Review: Extra Credits

Extra Credits Title Card

Being a far-left pretentious snobbish hipster, I have a very deep personal investment in some very hippie-esque things, such as free education. I am a very firm believer in the idea that all knowledge should be free and available to all, which is why I’m such a fierce advocate for the public domain and universal access to informational resources.

One thing that intensely frustrates me is the general lack of quality, open resources for learning things such as computer programming or 3d modeling. In general, within the tech world, if you want to get into a career you have to fork over a pretty penny for training. I consider this to be nothing short of ridiculous, as it costs nothing to download everything you need to do either of those things; rather, you instead have to pay a stupidly huge amount of money to simply learn how to do those things.

It is for that reason that I weep with joy every time I see low-to-no-cost, quality, entertaining, effective resources for learning new skills. One example of such a resource is how-to-draw books, which contributed a great deal to my development as an artist.

Of course, there are many, many skills that don’t get remotely enough coverage by such accessible learning tools. As I’ve said in my reviews introduction, the purpose of my reviews is to either discuss or recommend works. It is for this reason that I plan on reviewing accessible, quality educational resources; whenever I find such a resource for a little-covered subject, I consider it to be my duty to give it as much attention as possible so that other aspiring artists might also receive the same wise guidance that I did.

For an introduction to science, I recommend Bill Nye the Science Guy. For beginning a pursuit of drawing comics, I recommend Making Comics by Scott McCloud. And finally, for an invaluable, free course in game design, I recommend Extra Credits.

This show began as a college project for Daniel Floyd, who would go on to be an animator for Pixar. HIs very first video was on women in video games (and incidentally, my own researching of the subject is what caused me to discover this show in the first place). When he formally launched the first “official” episode, Bad Writing, his team consisted of himself as the narrator, esteemed games designer James Portnow as his writer, and artist Allison Theus to create the visuals. Its style is casual yet intellectual; it is drawn in a pleasantly cartoonish art style, with frequent sight gags and explanatory visual aids to illustrate what Daniel says. Though there is an expected literacy in games from the audience, the creators generally attempt to make it accessible through explaining and highlighting the specific relevent aspects of the games they discuss. In their pursuit of the teaching of game design theory, they also discuss the achievements and techniques of other media and how to apply it to the betterment of the media of games. For instance, in their antiheroes episode they discuss the works of Lord Byron (a major codifier of the archetype) and the antiheroes therein. They compare the Byronic heroes to mainstream antiheroes in video games, highlighting a perceived lack of true depth in video game antihero protagonists and proposing how that might be remedied.

This show is extremely entertaining. Not only is it very funny, but its great optimism and enthusiasm for its subject matter result in clearly heartfelt performances. If you’re like me and love (some kinds of) horror and cyberpunk, you’ll be especially pleased; they cover such topics frequently.

Their advice is very solid, too. I’ve played and made games with their observations and advice in mind, and as it turns out they’re largely correct about most of what they talk about; by and large, when games are in accordance with their advice, I find them to be better constructed and more entertaining than when they don’t.

Of course, there are things that I disagree with them about, most notably their position on the place of the story in the game making process. Personally, I believe that it’s a perfectly valid practice to begin with a story first before designing gameplay around it (after all, for games such as RPGs, the story is the entire point, and thus should be the first concern). Of course, this might be nothing more than an artistic difference.

I cannot stress how good this series is. It was one of the main inspirations for the style of this blog, and I wish the world had far more things like it. If you want to begin getting into the show, I recommend you start with Video Game Music, since it’s a very accessible yet informative and entertaining episode that’s a great way to ease yourself into it.

Once you’ve seasoned yourself a bit and have watched several episodes, I recommend you watch Call of Juarez: The Cartel, which in my opinion is their best episode. However, it is also one of their heaviest; it’s about the potential danger that laziness in game design can pose to our ideological clarity and understanding. It is a call for game creators to take their craft seriously, and I sincerely wish that everyone in any way involved or interested in games would watch it.

If you want to ease your mind a bit after that somber experience, I recommend you watch their Games You Might Not Have Tried series; it is my favorite collection of episodes, and many of those games are now in my steam library and I wholeheartedly recommend the rest of you to play many of them as well.

This show is, overall, a masterpiece that I adore.

The Sexualities of MLP: FiM’s Characters

I have just completed Break Your Heart, my first My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic. As I will do with all of my works, I will do a review of it so that I can discuss discuss it, my writing process for it, and its meaning in depth. Before I can do that, however, I have to discuss my personal theories on the show’s protagonists’ sexualities, as it’ll take long enough that it warrants an article of its own.

One of the characteristics of the body of my MLP:FiM fan works is that they have an ENORMOUS amount of thought put into them. They aren’t merely things that I think would be interesting to see; they are based almost entirely upon my actual, sincere theories on the show and its characters. For instance, in Break Your Heart, I interpret the characters thusly: Twilight and Pinkie are bisexual, Rarity and Applejack are heterosexual, and Rainbow and Fluttershy are homosexual. I didn’t designate them as such haphazardly; those are the sexualities I actually think they are. Without any further ado, here’s my explanation for why:

Let’s start with Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack, as I think they’re the easiest ones to categorize. Of the Mane Six, Rarity is easily the most boy-crazy. She spends a significant amount of time in Season One fantasizing over her encounter with Prince Blueblood, and in Simple Ways she is similarly obsessive over Trenderhoof, another famously handsome Stallion. She’s quite the drama queen, and yet hasn’t shown such an over-the-top obsession with a Mare. Of course, there is the possibility that she’s simply very closeted about it, so I leave open the possibility of bisexuality but at the moment err towards the simpler explanation and assume she’s heterosexual.

I believe that Twilight is attracted to Stallions for the same reason: she has demonstrated canonical attraction to one: Flash Sentry (oh, hush). However, I would argue there is a very good reason to believe that she’s attracted to Mares, as well: her relationship with the Princesses.

If you watch the show, you might notice that Twilight has an enormous, sometimes extreme obsession with Princess Celestia. Celestia was the very reason Twilight began studying magic (her special talent) in the first place; she admired and was awed by Celestia so greatly that she decided to imitate her amazing magical ability. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, in the episode Lesson Zero Twilight is so terrified at the prospect of being late on an assignment and disappointing Celestia that she descends into madness and attempts to create a problem to solve. She literally tells her friends that it’s the “most horrific trouble [she’s] ever been in,” and this is the same girl who’s encountered a genocidally insane Goddess of the night and an omnipotent, sadistic Eldritch Abomination.

Furthermore, at the end of the first half of A Canterlot Wedding, Twilight’s friends all abandon her for her (perceived) false accusation of evil against (the fake) Cadence. It’s not her friends leaving her, nor her brother leaving her and also telling her to not come to his wedding that she was formerly going to be his Best Mare for, but Celestia’s abandonment that finally drives Twilight to tears.

Along with Twilight’s enormous devotion to Celestia, she also seems to have a crush on Cadence. Of course, she might not have meant anything by it, but I find it interesting that Twilight specifically listed “beautiful” among her descriptions of her former foal sitter. So with Twilight, I think it would be a rather safe wager that her affections extend to both genders.

Applejack is a little trickier, since she never really shows attraction towards anyone in the show. However, I would argue that this is due to deep repression; notice that in Tanks for the Memories, Pinkie says that Applejack only cries “on the inside.” For this reason, I think it’s certainly possible that she’s attracted to Mares or no one at all. On the other hand, she’s the Element of Honesty, so I imagine it’d be rather hard for her to hide an alternate sexuality. Therefore, I assume that she’s heterosexual.

With regards to Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow, I shall discuss the three of them together, as my theories regarding them are all interconnected; the key to it all is Rainbow.

For those familiar with Break Your Heart, you’ll notice that I raise several questions about Rainbow; why did she move out of Cloudsdale, despite the fact that she’s deeply loyal to it? Why was she bullied, despite the fact that she’s an athletic, attractive, outgoing girl? Her bullies berate her for getting kicked out of Flight Camp, yet she denies that she was, suggesting that she voluntarily left. Why would she, despite loving flying above all things? But above all: why did she become friends with the wildly different Fluttershy, and why did she move to the same Earth pony town Fluttershy did?

Of course, I theorize that she’s gay, Fluttershy is too, and that they were pushed together and out of Cloudsdale by their fellow Pegasi, who due to their competitive and hierarchical nature are extremely homophobic. Rainbow has (in my opinion) displayed attraction to her female friends, as well; in Over a Barrel, her wings extend (a sign of excitement) at the sight of Pinkie in a showgirl outfit. This wasn’t an animation error; a subsequent shot from a different angle shows that her wings are still extended. In Super Cider Squeezy 6000, Rainbow tears Fluttershy’s blanket away from her then stares at her exposed underside for a few moments, causing Fluttershy to cover herself and blush.

As I said before, I think Fluttershy is gay because of her close friendship with Rainbow. Think about it: no two ponies could be more different, and by all accounts Rainbow shouldn’t have become friends with Fluttershy. Fluttershy is deathly afraid of heights, which Rainbow has scarcely any tolerance for. Rainbow is tremendously demanding, but is preferentially gentle with Fluttershy. She was fiercely defensive of Fluttershy when she was being bullied, despite being about as far from “coolness” as someone can possibly be. There must be something they have in common that gives them such a strong bond, and such commonality being shunned homosexuality makes a great deal of sense.

And finally, Pinkie. I am absolutely, utterly convinced that Pinkie is completely in love with Rainbow. To begin, Pinkie is every bit as obsessed with Rainbow as Twilight is with Celestia. In Griffon the Brush-Off, Pinkie follows Rainbow around relentlessly and is determined to spend as much time with her as she can. When Pinkie throws Rainbow a birthday party, she goes tremendous distances to make it amazing that she doesn’t go with their other friends. Another thing I’ve noticed is that when it comes to Pinkie, Rainbow is shown with hearts rather frequently; her face framed by a heart-shaped hole in a wood in Party of One, or the hearts on Rainbow’s birthday banner (which other birthday banners don’t have). Pinkie loves Rainbow Dash; therefore she likes girls (or at least that particular girl).

I actually have rather little evidence for an attraction to males in Pinkie, but I consider it to still be substantial; Pinkie flirtatiously calls a statue of a Griffon king a “charmer.” I also would think that it… well, fits her personality. It’s a close call, but I lay my bets on “bi.”

Oddly enough, Rainbow doesn’t seem to only have caught the interest in Pinkie; Gilda behaves jealously toward Pinkie when she vies for Dash’s attention, and Scootaloo (another Pegasus living in Ponyville rather than a Pegasus city) has an obsession with Rainbow very reminiscent of Twilight’s obsession with her mentor Celestia.

A final note: the only characters whose sexualities I assigned arbitrarily in Break Your Heart are the two other Cutie Mark Crusaders, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, who are straight and bi, respectively. I ultimately decided on assigning them their sexualities for two reasons: number one, I wanted the Crusaders to be “balanced” the same way the Mane Six were (a completely even ratio of all three sexualities). Secondly, I ultimately decided which would be straight and which would be bi because I thought that it would be more interesting for Apple Bloom to be bi, since her family seems to be extremely traditionalist (see the complete lack of Pegasi or Unicorns in the Apple family?).

Here’s to My Little Pony; I cannot commend you enough for being the pioneers of progress in your industry.

Almanac: My Ambitions

Since this blog is essentially my personal diary, I thought I’d establish my ambitions for the future here so that I can both keep my eyes on them and always be able to look back at them and see how far I’ve come.

I wish to create nothing but masterpieces. To elaborate, my ideal is to be so great an artist that every work I produce is equal or greater to another master’s most magnificent piece. I wish for my works to be grand, epic, overwhelmingly beautiful, and unspeakably inspiring. I desire to be a master Midas of every medium; for everything I touch, be it a game, film, show, play, manga, or novel, to turn into gold. I want everything I create to make our world a better place.

I wish to be well-learned, so that my works might give others great knowledge. I wish to be virtuous and idealistic, so that my works might be beacons of compassion and morality.

I wish to become wise. My philosophy is “Learn as though you were to live forever,” and I wish to fully live up to that. I wish to become a sage so that my wisdom might resonate through my works and be passed on to those who hear my words so that their lives might be bettered.

But above all, my greatest ambition is to create the very pinnacle of all human achievement: the Grand Masterpiece of All Literature. I wish to create a story that will shine across every medium and be nothing less than the greatest example of each one. My ultimate hope is that, if it is indeed possible, that this work at last inspires all of mankind to unite in brotherhood, peace, and understanding. If such a universal peace is not possible, or if it is not possible for me to initiate it, I will be satisfied with it at least inspiring happiness and peace in some of my brothers and sisters on this Earth.

Here’s to my ideals; may they be my eternal guides.

Review: Ender’s Game

Ender's Game Cover

My absolute favorite works have one thing in common: each has a major character that I can deeply relate to. But there are a few pieces that especially stand out; these are the works that almost tempt me to say that the author must have known me, as the protagonists bear an uncanny resemblance to me.

Such works include Calvin and Hobbes, Sherlock, Matilda, Code Geass: Leleouch of the Rebellionand, of course, Ender’s Game. For those familiar with all of these works, you can probably guess which characters I’m comparing myself to. For those who can’t, I’ll give you a hint: the titles are all named for them.

The ones who probably most resemble me are Calvin and Leleouch Lamperouge. In fact, I would go so far as to predict that Calvin will grow up to be remarkably like Leleouch. If you don’t believe me, allow me to list their similarities: both are easily bored, have very dark senses of humor, desperately wish to destroy their enemies, have ridiculously lofty ambitions, are very sensitive and compassionate, and are insanely intelligent.

I’m not going to mince words. I speak bluntly and honestly: I am one of the most intelligent, sensitive, compassionate people I know. All of the traits I have attributed to the aforementioned Calvin and Leleouch I also attribute to myself. But along with their strengths, I also admit to their weaknesses: I’m arrogant, socially inept, completely void of humility, and cruel.

I would argue that sadism and compassion are not necessarily mutually exclusive; I argue that they are two sides of the same coin. The sociopath, I suggest, and the cold-blooded killer can actually be among the most sensitive and empathetic people in the world. Ender’s Game is a novel that understands this little-spoken truth. After all- who but Ender, a cold-blooded killer- could empathize with those who no one else would- those who would have him killed?

The novel opens with the dialogue of a pair of officers discussing how they plan to manipulate Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, which is what opens every chapter. A doctor then removes Ender’s monitor, a device which allowed the Earth-defending International Fleet to experience all Ender perceived. Ender then returns to school, where it is noted by his classmates that his monitor has been removed. He is then insulted by being called a “third,” as the world is under population limitation laws that only allow every couple to have two children and Ender is a third child.

As Ender leaves school, he is stopped by a group of bullies led by a boy named Stilson. They begin pushing him around, and Ender decides to end the fight before it escalates. He convinces Stilson to fight him alone and then attacks him. Though Stilson is rendered prone, Ender decides to preemptively end all other fights they might have, so he continues to attack Stilson until he unwittingly kills him. He despairingly goes home convinced he is like his psychopathic brother Peter.

When Ender arrives home, his kind sister Valentine comforts him. Peter then arrives home, and as their parents are out he tells Ender to play Buggers and Astronauts with him. The game is a pretend battle between a human astronaut and a formic, also known as a “bugger,” which is the alien species that invaded Earth twice and resulted in the International Fleet’s formation. Peter makes Ender be the bugger, and then Peter attacks Ender and positions himself to kill him, which he threatens to do. When Valentine threatens to inform the authorities that Peter murdered Ender, Peter claims it was all a joke and laughs at his siblings for believing him. That night, he apologizes to Ender and tells him he loves him, which causes Ender to cry again.

At breakfast the next day, the Wiggin family is visited by Colonel Graff of the International Fleet, the principal of a Battle School that trains soldiers for the Fleet. He convinces Ender to come, despite his desire not to leave his parents or sister, by appealing to his desire to defend them.

While Ender and several other boys are preparing to launch and fly to Battle School, Colonel Graff isolates Ender and singles him out for hatred from the other boys by praising his intelligence and insulting the others’. The boy behind Ender, named Bernard, begins striking Ender’s head, and after realizing no one will help him Ender breaks Bernard’s arm and throws him through the air of the shuttle. After Graff splinters Bernard’s arm and puts him back in his seat, the shuttle launches and they are taken to Battle School.

Once at the school, the boys (who are known as “launchies” by the older children) are introduced to the facilities and their living quarters. They are shown a game room, where ender plays a strategy game against an older boy and wins a two-out-of-three match after losing (and learning how to play) the first game. This establishes Ender in their minds as a potential threat.

Bernard forms a gang that continues to bully Ender, to which Ender counterattacks Bernard by sending all the other boys a message that reads, “Cover your butt. Bernard is watching. – God”. After Bernard attacks Ender for this, Ender sends the boys another message that reads, “I love your butt. Let me kiss it. – Bernard”. Bernard leaves him alone after this. Ender befriends nother boy named Shen, who knows he did it, but doesn’t yet know how.

The launchies are introduced to the Battle Room, a zero-gravity chamber where the students’ main game is played. Bernard’s best friend, Alai and Ender together acquaint themselves with the basics of moving around the room and learn how to operate their laser guns. Once they do, they fire them at the other boys and freeze them. Alai soon becomes a leader for the other boys.

Ender plays a fantasy game on his tablet. In the game, he always eventually encounters a giant, who plays a game with him involving two shot glasses. The giant tells him that one is poison, and if he guesses which isn’t the giant will take him to “fairyland.” As Ender plays over and over again, he finds that the glasses are always poisoned. Eventually, he decides instead to attack the giant; he digs into its eye until he kills it. A bat tells him he can now go to fairyland, but he doesn’t; he is convinced that he is a murderer and that Peter would be proud of him.

Just after Alai tells Ender that he knows how Ender entered a fake ID for Bernard (by entering a blank space after his name), Ender is given an early promotion to become a soldier in one of the older boys’ armies. Alai gives Ender a kiss on the cheek and whispers “Salaam” to him as he leaves.

Ender goes to the barracks of Salamander, the army he was assigned to. Its leader, a boy named Bonzo Madrid, angrily calls him useless and tells him that he’ll trade him away as soon as he can. However, the army’s best shooter, a girl named Petra Arkanian, befriends Ender and takes him under her wing. Petra teaches Ender shooting, but Bonzo attempts to prevent Ender from doing so. Ender defies him by pointing out that though he can order him to not fight, he can’t keep him from practicing. This causes Bonzo to begin resenting and hating Ender.

During one battle, Ender singlehandedly saves the Salamanders from defeat against Bonzo’s orders to not draw his gun. Bonzo trades Ender off to Rat Army and hits him before he is transferred.

In Rat Army, Ender is placed in the toon of Dink Meeker, a boy who the school attempted to promote several times. He tells Ender that there is no bugger war, and the school is training them to fight on Earth for them. Ender continues practicing with the Launchies and becomes the school’s top student. During one of the Launchie practices, several boys attack them and they are able to escape; however, Ender has to tear the ear of one to do so. When Ender returns to his chambers, he is beginning to believe that no one will help him.

The book takes a brief detour to focus on Ender’s family. Valentine has not forgotten, and celebrates his birthday by building him a little fire. The Wiggins have moved into a wooded area because they have begun to notice troubling behavior in Peter. Valentine finds a skinned squirrel and immediately knows that Peter is responsible. While she confronts him about this, he asks her to help him gradually gain influence in the blogosphere under the pseudonyms “Locke” and “Demosthenes.” Valentine agrees to do so to in order to monitor and keep Peter in line.

Back at Battle School, Ender is beginning to grow depressed and disheartened- as reflected in his continued attempts at playing the fantasy game, where he is always devoured by snakes after smashing a mirror which reflects a bloody Peter with a snake in his mouth looking back at him. The Fleet commissions Valentine to write a letter of encouragement to Ender, and once he reads this he is at last able to make peace with himself- which is reflected in the game by his being reunited with Valentine and gaining the approval of a crowd of Peters.

Ender is again promoted early- this time to being the commander of the just-revived Dragon Army. He then meets Bean, a similarly brilliant young boy who immediately comes into conflict with Ender through insubordination. Ender proves to be an efficient, effective commander, and immediately begins introducing original concepts to them such as that the enemy’s gate is downward, so you should “fall” towards it.

However, Ender finds himself growing more isolated and lonely, and he finds that he has nearly lost all of his friends, including Alai. He decides to channel that anger into beating the teachers at whatever challenges they throw at him.

The teachers begin making Dragon Army perform in unusually biased games- including several battles closely together and battles beginning unusually early. Ender begins to confide in Bean and makes him a toon leader.

As Ender continues securing an unbroken string of victories, he becomes aware that other boys are wishing to kill him. After one battle, he is confronted by Bonzo and a couple of other boys in the showers. Ender convinces Bonzo to fight him naked and alone, and then in the pursuing fight Ender unwittingly kills Bonzo.

Immediately afterward, Dragon Army is called again to another battle- this time against two armies. Using a human shield-based formation, Ender is able to push his men into a swift if unorthodox victory. He then declares that he’s not going to play anymore.

In response, Colonel Graff takes Ender back to Earth for a brief vacation. While there, they bring Valentine to Ender to convince him to complete his studies. Though she has trouble doing so, she ultimately succeeds.

Rather than Battle School, Graff and Ender fly to Command School, as Ender has been graduated early. There Ender is given a tutor: Mazer Rakham, the commander who defeated the buggers in their last invasion. He tells Ender the nature of the buggers: that they all share one mind, and therefore work as one and have no forms of “conventional” communication. Mazer tells Ender that he believes that the inability for the buggers to communicate with humans is the source of their conflict. They begin training Ender to battle the buggers specifically.

The training becomes harsher and harsher, and Ender grows more and more traumatized and exhausted. Eventually Ender is given a final examination where he commands several of his former friends in a simulated attack of the bugger home world. Using a similar defensive technique to the “human shield” that won Ender his last game at Battle School, they reach the bugger home world and destroy it.

Those watching Ender’s examination cheer in celebration, and it is revealed to Ender that he was in fact commanding a real fleet as they invaded the buggers’ home world, and that he had just won the wars between them by destroying them. Ender exhaustedly sleeps for several days, during which there is fighting over him.

Peter takes control of and stabilizes the Earth while Valentine begins a colonization effort of the bugger worlds with some other humans. While Ender is governing one settlement, he goes to an area which is an exact recreation of the world of his fantasy game. As he delves deeper into it, he discovers a bugger queen pupa. The pupa communicates with him, and reveals to him that the buggers are remorseful, ashamed, and repentant for what they’ve done to mankind, as they didn’t realize that every human was an individual in their own right. The unborn queen begs Ender to find her a new home so the buggers can survive, which Ender reluctantly agrees to.

Ender becomes the “Speaker for the Dead,” who becomes a venerated religious figure. He speaks on behalf of the deceased buggers, and later for Peter, who has established peace on Earth. The novel ends with Ender and Valentine beginning their search for a new home for the queen.

My first experience with this book was having it read to me by my father. I took to it immediately; I was astounded at how much I related to Ender. I was actually six (the age Ender is at the beginning) the first time I heard it, so I’ll tell you now: I was not capable of advanced mathematics or computer coding at that age. My days of coding would instead begin at the ripe old age of seven.

I wasn’t as superhumanly brilliant as Ender was, but I was still a surpassingly brilliant young boy. I absolutely loved being told the story of another little kid who could comfortably discuss complex or abstract ideas with adults. It was essentially my introduction to science fiction literature, so needless to say I was immediately hooked. To hear of that same kid going to a cool war academy and play games with laser guns in space was an immensely satisfying experience. I’m especially grateful that the tale was written with uncommonly great skill; after all, first impressions are the most important ones, so they better damn well be the best.

This novel had a special place in my heart from the beginning. However, I found that my love for it would only grow deeper as I grew older- not only because my knowledge and capacity for comprehension of the novel’s ideas grew, but because my identification with Ender also grew.

When I was in elementary school, I was viciously bullied. I was subjected to both verbal and physical abuse by my peers. In response, I threatened to kill them- and part of me meant it. But I didn’t want to kill them for the sake of killing them; I just wanted them to stop hurting me. Just like Ender.

There aren’t enough books like Ender’s Game. This book understands that every action always has a reason behind it. Nobody wants to be evil. Too many works portray their villains as heartless monsters who are and always have been incapable of anything remotely like guilt or remorse. Ender’s Game knows the truth: if everyone truly understood each other, there would never again be malice or wickedness. This, I think, is the true nature of mankind: everyone is born good, but many (perhaps even most) get that inherent goodness pounded out of them.

But this novel also understands that no soul is truly lost; Ender commits that most unforgivable of acts: the genocide of an entire race. However, he is redeemed through his dedication of his life to the atonement of his sin. Valentine, who is even more compassionate than Ender, begins to understand lust for blood. The sociopath Peter develops empathy and begs forgiveness from his siblings. There is evil in everyone. There is good in everyone. Not enough books understand this.

The novel’s astonishing wisdom aside, it’s also ridiculously entertaining. I can think of no book that could be a better introduction to science fiction than this; the games are very fun, fascinating, and suspenseful to watch. It’s the rare author who makes a character a genius strategist- and proceeds to give them truly brilliant strategies. Orson Scott Card is one such author. The drama is excellent; the characters are extremely memorable. The writing is top-notch, as well; it’s rather minimalistic, describing only what truly needs to be described, but that’s all that’s needed. As a result, the novel is very fast-paced and tight. But most importantly, the characters are wholly three-dimensional and believable. The novel knows that Ender is a child soldier, and a great deal of it deals exclusively with the trauma he suffers as a result of it. Friendships are made and lost; much regret and sorrow befalls every character. But the characters also love. In fact, it is the love for his planet, his family, and especially his sister that drives Ender forward throughout the entire tale.

This book is thrilling, compelling, fun, nuanced, and profoundly wise all at once. It is, in my opinion, everything a book should be.

This book is, of course, a masterpiece that I adore.

Almanac: Why I Want an LGBT Fanbase

I realize how ridiculously egotistical I am already speculating on my future theoretical fanbase, but I still think it’s useful to talk about it to both discuss my thoughts on fandoms in general and also put down my ideals in writing so that in the event my works do become popular I won’t lose my perspective. I’m egomaniacal enough already; I don’t need my narcissism nourished anymore.

Fandoms: the cultures of the enormous, amazing, burningly vitriolic world of geekdom. They possess the power to disgust, horrify, amaze, and touch us. Like other cultures, some are friendly and some are eternally locked in war. As CollegeHumor brilliantly pointed out, fundamentalist religion and hardcore nerdiness are much the same; even within a fandom there might be several sub-fandoms perpetually at war with each other, much like the religious conflicts between denominations of Abrahamic religions such as Christianity or Islam. A classic example of such infighting within geekdom is the eternal Picard vs Kirk debate, though modern readers will probably be more familiar with the Sherlock vs Elementary wars or that most infamous of ship battles, Katara/Aang vs Katara/Zuko.

I, being a geek of the very highest caliber, am a member of many, many fandoms, and I doubt you’re going to find a more passionate fan of as high a number of different works than me. Case in point: on the night Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, I sat down and read the entire eight hundred-page book in one sitting. I was nine at the time.

Though I have no guilty pleasures (as I’m not afraid to enjoy anything I like), I do feel a large amount of shame over some of the fandoms I’m a member of, simply because of that association I share with some of their members. Some such hostile fandoms I am a member of include Ayn Rand‘s, which is largely populated by obnoxiously greedy pissants, as well as those for League of Legends and Dota 2, which have probably some of the most toxic, unpleasant player bases in the world. I am much prouder of some of my other native fandoms, such as the brony community or Disney‘s fandom; they tend to be much kinder, more tolerant, and more welcoming.

In the event I develop my own fanbase, I want it to be composed of those who are tolerant and welcoming. My ideal is to have a very friendly yet passionately intense fandom; after all, I love passion. To me, everything is Serious Business, but most especially fiction because fiction is literally my life. I love impassioned (but not hateful) debating; I love fan works; I love the intensive studies and fanon that accumulate around works. Others might sneer at the intense emotion and adoration we geeks hold for our passions; to them I say, “You should try enjoying yourself sometime. I know emotions are scary and frowned upon, but they’re what make life worth living.”

It is for these reasons that I really hope a large amount of my fans will be LGBT. I find in many ways that I find a close sense of community with members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. I have no doubt that a large part of that is the fact that I have at least one LGBT relative and that most of my friends are. However, I find that I also have a lot of similarities with them (or at least many of them). For instance, I am an art-lover, theatre-lover, and a furry, all of which are stereotypically “gay.” I love fruity drinks (raspberry lemonade is my favorite), pastries, shoujo manga, and stuffed animals. But most damning of all, I’m well-dressed and am nice to girls even though I’m not trying to get in their pants.

Part of all of these similarities are coincidental; for instance, I’ve always loved fruit drinks. However, some of these similarities are deliberate; I actually consider several gay men, as well as stereotypically flaming gay men in general, to be some of my heroes. Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons are some of my favorite actors. Among my chiefest role-models is the homosexual, brilliant artist Leonardo da Vinci, for whom my admiration is so great I would have named myself Leonardo had my mother not already named me.

To me, the highest personal ideal is that of the stereotypical flamingly homosexual male, as his traits are the traits I aspire for; he is an attractive, well-dressed, kind, and honest man who is equal parts chivalrous and filled with lust for life. He chooses a profession he enjoys, and he enjoys whatever he pleases. He approaches everything with passion and is always filled with energetic excitement for whatever lies ahead.

In my opinion, this stereotype is actually true for a large portion of the gay population; from my experience, LGBT people (or at least the outed ones) tend to be braver, kinder, and more honest than mankind as a whole. They are more tolerant; more accepting. This is a logical occurrence, I think; LGBT people tend to be shunned and persecuted more than heterosexual people, and suffering fosters empathy, and therefore compassion.

From what I’ve seen, gay people are less afraid of being passionate and enjoying things. They’ve already breached one social taboo; why not breach another, and be emotional? How I wish that people would discard their distorted views of the world and allow themselves to feel things. I truly believe that if we all let ourselves feel, the world would be a better place.

That is why I want a largely LGBT fanbase; I want my followers to be compassionate and admirable, and I strongly believe that those who have suffered tend to be. And though there are heels among them (as there always are), I sincerely hope that I’m correct, as that would indicate that humanity truly is capable of widespread decency after all.

Here’s to you, my heroic sisters and brothers.

Almanac: Speculative Fiction

As you can probably guess, my favorite genres across all of media are Science Fiction and Fantasy, which are collectively known in literary criticism as speculative fiction. The reason for my obsession with these genres is very simple: anything is possible in these two genres.

I’ve always found it interesting that people distinguish between science fiction and fantasy at all. After all, both of them aim to do the same thing: create a world where things can be done that can’t be done in the world of reality in which we live. It’s just that fantasy achieves this through magic, and science fiction achieves this through technology.

If you were to ask me point blank what my favorite between the two genres ultimately was, I really couldn’t say. After all, my absolute favorite works of any medium are representatives  of both genres; A Link to the Past is definitively fantasy, and so is Disney‘s Beauty and the BeastHarry Potter is my favorite series of books, and in my (unfortunately-not-humble) opinion Fullmetal Alchemist is among the best manga series ever written. On the other hand, Wall-e and Inception also count among my most favored films, and I have unhealthy obsessions with Ender’s Game and Tengen Toppa Gurren LagannAll You Need is Kill is another great manga series, and like most other nerds I adore Star Wars and Valve Corporation‘s body of work.

I do not think either is better. In fact, I would say that both genres are at their strongest when they intermingle and mix; my absolute favorite novel is A Wrinkle in Time and my absolute favorite game is Kingdom Hearts II, both of which I think we can all agree are firmly in the realms of both genres. Also notice that the genres tend to cross over into each other’s territory even in purer pieces; Star Wars has a very, very supernatural magic system in the Force, and Fullmetal Alchemist has steampunk and diesel punk technology alongside the firmly fantastical magic of Alchemy.

In my opinion, fiction was made for science fiction and fantasy. As I said before, I consume media primarily for escapism; I want to engulf myself in worlds perhaps more beautiful and more amazing than the one we have. Fantasy and Science Fiction give me worlds in which you can do anything you’ve dreamed of; with a jetpack, you can fly. You can slam a staff into the earth and tear it asunder. You can face down unspeakable horrors and defeat them with strange and powerful weapons. I have little use for fiction that portrays mundane, ordinary life; it is for this reason that I care little for soap operas or general fiction. It is also for this reason that I feel that theatre as a medium is as a whole tragically misused; most theatrical productions portray rather mundane, modern situations without often stepping into the realm of the fantastic. This is one of the reasons I love Shakespeare so deeply and why Wicked is one of my favorite musicals; they are welcome breaths of fresh air in an otherwise rather dull medium.

Here’s to speculative fiction, my bread and butter.

Why MLP: FiM is Secretly EXTREMELY Dark

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is an excellent show. I love it to the point that I am writing fan works for it, and one of those works is going to be one of my major projects. One of the things I most love about it is its multilayered nature; the vigilant viewer can analyze it and uncover a much deeper world and cast than would first be apparent.

I think that MLP: FiM is perhaps the best base for fan fiction ever made because of this enormous hidden depth. I’m a very well-read individual, and it has some of the best characters I’ve ever seen. There are almost no limits to the possibilities of its vibrant world. It’s episodic, so you can make a lot of stories that have few limitations but still don’t conflict with the show’s cannon. It’s a storyteller’s dream.

However, it is generally understood within the MLP fanfic community that there are some limits as to what a writer can say without breaking the established rules of the show. Most notably, that at a certain level of darkness a fic is no longer plausible within the show’s world. After all, this world is very much a Sugar Bowl; the most powerful magic is friendship, and evil will always ultimately fall to it. And sure, there are evil things in this show- but never too evil. After all, it’s a kid’s show- they’d never have anything truly horrific in it. Works like Story of the Blanks, Fallout: Equestriaand Cupcakes would of course never happen or even be implied to happen in the show… right?

A warning to fellow fans of the show: as you can probably tell, I’m planning on using those three darkfics as reference during this article. If you don’t want to hear about things like that or fear that the show will be “Ruined Forever” for you because of me, I suggest you leave now.

With that said, here we go.

I would argue that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is, in fact, one of the darkest shows you’ll ever see. I think the likes of Story of the Blanks and Cupcakes in fact wouldn’t be at all out of place within the world of show (not taking into account Out-of-Character behavior, of course). Will we ever see anything like those fics air on the show itself? No. However, once again, this show rewards the observant. I believe one of the things you’ll find if you pay attention is the truly bleak underbelly this show bears. Though this show superficially appears to be nothing more than a literal cheery, colorful world of rainbows and unicorns, the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) hints and implications steadily reveal the setting to be a tremendously disturbing crapsaccharine world whose damaged characters and vile villains could give Madoka Magica a run for its money.

To begin our plunge into the darkness, let’s begin with the protagonists themselves. Each of the Mane Six is deeply screwed up in their own unique ways. Here they are:

Twilight Sparkle herself is a stress-drinker. In the first episode of the show, she immediately attempts to pour herself a drink from a bottle bearing the image of a bubbling cocktail. She  does this because Pinkie and the others have been bothering her ever since she arrived.

Twilight also has an obsession with pleasing Princess Celestia that borders on madness. In the third episode of the second season (which occurs immediately after her encounter with Discord, suggesting psychological trauma) she is literally so disturbed by the complete lack of problems in Ponyville that in a panic she creates one by enchanting her old doll so that it becomes an “apple of discord,” causing all who see it to fight over it. She does all of this so that she won’t be late in her “friendship lessons” assignment.

Rainbow Dash is obsessed with apple cider to the point that she seems to have an addiction to it. She’s also dangerously cocky to the point that her risk-taking has almost costed her her life a few times.

There’s also the fact that she lives in Ponyville, despite having a deep love for Cloudsdale, and is not a Wonderbolt, despite the fact that she desperately wants to be and is the fastest Pegasus in the world. I believe that the reason for both of these things is because Rainbow Dash is a lesbian (I’ll explain my reasoning for this in another article) and she’s actively eschewed both her hometown and her dream job because other Pegasi are extremely intolerant of homosexuals, which would seem to be consistent with their highly competitive and hierarchical nature.

I think it’s interesting that Fluttershy, who is Rainbow Dash’s friend, has also moved to Ponyville from Cloudsdale. I also find it interesting that while they were in Cloudsdale they were friends at all, considering the enormous dissonance between their personalities and interests. I’ve also noticed that Fluttershy seems to be the most cynical of the group; despite her shy and passive nature, when she’s really pushed she demonstrates a rather abrasive and bitter side. This is particularly noticeable in Putting Your Hoof Down, where she viciously verbally attacks Pinkie and Rarity with such effectiveness that they’re driven to tears, and the insults’ poignancy heavily suggests that both they and Fluttershy at least partially believe the insults she’s hurling at them.

I believe that there is a reason for both Fluttershy’s strange friendship with Rainbow as well as her deep cynicism: she’s gay too, and due to the resulting shunning by her fellow Pegasi she naturally bonded with Rainbow since Rainbow was one of the only ones who would accept her. I also think she grew more cynical than Rainbow because while Rainbow was able to win some respect from their peers through her athletic prowess, Fluttershy had no such asset at her disposal, and therefore she ended up getting it worse than Rainbow did.

Applejack is deeply repressed and emotionally dysfunctional. She sees it as a world-shattering descent into eternal shame to fail at any task, be it wining rodeos or bucking all the apples from her orchard by herself. For a specific example, when she fails at winning money for the town in a rodeo, she runs away from home and vows never to come back until she has the money she promised. My sureness of her emotional dysfunction is further solidified by Tanks for the Memories, where she is said to cry “on the inside” but implied not to do so openly. As any psychologist can tell you, this isn’t very healthy, since we need to cry sometimes.

I suggest that the reason for her repression is her family; I think that the Apples are very, very traditionally orthodox and as a result are dysfunctional and repressed as a general rule. One way I think this manifests is a family taboo on miscegenation with non-Earth ponies. Consider the Flim Flam brothers. All signs point to them being Apples; they have green eyes, red and white manes, apples for cutie marks, and are in the apple agricultural business, all of which are characteristic of the Apple family. Furthermore, when they are first introduced in Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 and are first shown to meet Granny Smith, they don’t have to ask her name; they know her already.

The one thing that sets them apart from other Apples is that they’re Unicorns, which leads me to believe that they were estranged by their family (as Unicorns are incapable of bucking apple trees properly, which is what all Apples are expected to do) and have subsequently set out to prove their family wrong (and get poetic revenge on them) by beating them out of the apple business in spite of and because of their Unicorn powers. This would also explain why they came to Ponyville specifically twice, despite the fact that they were run out by Ponyville’s citizens the first time they came.

Rarity is overly concerned with her standing in society’s favor and is very emotionally manipulative. She literally excused herself from Twilight’s birthday party for the sole purpose of remaining in the Canterlot elite’s good graces (and when it’s in danger she starts stress-drinking, as well). She also has a tendency to use her tremendously good looks to get what she wants from others. Not only does she without hesitation charm stranger Stallions out of anything of theirs she might desire, but I strongly suspect she does so to her friends as well; assuming Fluttershy is in fact gay, I think it’s not too great a leap to suppose that Rarity utilized Fluttershy’s attraction to her to pressure Fluttershy into modeling for her (which, by the way, she knows fully well Fluttershy wants absolutely no part of).

But the most worrisome target of Rarity’s manipulations is Spike. First of all, I find it morally grey at best that Rarity would use Spike’s affections for her to manipulate him the way she does in the show. She more or less uses him as a personal serf (which Twilight arguably does as well, but at least in that case Twilight is feeding and housing him) without ever making clear that he has no real chance with her.

Except that perhaps Spike doesn’t have a practically nonexistent chance with Rarity after all. She does seem to lead him on a lot, but there are a few times when Rarity behaves in such a way that I suspect that there is some sincerity in her feigned interest in him after all. Most of these times, of course, occur in Secret of My Excess;

First, after Spike gives up a rare gem for her, she gives him a kiss on the cheek. Alright, innocent enough…

Second, Rarity proceeds to defend the gem with her life from an enormous dragon (who, though she doesn’t know at the time, is Spike, who at the time is unable to control himself) who will potentially eat her alive. Okay, that’s… a little much…

Third, when Spike transforms back into his baby dragon self and they fall through the sky, Spike attempts to make a Dying Declaration of Love. Rarity stops him halfway through and starts smilingly crying.

Spike is a child, by the way.

Doctor Who What

What the hell was THAT?! 

(This was how I really reacted when I first saw that scene, by the way.)

Fellow MLP fans, was I the only one who was really weirded out and more than a little creeped out when Rarity started crying? Did I mention that Rarity is a teenager and Spike is a child?

Finally, when they’re safely on the ground again, Rarity kisses Spike on the cheek again. Please oh please tell me I’m not the only one who finds this kind of really creepy.

At last, we arrive at Pinkie Pie.

First of all, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I absolutely do not think that Pinkie would ever do anything like she does in Cupcakes. I think that she’s a very good pony who would be absolutely horrified at the very idea of doing anything like that. However, I think it’s useful as a reference because of a few specific facts about it: first, that it was published within a short time of Party of One, and second, that both Cupcakes and Party of One are based around the idea of Pinkie being psychologically disturbed.

The reason I find these two parallel facts so significant is because they indicate that the writers of both stories had a same basic interpretation of Pinkie’s character: that she is, on some level, mentally unwell. Not remotely to the level of Cupcakes, mind you, but unwell nonetheless. I argue that she has some form of depression, since she demonstrates some of the symptoms (swinging extremes in emotion, emotional immaturity, etc. [if you’re a qualified psychologist, feel free to point out any holes in my theory]). This would also be consistent with Pinkie being raised in what seems to be a rather repressed household (it is for this reason that I also argue that Maud is even more depressed than Pinkie; notice how she and Pinkie have extremely similar personalities when Pinkie loses her Cutie Mark in the first two episodes of Season Five). When Pinkie believes that she’s lost her friends in Party of One, she experiences an extremely disturbing lapse in sanity where she attempts to have a party in which her friends’ roles are filled by inanimate objects. And yes, I do mean extremely disturbing:

Pinkie Snapping 1 Pinkie Snapping 2 Pinkie Snapping 3

A TV-Y children’s show about rainbows and unicorns, ladies and gentlemen.

Let’s discuss the rest of the world and the side characters now.

First of all, the world is insanely dangerous. It has, among other things: malevolent, fire-breathing dragons; manticores; Cerberus; hydras; gargantuan bears; and ice-demon-horses that can freeze things alive. And yes, these things do attempt to kill other things. It never happens on-screen, of course, but still: a group of teenage dragons explicitly desire to smash some unhatched phoenix eggs. They explicitly want to kill them.

With regards to the rest of the characters, they’re explicitly shown to be realistically racist, classist, and otherwise bigoted towards groups of characters different from themselves. There’s also implied infidelity in the show; when Mr. and Mrs. Cake (both Earth ponies) have a pair of twins (a Unicorn and a Pegasus), the protagonists ask how the babies’ races differ from their parents. Mr. Cake replies that he had a great-grandfather who was a Unicorn and that Mrs. Cake had a great aunt’s second cousin twice removed who was a Pegasus, before desperately requesting assurance that that makes sense (for any not familiar with genetics or genealogy, his explanation is rubbish).

Of course, a show is only as bleak as it’s most wicked villains, so I’ve saved them for last. Precisely how horrible are My Little Pony’s villains? I actually doubt you could find villains more utterly evil and shockingly vile than these; they are collectively dishonest, manipulative, unpleasant, abusive, hypocritical, tyrannical, sadistic, sexually perverted, murderous, and torturous. Here is, in detail, what some of them have done:

Perhaps the least evil of the show’s major villains is Starlight Glimmer. However, she remains one of the most disturbing; she rules a cult town that claims all of its citizens to be “equal” through removing their cutie marks. It bears strong resemblances to concentration camps and real-life cults; whenever someone shows signs of possible dissent, Starlight locks them in a room with her propaganda blaring nonstop until they succumb back to submission. For added creepiness, the townsfolk all wear unnaturally large smiles at all times, and Starlight is simultaneously utterly hypocritical and seems disturbingly sincere about her belief that cutie marks cause disharmony; she secretly still has hers, though she seems to have convinced herself that without it her “perfect society” couldn’t exist (this is a real-life practice for cult leaders; the best way to get your followers to believe your lies is to make yourself believe them, too).

Next up is Sombra, who is a tyrannical overlord who the show’s creators have stated to be based on Sauron. He fully lives up to it; he enslaved the Crystal ponies and lives off of their pain and misery (and seems to gleefully enjoy it, too). He’s also killed onscreen by the main characters, by the way.

Next up is Tirek. First of all, he was imprisoned in the Equestrian Hell-equivelant prison Tartarus for many years. Rightfully so; once he escapes, he immediately begins draining ponies’ magical energies to increase his own power. He’s generally power-hungry and unpleasant, but the true extent of his vileness is Fridge Horror: whenever he takes ponies’ magic away, they immediately loose their abilities; Earth ponies loose their strength, Unicorns lose their spell casting, and Pegasi loose their flight. This of course logically means that some Pegasi fell helplessly from the sky to their deaths. We have no reason to believe Tirek would have saved them; he is shown to be a complete sociopath with no regard for others through his remorseless betrayal and mocking of Discord when he no longer served Tirek’s ends.

Next is Chrysalis. Aside from the fact that she attempted a hostile takeover of Canterlot to farm its citizens and feed on their love, she also imprisoned Cadence, attempted to goad Twilight into murdering her, and is heavily implied to have raped Shining Armor and be planning to do so again.

Rape. In My Little Pony. I’m dead serious. I know some of you might contest this, but honestly, they’re not even very subtle about it; first of all, why doesn’t Chrysalis just kill Shining? That would immediately solve her problem of the barrier he places around Canterlot, and then victory would quickly be hers. And it’s not like she’s not willing to kill ponies; once again, she attempted to get Twilight to kill Cadence. Chrysalis also tells Twilight that she can’t have her interfering with her plans for Shining. What other plans could she be referring to? Once again, if it was about her conquest, she could just kill him. There’s pretty much no doubt left by her song; (emphasis added) “No, I do not love the groom / In my heart there is no room / But I still want him to be all mine.”

Finally, we have Discord. He is, in my opinion, the most utterly evil character in the entire show (at his introduction, at least). First of all, he’s a complete jerk. Even after his first “reformation,” he’s still a complete jerk. Between being an all-powerful Eldritch Abomination and being a pure hedonist, everything and everyone else is nothing more than a plaything to him. Despite his chaotic reality-warping causing tremendous distress to everyone around him, he continues to inflict misery on them anyway. He’s also very petty; any slight against him, no matter how minor, is swiftly repaid by him several times over (his response to Fluttershy’s bunny attempting to kick him off a couch, for instance, is to hit and deliberately horrify it).

He’s also a very, very Dirty Old Man. He behaves very creepily around the main characters;  special mention goes to the creepy way he strokes Twilight and Fluttershy’s faces. He seems to have a stalkerish infatuation with Fluttershy to the point that he jealously attempts to throw Fluttershy’s guest to the Grand Galloping Galla into another dimension for being chosen over him. In the same episode, he also appears in Spike’s bed and stares at the Cutie Mark Crusaders while they’re in a dressing room (back-to-back, no less). To drive the point home, all of the kids in question are really freaked out when he does.

Lastly, Discord is a genocidal torturer. He cheerfully breaks the main characters’ minds when they first meet him and is shown in one of the stained glass windows to be burning ponies alive with the same sadistic glee. Here it is:

Discord Window

And why wouldn’t he? He’s easily bored, has no empathy whatsoever until Keep Calm and Flutter On, and doesn’t care at all about the well-being of others. It isn’t hard for me to imagine Discord going to any depth of depravity, including this one.

So, I hope that I have satisfactorily demonstrated My Little Pony to be pretty much as dark as you can possibly get. You all might be wondering, why did I do this? Well, simply put, I did this because I want everyone to know how brilliant this show is.

I am honestly quite sick of people dismissing MLP: FiM as shoddy children’s drivel without even watching it. I did this partially as a response to those naysayers; “I’m watching a really excellent show with amazing characters. It’s really dark; there’s cults, rape, murder, and torture in it. You know what show it is? My Little Pony. Yeah, not so stupid and sissy anymore, huh?”

But I also did this to inspire deeper appreciation of the show from my fellow fans. I didn’t write my observations to depress any of you; I wrote them so you could better appreciate how optimistic and hopeful this show is. Think of Avatar: the Last Airbender or Harry Potter as well as My Little Pony; they are all children’s works that adults love, they all have amazing yet flawed characters, they are all audaciously extremely dark (they all have cults, rape, murder, and torture), and they all ultimately deliver messages of peace, friendship, and hope.

As I said in a previous article, I believe that the best works are the darkest yet most hopeful ones. They teach perhaps life’s most valuable lesson: that while no, life’s not fair, and yes, it’s dark and bleak and terrifying, you can still overcome all the odds and find peace and happiness.

Despite the protagonists’ flaws and shortcomings, they are all still good people; they all love and support one another through every trial the world throws at them, no matter how great and horrible it might be. In the world of My Little Pony, the Moral Event Horizon does not exist; despite how utterly despicable Discord is, they still manage after much trial and error to reform him.

That is why My Little Pony is so brilliant; because it’s so overwhelmingly dark, where there is light it is blindingly beautiful.

Here’s to My Little Pony, a show that shows in every way that friendship truly is magic.

My Storytelling Style

Now that I’ve started to make my work available to all of you, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce you all to how I craft my projects.

First of all, I am a storyteller by extension of being a lover of stories. Put another way, I write because I love reading. Aside from writing, I probably spend more time reading than I do doing anything else; I will literally forget to eat and lose sleep while reading. I don’t even listen to music or watch movies or shows as much as I read. I’m the sort of bookworm other bookworms would call too obsessed with books (although I’m nearly every bit as obsessed with all other media, as well).

When I read (or watch a movie, or play a game, etc.), I always expect a few things: I expect to be entertained, I expect to learn, but most of all I expect to lose myself in a stunning fictional world.

This is the main reason I read: the escapism. I don’t much care for reality; my childhood was extremely difficult and unhappy due to a number of things, including being witness to a pretty nasty divorce, having a thoroughly screwed up extended family, and being viciously bullied by other kids.

The bullying was absolutely the very worst part; I’ve always been extremely weird and socially inept (I have Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, among other things) and completely nonconformist. As a result, I was abused physically and emotionally by other kids throughout my entire elementary school career. Since I live in Utah, a lovely little hamlet of repression and unenlightenment of the honorary Deep South, the adults did nothing, thinking it wasn’t a real problem.

The bullying deeply damaged me. Between my abuse at the hands of my peers and my authority figures’ complete lack of interference, I developed a deep hatred and mistrust of my fellow human beings that I continue to bear to this day. I completely lost any empathy for those who’d done me harm, and began desiring to inflict the same pain upon them that they’d inflicted upon me. I’m so very grateful for my mother, who understood and cared for me and was largely responsible for me not becoming something truly horrific like a serial killer or a school shooter or something like that. As a brief aside: to all those who read this, monsters are made, not born. Trust me, as someone who was well on the path to becoming one, I know.

I’m convinced now that sociopaths are perhaps the most empathetic people around; my mother (who is a brilliant psychology student) told me that everyone has empathy, but most sociopaths are so sensitive and have had such terrible experiences that they can’t bear their own emotions and simply switch them off. I can personally attest that that is probably true; I’m extremely sensitive and compassionate (especially towards animals), but after my suffering at the hands of my abusers I no longer have any of that compassion whatsoever for those I deem to be evil. I think at this point you could accurately say that I’m partially sociopathic. You know how I compare myself to Sherlock Holmes, Leleouch Lamperouge, and Light Yagami? Yeah, I’m not kidding.

I’m eternally grateful for my mother. She’s every bit as intelligent and sensitive as I am, and she was able to understand me and was instrumental in my survival in a frankly dark and rather hopeless world. She nurtured my empathy and helped steer me off the course of exacting vengeance upon those who’d wronged me. Another of the best things she did for me is she pulled me out of school and homeschooled me during my middle school years.

I’m also very grateful for my dad. It was his side of my family that is especially screwed up, and he and my mother’s divorce was because of things he’d done, so I’m not saying he’s a saint by any means. But he’s a much better person than he used to be, and I owe him eternally for one thing: if my mother saved me from my despair, my father was the gatekeeper to all that brings me joy.

The word “nostalgia” is meaningless to me. I had a horrible childhood, and I never want to have it back. However, there is one source of happy memories within that bleak time: reading, watching movies, playing games, and otherwise consuming media. The only happy times I can remember are when I watched Disney movies, played games on my Gameboy and PC, was read books to at bedtime, and all the other times I sat and listened to stories. I can only recall joy in those moments watching The Secret of NIMH, or playing Klonoa: Empire of Dreams, or when my dad read me Ender’s Game or told me epic fantasy stories he made up as he went along.

There’s nothing I love my parents for more than this. Through stories, they gave me my only moments of happiness and my only escapes from my relentless sorrow. Though both of my parents gave me both of these things, my mother provided me more of the latter while my father provided me more of the former. Of course, I can trace my love of many of my favorite works to my mother; because of her I love The Wizard of OzPride and Prejudice, and Hitch. However, though my mother introduced me to these and saved me from becoming a monster, it is my father who made me who I am.

My father was a nerd in the ’80s when geekdom was still a tiny subculture. He’s one of Star Wars’ biggest and oldest fans, he was one of the first in line to see The Fellowship of the Ring when it was first released in 2001, and he was a hardcore gamer in the golden age of arcades. He passed the flame of highest-caliber nerdiness down to me by watching Batman Begins with me, reading Harry Potter to me, and playing Medal of Honor with me. It is he who gave me my tastes and my passionate, burning love for media. Matilda is one of my favorite books because I can relate so deeply to Matilda Wormwood; like her, I was a brilliant, miserable little kid whose only escape from his dark, cynical world was the bright, optimistic world of fiction.

I cannot describe how much I love reading. It continues to be what makes me happy and what makes my life worth living. I found that I could not be satisfied with what I had, however; there were books that I wanted to read that did not exist. So naturally, the duty fell to me to make it so I could read them. This is actually why I am an author: I write the books that I want to read but currently cannot. I am simply a storyteller as an extension of being an audience.

I’ve been writing and drawing my whole life. Most of what I made at first was fan works of my favorite stories. From the moment I could hold a crayon, I drew Spider-Man over and over and over again, getting steadily better each time. I wrote very poorly-spelled stories about Batman and Pokémon and Klonoa and everything else I loved. I read my first novel (The Incredibles) in one sitting, and proceeded to do the same with every installment of the Harry Potter books. As I grew older, I began writing (somewhat) original stories by asking myself questions such as: “What would happen if a boy fell in love with an alien girl?”, “What would happen if a serial killer turned up in Idaville, and Encyclopedia was the only one who could stop him?”, and “Shouldn’t there be an amazing Santa Claus novel?” These questions have led me to write novels called UFOPact, and Santa Claus respectively, which I will at some point finish and release for all of you to read.

But my most defining experience was when I conceived my magnum opus. While I was playing on the swing-set in my front yard, I formulated the idea of a story with a few basic concepts: a girl who could transform into a mouse, a witch, an inky, warped, black figure with red eyes, a hotel room, and psychedelic rainbow-ness everywhere. The idea really intrigued me, and I thought it was really cool.

Then I completely forgot about it.

A few years later, in the summer of my eleventh year, I was reading a series of books on the paranormal called Mysteries of the Unknown in my town’s public library. My father had brought them from the library a few years earlier, and I’d adored and been fascinated by them since. This is actually perhaps my most vivid memory; I can tell you exactly where I was and which book it was. I was cross-legged in one of the corners and the book in question was Utopian Visions.

Upon finishing one of the pages I closed the book and thumped it against my knee. “Wow,” I thought. “This stuff is amazing. How the heck has someone not written a novel about it?”

I think the thing I loved most about those books (and the weird, supernatural subjects they covered) was the pure, unadulterated sense of wonder I felt reading them. It’s a bit difficult to describe what I mean, but I’ll try: play Bejeweled 3, or read A Wrinkle in Time, or listen to The Real World by Owl City. Hell, just read The Mysteries of the Unknown. You feel that? That’s the mood, the feeling, the wonder I’m talking about.

“Why hasn’t someone made a novel about this stuff?” I thought. Of course, stories about aliens, or ghosts, or vampires, or Bigfoot, or telekinesis, or fortunetelling, or bending reality had all existed already. However, most everything I’d yet seen of the subject matter (such as GhostbustersAtlantis: The Lost Empire, or the aforementioned A Wrinkle in Time) covered only a few of these things, mentioning the rest only in passing. But I had yet to see a story cover all of it at once, let alone on as grand and epic a scale as, say, Lord of the Rings.

“If someone would write a book like that,” I thought, “that would be the best book ever.”

And at that moment, the inspiration struck me. I suddenly remembered that beginning of an idea I’d had years before, and with this newfound realization the story rapidly grew. would write that book, and it would indeed be the best book ever.

At that moment I immediately ran home, pulled open a binder full of filler paper, and began writing a book I knew should be titled Rainbow. My reasoning was simple: it was the only name that suited it. Only rainbows were comparable to the wonder and beauty this book would contain. Only rainbows were as magical.

Ever since I began this project seven years ago, it has been my greatest obsession. It has remained almost entirely unchanged from those ideas I formulated on the library floor when I was eleven years old. I have dedicated my life to it; I fully intend to make it truly the Grand Masterpiece of All Literature. In my mind, all other things are subordinate to and serve it; I eat, drink, and sleep so that I can write it. I read, play games, and watch movies and shows to increase its quality. Finally, I create other works simply to support and expand upon it. Indeed, this website itself is ultimately here only for the sake of Rainbow.

About a year later, I sat down and watched an anime with my father and brother. Though I’d seen Pokémon and Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh and Naruto, I hadn’t yet seen what anime was truly capable of.

The anime my father, brother, and I watched was Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It was the most thoroughly mind-blowing experience I’ve ever had.

I was absolutely staggered at how overwhelmingly epic and enormous this show was. It was bright, it was colorful, it was emotional, it was existential, it was thrilling, it was exciting, it was awesome, and it was so, so damn beautiful. Ever since then, I’ve been every bit as obsessed with anime as I was with Rainbow, and very shortly thereafter I realized that I must make Rainbow an anime; believe me, when you all read it, you’ll see that anime really is the perfect medium for it. Shortly after that I decided I’d move to Japan to make it fully realized; I would make the Grand Masterpiece of All Literature shine across every medium; prose, animation, graphic literature, live performance, and simulation. Japan is the perfect place to accomplish all that.

With all that in mind, I can now explain my style of storytelling.

Firstly, I write for myself. As I said before, I write the books I want to read. I have dedicated my life to writing Rainbow because I have dedicated my life to reading Rainbow, which I will be unsatisfied with unless it’s the greatest novel of all time.

Because of this, I am determined to make every one of my works a timeless masterpiece. Once again, because those are the sorts of things I want to read.

My writing is passionate, direct, and blunt. I do not write to shock, but I also do not care if what I say shocks my audience. I aim to tell the truth, no matter how shocking it is nor how much people don’t want to hear it. Because of this I have no doubt I’ll be controversial, but I say: so be it. Nearly every great work (and man) shakes the world, and as Gandhi said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

People say that True Art is Angsty. I disagree; I think that true art is angsty, but hopeful. My favorite works are those that plunge the audience into deep darkness, but show that there is still enormous beauty and light in the world. If you want great examples of this, watch It’s a Wonderful Life or The Wizard of Oz or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All of these movies are stereotypically “happy,” but if you watch them they are actually quite dark; none of them shy away from the depths of horror and despair that humans can experience. However, they don’t conclude with the message “the world sucks and we’re all screwed;” rather, they reassure us that despite the great horror and misery in the world, it’s still unbelievably beautiful and you can still be happy. I create my works with this philosophy; I attempt to make every one of my works speak a message of hope and compassion after its characters undergo great trial and tribulation to demonstrate the truth of it.

By the same token, all of my works are deconstructions/reconstructions of themselves. I believe all the best works are; for instance, Harry Potter is an unbuilt story, since it’s about a kid who goes to a magic school. However, even though it was the first story to popularize this concept, it deconstructed its own ideas before anyone else could; though the world of magic is shown to be wondrous and awesome, it’s also demonstrated to be dark and horrific. Once again, I don’t believe in darkness for darkness’ sake, but rather to make the victory of light all the more triumphant, which I believe is what will naturally happen when a story is truly great. This is one of my philosophies: a story should be self-aware and intelligent.

I am primarily a world builder. This makes sense, I think, since the primary motivation behind my love of reading is to escape to a better world. I’ve never had much tolerance for works that attempt to show the “gritty and ugly” side of life; if I wanted to experience that, I’d just go out and walk down an impoverished street. My philosophy is: there is no reason to not make everything about your work beautiful. If sewers can look gorgeous *cough* *cough* Eternal Sonata *cough* *cough*, anything can. This is actually why my art falls in a spectrum between anime-style art and fantastic realism; I find that they are the most aesthetically pleasing art styles. This is also why my favorite works are very slick and/or colorful, and I aim to make all of my own exactly the same.

Because of my love for intricate and detailed worlds, I have an especial love for doorstoppers. You are all free to call me “tree-killer;” I love doorstoppers and most of my works will probably be doorstoppers themselves.

With regards to themes, my subject is always human nature. Of course, my magnum opus tackles the biggest ones: the meaning of life and the secret of happiness, but all of my others tackle some or other aspect of the human condition. I expect to learn when I read, and by the same token I aim to teach when I write.

I believe in never talking down to my audience. As far as I’m concerned, Viewers are Geniuses. That’s not even an exaggeration; if you go to the TV Tropes page on it and read the description of a stereotypical example, it reads,

“…you go and write a series loaded with difficult quantum mechanics, quoting obscure 17th-century philosophers, with characters who are philosophical Magnificent Bastards who speak a dozen languages while conversing to each other by sending Shakespearean Zen koans hidden into chess move patterns, and packed with allusions to ancient Sumerian religion. You make sure all your Techno Babble is scientifically plausible and go to great lengths to make sure all your ancient Roman soldiers are wearing exact replicas of period equipment.

This is almost word-for-word exactly what my works are like. Seriously, when you read Dragons or Rainbow and read that quote again, I think you’ll find that they fit pretty well within that hypothetical, satirical, exaggeratedly ridiculous description. One of my greatest challenges has actually been attempting to categorize my works; I could accurately call Rainbow Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Dystopian, and Romance all at once. As for what age group it’s for, I’ll probably end up marketing it as a YA novel; after all, its protagonists are thirteen-to-sixteen-year-olds. On the other hand, it’s very violent and sexual, with torture, human trafficking, genocide, rape, war, and incest all coming into play. It also has a very healthy dose of existential cosmic horror. But on the other hand, I would have absolutely adored it when I was a kid. Then again, when I was a kid I was reading Dracula and Les Misérablesso perhaps I never represented the child demographic very well…

Nonetheless, I know children like it when a work is high quality and respects them; after all, children aren’t stupid, and they’re humans just like everyone else. Therefore I refuse to talk down to them.

Finally, concerning the sort of characters I write: I diligently attempt to represent every kind of human in my works, but when it comes to my main characters (that is, my main protagonists and main villains) you’ll probably see a disproportionate amount of Author Avatars of varying degrees of blatantness within them. If you want to know precisely how pure of Author Avatars any of my characters are, look for characters who resemble Sherlock Holmes, Sheldon Cooper, or Leleouch Lamperouge. Especially Leleouch; I would say that he’s probably closer to what I’m like than any other character in fiction. Pay special attention to magnificent bastards and tortured well-intentioned extremists; more often than not those are probably supposed to be me. It’s almost certain they are if they are albino (I have vitiligo, which basically means that someday I will be an albino) and/or bisexual (I’m not, but wish I was, since I feel I’m denied the ability to detect all human beauty, which I as an artist desperately desire. This one’s more wish fulfillment than anything). You can bet the house on it if the character in question is flamboyantly campy (again, just like Leleouch. People think I’m gay all the time because I’m really like this; I think masculinity is an idiotic ideal to aspire to). Yeah, you guys can probably see why I love Emperor Kusco and Lord Shen so much. I’m insanely vain and egotistical on every level it’s possible to be.

Here’s to my works; I hope you’ll all enjoy them as much as I am.

Almanac: the Pulps

Pulp Newsstand

It’s the ’30s. The huge, awesome party known as the ’20s has come to a sudden, screeching halt.

It’s the Depression. You and everyone you know are dirt poor. You’ve been laid off, or at least had your wages cut. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to eat tomorrow.

You need to escape. Perhaps through alcohol, even though at this point it’s prohibited. But maybe illegal narcotics aren’t your particular cup of tea, and you want something else.

You could go to the movies; during this decades there are several very good movies out. You could see Frankenstein, or Gone With the Wind, or Modern Times, or The Wizard of Oz, or perhaps Snow White and the Seven Dwarfsthe first-ever traditionally animated film (and one that would still be considered excellent a century later, in fact).

But as it turns out, when you reach into your pocket, all you fish it is a lousy dime. Movies cost twenty-five cents a ticket, but all you’ve got is a coin worth about two dollars by 2015 standards.

So what do you do? Well, there are always the newsstands, which are always selling the pulps. Those can always take you right out of your crummy life.

Amazing Stories First Issue

The pulps were cheap, disposable fiction magazines printed on the cheapest printable paper available. They were shocking, they were violent, they were vulgar, most of the stories in them sucked, and I love them to pieces.

If I’m going to talk about geekdom, I simply must discuss these things. If nerd culture reached maturity in the ’80s and ’90s, then it was born with these things in the early twentieth century.

Where to start? Well, at this point science fiction was barely a century old, assuming you consider Frankenstein to have begun it. Only with the beginning of the 1900’s did the genre begin to grow enormously in popularity, with publications such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories. The Swords and Sorcery and Proto-Superhero stories also began in magazines, which of course I can never thank enough, since from these genres emerged my beloved franchises Batman and Dungeons and Dragons, among others.

Magazines like these gave us our modern detective stories, and they were the trailblazers for modern horror.

As I said before, most of them were awful. These were pretty much the B-movies of literature, so what did you expect? The authors were paid a penny per word, if even that, and these came out weekly or twice monthly, so the aim of the game was to produce sellable, fast writing. People knew the writing wasn’t expected to be anything good; when they were done with them, they would throw them away, and get the next issue next week and repeat the process.

However, I would argue that they didn’t know what they were doing. Of course most of the writing in these things was insanely shoddy- they were made to sell, not for quality. But the fact still remains that some of the writers working for these publication really were dedicated to their craft, and strived for true quality. The most obvious example I can think of is H.P. Lovecraft, the of course now-beloved horror author whose entire body of work was in these magazines. People would throw the magazines with his writings away, not knowing that someday those words would be regarded as works of genius; a deeply troubled genius who put an enormous deal of work into his stories, such as interconnecting many of them within the same universe (now known as the “Cthulhu Mythos“).

Astounding Stories February 1936 Issue, advertising Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," considered by some to be his best

Astounding Stories February 1936 Issue, advertising Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” considered by many to be his best work.

Another thing I must thank the pulps for is for giving Zorro to the world; not only is Zorro an amazing character in his own right, but he’s also a direct ancestor to Batman, who is my favorite character of all time.

All-Story Weekly August 9 1919 Issue, which had Zorro's first appearance

All-Story Weekly August 9 1919 Issue, which had Zorro’s first appearance

Though these stories were often made for the lowest common denominator, the fact remains that these stories served a very important function for the literary world: they were refining fiction to be more thrilling, more fast-paced, and more entertaining. Sure they (and their covers) were filled with gratuitous shocks, violence, and fan service, but you cannot deny that they forced writers to hone their skills as escapist entertainers. In their quest to create engrossing stories, they produced some of the most compelling scenarios and characters we’ve ever seen.

Of course, the pulps eventually died out, but their legacy is still very much alive and well to this day. They paved the way for comic books and paperback novels, which still use many of the techniques and ideas they’ve pioneered, warts and all. Because of them, we have deeply compelling speculative works that are more addictive than nicotine, and we now have airplane novels that are meant to entertain and then be disposed of as soon as they’ve fulfilled their purpose to titillate and distract you from reality.

Another interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that this format of literature still lives on to this day; we have publications like The New Yorker that publish short stories every week, as well as Japanese light novel and manga magazines that follow the pulp format of serializing several stories simultaneously over several issues of a publication.

But the biggest thing I give thanks to the pulps for is their covers. Because of the pulps, the covers of which were designed to be eye-catching, bold, memorable, and pique your curiosity, we now have the incredibly gorgeous and magnetic pieces of artists such as Michael Whelan and Drew Struzan. When I publish my own works, they are going to have covers in this tradition; compelling, stunning, and beautiful.

Here’s to the pulps, the mothers of all things nerdy!

My Little Pony Fanfictions

As part of my writing career, I’m going to be writing fan fictions.

The first I’m publishing are fan fictions for My Little Pony: Friendship is MagicI’m going to publish all new chapters for them on my blog, which are all going to be indexed under the “Projects” tab under the “Fan Works” page. If you want to be informed of new chapters of these fics as soon as I write them, I recommend you go to fimfiction.net, get an account, and follow me so that you’ll be informed of any updates I make to my MLP fics.

I also plan to review other people’s fics; if enough of you request it, I’ll put those reviews on this blog, but until then they’ll just be on my fimfiction page. I’ll also give news updates on my fics on my fimfiction blog, but not this one. All you’re going to hear about those fics on this blog is when I write new fics, in which case I’ll just announce them.

The only fic I have written so far is Break Your Heart, of which I have two chapters written. You can read it on fimfiction or in my “Projects” page. If you want to read any of my My Little Pony fics, you need to read this one before you read any others; this fic is going to be canonical backstory for all the other ones I will write (unless I note otherwise).

Most importantly, I’m writing these fics in preparation for a huge, ambitious MLP fan fiction project I’m planning to do in the near future. Unlike my other fics, I consider this secret endeavor to be a full-fledged project in its own right, so I’ll provide news for it on this blog the same way I will for all my original projects. Even if you don’t like My Little Pony, please watch for it; I think you’re going to like it anyway. Trust me.