Session Fifteen: D0uble Tiime

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.

Do not under any circumstance eat the mind honey.

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.

Bug based technology, love it.

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: oh.
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: AMAZING.
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.

Aradia’s horns curve whichever way looks coolest.

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.

It’s like Alien but with Pokemon.

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.

Everybody wins!

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.

Alternian design engineers are dicks. And no, this wasn’t what I meant about Homestuck mistreating Tavros earlier. Go ahead and giggle, it’s fine to acknowledge that Tavros faces physical impediments in his life. We laughed at the swords and Dave’s fridge too, remember?

Tavros’s weapon of choice is the lance and he likes to practice jousting.

Kind of a Don Quixote vibe.

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.

Wishes do come true.

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.

Have an adora-horrible Gamzee and Tavros rap-off to cleanse your palette.

Meanwhile, Terezi is off past the flames and through the woods to meet her lusus.

I find this panel rather beautiful.

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.

It’s not up to you to decide what you retrieve from you sylladex.

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
AA: 0_0
GA: Is There Nothing I Can Do To Change Your Mind
AA: n0
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
AA: 0k
AA: thanks

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.

AG: Araaaaaaaadiiiiiiiia!
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: Hmmmmmmmmm.
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!
AA: n0
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…

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE EAT THE MIND HONEY

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.

Session Fourteen: The Thresh Prince

6/12/10 – 6/22/10
pages 1989 – 2072

Elsewhere in paradox space…

No one was expecting this from the beginning of Act 5. I remember being mystified, but amused, by the old naming gag being done on an entire planet with an alien alphabet. My bemusement lasted until I clicked over to the next page and…

Oh no! Not this asshole again!

Incredulity, rage, disgust… I quit reading and went to bed, and when I came back I clicked to the beginning of the comic and reread it simply because I didn’t feel up to dealing with this. I enjoyed CG’s conversations with John, but only because I liked seeing him messed with. I missed the kids. I wanted to know what would happen next. I recognized the character introduction pattern and I couldn’t believe the story was going to come crashing to a halt now, of all times. This was worse than Jade!

Or so I thought. Actually, this is the perfect moment. Slow builds and long fuses are a mainstay of Homestuck. We’d come through a whole series of explosions: doomed timelines, Jack Ascend, the paradox clones, Descend, the death of Dream Jade and the bunny reveal… It was time to rebuild. Nobody wanted to hear it, least of all me. That pause to reread helped a lot. By the time I was back, I could see that the moment had come and that the conversations in the ectobiology lab had been leading to this. My mind was open, ready to be changed.

The few friends I had who were reading along quit when the trolls were introduced; they couldn’t tell them apart, they didn’t have time for this. The introduction of a new planet and a new session with its own cast of characters was a major shift in the story. This is the moment Homestuck became something too big to be controlled. This also feels like the moment the audience became a lot younger. I stuck around though. I love the Alternian trolls. They are twelve precious gems embedded in a beautifully wrought chalice. Sure the chalice functioned fine without them, but what sort of chalice doesn’t have gemstones?

Why it wouldn’t be a very proper chalice at all.

Hussie pointed out on the Formspring that this isn’t a story that could be told well anywhere else. If you wanted to write a novel about aliens playing a game you’d have to stop and set up the alien planet, culture and biology before you could even get to the game mechanics. Here, we’ve already established that background so we can focus on finding out about the trolls, which leads us back into learning about the endgame of Sburb. This is very important. If we didn’t have this glimpse (and I’m afraid a glimpse is all we ever get) of what a normal session should look like, we wouldn’t understand how off the rails the kids’ game is about to go.

We enter this story on the 12th bilunar perigee of the 6th dark season, which is the day of this troll’s larval awakening, known as his wriggling day. For convenient reference, six sweeps is the equivalent of thirteen Earth years. Also for convenient reference, Earth is a planet that does not yet exist. Later on, there’s going to be so much that I didn’t see coming, so I’m going to take this opportunity to say that I suspected that the point of Sburb was to create a new universe. This opening here confirmed that suspicion for me. In other words, called it!

The troll in question grows tired of shenanigans in record time and the caption informs us that the expected pattern will indeed be picking up the pace somewhat, there are twelve of these motherfuckers after all. On that note, I will be covering three troll introductions per session since I need some logical way to break up this arc for analysis.

In so much as I have a favorite character that character is Dave Strider, but the existence of a favorite suggests a second favorite. Karkat Vantas barely misses the top rung. In fact, I’m not sure he isn’t somehow sharing a rung with Dave, both of them tottering up there together, holding onto each other and trying not to fall. I described Dave as pathetic. Well…

I cannot describe Karkat. That is to say, I cannot describe Karkat and keep this post within a reasonable word count range. I love him. I love that I can love him and still understand why anyone in their right mind would despise him. I can understand why he despises himself. I can see he’s his own worst enemy and the source of all his own suffering and the troubles of so many others. He makes everything worse. He makes everything better. He is troll Jesus, a role that fits him like a personally tailored kid leather glove and yet makes him not one whit more competent or less odious. A character like this a masterpiece, a filthy mouthed, obnoxious, shambles of a masterpiece.

Getting right into the spirit of exploration, Karkat climbs into his recuperacoon for no reason.

Isn’t he cute.

This nonsensical action nets us the information that trolls sleep in this pods full of sopor slime in order to calm their visions of carnage and blood lust. Given what I know now, I wonder if Beforan trolls use this stuff or if this sort of drug abuse is symptomatic of the dark dystopia that is Alternia. I note this because Karkat immediately spaces out and starts studying his movie posters, getting lost in the pure magic of it all, which is rather a Gamzee-like sentiment.

I had to look up who John Cusack is after this page. Never say I didn’t research this thing.

Likewise, we’re told trolls think fashion is stupid. Consider the following points: trolls have a society based around a color oriented caste system, and we see that they evolved from insects. I bet the trolls are tetrachromats who can perceive a wider range of color than humans, and yet their dwellings and dress are (with a few notable exceptions) very drab. The Beforan trolls wear a range of colorful styles except for Meenah, whose outfit matches the typical Alternian uniform. This troll disdain for fashion is actually yet another repression of their natural state forced on them by the Condesce, and by extension Doc Scratch. It’s all rather sad when you think about it.

Karkat wonders over to the other side of his room to examine his Sandler poster. I don’t have to look up who Adam Sandler is, I only wish I could forget. We get to see his fetch modus when he captchaplogues his sickle, the endlessly hilarious Encryption modus which leaves behind a card vault that needs to be hacked into. He trades this modus with Sollux later, though we don’t ever (I believe) find out what his new modus is. I suspect it’s something boring and practical such as Array.

*snicker* Ah, the good old days.

With that in mind, Karkat decides to just pick up his ~ATH manual and read it. Trolls, it seems, know how to pick things up and put them down again after. Truly, they are the more advanced species.

~ATH is a thing I wish had stuck around longer. I love the idea of a computer language capable of casting curses and altering reality. It fit right in with Sburb and gaming tropes being applied to ancient myths. The comic makes such a point of pointing out that ~ATH loops have to be tied to the death of something, a person or a universe, that I thought it was setting up a critical pay off. I’m shocked Sollux didn’t have a whole bunch of these programs tied into his own death simply for convenience. Dying and coming back so many times must have played hell with his files.

We step outside and get a look at Karkat’s hive, which we’re told he designed himself with the aid of some droids. Extraterraneal landing slats are not things, by the way, but more alien words Hussie made up. I didn’t even notice until now. I want to speculate about what the desire to put in so many open air terraces says about Karkat, but I suspect he was simply copying off the other buildings around. We see yet more color coding not so subtly associating Karkat with red. The construction of his hive must pre-date his self-consciousness on the subject.

The wordy intro page starts up but Karkat drags it to a halt. If you don’t get distracted by the meta mockery, you notice that the caption mentions blood skimming the voids in his porous cranial plates. This is a reference to his aspect obviously but… Are porous cranial plates the troll equivalent of ears? Look, I know those photoshopped movie posters are canon proof that trolls have actual human ears but the human characters are drawn with ears, to my memory the trolls never are. Maybe they grow them when they get older? I just don’t see it.

Anyway, the note for Karkat is agitation rather than desolation. This is a joke and yet… John is haunted by a feeling of emptiness and loneliness. Karkat is wracked with a nervous anxiety and a sense that there’s some purpose he should be fulfilling and he only needs to find it, somehow. These are two states I’m familiar with from my own adolescence. They’re both miserable and not unrelated to one another.

RED!!!

Instead of poetry we get a statement of ambition.

Frankly you don’t know about things skimming voids or grazing hollows or whatever. You’ve got AMBITION. You were meant to be a bigshot. To be in charge of something huge and really important, and to be totally ruthless about it. You just haven’t found the dominion in which you’re destined for greatness yet. Or even a vague concept of it. You haven’t found your purpose. But you will tonight.

Karkat is confused about his aspect and it hasn’t even been announced yet. He tells us what he intends and then the caption reneges that by pointing out that he doesn’t have a clue. He’ll find his purpose, but will he recognize it when he does? The next paragraphs slips back into the usual tone of our narrator.

We meander back inside to continue our tour of Karkat’s bedroom while he pretends he’s not waiting on a message from one of his friends. He goes through his DVD collection which has this.

That’s right Huss, you didn’t break the rules of the setting for the sake of a throwaway joke, you keep telling yourself that.

This throwaway joke is important for a secondary joke about troll blue bloods literally having blue blood. This is about to be much more important than it seems.

Finally, another trolls messages Karkat.

TC: wHaT iS uUuUuP mY iNvErTeBrOtHeR?
CG: WHAT IN THE SWEET ALMIGHTY TAINTCHAFING FUCK DO YOU WANT.
TC: NoT a MoThErFuCkInG tHiNg BrO.
TC: oThEr ThAn I bE cHeCkIn OuT hOw My BeSt MoThErFuCkIn FrIeNd Is At Yo.
CG: I REALLY CAN’T STAND YOU AND I HATE HOW YOU TYPE, IT JUST BOTHERS ME SO MUCH, HAVE I MENTIONED THAT?
TC: YoU SaY iT pReTtY mUcH eVeRy TiMe We TaLk YeAh.

You didn’t ask but I’m going to tell you my favorite five Homestuck handles in no particular order: terminallyCapricious, turntechGodhead, apocalypseArisen, twinArmageddons, and arsenicCatnip.

Aside from that, this conversation is interesting for two other reasons. First, there’s what Karkat and Gamzee say about friendship.

TC: It’S sUcH a BeAuTiFuL tHiNg.
TC: ThIs TrOlL dIsEaSe CaLlEd FrIeNdShIp.
CG: FRIENDSHIP ISN’T A DISEASE SHITSPONGE.
CG: IT’S LIKE…
CG: A MISTAKE.
CG: A BIG JOKE OF NATURE.

Gamzee’s coming down on the side of friendship but his first thought is still to call it a disease. Karkat says it’s a joke. A joke on who?

They start talking about Gamzee’s religion and Karkat tells Gamzee he ought to get “schoolfed” sometime instead of drinking nasty soda. I wonder if that’s a typo or if it implies that learning on Alternia has something to do with physical consumption, possibly of slime, everything about trolls comes back to slime eventually. I’m guessing the latter since the drinking interferes with the process.

Karkat says that if he ever meets a kid he hates more than Gamzee, he’ll convert. Given Karkat’s love/hate dynamic with Gamzee and his future relationship with John, I’m tempted to place this statement under the “rash promise” trope again. This must be a Knight thing.

As a side note, the first time I read this conversation I thought the horns in question were on Gamzee’s head. How wrong I was.

This might be a controversial opinion, but I don’t hate Gamzee. In fact, I’m sad he’s been fridged. And I’m saying that as a person who has had actual nightmares about the guy. The fandom forgives the other characters their every trespass but poor Gamzee is just fucked. It’s the clown thing isn’t it. People hate clowns. The truth is, he’s sweet. Even after his face heel turn we see shreds of his former character lingering in the way he cares for the cherubs. I wouldn’t want to meet him down a dark alley, that’s true, but the traits that make for a good character are not necessarily the same as those that make a good person. He’s made me laugh. He’s made me scared. I’m glad he’s here. (Also, I’m permanently stuck hearing his voice like this.)

We learn about Gamzee’s religion, all of which is going to turn out to be horrifyingly relevant. He uses the Miracle modus. I bet the tagline on the box it came in was something like “It’s a miracle you can manage!” He drinks faygo, collects horns and rides a unicycle (not well). We get another one of those half joking tidbits about Alternia as the caption informs us that it’s dangerous to leave the house unarmed. Gamzee brings a juggling club for protection against hostile sea dwellers.

The watermarks in the sky were always one of the weirder elements of the comic.

There’s some faffing about with his inventory that ends up with his soda in the drink but his husktop successfully deployed on the beach. It’s time for our second troll to troll conversation.

GC: H3Y G4MZ33Z YOU W4NT TO PL4Y G4M3Z3Z W1TH M3??
TC: hEy YeAh ThAt SoUnDs LiKe ThE mOtHeRfUcKiN sHiT’s BiTcHtItS!
GC: >8\
GC: 1T SUR3 1S H4RD TO 1GNOR3 TH3 W31RD TH1NGS YOU S4Y SOM3T1M3S!
GC: BUT 1M GONN4

It’s easy to forget how unkind Terezi is. She tends to get overshadowed by her best friend. Taking into account Octopimp’s assessment of Gamzee’s character however, I’m going to say that she has her reasons. He forgets that she’s blind and doesn’t have a family for example.

Karkat is busy messing around with ~ATH code. He’s contemplating using a code that terminates on his death to send out a will or release a doomsday virus. He spends a lot of time thinking about creating viruses. He checks out a loop Sollux sent him that’s set to terminate upon the death of two universes. He’s pondering that when the hacker in question messages him.

The first conversation between Karkat and Sollux is packed with super weird troll teen awkward. Given what we learn about the quadrants later, this exchange could look like flirting, but I don’t think it is, not overt flirting anyway. Trolls might be default bisexual but the Alternians have stigmatized friendship instead. Later the captions will claim that the trolls don’t even have a word for friendship (which makes no sense since every conversation we see is in English) but we get the idea. Karkat idolizes romance, but his most successful relationships are strictly friendships. His ability to make friends, in spite of himself, is his strongest attribute. Part of him knows this and hates it. A lot of his vitriol is him lashing out against his own feelings. Sollux more or less rides it out. He’s used to this.

TA: thii2 ii2 2o iimmature, iim ba2iically ju2t laughiing here at how iimmature you are.
TA: liike ii really giive a fuck who the red leader ii2.
TA: you want two be the leader fiine talk two GC about iit.
CG: I GUESS THESE CONVERSATIONS WE HAVE DO GET KIND OF EMBARRASSING IN RETROSPECT.
CG: ARE WE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE BECAUSE OF STUFF I SAID.
TA: eheheheh you LIITERALLY a2k me that every tiime are you jokiing.
TA: ii cant even tell anymore.
CG: IT’S A JOKE MORON.

Terezi’s hive is one of the exceptions I mentioned earlier. We head there next. It’s time for proper introductions.

Terezi’s a dynamic character with many sides. She’s marvelously cruel and manipulative and cleverer with it than Vriska could ever dream of being. It’s hard to say if her energy and playfulness tempers or enhances the previous two traits, both seem to be true. She can be off putting and endearing in the same instant, which is what makes her click with Dave since he’s exactly the same way. So often intelligence is an informed attribute but Terezi’s is real and active throughout the comic, even during her downward meteor spiral we see it at work. She has a true understanding of the mental and emotional states of the other characters and often she tries to use this knowledge to help people, though we know from what we hear of her past that this is a new practice that she’s been working on. Hers is an empathy born of intellectual thought and observation, and sometimes it falters. A youthful drive for justice put her on a path divergent from everything society taught her to believe and we’ve had the privilege of watching her take that journey.

Also, she likes dragons. Dragons are awesome.

Lemonsnout Turnabout starts playing in my head when I see this panel.

There’s a password prompt here now. I find it kind of distracting and irritating. I wonder if someone reading the archives for the first time would be bothered by it.

For everything I said about Terezi’s cleverness, the case she makes up hinges on the defendant walking into court with incriminating evidence on his person. The bit about requesting a recess so that everyone can go outside and puke is a nice touch. If there’s ever an animated series based on Homestuck, I hope they pay special attention to the RPing. I like the contrast of trollish cruelty and childlike imagination and innocence that these games showcase. They remind us that even with everything we see them do, the trolls are very young.

Terezi introduces one of her standard practices, the irrelevant coin toss. More on that later. With that out of the way, she punishes the perpetrator and moves on.

But not before we establish that red is the most delicious color.

Scrolling through her chumproll, Terezi decides to try talking arsenicCatnip into playing on her team. An interesting aspect of the trolls is, unlike the kids, some of them meet regularly in actual meatspace while others have never met in person. Terezi and Nepeta are internet friends who like to roleplay via chat. The caption specifies that Terezi’s interest in online RP is strictly facetious. To which I say: honey, you just executed a stuffie and licked chalk off a wall, glass houses.

The exchange between Terezi and Nepeta is mighty cute, as is only fitting. There is this troubling bit towards the end.

AC: :33 < well it does sound like it will be a lot of fun but i think i should get purrmission first
GC: BL4R!!!!!
GC: TH4TS SO STUP1D
GC: H3S NOT TH3 BOSS OF YOU
AC: :33 < i know!
AC: :33 < but still im kind of scared of him and i think purrhaps its best to just run it by him first so there isnt a kerfuffle about it or anything
GC: TH1S 1S STUP1D 1N SUCH 4 T3RR1BL3 MYR14D OF DUMB W4YS
GC: YOU SHOULDNT B3 4FR41D OF 4NYON3
GC: YOU K1LL B1G 4NIM4LS W1TH YOUR B4R3 H4NDS!
GC: 4ND 1N 4NY C4S3 H3 L1V3S NOWH3R3 N34R YOU SO TH3 WHOL3 TH1NG 1S 3XTR4 STUP1D
AC: :33 < i knooow
AC: :33 < but i dont think itll be a big deal
AC: :33 < ill just mention it casually and itll be fine im sure and then we can play in just a little bit!
GC: >XO
GC: F11111N3
GC: 1N TH3 M34NT1M3 1 W1LL GO ROUND UP SOME MOR3 P3OPL3 TO PL4Y
AC: :33 < k!

I like how Terezi jumps to Nepeta’s defense. Her sense of justice is real, not simply something she playacts at. Next we get context for the earlier conversation with Gamzee, though it’s not important to read it again. Then Karkat interrupts, much to Terezi’s frustration. She was only planning to ask him as a last resort.

Karezi 4ever

This is a set up. Terezi was never going to ask Karkat to play. Karkat was making a big show of not caring. Sollux put Terezi in charge of the red team to get her excited about playing and then let the news slip to Karkat knowing he’d storm off and demand to be leader. He manipulated them both. He so ships it.

GC: W3LL 1T M4Y SURPR1S3 YOU TO KNOW TH4T 1 DONT G1V3 4 CR4P WHO G3TS TO B3 L34D3R B3C4US3 UNL1K3 YOU 1 4CTU4LLY H4V3 4 FUCK1NG SM1DG3N OF M4TUR1TY 4ND S3LF R3SP3CT
CG: THAT’S A LIE, YOU’RE MORE OF A MELODRAMA SPAZ QUEEN THAN ME AND YOU KNOW IT AND THIS STUFF YOUR SAYING IS A PRETEND STUNT.
CG: YOU’RE LIKE A ROCKET PROPELLED SPAZ MAGGOT SPRINGLOADED UP THE ASS OF A PSYCHEDELIC FUCKING FREAKOUT WEASEL ON IDIOT DRUGS SO LETS NOT PLAY MAKEBELIEVE GAMES HERE.
CG: LEADER.
CG: ME.

Karkat knows he’s a melodramatic spaz queen and yet it does him no good, this is an on-going problem. He has a lot of self-knowledge but it only makes him miserable. Interesting that he calls Terezi melodramatic. Her RPing certainly is, but we don’t see the full extent of her drama for quite some time. With so many pages, especially if you read this serially, it’s important to remember the time frame and how much we don’t see. The characters know each other better than we know them.

That aside, this is the first mention we get of a lusus. Terezi tells us about the lusus she does and does not have which talks to her in her dreams about mythical creatures like babies. Terezi plays Karkat like a harp and we cut to Karkat’s hive in the future.

On television they’d call this a Gilligan cut.

We get the reveal of Karkat’s title and land as part of a joke. He’s the Knight of Blood and he resides in the Land of Pulse and Haze. I always thought “haze” must refer to the weather, but upon further considering it could well be the second definition of the word: “a state of mental obscurity or confusion.”

Our proud traditions continue.

GC: SM3LLS PR3TTY T3RR1BL3!
CG: THAT’S BECAUSE YOU JUST TOOK A HARD DRAG OF MY LOAD GAPER WHICH FOR SOME REASON I HAVE DISCOVERED OUTSIDE ON THIS LITTLE ISLAND.
GC: YOU M34N YOUR TO1L3T?
CG: WELL OOH LA LA.
CG: EXCUSE MY DISDAIN FOR YOUR BLUE BLOODED VERNACULAR.
GC: WH4T COLORS YOUR BLOOD?
CG: WHOA NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!
CG: SERIOUSLY WAS THAT A SERIOUS QUESTION?
CG: UNBELIEVABLE.
GC: 1 W1LL F1ND OUT SOM3 D4Y

I like how only low class aliens use Hussie’s made up alien vernacular. I wonder if Karkat gave in and just started using human words during the meteor trip. I think calling Terezi a blue blood bugs her and that’s why she goes for a question that she knows will upset him, or curiosity overwhelms her, could be both.

We go back in time to see some future characters teased.

Aradia gets a full on establishing character moment.
Complete with a Problem Sleuth reference.
Meanwhile, Eridan picks up litter.

We head back in time to see Karkat deal with his crabby customer.

Look at the fridge.

Karkat’s lusus is more of a centipede thing than a crab to be honest. It’s still kind of cute. I like having the lusii because they’re one of the few things that make trolls seem like aliens. All the stuff about troll morality and quadrants is smoke screen, for the most part, trolls are like humans in grey face paint.

My theory is that trolls were originally parasites. They injected their eggs into Mother Grubs and coopted the subterranean monsters of their world to support their young. Over the eons, their relationship evolved into something truly symbiotic as the troll children bonded with their partners and began to take care of them and adult trolls turned their efforts to breeding diverse strains. Trolls without lusii just aren’t themselves, no wonder the Condesce made such an effort to transplant them to Earth.

There’s no time to dwell on this though, we’ve got to keep moving, on the double.

Yeah!

One more troll will take us over my arbitrary troll introduction limit however. We’re saving this guy for next time.

Session Thirteen: The Return of the Recap

5/15/10 – 6/12/10
pages 1854 – 1988

My surgery is now more than a week past, the painkillers are out of my system, the dizziness is coming on in shorter bouts and listening to my headphones only gives me a moderate headache, and it’s my birthday: I would say everything is back on track. Since I haven’t been reading Homestuck, what have I been doing with myself you ask? Well, I haven’t been able to read, look at a screen or stand up for the last few days so I’ve mostly slept. During the handful of (boring, stressful) waking hours, I listened to the estimable Matt Lees narrate his way through Bloodborne and then watched all twenty episodes of The Sponge Squad to their heartrending conclusion.

Sponge Squad in particular is a marvelous piece of modern tragedy. Somewhere in their desert camp, the renegades and exiles gather together away from the prying gaze of the overlords and huddle around their campfires to exchange stories of the legendary exploits of Sandra Bacon and Merryberry Crunch, the iron fists of XCOM. They declare that it was not the aliens who brought about Earth’s downfall but their fellow men, traitors who sold themselves to the invaders for the scraps of power and a promise. In hushed tones, they tell the tale of the terrible toll paid to these defectors and the bitter vengeance wrought by Slim Jack Perry across the rooftops of the Exalt building before the end. With the announcement of XCOM 2 it is perhaps not too much to hope that the Sponge Squad will rise again from the ashes as it has so many times before.

But anyway, it’s time to get back to serious business: wizard fanfic.

Dave saves The Complacency of the Learned for later and checks in on Rose. He’s shocked to find her burning her notebooks. She assures him that her wizardly masterpiece is safe and that she’s simply destroying an encrypted genetic code at the behest of the elder gods. She heard their voices once her dreamself awoke on Derse. Dave’s claims ignorance but Rose has a few things to point out:

TT: Aren’t you often distracted?
TT: By music and puppets?
TG: uh yeah
TT: Have you ever looked into the sky without your shades?
TG: no what a ridiculous question
TT: Maybe you should try it some time.
TG: ….
TT: You’re the prince of the moon.
TG: ……..
TT: I’m sure they’ve been meaning to seek a royal audience.
TG: ……………………..
TT: What do all these dots mean………
TG: dunno
TG: anyway yeah i guess ill do that
TG: get some sky monsters to boss me around sounds cool

Why Rose, if I didn’t know better I’d say you were going out of your way to make him uncomfortable. Part of Dave seems to crave these moments of honesty,  but he can’t allow himself to ask or accept an invitation to talk, at this point in the story he needs Rose to push him.

With Davesprite on the scene, Rose has to do double filial duty. I have to think Davesprite must be relieved to find out that Rose remembers some of their time together in the doomed timeline; he’s not alone. Notably, Rose uses the term “Other Dave” rather than “real Dave”. She doesn’t diminish Davesprite’s importance or humanity. They’re able to have a more equal conversation.

TG: so why is the cat code so terrible now
TT: I don’t know.
TT: But the gods were pretty emphatic about it.
TG: well ok i guess its done but why are you so sure theyre right
TT: Have you ever known them to be wrong?
TG: i guess not
TG: but they sort of freak me out
TG: i mean listening to gross space mutants all day isnt my idea of an awesome time
TG: especially the ones that sing oh god
TT: Is that why you always kept the music turned up?
TG: no i flip out to ill jams because they kick ass
TG: obviously
TT: I guess we’ll chalk another riddle up in the solved column.
TG: yeah case the fuck closed

Rose likes to claim the role of rational skeptic, but it’s Dave who questions the absolute authority of the gods.

Dave gets jealous over Rose talking to Davesprite and decides to go upstairs and talk to Davesprite too. This will turn out to have been a fortuitous choice.

Dave and Davesprite do that thing where they take a long time to say something very simple and Dave decides to burn the notebook as well. He returns to his bedroom only to find the notebooks and game discs missing. He decides to go back in time to stop the thief, or rather realizes that he’d already decided that.

This must be a time player thing, rather than spiraling off into the doomed timeline that would have been created by Dave’s death, his body remains in the current time where Dave can stumble across it, kind of like the blood stains in Dark Souls. This sight sours Dave on the idea of time travel, but he still has the wherewithal to dispose of the body.

Look who’s here.

John, meanwhile, has decided to start pushing buttons.

He zooms in on a monitor locked to December 1st 1995, which happens to be Jade’s birthday. The device is focused on a woman he recognizes as his grandmother. As his father and grandmother walk down the street, a meteor hits the Betty Crocker facility behind them. The caption heavily implies that the facility is the property of Jade’s grandpa. John, unwittingly, makes a ghost paradox imprint of Nanna and the slime is suctioned into a tube. He then turns on the fourth monitor and sees Jade and her grandfather discovering their island. Overhead, a meteor is heading for Texas.

John makes another ghost imprint and then tries the third monitor. This shows an outrageously cool dude standing in apparent shock over the crater that used to be his favorite record store. But he can’t be too shocked, because he came prepared.

How long do you think he kept those tiny shades waiting for this moment?

The next monitor shows a view of John’s neighborhood on the day of his birth. He zooms in on a shopping mall and a joke shop that he’s never seen before. There’s a professional lady with her young child approaching the shop. She came, the caption tells us, at the behest of a wealthy scientist to investigate the meteorological phenomena taking place. It seems that Grandpa Harley is the impetus behind Skaianet Laboratory and much of the Guardians’ activities.

The meteor hits the joke shop, leveling it and killing John’s grandmother. The lady flees to a nearby hill but loses her scarf, which Dad faithfully retrieves. John makes a fourth ghost imprint and fills the final canister.

John boggles as the passel of babies he materialized while the mutant kitten from Skaianet takes over and pushes the next button. This releases the slime from the tubes into the lower chamber, which produces interesting results.

I can’t remember if it was on Formspring or a newspost where Hussie said that he decided to go this route because making the kids all clones of their Guardians would have been too obvious. It’s a simple choice with profound consequences. The impact, as far as most of the fandom was concerned at the time, was to render the two major pairings in the comic un-shippable. This was brilliant, and I’m not just saying that out of an enduring amusement over the distress of shippers.

Shows with teenaged protagonists like brother sister pairs because it allows for an intimate, gender-balanced relationship without the looming prospect of romance. This is going to be incredibly important for Dave and Rose because it means fans will now actually read their conversations for content rather than skimming them for keywords while chanting “kiiisss…” under their breath; well some of them still will but we’ll talk about that at some other time. I love the relationship between them and finding out that they’are siblings almost makes it sacred, for lack of a better term.

It makes it sacred in another sense too. One of the tropes of classical heroes is that of searching for their other half. He/she seeks the submerged male/female half of their personality, the subconscious with it’s connection to dream and the root of spiritual power. This other half is often a lost sibling, Luke and Leia would be the modern example, Seigmund and Seiglinde are an older example drawn from mythology. Hussie knows this and had a high good time skewering the concept in Problem Sleuth.

This concept always struck me as too binary. Our understanding of gender has evolved and we now see that male and female are not opposite states but convenient labels for collections of traits that are not nearly as fixed and separate as some would believe. However, the concept of submerged selves is one near and dear to any writer’s heart and I recommend Diana Wynne Jones’s essay on the subject of heroism for further reading.

There’s another element as well. Those baby Guardian clones have eyes and mouths, clearly they have the potential to be players, and given that Hussie has already thrown around the term “mobius”, we have a pretty good clue as to where this will inevitably go.

John’s button mashing nets him mad exp; he seems somewhat dubious.

Out in the veil, an old man is still working hard to get everything in order. He’s transporting his two companions to the battlefield. Mom and Dad have their reunion, having not seen each other since the day of John’s arrival on Earth. Their reunion is nevertheless a tender and touching one, perhaps all the more so for the long absence.

Mom and Dad, the official couple of Homestuck.

Karkat messages John with his two cents. There is a noticeable uptick in the level of vitriol in his text. John, for his part, has become friendlier. He’s still trolling the troll but it’s closer to the teasing he bestows on all his friends. He even makes a SBaHJ reference, forgetting that Karkat won’t get it. The point being that chatting with CG has become as comfortable (nearly) as chilling with any of his internet buddies. I’ll take another moment to point out, again, how clever this counterweight balancing act is.

It’s not flawless, of course. I find it odd the way Karkat switches from his polysyllabic insults (clearly the torrid romances he reads have expanded his working vocabulary to no end, he uses the word “feculent”) to “dumbdumb”. That one feels more up Terezi’s alley than Karkat’s, though I suppose he could have picked it up from her. Likewise, I can accept a troll understanding the concept of “mother” given they have lusii and mother grubs, but how is “daddy” even a thing for them given their incestuous slurry means of reproduction. Karkat also calls their parents Guardians, rather than Ancestors but I can get past this by telling myself that Guardian must be a Sburb/Sgrub term while Ancestors are from troll mythology.

This prolonged conversation is important, both in terms of plot and character. Karkat does a lot of explaining. He defines paradox clones as copies that go back in time to become the original. There’s a mention of null sessions. Jack Noir in all his multiplicity comes up and we find out that he was an ally in the trolls’ session. We know that the trolls beat their final boss, and that it wasn’t easy. Karkat was John’s counterpart in their session, and noticing this connection between them is what caused him to stop at this point in time and message John. Amidst the onslaught of info, one part sticks out.

CG: BUT WHAT ALL THESE LOFTY SYMBOLIC ALLUSIONS BOIL DOWN TO IS SOME GRANDER STATEMENT ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE HAPPENING HERE.
CG: THAT YOU WERE ALWAYS THE KEY TO SEEDING YOUR OWN EXISTENCE THROUGH THIS GAME.
CG: AND ANY HOPE THAT IT COULD HAVE PLAYED OUT DIFFERENTLY OR THAT YOU COULD HAVE AVOIDED THIS WHOLE MESS WAS ALWAYS JUST A RUSE.

This is the crux of everything. Homestuck is a comic that was created with more freedom than perhaps any other form of media in history. It was written by a single artist who had a plan of sorts but no outline, with input from millions of readers through various formats, direct or otherwise, and distributed for free on the internet. It has warped and shifted in the telling and yet it is a story about characters trapped by immutable fate.

Looks like Hussie had Karkat’s backstory in mind already.

John, being the sweetheart that he is, pauses the conversation to check on the rugrats.

That is so cute and so grim at the same time…

John convinces CG to message him in a sane linear fashion, twice. This is the conversation that made me start enjoying hating Karkat the first time I read the comic. That’s key to the success of Hivebent. I didn’t like Karkat. That Karkat is an asshole is a fact and one that will not change in the least throughout the events we see in the future. Yet his conversations with John are amusing and I’m now glad to see him, as is John. We’ve relished his pain and discomfiture but now we’re being primed to understand it as well.

AR is out shredding his way through the Veil on Bro’s rocket board when he discovers a frog temple. In pursuance of his duty, he ceases his mad shreds to investigate. Inside he discovers a time capsule and watches a screen where a young girl is living with her new adoptive father in 1910. A crash outside indicates the arrival of yet another meteor. They head outside to investigate and the old man falls victim to a unfortunate firearms accident. Fortunately, the Colonel’s dog is there to step in.

Meet the happy family.

The boy and girl are raised by a wicked pastry baroness with only the dog, Harley, to act as their true guardian. When they turn thirteen, the boy decides to abscond for adventure, leaving his sister behind.

AR is interrupted by the arrival of a powerful agent from his own kingdom. AR knows that DD is too dangerous to confront directly so he hides and observes. The agent discards a notebook and some game discs, the notebook lands on the floor and the game discs end up in the time capsule. DD takes the final notebook to the monitor that AR was just watching. This is the Draconian Dignitary in his role as an agent of change, going around completing stray time loops for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.

Back on the meteor, Karkat describes Jack Noir’s vendetta agains the Black Queen and the workings behind the Reckoning. He’s also resigned himself to the fact that in a moment he’s going to have to watch John do something incredibly stupid. In fact, it seems like Karkat even gives John the idea.

EB: oh, hey…
EB: sorry, hold on, this little lady is bugging me about something.
CG: YEAH YEAH, YOU MIGHT AS WELL GET IT OVER WITH AND GIVE HER THE LOUSY RABBIT ALREADY.
EB: oh!!!!!
EB: oh man, i just had THE BEST idea, this is so perfect.
EB: a blonde mother and daughter together, this is totally perfect.
CG: PERFECT FOR WHAT, FLEXING YOUR FORMIDABLE MENTAL HANDICAP LIKE A FUCKING HEAVYWEIGHT FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES?
CG: OH WAIT, LET ME CHECK, THE ANSWER IS YES.
EB: it is like that scene in con air, i will give her the bunny like i am nick cage fresh out of the slammer.
CG: FUCK.
EB: i wish i had a filthy wifebeater on, oh well.
CG: JUST…
CG: AUGH.

Truly, Karkat is the instrument of his own grief.

Homestuck Act 4 How do I live
Karkat, seen questioning every moment of his life up to this point.

As predicted, John starts handing out bunnies like they were candy while Karkat looks on in growing consternation. I laughed at this animation the first time I watched it and in light of later developments between John and Karkat it only becomes more hilarious. I found myself hitting the little arrow and re-watching the sequence twice. This purports to be the end of Act 4, but actually we’ve a ways to go yet.

We come away from the spectacle of John’s corny movie reenactment only to be confronted by Dave covered in his own blood. Homestuck has two hearts; the previous animation embodied the light side of Nick Cage, pop culture, goofy reference jokes, and ridiculous plot twists. This image is the other side, the dark one. The two beat in harmony and when we see one we can expect an example of the other soon after.

These troll conversations have been coming in cycles and sure enough, Terezi messages Dave. She asks him what his blood smells like. I think it gets to him. He tries to retaliate by making fun of her blindness. For someone who doesn’t know anything about Terezi yet, this is a low blow.

TG: and yet as much as that guys the tooliest dude i could ever hope to meet he and i would still get along famously
TG: cause we can both see
GC: H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H333H3H3H3H3H
GC: H4H4H44H4H4H
TG: just him and me
TG: havin a see party
TG: like a couple of eagle eyed bros peepin shit up into the wee hours
GC: D4V3
GC: C4N 1 COM3 TO YOUR S33 P4RTY?
TG: i guess but youll have to be careful not to stumble around bumping into all the gorgeous masterpieces hanging around everywhere
TG: god so beautiful to look at with my perfect eyesight
GC: C4N 1 L1CK TH3 P41NT1NGS?
TG: yeah thats fine

These two really can’t stay mad at each other. The next troll in the cycle is Tavros. He speaks to Jade via her dreambot. This is the first time we see Tavros’s other side. He can be obnoxious, but he’s also sweet and thoughtful. He tries to help Jade out without being asked or making a big show of it, making him unique among the trolls. They talk about Prospit and how all the trolls’ dreamselves are dead. Jade didn’t even know that was possible. Tavros passes a message from future Jade telling present Jade that her dreambot will blow up and that Karkat is actually alright. Something else it’s important to point out. Tavros outright states that Karkat is not a good person. He has his reasons, as we will see. Given Tavros’s interactions with Vriska, I want to point out that at this point in time he is holding Karkat responsible for his own behavior. Remember this.

We round out this cycle of conversations with Rose and Kanaya; who indulge in some romantic comedy style misunderstandings. Kanaya tries to figure out the motives behind Rose’s behavior, failing to realize (since Sollux hasn’t activated her view function yet) that Rose is only being brusque because she is otherwise occupied.

Dave and Terezi continue to converse. They are well matched indeed, there’s a similar turn of mind there, as evidenced by their banter. Dave asks Terezi where his brother is and she confesses to not knowing. Instead she offers to help guide Dave through his session so he can avoid the usual time player pitfall of serial suicides.

The next page is Descend. I would describe it but… better to watch it again.

It was worth the surgery just to be able to listen to this again… The use of musical leitmotif has dropped out of the comic over the years but it’s used beautifully here to emphasize elements of the animation, even the squiddle interlude.  Homestuck has two hearts. The squiddles are a children’s cartoon and harbingers of the horrorterrors of the Furthest Ring in equal measure. This cutscene is still rightfully renowned among fans.

There are two things about Dave’s entry into the Medium that I want to mention before the end of the Act. John had to sacrifice his innocence. Rose had to take a leap of faith. Dave had to wait. These are all mini lessons that are tied into their roles within the game and the quests they’re meant to undertake in their Lands. Patience is a hard lesson for a boy who finds the five minutes it takes to draw a comic an onerous burden. Waiting can seem like nothing, a non-action, but there’s an element of commitment in it that I’ll come back to in future.

Secondly, Bro splits the meteor because he’s the Prince of Heart. He’s always splitting things, Dave’s sword, the record on his shirt. As a Prince of Heart he’s a destroyer of integrity. I bring it up because it was referenced in a recent update and I’m not sure why Dirk would find the idea of his alternate self splitting anything in half far fetched. It’s what he does.

Act 4 ends…

This is the final entry in Rose’s walkthrough. Going back to Karkat’s statement about all players being inherently trapped by their fate, Rose isn’t having it. She’s refusing to play along. She destroys her gate and refers to Skaia as a malevolent entity. The first time I read this, I totally agreed with her. Anyway, I still believe this defiance is the right attitude to take even if it is contrary to the path she was “meant” to walk. I believe I’ve said it before, just because Rose can see the light doesn’t mean she’s required to follow it. She sends her words into the Furthest Ring for the gods to distribute and then leaves on her self chosen quest for answers.

We jump a few hours into the future to witness further transitions.

WV remembers witnessing the fall of his army. He finds the Jack doll from John’s Prospit bedroom and tears it apart. He takes John’s blanket, which is decorate with ghosts, and uses it as a shroud.

John finds Jade’s body and the White Queen’s ring. He then looks into the clouds and sees his own future.

In another future, PM wraps herself in the remains of a Prospitian banner and treks off across the deserted Earth, becoming a mendicant. (We never do see how it is she ended up on Earth.) She remembers back to the culmination of her quest.

The nonviolent Parcel Mistress slays HB in order to claim the White Scepter. She arranges to meet Jack and delivers the collateral he demanded in return for the green package, which she promptly delivers to John.

Our heroine finds victory but the price that was paid for it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth.

John reads the two letters enclosed in his birthday package. One is from Jade’s pen pal. It turns out it he was the one to convince Jade they needed to make the thing inside the box, and in turn someone else twisted his arm to get it done. I don’t believe we’ve had an explanation as to all of this but given the way things are going… probably Vriska… I’m not sure. I’ll have to keep reading. The second letter is from Jade talking about how much she’s looking forward to flying around Prospit with John. Yeah…

John’s mourning is interrupted by Jack Noir, who wants the ring Jade was carrying. But John’s not as alone and defenseless as he looks, it’s time to reveal what was in the box…

It’s a bunny of course. It had to be. Everyone knew this was coming.
Check.

The Gamebreaker Bunny was so cool. It’s a shame she had to be de-powered later for the sake of other plots. I like the idea of her being an embodiment of the kids’ friendship. As the rabbit passed through the hands of each of John’s friends, it gained a bit of their virtue and right now that’s powerful enough to halt even Jack Noir in his tracks.

A regulator becomes a renegade.

By following AR, we see what became of John’s body once Jade succeeded in waking his dreamself. He’s asleep back in the lab, where AR finds him after fleeing from DD and the newly created Bec. While AR is poking at John’s sleeping body the Reckoning reaches their lab. He makes a quick decision and secures John to the rocket board and sends him off. The meteor is hurled towards the battlefield and hits one of Skaia’s defense portals, ending up at the frog temple on Earth.

This is what I meant before about AR’s basic nobility. He his from DD but he is by no means a coward.

Back on the battlefield, Grandpa Harley drops off Mom and Dad, then retrieves the corpse of his daughter’s dreamself and follows the family tradition of embalming and mounting the dead.

I wonder if he ever met Jade’s dreamself on his travels. I like to think so.

The White Queen flees her kingdom and takes a shuttle through another Skaian defense portal. She leaves her entourage to quest through the desert until she finds the pod created by Dave’s entry into the medium. She uses a key, from somewhere, to repair the station and travel to meet the other three exiles.

We see them all together again and it turns out that WV has been carrying the White Queen’s ring all this time wrapped up in his trusty knife.

John witnesses this reveal in the clouds. Inside another cloud we see the laboratory where Jade grew up. We zoom in to find the missing fourth wall and..

…this strangely arresting sight.

I skim the contents but find no explanation for how PM got to Earth. It seems like all four of the kids’ Exiles chose their exile in the end. WQ certainly did. AR chose exile over leaving behind a civilian. WV exiled himself in shame. I’m not certain about PM. I think she left in frustration and disgust.

Wow, I’ve gotten through four acts and almost two thousand pages. To anyone unfamiliar with Homestuck, that number would seem significant, but we know what’s coming. Everything before was setup, a drop in the bucket. Now we enter the strange, the convoluted, the very, very long…

==> Next session, Act 5.

News

Last Thursday I had surgery on my right ear to have an implant put in to counteract my otosclerosis. The procedure went well and I think my hearing is coming back, but I’m still suffering bouts of disorientation and dizziness. Unfortunately, the situation that presents me with the greatest trouble is large chunks of text. Until that clears up I can’t do any reading, let alone writing. I won’t go so far as to call this a hiatus, but it will take a couple of days before I can even keep up on the forums regularly again. Hopefully, this won’t last long and I’ll be able to get back on track to finish this before Homestuck reaches it’s own finale, which is the goal in case I haven’t been clear.

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.

Session Eleven: Of Trolls and Time Travelers (and Exiles)

3/5/10 – 4/13/10
pages 1543 – 1668

A WINDSWEPT QUESTANT appears! [insert Pokemon joke here]
Now that we have all four Exiles on board, let’s consider them.

Is every chess person an Agent and therefor a potential Exile or are there a select few? We know from the trolls’ session that the same chess people appear in every session, so I’m inclined to believe the former. The trolls’ session too must have had a Warweary Villein roaming it’s battlefield but he was never called into action. Terezi calls them a very subtle game mechanic built in to take care of extraneous time loops and reseed destroyed planets. They’re like Paradox Space’s on the scene fix-it men.

Agent: noun. 1) a person who acts on behalf of another. 2) a person or thing that takes an active role or produces a specified effect (“agents of change”).

PM finishes setting off the chain of events that will lead to her exile.

Was it an accident that the trolls’ session attracted a group of powerful but vindictive and blood thirsty Agents to be their Exiles while the kids ended up with a  more or less kindly bunch of civil servants? Is anything in Paradox Space an accident? There does seem to be a connection between each player and their Exile embodied by the role each is meant to play.

WV and John share the role of leader of the people. WV hates tyranny and values community and independence, yet he is unable to escape from the patterns that rule the lives of chess people. Most of his actions in the comic reflect various prophecies that will be carried out over the course of the story, at least until he escapes onto the meteor. He’s also an inveterate builder. Wherever he goes he creates, armies, towns, drawings, he fills the empty page.

The Mayor establishes Exile Town, a home for all ex-patriots.

The White Queen was the guide of her people. She does her best to hold them together in the face of a conflict they know they must lose. This battle with futility and the nature of inevitably reminds me of Rose’s struggle with her own class, and the interference from the likes of Doc Scratch. They end up seeking loopholes that will allow them to sneak victory out from under the nose of defeat. “The final hope for victory lies in patience and planning” as WQ tells PM upon her abdication. WQ and Rose are not leaders in the way WV and John are. They do not inspire followers to rash but heroic action; they advise others but do not pretend to have any control over larger events. All they can do is make the right decisions at the right moments.

Abdication is never ideal. But in the face of inevitable conquest, conceding ground can supply the only remaining advantage.

AR is confused. The comic calls him the Aimless Rebel even though he’s obsessed with upholding order. He clings to the laws of a broken kingdom. His attempts to piece together what is left is reminiscent of Dave’s struggle to maintain order in what might well be Paradox Space’s unruliest timeline. When we first encounter AR, he is a trigger happy gun nut attempting to blow up two innocents, but journeys into the past reveal that he wasn’t always that way. He was a polite, upstanding Authority Regulator who nonetheless couldn’t resist a ride on a sick rocket board (who could?). I think we can assume his attachment to high impact armaments was born entirely of stress related to the traumatic events of his exile and nothing really to do with his natural inclinations. He’s the warrior of the group but it’s not a role he’s entirely suited for. In the ectobiology labs he hides from DD (who wouldn’t?) but he also sacrifices himself to an uncertain fate by strapping a sleeping John to Bro’s rocket board and sending him off to safety. In the end, AR attempts to help his friends and dies in the doing.

Let’s hope it’s only the inclination towards self-sacrifice that AR shares with Dave Strider, and not the actual final act.

PM is a hero, a classical, dyed-in-the-wool, full on fantasy heroine. She accepts a quest as part of her duty as a citizen. In following through she confronts powerful people, both the dangerous and wise, whom she never thought to encounter. The quest requires incredible sacrifice both from her and her kingdom. Carrying it out changes her. She suffers and regrets but finds new companions who help her overcome her fury, then she accepts her fate and chooses to send her past self off on that same quest. When her kingdom’s destroyer comes for her fellowship, she accepts responsibility and transcends, losing two of her friends but gaining the power to save WV and the trolls and confront the murderer. She’s Jade’s Exile and you already know what I think of Jade.

That’s really all there is to say on the matter.

What does it say about the Alpha kids that they don’t have Exiles at all? Except, maybe they do. What else would you call refugees from an erased timeline?

The story segues from PM completing her task of having John send her off on her quest to the middle of that very quest. We see PM in the Archagent’s office, eyeing a box on his desk. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to simply grab it and run. Jack Noir and Spades Slick seem to TALK IN CAPITAL ITALICS quite a bit.

PM does her best to convince him that the package is her responsibility, but Jack would rather stab somebody to death than process the paperwork it would take to release the package. If Jack Noir has anything in common with Spades Slick, and we know he does, then we can gather that stabbing people is actually a favorite past time of his.

Jack’s pretty short.

He agrees to let her walk out with the package if she can bring him the crowns of both white monarchs. He makes this demand of every person who comes into his office for something, but PM piques his curiosity and he decides to open the box. There’s something strange inside.

Back at the Strider residence, Jade and Dave are experimenting with ways to modify the alchemiter.

The ill conceived Blender modification takes care of Dave’s entry totem. I’m pretty sure Rose’s was crushed by a rogue wizard statue.

They have a bit of a false start, but soon Jade is exploiting the scribblepad of her Pictionary modus like nobody’s business. This is a relief since the apartment’s a tad too cramped to accommodate  alchemical apparatus. The only thing the modus wont accept is the Intellibeam Laserstation (I hate this thing, but we’ll get there). Dave also enacts some upgrades using his photography equipment. Relish this moment of relevance for Dave’s interests.

John has located Dad’s car but of course the packages are missing. He is promptly distracted by Terezi. I’d forgotten just how manipulative she is. Well, I hadn’t forgotten; she’s simply been overshadowed since. Still, some of this dialogue sounds terribly familiar.

GC: B3FOR3 YOU K33P TYP1NG MOR3 STUP1D O’S 1N TH4T WORD
GC: JUST L1ST3N 4ND DO WH4T 1 S4Y
GC: YOU KNOW YOUR3 GO1NG TO 3V3NTU4LLY 4NYW4Y
GC: B3C4US3 YOUR3 4 N1C3 GUY 4ND K1ND OF 4 TOT4L W33N13 PUSHOV3R

That stated, I hasten to add that she is very straight forward about what she wants to do. She simply keeps her victims too distracted to pay attention to everything she says. The other matter of interest is what she says regarding the timeline.

GC: 1 GU3SS WH4T 1 R34LLY M34N 1S
GC: 1 JUST W4NT TO M3SS W1TH YOU
EB: oh ok, that sounds really great and helpful!
GC: 1 M34N M3SS W1TH TH3 T1M3L1N3
GC: MY FR13NDS 4LL TH1NK TH4T YOU C4NT R34LLY CH4NG3 4NYTH1NG
GC: TH4T YOUR T1M3L1NE W3’R3 CH4T-HOPP1NG 4ROUND 1S S3T 1N STON3
GC: NO M4TT3R WH4T W3 S4Y OR WH3N W3 S4Y 1T
GC: 4ND TH3YR3 PROB4BLY R1GHT
GC: BUT 1 DONT C4R3
GC: 1 W4NT TO M3SS W1TH 1T 4ND T4ST3 WH4T H4PPENS
GC: >:D

That could be disingenuous cover but I think there’s honest sentiment behind it. Considering Terezi’s later doubts regarding her class and aspect, I think this struggle against inevitability is something every Seer faces.

Meanwhile, Rose is doing her thing.

Rose and Dave are having the kind of conversation that suggests to me that, deep in their hearts, they know they’re siblings when they’re interrupted by trolls.

Kanaya has decided to reach out to Dave for advice about Rose. What stands out to me is a statement Dave makes that reprises something Jade said to Rose.

 TG: ok well its easy
TG: for everything she says take her to mean just the opposite
TG: see not everybody always means literally what they say the way john and jade always do

Which leads me to believe that he doesn’t really believe Rose has a crush on him at all, I hope. He recommends reverse psychology Machiavellian mind games as the best means of wooing her. Again, I don’t know how serious he’s being. Probably, whether Kanaya annoys the hell out of Rose or they end up becoming best buds, it’s all a win. He can claim to be a genius either way. Really, this conversation makes me wish for more of this Dave and Kanaya dynamic. Hussie once said that he didn’t want any of the trolls to be one to one counterparts to the kids, so every troll has something in common with each of the beta kids. What’s the bond between Dave and Kanaya? They both love Rose.

Likewise, Tavros has picked out Rose as the most likely source on the Knight of Time. How weird is it that Tavros is the one to reveal Dave’s title? We know Dave’s full title before anyone else’s (I think). Kanaya only tells Dave he’s a Knight. Rose knows what Dave is before he does, but that’s really standard procedure for them. I wonder how seriously Rose takes her diagnosis of Dave’s crippling insecurity and self-image problems (that’s what Dave has in common with Tavros, if you’re keeping track). She endorses poetry as the best means of trolling her brother. Again, this could go either way. We have seen Rose use metrical verse as a means of reducing Dave to trembling mound of awkwardness, but she could equally be setting Tavros up to get owned in another rap off. What do Tavros and Rose have in common? They spent significant parts of their childhood talking to animals, a trait that’s about to become important.

Kanaya’s on to Dave, but she doesn’t discard his advice entirely. I also notice that she’s using his name by the end of the conversation. I think they’re friends even if they don’t find much to say to each other.

GA: Ah See It Is Working Already
TT: What is?
GA: Ive Listened To His Advice
GA: And Have Resolved To Modify The Approach Slightly
GA: I Know What I Have To Do
GA: What We Have To Do Really

Kanaya has been communicating with Rose at random points during the timeline. She decides to delegate the task of deciphering what’s going on in these conversations to Rose, thus creating a challenge and building a bond between them.

GA: It Seems Friendship For Some Humans Is A Basic Aggregation Of Shallow And Insincere Hostilities
TT: That’s an interesting take on it.
TT: But now I know for sure Dave isn’t behind this plan.
TT: It’s too complicated.
GA: I Dont Understand
GA: Who Better To Coordinate Such Events Than The Knight Of Time
TT: You’re awfully quick to his defense.
TT: Are you sure you don’t have a thing for him?
TT: It’s ok, bro. You can admit it.
GA: I’m Hopping To 8=8
GA: Ideally You Will Have Long Since Discarded This Train Of Thought
TT: Ok.
TT: I’m going to talk to my dead cat.

Kanaya Reveal

Meanwhile, Dave totally ignores Tavros’s rap attack to draw comics. It’s worth mentioning that I believe Tavros is also the first person to name Derse in comic.

I remember people describing this face as “punchable”. I think he’s kind of cute here, honestly. Look at those fangs and those eyebrows, come on.
John avails himself of Terezi’s shortcut.

He almost loses the bunny Dave sent him for his birthday but saves it with the ghost gauntlet. He then does a live action performance of Con Air while a couple of trolls watch, this will not be the last time either. John and Karkat argue over movies. I doubt I need to mention that I love it, you probably guessed as much. There are a few time shenanigans setting up future conversations and we get a good look at the temporal web these two are enmeshed in. Two characters whose principle abilities consist of subtly influencing people are influencing each other to in turn influence their past and future selves. It’s really something.

John facilitates some blackrom flirting and then he proceeds to the Denizen’s palace.

Which is appropriately ominous and cool.

Terezi tells him her plan to help him break into the Denizen’s layer and kill him before he wakes up. First she finds John and Casey (the salamander) a return node back to the house. This is the first mention of the grist hoard and the ultimate alchemy. The trolls really do provide a lot of information early on, it’s just that not all of it was fact checked.

In the future, AR and WV prepare a crown for WQ while PM remembers her quest. She went to the White Queen and explained her plight in regards to the package. The queen agreed that this was a problem of primary importance and surrendered her ring. This is the first time we see what it is the queens’ rings do.

Underlings are modified automatically, but chess people need a little help.

She charges PM with protecting the ring and retrieving the corresponding scepter from the White King. A task PM accomplished.

A pawn is promoted.

Rose has followed WQ’s last instruction and found Jaspersprite. He drops some clues about her quest, which is to restore life to the ocean. The most interesting part is this:

JASPERSPRITE: Rose im just a cat and i dont know much but i know that youre important and also you are what some people around here call the Seer of Light.
JASPERSPRITE: And you dont know what that means but you will see its all tied together!
JASPERSPRITE: All the life in the ocean and all the shiny rain and the songs in your head and the letters they make.
JASPERSPRITE: A beam of light i think is like a drop of rain or a long piece of yarn that dances around when you play with it and make it look enticing!
JASPERSPRITE: And the way that it shakes is the same as what makes notes in a song!
JASPERSPRITE: And a song i think can be written down as letters.
JASPERSPRITE: So if you play the right song and it makes all the right letters then those letters could be all the letters that make life possible.
JASPERSPRITE: So all you have to do is wake up and learn to play the rain!
JASPERSPRITE: Does that make sense rose sorry i disappeared for so long.
ROSE: Sort of.
ROSE: It sounds like you aren’t exactly in complete command of this information yourself, so I won’t press you on it for now.
ROSE: You’re a pretty good cat, Jaspers. I missed you.

One of the things I love about early Homestuck is how all forms of creation, artistic, biological, mechanical, architectural, magical and alchemical were all mixed together in a gorgeous stew. Kids played music to summon powerful Denizens, genetic codes were embedded into notebooks with stories about wizards, sketching was a tool for hacking alchemical devices and a Mage could use ~ATH code to set a curse on his friend by accident. It was a frontier of creativity and weirdly placed pop culture references.

Rose contacts Dream Jade for a little clarification, which for a wonder she provides. She even goes into detail, turns out she told Rose about her robot but Rose forgot because her short term memory eschews the profoundly ridiculous. That means Dave wasn’t the only person Jade told, just the only one who believed her.

TT: Here’s another question, which I’m sure will look stupid once I’ve finished typing it.
TT: If my dream self is asleep, does that mean she’s dreaming, and if she is, who’s dreaming the dream, her or me?
GG: um…….
GG: ok well i dont really know how to answer the second part but yeah shes dreaming!
GG: shes most likely lying in your bed troubled and restless
GG: about things burdening her
GG: which is to say you!!!!!
GG: things about who you really are and what your purpose is
GG: but you cant start figuring those things out yet because youre not awake because youre not ready yet
GG: thats why you have such terrible dreams all the time rose!
TT: Ok. How do I wake up?

Questions like that are part of the reason I enjoy Rose so much, nobody else bothers to think of these things. During the three year intermission on the golden ship when Jade misses having someone who asks her hard questions, I wonder if she isn’t thinking of Rose.

It does turn out that Dave managed to find a way to blow it; he promised Jade he’d talk to Rose about her wall scribbles but he hasn’t gotten around to it. This is going to become a major problem later. Rose has no fear pushing Dave’s boundaries. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s part of why he talks to her. He knows she’ll ask the questions and then let him talk and sometimes Dave needs to talk. But when it comes to confronting his sister with uncomfortable truths and sticking to the difficult conversations Dave has a tendency to fumble the sportsball metaphor.

Jade has her own brother to look out for. ❤

Dave is busy refusing to learn the lesson the game’s trying to teach him and scaling the tower to reach his egg.

Learning to wait is an important part of neurological development, but that’s a tangent.

Terezi’s been hopping through timelines getting the codes for the objects embedded in the rocket pack from John’s friends, in a kind of reversal of the rabbit’s trajectory. If one were inclined to really extend a metaphor, she could say that the bunny is a symbol of the kids’ friendship being passed along and added to by each individual in order to save John’s life, while Terezi’s interference is uncoupling John from the grounding influence of his companions because a jet pack is only going to get him in trouble. But that might be pushing things.

Sollux gets a mention, having agreed to do the subtraction to get the code for the rocket pack. Almost as if the comic were setting up Sollux’s usefulness in these kind of situations in a way that would pay off at a crucial moment. Nope! Sorry, we’re running up against the only narrative issue that comes close to spoiling my pleasure in Homestuck. Poor word choice in a few places, lack of interaction for female characters, these are more like pet peeves, I swear. Rule breaking and inconsistencies in the setting don’t bother me (much) in this context even though I have a mind that’s laser focused on picking up those kind of issues. I understand that the fact that a 7,000+ page webcomic hangs together in any coherent fashion is a kind of miracle. But this habit of setting up interesting characters and situations and then refusing to explore them in favor of doing the same thing over again… That really gets me.

Turns out the code for a rocket pack is PCHOOOOO. They have an argument about it.

GC: H3 W4S CONV1NC3D TH1S 1S TH3 R1GHT COD3 4ND H4D SOM3 UNFL4TT3R1NG TH1NGS TO S4Y 4BOUT TH3 1NT3LLIG3NC3 OF YOUR SP3C13S FOR NOT B31NG 4BL3 TO FIGUR3 1T OUT
GC: WH1CH 1 W1LL K33P TO MYS3LF B3C4US3 UNL1K3 YOU 1 4CTU4LLY H4V3 SOM3 FUCK1NG M4NN3RS
EB: bluuuh, oh man, i got so served, bluuuuuuuuuh!
GC: 1 4M UNF4Z3D BY YOUR HUM4N BLUHS
GC: 4NYW4Y 1F 1T W4S SO OBV1OUS WHY D1DNT YOU GU3SS TH3 COD3?????
EB: well you see, the explanation is perfectly simple and scientific.
EB: it was because shut up.
EB: shut up is why.

Yeah, I just put that in there because that’s one of my favorite lines.

Dave messages John looking for advice and doesn’t get much help. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t give any push back when he realizes John’s getting ready to do something stupid. How much would a final conversation like that pray on the mind?

Toby Fox has a gift for producing music that captures the characters and setting of Homestuck. There are many talented musicians and artists who have contributed over the years but Fox’s compositions have always stuck out. I attribute the expanded role of the trolls in the story in part to his album and his ability to evoke character. “Atomyk Ebonpyre” is the Land of Heat and Clockwork. It’s also what I named my axe in Skyrim.

Fates worth than death, right here.

I’d like to thank obsidalicious and DizzyWaddleDoo over at the forums for explaining to me that the juju aspect of Lil’ Cal is probably his eyes so his body being ripped apart doesn’t effect him. I’ve also been reading a lot of theories by erroneousAllegation who says Lil’ Cal was attempting to get Dave to imprint on him like a baby bird, and that the reason Bro is “Bro” and not “Pops” or something is that they are both Lil’ Cal’s children. I can buy that part at least, though given the “conversation” on this page, I wouldn’t say Lil’ Cal was trying to shape Dave as a person so much as crush his spirit.

Dave: Accelerate is so cool that you can miss what is really going on. Dave is grinding. He’s trapped in an unwinnable session with Rose. John is dead and Jade is presumed dead. They don’t even have the trolls to talk to any more. This is the moment that introduces one of the most troublesome, and fascinating, aspects of the Homestuck setting, the doomed timeline.

Two questions: Did the timeline create yet another twelve doomed trolls or are Rose and Dave all alone in this offshoot of Paradox Space? Later we’re going to see that this timeline simply ceased to exist when Dave left it, which will contradict everything we find out later where doomed time clones have to go through the trouble of dying and ending up in the Dream Bubbles. I always imagined what that would feel like for the players left behind after the time player had left. I’d really rather believe that doomed timelines ceased to be. Second, Dave says they can’t win with no Heir and no Seer, would he have gone back for John and Jade if they could have won without them?

They debate the mechanics of time travel, which Dave claims to be fine with (later events will make me doubt this) and which Rose fears. Dave demonstrates an ability he has from time to time to simply know things.

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.

Rose certainly has a point about that last bit.

Dave goes back in time to the moment John blasted off. Future Dave tells Present Dave to warn John he’s going to die, at which point John becomes arbitrarily skeptical once again. The two Striders gang up on him.

TG: john stop being a tool and unbuckle yourself from that piece of shit
TG: if our friendship means anything youll listen to me and past dave
TG: this is future dave by the way
EB: hahaha!
EB: wow, you’re really pulling out all the stops for this stunt!
EB: using your phone and computer at the same time to message me.
EB: you’re kind of going through a lot of trouble actually, i don’t know why you’re bothering with this.
TG: yeah exactly why would i bother
TG: this sort of cornball horseshit is your cup of tea not mine
TG: dont make me track you down through time and stop you in person

Future Dave is angry, that comes across right away. John is being a dick to an extent that would annoy anyone, true, but Future Dave’s emotion is striking in a comic where characters are prepared to forgive serial murder. Most of all, it’s striking that it comes from Dave, the cagiest character in the story. Clearly, this version of Dave has experienced some changes.

This moment right here means a lot to me. First the surprise and then the realization that obviously he’d planned this, but more than that. I’d softened on Dave after the kitchen scene. He’d gone from being obnoxious to cute, but I wasn’t invested in him the way I was in Rose, John and the Exiles. The gravity of the doomed timeline and the responsibility Dave was facing in being the Knight of Time hit me when Future Dave put down all his gear and jumped into that sprite. The question of what that meant for that version of Dave fascinated and troubled me. Davesprite made me care about Dave Strider as a character for the first time. And loving Dave Strider is a lot like loving Homestuck, this is the moment I became bonded to this crazy thing on a deeper level than I’d ever expected.

Davesprite has some venom left over for Terezi.

GC: NOW 1 F33L K1ND4 B4D
GC: 4R3 YOU SUR3 1 C4NT T4LK TO H1M
GC: 3V3N 1F 1TS JUST TO 4POLOG1Z3
GC: WOULD TH4T B3 OK W1TH YOU S1R BR4V3 KN1GHT >:?

I’ve always had it in my head that Terezi and the others called Karkat “Sir Knight” as a kind of teasing joke, now I realize where it came from. I know Hussie didn’t know much about Aradia at this point yet, but I can’t help reading Terezi’s comment that self prototyping leads to trouble as a kind of criticism of her. She does concede that future prototyping is a good idea though.

Davesprite and Dave chat on the roof. He lets Dave know that he has access to a bunch of game info now and invites Dave to ask him anything. Dave jokes by asking him why they’re both so awesome, which Davesprite doesn’t really have an answer for, but then he asks about John. I notice he doesn’t ask what to do next in the game or about the ultimate riddle or anything. Davesprite simply tells him that the gear he left will help a lot. This conversation reminds me of another moment where Dave will hang out on a roof with a character who speaks in orange text and who will say “ask me anything” and mean it.

Meanwhile, John is flying through the air in his jet pack and remembering back to opening Dave’s present and reading his oddly prescient letter. Perhaps Future Dave’s comment about their friendship brought it back.

It’s interesting that double scolding wasn’t enough to keep John from going for that gate, only the memory of past kindness did the trick. Dave texts him, somehow knowing exactly what John is doing and what he’s thinking about.

TG: did you blast off like a spazzy douche yet or what
EB: yeah, of course!
EB: there was no way i wasn’t trying out this sweet ride.
TG: god dammit what do i have to do to make you believe me
TG: fist bump my future self til i got bloody knuckles and write you an even sappier bday note in my own blood
TG: on a back to the future poster

Dave is Dave, and that’s really all there is to say on the matter.

One friendship moment primes John for the next.

CG: I GUESS YOU GOT ME BACK, SORT OF.
CG: FOR MY TROLLING, EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVEN’T EVEN READ MY WORST TROLLING EFFORTS YET.
CG: BECAUSE THEY HAPPEN IN YOUR FUTURE.
CG: AND EVEN THEN YOU DIDN’T EVEN MIND MUCH, ALMOST LIKE YOU WERE DELIGHTED TO HEAR IT.
CG: KIND OF PERVERSE REALLY, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?
EB: well, we’re friends by then, aren’t we?
EB: or sort of like, uh, reverse anti-mutual friends.
CG: WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.
EB: look, you’re going to have to face it at some point…
EB: that you’re learning the meaning of this human emotion called friendship.

Of course, John is trolling him. But then the best way to bond with a troll is to troll them, at least when it comes to the alien Homestuck variety. It nets him more information. Karkat explains about the Veil, and the Reckoning and the final boss fight at length.

CG: YOU COMPLETELY BLEW IT ALREADY AND YOU HAVE NO CHANCE OF WINNING ANYMORE
CG: WHICH ORDINARILY WOULD BE FINE
CG: JUST ANOTHER BUNCH OF LOSERS TO FAIL AT THIS GAME
CG: IT’S WHAT YOU DO LATER THAT CAUSES SO MUCH MORE TROUBLE THAN THAT
CG: AND NOW WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT TOO.
EB: oh no…
EB: what is it?
CG: ALREADY TOLD YOU.
CG: IT’S INEVITABLE AND COMPLETELY POINTLESS TO TALK ABOUT ANYWAY.
EB: yeah, well…
EB: maybe you’re wrong!
EB: maybe there’s something we can still do to stop it, if you just help us?
CG: I’M NOT WRONG, IT’S ALL RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME, YOU FUCK UP ROYALLY, END OF STORY.

It’s never occurred to me before how much Karkat’s experience mirrors that of the reader. I’ve mentioned before how every time we loop back around to an event and reread a conversation, we see it differently. Karkat has a timeline laid out in front of him. He’s watched it and he thinks he has a handle on it. Then he goes through it backwards while talking to the participants, and then he starts jumping around in it. By the end, his understanding of everything has changed and he’s ready to help Jade find a way to escape.

Speaking of change…

When I tried to convert my friends over to my new obsession, this is the video I showed them. On reflection, this was probably a story heavy one to start with. Something like WV: Ascend or Enter might have been better introductory animations. That said, neither of those options have “Black” by our Toby Radiation Fox.

Lest we ever risk taking ourselves too seriously, let’s remember we’re reading a comic where the word “meow” was the key to a secret genetic code and one of the major antagonists rose to power after assassinating his boss over a dress code violation.

Oh, and Derse officially has a name now. Perhaps I will talk about the next time, since things are about to get surreal.

Session Ten: She Has the Karma

2/10/10 – 3/4/10
pages 1358 – 1542

Homestuck Doctor LOWAS

The opening of Act 4 is brilliant. Homestuck’s art style is fast and loose to accommodate the update schedule and the breezy adventure comedy tone, but it achieves moments of beauty as well. By and large, the comic and its setting could be described as whimsical, and I mean that in the best way, but it’s also grandiose. That’s almost a contradiction in and of itself, “grand” is such a heavy word while “whimsy” is light and airy, yet it’s apt. The Land of Wind and Shade is possessed of a grand whimsy, embodied by thousands of trapped fireflies, rivers of oil carved into bare stone, and many blue trees and mushrooms.

The interactive controls are a little less grand, being slow and rather slippery. I don’t think I explored very long on my first read, and I can see why. A persistent headache starts in the center of my forehead and begins to spread out from there before I’m a minute in. I’m not sure what’s causing it. I am one of those people prone to simulation sickness (I love video games but sometimes they make me need to go lie down until the nausea passes and my vision stops blurring over) so maybe this is related? I do my best to explore everything on this read through, because I don’t ever plan to come back to this particular page after this.

“Doctor” is a wonderful song pick for both this setting and John. It makes me wish I knew more about music so I could better explain why, but the combination of the heavy beat with the light twinkling melody is that grand whimsy I described earlier translated into sound.

There’s a lot more information stored in this interactive mini game than I remembered. I recalled looking at John’s house through the telescope, the pipes that allow the salamanders to send packages on the Breeze, and the description of the havoc caused by the sleeping Denizen, but I missed everything about the frogs. I knew Dersites hated amphibians but I thought this was to do with the Consorts being followers of the players. I didn’t understand that frogs were particularly important until Hivebent, but if you look around there’s destroyed frog statuary and Nannasprite out and out says that frogs are key to the game. She tells John he is the Heir when I remembered his title reveal as coming later. There’s also a cute scene with her feeding cookies to imps that reminds me of Tavros and Gamzee. One of the salamanders explains that it was Agents from the Kingdom of Darkness who put the Denizen up to clouding the air and gunking up the pipes. I wonder if that’s true.

Homestuck Act 4 especially frogsThere’s a new and decidedly different voice in John’s head now.  We chat and then I spend some time collecting packages and attempting to deliver a hat and a shoe after having dropped all the shoes along the way, this begins an inventory cascade that makes me think I should have had more sympathy for John back in Act 1. The scene now thoroughly investigated, I gratefully exit stage right.

I played too much Legend of Zelda, nothing seems more humdrum and unremarkable to me than a frog temple.

Back in the future, the metal sentries from the apple pod don’t like AR shooting at their new friend and return fire. AR beheads one with a rocket, much to PM’s dismay. Meanwhile, WV hits the ground, ending up with his pumpkin satchel on top of his head. AR sights in for the kill shot but when he sees the symbol on the pumpkin he abruptly changes his mind. He runs over to WV and assumes the most ingratiating posture of surrender imaginable, but it’s too little too late for PM’s liking.

I like how PM is the one still figure in this image.

In the same temple but at a different time, Jade has collected Dave’s game discs from the lotus blossom time capsule. She then gets bored and ejects everything from her fetch modus to try out another one. Jenga doesn’t really work out for her but eventually she settles (the poll settles) on the Pictionary fetch modus. With this modus she can create ghost cards for items she doesn’t have, which doesn’t net her the object itself but does provide a captcha code for it, awesome. Democracy for the win! Though I do remember Hussie saying on Formspring that devising a scribble that would convincingly replicate the face of Charles Dutton was one of the odder things he’s done artistically in what one must imagine has been an exceedingly odd career. Trying to get a captcha code for a pumpkin doesn’t work, and prompts what I assume is Jade’s dialogue to show up in the caption. The tangle buddies and the eclectic bass reveal some of the hazards of the Pictionary fetch modus. Before Jade can collect most of her stuff, Bec shows up and carries her back to her room.

Bec is tied with Dad for the title of Least Negligent Guardian. Kind of troubling seeing as he’s a dog.

Jade turns on her computer and starts installing Sburb. Several of the handles down in the TrollSlum are flashing. CG, of course, but also TC and AG, which is interesting because I have no memory of a chat between AG and GG.

I could just have a very bad memory.

She contacts John, who is finally on to her when it comes to knowing what she shouldn’t. I guess he’s allowed to be suspicious since it’s been revealed to the audience already. Jade says she couldn’t explain anything because it would have made things go wrong (how?) and John lets her off the hook. They sign off so Jade can get in touch with Dave and John can find Dad’s car, but before he gets anywhere he’s interrupted (this also leads to him talking in the caption).

Interruptions are going to be a way of life.

Dave is having no better luck reaching Rose than John was. He does that thing where he talks to himself in chat. I admit, this is a thing I did too back in the days of AIM. I still sometimes continue to type messages to friends in Google hangouts after they’ve signed off. He attempts to read Rose’s walkthrough and is repulsed by its sheer verbosity. Jade messages him to let him know that she’s connecting with him as client player and that there’s a giant meteor heading for his apartment.

GG: yes!!!!!!
GG: so now it is my turn to be the star!
GG: i will be your hero
GG: its me
TG: wait what
GG: i installed the game!
GG: im connecting to you as the server player
TG: oh man
TG: this is ridiculous
TG: i just set this shit up with rose and now i got to do like
TG: some double duty thing
TG: i mean i own at the game and all but cant i just relax for half a second
GG: dont worry!
GG: you can keep playing with rose while i just set up a few things
GG: i figured id get a good head start to avoid all the drama you guys are always getting into
GG: such a bunch of drama queens!!!

How does Dreambot take video of Prospit anyway? By reading Jade’s mind?

Meanwhile, one of my favorite pesterlogs is taking place. I love the idea of two people becoming friends backwards. They have one very long day to do it in and by Act 5 it’s done. By the end of their sessions we understand why they are friends and how they need each other in order to survive. It works in context and that is amazing given such a crazy premise. In it’s silly way, this relationship serves as a perfect illustration of how increased knowledge deepens understanding of others which leads to empathy and then cooperation and finally some real affection. Time has certainly softened my perspective on this exchange. Karkat comes off as grumpy, weary and determined to me when I read it now rather than as a noxious asshole (which, granted, he is). At the time, I was too distracted making the connections back to Slick and the intermission to think much about him as a character.

Thoughts as of 2010: “Oh, they’re real trolls too.”

CG: IT’S REALLY WEIRD.
CG: THIS HUMAN EMOTION YOU CALL FRIENDSHIP.
EB: friendship isn’t an emotion fucknuts.
CG: SEE, THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
CG: YOU’RE MUCH MORE TOLERABLE A GUY THAN I THOUGHT AT FIRST, OK JOHN?

Friendship: noun. the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.

WV, with his natural talent for diplomacy, knows that food is the lubricant that allows the cogs of society to turn.

Jade goes about deploying the alchemy devices and Dave goes about being his usual self, scolding Rose for not talking to him and then scolding her for distracting him. He leaps into action in order to defend his stuff.

TT: Wait.
TT: So you mean to tell me she was able to connect with you in a timely fashion, without waiting until you were on the brink of annihilation?
TG: we went over this
TG: i was a little bogged down
TG: in the epic swaddle of legendary puppet taint
TT: I’ve done nothing but wait for boys to play this game with me all day.
TT: First John lollygagging with the client, and then you with the server, downright filibustering my existence with unending fraternal melee.
TT: And yet a girl, one who didn’t even own the game, was able to connect with you minutes after you connected with me.
TG: whoa wait
TG: what the hell is she doing
TG: shes taking my bed what the hell
TT: And there she goes.
TT: She HAS the karma.

Jade’s got her work cut out for her navigating the minefield that is the Strider household. She doesn’t touch the puppets, Bro makes her nervous. The command that Jade should tidy up leads inevitably to towels being dunked in toilets and…

We knew this was coming.

Homestuck LoLaR

The Land of Light and Rain is beautiful, though LoWaS appeals just a touch more to my sensibilities. The animations leave me eager to explore these settings. It’s a shame that we don’t end up spending much time on the kids planets. There was a sense that each place was meant to have a profound connection to the personality of the hero, but all that sort of got left by the wayside over time. A little of the scene’s overall effect is spoiled by the command “AR: Cautiously drink Tab” underneath it.

Back with the carapacians, it’s been five minutes so the two boys have to start vying for the girl’s attention. AR heads back into the temple to pick up Jade’s fridge, cooker and tangle buddies while WV shows her the pod he arrived in. I can’t help but notice the prominently displayed frog toggle that the metal apple’s sendificator didn’t have.

PM was the second voice communicating with John. I like her; she uses complete sentences with punctuation and everything. We have a little review for anyone who might have missed things in the mini game (such as yours truly).

In game design they talk about differences of kind versus differences of scale.

It’s now Rose’s turn to start hearing things. Apparently it is a queenly attribute to be able to use dialogue on screen.

Things are going about as well as can be expected back at the Strider residence.

There’s been discussion on the forums lately (I might have caused some of it) about the comparative amount of interaction we see between certain characters. In essence, how we almost never see Rose and Jade interact. A little of this disparity might be a result of the lineup. Rose and Jade never get to directly work together because of how they fall in the server/client daisy chain. That said, John and Dave never get to team up either but they certainly find time to talk to each other.

Anyway, these moments of direct interaction are revealing of the dynamic between characters. For instance, John is only just now coming to believe in Jade’s special powers (in the moment that they’re being shown to be not all that special) and Rose suspects a great deal but seems to have been circumspect about asking; Dave knows full well about Jade’s sleep typing and her dreambot. He even tricks her into waking herself up later. They seem to have shared a lot about their lives in between flirting and exchanging remixes. Though he’s still paranoid about peeing with her watching his apartment. I’m glad we got the question of what happens when someone needs to use the bathroom out of the way. While Dave is otherwise occupied, Jade finds the slain crow and decides to do something about it.

I’m with Jade, seppucrow is awesome.
Anthropomorphic fruit is not for consumption.

Dave’s exile is quite taken with Jade’s exile. He offers her the tangle buddies, which brings back PM’s memory of their previous encounter, back when they were the Authority Regulator and the Parcel Mistress.

Fate is about to bring these two into conjunction.

Meanwhile in this time frame, John has discovered a salamander village that’s under attack. He attempts to help but is overwhelmed by enemies more powerful than any he’s yet encountered. Even dual wielding Wrinklefucker and Pogo Hammer along with his ghost gauntlets and the Sassacrusher isn’t enough to make much of a dent. He’s about to be eaten when a mysterious gentlemen steps in and takes down all the enemies with a few well placed blasts from his blunderbuss.

Remember when Grandpa Harley was awesome? Doesn’t it make you sad?

Future PM is stargazing when she remembers something she has to do. We go back to present day PM steeling herself to ask an enemy agent to please hand over the packages he’s confiscated from John’s car. She’s not a sword wielding heroine, yet, just a simple postal worker who intends to do her job.

AR is years away from becoming the rocket wielding maniac we first encountered. He is polite to PM, recognizing the carved tablet John sent as a legitimate claim to the Sburb disc but finding himself unable to surrender the green package. PM quickly places the disc in an empty pyxis (one of the pipes) and then follows AR in hopes of retrieving the package.

The salamander village has been emptied of monsters but is still on fire. John attempts to smother the flames with the Betty Crocker Barbasol Bomb, because he’s thirteen and knows nothing about shaving cream.

John starts to panic but then a convenient gust of wind puts out the fire.

This seems like a good moment to say a bit about the Heir class. Most of the classes have been left fairly ill defined in comic; I believe in order to allow for narrative wiggle room. Furthermore, John’s title was probably chosen for pun’s sake, but let’s sit down and contemplate the ramifications anyway.

The first definition of an heir is “a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death”. The idea here is someone who is handed power they didn’t have to earn. That is the situation we’re seeing at work in this scenario. John doesn’t have to summon the Breeze, he doesn’t even to need to think of it, it simply comes to him. We see this with Equius later. Things around Equius are hidden from the likes of Doc Scratch in spite of the fact that Equius might not even know who Doc Scratch is or why he’s dangerous. This actually could be what gets him killed. It’s telling that Gamzee takes out Equius, and his inconvenient power, first. The game mechanic analogy would be a player who starts the session with access to all their powers but no tutorial or pop ups to tell him what those powers are or what they do.

There’s a second definition of the word “heir”, a person inheriting or continuing the legacy of a predecessor.  Initially being an Heir is about ignorance, or innocence if you prefer that word (and symbolism). The player is handed a gift. The salamanders celebrate John even though he’s done nothing. On a deeper level, being an Heir means obtaining the knowledge to use that gift correctly. We’ll talk about it when John gets there.

Amidst the celebration, PM contacts John and instructs him to carve the tablet that set her on the quest for the discs and the package.

Rose is exploring LoLaR when she discovers some footprints in the sand. She and Vodka Mutini follow them to the hatch where the cat mausoleum used to be and head down the ladder.

Contrast with the last time we saw this image.

The tunnel that led to Skaianet Laboratory now leads to a dock, one that once had a boat tied up to it.

Oh the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…

Mom doesn’t seem to have ever been physically abusive to Rose but neglect is still a thing. I don’t want to start an argument about who was worse, Bro or Mom (it was Bro), but I do wonder if Mom ever regretted the lack of honest communication as much as poor Rose ended up doing. One wonders why Mom found it so necessary to retreat into a world of booze and pink wizard dolls, but such mysteries are probably forever beyond our understanding.

Back in Exile Town, WV and AR are bonding. We see that WV’s thing is still being the leader, while AR’s main concern seems to be maintaining order and protecting the innocent. So far we’ve seen AR take on the role of judge and of militia captain. PM doesn’t seem to need to pretend to be anything other than herself. Then…

Dave’s not sure what to make of his entry object. He decides that the obvious thing to do is smash it, but seppucrow has other ideas.

The seed of Dave’s adventure cradled in a nest of puppets and shitty swords, how fitting.

Dave and Jade discover that each time a player enters the Medium they get more items to deploy and more build grist  to use. While John and Rose only had 20 grist to start with, Dave has 200 and Jade is working with 2000. They deploy some of their new toys and experiment. One of their new tools is gristtorrent, a program that allows players to share grist. Dave nabs some of John’s shale and sets the program to keep leeching off John’s cache.

John is busy chatting with Rose. They compare notes about lands and trolls. Then there’s this interesting exchange:

EB: so dave came through?
TT: Eventually.
TT: Pardon the envy I’m about to vent in your direction.
EB: for what?
TT: For finding yourself at the mercy of a rational orchestrator.
EB: oh, haha.
EB: yeah, i’d feel kinda weird if dave was watching me too.
TT: You don’t feel weird when I watch you?
EB: rose i feel weird when you’re just TALKING to me, when you’re watching me it’s just like the weird frosting on the big weirdo cake.

The shippers made mountains out of conversations like this, but I think Rose and John are discussing legitimate doubts about Dave’s capacities here. These two have a more challenging relationship. While conversations between Rose and Jade felt cooperative, John and Rose seem to butt heads. John picks on all his friends, but the comments directed at Rose are pretty pointed. I can’t help thinking back to the letter he sent for her birthday. Possibly, on some level he understands that Rose would resist outright affection but is naturally inclined to accept criticism and consider it as helpful feedback.  I think if John had been on the meteor certain issues would have been easier to overcome.

Rose is curious about John’s statement that the trolls want to be friends and decides to see what the one pestering her is after.

This is the first time we see a troll represented by a zodiac sign.

GC: H3Y L4LOND3
GC: STOP CRY1NG 1N YOUR MOMS B3V3R4G3
GC: SH3 H4T3S YOU 4ND H4S L3FT YOU FOR3V3R
GC: H3H3H3H >8D

Terezi is an all around more competent troll than Karkat. She states that she will hate the humans forever but nevertheless intends to be helpful. She’s also the logical one, having decided to start communicating with the kids at the beginning of their adventure rather than the end, unlike some trolls she knows. I’d forgotten what a font of information she is. In a single conversation she reveals that she is the Seer of Mind, explains the Exiles, mentions the Reckoning, talks about the self fulfilling time loops that make up the Mob1us Doubl3 R34charound that is the game, and names Paradox Space. She even uses the same terminology Rose did when explaining how the game sets up quests customized for individual players. She also claims time travel gives her a headache, but we know she’ll prove pretty adept at manipulating timelines later. There are strong similarities between Rose and Terezi, which is why I believe Terezi bails and starts messing with John and Dave instead; they’re altogether easier to steer. I do have to wonder how she knew what a mom is though.

We jump into the past to see a conversation with another troll.

CG: I JUST HAVE TO DELIVER A MESSAGE AND THEN I’LL GO.
CG: IT IS A MESSAGE FROM YOU, SO YOU PROBABLY OUGHT TO LISTEN.
GG: this is nonsense
GG: every time i believe something you say you laugh at me and call me a gullible human!!!!
GG: its so childish
CG: OK FINE I ADMIT IT, I COMPLETELY SHIT THE BED HERE.
CG: I GET THAT.
CG: AND I CAN’T PROMISE I WON’T KEEP TROLLING YOU.
CG: CAUSE I WILL, IN WEEKS OR MONTHS OR WHATEVER.
CG: I’LL KEEP GIVING YOU A HARD TIME, BUT SEE THAT WON’T BE PRESENT ME.
CG: THAT’S PAST ME.
CG: FROM LIKE A HALF HOUR AGO OR SO, WHEN I WAS MORE HOT AND BOTHERED ABOUT ALL THIS, OK?

That last line is one of my favorites. Anyway, Karkat tells her that after her dreambot explodes she needs to get in touch with him. She obviously doesn’t buy this for a minute, because who would, and Karkat signs off in disgust.

This guy right here is going to be an honest to goodness Christ figure later in the story.

After he’s gone, someone sendificates a green package to Jade. It’s her pen-pal, who has been helping her work on her present to John. Meanwhile, John gets a message.

GC: H4H4H4H4
GT: hehe
GC: 4H4H4H44H4H4H4H4H4H4H4H4H4
GT: hehehehehehe
GC: JOHN
GC: WHY WOULD YOU L4UGH 4T 4 BL1ND G1RL
GT: uh…
GC: YOU H4V3 NO 1D34 HOW MUCH YOU D1SGUST M3
GC: YOUR3 4 TOT4L D1SGR4C3 TO TH3 F13LD OF 3CTOB1OLOGY
GC: 1F W3 3V3R M33T
GC: 1M GO1NG TO CUT YOUR THRO4T
GC: 4ND L1ST3N TO YOU BL33D WH1L3 1 SM3LL YOU D13

Blackrom at first sight, er… so to speak.

Back in the future, or possibly the present, PM is in pursuit of the agent who took the green package. I love how she simply teleports in to the Dark Kingdom with a parking citation, just because there’s an eternal war on doesn’t mean civic bureaucracy must stop. When PM gets lost she even ends up asking the Black Queen for directions.

Who is absolutely rocking the tentacle clown look, I must say.

Turns out all tedious paperwork is under the purview of Archagent Jack Noir.

Back on LoLaR another queen takes her leave.

Rose suddenly feels empowered to make her own decisions. She decides to mark her entry into adulthood by trying her mother’s martini.

Martinis are the worst.

This feels like a natural stopping point. Join me next time for rocket packs, time shenanigans and horrible consequences in Session Eleven.