Jul 4, 2013

Homestuck 6/26/13 – 7/2/13

By Ian Cory

Last week’s updates were cut short by what Andrew Hussie is calling a minipause, an event that he also stated will probably pop a few times as he finishes out work on the upcoming Homestuck video game. This minipause also cut four days out of this week’s updates. As such, there isn’t very much to break down on a story level. Just as last week gave us time with Dave on Land Of Heat And Clockwork, this week we looked into Karkat and Kanaya on Land Of Frost And Frogs. As far as advances in the narrative go, this week was more about clarification than propulsion. The fact that Jade shrunk and transported Earth was heavily implied in the act’s opening flash, and The Condesce’s plan to use this earth as a new home for the trolls has been common knowledge since Act 6 Act 3. Even with Karkat demanding for answers, the only new information we as readers received is the extent of Jane’s Godtier powers. Otherwise we only got a troll-flavored retread of Jade being villainous as our heroes sarcastically humored her. Both of these two elements speak to some larger points I want to talk, both about the way the “choose your character” sections function and the way death is treated in Homestuck overall.

Here, as I did last week, I’d like to spend some time talking about the differences between serial and archival readers. In these last two weeks we’ve been given two out of three branches of a “choose-your-character” screen. This narrative device was first introduced early in Act 6 and has popped up several times since. As I mentioned in my article about week one, these sections give the reader an illusion of choice about how the story can be experienced. However this illusion is completely shattered for serial readers as we can only select one path at a time. I don’t view this as a bad thing; much of Homestuck grapples with the thin line between free will and predetermined fate, so having the structure of the story reflect these themes can only be seen as a good thing. In fact, I’d argue that this lack of choice continues to be the default state even for archival readers. As serial readers we know the “correct” order to be LOHAC – LOFAF – LOLAR, and this is supported by the way this path jumps directly into the Jade centric conflict that ended the LOHAC path, with none of the quieter character moments like the one we spent with Dave. However the archival reader could potentially read these two sections in the opposite order. This would still work, but the pacing would feel dramatically different. John’s sudden appearance and vanishing act in the LOHAC arc served as mystery to draw us in, here it’s played for comedy because we already know how it functions. Likewise, Jade’s rush at John and subsequent rage at his escape doesn’t feel as earned unless we see her chasing him down in the previous pages. Hussie is banking on us reading these segments left to right because that’s the most natural way for us to read.

Now lets switch our focus onto something grimmer. As an inevitable part of the human experience death shows up in nearly every story, and is unsurprisingly one of the most powerful tools in the narrative toolbox. Death serves a very strange role in Homestuck. The story has earned a reputation as being filled with major character deaths, mostly due to the bloodbath of Act 5 Act 2, which got a bit of a callback with Karkat’s “dead” panel this week, but this perception isn’t entirely accurate. Nearly every character that has died during Homestuck has shown up again, via time travel, visits to dream bubbles, or as is the case this week, straight up resurrection. The meaninglessness of death was even the subject of one of Karkat’s best arguments with himself, proving that Hussie is aware of how thin he’s stretching this device. But if death isn’t a threat to the characters, how does the story retain any real tension? Sure there are some self imposed limitations like how Jane’s powers only work once per person, or how Lord English is able to wipe ghosts from existence, but anyone who grew up watching Dragonball Z knows how easily those kind of rules can be twisted and broken. It’s thin icy, but Hussie’s being skating fine for 4 years, so I’m not too worried.

  • I hope I’m not the only one who read Jane’s silences as being a deafening digitized BWAHM a la Inception
  • I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get much Kanaya in this update, but I suppose it’s hard to get a word in edgewise when sharing screen time with a loud mouth like Karkat

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