Welcome to the first of our new weekly series of story recommendations! I’m Xepher, part of the 2014 writing staff for Everfree Northwest, and every Thursday, from now until the con itself on July 4th, I’ll be using this place to showcase excellent fan fiction pieces for your reading pleasure. To do this, I’ll be drawing both on my own favorites, as well as recommendations from the rest of the EFNW staff and our excellent community of writers and fans.
In general, I’m hoping to focus on stories that may not be as well known. While we all love “Past Sins” and “My Little Dashie,” most of those exceedingly popular stories are better found by simply visiting the top stories list on FimFic. (Seriously, there’s some real gold in those first few pages.) Not that we won’t occasionally have some popular stories in the mix as well, but ideally, everyone will be able to find something new worth reading every week. To that end, I’ll be striving for variety in the stories themselves as well, both in length and subject matter. Whether you’ve got twenty minutes or twenty hours, and no matter who your favorite pony is, hopefully you’ll find something to enjoy each time.
This week, we have three stories: An elegant and touching look look at the Royal Sisters, a novella-length epic showing Cadance’s deeper connections to the world and her influence on history, and a short, funny sci-fi crossover with the “Culture” series.
The Celestial Mechanics In Midsummer
Words: 8,716 Complete: Yes
I first read this story over a year ago now, but it has stuck with me ever since. It is, on the surface, just a few simple days with the Royal Sisters, and their thoughts on one another. That is, it’s what’s called a “slice of life.” But that term seems to find use for anything shy of an epic adventure these days, becoming a catch-all for most any middling story without a strong plot or direct emphasis on something else. It has become generic and bland. Yet when executed properly, “slice of life” can be most amazing, and it is stories like this one which truly exemplify the form.
This story is a slice of Life-with-a-capital-L, full of words and phrases bursting with the visceral and the sublime beauty of existence. It frames not only the wondrous joy of sisterhood, but the heavy burden of long life and regal station as well. Composed of a mere eight thousand words, this tale can easily be enjoyed in the spare moment of an afternoon, yet the rewards for the reader belie the short length. Every sentence feels lovingly crafted, and I am struck by the curious sensation that many of the scenes are not actually written at all, but painted directly upon my inner eye. The author’s grasp of detail and descriptive language is impressive, leaving me with not just a vision of Equestria, but a sound, taste, and smell of it as well. Between it all we are given a picture of Luna and Celestia that is at various times humorous, loving, melancholy, regretful, and joyous. In short, we are given a picture that is deeply real.
That is not to say that the story is perfect. Like all works, it has its rough spots, but overall, the worst I really see are deviations in tone, and other minor incongruities. I would argue that the low points here could stand as high points in other, also-genuinely-enjoyable stories, and it’s only their contrast with the more perfectly executed scenes and phrases that makes them seem like errors at all here. As such, I can heartily recommend that anyone with a half hour to spare read, “The Celestial Mechanics in Midsummer.”
Words: 42,187 Complete: Yes
"Calling You" is a very well executed vision of the ten centuries during Luna’s banishment, focusing on Cadance. It showcases a very amazing head-canon, expertly tying many seemingly disparate portions of Equestrian history together, and showing a much, much deeper role for Cadance than "just" the princess of Love. It brings together direct ties with the Elements, changelings, Bearers, and the world itself.
I hesitate to say too much more, as part of the excitement of this story is seeing the complex, interweaving events unfold as you read. Suffice to say that if you have an afternoon or three to spare, and want to read one of the more unique and internally consistent Equestrian histories, you really should give this one a try.
Full disclosure, this is technically a sequel to a short (less than 10,000 word) story, “[url=https://www.fimfiction.net/story/32544/the-birth-of-harmony]The Birth of Harmony[/url]” and normally I would not recommend a sequel as a starting place. However, in this case I feel the first story could be merely considered a prologue to this one, and is not, strictly speaking, a necessary read (though it is certainly enjoyable as well.)
The Curious Incident of the (Robot) Dog in the Nighttime
Words: 4,395 Complete: Yes
And now for something completely different! This is a cross-over with (the late) Iain M. Bank’s “Culture” series of science fiction novels, showing two Culture emissaries working undercover in Ponyville. At its heart, this story is basically a comedy of near-errors, with a couple of fun surprises. I’m specifically recommending this one because, while short, I feel the author captures the perfect blend of Culture and Equestria with his writing, keeping things light enough, while still having a coherent and plausible (for certain definitions thereof) plot that I actually wanted to see play out.
While I think some of the jokes and details will make more sense if you’ve read any Culture novels before, I don’t believe prior knowledge is truly required to enjoy this story, just a love of pony and science fiction.
That concludes this week’s story recommendations. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you again next week, with more fan fiction to enjoy!