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Of the ponyfic storage business, anyway. If you want to read my answers to my own questions, plus ones other people asked me, click here!
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Crosspost from my FIMFic blog -- if you're interested in my personal goings-on, I post there a lot more than I do here at dA.

A little over two years ago—first with the PFA, then with the Vault—I took the arguably ridiculous tack of turning a fun hobby (reading ponyfic) into a part-time job. In doing so I built myself a reputation and a niche in the fandom that I've thoroughly enjoyed, made friends I won't soon forget, and in general had a blast.

Yet I'm tired. I'm tired of the massive spreadsheets tracking stories I have or haven't read, of spending hours or days building ebooks, of late night last-minute scrambles to put posts together when I hadn't had time earlier in the week. Tired of devoting every last moment of my not consequential free time to my hobby-turned-career. And in a few months, I really won't have time at all, once I return to school to finish my degree.

Sometime this midsummer—I don't yet have a precise date nailed down, but should soon and will let you know—the Vault will cease to update. To continue the metaphor I have in my mind, the large blast-proof door will swing shut and spin sealed, with over 100 stories inside for near-eternal safekeeping. Of course, it's a weak metaphor in the end, because anyone can waltz on in and grab an ebook or interview whenever they feel like it: the site will of course remain up in perpetuity, eventually transitioning to something I host myself so it's no longer dependent on third-party servers and services.

Others are welcome to take inspiration from the Vault, and do their own author interviews or what-have-you on their own sites, but—selfishly, perhaps—I'm not interested in handing the Vault off to anyone else. I've politely declined offers of help before, and my reasons haven't changed: the Vault is and has been a highly personal project, and it would be... painful to see someone else run it.

By way of thanks and apology to those who've been so happy to follow the Vault, I do have a special surprise planned for the final few posts. And as I've planned since the Vault's inception, the very last post will be me interviewing myself. Answering the questions I've foisted on so many authors seems a fitting end.

To those authors who were generous enough with their time to spend hours, days, weeks answering my interview questions, and putting up with me nitpicking my way through your punctuation and grammar, you have my profound thanks. Obviously, the Vault wouldn't exist without you. To those authors who have always hoped to receive a message from me and never did, you have my profound apologies. Even in the Vault's prime, I couldn't keep up with you; the absence of an invitation in your inbox should not correlate in your mind with an absence of skill or worthiness on your part, but an absence of time on mine.

Finally, let me make it clear that I myself am not "quitting the fandom" or anything like that. I'll still be reading fanfic daily, and maybe even have time now to work on my own stories; small consolation, I'm sure. I also intend to keep doing interviews here at FIMFic, and honestly releasing myself from the Vault's format and requirements will let me have a little more fun with that, which hopefully means you all will have a little more fun with that too.

So... yeah. Writing this post has sort of felt like a confession, and making it public is something of a load off. I hope no one's too upset, and if you are, well, I'm sorry. (Not too sorry, mind; I value my personal sanity over your rustled jimmies.)

See you Friday, and happy reading!

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I wanted to draw some attention to some charity auctions I'm involved with over at the Las Pegasus Unicon Relief League.

(If you're not sure why there's a "relief league", check out and bronydramarecorded.)

I'm selling off some WalMart Season 2 11x17 MLP posters I've been sitting on, with free domestic shipping and 100% of the proceeds going to the relief fund:

Season 2 Cast
Map of Equestria
A set of all four (Cast, Villains, Map of Equestria, and the Wedding)

I'm also offering up my services as a copyeditor and digital publisher, for any fanfic authors who might be interested (no bids there yet!).

Additionally, you may recall the Myserious Mare-Do-Well from BronyCon 2012 last year. She's running two actions as well:

Her BronyCon weekend pass, signed by John de Lancie (I'm a little surprised this one's gotten so few bids). Free domestic shipping, 100% of proceeds to the con refugees.
An escalating scale of photo shoots and/or video shoots of her in costume.

Even if none of these things interest you, you should check out the other auctions, there's some great stuff going!
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I'm running a very short poll looking to get an idea of your favorite episodes.

Yes, the groupings seem weird. Yes, some episodes are missing, so your absolute favorite might not even be here. The poll is "what are you favorite episodes in this specific set", not "what are your favorite episodes of all time".

Thank you for taking the time, and if you were feeling very generous, I would love to get it reblogged or retweeted or whatever you feel like! Have a short link:
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1. Are you single or taken?

2. Chocolate or flowers?

3. Will you do anything special for Valentine's Day?
I have a romantical movie picked out for us to watch, after we make one of our favorite meals.

4. Do you like anyone?
My girlfriend.

5. Were you dating anyone last Valentine's Day?
Yes (her).

6. Who do you want to spend Valentine's with?

7. Do you make a big deal about Valentine's?

8. Have you ever had a secret admirer?

9. Would you ever write someone a love letter?

10. Do you believe in Cupid?

11. Do your parents give you presents on Valentine's?

12. Do you still send out Valentine cards?

13. Do you like candy hearts?
Lord no.

14. What is something you got last Valentine's?
Various little things. I think... maybe a shirt.

15. Is Valentine's depressing?

16. How is your love life?

17. Have you ever been dumped on Valentine's?

18. How many roses would you want?

19. Will you have a girlfriend/boyfriend this Valentine's day?

20. Do you look forward to Valentine's day?
Not any more than any other day.

21. Who was your last Valentine from?
Someone in grade school, I expect.

22. Who do you expect to get a Valentine from this year?
Filly and I will probably exchange ecards.

23. Who would you most like to receive a Valentine from?

24. How many Valentines will you be sending this year?

25. Have you ever not received a Valentine?
That's the usual state of affairs.

26. What was the most Valentines you received in a single day?
Would have been one year in grade school.

27. Have you ever received an anonymous Valentine?

28. Have you ever sent an anonymous Valentine?

29. Will you be sending an anonymous Valentine this year?

30. What was the best Valentine gift you ever received?
I can't think of any memorable ones.

31. What was the worst?
Can't think of any memorable ones in this category, either.

32. Have you ever started dating someone on Valentine's Day?
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:iconnonamepaperarchive: noted me this morning to tell me that he'd done fanart based on the end of the last chapter of PONY Legacy.


Here's Spark, preparing to teleport herself and Dash out of the grid.

Illegal Combatant on the Grid by NoNamePaperArchive
Click to go tell him how awesome he is.

And the next chapter is almost baked. I'm very tentatively shooting to post it this weekend, maybe even a little earlier. I'm sorry it's taken so long; the holidays were a thing that happened, and then the chapter itself is slightly intimidating because I'm introducing two "new" characters at the same time, so I want to make sure it's good before it goes up. I sincerely appreciate your patience.
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I've made something of a career in the ponydom of pointing at stories and going, "See that? I like that. I wish we had more of that." That's arguably the core of the Vault; I'm crap at literary criticism, but I know what I think is good, so I do that instead.

There's a real-life analogue of the Vault; it's a couple shelves on my bookcase in my office at home. I used to have a great many books, several bookcases' worth, most that I only read once and never thought of again, and over the years and through moves and various life events, that once-extensive library has ended up stripped down to the bare essentials, the books I love and love to read over and over again.

I've mentioned before that before I was a brony, I was a Trekkie, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that one of the books in this collection is a Star Trek novel. I own three copies of it – two paperback, one hardback – because I fear being unable to replace it following accidental loss or destruction. I've read it at least once a year since I first discovered it a decade or so ago, to the point where my first paperback copy is nearly falling apart, has some tape holding it together and so on – and I am fanatical about not mistreating books.

The book is Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane, and the three paragraphs that open the novel are quite possibly my favorite bit of descriptive prose ever. I thought I'd share them here.

There are some parts of space where even the human heart, eternally optimistic, finds it hard to feel itself welcome. At those outer fringes of the Galaxy that the humanities have just begun to reach, the starfield, which elsewhere lies in such rich streams and billows of brightness between the inhabited worlds, thins away and goes chill and pale. Here the starlight is only indefinite, faintly glowing—the million points of light near the heartworlds now dimmed by terrible distance and the clouds of dark matter between the stars to a vague cool fog, hardly to be seen except when one looks away from it. Usually the onlooker finds it hard to look away, forced by the sight to think how small even a galaxy is in the vastness, how tiny even the Local Group is compared to the darkness holding it, and all the other galaxies and supergalaxies; and which, beyond the bounds of mere spatial integrity, probably holds other whole universes as well, numberless, all of them subsumed into the greatest dark—that of entropy—which broods and bides its time.

In these, the deserts of space, the oases are few and far between. Once in a half a million parsecs you might find a star that had struggled to bring forth planets in the barrenness and managed it—but for daunting distances around it, there will still be nothing but emptiness, and as background, only the shimmer of light that indicates the hearths of the crowded worlds. In the face of such contrasts that light becomes almost somber, speaking of its impermanence and newness in a universe where for unknown time unnameable darkness gestated, holding the light in it unborn, until the first great laugh, the outburst of newborn power and matter into the old thoughtful void.

Far up here, above the great Galactic Rift, that light seems most tenuous—the darkness not of dust or distance but of simple nothingness. Few sentient beings pass this way; observers are rarer than stars. But every now and then, something breaks the aridity of the dark desert. A distant gleam, a silver flicker, swelling, growing closer; like a memory sought for in a dark mind and suddenly recalled. If the observer had senses not dependent on something besides sluggish light to reflect and carry messages—tachyons, perhaps—they would see it grow and flash past them, touched with a spark of red on the port side, green on the starboard, and the letters NCC 1701-D dark on its hull. Then the memory is off again in the dark, with a trail of rainbow behind it, quickly fading, the legacy of its warpfield. Lone ambassador of the multifariousness of known worlds, here and gone again, out of the darkness, into the darkness: Enterprise goes about her business.

The whole thing strikes a chord in me; I feel it perfectly captures the darkness out there, a sort of wistful solitude and loneliness.

I'm also forced to wonder, now that I'm intersecting the Trek and FiM circles in the Venn diagram that is my life, if the description of the Enterprise's warpfield influenced in some subconscious way my love of best pony. Hrm.
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Crossposted from the Vault.

One year ago today, I held my breath and posted the first Vault interview. I let it out pretty quickly and went on with my life, because yet another pony blog wasn't going to cause much of a stir, at least not at first. Besides, I had more posts to work on; in those heady days, there were new interviews twice a week.

There's a lot of fanfiction here in the Vault - just over two-and-a-quarter million words' worth (and growing every week), from sub-2,000-word drabbles to 600,000-word epics and everything in between, by authors from all over the world – but it represents only the tiniest sliver of what's out there.

I realized I could take it to the next level by asking the authors I invited if they'd take the time to answer some questions about themselves and their work, and that's where the real fun came in. Together over the last year, we've gotten to peek inside the minds of 60 of the fandom's best authors – and that "we" is no typo; I'm just as excited as anyone else to read a new author interview, I just get to do it a little earlier than everyone else!

The Vault means a great deal to me, and it seems it's come to mean a great deal to many readers and authors as well. Would you believe me if I told you it never occurred to me the Vault would become something like Equestria Daily, with authors hoping and dreaming of being honored with a post? It's not a responsibility I bear lightly. I'm often asked what it takes to get into the Vault, and I never have a good answer; I just know it when I see it. If you're an author who hasn't heard from me – or worse, hasn't heard good news from me – please don't take it too hard. If you love writing, you shouldn't stop... certainly not over the opinion of a complete stranger on the internet.

I could ramble for pages and pages, but I know you're here for the stories. So let me simply say that it has been and shall continue to be a pleasure and a privilege to serve the fandom in this way, and I am extraordinarily grateful to all of the authors and readers who have supported my little project. Here's to another year of excellent fanfiction.
I briefly mentioned this some months ago, but I will be attending Canterlot Gardens - and beyond attending, I will actually be running a panel on fanfiction. If you're going to CG and would like to meet some awesome authors and hear them talk about writing pony fanfic, come on by at 9:30 AM Sunday! Donny's Boy, HiddenBrony, Patchwork Poltergeist, ROBCakeran53, Saddlesoap Opera, and SleeplessBrony will all be on stage for your education and amusement. If you're unable to attend, fear not! I will be uploading Downloadable Content for the panel to the Vault that weekend, with essays by each panelist on their subject of choice, such that you might be able to internalize their deep wisdom remotely.

Hope to see you there!
I had the pleasure of having dinner with a few extended relatives I rarely see the other day, and because my little brother doesn't like that I'm a brony and, being a typical little brother, delights in attempting to embarrass or shame me, he naturally brought it up at dinner. It was difficult to try to explain the brony community to these bewildered older folk with said little brother twisting and mocking everything, so I ended up writing and sending an explanation later, trying to explain to someone with no real grasp of modern Internet culture just what exactly the deal is, in a calm objective way. I thought it might be useful to others, so I figured I'd post it here.


A few years ago, Hasbro decided they wanted to reboot their My Little Pony franchise. They sought out Lauren Faust, a well-known professional in the animation industry, to helm the show, and she developed her pitch concept based on her own experience playing with her My Little Pony toys when she was a little girl. Hasbro wanted to create a series that was appealing to the target demographic of young children, but that their parents could watch with them without being bored out of their minds. Faust was tired of the idea that traditionally, in the context of entertainment like TV shows "girly" was synonymous with "stupid" or "vapid". Her version of My Little Pony - subtitled Friendship is Magic - developed around a core cast of six main characters, each of which was based on a semi-stereotypical female personality type - the "bookworm", the "tomboy", the "farm girl", the "waif", the "fashionista", the "party girl" - with the idea that there'd be something for everyone, as most viewers would be able to identify with at least one of the character types.

There was some buzz around the show before its premiere on October 10, 2010 in various animation blogs and forums, mostly because of Faust's attachment to the project. Upon airing, the show revealed itself to have excellent animation/art and music, skillful voice acting and scripting, interesting storylines and character conflicts, and word spread throughout various social networks about the show's quality. Adults began taking an interest, watching episodes on The Hub (a joint network venture between Hasbro and Discovery) if they had cable or online if they didn't. Elements of the show were quickly lampooned and incorporated into various remixes and mashups, and fans began producing vast amounts of fan art and fan fiction, and even original music. Forums and websites dedicated to the adult fandom began appearing; the closest thing to a central hub for the fandom is Equestria Daily, a blog that posts news, art, music, etc., which recently broke 210 million pageviews.

The show's production team became aware of the adult fanbase very early on, as many of them frequented the same online animation communities that fans commented in, and have added increasingly elaborate nods to the adult fanbase within the show itself as time goes on. Hasbro was taken by surprise by the adult fanbase, but has been largely enthusiastic, maintaining a general policy of noninterference with online fan creations and attempting to include the adult fanbase where possible.

Beyond the basics of "good animation/art/music/acting/writing/storytelling", I think there are a few reasons the show is interesting to older fans. Faust and her team did a great job building the world - called Equestria - where the show takes place. There are a lot of 'hooks' that appeal to creative or imaginative viewers who would otherwise be investigating Tolkein's Middle Earth or Roddenberry's galactic Federation. There are three races of pony, creating a power balance in their society. Earth ponies are strong, dedicated works; the two main earth pony characters are a farmer and a baker. Unicorns are capable of performing magic, channeled through their horns; the two main unicorn characters are a research student and a seamstress/fashion designer. Pegasi are capable of flying, and are responsible for managing the world's weather; the two main pegasus characters are a weather pony and a veterinarian. A lot of people get a kick out of the puns littering the show - as an example, the capitol city is named Canterlot.

One example of something that was included to appeal to older audiences from the beginning is a pegasus organization called the Wonderbolts - a precision flight group whose members wear blue and gold flightsuits, an obvious nod to the Blue Angels. Various mythical creatures, such as hydra, dragons, griffins, and phoenixes, all make appearances throughout the show. Perhaps the most interesting hook is the idea of cutie marks - when a pony discovers their true talent or passion, a mark appears on their flanks representing that in some way. (For example, an author's cutie mark might be a quill; an engineer's cutie mark might be a gear.) There are some intriguing implications there in terms of fate/destiny, adolescence, and coming of age. In the end, my favorite thing about the show is its innocence and lack of cynicism. It can be refreshing to watch a cheerful, colorful 22-minute show at the end of a hard day.

Fan interest has culminated in the organization of 'meetups', where bronies get together and discuss the show. The largest of these have become full-blown conventions. My girlfriend and I went to BronyCon, the largest to date with 4,000 attendees (attendance was capped by the venue; more would have come but it sold out). Other major conventions include Everfree Northwest (in Seattle) and Canterlot Gardens (in Ohio), and Galacon (in Stuttgart) and BUCK (in Manchester) across the pond, with perhaps dozens of smaller cons and hundreds of local informal gatherings around the world. The smaller local get-togethers will just be like-minded bronies getting together and watching the show together; the larger conventions are true cons, with panels, guests of honor, artists and vendors, autographs, the works. Lauren Faust, the creator of the show, was at BronyCon, along with 5 or 10 voice actors who work on the show, including John de Lancie, who you might remember as Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He played a very Q-like villain in a two-parter on the series, and when he discovered the growing brony community he was fascinated and impressed by the creative and philanthropic inclinations of bronies... and upset about Fox News' negative portrayal of us, to the point where he's helped organize a fan-funded documentary about the brony community.

Because it's such an unusual phenomenon, there are actually a couple of ongoing studies of the brony community by interested PhDs and grad students. One of these studies, run by a clinical psychologist and a clinician/therapist, presented their findings at BronyCon. Perhaps even more surprising than the average male population enjoying the show is the existence of "military bronies" - bronies who are on active duty in the military.
You can blame :icondoctordapples: for this travesty.

Comment and I will...

1.Tell you something I learned about by looking at your DA page for 13 seconds.
2. Tell you a color you remind me of.
3. Tell you my first memory of you.
4. Tell you what movie, TV, or video game character you remind me of.
5. Ask you a question.
6. Tell you something I like about you.
7. Give you a nickname.
8. Tell you the object that is to the left of me.
9. Dare you to post this in your journal.
All in all it was a blast. Loved meeting some of my favorite authors, and Faust and de Lancie (had hoped to meet Tara too, but that'll have to wait for Canterlot Gardens).

I promised you guys pictures!

Here's my costume - I created a Wonderbolts-inspired flight suit, with patches from Ethepony and a custom name patch. It got a couple of approving comments, mostly from aviators/military bronies who recognized it for what it was, but the real star of the show was the Mysterious Mare Do Well. I tweeted quite a bit during the con and posted whatever interesting pictures I could (including one of Mare Do Well with John de Lancie), so you could check that out too.

Time for bed!
Has been a blast. I say "has been" even though it's only 7PM because the real meat of the con is over for today for me - I'm not really one for auctions or live music, though I will be dropping back by the con after dinner to check out the bands.

Just meeting some of my favorite authors - The Descendant, Sleepless, Saddlesoap - would have been worth the trip, but seeing some artists like PixelKitties and Kefka Floyd was delicious as well... and of course there's the wonderful VAs and show creators. After the opening ceremonies Filly and I were wandering the vendor area, and I had the distinct honor of glancing up, making unexpected eye contact with Nicole Oliver, and goofily waving/saying "hi" with what I'm sure was the stupidest look on my face. Also got to stand behind Andrea Libman while she checked out Kefka Floyd's Pinkie Prints. A highlight of the event, and really of being a brony in general, was the surprise gifting of the huge CREATE framed art to Lauren Faust at the end of her panel.


It's too bad the Expo center is basically one huge (and I mean huge) hall. You can hang all the black stage cloth you want, but that ain't gonna keep the Mane "Hall" panel from utterly drowning out the Tail "Hall" panel. In the organizer's defense, I can't see how they'd fix that without a complete venue change.

The autograph situation seems like an absolute mess, too. There was a six-hour wait today for autograph vouchers... and then you get to wait in another line to actually get the signatures. One of the BronyCon staffers straight-up told me it was a stupid thing to do, and that I should go do something worthwhile. Here's hoping I can get in line early enough tomorrow, and that enough people got their fix today that it won't be so terrible. As far as I can see there's only one or two people actually selling the vouchers, which seems... understaffed... and they didn't even have enough vouchers this morning to begin with! Sigh.
Remember how a few months ago I contacted Hasbro seeking permission to print fanfiction? They finally got back to me, and long story short, they said no.

I shouldn't really be surprised, because it would honestly be kind of insane for them to allow it, but I'd really hoped they would. I thought it would be so cool to be able to hold, say, a hardbound copy of The Games We Play in my hands, page through it to favorite parts, etc. (I'm one of those diehards who will never give up his paper books, no matter how good ereaders get). I thought it'd be cool to auction off signed copies of books for charity, stuff like that.

I had done a lot of prep and research so that, had they given permission, I could immediately get started; I think I could have gotten the first book off the line within a month or so. I'd outlined the resources I'd need; I was ready to file paperwork to form an LLC; I had a printing and distribution service lined up; I'd mentioned the possibility to a few authors, and had a shortlist of others who I'd immediately contact to see if they were interested.

I'm sure the vast majority of people don't care, and even to the few who do care, this is just a little blip of theoretical disappointment - you've been informed that something you didn't even consider as a possibility isn't going to happen. Oh well! But for me it's literally months of planning and theorizing and hoping against hope, down the drain. I suppose I could still publish collections of the Vault interviews themselves, but that doesn't really seem worth it to me.


Okay! That's enough wallowing. Back to ponies! BronyCon's in like four days! Ahhhhh
I did in fact survive my vacation and am slowly getting back into the swing of things here at home. Mostly playing catch-up with work, and starting to get psyched for BronyCon.

BronyCon! Bought my and Filly's tickets today; we've had our hotel reservation for a month or two. Have spent the last week finalizing my costume (ha! ha! If you'd told me a year ago my first ever cosplay would be as a My Little Pony character, I would have laughed in your face - and note that's after I joined the herd and started the PFA). But I like to think it's suitably subtle. Hers is still a work-in-progress, and is also much more dramatic than mine; I'm really hoping it comes together like we're planning. I imagine pictures may appear at some point.

Definitely looking forward to the fanfic panels - curious to see how they work - and meeting some of the authors I've spent the last year reading. See you there!
Just a quick note that I'll be out of town until June 5th, and in fact so far out of town that I won't have anything approaching a reliable Internet connection - so if you try to contact me before then, I'm not ignoring you, I swear!
I figure it's high time I actually post about this - seems like all the cool kids are doing it!

I've currently got a couple of cons scheduled to visit this year.

GeekOut 2012 (May 12 - Asheville, NC)
This is basically a local all-things-geeky/nerdy con. They originally had a brony panel in their schedule but it's disappeared since the last time I saw it? Sigh. Oh well. I'm going to assume just about no brony I know's gonna be there, and even if someone was, they'd probably have no way to pick me out of the crowd! (The idea of someone walking up to random strangers going "Are you RBDash47? Are you RBDash47?" makes me grin.)

BronyCon 2012 (June 30 to July 1 - Secaucus, NJ)
This is the big one! I'm not involved in any panels or anything, but I'm really looking forward to spending a couple days hanging out with a bunch of bronies. I'll probably be wearing a nametag or something.

Canterlot Gardens (September 28 to 30 - Strongsville, OH)
I'm really looking forward to this one because I'll actually be participating in a fan fiction panel! Should be fun, and I imagine you won't have any trouble figuring out who I am.

If you see me at any of these and feel like it, come say hi!
One of the better attempts at clearing up the whole 'brony' thing I've read:…
I'm almost physically sick with anger:…

The Last Roundup, reuploaded to iTunes with Derpy's name gone from RD's dialogue, eyes underped, and a grating high-pitched voice instead of Tabby's original.

I wasn't thrilled with the original voice, but it suited Derpy (or, uh, whatever her name is now) far better than this one. And even with dat voice - I was beyond thrilled the moment I heard Dash say her name, beyond thrilled when Derpy went on to have a hilarious bit part, a background pony no longer. I'll be surprised if we ever see her again, and shocked if her eyes are ever anything but straight and true.

I do know what went wrong - an asshole minority ruined it for the rest of us.
(Why do I keep replacing the long posts on my dA index with even longer posts omg)

Over at the PFA forum, there's a thread discussing Nightmare Moon's origins and nature. I ended up responding to a post there, spending way-hay-hay too long on it, but it pretty effectively crystalized my own headcanon about Celestia, Luna, and the Elements of Harmony. If you like walls of text, enjoy this crosspost.


Shagbark wrote:
Celestia makes no attempt to visit, communicate, or resolve the situation. No attempts to reform Luna.

The nature of the imprisonment may have prevented Celestia visiting. Personally, I don't understand why everyone pictures Nightmare Moon stalking around on the lunar surface - she was the Mare in the Moon, not the Mare on the Moon, and when she was released the maria that formed the silhouette of a unicorn (or alicorn) disappeared. To me, this implies that she had no separate physical form, but that her consciousness was imprinted/contained within the celestial body itself.

Shagbark wrote:
The only psychologically feasible explanation is that she doesn't want Luna back.

The narrative at the beginning of the pilot does explain that Celestia banished NMM reluctantly - she didn't want to, but she felt she had no choice. It also states she used the Elements of Harmony to accomplish the banishment. This would be the only known instance in canon of a single being attempting to harness and use all six Elements (Celestia and Luna worked together to banish Discord, and it took six 'regular' ponies to do so against NMM and Discord). You could spin this a few ways: maybe Celestia lacked the finesse to correctly use all the Elements together, and NMM's banishment was imperfect because of it; maybe Celestia is powerful but the Elements are more so, and the best she could do was limit the banishment to 1,000 years.

Or, maybe, just maybe, the Elements did exactly what they were meant to do. Stick with me here, because this is going to get involved.

We have seen the Elements in action twice, and heard about them in action twice more. Out of four known uses, there have been three different effects. Chronologically, in the canon's timeline: Discord is turned to stone by Celestia and Luna; NMM is banished to the moon by Celestia; NMM is 'broken' by the Mane 6, restoring Luna; Discord is turned to stone by the Mane 6.

One could assume that Celestia and Luna know the "correct" way to use the Elements, because they're so old and experienced - if one assumes there is such a thing. However, given the Mane 6's experiences with them, I'm leaning toward the Elements being something of an automatic function, because the Mane 6 had no idea how to use them the first time around. Twilight had to figure it out on the fly, and the others were just there, effectively warm bodies; though they did all embody the various Elements, none of them knew the Elements existed beforehoof. I have a hard time believing shattering NMM and restoring Luna was a conscious act on any of their parts - they also had no idea NMM was Luna (they're all shocked when Celestia greets Luna as "my sister"). Now, it's more likely, or at least more possible, that returning Discord to his stone form was a result of the Mane 6's conscious effort... assuming they all knew who he was, and that he used to be a statue in Canterlot. But given that the Mane 6 didn't know about NMM being Luna, I think that's a big assumption; Discord is even older than NMM, making it even more likely his legend has been "lost to time" as well.

So, assume the Elements are an automatic function - a little more involved to activate than simply flipping a switch, certainly, but no really special knowledge is required to use them. Each time the Elements were used against Discord, the same effect occurred - he was turned to stone. Each time the Elements were used against NMM, a different effect occurred - she was banished to the moon and then broken, restoring Luna's original form. Because of Discord's experience on the receiving end, you can't argue the Elements' effects are random. Because of NMM's experience on the receiving end, you can't argue the Elements' effects are always the same. Because Discord's identical experiences were at the hooves of different Elemental bearers, you can't argue NMM's different experiences were due to different Elemental bearers.

Therefore, I have to assume that the Elements know what they're doing, even if their bearers don't. Discord was the embodiment of chaos, the personification of entropy - there was no reasoning with him, no way to resolve his differences with the rest of the world, so the Elements turned him to stone, the exact opposite of chaos and entropy... something that could no longer harm the world at large. Nightmare Moon, on the other hand, was a creature that could be reasoned with - she was originally a rational, functional alicorn who let her darkness get the better of her (see the final section of this post). The first time the Elements dealt with her, they sealed her away from everyone else to protect them, just like with Discord... except her exile was never meant to be permanent. It easily could have been, as happened with Discord, but it wasn't. This implies purpose.

Despite being an automatic function, the Elements do rely on their bearers as a power source. We see this in the season two two-parter - Discord subverts the Elements by inverting their bearers. The Elements don't function with just anyone, otherwise Twilight's first attempt (with her Discorded friends and Spike standing in for Rainbow Dash) would have succeeded.

So - the Elements must have wanted to free Luna from the beginning, but for some reason they couldn't the first time around. Celestia was acting as the bearer for all six, and I suspect that was unsustainable. The Elements didn't have enough power from Celestia to accomplish what they needed to. They did the best they could by banishing NMM temporarily, until such a time as they could be fully powered and break NMM for good. Either the Elements knew the Mane 6 would exist in a thousand years, or they assumed/hoped that six worthy bearers would appear by then, or Celestia knew what the Elements needed and the thousand years gave her time to prepare, culminating in the events of the pilot.

And that's how Equestria was made!

Shagbark wrote:
She just forgets about it. Literally. If I had sent my little sister into a thousand years of solitary confinement, I think I would at least manage to remember when she was getting out.

Celestia is a millenia-old winged unicorn, possibly omniscient and omnipotent. She has untold experiences, memories, and power. I am quite sure she did not "forget" that NMM was being released, especially with Twilight reminding her. She orchestrated the events of the pilot, unknown to the Mane 6. It's a classic trope - have you read Harry Potter? The wise old adviser gives the plucky young hero everything they need to figure out the solution to the problem at hand, and lets them at it. They don't hand the hero the solution on a golden platter, because no one learns anything that way - same reason your calc teacher doesn't pass out all the answers along with every test, the whole point is for you to figure it out and learn. Celestia knew that Twilight was capable, and she did discover the magic of friendship with a little nudging.

Shagbark wrote:
Even more generally, this plays to the horribly overdone, wrong, and immensely damaging trope that good and evil are binary categories, and that when people do things we don't like, it isn't because of a misunderstanding or disagreement or contention over limited resources; it's because THAT PERSON WAS POSSESSED BY A DEMON THAT MADE THEM EVIL.

The precise nature of NMM and Luna's relationship is more or less unknown in terms of canon; Faust has stated that she intended NMM to be an external force that acted upon Luna, but now that she's no longer involved with the show, that no longer obtains. Personally, based on the pilot intro and Luna's ability to transform into NMM in Luna Eclipsed, I have to think it wasn't really an external demonic force that took over her body - I think the pilot intro gave a much simplified version of what really happened, that it boiled down to Luna allowing her negative emotions to take control, and she went over to the Dark Side of the Force. Wait, what?