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Unstable Relationships · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 ·
· · >>Light_Striker
Is this:

A longer writing period than usual? Or have I just been away for so long that I've forgotten the basics around here?

#2 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
>>Baal Bunny
I think that's the usual nowadays for short story rounds?

(Though still not enough for my depressed self to get anything in.)
#3 ·


It's every day waking in a brave, new world for those of us who can't quite remember what the old world was like. :)

#4 ·
· on Empty Stalls
The POV work here:

Is really well done. I only stumbled over a couple things while reading: the places where you capitalized "gopherhole-leg" and "nose-to-sky" made me think the horses were developing an idea of what names were and how they worked, but it wasn't consistent and I quickly realized it was just because they were at the beginnings of sentences. I'd recommend keeping them lower-case even though they start sentences since a large part of the story hinges around the horses coming to understand names.

Also, I was confused by the horses eating "until crops are full". The only crop I'm familiar with in relation to horses is the stick riders use to smack horses in the side, and I'm pretty sure you don't mean that. "Croup" is a horse's rump, the part from the hip to the tail, so I don't know if that's what you want, either. Maybe "barrel"? Time to consult the Wikipedia page on horse anatomy!

Of course, my constant concern with these "everybody goes to live in the computer" stories, though, is how maintenance works. I don't care how advanced a system is, it'll still need someone to keep it the right temperature, to vacuum the dust out, to chase away any spiders or cockroaches who are trying to nest in its warmth. Power supplies, wires, cables: these are things that always pop into my mind when I read a story like this. Now, I know you can't deal with the questions here in this particular story, but for me, it's genre baggage, stuff that's standing around in the background and getting in the way a little...

Still, good story here.

#5 ·
· on The Word · >>thebandbrony
The imagery here:

Is gorgeous and other than a few typos--"The heat wave of that era had come and come", for instance, I'm thinking should be "come and gone"--the writing is smooth and lovely. But the story as presented doesn't quite come together for me.

We've got this Realm Beyond What Mortals Ponies Can Know, not quite a realm of Lovecraftian madness but something apparently similar. And I say "apparently" because by the end of the story, I still don't really have a feeling for it. When Celestia becomes the Seraphim in the second-to-last scene--and it seemed odd that the pronouns shift to "he" at that point when describing the creature: I wanted something more ineffable at that point like maybe "we" since Twilight's now caught up within them--we get the Seraphim telling us who he is and what he does, but Twilight, our trusted POV character, screams that it's all a lie. And then the last scene, which starts with the promise of a talk between Celestia and Twilight three thousand, one hundred, and twenty six years later, a talk that I hoped would bring at least a hint of resolution to the conflict, doesn't actually give us that talk!

The italics represent my frustration.

I like that the Seraphim aren't apparently Lovecraftian monsters whom the alicorns are blocking from entering the Mortal Realm 'cause that's been done to death. But in the end, I don't have even an inkling as to what the relationship between the Seraphim and the alicorns actually is. Leaving us with the Seraphim last shouted line before Twilight vomits isn't enough for me: I need the promised talk between Twilight and Celestia all those thousands of years later--not to spell the whole thing out but to show me how Twilight has processed the "figment of my imagination" thing. Has she accepted it? Rejected it? I don't really get a sense of that from the final scene as it now exists.

And why all the talk of heat waves and ten-year fogs and century-long storms? Why did the pegasi lose the ability to control the weather?

The story's very much worth a rewrite, I'd say, when there isn't a contest deadline bearing down.

#6 · 3
Had some server problems, so the site was down for about the last 6 hours. All should be good now. Sorry for the inconvenience.
#7 ·
· on Empty Stalls
I'll echo Baal and congratulate you on a really interesting and unique piece of POV work! Personal bias against this matrix-y kind of story aside, your flow was smooth and your tone was really engaging. Well done!
#8 ·
· on The Love Bug · >>Baal Bunny >>Baal Bunny
Captivating intro! The language, the interjections, the excepts, everything worked super well to establish a vibe of slowly-buikding panic reminiscent of Eakin's Hard Reset. I was a little disappointed with the ending though--specifically, how cadence was essentially able to talk the baddie into submission. Kinda gave me a "swiper no swiping" vibe. If you choose to publish this off-site, I would love to see some additional action at the finale to match the intensity you cultivated in the intro.
#9 ·
· on The Love Bug
This seems:

A little anti-climactic to me. I like the build-up well enough, but the last scene with the reveal of who's doing all this, even though it's right there in the title, it just popped up and got swatted down too quickly and easily. Maybe that's the point you're trying to make, author, but I'd like it better if the villain had a little more heft, gave Cadance a little more of a challenge before she swats him down. So beef up the ending, and I think you'll be set.

In other words, what >>thebandbrony said... :)

#10 ·
· on The Love Bug · >>Baal Bunny
I agree with my fellows that the end is anti-climactic, but it doesn't feel inappropriate to me. The Love Bug seems to have been out to just test which of them had the keener sense/stronger connection to capital-L Love rather than anything outright malicious, so there's no reason it wouldn't walk back its changes when it lost the game.

The most low-key cool thing here is how much juice that bug is packing under the hood to have made the changes it did. Mucking with pony memories is one thing, but hitting Discord too and moving around Alicorn status to a pony who was probably in a parallel world at the time. Woo. Not at all relevant to the point or plot, but still an interesting thing to note.

But, yes. The slow rise to panic, Cadance's instincts guiding her to the wrongness and the general way she feels and sees the love around her. All superbly done.
#11 ·
· on The Word · >>thebandbrony
Wow. Just, wow. Teetering the line between horror and... I guess regular unknowable existential terror? Two lines I'd like to call out as being especially awesome:

Luna evaporated into shadow.

I'm a sucker for cool, non-standard magic Luna stuff, so little things like this always catch my eye and earn some bonus points.

The lack of familiarity made Twilight dizzy.

This really speaks to the same-ness of immortality, that just something being unfamiliar can cause an uncomfortable physical sensation. It's a little thing that does a great job selling the passage of time from the beginning of the story to now.

Speaking of passage of time, I am really curious about the odd weather phenomena that come and go through the centuries. Something akin to natural Milankovitch cycles, perhaps? Given the manual nature of weather management, the climate details really stand out, even with all the other strangeness shining through.

I usually describe and think of Alicorns as more akin to Greek gods—strong but very fallible—so seeing them painted as intermediaries between the mortal world and something more traditionally Biblical is a really cool change of pace. All the writing details are sufficiently terrifying without being horrifying, if that makes sense? The Seraphic imagery is terrifying in its alienness, but not necessarily horrifying in the "genre" sense of the word, I suppose.

Really solid stuff here. Would love to see more. Definitely top 3 pick ;)
#12 ·
· on Empty Stalls
This is perhaps an extreme take on the prompt, but no less creative and intriguing for it.

I'm going to assume the Matrix vibe Baal was picking up on, and the associated baggage, is mostly solved by invoking the age old solution to every problem: Magic! Unless...

I was originally thinking that there was some incongruity between the "techno murder helmets to clone minds" and "magical horse realm" ideas, but the more I think about it, this feels like an AU Equestria rather than an early version of the world we know and love, since in canon, death is a thing (sorry AJ). Maybe it's literally a Matrix sort of thing with Magic programmed in, or maybe it's really a transcendent realm with magical properties, which is why the horses can learn to talk.

The core idea of humans making a utopian equine realm for themselves and wanting to bring actual horses along is great, but... yeah that disparity between "maybe magic is real" and "murder helmets" keeps wedging itself into my mind.

Positive note, however! The POV writing was swell, and the original horse names working more like lower-cased identifiers rather than proper names is a really snazzy touch to show the less mature thought processes at work. Not dissimilar to what I have to do at work sometimes, where kids can become "pink shirt" or "hoodie kid in the corner" if things get hectic.
#13 ·
· on The Love Bug

Thanks, folks!

I've already started my rewrite of the last scene, and I really like your comment, Rao, about the bug's juice. I think I'll play that up in the rewrite, make the bug do its best to appear like a plain ol' ordinary magical bug but have Cadance come to realize just how dangerous a critter it is as it keeps trying to wheedle its way to victory even after it says she's beaten it. Can't imagine why that would come to mind as a plot point these days... :)

#14 ·
· on The Word
>>Baal Bunny
Thank you both for your kind and helpful critiques! This is definitely getting a rewrite. Baal, I apologize sincerely for causing you so much frustration. I didn't realize that even though the deadline said the 17th, it was in the very early morning of the 17th, so I freaked out and wrote the whole thing in one go and straight up forgot to resolve that massive plot point. Lmao.

As for the weather, I'm not really sure what that represents. In the moment I thought it would be interesting to portray the passage of time as a changing of the seasons. I like the vibe it establishes but I'm still unsure whether it actually serves the story or not. Hopefully the rewriting process will reveal something.

Thank you both, again :)
#15 ·
I'm sad to see the turnout for these has gotten so small, but I'm as much to blame as anyone. Just couldn't work up the motivation to write this go. So applause to all three of you that did. That's more than most! :-)
#16 ·
· on The Word
I actually like the fact that Twilight and Celestia don't talk about it further. I mean they should. But for me, as the reader, I like to guess about what these seraphim are. (I also notice that seraphim have become a fucking meme. I don't know why but whatever.) It's kinda lovecrafty but not. Is it benevolent? Ordering death prevent catastrophe in the mortal realm? But I'm not exactly sure why the Alicorns need to be a part of this loop. What exactly do alicorns need to balance? How did the Omnian's gain the knowledge Alicorns are tasked to keep secret?

Is this like a face melting holy grail type thing, or being unclean and stepping into a holy temple, dropping you dead in an instant? Or I guess in this case going mad.

The "You're just a figment of my imagination" line is very chilling. I could technically understand the need to slaughter a cult that is on the cusp of dropping some literal world ending knowledge, but for some reason that one quote is worse than the slaughter. It feels incredibly malevolent even though you describe the seraphim as having said it without ego. It's just telling the truth no matter how much that truth may hurt the one hearing it. It couldn't have been said out of love. The neutrality of it is what makes it so confusing and off putting. It's like knowing the difference between being cared for out of compassion vs being "maintained".
Not necessarily horror but it certainly does not generate happy feelings... But anyway great story!