Sooo… I’m back with another huge fandom to introduce to you guys : Homestuck. I realized while reading it that every introduction I had read before didn’t really tell me what it was about, so I made this. (TLDR : go to 3=>)
-1 => Suspens and spoilers
Ok so that might not be the most logical progression for a presentation, but that has to be at the top, right ? One of the thing that struck me the most while reading homestuck is the incredible ability of the writer to constantly leave you in a position where you know just enough about what’s going on to fully appreciate the work, to barely understand, speculate, wonder what’s going on, what’s real or not, what’s virtual, what’s dreamt… and appreciate both what’s shown and not shown. Pieces of a puzzle expertly drawn and falling precisely on place.
Therefore, I recommend avoiding every bit of spoiler you can, and taking your own notes about what’s going on while reading it. This introduction will be spoiler-free, but I may mention bits of informations (for instance the themes this work deals with) that one may want to be aware of. I’ll put them <in white>.
0 => Ok so what is Homestuck?
It is a kind of web comic which has been written over the last 4 years by Andrew Hussie. A very rough estimate told me that it is about 80 hours worth of content. It takes the following form :
Illustrations range from « stick figure »-y style (see above) to amazing pixel-art frescoes passing by very stylish game-like artworks. See a few examples below (anti-spoiler shrinking ^^):
What is cool about it is that the readers could leave suggestions as to what the characters should do, rendering this work a close collaboration between the public and the author. That, the skill of the writer and the length of the work resulted in a work that exceed by far its form. This is what this article is about.
1 => What is it about ?
If you’ve seen Adventure Time, I can describe homestuck as : the mathest thing ever. It’s the very definition of rad.
To me, it felt very much like embrassing again the games I played as a kid, back when the floor was lava and I was a videogame hero.
It is sort of a mashup of all the coolest things in the world combined. All of ’em.
Themes like time travel (it is quite frankly one of the best things I’ve read/seen on the subject, and equals if not exceeds classic sci-fi), videogames, virtual reality, roleplay and LARP, programming, internet and messaging, psychology, dreaming…
The base of it sometimes kind of feels like but not quite : <Caprica, Greed Island from HunterxHunter, Yureka, Minecraft, Spore, Lucky Star, Adventure time…>
Hopefully by this point you’re so confused that this kind of list was spoiler free ^.^
A small word on the setup if interested : <Four friends who are regularly bothered by trolls on the internet are going to jump into the alpha test of some kind of virtual reality game which still keeps some parts of the real world. And basically, the stake of the game is much higher than conceived.>
2 => What is cool about it ?
- The themes : see above
- The art : had to be mentioned, there is also a very cool official soundtrack
- The fandom : a piece I’ve yet to fully explore, filled with awesome artworks, musics, cosplays, etc…
- The writing style : be it the pseudonymes of the character or the vocabulary invented or used, this work has a very unique style that I can only describe as : flippin rad. Very few texts have stricken me with such a meaningful writing style.
- It is very interesting to see a work that is dialog-driven and not action-driven for a change. Lots of character development and details.
- The richness : let’s just say that it successfully explores a lot of different narrative styles and arises a wide range of emotions
- It gives you the feeling that I love, to be way bigger and more complex that what you can comprehend at a given time.
- The interaction with the public : the implication of the public in the conception results in a very weird feeling that the character of the story behave somewhat like they would have if you controlled them directly like in a videogame, resulting in very original and weird narratives.
- You may recall that one of the main interesting features of My Little Pony was the interaction with the fans. Well Homestuck is pushing it further, to a point where fanon and canon are deeply intertwined, going pretty much as far as you can get. I mean the fandom is basically inside the work.
- The presence of this real time public resulted in a fairly awesome game between the author and the public. He plays very skillfully with your expecations, knowledge, suppositions, situation… Let’s just say it is a delight of information management (see -1).
- He also plays on the pacing, showing situations in such a detailed way that it will seem the story progresses slowly when actually it does not and always leaves you longing for more.
- Cat puns, nuff said.
- CS lingo and jokes : couldn’t resist showing you a little piece from the very beginning, introducing the inventory system a character is using which relies on hashtables
2′ => What is VERY cool about it ?
Most importantly, it plays with all the cool notions we know and love :
the meta, oh god the meta ^^, <the meta-meta, even more meta :p, liking things ironically, trolling, Nicolas Cage, DOLAN before it was cool, passive-aggressive strives, shipping, meta-shipping, 4th wall, more-th walls ? Seriously if you like meta or 4th wall go read that NOW>
3 => So, should I read it ?
I’m not going to lie, it’s a big investment. I’m gonna say it’s not for everyone, although the writing style is definitely worth checking out. I would understand people qualifying it as too much, in the : i’m actually your hidden half-brother who travelled back in time to be his own grandfather and grandmother which makes me your great-uncle-kind of way, but it’s really not that bad at all. And I can understand people who’d be bothered by the narrative style, being like « why the flip would I care about what those two are saying to each other ».
However, if you have interests anything similar to mine, it is the coolest thing ever. No doubt it’ll remain as one of the most influencial works I’ve discovered lately, works who have deeply changed my life and become inseparable part of it like My Little Pony, Adventure Time or Doctor Who. Let me put it this way :
There are two main components in what makes Homestuck interesting.
=> One is an awesome complex story about all kind of cool themes.
=> The second one is an exploration of the relation between the author and the audience, the intertwined canon and the fanon, in the same way that the musical Phantom of the Opera did, only way bigger. It is a skillfully-crafted journey into levels of meta that you didn’t even imagine. Both will blow your mind.
Moreover, the constant interaction with the public create a never seen before type of work of art, enabled by the internet. By the way, the internet resonates everywhere into the work.
Therefore, my take on this is that it will or should stay in history of art as a great synthesis of the possibilities and the interests during our current period of time.
Another great take on this matter, the PBS Idea channel : « Is Homestuck the Ulysses of the Internet ? », which addresses a different perspective and overestimates the difficulty of reading it :
PS : the author uses tinyurl the same way I do : http://tinyurl.com/abouthomestuck, and that’s pretty cool ^^