FimFiction Link - Short ID: 434003/the-archetypist
Published: Mar '19 — Apr '19
The WriteOff version is definitely better. I read it relatively close to the publication of the FiMFic version and it's what got me quite excited about CiG's expanded take on the concept.
The main difference is that the original is a steep descent into madness while the expanded version really stretches things out. This is a double edged sword, because while CiG's writing is great as usual and it really helps set the mood of the story. However, it also leaves more time for the reader to start questioning things. Why are things happening the way they are? Why is everyone so okay with having been lobotomised? Does CiG know the difference between the two meanings of "dream"? Why are so many characters conveniently missing from the story?
You could argue that these are not important, though. That they're only tangential to the core plot of the story. I'd disagree, but it's a point with some merits. One of the story's biggest issues, however, is that between the WriteOff event in June 2017 where it was written and its March/April 2019 FiMFic upload, CiG seems to have changed the way he thought about the story.
The original was praised for its visceral quality, how much of a punch it packed, and how horrifying it was. There was even one person who had to leave the WriteOff because the story's ending affected him so much. Granted, he had issues of his own, but it goes to prove how effective the story was. Fast forward two years and CiG had a "Friendship is Optimal" moment where he convinced himself that what Discord did was a good thing instead of a fundamental alteration of a pony's mind.
For those who don't know, the story's kicked off by Discord deleting "Archetypes" in an effort to free the mind of ponies and allow them to become more. The idea is that through this, their real selves can manifest. In the original story, this lead to everyone losing their minds in a subtle way that constantly ramped up until the end. In the FiMFic version, this leads to a lot of meandering and Twilight being mildly worried about her friends undergoing character assassination. And this is portrayed as a good thing.
I think the point was that our dreams hint at what we are subconsciously, and by getting rid of the archetypes that true self can come out. Except that wasn't explored at all, but it's how I rationalised it, because other than a total of five(?) paragraphs in the whole story, that was barely mentioned. As if CiG thought it was completely obvious that this was a good thing, so there was no point in elaborating any further.
Another thing to add to the pile of "Why?" is that while the one-shot ended on a high note, the epilogue doubles down and tries to show a world where these new ponies live happily in harmony. Except there's no way all of their dreams could coexist. Just to show one example, Applejack burns down Sweet Apple Acres to be "free" of responsibilities. This is portrayed as a victory, because now AJ can be her true self. No matter what Big Mac, Granny Smith, or Apple Bloom would've wanted.
It's really confusing why CiG insisted that who we are in our dreams reflects who we really are. Dreams are weird by nature and can be influenced by tons of different things. Funnily enough, someone even brought up that while we're asleep, large portions of our brain shut off, so technically nopony could give consent to the changes being made to themselves.
But this was okay, because they said they were happy, and there's no reason to doubt it. No, this isn't a Tragedy. Shut up.
Sadly, just before the publication of the FiMFic version, CiG deleted the old one https://writeoff.me/fic/4003-The-Archetypist and the WayBack Machine does not have the old version of it.
Therefore, until CiG decides to release the original, nobody will get to see it. And considering how pissy he got at the end of its publication period, I don't think that will ever happen.
I suppose I should ultimately say that the FiMFic story isn't bad. It's still CiG. It's still quality.
It's just heavily misguided and despite what CiG insists, it is a tragedy. So if you go in with that mentality, and don't expect the core thesis of the story to be well developed, you can still have a lot of fun.