Saturday, September 22, 2018

What does "known world" really mean?

[This idea came out of conversation with Lonespark.]

Underling: Sire, I have returned from the scholars.

Overling: And . ? .

Underling: They are divided.

*Overling makes sound of frustration*

Overling: Preparations have been made, food has been stockpiled, and the army is ready to march.

Underling: I am aware, sire.

Overling: The entire kingdom waits on them . . . and they're divided.

Underling: They are all in agreement that the prophecy's use of the phrase "known world" means that you will not conquer the entirety of the world, and therefore it would be unwise to--

Overling: Make war on regions unknown to us.  I figured this much out on my own.

Underling: The disagreement arises from an ambiguous dative noun.

Overling: One word?

Underling: The word means to or for yourself, sire.  One camp of scholars believes that the word modifies the conquest.  In that case the noun is simply reiterating your connection to the conquest, and we would actually translate it as a possessive, namely: "your conquest".

Underling: In this interpretation, the noun doesn't change the meaning of the sentence at all, and the known world would be understood to mean the world known by the prophet.  Attempting the conquest of any areas unknown at the time of the prophecy would be folly.

Overling: And the other camp?

Underling: The other camp believes that word modifies the participle we translate as "known".  In that case the sentence in question states that your --understood from context instead of explicitly stated-- conquest will be of the world that is known to you.

Underling: The scholars in this camp caution that this would only encompass the world as you know it now, parts of the world only discovered by us during or, especially, because of the conquest would be counted as part of the unknown world.

Underling: There is consensus that this would be understood in the time and culture of the prophecy, and some work has been done, but not yet achieved as broad support, claiming that the exact word choice makes that explicit anyway.

Overling: So the scholars, after all of their study, have determined that the prophecy either does or does not cover territories we already knew it might or might not cover.

Underling: Yes, sire.

Overling: Do the scholars say anything else?

Underling: They unanimously request increased funding to the university.

Overling: Would increased funding bring them closer to an actual conclusion?

Underling: Some believe that it could be allocated in ways that might possibly result in the resolution of their disagreement over the correct interpretation of the prophecy.

*Overling raises an eyebrow*

Overling: What ways?

Underling: As an example, it was suggested that increased funding could allow them to train additional scholars who could then be tasked, as part of their undergraduate work, with scouring the archives for similar phrasing within contemporaneous writings.  If a definite pattern were to emerge from such work, that would vindicate one interpretation or the other.

Overling: And if such a pattern did not emerge?

Underling: Then, as you might imagine--

Overling: It wouldn't help in the least.

Underling: Yes, sire.


Underling: There was consensus that additional funding to the university would not harm their ability to interpret the prophecy.

Overling: I should hope not, given that they're already incapable of interpreting it.

Underling: Indeed, sire.


Underling: Should I . . .

Overling: Tell the generals that we will be using the "Old World" plan for now, and have them brief the army accordingly.

Underling: Yes, sire.

*Overling starts to turn to go somewhere else*

*Overling changes mind*

Overling: Oh . . .

Underling: Yes, sire?

Overling: Increase funding to the university by ten percent, with the provision that it must start training scholars able to make actual decisions.

Underling: Sire, they had all reached conclusions that they were sure enough of to passionately defend.  There were simply--

Overling: Two such conclusions.


Overling: The provision remains.

Underling: Yes, sire.

Overling: That will be all.

Underling: Yes, sire.

*underling leaves*

*Overling goes to the somewhere else mentioned earlier*

* * *

The original idea was basically one line of dialogue, something like:
Some of the scholars interpret the prophecy as saying you'll conquer the world as known today, some interpret it as the world known to the scholar, and all of them say you should increase funding to the university.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Take A Look Around My World -- Prologue (Equestria Girls and Friendship is Magic)

[Meta crap: I've been sort of emotionally zombified for ages.  One of the results being an inability to write.  There was a fanfiction contest and I decided to try to write a piece for it in hopes that the deadline would provide the motivation I couldn't produce myself.  It somewhat worked.  I didn't produce a story, but I did write something.  This prologue being the only part that's fit for public consumption.]
[Originally posted at Fimfiction.]

Sometimes things went sideways.  Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you were forced to defend your honor or your image and say, in a way that didn't sound particularly insecure, they you were not uptight about romance, didn't freak out, and most certainly were not at risk of ruining your upcoming vacation by descending into an episode catastrophizing self-recrimination.

All of which was why Sunset said, “I'll have you know I'm totally laid back and face all relationship matters with cool aplomb,” to five of her friends and one of her girlfriends while they all waited on the arrival of Applejack and Vinyl Scratch at their usual cafe.

“If memory serves, love,” Octavia said, “our relationship began with you--”

“Oooh, me!” Pinkie Pie said while waving her arm around like a first grader.  “I've heard this story; please let me answer.”

Octavia shrugged and gestured for Pinkie to go on.

“Sunset said, 'You don't understand, it's still my fault,'” Pinkie said, quickly accelerating to a frantic pace, “'I manipulate people; it's what I do.  I survived for years a child with no family, friends, home, history, money, or knowledge of this world based solely on my manipulation skills!'”

Several of the others, most notably Rarity and Fluttershy, gave sympathetic looks to Sunset.  Sunset became inordinately interested in removing non-existent dirt from under her fingernails.

Pinkie turned away in apparent shame and slowed down, “'My ability to make people do whatever I wanted.'”

Octavia raised an eyebrow.

Pinkie turned back and spoke with renewed determination:

“'I got so good at it that now I do it without even trying --without even noticing what's happening.'”

Pinkie took a breath then launched into another accelerating part, which was accompanied by body language of utter desperation:

“'When I realized that I loved Vinyl I told myself I could keep it under control, but I couldn't, and I seduced her.  It doesn't matter that she's the one who kissed me because it's all my fault and I am so sorry and I'm begging you not to hold it against her because I love both of you so much and--'”

Pinkie Pie stopped suddenly, returned to the posture she had had before the topic came up, and calmly said, “And that's when Octavia cut Sunset off with, 'Both of us‽'” at a normal pace.

Sunset looked up from her nails.

“I don't care how many times you heard the story,” she said, “no one ever has ever told it in that much detail.”

“Yes,” Octavia said.  “However did you know?”

“Just a hunch.”

“Pinkie Pie's dubious claims of hunches aside,” Sunset said to Octavia, “if the only evidence you can give is from the very beginning of our relationship--”

“Oh, I can give a great deal of examples beyond that one,” Octavia said, “however, that particular instance is very close to my heart as it was the foundation upon which my romance with you was built.”

“And you never let me live it down,” Sunset grumbled.  “It was completely reasonable for me to 'freak out' considering the fact that I had every reason to believe I'd just destroyed the lives of the two people I love most in any world.”

“Speaking of worlds,” Twilight said, “I'm so jealous of you all; you're spending all of your break in an alien world. I wish I were going with you.”  A moment later Twilight's eyes went wide and she said, “Well, not with you with you, it'd be incredibly awkward if I tagged along with the three of you on your date-vacation and I'm pretty sure the result would be that none of us would enjoy it in the least and--”

“Twilight,” Sunset said, “deep breaths.”

Twilight looked at the table and said, “Sorry.”

“Wanting to clarify an ambiguous statement is nothing to be ashamed of, Twilight,” Octavia said.

“Right,” Sunset said to Twilight, “what you were trying to do was fine and needs no apology; it's just that you don't need to do it, since we understood what you actually meant.”

“Ok,” Twilight said, but she was still clearly embarrassed.

“I'll ask mirror-side Twilight if she can take some time at some point to give you your own tour of Equestria,” Sunset said. Twilight's face lit up.

“Whoa,” Rainbow Dash said. “I don't think that Twilight squared should be inflicted on any universe.”

“Adding one Twilight to a world with another would be Twilight times two, not Twilight squared,” Twilight said.

“Yeah,” Pinkie Pie said, speaking in a bizarrely sagely manner, “to get Twilight squared you'd need Twilight cross Twilight not Twilight plus Twilight.”

“I don't even want to think about whatever sick horse-human hybrid you get when you cross the Twilights.”

Sunset rolled her eyes at Rainbow Dash then offered some clarification on one point: “The ponies of Equestria are no more horses --the kind you're familiar with, at any rate-- than the humans of this world are baboons.”

“Horse-baboon hybrids are coming for us all!” Pinkie Pie screamed and then proceeded to run around while flailing her arms.  Somehow this was significantly less disconcerting than when she'd tried her hand at sagedom moments earlier.

“In fact,” Sunset said, “the ponies of Equestria are actually a good deal less similar to the horses of this world than you all are to baboons.”

“Sub-horse-baboon hybrids are coming for us all!”

Vinyl walked into the cafe as Octavia asked, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Vinyl signed an answer to the question as she took the seat next to Sunset.

“That was unnecessarily lewd,” Octavia said, “besides, you were the one who wanted to do that with Sunset.  I, on the other hand, was merely open to the possibility that I might eventually come to love her if I gave it a chance.”

Sunset ignored that discussion and said, “All of this," she gestured to Pinkie, arms still flailing, "is pointless.”

Before anyone could agree with her seemingly reasonably statement, she elaborated:

“What you get when you cross Twilight with Twilight is not some horse-baboon hybrid.”  She paused a beat.  “It's the magnitude of this Twilight, times the magnitude of mirror-side Twilight, times...”

At the same time Sunset said, “...the cosine of the angle between them,” Twilight said, “...the cosine of the angle between us.”  Then the two high-fived each other.

Octavia looked at Vinyl and, in completely serious tones, asked, “What ever made us think it that dating a mathematician was an idea with merit?”

Vinyl smiled and signed back.

“Well of course I liked her work on the existence of fractal-like patterns in the fifth Brandenburg concerto,” Octavia said, “but she only did that once.  She happens to be a mathematician, and virulently so, every single day.”

“I love you too,” Sunset said without a hint of sarcasm and with a smile so persistent that it almost made it impossible for her to actually get the words out.

Vinyl signed a question that was more or less equivalent to, “What about me?”

“Of course I love you,” Sunset said while ruffling Vinyl's hair.

For a moment there was silence.

“Though, I am wondering why you're so verbose today,” Sunset said to Vinyl.

“I hadn't noticed,” Twilight said to Vinyl, “but Sunset's right.  For all of your fluency in both signing and written English, this has to be the most I've seen you use any language in one sitting when you weren't forced to do so by outside circumstances, such as school requirements or contract negotiations.”

Vinyl thought the matter over for a moment, then shrugged.

“There's the Vinyl we know and love,” Pinkie Pie said.

“Some more than others,” Rainbow said looking first at Sunset, then Octavia.

“Regardless,” Sunset said, “now that Vinyl's here . . .”

“We would be ready to commence our trip,” Octavia said, “except that we are short one member of our send off.”

“Which I still say is completely unnecessary,” Sunset said.

“Silly Sunset,” Pinkie said, “of course we all wanted to be there when you left.”

“It's tradition,” Rarity said.

“Though . . .” Fluttershy said, “tradition usually dictates it take place somewhere like an airport or train station.”

Silence, punctuated by the sounds of milkshakes being slurped, reigned for a time after that.  It ended when Rainbow's phone made a sound, she checked it, and she announced:

“Applejack says she's sorry she's late, and she'll meet us at the portal.”

“She isn't late,” Sunset said.  The others were simply early.

“I think she means that she would be late by time she arrived, dear,” Rarity said.

Applejack was already there when the others reached the statue.  With all of them present, three people leaving and six people staying meant eighteen hugs were exchanged.  Once that was finished, it was time for people other than Sunset to have last-minute jitters.

“I know we've talked about this, love” Octavia said, “but one last time: you're sure it's safe?”

Vinyl, standing behind Octavia, showcased an impressive range of emotions and sentiments in a span of moments.  These included, by were in no way limited to sympathy, “Cheer her up”, and an “I know you can do it” kind of confidence.  Also a bit of "This again?" which was offset by everything else.  There was a reason Vinyl seldom used signs or words: she rarely needed to.

“In all of recorded history,” Sunset said as Vinyl patted Octavia's shoulder reassuringly, “it's only ever acted up once, and that was for reasons that most definitely don't apply right now.”

“Oooh,” Pinkie said, “what were the reasons?”

"The magic journals providing the link between worlds, which allowed the portal to open outside of its ordinary schedule, had reached the end of their useful lives," Sunset rattled off, seemingly slightly bored.  She returned her attention to Octavia and said, now with conviction, “It's using a new pair now--”

“I'm keeping the one on this side safe!” Rainbow Dash said.

“--which are most definitely in their prime,” Sunset finished.  “Unless you do something silly like charge through the portal in a sprint--”

There was a cough which sounded mysteriously like "Twilight".  When Sunset looked, none of the girls took credit for it.

“--everything will be completely fine,” Sunset finished.  Sunset made eye contact with Vinyl, Vinyl nodded, and they hugged Octavia simultaneously: Sunset from the front, Vinyl from the back.

There was a group “Aww...”, though Sunset thought that it didn't sound like it came from the full group of six.

When Sunset separated from Octavia and tried to determine which of the girls were responsible, they all had their innocent faces on.  Again.  Well, all but one.

Twilight was looking positively perplexed.

After thinking a moment, Sunset said, “Mirror-side Twilight, before the Battle of the Bands.”

Twilight responded with an, “Oh.”  There was a bit of sheepishness there, probably because in retrospect Twilight realized that, given she'd never charged at the portal, they had to be talking about the other Twilight.

“Though," Rainbow Dash added, "Pinkie Pie tried to do the same thing on the night of the Fall Formal.”

Sunset cringed at the memory of Pinkie bouncing off of the statue base after the portal closed.

“Yeah,” Sunset said, “that looked like it hurt.”

“She did run face first into a wall of marble,” Rarity said.

“I was fine!” Pinkie Pie shouted with positive glee.

“So,” Octavia said, “I just have to walk through and everything will be all right.”

It was pretty clear that she was trying to convince herself instead of asking a question, but Sunset still answered:

“Yup, that's all there is to it.”  About a second and a half later she said, “Well, that's all there is to going through the portal, but you're going to want to remember to drop to all fours once you get to the other side.”

Vinyl raised her eyebrows signaling a question, then, her arms still around Octavia, mimed walking on all fours into a vertical surface: her right hand doing the walking while her left hand was the surface.

“You can if you want,” Sunset said, “but I think Octavia would find that rather undignified.”  The last two words were, of course, in an imitation of Octavia's voice.

Given the position of Vinyl's hands relative to Octavia's line of sight, Octavia had no idea what Sunset was talking about.

“What would I find undignified?” she asked.

Somewhat surprisingly, Fluttershy beat Sunset to the answer:

“Um . . . walking through the portal already on your hands and feet.”

Octavia nodded. “Yes.  I would.”

“So,” Sunset said, “are you ready?”

Octavia nodded again. “I believe that I am.”

Vinyl finally broke off the hug and kissed Octavia on the back of the head.

Sunset kissed Octavia on the cheek. She was about to turn away when Vinyl gave her a flat look.

“Well get your face over here, then,” Sunset said.

It would have been easy for Vinyl to go around Octavia, but instead she offered up her cheek over Octavia's shoulder.

Sunset gave Vinyl's cheek a peck and then turned to the portal.

“Well this seems unfair,” Octavia said in playful petulance. “When am I permitted to kiss someone?”

Sunset hesitated a moment, then half turned back and said, “As tempting as that is, why don't I head through first --make sure there are no surprises on the other end-- while you kiss Vinyl?”

Octavia and Vinyl both looked pleased with that suggestion.

“I'll see you on the other side,” Sunset said.  She ignored the numerous eye-rolls and stepped up to the portal.

The last thing she heard before the world was replaced with swirling rainbows was Applejack saying, “Ya'all have fun now.”

* *
* * *
* *

As noted, this came about because of a contest.  The contest was themed "Journeys" and required that Sunset Shimmer already be in a romantic relationship when the story started.

Sunset Shimmer is a magical unicorn living as a human in a non-magical human world, I'm most definitely not the only one to think that a trip to Sunset's home world made sense as the journey.

Vinyl Scratch (stage name DJ-Pon3) never speaks in canon.  Because of this, in fandom she's sometimes portrayed as physically unable to speak.  I've pretty much internalized that interpretation.

Of course, she never signs, writes, or types in canon either.  Instead all of her canonical communication is non-linguistic in nature.  Going with that, for this story I chose to have her prefer not to use language at all.

That then (somehow) evolved into Vinyl's mind-space being a combination of imagery and Peter and the Wolf style orchestration (in the draft versions of future chapters.)

Octavia Melody is a cellist who is often paired with Vinyl in fandom.  As of season five of Friendship is Magic, the pony versions canonically share a house.