Session Twelve: The Recapper’s Gambit

 4/15/10 – 5/14/10
pages 1669 – 1852

What’s this? Why it’s Andrew Hussie’s in comic persona and it’s time for our recap to recap the first of the recaps. We’re through the window glass folks!

I do enjoy the playfulness of these sequences, particularly the way in which the captions handle this changeover. “You really wish your side of the wall had an off switch. Which is to say, I really wish my side of the wall had an off switch.” It’s another one of those subtle shifts that paint the medium, so to speak. The conceit here is that the audience (the command links) are talking to Hussie (the captions), which in a way was once the literal truth.

The Recap log is a good illustration of why I personally don’t go out of my way to mention every detail of what happens. I try to stick to the moments that lead into discussions I want to have. It’s the luxury of being a critic and at one remove; I get to pick and choose. Reading the whole log is a good way of catching things you might have missed or failed to fully absorb the first time through; I recommend it even for archive bingers like us.

This seems like a good moment to talk about how I feel about Andrew Hussie, the character and the creator. I’ve had mixed feelings about these looking through the fourth wall scenes. I find them funny, but at times they butt in at an unwelcome moment or drag on too long. These are token complaints though. The recaps end up culminating in what might (it’s a matter of fine judgement) be my favorite arc in the whole comic. Andrew Hussie is the sort of character who couldn’t exist in another format, and that’s pretty exciting.

I’m always amazed when people interpret criticism of a work as a direct attack on its creator. Often when I criticize something it’s not even an attack on the work itself. The way I engage with media is by examining and questioning it, picking apart all the threads and contemplating what they would look like if they’d been woven into a different pattern. Just because I think an aspect of a narrative was mishandled doesn’t mean I think the person who made it was stupid, wrong, or malicious. I understand that to many this seems contradictory and hypocritical, but this this is how I experience joy and fulfillment. If I wasn’t a fan to begin with, I wouldn’t invest so much time in the analysis of Andrew Hussie’s work.

The analytical failing I’m most prone to is projection. Homestuck is, in practice, what most creators would consider a rough draft. This means there are a great many inconsistencies and dead ends, but also a sense of energy and infinite possibility. I’m not surprised that I was drawn to this comic back in 2010, a time in my life when my dreary job left me too exhausted to think or write.  Homestuck’s creative spirit filled the void in my life. Now, whenever the story hits a stumbling block I have to fight the urge to theorize about why Hussie chose to present things the way he did based on my own experiences. Creative works tend to pick up a lot of bits and pieces of their creators’ personalities, but there’s no way for an outsider to extrapolate which pieces relate to what. Trying to guess what a person is thinking from their creative writing is a fool’s errand that has been the downfall of many a critic, professional and amateur alike.

I now return us to our regularly scheduled (okay, not really) recap.

Terezi decides to make amends by sending John a map to the second gate. This exchange is notable for being the start of the “Troll Jegus” thing when Terezi repeats one of Davesprite’s typos in ignorance of it’s actual meaning.

Here we see why building up the houses was so important.

Davesprite is keeping an eye on Rose’s session while drawing more SBaHJ. He spots John’s arrival and explains how the gates work. I thought I’d read somewhere that the players were meant to build their houses into a giant interlocking tower that would funnel the grist hoard to the baby universe frog (like an umbilical cord, good luck getting that image out of your head now), but I have no idea where. Perhaps I imagined this? Does anyone else remember how the gates were meant to work?

This is also the first conversation where John refers to the Dave from his own timeline as the “real” Dave. I’m with Davesprite on this one, all Daves are real. If there’s one thing that bugs me about the fandom it’s this obsession with certain characters being the “alpha” example of themselves. Roxy’s statement that all the characters in all their different realities are each relevant in their own way makes sense to me. John wises up at the end and thanks Davesprite for saving his life.

John and Dave debate the ethics of snooping through Rose’s room. John wants to but can’t find a way to excuse himself. Dave has no scruples and he easily maneuvers John into captchaploguing the notebooks in order to steal the code for them.

Dream Rose has her roundabout revenge however. She drops by Dream Dave’s tower and bonks him on the head with a ball of yarn. This gets Dream Dave’s full attention, waking him all the way up and thus sending Dave off to sleep on his keyboard.

The relationship between Dream Dave and regular Dave makes me curious. It seems like Dream Dave functions the same as Jade’s dreambot, mirroring waking Dave’s movements. I wonder if this synchronicity means they slept at the same time. It’s possible that Dream Dave has never slept at all, given that he’s being haunted by Nightmare Lil’ Cal. I suspect this wakefulness is what made him inclined to listen to Jade when the other’s wouldn’t. Dave’s dreamself could be seen as an embodiment of everything he knows underneath but won’t let himself think of, a kind of self alienation, a splintering of identity if you will.

The walls of Dave’s dream tower are nearly intact, and he probably thinks those drawings of Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff are rad.

Left to his own devices, John browses Rose’s bookshelves and then gives in and opens the package she was going to send him anyway. It’s another bunny, surprise!

Rose’s letter is particularly interesting.

The proper thanks I thought would be a demonstration that your offering was not in vain. Yes, maybe some would take your suggested alternative to my gloomy preoccupations as a passive-aggressive jab. But I know you didn’t mean it that way. In fact, I’m sure reading about it now is the first time the notion has occurred to you. John, please stop rolling your eyes. The letter is down here.

I certainly took it that way. That said, Rose is making an admirable effort to be sincere. There’s another line that I find interesting for the phrasing which echoes Jaspersprite’s summation of Rose’s quest.

The gift in this box is a resurrection. I used your present to thread life anew into a tattered heirloom.

John captchaplogues the package with the knitted bunny inside. He then releases “Casey” the salamander from his inventory but retains the greasy bunny. For those of you keeping track at home, that makes two bunnies in his inventory. He then decides to have some fun messing with the troll bugging Rose.

One glance at Kanaya’s text file was probably enough alert Rose to these shenanigans, the references to Fred Savage and Little Monsters are a dead give away. This seems to be Kanaya’s first conversation with a human and it’s notable that it’s John who puts the idea of the inevitability of friendship into her mind.

Baffled, Kanaya contacts her friend twinArmageddons to help her open the view function. This is a great introduction for Sollux. It clues us in to his background in a way that feels natural to the conversation. We learn that he’s always known the trolls were doomed to die and that nobody believed him and that made him understandably grouchy. He thinks the campaign to troll the humans is juvenile, but he’s not so put off by it that he won’t help his friends set it up. In amongst his complaints is helpful advice. There’s also the implication that trolls have sexual offenders the same way they have schoolhives. Troll school is probably some sort of boot camp like program where robots instruct kids on the basics.  I don’t even want to speculate about troll sex offenders.

Meanwhile, Dream Rose and Dream Dave have a dance party. This supports my theory that dreamselves are less inhibited than waking selves, which makes sense. I had no idea “Derse Dreamers” and “Phantasmagoric Waltz” were on Dream Dave’s playlist. I always think of the waltz as being the theme music for Gamzee’s land.

Homestuck Rose and Dave dance party

Rose gets as annoyed with Lil’ Cal as I am and takes it upon herself to rid her brother of the horrific nightmare that’s been haunting his dreams.

The command “Rose: First, be the pony. Second, follow Mom” finds us Maplehoof. The faithful pony collects all the grist from the giant monster Mom slew and then follows her through a pink transportalizer.

John is then able to “Be the hat”, following it on the Breeze to the spot where Dad is recouping after his own battles. Fortunately, he’s not on his own. A mysterious gentleman turns up to show him the way. Dad knows he can trust the man because of his excellent taste in books.

John decides to avail himself of Rose’s upgraded alchemiter in order to try out a captcha code Davesprite gave him. It’s the giant hammer Fear No Anvil that belongs to Dave’s denizen, Hephaestus, the smith we can assume. (All the denizens are giant serpents; what does a snake want with a hammer?) Did Davesprite grab the code for that hammer during a loot run? Did he do it simply because he could or was he thinking of John and looking forward to the day he’d return to the past with all this sweet gear in tow to hand over like it’s nothing? We don’t know, Davesprite’s feeling truculent. His answers really are terse by Dave standards. (For all that Dave has a reputation for not sharing his feelings, he manages to use a lot of words.) One has to assume that Davesprite’s return isn’t everything he might have hoped.

Dream Dave spots John on his computer and points him out to Dream Rose; who vanishes when Rose wakes up.

The mechanics behind any of Homestuck’s dream worlds are always a bit mystifying.

She wakes up just in time for Sollux to open the view function for Kanaya, confirming to her that it was Rose she messaging with.

Rose hurries to catch up with John but finds herself on the receiving end of some Egbert family affection.

Looks like he always trashed her totem lathe, good thing Dave upgraded the alchemiter.

John gives up on waiting for Rose to wake up and takes off for adventure.

There’s a quote from the “Scott Pilgrim Interview” that’s relevant to this situation.

I’m sure that element in these relationships has led to the various themes of alienation found throughout Homestuck, contributing to some of the more melancholy material. Meetings between the kids do not happen for quite a long time, and it’s fairly significant and usually feels special when they do. There are a bunch of frustrating near-misses. All that stuff just keeps reminding people what it’s like to have such relationships. The domestic situations of the kids are also very isolated and kind of empty. When they get in the game, they continue being isolated on their own planets and keep corresponding through the internet. You find themes of alienation wherever you look and it all points to what it feels like having your most important relationships conducted through the internet.

If you haven’t read Brian O’Malley’s interview with Andrew Hussie, you should check it out.

Dave cannot be the puppet, possibly because the puppet is a manifestation of evil. We watch it tumble down from the tower only to be caught by a rocket board. Lil’ Cal is whisked away, but not without being observed.

John comes across the tracks of Maplehoof and follows them to the pink transportalizer. We see him try out Fear No Anvil on a couple high level adversaries. The hammer possesses time powers, a fact we might discuss at a later juncture. The transportalizer delivers him to one of the meteor laboratories Karkat described.

We see clear indication of who prepared the lab for John’s arrival.

John finds a bunch of giant glass tubes incubating monsters. This seems to be where the underlings originate from. He puts on a lovely green ectobiology suit. Deeper in he finds something strange to him but quite familiar to us.

On the other side of the Veil, PM is preparing to depart Prospit for the Battlefield where she will find the White King. She’s not alone though.

She’s being followed by an outrageous hat, one that happens to have CD beneath it.

The Courtyard Droll may be a buffoon but he pickpockets PM quite handily. This goes back to what I said about all the members of the Midnight Crew being active contributors. This is probably why the Draconian Dignitary recruits him and the Hegemonic Brute; no matter what the circumstances, they work well together. We get a little dialogue between CD and DD that indicates that the Kingdom of Darkness is under new management. Then CD is confronted by a problem that is outside his skill set.

Jade takes possession of the ring but she’s too late to catch PM. She’s going to have to find a way to deliver it to her somehow. Jade is now on a quest to deliver a ring to PM, who needs the ring in order to complete the delivery of the package to John as Jade requested. Everybody following?

The battle between Light and Dark is an eternal stalemate, one that gains new dimensions with every player who enters the Medium.

Homestuck Black and White Battle

A Warweary Villein suffers the destruction of his farmstead and decides to rise up against the royals overseeing this futile struggle. Meanwhile, Jack Noir soars overhead hunting the Black King in order to complete his coup, and PM seeks the White King not knowing that she’s lost the ring she was charged to protect.

Homestuck WV rise up

The White King surrenders his crown and scepter to PM without the ring, but before she can leave, HB attacks her. Meanwhile, WV’s united forces march to confront the Black King but run across Jack Noir. Jack destroys the black scepter and beheads his king. The two rebels stare each other down. The white scepter that will give the black monarchs the power to begin the Reckoning falls over a waterfall and comes to rest in a stream.

Homestuck white scepter

SS and WV have more in common than might initially be assumed. They both seek to break free of the hierarchy which dominates their people. They’re both leaders, and when left with nothing but a barren wasteland they both start building. I would go so far as to say that SS exists as a foil to WV. What separates them is their motivation and their methods. They’re both different from Jack Noir, who has been corrupted by the power of the ring he wears.

Skaia is a dormant crucible of unlimited creative power and wherever such a potent thing exists there will inevitably be forces of light charged with it’s defense and corresponding forces of darkness bent on it’s destruction, to paraphrase Nannasprite. By implication, this makes the forces of light associated with creativity while the forces of darkness are left to embody destruction. The two are doomed to battle in stalemate until the coming of the players tips the balance towards destruction and the Black King or Queen commences the Reckoning, prompting the players to do battle and bring about the Ultimate Alchemy in a commensurate act of creation.

Why? Simply to be in-keeping with genre conventions? Rose, our resident light player, and the trolls seem to believe so. They put the whole ordeal off as a largely meaningless trial meant to force the players to demonstrate worthiness. That could be a reason, but such an idea seems to project human/troll values upon an elemental force. Skaia, which exists within the core of the Battlefield, belongs to neither side and is the originator of both kingdoms. As Terry Pratchett would say: dark is not the opposite of light, it is the absence of light.

My mother read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me when I was little. I was so young when we started that I wasn’t even attending school yet. Years later, when we finally finished The Return of the King, I asked my mom why Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Frodo had to leave Middle Earth and after some discussion my mom explained: “They’ve been used up to make the fourth age, like when you make cookies and you use up the eggs and flour.” Thus, in my halting way, I came to understand that destruction is a byproduct of creation.

I was in my twenties before I realized that destruction and creation were traits of the same force. This epiphany came to me, as many have, thanks to an episode of Radio Lab. The episode linked is an interesting story about the discovery of the Taung Child and the evidence that shows us how it died. The line that changed my thinking comes towards the end of the episode: do you ever wonder why you get a tingle on the back of your neck when a shadow, be it from a plane or a bird, passes overhead and you look up? You do that because two and a half million years ago, the little Taung Child didn’t look up quick enough. I’d actually had that experience earlier on the day I first listened to the podcast, ducking when one of the fattest ravens I’d ever seen flew overhead, which drove the point home hard. Every creature now living is as much a product of all the versions who died as they are of the ones who lived to pass on their genes. To make a subtraction is to leave a mark, like water wearing away a canyon or a sculptor chipping at stone. That shiver down the spine is the echo of a million year old absence and our negative inheritance.

Which brings us to the name of our second planet. Derse, from the word dearth: noun. a scarcity or lack of something. The name Prospit comes from prosperity, and the disparity between these two worlds drives the cycles of the game forward. The agents of the Kingdom of Darkness are not simply enemies for the players to overcome, and they are more than a function of the process. They are the other face of creation, as valid an expression of it as the Kingdom of Light, as evidenced by the presence of the Derse Dreamers.

I have other theories regarding Prospit and Derse, but for those we’ll need the trolls. And speaking of creativity, let’s get alchemizing!

Rose decides to splurge some grist. Most notably she makes her Hubtopband, her velvet Squiddleknit dress, the magical yarn, and the dreaded Thorns of Oglogoth.

Jade takes advantage of Dave’s nap to build up his apartment.

Probably the most structurally sound of the Sburb aided architecture.

Dave takes his usual route of going with the established theme and then making it uncomfortably weird. That he has access to everything Future Dave collected makes things even stranger, since he already has Caldescratch, the broken broadsword that can be made whole again by manipulating the little time traveling turntables on its hilt. He also uses SBaHJ to make items so incredibly shitty that they actually cost negative grist, this is the case with the Sord and Unreal Air. My head canon in regards to the Sord is that it does so little damage it could be used as a sparring weapon, except given Dave’s mindset it’s unlikely that he was up for play fights no matter how bored he was on the meteor. He makes himself not one but two suits, new duds being the first priority of every Sburb player, and I was wrong about Dave’s interest in collecting dead things never playing a role in the comic.

Dave’s display gives even the Underlings pause.

Dave creates a camera that makes ghost images on captcha cards and takes a selfie. This method would have created his brain in a jar if it were affordable. If I’m remembering correctly, Dirk used something like this to create his auto-responder. I wonder where he got the grist for it? Dave finishes up by alchemizing Rose’s notebooks.

The “Meow” notebook appears to be full of gibberish. “The Complacency of the Learned” is a story about twelve wizards who have discovered that their young apprentices have gone rogue and started trashing things. It is quite a read.

His wisdom-savaged brow pruned further with recount of his many lessons to wouldbe successors. Lessons to advance humanity’s elucidation and prosperity, an outcome this bleak trail now painfully obviated. There were few puzzles The Learned could not suspend and dissect in the recondite manifold beneath his extremely expensive pointy hat. Daring to pitch his cherished pupils in with the foul melange of history’s rogues, the heretofore abstract scourge that built up civilizations with ungodly magic and tore them down with joyful malice, would prove an intellectual trespass to make his calcium-deficient bones quake.

It turns out the way to get Dave to read something is to hide it from him. Rose probably should have put a password on her walkthrough to catch his interest. Dave decides to save “The Complacency of the Learned” for he has time and uses his copies of the beta discs as a bookmark.

I wanted to do something thematic here and begin and end this session with a recap, but that second recap is just too far away. I can’t expect anyone to absorb a 10k word summary. So I’m calling it here.

My motivation for covering as many pages as possible was twofold. I’m going in for ear surgery the day after tomorrow. I’ve had surgery done on my other ear, so I know I can expect to spend at least a week too dizzy to look at text. It’ll be good to be able to hear again, but I’m afraid things will be on hold until I’m off the pain meds. May we meet again. Until then you can do what I do and watch fan projects on YouTube.

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