This time, I decided to go for something full-length, but My Little Pony… because that’s just the mood I’ve been in recently.
Ascend by xTSGx
This one’s noteworthy because it beat canon to something that evoked quite a bit of fan controversy, but did it in a way which was self-aware and amusing: What if Twilight Sparkle became an alicorn?
In the My Little Pony setting, Celestia and Luna were originally portrayed as “gods in the literary sense” and, when Twilight Sparkle became one, it was seen by many as a sign that the quality of the series was falling in the wake of Lauren Faust moving on, merely as an excuse to pump out more merchandise.
In this story, it’s played in a much more appropriate setting: One morning, Twilight wakes up to find herself with wings to complement her horn. Naturally, her imagination runs away with her, she panics, and her plan to keep it secret sets the stage for Murphy to try his hand at comedy.
(And, importantly, it’s a novella-length “What if?” dedicated to the concept, rather than a sudden change in canon which usually has to time-share with normal episode-to-episode conflicts.)
Right out of the gate, her first solution is to reverse-engineer changeling magic to hide her new wings… and, sure enough, what should arrive in the mail just after she succeeds, but a subpoena to appear before the committee investigating the events which led up to Queen Chrysalis’s failed invasion attempt.
To quote Spike, “Looks like that implosion’s gonna happen sooner than I thought.” followed not long after by “Oh, come on! That’s so contrived!” when he tries to tell Princess Celestia anyway.
That said, aside from that one lampshaded contrivance, this is the polar opposite of those stories where events just keep getting drawn out through liberal use of the idiot ball or a refusal to just @#$%ing communicate. Instead, any mistakes which move the plot along are either of the “I might have made the same mistake in her situation” variety or the “Oh, Twilight. Why you gotta be so you?” variety. That helps to keep things satisfying.
The end result being a narrative in two phases:
For the first half, it fits its Slice of Life tag beautifully, with the vast majority of the narrative following Twilight interacting with her friends on what they see as an ordinary day. Events just sometimes lead some of them to discover her secret.
Shortly after the mid-point, that then changes when Twilight’s deception is revealed in the most public way possible. The second half is then dedicated to the aftermath of Twilight’s ascension coming out… a country populated by a species that produced the Flower Trio.
Humour-wise, it ranges from fairly typical humour (such as the thing that’s bubbling up within Twilight turning out to be a burp… in addition to the expected panic) to genre-savvy, trope-aware jokes which sometimes lean on the fourth wall without breaking it. (Including some “Spike voicing the readers” moments in the middle of the range, such as when Twilight rebuffs Spike’s efforts to prevent another Lesson Zero, and he grumbles about how he should just take a vacation and see how long it takes for a “Ponyville Exclusion Zone” to be established.)
Of course, my favourite joke has to be the history of the term “alicorn” that Twilight rambles off while trying to collect her wits after Rainbow Dash discovers her secret.
On the other end of things, I’m not a big fan of the dream interludes. “Flashing forward” to Twilight’s visions of how things could go wrong in the middle of something I’ve been primed to want more of just makes me want to skip past them… especially since each one’s significance to the primary story arc could be summed up in a paragraph or less of “after Twilight woke up” text.
That said, there is one exception. I love the joke which ends the dream sequence in chapter 9. So you don’t have to read the entire dream sequence if you don’t want to, here it is:
Pinkie looked somberly at the purple alicorn.
“Twilight, there’s something I have to tell you.”
Pinkie grabbed hold of Twilight and faced her.
“It’s eight o’clock in the morning and you’re listening to Everfree Radio.”
As for the mentioned subpoena, the pacing of the story is such that Twilight actually going to Canterlot is an “on the horizon” thing for the vast majority of the fic. That said, the story does have a tonal thread of “Equestria is a real place with real politics” that surfaces occasionally… as evidenced by a scene where Twilight has to head off an argument between Rarity and Rainbow Dash over who’s the bad guy in one MP’s fight with the Cloudsdale Weather Factory. I’m neutral on that.
The story is complete at 61,412 words, with an incomplete sequel half as long. I’d rate it at a 4.2 out of 5. (4.3 if you edit out the interludes so they don’t disrupt the flow of the story.
Fanfiction – Ascend by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.