirely colonial, more British than he is Indian; his apparent detachment (though this veneer cracks at points) creates a sort of coldness in the ‘narrative’ and directly contrasts Fisk’s idealism. In doing so, this allows the individuals in the book to shine through, transcending the author’s agenda and informing the reader of the world rather than of an opinion.

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 don’t read Stephen King’s stuff and I’m going to assume that that term means nothing without context, so I’m just going to say that my ideal reader is a billion critical sycophants chanting my name at once as they devour my scripture wholesale and point out its flaws in the very same breath.

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

I’m going to assume if you’re reading this sincerely you for some reason want advice from me or whatever institution you see me as being, so I’ll eschew the usual false modesty and go on to the imperative walls of text:

Don’t try and emulate anyone else; that’ll get you on the Pony Fiction Vault, but it won’t justify you to yourself. The East’s most blatant artistic bankruptcy is inherent in its blind imitation of the West and is the same thing that lets them sell Pabst Blue Ribbon in China for twenty dollars a bottle. Don’t fall into that trap of supplicancy, or your work will feel at best insincerely derivative and at worst be a Chinese knockoff of PBR: admired by pseudo-epicureans in this little third-world equivalent of a fandom but detested by anyone with a whit of sense.

In other words, take advice: don’t become it.

(This is why I hesitate to give people advice on style: a sick man may need tetrahydrocannabinol for pain relief, but when you wrap its source up and call it ‘medical marijuana’ and smoke it instead of eating it in pills you’re not fooling anyone you dopey prick.)

Try and write everything you ever write as the best thing you ever will every time you do. You won’t succeed, but lie to yourself until you finish it and tell the truth only at the end. Never settle for anything but excellence, but move on immediately so it never becomes an obsession.

I may pursue a goal with a single-minded hateful joy against the absurdity of life itself, but that’s only if I’ve got something to write at three A.M. in the morning. When you hit ‘writer’s block’, give up and try again later.

This applies even if you write ‘clop’. While it is annoying to see perfectly good stories glanced over by ‘respectable’ people just because they make them feel funny in the pants, it is far more pathetic in a sense to see people fawn over hundred-thousand-word-long wrecks of clumsy, expositive characterisation and unintelligible grammar and wallprose in a faint imitation of ‘respectable literature’ just because they’re impressed at the author’s priapism. It degrades the medium and it degrades the readers who ejaculate vociferously over it.

In other words, be yourself no matter what you write. Neither your medium nor your style need to define themselves by another or even by itself. People don’t like pictures in your story? Fuck them: turn your story into a picture.

(That story actually appears to have been a propagandic attempt to showcase the English language’s supposed inability to express genuine artistic sentiment to the extent that it profoundly questions the integrity and legitimacy of the its place as a literary language in the modern world and as such an Anglophone writer following its example would be like the Chinese taking tips in scientific methodology from Unit 731, but don’t let that stop you!)

Keep in mind that people’s opinions differ. Solace itself was rejected from Equestria Daily for supposedly being too meaningless and dependent on pre-existing sympathy, whereas the people I’ve shown it to who know absolutely nothing about My Little Pony have found it quite affecting nonetheless; this isn’t a license to disregard criticism, because that would be like a license to breathe. Don’t change your stories for anyone but yourself, but try and be aware when you’re neck-deep in sarin.

Finally: eschew surplus, but mind beauty.

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

I crank it out like it’s going out of style.

The only thing I’ve ever really pre-read is Solace, whose very point was ‘flawlessness’—that is to say, an absolute lack of redundancy—and which Arcainum helped look over. ‘Pre-read’ is a bit of a strong word, of course, and I generally do only the literary equivalent of FXAA and hotfixing.

What inspired you to write Solace?

The first ponyfics I read were all sadfics—I was particularly inspired by Fon Shaolin’s Forever is Forever, which I recall was meant to be a trollfic—and so I wanted to write one myself. I’d, at the time, heard that Hemingway had a penchant for being both depressing and laconic, traits that I found admirable and thought that I might like (at least for the purposes of this story) to emulate.

So I read A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and thought ‘man, this guy’s purple as the head of a love-warrior’; it was from this thought that Solace was born, resolving to write so beige that beige itself seemed arquatic in comparison.

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


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

Besides ‘Hemingway was a pussy’?

No. I didn’t have any themes until I was already half-way through with it, and your interpretation is as valid as my own. If you think I’m full of rubbish in this regard, I personally believe it works just as well without any meaning at all, and is content to be looked at as a picture or listened to like a song.

In other words, it’s a lot like a clopfic: you can choose to interpret it by its subtext or just wank to feel sad about it. Neither is objectively wrong, and the forced imposition of meaning unique to literature is a damnation of the possibility of its inherent beauty.

(Mind you: this doesn’t excuse platitude repositories in the form of fiction.)

Where can readers drop you a line?

My FIMFiction account, I guess. I’ve got an e-mail account ( as well. I’m laden with far more spaghetti than you and I love getting questions, so don’t fail to feel free to ask anything you’d like.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

‘Brony’ is an awful word, 4chan has the most interesting MLP fanbase and winners don’t do drugs.

Also, the RagingSemi reference was totally intentional.


  1. This interview was considerably more entertaining than most fics I've read. I would have avoided the story on the basis of its description (sounds like just another pointless sad-fic), but after reading the interview, I will give it a shot.

    1. Amit's "Twilight Discovers Literary Analysis" and "Judgement" are much more in keeping with the style of the interview than "Solace", so if Solace does indeed turn out to not be your cup of tea, I would definitely recommend them.

  2. This is the best interview ever. I've only recently discovered Amit, and I'm still trying to figure out him and his stories. This goes a long way toward that goal.

    Also I think I used to play Nationstates too, once upon a time, omgosh.