Let me tell you about Homestuck…
Homestuck is a webcomic by Andrew Hussie, in which the conceit is that the readers are playing as the characters through a series of commands issued through the links to each new page. The story is told through cartoon panels with captions but is augmented by music, chat logs serving as dialogue, animation, and interactive games. Originally, Hussie intended to create a choose-your-own-adventure style story with a few established plot points. The readers participated through the forum by submitting commands to a list for him to choose from. Soon the fandom grew too large for this method to be effective and Hussie switched to telling the story with input from the fan theory and discussion threads. The comic uses donated music and fan art in many of the animated scenes.
You probably knew that or you wouldn’t be here. It is notoriously difficult to describe Homestuck in any meaningful way to an outsider. It has been called the first true work of hypertext fiction. Homestuck is a creation myth, one that defines a certain culture (the internet circa the 2010’s), and as such I would argue comes closer to being a true epic than any other modern work of fiction I’ve read. But most of all it’s a webcomic, a rather silly one.
So instead of telling you about Homestuck, I’m going to cheat and tell you a bit about me. I started reading in 2010 over the Fourth of July weekend. At the time, I had a mind numbing job in a warehouse and rarely got more than one day off a week so a holiday weekend was notable all on it’s own. I seem to recall it was four days; I think I might have taken my floating holiday on the day after the Fourth to fill it out. We were also haying (cutting and drying grass in order to feed animals during the winter, my family raises beef cattle), which given the years of bad weather we’d had was also noteworthy. For four days I hauled bales until sunset, then I would shower and put on my PJs and read Homestuck until the sun came up, and then I would sleep for an hour or two and repeat. This sticks out in my memory as one of the happiest times I’ve ever had. Even though I ran up against the infamous Robo Kiss soon enough and had to wait for updates like everyone else.
Back then it was possible to read through the entire archives (including Problem Sleuth and Bard Quest) in a couple of days. I’ve read Problem Sleuth twice, and I used to peruse the Homestuck back pages fairly regularly, but at some point (I think it was Hivebent) the archives became a daunting undertaking. It’s been years since I last looked through them. When the comic returned from hiatus on April 13th, I thought I ought to reread the whole thing again in preparation for the impending finale. It occurred to me that I could write down my thoughts in a notebook while I did so, as a kind of exercise (I’ve been writing private little, and not so little, essays about Homestuck for years). Then I remembered that it was 2015 and that the internet still exists, why not post my writing somewhere other people might read it?
I’d just gotten around to reading Jenny Trout’s recap of 50 Shades of Grey for one thing. Over at Tor they have multiple series of rereads. My favorites being Kate Nepveu’s articles on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Lord of the Rings. I was introduced to the whole idea of the “Let’s Read!” by Chez Apocalypse and Antonella Inserra’s reread of the awful young adult novel, Tiger’s Curse.
Nepveu’s articles are particularly scholarly and well organized, beginning with a succinct summary and moving on to commentary and then notes and theories. That method, admirable as it is, won’t work for Homestuck. Attempting to summarize the convoluted plot of this comic drove even its creator nuts and he had to give up writing yearly recaps for it. I’m hoping an approach somewhere between Nepveu’s and Trout’s (without the loathing and sense of slow torture) will work. I’ll try to walk a line between too much detail, which would bore fans, and putting in enough information to let people who either haven’t read the comic or have forgotten large chunks of it (something anyone could be forgiven for) to follow along. If you’re truly lost, you can always try the wiki for help.
The second most notable obstacle is that Homestuck doesn’t break easily into chapters or episodes like a book or TV show. There are the acts (and sub acts, and sub-sub acts, and…. you know what, never mind), but they’re all of wildly different lengths and encapsulate multiple story arcs. So in keeping with the conceit that the reader of Homestuck is actually playing the story, I’m going to treat this like a Let’s Play. Each entry will be a “session”, i.e. how much of the comic I was willing to “play” through in any one sitting.
Other obstacles worth mentioning, I’ve never been much of a participant in the fandom. The only parts of the MS Paint Adventures forums that I spent much time on were the theories threads. I’ve never been to a convention. I do own a Hero of Doom hoodie but I’ve never worn it where anyone would recognize it. So it could be argued that I’ve missed out on a critical part of the experience. That said, with the comic ending, my experience of rereading the archives is going to parallel the experience of any latecomers to the fandom. Also, it should be mentioned, there are pop cultural references I’m just not going to get. I’m probably not even going to notice myself not getting them, so I shall warn you all now.
Is there anything else I should mention by way of introduction? Probably, but I can’t think of it. What am I hoping to gain through this reread? Nothing, really. I want a fun project to work on over this summer that will take my mind off the rest of my life. I hope some of you will decide to join me along the way.