Here I interview AuroraDawn – author of the infamous My Little Pony fanfic Rainbow Factory. Based on the grimdark song by Wooden Toaster, the tale of the fascist weather production company is one well known in the Brony fandom.
Rainbow Factory has spawned a trilogy of fanfics, with a cult following for almost a decade. Rainbow Factory serves as the inspiration for Scoot Hard DX: Daytime Drama Zero as well as the upcoming commercial version, Project Absentia.
I sit down with AuroraDawn and ask some questions.
Sanya: First off – gotta get this out of the way. Your fic is infamous, and one of the first grimdark My Little Pony fics I ever read. It’s gut churning. It’s sad… and definitely not for kids. What inspired you to do such a thing?
Aurora: Well, the song did. I had just gotten into ponies (Like… just. Like a week basically) when I found Glaze’s Rainbow Factory. I was deathly ill at the time with flu, was running a dangerously high fever and on various cold medications and… it just sort of popped into my head. I had to get it out onto paper, and so I wrote it in a night, listening to the song on loop.
Sanya: Rainbow Factory has been pretty divisive for its fascist imagery, gruesome violence, and generally being grimdark… among other things. What kind of research goes into such, if any.
Aurora: There’s not too much research I do for the dark stuff. I’ve got an adequate understanding of anatomy and basically I write what I find is disturbing or would be painful or grotesque. I will do some research when writing any story, usually wikipedia articles or niche blogs, but basically it’s -heh- gut feeling
Sanya: Alot of people think such content should be harshly regulated, either by corporations or by the government. I know people do that all the time with the medium I’m in, video games.
Aurora: They do, but I’ve always been a proponent of thorough labelling and warnings, combined with self-policing. Tag your shit, and then block what you don’t want to see instead of demanding it be removed or banned.
Sanya: We’ll get back to your trilogy of works, and their effect on Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.
Aurora: Well, I’m a youngish white dude from Canada. I’m a fan of dark and monstrous things. I value Honesty over pretty much anything else. Not sure what else you’d like to know!
Sanya: You’re known for Rainbow Factory, but you’ve done other fics too. Tell us about those if you’d like.
Aurora: Well, there’s the Pegasus Device novels, and new Rainbow Factory stories like Weather Worker’s Song that have come out. I have other genres I’ve dipped into, as well, such as romance. Heart of Hearing is one I’d like to see get more popular; it’s a love story between two Pegasi, one of which is recently disabled via the loss of his hearing. There’s no dialogue in the story, and it’s first person; very experimental for me, and I’m extremely proud of it.
Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.
Aurora: Writing is pretty much my main hobby! Asides from that, I play video games and Magic: the Gathering.
Sanya: I know the lockdown has affected all of us – how are you holding up as things slowly reopen?
Aurora: For the most part, lockdown didn’t affect me; I’m very introverted, and my job was not particularly affected insofar as me not working or anything. Lockdown helped me rediscover my love of writing and make a bunch of new friends online. Right now it’s most affecting me because I can’t travel to meet my boyfriend, who I met during this time.
Sanya: How did you come into contact with me and Waffle Iron Studios?
Aurora: Twitter! I check the Rainbow Factory and Pegasus Device tags frequently, and Scoot Hard DX had a promo tweet made a few months back, which got me in contact with the Waffle Iron Studios crew!
Sanya: What was it like finding out that someone made a game based on your story?
Aurora: Absolutely incredible. I was reeling. Every single bit of fan content blows my mind; anything that shows even the slightest bit of proof that something I’ve created has inspired someone else or helped them create… well… it’s indescribable.
Sanya: I was shocked when I found out that you acknowledged and liked Scoot Hard DX. I consider that the highlight of the year for me. I NEVER would have imagined that happening. When Ellie mentioned that to me, I about shat my pants.
Aurora: Hah, that’s cute! I’m glad I could help repay some of the joy I had felt upon finding it :3
Sanya: I know for a while there you went completely absent. I was worried something really bad happened to you.
Aurora: In February of 2014, I went through a major upheaval in my life, a relationship that ended brutally. I had been diagnosed with situational depression in the past, and was living with undiagnosed General Anxiety Disorder. The breakup triggered an episode of Major Depressive Disorder that went undiagnosed for several years and then took even more to manage. It wasn’t until September of 2020 that I finally started feeling like a normal human being again. In that time frame, nothing brought me joy, and I stopped writing, or doing pretty much anything that wasn’t sleeping or going to work. There’s not much to talk about then; I didn’t do anything.
Sanya: I know depression can affect people’s ability to work. It certainly does mine. How do you deal with bad days?
Aurora: These days, with it well managed with therapy and medication, when I have a bad day I allow myself to have the bad day. I take a break from most of my self-imposed expectations and let me feel sad, accepting the day is a write off. In the times before my remission, there was no managing it. Every day was a bad day.
Sanya: One of the VAs, CakeofRage, absolutely adores Dr. Atmosphere in both the canon Rainbow Factory lore and Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia. How does that make you feel?
Aurora: It’s great! It’s awesome having written a character that someone either connects with or feels some attachment to! Means I did my job well and made them, if not believable, then at least enjoyable or thought-provoking[2:58 PM]I’m gonna have to leave off here for now but I’ll come back to it later
Sanya: This might seem like an odd question to ask in an interview, but I’m not the only one on the dev team who’s curious. We know that Dr. Atmosphere’s name is “Hide Atmosphere”. Why Hide Atmosphere? Is it a play on words I don’t get?
Aurora: It’s not really any subtle joke. I was looking for a first name for him and Hide sounded A. kinda wise old-guyish and was a pony-like term (Animal hide)
Sanya: I know that Aurora Dawn in the fics isn’t necessarily your persona – at least not that iteration. That confused me. Do a lot of people get confused?
Aurora: So many people get confused. I’m often accused of Aurora in the story being a self insert, which is weird because A. I’m not female, B. She fucking dies brutally, and C. I took my username from her after the story was published.
Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is not just loosely inspired, but it is a slight satire of Rainbow Factory. One of the reasons the enemies say “BITCH” many times – especially Maimbow – is because Rainbow Dash swore in Rainbow Factory. I’m not even really bothered by that, I just found it funny is all. I lost it when I heard TheLostNarrator say “WELL THEN BITCH…” in her dramatic reading.
Sanya: Continuing the satirical elements, I feel my AU where it was Lightning Dust controlling the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation… was because I kind of thought in hindsight, Lightning Dust could have been a neat head of the CWC. I wonder what your thoughts on that are.
Aurora: Lightning Dust cares only about herself and not others, and so in the Canon Universe she’d be a terrible fit for the company. Dash is fiercely loyal to the CWC and would do anything for it to succeed. Dust would bail the second she might get caught with any wrong doing. But, I’m all for alternate interpretations! It’s not “Wrong”! It’s how you view the world and the story.
Sanya: How do you feel about me turning Lightning Dust into a trans femboy Nazi. For the record, I understand how ludicrous that sounds.
Aurora: All power to you!
Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is not the first loving satire of your work. I’ll never be able to top Rainbow Dash Presents Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla… god that title cracks me up. You remember that?
Aurora: I sure do. I quote it almost daily.
Sanya: Even though you aren’t in the day to day operations of Waffle Iron Studios, you are on the dev team – essentially a co-author of Project Absentia, due to you and I brainstorming concepts on how to turn Scoot Hard DX into a commercial project. How does it feel to be a part of that?
Aurora: It’s fun. It’s really quite cool to do something that gets my name in the credits of a game. Game dev is not a field I see myself ever being in, so to be able to show people that is really fun.
Sanya: What do you think has evolved with your stories as you gain more experience?
Aurora: When I write something, I go back over it and figure out whatever it is I’m least happy with, and generally try to work and improve that aspect of my writing in my next project. Generally I’ve been dissatisfied with my descriptive writing, so over many projects I have worked hard to improve it, and that’s been what’s really changed recently.
Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?
Aurora: I agree with it. Inclusivity doesn’t mean LGBT characters must be portrayed as infallible.
Sanya: A common thing I hear from “antis” is how by making highly violent content with fascist themes makes us basically bloodthirsty Nazis, and that we’re trying to convert kids by using “problematic” fan content… yet you are as far from a Nazi as I can tell, and I personally can say I don’t like any government or corporation which tells me what I can do in my own home by myself – lest I face some grave punishment. In your best guess/educated opinion – why do so many people assume creating and engaging with dark content means endorsement?
Aurora: I haven’t the slightest idea why. Some people can’t separate content from creator.
Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?
Aurora: It has its benefits and drawbacks. Some people work better with supervision and direction, others work better with freedom to do their own thing. Valve I think tries to live by that philosophy and while they’ve had some amazing things come out of it, they have suffered with back end issues like customer support for years because of it.
Sanya: Do you have any tips to say to potential creative people – be it in writing or in video game design?
Aurora: Do what you enjoy and ignore what people have to say about it. Write what you’d want to read. If other people want to read it, even better; but ultimately, if you enjoy doing it, do it for the reason of keeping yourself happy.
Sanya: I’m sad that you and I only got to know each other recently… However, I don’t want to focus on what could have been – I want to focus on what is going on – You are a cool dude and an inspiration to me. Your ideas have helped greatly, but more importantly, your fight with depression is nothing short of inspiring for me to keep going. I love that you took your time to help us out with getting a basic premise set up for Project Absentia… and I can’t overstate how cool I think you are, dude. I’m glad you came back to the fandom, and I’m glad that you’re part of this team.
Aurora: Thanks 🙂
Sanya: Anything you want to say before we wrap this up?
Aurora: I think that about covers it! Stay in drugs, don’t do school, all that fun stuff
AuroraDawn, you are an odd fellow… but I do say, you Factory a good Rainbow.
No seriously, you’re awesome and I’m glad you’re doing okay.
You can find AuroraDawn at Fimfiction and Twitter.
Oh my god, they’re going to grind us into rainbows! EVERYBODY PANIC!