homestuck-thoughts

OFF THE CUFF HOMESTUCK THOUGHTS #3: THE SELF PILE DOESN’T STOP FROM GETTING TALLER OR: THE PROBLEM OF DEAD MARIOS

DISCLAIMER

IMPORTANT THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

[CHECK THE TAG FOR MORE THOUGHTS]

So, a long-ass time ago, Rose and Dave had a conversation like this:

TT: After you go, what do you think will happen to me?
TT: Will I just cease to exist?
TG: i dont know
TG: i mean your whole timeline will
TG: maybe
TT: Maybe?
TT: Is there a chance it’ll continue to exist, and I’ll just be here alone forever?
TT: I’m not sure which outcome is more unsettling.
TG: the thing with time travel is
TG: you cant overthink it
TG: just roll with it and see what happens
TG: and above all try not to do anything retarded
TT: What do you think I should do?
TG: try going to sleep
TG: our dream selves kind of operate outside the normal time continuum i think
TG: so if part of you from this timelines going to persist thats probably the way to make it happen
TT: Ok.
TG: and hey you might even be able to help your past dream self wake up sooner without all that fuss you went through
TT: I think the true purpose of this game is to see how many qualifiers we can get to precede the word “self” and still understand what we’re talking about.

This is the most important sentence in Homestuck.

I am dead serious.

Well, OK, I mean, it’s pretty important for understanding some major Homestuck themes and shit or something like that.

Also, I totally should have said: Pre-Retcon Doomed Timeline Non-Dreamself Rose but ultimately about to become Dreamself Rose who semi-merged with Pre-Retcon Alpha Timeline Rose and Doomed Timeline Dave aka Davesprite AKA future Davepetasprite^2 or as we all call them around the office, Davepeta, had that conversation.

Maybe you begin to see what I’m going to talk about here.

One of the major frustrations a lot of people had with the retcon was that the characters we ended up with at the end weren’t the ones we’d come to love and know throughout the story. Was it even worth it, to lose the characters we loved to the tyranny of Game Over? The victorious kids, with the exception of John and Roxy, were other people, with other histories, other goals, and other choices.

Allow me to submit that that may be the whole point.

SBURB is cruel. We’ve known that for a long time. It’s cruel not as Caliborn is cruel, but as the cosmos is cruel, as a supernova is cruel. It wants what it wants, and doesn’t care about how that intersects with the needs of humanity. It wants to make universes through a complex game-playing method, and drags hapless, vulnerable adolescents along for the ride. And most of the time it doesn’t even succeed, leaving its champions to rot in a doomed timeline or similar! Skaia’s victory is an amoral creation myth where individual human beings are just the carved pieces on the chessboard. (I mean, the other ones. Not the carapacians.)

Again, let’s consider the theme of VIDEO GAMES vs. REAL LIFE.

Homestuck, let’s be real, is basically some postmodern horror timey-wimey Jumanji. For a generation way more familiar with pixels than cute little tokens It’s easy for teenagers and in fact, basically everyone, to fantasize about escaping their life and slipping into some game world forever, where they get to do awesome things and be a heroic person.

Homestuck makes that literal. Congratulations, everything you ever knew is dead. You will never see it again, except your internet friends, who turn out also to be your family and other important people. I mean, from a distance, SBURB sounds like an awesome game, right? You figure out who you are and get to wear a cool costume displaying that identity. You get to make anything you want and enjoy this hyperflexible mythology tailored to YOUR CHOICES. HS fans talk all the time about how cool it would be to play a real version of SBURB. That’s a big part of the appeal of SBURB fan adventures. They put you and your friends in the story. Or your favorite characters! It sounds like a fantasy come true.

The thing is, as fantastical as it is, it’s also really fucked up, and ultimately you and your friends are being used. By a giant frog to let it have its babies. By the universe. By a smug blue cloud thing that doesn’t care about you at all.

SBURB does not care about you at all.

The funny thing, SBURB features a mythology with so many layers and nuances and seemingly human motifs about growth and self that you might search for some grand ultimate meaning behind it, but it’s not even human enough to have a personality, to be something you can argue with or fight. It just is. It’s all the cruelty and power of a god without any of the dazzling personality. It’s empty. It just wants to make universes all day long, or fail trying. It is a great, weird tadpole-making machine that eats children.

One of the big ways it doesn’t care about you is its attitude toward the self. Humans and trolls and whatnot prefer not to be relentlessly duplicated. SBURB says, oh yeah, let’s make tons of copies of the player characters and use them for a lot of different purposes.

There’s the dreamself, an essential bifurcation of identity (you are now and were always the dream moon princex) that sometimes gets merged into god tier but sometimes doesn’t. There’s doomed timeline selves, who exist ultimately to augment an Alpha timeline whose Alphaness is decided very arbitrarily and frequently by Lord English. There’s the you who exists before a scratched session and the you who exists afterward, who are two different people but started as one baby in an act of ectobaby meteor duplication, your player self and your guardian self. Dead timeline yous fill up the dreambubbles made by the horrorterrors and get endlessly confused with each other. Any one of these could be the you experience being at any given moment, and which one it is entirely arbitrary. Don’t like being Dead Nepeta #47? Tough hoofbeast leavings, kiddo.

To top it all off, in Terezi: Remember, we learn that every single time we thought someone changed from one self to another, was resurrected or something like that, it was another act of duplication. For every time someone’s died, there’s another version of them waiting in the Dream Bubbles, surprised that they’re not the main character anymore. And we have no way of knowing which is which. Even John, good old everyman John, may or may not be the person who died three or four times. It’s really impossible to say whether we’ve been following the same person throughout our story, or just the illusion of the same person, like a horrifying cosmic flipbook.

The retcon is a return to this same theme. Ultimately, there’s very little new in the changes John makes to reality except that they drive the point home.

John’s friends all died. John and his friends won the game. These things are both true at the same time, except those things may not have happened to the same people. There was a happy ending. Hooray! For, um, some folks who may or may not be the ones we care about. In fact, it’s very confusing, because from Rose’s perspective, Roxy is dead but came back to life, and from Roxy’s perspective Rose is dead but came back to life, except also she came back to life as a weird tentacle catgirl of pure id and self –indulgence. So there’s that. Um. Which Rose are we rooting for again?

Or wait: is it none of them, because the first Rose died in a doomed timeline, hundreds of panels and a number of years ago?

There’s a tension here which one experiences between saying it’s okay because it’s still the same people, and saying it’s not okay, because it’s not the same people at all. This tension is exactly what we’re meant to wrestle with. To put it another way, Homestuck asks if identity can work in aggregate. Are all Johns John, all Roses Rose, and do they all share in what they accomplish? Or are the final victors only accidents created by the whims and needs of the frog baby machine?

What I’m saying, basically, is that the retcon, in the sense that it pointed out our confused relationship with these characters, was already here.

In interviews and questions put to him over the years, Hussie constantly compares HS and SBURB to other video games, particularly Mario, which he frequently returns to as a baseline of comparison that most of his readers will know. One answer, from a recent Hiveswap interview, is particularly revelatory. To the question of “Why do you kill off all your characters?” Hussie replies:

[…]HS is supposedly a story that is also a game. In games, the characters die all the time. How many times did you let Mario fall in the pit before he saved the princess? Who weeps for these Marios. In games your characters die, but you keep trying and trying and rebooting and resetting until finally they make it. When you play a game this process is all very impersonal. Once you finally win, when all is said and done those deaths didn’t “count”, only the linear path of the final victorious version of the character is considered “real”. Mario never actually died, did he? Except the omniscient player knows better. HS seems to combine all the meaningless deaths of a trial-and-error game journey with the way death is treated dramatically in other media, where unlike our oblivious Mario, the characters are aware and afraid of the many deaths they must experience before finally winning the game.

The big man hass the answer.

Homestuck is the story of those dead Marios.

Other works, like Undertale, have engaged with this topic as well. But one of the major differences between Undertale and Homestuck is that in Undertale, between “lives,” one’s consciousness is preserved. In Homestuck, it’s discontinuous, and the value of the overall trial-error process is called into question by the fact that you, the player, may not even get to experience the victory. What meaning does victory hold if that is the case?

So, to put it in a nice thesis format:

One of the central themes of Homestuck is the challenge of reconciling an arbitrary and destructive pattern of growth and victory with the death and suffering you experienced along the way. Homestuck asks: is victory worthwhile if you’re not you anymore? And would you be able to know?

What even is the self? Is there such a thing?

If you were left feeling somewhat disconcerted by our heroes’ tidy victory and departure to their cosmic prize, or by how which Rose gets the spotlight is so deeply, deeply arbitrary, there’s a good reason for that. You’re supposed to be.

The philosophical problem of Wacky Cat Rose is insignificant next to the bullshit of SBURB.

And don’t forget—John and Roxy’s denizens helped them achieve the retcon. Ultimately, the victory they achieved was mediated by the same amoral system of SBURB, and was a victory over an enemy, Caliborn, whose power was created, perpetuated, and ended by that same system.

Okay, so here’s where it gets contentious. There’s an argument to be made, which I’m not sure how I feel about, that some of the character development that could have been in post-retcon Act 6 was left out precisely to push this feeling and play up this tension. Note that this is not the same thing as saying that they were deliberately badly written, but that they’re deliberately written to make us uneasy.That Hussie deliberately played with the balance between making these retconned characters feel familiar and making them feel eerily different to leave us feeling uneasy with the result.

I’m not sure I like that idea. It smacks a little too much of that “everything is perfect” thinking that comes sometimes from the far Metastuck camp. Some of the differences may also be the result of flawed writing. (See: Jane and Jake’s character arcs, which I might talk about later.) And I want to be able to critique those flaws. Ultimately, I think we still needed more time and development to figure out who these new people were—even if our goal was ultimately to compare them to their earlier selves. And again, more conscious acknowledgement of the problem from our heroes—especially John, the linchpin in this last and biggest act of duplication—might have helped drive this theme home.

Still, I think the Problem of Dead Marios is one of the most fundamental questions of Homestuck, maybe THE biggest question. It’s essential to understand it to understand what Hussie’s doing—or attempting to do— in the retcon and the ending.

I don’t know that Homestuck offers us a clear answer to that question. There are some confusions around the issue, too. Where do merged selves fit in, exactly? Clearly they’re a big part of the discussion, because Hussie spends some time in Act 6, especially near the end bringing the identity-merging powers of the Sprites to the forefront. (See also: the identity-merged nightmare that is Lord English.)  Can we even come up with a clear answer to what it means when a dead Mario returns to life grotesquely fused with Toad? How does he beat the game? Does he tell himself that the princess is in another castle? Or what if he merges with Peach? Are they their own princess? How do they know if they’re in the right castle?

Um. Anyway—

Interestingly, it’s not all grotesque—spritesplosions suggest that personalities that are too different don’t stay together long, so a fusion might rely on some inherent compatibility between the two players. Erisol’s self-loathing, sure, but also Fefeta’s cheerfulness. Davepeta seems to be a way of bringing out the best in their players, a way of getting Davesprite past his angst and Nepeta past her fear. Honestly, I know a lot of people don’t like Davepeta as the ending of these two characters’ arcs, but I can’t help but love it. They’re the ultimate coolkid. Cool enough to know they don’t have to be cool. Regular Dave got there, too, of course. But was his retcon assist from John ultimately any different?

Then, of course, we come to Davepeta’s speech to Jade in one of the last few updates before Collide. Davepeta suggests that there is such a thing as an ultimate self beyond the many different selves one piles up throughout the cosmos. A set of principles that describes who you are that’s larger than any individual instance of you. Your inherent Mariohood. (Maybe this is comparable to your Classpect identity, which attempts to describe who you are?) Davepeta even tells Jade, strikingly, that one might learn to see beyond the barriers between selves. Be the ur-self, in practice, rather than theory. This would be incredible news for Jade, who wrestles with the issue of different selves perhaps more than any other character. (There’s a lot to say about Jade.)

Honestly, I wish this ur-self idea had been developed more, and I honestly expected it to be. It doesn’t fully come to fruition, I feel. (Same goes for Davepeta’s character. Ohhhh, ZING!) I’m not sure it entirely makes philosophical sense, especially with fusion—I mean, doesn’t Davepeta themself disprove it? Or at least complicate it? Like, are they part of the ur-Dave or the ur-Nepeta? They seem to imply they’re BOTH? Does that even work? Does that mean that Marieach is all the Peaches and Marios at once?

(In fact, Bowser/Peach/Mario are but the three manifestations of one eternal principle. Also, Bowser/Peach are the true power couple. Read my fanfiction plz.)

And what, say, of Dirk, who ultimately ends up rejecting aspects of his other selves? It feels like there’s a lot more you could say here, and I wonder if Hussie would have said more, if he’d had time. What’s weird is, none of our victorious kids never reach an ur-self (though to their descendants, they become archetypal to some degree), which one might have expected. They’re just individual selves who happened to get lucky. Does that make them representative of the whole? It feels like something’s missing here, or like something got dropped at the last minute.

Same goes for the idea of the Ultimate Riddle. You’d be forgiven for missing it, but there’s been this riddle in the background lore of SBURB that seems to have something to do with personal agency in this overwhelming, overarching system. Karkat called it predestination, saying something like “ANY HOPE YOU HAD OF DOING THINGS OTHERWISE WAS JUST A RUSE.” But others have interpreted it more positively. My favorite interpretation, from bladekindeyewear: the answer to the Riddle is that YOU shape the timeline through your existence, personality, and choices, even when it looks like it’s all predestination. Ultimately it’s your predestination, your set of events, based deeply on your nature, that you are creating. Someone like Caliborn can use his innate personality to achieve power; someone like John might be able to use it to achieve freedom.

I definitely expected something like that to be expressed more explicitly. Like, a big ah-ha moment that helps John or Jade or whoever understand how to escape Caliborn’s system. Something like that would have been very helpful for a lot of our heroes, actually, who’ve been pushed around by Skaia and SBURB together, in finding a cathartic ending.  Once again, I wonder if something was dropped or rushed because there wasn’t time to put it all in. There’s places where you can see hints of that Answer being implied, maybe? But it’s kind of ambiguous.

You can see how the Answer to the Ultimate Riddle ties into some of Davepeta’s ideas. If your personality, the rules of your behavior are a fundamental archetype that goes beyond each individual self, then the answer to whether it matters if one self of yours makes it through to victory is an emphatic YES. You are all of those people, and by winning one round with Skaia, you’ve won the whole game, despite all the arbitrary challenges and deaths it heaps upon you along the way.

This may strike some as too positive for Skaia’s brutality, or again, some way of excusing flaws in many characters’ arcs, or unfair things that happen to them. To be fair, I don’t know that Davepeta’s necessarily meant to be taken as authoritative or the voice of Hussie. They may simply be offering a purrspective.

Hussie not choosing to come right out and engage with the Ultimate Riddle leaves the question of Dead Marios and what they mean for the victorious versions of our cast very open. I like that in some ways—let the reader decide—but I can’t help but wish we had more to work with in making that decision. Plus, it might have brought the thematic messages of Homestuck all the way home to tie them more closely to our characters and their experiences—character development being one of the things most people found most lacking in the ending.

NEXT TIME: All that wacky gnostic stuff probably

2

“Shit dude, she is running right toward the tornado.”
“Dude she is.”
“She’s fuckin’ crazy. Nancy is fuckin’ crazy.”

A lot of people have been talking about how 17776 reminds them of Homestuck so I thought I’d try to replicate it’s style very shittily and draw up a scene from it in the style of Homestuck. Sorry for not posting art like ever so have some of this to compensate for it.

characterization, filters, and characterization to be found in the lack of filters

Talking about Jane earlier got me thinking, you know, Jane is not at all the only character that uses this device to show off the less desirable traits lurking in the psyche of all these damaged teens. Like. So many characters have these lurking deep seated issues that stay hidden deep down because the characters are pretty good at projecting a less damaged and more together version of themselves. 

If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s a fucking outrageously relatable quality and part of what makes the Homestuck characters RESONATE so much. Why they feel like they have all this dimension and depth that makes us grab on to them and never want to let go. 

I’m just going to run through some examples here while I’m thinking about it. The first OBVIOUSLY since thinking about her is what got me going on this – Jane. Crockertier Jane removing the layers of self-imposed filter on Jane’s festering insecurity, entitlement issues, jealousy and so on. I’ve already talked enough about that today.

Grimbark Jade! You notice Jade says what she’s thinking WAY more easily while she’s mind controlled, and she still sounds like herself – she sounds kinda like she does when she’s owning Karkat repeatedly, doesn’t she? Because angry Jade has that same effect of pushing her nice girl filter aside and letting the angry witch (not a cutesy slur, her literal witch class) within fly free. Grimbark Jade tells us that behind that nice girl front Jade Harley actually thinks some pretty uncharitable thoughts sometimes, she just keeps a tight fucking lid on it because – well, don’t most people? Relatable as fuck. 

Jadesprite! Since we’re talking about Jade anyway. Jade likes to think she has everything together, that her visions from Skaia and her scientific prowess and the tools her Grandpa left her are more than enough to handle everything that comes her way, she’s independent, she’s capable, she’s certainly never LONELY oh no of course not certainly never CRUSHINGLY OVERWHELMED by the responsibility of her own existence nah those are weak feelings for weak girls who aren’t as awesome as Jade! And then – Jadesprite. Why do you think Jade got SO ANGRY at Jadesprite? Because she was being confronted with something she knew deep down was a reflection of weaknesses in herself (totally normal ones that her later arc reinforced were a mistake to pretend weren’t there – Loneliness and fear and regret are all tied in with Jade’s character progression and learning how to deal with those things is where I imagine her arc would have gone if Homstuck’s ending hadn’t been the literary equivalent of chopping off a limb and cauterizing the wound.) Jadesprite is Jade without the filter of implacable strength Jade imposes on herself to fuckin cope with living on a hell island with the stuffed corpse of her grandpa who she grew up thinking literally killed himself at BEST.  god damn

Davesprite. Dave Strider with a slow long agonizing depressing arc wherein he realizes his coolkid persona won’t make anyone think of him as their best friend anymore, and in the absence of the security that persona afforded him when he was The Real Dave he has no idea what to do with himself. He’s lost, he feels aimless, untethered, incapable of being happy – and yes, Davesprite is his own character, but you can still infer a lot from Dave’s character about him – for instance, how he completely ties his self worth up in how useful he is to his friends or how worthwhile they find him and has no idea how to even BEGIN the hard journey of looking within for worth instead of relying eternally on changeable external sources. Davesprite is Dave not WITHOUT a filter but certainly with a VERY DIFFERENT one.

Homestuck does this with almost every single damn character on its roster at some point. Shows a version of them with a different or lesser or completely missing filter to highlight flaws and issues and internal struggles of all kinds. 

Homestuck is a damn deep dive into an exercise about analyzing nature vs nurture and what we’re predisposed to do and what comes from within and what is put upon us by forces out of our control, and how that line is blurry and messy and everyone has the potential to be either the worst or best version of themselves. Even Caliborn was given a choice. Hussie-The-Character explained it to him at great painstaking length. 

There are so many other examples. Jasprose is Rose without a filter, and the way Jasprose goes around gleefully calling every hot girl she sees hot and delighting smugly in knowing more than just about anyone else and lording over the information and playing smarter-than-thou games – that tells us a LOT about Rose! A LOT about what sort of urges Rose tamps down on every day in an effort to just be fucking cool! 

I bet you have things like this with yourself, right? Doesn’t everyone?

Tricksters! Look at how they act. They’re not themselves but there is plenty to glean from them. Jane immediately goes for Jake, the object of her desire, to pursue an exaggerated version of her idealized future. Trickster Jake is a passive fucking ragdoll who immediately acquiesces to everything everyone demands of him because their happiness becomes his happiness – Jake hates confrontation, so Trickster Jake is just a fucking doormat. Roxy goes for Jake AND Dirk because divorced from the guilt she normally feels for harboring desire toward either one of them she knows exactly what she wants! ETC ETC. Of course they would never do any of this shit if they weren’t high as balls and incapable of understanding the meaning of the word “consequence.” That’s the point. Seeing what they do in this situation is an interesting window in!

Brain Ghost Dirk is a version of Jake (yes, of Jake, not Dirk) without a specific filter Jake runs his own personality through before he’s comfortable presenting it to others, and you’ll notice, it’s EXTREMELY biting and critical sometimes. Jake knows what he’s about. He just buries it most of the time because that’s easier than dealing with it. 

I could seriously keep going. 

Homestuck loves to show us what our favorites do and say and ARE when basic filters go out the window. Those filters that most of us employ to make other people believe we don’t all have intrusive thoughts or bad desires or just plain old weaknesses we’re ashamed of and want to keep hidding at costs – or that we occasionally think things or think about doing things we would never ever ever do in real life are demolished or changed or temporarily suspended. 

It’s brilliant tbh. It lets us see facets of characters that would normally never really get full spotlight reveals by their very nature, especially with protagonists. 

Vriska vs (Vriska) – (Vriska) is just Vriska with some more self awareness and more willingness to let down her self-imposed filter and actually examine the shit she wants and why because watching Aranea fuck the timeline over out of motivations eerily similar to her own hardcore shook her enough to develop in that direction. (which makes sense since HER original motivations are copying Mindfang who IS alt-aranea lmao I love Homestuck)  (Vriska) is still Vriska, it’s just a very very different lens through which to view her character. 

blah blah blah blah etc there are so many examples

anyway I love Homestuck and good character writing what up

Act 1 on Reality

John expects reality to conform with his symbol language. A tree in a kid’s yard MUST have a tire swing to be authentic (1927). “A fire BELONGS in a FIREPLACE” (1950).  “ A father without a pipe is like a strapping roughneck without a toothpick. That is to say, HE IS A RATHER PISS-POOR EXCUSE FOR A ROUGHNECK IF YOU ASK ME.” (1970)

The meta-textual winking in the comic is a distraction. When John knocks over his Nana’s ashes, John understands his mistake to be a “virtual certainty” (1953) because he views the event to be the actualization of a cinematic trope. That is a character moment. That is how John sees the world.

TANGENTIAL: In the living rooom, John comments that he should “exhaust all possibilities before plunging into a DAD encounter” (1979). This is the attitude of a gamer finishing every quest in the game before facing the final boss. Earlier, John took the time to inform us that pipes are his dad symbol. So when the final boss on LOWAS is in a lair covered in pipes, we can see that John’s very concept of ultimate conflict involves confronting his dad.

This attitude is stated most concisely at the fireplace: “As domestic myth of unaccountable origin holds, a home borrows the spirit of the flame for as long as it makes a guest of it” (1950). For John, there is an essence of flame, an idea of flame, that is eternal. Every fire John has seen is simply an instance of an ideal fire-object burning away in the elsewhere. This is essential Plato’s theory of forms, but in the language of a kid who thinks movies reveal that higher reality.


I’m grappling with what this implies about putting the bunny back in the box. Dave’s gift introduces the word “authenticity” into the story, and putting the bunny back in the box clearly takes on a ritual significance for John. I don’t know what the ritual means though.

The boxes themselves tell part of the story. Jade sends her rabbit in a green box – a dead ringer for the Perfect Generic Object, marking its contents as a fundamental idea, an indivisible unit of reality. Yet Jade’s package contains the most complicated version of the rabbit, augmented through several iterations.

Is the augmented rabbit closer to it’s essential symbolic reality? Does it mean a complex idea becomes basic over time? Not sure, but I’ll keep an eye out.

OFF-THE-CUFF HOMESTUCK THOUGHTS #5: ACT 6 HOMESTUCK AS NARRATIVE REBELLION, OR: ARCS ARE DEAD, LONG LIVE ARCS

DISCLAIMER       FRAMEWORK

[CHECK THE TAG FOR MORE THOUGHTS]

[Note: This one’s a doozy! Still kind of off-the-cuff, in that I tried not to stress out about getting everything perfect, but I did do some revision to make my ideas more clear. That’ll probably be the norm from here on out. Hope you’re in the mood for a long read and a wild ride!

…Seriously, this shit is like twenty pages in Word.]

In my previous posts, I’ve discussed a number of ideas present in Act 6 and Act 7 Homestuck that I think contribute powerfully to the ending of Homestuck, especially on a thematic level.

I’ve discussed Homestuck as a meditation on the nature of a self divided across the many timelines of a dispassionate cosmos, and argued that the Retcon, far from a drastic change in storytelling, is a continuation of that long-running theme. Is victory meaningless if one’s original self isn’t around to claim it, or can a coherent, archetypal identity can be understood as existing beyond all of one’s disparate selves? In the system of Skaia, Homestuck asks, how do we live?

I’ve also discussed Homestuck, especially Act 6 Homestuck, as a Gnostic work, the story of an escape from a cosmic tyrant, a Demiurge whose ultimate weakness is that he cannot see the limitations of the domain he’s been given. In the same post, I discussed how this realm of the Demiurge, Lord English’s domain, is constantly paralleled with the space embodied by Homestuck itself, and how the kid’s departure from the story evokes their escape from this tyrant’s space-time domain as it reaches the end set for it by Paradox Space. From the system of Lord English, Homestuck asks, how do we escape? And at the same time, in the system of narrative called Homestuck, how do we find meaning within its limitations, and how do we escape them?

These themes work together.  As we’ve seen, they echo and reinforce each other, provide parallels and points of contrast. In fact, I’d argue that each of these different themes are diverse manifestations of one larger theme, in the same way that individual selves in Homestuck can be thought of as manifestations of one larger Self. This overarching theme is present throughout Homestuck, but it reaches its culmination in Act 6 and 7, in a finale that drives it home in a different ways. To understand Homestuck is to understand this theme.

If someone were to ask me, “What is Homestuck about?” this would be my answer:

Homestuck is an exploration of the tension between abstract, impersonal systems and individual, personal experiences of those systems.

Abstract, impersonal systems are everywhere in Homestuck, systems that don’t always align with the desires, emotions, and goals of the main characters. The central question of Homestuck is how these characters will choose to understand the systems that govern their lives, and how they will carve out meaningful lives in relation to those systems. Gnosticism, metafiction, divided identities, and Sburb itself all play into this theme. As Homestuck’s characters decide how to live their lives within these many interconnected systems, they suggest possibilities for our own lives, for we readers also live in a world that also contains many systems and forces outside of our control. In their choices, we find opportunities and implications for how we should live.

You’ll notice I said there’s a tension, rather than an opposition, between individual experience and abstract systems. I think that gets closer to the truth of what Homestuck is trying to say. Characters in Homestuck sometimes reject its systems altogether, but just as often they exploit them or find identities for themselves within the constraints/opportunities of those systems. While Caliborn’s  Gnostic-style domain of control is presented in a negative light, as something worth opposing and escaping, other systems, like Sburb itself, are presented in a much more ambiguous light, challenging us to decide how we feel about those systems and the possibilities they present within their rules.

I’ve talked about several of these systems in my previous posts, but today I want to talk about one I haven’t yet dug into in detail. Narrative itself.

Narrative in Homestuck, the power a story holds over its characters, is another system which the characters of Homestuck are constantly fighting, exploiting, and embracing.

Because another word for those abstract systems in Homestuck is…

Arcs.

Keep reading

Homestuck Camp Counselor AU

• John and Terezi are the camp pranksters, they’re the oldest campers and have been coming to this sleep-away camp for years. They know all the tricks and the administration Hates them bc they’ve never gotten caught. Vriska used to help them but she got kicked out of camp bc one of her pranks went too far Whoops. This year, they’re joined by one Jade Harley, something of a child genius. This is their last year as campers and they want to pull the Ultimate Prank™. Can our unruly trio be stopped before the whole camp gets pranked? It’s up to our motley crew of counselors to put a stop to their dangerous malarkey!! (Actual quote from Jake English)

• Karkat has been going to this camp for years and finally got to come back as a counselor. The other counselor that’s been assigned to his cabin (2 counselors per cabin) is Dave and holyy shit is Karkat pissed at first. He loves all the traditions and hard work and at first glance Dave acts like he’s too good and cool for everything. Turns out, Dave has a crappy home life and He’s just secretly jealous that Karkat had a better childhood and a chance to come to a camp like this. They talk, Karkat listens to Dave vent about his crappy Bro and Dave helps Karkat loosen up and have fun with the kids.

• Kanaya is like Karkat, they’re friends who have been coming here for years and suddenly her new counselor partner is some goth chick named Rose?? Um?? Kanaya is here for friendship bracelets and swimming and Rose just wants the counselors to sneak out to parties. Rose and Dave win and get the gang to sneak out to a party in the next town over in the middle of the night. Rose and Kanaya end up making out the whole time. They make matching friendship bracelets in the color of the lipstick lesbian flag.

• Roxy is a new counselor (I guess all the strilondes are new that’s just how it’s gonna go) and her cabinm8 is some dude who frickin brought his laptop to sleep-away camp like cmon man. Sollux doesn’t want to do any of the outdoor stuff he just wants to play Minecraft or something. Roxy bets him that he has to participate and not use any electronics All Week if she can hack the camp’s records fastest. Sollux laughs at her so hard he has an asthma attack and shakes on it. Sollux is hacking away when Roxy shoves her phone in his face, its his medical records. How are you still alive with That Many Allergies like seriously dude are you okay? Sollux has no electronics for a week. He suffers a terrible withdrawal and then has a lot of fun.

• Jake was sent to be a counselor by his grandmother because he was home schooled all his life and needs to make friends, his counselor partner in crime is the one and only Dirk Strider. Unfortunately, neither of them has ever been around this many people before and also don’t know how to take care of children. Unfortunate combo x2, they are the lucky counselors to get John and Terezi in their cabin! The kids all understand that Jake and Dirk are not in charge and do not listen to them. At one point, the two are duct taped to chairs, back to back like in a hostage situation. They bond over their mutual inability to take charge and also Do Anything.

• Other characters: Jane works in the kitchen, she’s John’s cousin and sneaks him prank supplies from the mess hall. The head counselor is Jack Noir, a no nonsense ex-drill Sargent with a young daughter back at home. He carries a picture of her around with him to remind him to be nice to children. His camp has been plagued by tricksters for years and he wants to put a stop to it. Will the counselors discover the prank-happy campers before they get thrown out? Or will the pranksters elude Justice yet again, their legacy living on in tall tales?