I (the nominal AO3 author) feel that I must explain how this story came to be and why it does not, technically, fill the minimum word count, here defined as “the number of words apart from a somewhat verbose and recursive Author’s note.”
To explain this, I must describe the day I was strolling in the park, endeavoring to find ponies prancing prettily about so as to practice writing a fanfiction story draft (if I did not find any ponies, I reasoned, I would simply work on my alliteration) when an old man came up to me who was wearing a flowered shirt, striped tie, tweed coat, plaid slacks with a sharp crease, and shined shoes. He said to me, “I didn’t realize this was a sad occasion.”
I was feeling playful, and so I replied, “On the contrary, I watch the green field growing for reaping folk and sowing, for harvest-time and mowing, a sleepy world of streams.”
The look on his face was consternation, more than I should have expected from my words. “That is not quite the correct response,” I believe he mumbled to himself, “and yet she seems noble enough. Perhaps…” He frowned at me. “Watch for the eagles,” he said, and wandered away.
Several days later, much to my surprise, I saw several eagles swooping low to the ground. This was surprising because I live in a part of the country where eagles are not frequently seen. One of them dropped a rolled-up manuscript at my feet. On the outside was written, “Please submit this to the invisible ficathon,” a term which I assume means “a ficathon involving less than fifty people, thus rendering it relatively invisible in the world of fandom compared to, say, a ficathon large enough to have its own anon meme,” or else “invisible-ficathon.”
Fortunately, I was able to fulfill both these requirements. The inscription continued, “Remember the Sebald Code and Verse Fluctuation Declaration!”
I do not know what was meant by this. I know no one named Sebald, and though I made an attempt to see bald people, they were not helpful, though several are indeed coders.
Here are the contents of the enclosed manuscript.
Author's note in the author's note
My Very Fine Dear recipient:
One of my associates, Geoffrey Chaucer, once wrote about a group of people who were traveling from one location to another for noble purposes. His story involved their telling stories while they were traveling, which is a noble endeavor, although perhaps their time might have better been spent watching out for enemies lying in wait. My associate, of course, is now dead.
The story my associate told was somewhat recursive, a word which here means "repeating in a nested, self-similar way, such as a story within a story." And many of them were fanfictional, which is not really a word, at least according to Microsoft Word’s spell-checker, but if it were, would mean something like “stories that are based on other stories in a way that can often be scorned when teenagers do it, but which somehow acquires a veneer of respectability when professional writers do it.”
I have followed in the recursive footsteps of my associate by writing a story of a story within a story. Within the story itself might be a
code message containing a story, perhaps a story of the story containing the story of which this story is written.
With all due respect,
[a letter which was illegible and could have been an L. or a B.]
The Extremely Appropriate, Inoffensive, and Altogether Cheery Pony Party
The ponies were so excited for the party in the park! Rainbow-maned Fledge looked over at the pond inside the park. The pond contained an island, which contained a smaller pond inside it, which contained an even smaller island. There might have been a very small pond inside the smaller island, but Fledge could not see whether there was an island in that pond.
Her friend, the pink pony Strawberry, noticed her looking at the ponds and islands. “They are designed to be recursive,” said Strawberry, “which means that the ponds and islands repeat in a self-similar way.”
“I know what recursive means,” Fledge hastily interrupted. Before she had a chance to say more, hooray, the picnic bells rang!
Violet eyed Fledge started prancing about, feeling as if Santa Klaus had come. The picnic was going to be a fun and quite entertaining event. The weather promised to be bright and Sunny. Fledge neighed to her friend Strawberry, "Where are the children? Have they gotten ready for the party?"
"They are ready!" Strawberry returned. "They will be here very soon. "
"I can't wait to meet them!" Fledge exclaimed.
"Yes, they are good children who bring us apples and other treats -- they will appreciate this lovely picnic at the park!"
"Yes," her friend agreed, "they will enjoy the pond."
"This story," Strawberry noted, "is extremely uneventful. I hope that by now most have backbuttoned and we can use words like 'burned,' which are not excessively cheerful."
"Afterwards we'll cavort at the hotel," continued Fledge, as if she hadn't heard. "It's a nice site."
Ring! The picnic bells rang once again!
If this were not a fictional work, the ponies would then have proceeded to have a long and bitter argument about whether they were properly listening to each other, that one pony never did listen to the other pony, and that this might well be because the other pony never had anything worth saying to the first pony, and why did she think her violet eyes were so great anyway, until their friendship ended in a terrible schism.
Of course, if this were not a fictional work, the ponies would not be ponies, because ponies rarely talk, let alone argue, although I have known snakes that had excellent communication skills.
It is, therefore, better for all concerned that this is an extremely fictional work, so we will assume that our fictional talking ponies did not argue and had an extremely nice pony party with the children, and that they all lived happily ever after, to end the story of the story within the story, although not, I trust, the story within the story of the story within the story.
As the poem says,
And if no piece of chronicle we prove,
Ponies find with sonnets pretty rooms;
As well a well-wrought urn becomes
The greatest parties, as half-acre tombs...