Friday, February 22, 2013

Cyanide's The Moonstone Cup

Very myffic, very Harry Potter, very anime – all in all, a very exciting and entertaining time.

[Adventure] • 61,000 words
Twilight is invited to Canterlot to compete with some of the greatest magicians in the world for the Moonstone Cup, a prestigious award for the most powerful and skillful magicians, unicorn and otherwise. Can she win? What sort of competition will she face?

Hit the break for a chat with Cyanide, and links to The Moonstone Cup out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own lovingly hand-crafted ebook copy over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Seattle, where the rain is.

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

I work full time as a software engineer/computer programmer. School was a long time ago.

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

So... I first got exposed to FiM via the fandom flood during season 1. Most everyone on the Internet did. I thought some of the image macros were amusing and the little fragmentary YouTube videos seemed cute. I only got into the show proper in season 2, during the episode gap before “Luna Eclipsed”; for various reasons, life had suddenly gotten extremely busy on one hand and left me with some weirdly random time to fill on the other, and I had enjoyed so much of the fan created stuff that I decided to check out the actual show, courtesy of YouTube. By the time I got to “Boast Busters” I was hooked.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Tough call! There are so many great episodes. I ultimately – hesitantly – choose to say “A Dog and Pony Show”. It’s a fully-formed adventure episode and one of the few we really get to see Rarity at her level best.

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. Her story in brief (a bookish type who has to learn to make friends and eventually finds that... actually, she’s pretty good at it) is one that speaks to me strongly from my own experiences when I was quite a bit younger.

The fandom as a whole... Now that one’s a tough call. Probably still Twilight, but some other ponies get big boosts. Trixie, especially, wormed her annoying way into my heart mainly through fanwork (and then, of course, “Magic Duel” happened and now she is Best Worst Pony...)

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

It’s kind of a confluence of dumb things. Back when I was a kid I used to haunt the local BBS scene where I grew up. Anyone familiar with the old dialup bulletin board scene – particularly those with underground pretentions – probably remembers that every other user was some kid with a horrible name straight from the movie Hackers. rAzOrShArP420 and the like.

Additionally, there was this webcomic that I quite enjoyed when it was new, Boy Meets Boy. One of the characters was named Cyanide Torres, and I always liked him.

Eventually (many years ago), I needed a new fandom handle that did not connect to my real name, so I thought, “what’s the most generic, awful 1337 nick I could come up with that would be impossible to connect to anything?” And so, Cyanide. I have used it intermittently since... 2002, I think?

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

I wrote some small amount of Digimon fanfic many many years ago, as well as a few MST3K “fanfics” in the form of fic MSTings. While I was in college, I was briefly a professional video game “journalist”, as well. I really got interested in writing in the ‘90s, after I finished high school; it really took getting me OUT of school and away from the stultifying environment there to let me realize that I actually did enjoy writing.

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

Other than work, I like to spend time with my wife, wage revolution against the oppressive capitalist state, and play video games. More or less in that order.

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

I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to say it this way or not, but it’s basically a three way tie between Larry Niven, Jim Butcher and device heretic. This is way more than one plug, but I would highly recommend (because, frankly, it’s hard to pick a favorite):

- Ringworld, A World out of Time and The Integral Trees by Larry Niven
- The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
- Eternal by device heretic

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?

It’s hard to say. I suppose when I think about who I’m writing for, I would have to say “I write for myself”. Not in the sense that people often mean that (“I only write for myself! You can’t criticise, it’s not for you! Artistic integrity! Loud noises!”) but in the sense that a somewhat old-school technocrat nerd who grew up steeped in cyberpunk, industrial music and noisy 8- and 16-bit vidya games would be able to pick up my writing and really get it. It’s probably egotistical.

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

Two things:

a) Know your ending first. If you don’t do ANY other planning, at least do that, and then stick with it. Everything in the story should be bent on getting you there.

b) Just keep writing! Don’t stew over the perfect word, just write down what’s in your head. If you don’t know how things connect, throw in a note to yourself to come back and figure it out. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do next, have something ridiculous happen and then come back and fix it. But KEEP WRITING. It’s easier to fix what’s there once you have something.

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

I tend to write the same way I develop software, iteratively and with some flexible planning to begin with. I like to roughly outline the story first so that I know broadly what should happen in each chapter. I write some, I edit, I write some more, I edit some more, sometimes I scrap everything and start over. I use chapters as milestones; once I have one filled out and edited to my satisfaction, I throw it at anyone I can convince to look at it. I also sometimes revise the outline a little, but if I have to do it too much it means either the outline was wrong or I’m drifting away from the story I had planned, in which case SOMETHING needs heavy revision.

What inspired you to write The Moonstone Cup?

Moonstone was the first “real” piece of fanfiction I’d written since 2003 or so, with the only other things I’d knocked out in the intervening years being a couple of FiM shortfics that are more or less crap that I cobbled up on a lark in October of 2011. I got inspired to write something of a long adventure fic after I started reading Eternal and Silent Ponyville.

My first idea for a longfic was a Star Trek crossover. I wrote a blog post about this some time ago so I’m not going to go into the gory details too much, but suffice to say it was a trainwreck. I scrapped most of it, but thinking back to “Boast Busters” I had the embryonic idea of a magic tournament with Twilight and Trixie. I stirred in some classic shounen anime (especially Saint Seiya), and, well, here we are.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing The Moonstone Cup?

Yeah, I didn’t follow my own advice! The ending was only very, very roughly planned; I had the general concept of Twilight going all Gold Saint and trashing Najstariot, but I was at a loss for how to actually wrap things up. I was never particularly happy with the ending, but after some work I think it’s largely acceptable.

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

Being that it's essentially a shounen anime tournament arc, it's not exactly deep material, but I tried to put across a few core concepts, especially responsibility and the effects of history. Twilight and Najstariot both sort of exemplify what can happen when responsibility is thrust onto someone and the importance of accepting that responsibility exists whether you like it or not. Similarly, I wanted to put across the idea (something that the show itself touches on occasionally, especially in the big two-part episodes) that history is alive and can affect the present in unpredictable ways.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Hit me at, using the site PM (username Cyanide), or email me at

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... bigger, and yet smaller... it's computers... San Dimas High School football rules!


  1. What timing! Moonstone Cup gets on the Vault and One Man's Pony Ramblings back to back!