6/22/10 – 7/3/10
pages 2072 – 2154
Finally! Today we’re going to cover all of the Sollux stuff! Well… almost, I’m avoiding discussing class and aspect during character introductions. There’s also points about dream selves and plot development that I’m saving for later so… Today we’re going to cover most of the Sollux stuff. At least some of the stuff. Probably there will be a lot of the stuff left over for future entries. That’s just how I write, catchy recurring phrases aside.
Sollux Captor is near and dear to my heart. I’m not the only one who feels this way. He strikes a chord with many fans and yet he’s considered, at best, a second tier character. If you go on MS Paint Adventures forums you can find threads (closed) discussing the symbolism associated with him and threads discussing his profound uselessness right alongside. Those are some very mixed signals for one character. So which is it? Well, can’t it be motherfuckin’ both things? (I’ll stop, I swear.)
In all seriousness though, it is motherfuckin’ both things. Explaining why is going to get complicated, so I’ll try to keep it concise. There is a lot going on with Sollux. He has personality and identity crises, psychic powers that are special even by troll standards, super l33t haxor skills, an incredibly dark backstory that gets worse with the introduction of Sgrub into his life, and he stands as a symbol for a major plot point. He performs two heroic sacrifices, and it’s implied that he’s instrumental in other life and death situations. Furthermore, he is the stated best friend of our resident deuteragonist, Karkat, with whom he has a relationship that borders on downright toxic (more on that in a moment). His ex-girlfriend, whose death he considers himself at least partially responsible for, is the impetus behind a huge portion of the action in their session and his current girlfriend is the former princess of Alternia, making him the third point in two separate love triangles. Any one of those roles carries the embedded cultural subtext “important character”. And yet, he’s hardly in the comic. Most of what he does is done off screen and only mentioned by the characters, or even the captions, later. Worse, moments when it seems like he’d be the perfect guy to solve a problem, Hussie brings in some other random fortuitous item or development to do the job instead (more on that another time). It’s almost like Sollux is a protagonist in a story we aren’t watching.
I am in two minds about this. On the one hand, the fact that all of Sollux’s issues and abilities are treated as no big deal by his peers tells us about troll culture by itself. He’s a supporting character in the sense that everything about him is used to build up another concept or another character. Focusing on him might ruin the magic, he needs other characters to bring him to life. On the other hand, that very trait is what would have made more scenes about him interesting. He has so much chemistry with Karkat, Terezi and Aradia that the few conversations we do get to read are some of the most memorable. There’s a great deal about Karkat and Terezi that we don’t find out until late in the comic, when we get it all in great gloopy globs of monologue, that could have been established more efficiently and thoroughly if they’d been given a greater opportunity to interact with their friends. Poor Feferi only gets one speaking scene with her own boyfriend.
Remember when I said that we learn about the four main kids in the best way possible, by seeing them interact with each other in the face of new challenges? There is none of that in Hivebent. There’s no time for it. Though given the tangents the comic goes off on later (*coughVriskacough*), I wish we could have spent that time with the rest of the cast instead. There are times when you have to tell, but there should be a balance. There’s a corollary to the old saying “seeing is believing”, what viewers don’t see they tend to disbelieve, and that is how Sollux can die saving the day, twice, and still get called useless.
Metatext aside, who is Sollux Captor? He’s just a kid, and I mean that in the best possible way.
You are apeshit bananas at computers, and you know ALL THE CODES. All of them. You are the unchallenged authority on APICULTURE NETWORKING. And though all your friends recognize your unparalleled achievements as a TOTALLY SICK HACKER, you feel like you could be better. It’s one of a number of things you SORT OF BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT for NO VERY GOOD REASON during sporadic and debilitating BIPOLAR MOOD SWINGS.
Part of the reason Sollux tends to sink into the background is his own desire to avoid the limelight. His hacking exploits come from a drive for mastery rather than power, and while he longs for the approval of his friends, that alone isn’t enough to fulfill him. The caption describes him as “bipolar” but this comes off as more for the sake of the “bi” prefix than anything else, for one, we never see him in a manic phase. The two states Sollux oscillates between are sullen and angry. He doesn’t fit the diagnosis of bipolar, but he’s the dictionary definition of the word “moody”. Given what we learn about him, that he’s subject to visions of doom and the machinations of his peers, both emotions are entirely justified. Aradia asks him what he needs to be happy and he can’t give her an answer until the end of Act 5, when we see that what he really wanted all along was peace and freedom from the pressures associated with his own capabilities.
Introducing Sollux takes awhile as we see his powers and build some atmosphere. Hivebent is another shining moment for the caption writing, at points becoming something more akin to an illustrated novel than a webcomic.
Sollux proceeds to recruit Terezi as leader of the Blue team. Side note, Sollux made the decision to go for two teams in an attempt to streamline the entry process and increase the odds of success, though he also mentions that competing to see who wins first might be kind of fun. He picked red and blue because they’re his favorite colors; they’re also recurring arc colors for the first five acts of the comic. The exchange between these two prospective leaders hits multiple notes, touching on Sollux’s visions and knowledge of the future, the past between Terezi and Aradia, and a lot of teasing that culminates in Sollux and Terezi borrowing each other’s typing quirks, demonstrating how much they care for one another.
Terezi and Sollux just seem to click. They’re an easy buy as old friends who have been through hard times together. I’m avoiding any classpecting, but I feel obligated to mention that the word “doom” comes from the old English word for “judgement” or “law”. King Alfred’s Doom Book is a code of law. “Doom very evenly! Do not doom one doom to the rich; another to the poor! Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe!” Something to keep in mind.
Random notes on this conversation: I like to think that Sollux’s font/blood color tastes like honey mustard, sweet and sour. Also, his visions of the game saving his species aren’t wrong, the fulfillment of that prophecy just comes about in a very circuitous manner (or will come about if Kanaya and Karkat make it to the conclusion of the comic). Finally, trolls think of angels as horrible demons, which makes sense because angels are humans with bird wings and trolls evolved from bugs.
We segue to the spooky girl causing a little meaningless destruction. Sollux messages her with updates. Aradia is the organizing force behind the troll session, and we learn that Sollux has some personal motivation for going along with all of this.
TA: 2o ii gue22 you 2hould be pretty happy when we fiinally get out of here?
AA: i d0nt kn0w ab0ut that
TA: wiill you at lea2t be able two leave the voiice2 behiind?
He wants to make her happy, and if he can’t, he’d do anything to ease her suffering. Farther down we see:
AA: s0llux i actually w0uld like it if you were happy
TA: ok. thank you for 2ayiing 2o.
AA: y0u seem sad and angry all the time
AA: what d0es anger feel like
AA: i f0rg0t
Ouch. It can be hard to tell if anything in Homestuck is meant to be taken straight, but the way these two characters represent different aspects of depression really hits home for me. Sollux has the resentful, too aware, sadness that makes accomplishing anything a tremendous struggle. Aradia’s gone even further into emotional shutdown, and the thing that’s hard to grasp about that until you’ve experienced it is how boring it is. These two want to help each other, but neither has the resources to do so.
TA: why dont you a2k karkat, he2 way angriier than me.
TA: for that matter why dont you get on HII2 ca2e about iit iin2tead of MIINE.
AA: i think his anger serves a greater purp0se
AA: its part 0f his destiny and thus 0urs
AA: it will help him t0 sab0tage his 0wn designs
AA: which are very much in 0pp0siti0n t0 the br0ader purp0se
AA: and will s0w the seeds 0f 0ur failure
AA: a failure which will ir0nically pr0ve t0 be missi0n critical
This catches my attention because it echoes something Vriska will say much later. Both Aradia and Vriska blame Karkat for their team’s failure, but for different reasons.
AA: i have t0 be t0tally h0nest
AA: th0ugh at n0 p0int did i ever lie
AA: but thr0ugh 0missi0n
AA: this game will n0t save the w0rld
TA: the fuck??
AA: and th0ugh it is still very imp0rtant even in 0ur defeat
AA: unf0rtantely it is much cl0ser t0 serving as the instrument 0f 0ur pe0ples demise than that 0f their salvati0n
AA: and we twelve will behave simultane0usly as the pawns and the 0rchestrat0rs of the great und0ing
TA: ii dont want two play anymore then.
AA: y0u will th0ugh
Speaking of phrases with ominous future echoes, we all knew what was coming even if Sollux didn’t so it’s easy to dismiss. The next time a character claims lies of omission don’t count however…
This scene is not without emotional impact. Sollux wanted to save his people. That’s another aspect of his character that I didn’t touch on earlier. This is what Sollux shares with Jade, heroism. His visions show him doom and his friends neither believe nor understand him, and still he sacrifices himself to do the right thing, repeatedly. In spite of his gloom and general pissiness, Sollux is the first character to demonstrate a true commitment to acting for the greater good. His efforts to undo what he’s been tricked into starting are subsequently heart breaking.
Sollux and Karkat want each other’s respect, as we might have expected, this is a recipe for disaster.
TA: oh god.
TA: no you iidiiot, ii dont care about the game anymore.
TA: ii ju2t quiit, iim not playiing, you 2hould two.
CG: YOU’RE EITHER BEING REALLY PERSISTENT WITH THIS TRANSPARENT RUSE, OR YOU REALLY ARE JUST THAT SAD AND INCOMPETENT.
CG: NEITHER CASE DESERVES MY RESPECT OR MY FRIENDSHIP.
CG: IN FACT, YOU KNOW WHAT, FRIENDSHIP CANCELED.
CG: THERE IT’S OFFICIAL, BYE BYE FRIENDSHIP!
TA: oh liike you havent 2aiid that liike a biilliion tiime2.
TA: you arent iin any po2iitiion two que2tiion my competence.
TA: youre the wor2t programmer iive ever 2een, you dont know anythiing about computer2, why do you bother.
TA: the only thiing youre good at ii2 yelliing and makiing huge mii2take2.
TA: and beiing UGLY AND HORRIIBLE IN EVERY WAY, AND HAVIING 2TUPIID LIITTLE NUBBY HORN2.
CG: NO IT’S ALL SO CLEAR NOW, YOU WERE A FRAUD ALL ALONG.
CG: WHAT DOES ALL THIS NONSENSICAL CODE YOU WROTE EVEN DO?
CG: IT’S ALL NONSENSE.
CG: LIKE A BLUFF. YOU JUST SAY, OH KARKAT WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT I WROTE IS BULLSHIT BECAUSE HE’S TOO DUMB TO FIGURE IT OUT.
CG: WELL YOU’RE BUSTED, THESE VIRUSES HERE I BET DO NOTHING AT ALL.
TA: waiit, KK…
Well, on a side note, this is the first time Sollux uses his special nickname for Karkat. What a moment for it. I stand by my assessment that this is not some troll quadrant BS, this is hurting your friend in order to hurt yourself. The saddest part is that they both have what they want. Karkat knows, on some level, that Sollux sends him codes in an attempt to win his respect because that’s what he threatens to take away in order to start the fight. Sollux hits back by confirming all of Karkat’s worst fears. Karkat responds by saying “Fine, if I’m so awful I’ll just trigger this virus on myself, look what you made me do.” He shoots himself in the foot because he knows watching him bleed will make Sollux feel terrible. Worse, the Mobius Double Reacharound Virus contains a curse that affects all of their friends.
The curse kills the lusus of every troll player. The caption tells us that this curse will affect every player they meet in the future. We have been warned, the kids’ Guardians are not long for this world.
Each lusus ends up prototyped with a kernelsprite, meaning the enemies gain the powers of twelve monsters, making the troll session a particularly challenging one. However, there is a mitigating factor, for the first time the trolls are able to converse with their beloved custodians. This is classpecting at its worse, but I have to point out that this is a common circumstance with Sollux related doom, good is smuggled in with the bad, there is a balance being kept.
Sollux, in an act of atonement, deletes all his viruses. In among his files is something strange he found, a program set to trigger with the end of the universe.
But Sollux, even with his vision twofold, does not have the perceptional luxuries of our vision omnipresent.
When executed, the subprogram will summon an indestructible demon into the recently voided universe. This monstrous being with the power to travel through time is inconvenienced very little by his arrival upon THE GREAT UNDOING. He has the entire cadaver of the expired universe to pick apart at his whim. From its birth through its swelling maturity and tapering decay. In a reality he is known to have marked for predation, he will go about assembling followers through various epochs, even going as far as personally establishing the parameters for his future summoning.
Sollux couldn’t know that the virus is essentially a formality.
The demon is already here.
Better and better, right? I didn’t think the kids would end up facing Lord English the first time I read this. I made the connection, but the description of the demon made him sound like a force of nature, something you might prepare for but not an event anyone could hope to prevent. I thought this bit was here to establish the nature of ~ATH programming and tie it in to things like the Sburb game discs. This is why I need to revel in my moments of insight when I have them.
An ominous grumble from the roof interrupts Sollux’s self-flagellation and he wonders what’s disturbing his Bicyclops.
We still can’t play as Aradia though. Trying to “Be the other girl” brings us to one of the five other girls.
This too is a tease. We soon stop being the other girl and thus end up with a new dude.
Tavros Nitram is special, and by that I mean he’s unique among the trolls. Soft-hearted and soft-spoken, Tavros doesn’t want to hurt anyone and refuses to kill or fight. In a world predicated on might making right, Tavros has managed to keep himself and his little Tinkerbull alive in the face of steep (no pun intended) opposition. Unlike most of the trolls we’ve met so far, he feels no need to self aggrandize. In fact, he takes it too far the other way, letting more forceful personalities walk all over him. As I pointed out earlier, he’s one of the few trolls who will give assistance without making a spectacle of it. Furthermore, he’s willing to accept and even ask for help, a trait that makes him unexpectedly powerful. He has a strength that Alternians can’t see because it flies in the face of everything they believe. It sure would be great if the comic acknowledged him for it.
There are problems with the way Tavros is treated by the comic. And no, I do not mean there are problems with the way Vriska treats Tavros (well, obviously there are, but they’re in-story problems). No, what I’m saying is there are problems in the way Homestuck treats Tavros. Fortunately for us, most of those problems don’t come up until later so we don’t have to talk about them now. Let’s talk about card games instead, that sounds like fun.
Tavros starts playing a game called fiduspawn. I’m not sure whether it should be pronounced fidus-pawn or fidus-spawn, both seem fitting.
Moments like these are what make Hivebent great. It’s awful, strange, funny, sort of cute somehow, and topical all at once, the troll arc in a nutshell. The point of this exercise was to demonstrate Tavros’s ability to psychically commune with what I’ll broadly call “animals”. He uses it to put the horserooni he… summoned, created, birthed… pick your own adjective and his “opponent” Tinkerbull to sleep.
It’s interesting that Tavros’s introduction comes between that of our two gloomiest characters. He has a psychic power, of sorts, but rather than being burdened by it, it serves as a much needed means of escape, for us as well.
We check out the rest of Tavros’s room. Turns out he barely ever gets any sleep because the Alternian’s don’t make recuperacoons for trolls with big horns. They also don’t make wheelchairs with brakes.
Tavros’s weapon of choice is the lance and he likes to practice jousting.
Tavros is a big fan of “Pupa Pan.” To be honest, I’ve always hated Peter Pan, and the references to it are not going to make what’s to come any easier to bear. However, I want to point out that Tavros’s love of it is no different, or weirder, than Terezi playing courthouse drama with her dolls, or Nepeta’s internet role play, or Vriska basing her whole life on pretending to be a famous pirate, or even Karkat’s love of romance. More on that in a moment. There’s one of the more poignant quotes in the caption here.
You have had this interest far prior to your accident. Being paralyzed isn’t what made you want to be able to fly. That would be dumb and would make no sense.
Being paralyzed does sort of make you want to be able to walk, though.
This glimpse of the future is more about the build up for Kanaya and (especially) Equius than it is Tavros though.
Unfortunately though, we’ve arrived at our first Tavros and Vriska conversation. Sigh, I’ll add it to the tags. But we can get through this one quick. She makes fun of his disability, she makes fun of him for naming his self esteem Rufio in an attempt to build his self confidence (because the mature thing to do is pretend to be a pirate), she complains about Kanaya, she brags about being on a team that hasn’t gotten any players into the Medium yet, and then she’s out, thank the tentacled gods.
Meanwhile, Terezi is off past the flames and through the woods to meet her lusus.
Deep in the woods is a giant doomsday scale and resting on one side is a blue egg, counterbalancing the skull of a mother grub. Inside the egg is a baby dragon who communicated with Terezi in her dreams, teaching her to use her other senses to detect the world after she was blinded. The egg hatches in the heat of the burning forest and the baby dragon flies… only to be struck down by a meteor thanks to Karkat’s curse.
Another side note, this species of dragon is only blind until maturity. Hmmm…
The doomsday device would display the amount of time you had to get back to your hive and enter the Medium before the forest was destroyed.
At the time, it wouldn’t occur to you to wonder whether the device was directly responsible for the apocalypse, or merely served as its precisely calibrated harbinger. And it certainly wouldn’t occur to you to cast doubt on any perceived difference between those two things.
It wouldn’t until later, when you better understood the game you were about to play.
Paradox Space and Skaia are definitely no longer being treated as benevolent. However, the words “perceived difference” are an interesting choice. The suggestion here is that these things are forces, and you can’t ascribe a moral alignment to a natural force.
On that note, it’s time to meet Aradia.
Aradia Megido is awesome. That’s really all there is to say on the matter and yet I’m going to continue typing. The trouble with describing Aradia is that she’s almost a force of nature herself, especially early on. She is the impetus for the action on screen and her behavior reflects the will of fate rather than her own motivations or desires. She’s so broken as to have forgotten them. Her introduction is the third to make reference to a horrible “Flarping accident” we will learn more about later. She’s the quintessence of all the gloom expressed in Hivebent, that sense of characters mechanically going through the motions before inevitable failure.
One of the reasons Sollux and Aradia are good additions to the cast is how they bring out the characteristics of other trolls and express the nature of their situation. Compared with the human kids, Terezi and Karkat seem creepy and nihilistic. Pair Karkat with Sollux and suddenly the former begins to look a bit more like a rugged knight determined to finish his quest, if you squint. Next to Aradia, Terezi’s habits of acting out executions and engaging in bloodthirsty teasing make her seem lively and cute, isn’t it nice that she has interests and a hobby. That’s the point of this arc. Once we see where they’re coming from, we begin to feel for the five trolls who harassed the kids in the beginning simply because they continued to act even in the face of despair.
Aradia, it has been observed, has quite a bit in common with Jade. Usually the comparisons are reserved for later in the story, but they’re apparent even now. Jade too spent the early bits of her story running around as an agent of destiny, and it’s worth remembering that the Ouija (I hate spelling that word so much) Modus was one of her options. But for the grace go Jade, to paraphrase an old saying. The similarities in their manner become apparent from this first conversation with Kanaya. The grimAuxiliatrix brings out a different facet of Aradia’s personality than Sollux, much as Jade does for Rose.
This conversation is really worth reading.
GA: Hi Again Aradia
AA: 0h n0000000
GA: So I Guess Tonight Is The Night You Blow Everything Up
GA: Is There Nothing I Can Do To Change Your Mind
AA: 0r yes
AA: yes theres n0thing
AA: and n0 y0u cant
AA: but y0u sh0uldnt pretend as if y0u believe this has anything t0 d0 with the state 0f my mind
AA: 0r the decisi0ns it will make 0r has already made
GA: Yeah I Guess Not
GA: I Thought Id Be Friendly Though
GA: And Remind You That You Do In Fact Have A Hand In All The Terrible Things That Are About To Happen
GA: Because Thats What Friends Are For
GA: And The Fact That What Ensues Will Be Terrible
GA: Is An Immutable Fact I Am Stating For The Record
GA: And The Fact That We Will Not Be On The Same Team Is Similarly Immutable
GA: It Does Not Mean That Teamwork Is What Isnt Taking Place Here
AA: s0rry i didnt f0ll0w that
GA: Ill Be Here To Help
GA: If You Need Me
This is a rare moment of defensiveness for Ghost Aradia. Even dead to the concerns of the larger world and her own sense of identity, she doesn’t want to face Kanaya’s disapproval. That is some first rate guilt tripping. The “immutable fact” line is one of the memorable recurring troll phrases. I want to say it comes from Karkat but of course, temporally, he doesn’t say it until just before calling truce with Jade. These phrases have no one origin point, they serve to bind the trolls together as a unit. This one seems to get pulled out when a troll is deciding to help, whether you wanted to be helped or not.
Bored, Aradia gets in touch with Sollux and the two of them have their disagreement. Aradia decides to take a hand in matters.
But before, she can do anything, she’s pestered by Vriska. I wonder if this conversation is meant to set up Kanaya and Vriska as opposites, GA and AG. If it was, I don’t think it was carried on for very long.
AA: 0h b0y thats way t00 many of the same letter in a r0w twice
AG: I know!
AG: So we’re a8out to get started right?
AG: Have you tricked Sollux yet?
AG: Do you have Mr. Two Eyes all 8efuddled and flustered in your we8 of lies?
AG: Or Mr. Four Eyes?
AG: I don’t know. Which nickname do you think would 8e suita8ly derogatory in this case Aradia?
AA: h0w ab0ut
AA: eight eyes
AA: minus seven
Pro-tip, don’t make fun of Sollux in front of Aradia. It’s just not smart. This conversation mostly serves to build up the backstory between Aradia and Vriska, the only one of the characters speaking even cares at this point.
AG: Man, it’ll 8e great. We’ll 8e unstoppa8le. Surely you must admit it will 8e nice to re8ound from the Team Charge de8acle!
AA: i never think ab0ut that anym0re
AG: Oh maaaaaaaan, I’m so dum8! Here I am running my mouth and opening up old wounds, while at the very same time trying to make amends! What an idiot.
AA: its 0k
AG: Hey speaking of which, that loser isn’t going to 8e on the 8lue team is he?
AA: which l0ser
AG: Your old team 8uddy!
AG: Oh thank fucking goodness! Talk a8out dead weight. You made the right choice, leader! I mean co-leader.
AA: i didnt exclude him f0r that reas0n
AA: 0r at all
AA: y0ure just n0t getting it
AA: y0u never listen
What I take from this: never listen to anything Vriska says. She only hears what she wants and she never knows what she’s on about. Got that? Remember it, it’s important.
I’ve always liked this next scene between Aradia and Sollux. I’m not entirely sure why, possibly because I see it as an act of mercy on her part even though it has dire consequences. Aradia knows Sollux is going to twist himself up about everything. How can he not when his mind is so overwhelmed with whispers of doom? So she sends him to somewhere he can see a brighter future.
Sollux’s much needed nap makes him the last player to enter the Medium rather than the first. We’re told the dreams he had would prove essential to the support of his teammates, I believe it. Now he’ll need to get in touch with the first player to get off Alternia. But unfortunately…
There’s another recurring pattern with Sollux. He is continually used as a vehicle for destruction against his will. First when Aradia tricked him into converting Sgrub, then again when Karkat unleashed his curse, and now…
And with that, we conclude another successful session of Let’s Re-Read Homestuck! Join me next time when we add another three trolls to our roster.