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Noted Homestuck literary analyst optimisticDuelist joins Kate for a discussion of the spirituality and foundational metaphors of Homestuck, including reactions to Andrew Hussie’s interview with the Washington Post and further details of post-canon content.

https://perfectlygenericpodcast.com/updates/episodes/10


Full Transcript Edit

[Doctor, by George Buzinkai, gently plays.]

Kate: Hi, Kate here, I wanted to open the show with a note. After the conclusion of this week's recording we received some terrible news. Uh, we lost a titan of the Homestuck creative community: George Buzinkai, the composer and musician who created some of the most iconic melodies in Homestuck, including "Explore", "Doctor" and "Endless Climb", passed away recently. Our thoughts are with his friends, family, every member of the Homestuck music and creative team that worked with him, and every fan that's taken inspiration from his work. We will remember him, his work, and his impact on our community always, thank you so much George for everything. We return to this week's show with heavy hearts.

[rest in peace George <3]

[silence]

Kate: The Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You've been warned.

[intro]

Kate: Wait, I forgot, I didn't come up with something clever to say at the start. I guess this is now the start of the episode! [laughs]

oD: [laughs]

Kate: Welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast! I'm Kate Mitchell. Our guest this week is optimisticDuelist, hello, it is so good to have you on the show!

oD: Hi! It's a pleasure to be here!

Kate: So uh, y'know I've long been a fan of your essays, uh, on Homestuck. Frankly I, I read them all before I did the first episode of the podcast, uh, and y'know it was one of the major inspirations for me doin' this podcast? Cause it was uh, sort of a —

oD: Oh wow.

Kate: 'Yeah we can — there is actually a lotta discussion to be had about this, this piece of literature, and, y'know, there's something, we can, we can have some productive discussions about it'. And so I'm so glad it's, it's come full circle and you're on the show. Um —

oD: I'm —

Kate: Oh sorry, go on?

oD: No, go on, I was just gonna say I was moved to hear that!

Kate: [laughs]

oD: I wasn't aware of the extent of which...uh, that was the case.

Kate: [laughs] Yeah. Um, and so whenever we have a new panelist on the show, uh, I always like to ask, y'know, what's your history with this work? How did it start for you?

oD: Um, well, so, for me Homestuck really started with Earthbound, which I played when I was like, twelve?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and I only found Homestuck like, several years later. Um, like, late into my teens. I remember the exact page I caught up, I caught up on the page where Rose asked, asks Kanaya her name? That was where they were in Act 5.2, so sometime in 2011 I caught up on Homestuck?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and then I moved away from the fandom for a while over the course of Act 6, as like, the updates were slowing down and stuff like that. Um, and I got into...uh, Utena and Dark Souls, which were both, um, very established stories that later came to define how I approached Homestuck after it was over, because they had such vigorous analysis communities figuring everything out after it was over. So it was this like, huge ridiculous journey, um, that just kept leading me back to Homestuck through other stories across the course of my life, and now I'm still here —

Kate: Would you say —

oD: Wearing my Hope hoodie.

Kate: [laughs] Would you say that, uh, that Homestuck is the Dark Souls of webcomics?

oD: YES, absolutely, I have that script written actually! Um, I have like a script for a three part video series arguing that, because of their shared gnostic, um, symbolism and motifs, um, Utena is in fact the Dark Souls of anime, and Dark Souls is the Homestuck of video games. And...also...y'know Homestuck is the Utena of webcomics, so it's like this whole ridiculous triangle —

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Everything is Homestuck.

Kate: Right, of course, the nature of humanity is that every so often people write Homestuck, and they have been — people have been writing Homestuck since Ancient Greek literature! [laughs]

oD: Yes! Absolutely.

Kate: [laughs] This is just the latest — Homestuck is just the, the platonic ideal of what a Homestuck is, but it's been, it's been happening ever since the beginning of writing.

oD: Forever, yes, with varying amounts of—

Kate: Gilgamesh truly is the Homestuck of epic poetry!

oD: Oh yes.

Kate: [laughs] Um, so, uh, this week in Homestuck, uh, we got, uh, we got fed pretty, pretty, like a lot this week. Um, first off, Viz Media released the cover of Homestuck Book Four and gave us a date. Um, it's gonna be, uh, Act 5: Part 1? Or Act 1? God I don't remember any of this su— I don't remember what any of the ridiculous sub-categories are called in this fucking comic. Um, it's the one with the trolls! Uh, so we got some lovely new official art of all the trolls. Um, I'm excited for the book, I've really enjoyed the first three, especially since we're now getting into the territory where we're getting, uh, new commentary that wasn't covered by the original Topatoco run of the books? Um, and it's, it's definitely been super insightful, we're gonna talk about some of that commentary later. Uh, also this week, uh, Toby Fox dropped a nuclear bomb on us on Halloween: DELTARUNE. Uh, obviously you're, you're a big fan of, of Undertale and now Deltarune, uh, so, what was that like, just suddenly waking up to a brand new game?

oD: I spent this morning recording a video for it, I don't — there's so much to it, and it's basically — it seems like it's the Act 6 of Undertale? And I'm terrified for all of us.

Kate: [laughs] Yeah.

oD: Um, SPOILERS: it's the Scratch!

Kate: [laughs] Yes.

oD: The whole set-up is the Scratch!

Kate: Yeah. Um, and we're not gonna get — if you haven't played Deltarune yet we're not gonna spoil anything, uh, we're not gonna, we're not gonna get into it yet, BUT, on next week's show we are gonna talk about it, we're gonna dive into some spoiler stuff, so, play it by next week. Um, y'know we're gonna, y'know, that's my Official Recommendation, you should definitely play this game. It's amazing, it's a great iteration on the Undertale formula, it's just like, a maturation of the product, gameplay- and graphics-wise? Uh, and obviously has the same incredible music and writing as Undertale did. Um, and then, uh, this week we got, uh — so this was the off-week for Friendsim, so this is the week where we, where they, the team, uh, messes with us? And, and teases us horribly? So —

oD: And *how*.

Kate: And how, and so this week, uh, David Turnbull said, y'know, we've been wishing for more lore, we wanted more explanation of what's going on, and that wish was on the monkey's paw and it's curling up and we are getting the wish this week. Uh, can I ask: what do you think of that?

oD: Oh god I don't know but I'm so scared! It could be anything! Um, I don't know, it could be...uh, Marvus showing up to Hisoka this story up with his terrible clown antics. Uh, it could be Doc Scratch? We could be getting Doc Scratch directly involved finally. Um, if I'm really really lucky it'll be Lanque [spoilers: it was not Lanque] with his alchemist shtick, telling us more about aspects through like the whole alchemy motif. I have no idea! The great thing about Homestuck is that you never really know what's coming, and it's guaranteed to surprise you and like, leave you, uh, just slobbering on the floor every time.

Kate: Yeah!

oD: So, that's all I'm expecting, is just to be shell-shocked.

Kate: Yeah, and I think, uh, and, and that's a fair assumption. Before, before this episode comes out and drops some, some lore on us, like, I wanna get, I wanna get — I don't usually do predictions on this show, but I find a little bit of delight in this one. So like, what do you think is going on? What do you think is, like, why is MSPA Reader there, like, what is happening in this story?

oD: It's interesting because we don't, there's no precedent for something like this in the Paradox Space universe. Um, we, we don't have a precedent for any character being as like, the way Boldir put it, like, disattached from the timeline in the way that the MSPA Reader is? Um, Homestuck is a very structured, very locked-in story, everyone is trapped on the carousel, so to speak, of Lord English's time loop. Um, but the MSPA Reader isn't like that! They seem to able to just come and go from timelines as they please? So...I am guessing that Doc Scratch put them there [spoilers: correct], and when the lore really starts coming out? Um, I think Doc Scratch is going to be heavily involved [right again] just because I can't think of any other figure directly involved in the story, um, who would have the capability to do that.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, I saw one very interesting meta post, um, uh, noting that the, the start of every Friendsim actually has white text speaking to you? Kind of like, um...a command from an exile? Like, just giving you the flavor text for your motivation? So that being white text actually did, uh, make me feel a lot, a little more com— com— confident in the idea that it would be Doc Scratch involved. Um...but ultimately...the MSPA Reader, I would guess, is here as a force to connect the trolls?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and I'm guessing that it's going to tie directly into Hiveswap, especially since we know that the Friendsim was in the works, uh, y'know, parallel to Hiveswap while all of this was happening —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So, I don't think it's like, just an ancillary story any more, I think we crossed that threshold a while ago.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that surprised a lot of people that were expecting this to be just like a little, y'know, fun side project, but it is, it is important and I think it is essential to understanding where Hiveswap is going in the future. Um, and y'know in addition, it *is* fun on top of that, so cong— so congrats to Hiveswap Friendsim for being a real delight this whole way through. Um —

oD: Yes.

Kate: Um, this week we also got, uh, like a really extensive media push. Uh, we got Andrew talking to the media at length for the first time in a while! Um, in a Washington Post interview, uh, that was in their, that was uh, in their book section. It was a fantastic article, and uh, Andrew released through What Pumpkin the full, unedited transcript of that interview, which is about four thousand words of answers. Um, and we're gonna — that's like the meat of this episode, because I loved that interview so much, and so we're just gonna go, like, bit-by-bit through it, and talk a little bit about, y'know, what was said there and, and what was, and what was dropped. But first off, just like, welcome back from the woods, obviously, it's nice to see, it's nice to see the author come back and, and y'know sort of dish about it again.

oD: Bigfoot rises from the, from the dark depths of the forest.

Kate: [laughs] Um, so uh, y'know the first question in this article, in this interview, definitely like, really, really hit home for me cause it was about the, uh, the like, length of Homestuck and about the, uh, like, real investment that creating it was. Um, and uh, y'know there was a part of that answer, I'm just gonna — a lot of this section is gonna be just, me reading stuff from this interview, because frankly it's really, it's like important and interesting stuff. Um, so here's a quote. Uh, 'Once a project goes on a few years it starts to consume an appreciable percentage of your actual lifespan. And life is a chaotic thing. If you let a project take up a significant part of you life then life has a way of returning the favor by intruding on the project. And the intrusion stretches the project out even further, thus perpetuating the grim cycle. I doubt there's anyone who's working on an ambitious creative project who doesn't relate to this somewhat. Those of you with that unfinished thing sitting on your computer, nagging at you. What's taking so long to finish it? Sounds like life's been messing with you.'

oD: Yeah. [laughs]

Kate: And I, I definitely found this to be — it's, it's sort of an inspiring wake-up call, and also like, illustrative of like, just what a big deal, like a creative work of that scale is? And how difficult it can be to like, make something both your work and your passion.

oD: Mhmm.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: It, it obviously comments so much on like, uh, the things we've heard about how Homestuck's, uh, evolution, uh, y'know was deviated by like, events in the fandom that I won't name, and how Hiveswap, uh, sorta fed into that. But it's, it's al— it's interesting to me that Hussie framed that as just life being life? Because Homestuck is so much about the relationship between the characters and the world around them, and the wor— the way the world, um, and just the natural course of their lives influences and defines them? Um, it just, it, it struck me in the way in particular, as sort of like...Hussie coming close to saying, uh, that life was similar to the way he depicted the characters in the comic, which is sort of a running motif throughout this interview to be honest.

Kate: Yeah absolutely, it's, y'know it's been, like, the 'Real World', quote-unquote, like, informs Homestuck, because it's about — it's about characters who are supposed to feel real struggling with chaotic and unexpected events, and so it's, y'know. The story of Homestuck is the story of how Homestuck got made in many ways as well.

oD: Mhmm.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Absolutely.

Kate: And uh, that reminds me — so, now that we're talking about meta, that also reminds me of the discussion of the ending, uh, as a 'metatheological thesis', sort of outlining, like, what the point of the story was. And *you*, are like, a much bigger-brain expert on this than I am, so do you wanna talk about what that means to you?

oD: Um, yes. So, actually the very first piece of meta that I ever wrote for Homestuck was like, a month after Act 7, and I spent a month writing it. Like, from the night Act 7 dropped basically, um, I just couldn't fall asleep, and all these thoughts started crystallizing in my head, um...about how Homestuck is ultimately like this deeply, um...symbolic, spiritual work?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um...that...y'know, with, there's this quote Rose has. Uh, into Act 6, where she says that, uh, 'The symbols hold all the power'. Like, there, there are symbols coded into Homestuck that illuminate a lot of the meaning and a lot of the grander events of the story, and once you understand those symbols and how they relate to the story, a lot of the elements that, uh, fans might have felt were unsatisfying in some way, like for example Lord English as an antagonist —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Start to fall into place, or at least that was my experience. For example, you've got, um, the Denizens, you've got Caliborn's...and Dirk's Denizen is Yal-DAH-bah-oth, or YAL-da-bay-oath [Yaldabaoth]? Um, and that figure is very interesting because mythologically it's described as this very arrogant, um, god, that can't perceive the realm of ideas, or the realm of imagination. But it's also, uh, the architect of the physical world, right?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and that's in many ways the role that Lord English ends up playing, is...He is the, the agent that creates all four of the worlds that Homestuck takes place in. But he can't actually see ideas that Homestuck is about, none of that like filters into his head. Um, and it reaches into a metanarrative standpoint of course, because the creator is posited as God, as like, a god of Homestuck's world. And...y'know, Homestuck, uh, borrows that tradition from Earthbound, actually, where the audience is like, an inherent part of the narrative? Like, I don't know if you've played Earthbound, um, or Mother 3? Um, but the player character is actually, like, a god figure, that — you know you have characters, like, ask you your name, in Earthbound, and then later at the end when you're fighting like the...this like, eldritch demon, um, your name is actually called on to like, pray for the characters —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And like, send them your power, to like, allow them to be free and have a happy ending. So like, there's...uh, a very clear relationship between us the audience and the characters, and the forces at work making the story what it is, like Lord English or Calliope, where we're all sort of aware of each-other. And like, understanding that dynamic is really core to trying to understand what Homestuck is trying to say?

Kate: Yeah in the end, like, like so much of this sort of happens between the lines, or just in visual symbols. And —

oD: Yes.

Kate: Those who rely a little bit more on like, explicit writing, um, do te— like, did tend to be a little disappointed by the entirely visual conclusion of Homestuck, whereas I feel like those who enjoy the more visual motifs and metaphors and symbolic thinking enjoyed it more. And perhaps there's, there's, y'know an accord to be reached between those two, sort of, groups of thinkers about what this story means, and what it's going to mean moving forward.

oD: Definitely. Definitely. There's also a lot to be said for like, um, people who felt dissatisfied from a character perspective, because a lot of the character resolutions and like, the romantic culminations of like, characters' relationships were delivered the same way.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like, you, you get, you don't necessarily get, um...let's say, Vriska and Terezi outright explicitly confessing love on-screen. What you get is both of them meeting each-other, in the endless void that Lord English has created, on a red quadrant, for example.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like they just happened to meet on a red quadrant. There's a lot of, uh, that kind of storytelling at work with those characters too.

Kate: Right, and like, if, y'know, if you want the story to...explicitly tell you what's happening in the relationships between characters, you'll probably be little disappointed. I mean even, y'know, even the relationship between Dave and Kar-kut [Karkat] is, is, and I, and I do say it 'kar-kut' and I've heard it's, and I *know* it's wrong! Uh, just for listeners who've talked to me about it. I know it! I just can't stop saying it that way, sorry. Um, but even the relationship between Dave and Karkat is like...y'know, it is a really important relationship that matters a *lot* for both of their characters? Um, but it still is presented in a way where it's elided by the characters, or not directly discussed or shown.

oD: Yeah. My big, my big thing is DirkJake [transcriber's note: hell fucking yes], as anyone who follows me closely knows —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So like, I'm well in that camp! Um, I definitely sympathize with people who would like the characters to talk more, and hopefully we'll get that, but we'll see tha— we'll talk about that a little later I think.

Kate: Mhmm. But also, I would say, and I do talk about this, I think it's one of the bigger compliments for the work that in something that's over 300,000 words long, the most common piece of — the most common piece of criticism or desire is: 'I would like more talking please.' [laughs]

oD: [laughs] Yes!

Kate: [laughs] It's like —

oD: We just can't get enough!

Kate: Yeah, y'know, it, the fact that it does leave you with, with additional questions and more insight into creating this uh...this, this, y'know, and you want to know more, you wanna hear more about these characters and it does — I have always enjoyed the open-ended ending of Homestuck in that it, it does leave you a lot to think about, especially in a work that had such a symbiotic relationship with its own fandom. It still gives you a lotta meat to chew on, it does not say 'there's no more room for fan interpretation'. There's still a lot of room for it.

oD: Mhmm. And I think that's...more, that's very important for like, long-term community building?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, because like, you see these fandoms like, um, Revolutionary Girl Utena for example is a show that came out in 1997. Um, and the fandom for it is still going strong just off the, off the strength of like, how much there is to uncover and talk about and think about with the characters and symbols at play there. Um...Dark Souls is another good example. I've brought it back to that, oops! But, um, like that co— that communal search for higher levels of truth to a story, I think, can be a very, um...important and very rewarding, uh, experience in fandom all on its own, and I like, I don't think I can imagine a way that Homestuck could have ended that would've delivered that experience more...fully.

Kate: Yeah, exactly.

oD: At least to me.

Kate: Yeah exactly. Um, I completely agree with you there, and I, y'know I think that's important. I think it's important that we're still arguing about it. Uh, like that's, y'know, that's definitely, that was definitely the intention, it was, not to resolve everything —

oD: Mmm.

Kate: Is to, to sort of keep fomenting the Discourse, as it were, for years.

oD: Yeah.

Kate: And it's a work that sort of masterfully knew what it was doing, like...It's so hard, and, and Andrew talks about this a little bit in the interview. Um, but it's like, he didn't seem to feel any, like, much pressure at all from the fact that like, every little thing was torn to shreds and like, investigated extremely deeply, in fact that seemed to be close to his favorite thing about the writing process, was the ability to like, play with that extraordinary amount of attention. So that, you know, that was, the writing process, we just talked about that, like, how it's, how it's informed so we're gonna, I'm gonna move further down just to a part, uh, about something that's obviously been important to me, and a lot of readers, which is just the, like, LGBTQ content in Homestuck. Um, and so that was asked about in this interview, so I'm just gonna go ahead and read that question and answer and then we're gonna, we can talk about that a little bit. Uh, 'As HOMESTUCK continued to unfold, the LGBTQ character representation seemed to increase exponentially. Did you always plan that ó or did something specific along the way spur you to create numerous gay and non-binary characters?' 'I didn't plan it, but was generally open to any type of development for the characters. Again, that was the point, to let them grow with the story and discover who they really were, just like real kids do. But I think this feature of the story was definitely influenced by the fandom. The story has ways of reflecting the fandom back at itself in many respects. As things went along, I noticed there was an ever-growing LGBTQ portion of the fandom, which I wasn't really expecting to happen, but it seemed like a welcome development. If these were going to feel like real kids whose experiences of growing up resonated with real people reading this, it felt like a big portion of the readership should have their own experiences reflected in the thing they're reading. I guess this is a more elaborate way of saying they should receive "representation in media". I wasn't thinking about it in such terms back then though. I think it was more about just being true about people, and the diverse range of experiences they have.'

oD: It's such a good quote.

Kate: I know, right? Um, that's part of why the representation in Homestuck like, feels authentic and feels cool, is just that, it's not...'Okay I'm gonna throw this in here because I have to to represent people'. It's more like, y'know, this is just, these are the people that have en— that have engaged with this work? These are the people that have like, through their, through their, and I hate this word, but through their """fanon""", have y'know, like expounded on what these characters' perspectives are, and it just seems right, it just seems like the right development for them. And all the, like, all of the queerness in Homestuck feels like it's just a natural extension of those characters' like, life experiences? Um —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: And especially — and it's always been interesting to me in this story because in so much media there's like, y'know, in *so much* media over the history of media, like, queer-codedness is used as like a villainous element, or y'know, like an unsettling thing? But it's the, like...it's, like — queer love, and gay love, is like the...is like, a force for good. It's like an elemental force for good in the universe of Homestuck. Whereas some of the most unsettling moments in the story, uh, and I think about like, uh, the, y'know, Equius/Aradiabot kiss, or y'know, like, like —

oD: Caliborn —

Kate: Yeah!

oD: Just in general.

Kate: Yeah, or just Caliborn's general existence. Like, a lot of the, like, villainous, or like parts of the story that are intended to make you be like 'EEERGH', are like, super heterosexual! [laughs] And it's really funny to me, and this is even mentioned in some of the book commentaries, is just that like, like — heterosexuality and like, heteronormativity, and gender normativity are like, are the *bad guys* in this story. And that is —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: And that is like...y'know, it, it shouldn't be revolutionary but it is!

oD: Mhmm. It really shouldn't. But it, this brings us back a little bit to the metatheological thesis comment —

Kate: Mhmm

oD: Uh, too, because Yaldabaoth, um, as a deity, is like, known for being like a demiurge and whatever, but specifically, um, he was a certain sect of Christianity's criticism of...like, the Old Testament fire and brimstone, wrathful interpretation of God.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So, y'know that's still an element that...uh, we see at work in parts of society right now. Um, very much, uh, down on LGBT identity and LGBT rights, so to me it feels like Caliborn is in a sense carrying on that aspect, um, of that —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Uh, y'know, that deity's interpretation by wider culture.

Kate: Uh, you know what, it, this actually reminds me of a part of this interview, is like the distinction between the physical and the emotional, um, is like — uh, talking about, y'know, engaging with people directly. Uh, Andrew says, uh, the — 'It's very odd how all the argumentative chaos, invective and incrimination of the internet seems to completely vanish when you directly confront great numbers of people in their physical forms. The two realms are so different, it's hard to reconcile, but it does lend a sense of optimism that the complete hell we perceive on the internet every day is just some sort of horrific illusion conspiring to agitate or demoralize us, without much truth or substance behind it. ' [laughs] And —

oD: I —

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Hold onto that quote like a rosary prayer, lately.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Cause the world is a lot!

Kate: Yeah, the world *sucks* right now. Welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast, where every week we do mention that, yes we are like, aware that the world is imploding. Um [laughs]

oD: Yeah...

Kate: And, y'know, like, like — this work, and like, these authors working on it now, are aware of that too, and it's not — like, it is a very, it is a very timely message to think about like, what is, y'know...there is transcendent love and community that persists, even under the *worst* possible circumstances.

oD: Yep.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Necessary messages for our time, unfortu—

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And, y'know, it is, it is very, it is very on point and it is a work of literature for our time, and it is often compared to Ulysses. What do you think of those comparisons?

oD: Uh, they're very interesting to me. Um, I believe the, if not the first, then certainly the most, uh, recognized person to raise that idea was Mike Rugnetta from Idea Channel?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and Idea Channel is actually an enormous influence in how I decided to, um, take my exploration of Homestuck to YouTube, just because....more accessible, and it's, uh — allows for more ex— uh...fun, fun ways to explore the subject matter without necessarily bogging people down under a ton of text. But as to, uh, Ulysses itself, again, basically whenever Homestuck references anything it takes those references extremely seriously, and it, um, takes it as a challenge almost, to actually incorporate the ideas that those things embody into itself. So, Homestuck is itself an, uh, an epic poem, like there's, there's been posts about this several times, I'm not the first person to bring it up, but like, Calliope is, uh, originally the name of the goddess of epic poetry?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And the whole story has like, many of the traits of an epic poem. Uh, y'know you've got the invocation of a muse, with Calliope, uh, essentially starting the events of Homestuck by reading about them and talking about them in the first place? Which is what influences Caliborn to then put everything into motion?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, you've got the uncommon birth, uh, motif, in the heroes all being, y'know, not born normally, they're like born through ectobiology?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, one really interesting note that a friend of mine came up — uh, uh, brought to me recently, is, um, the Openbound segment. Uh, a lot of criticism has been thrown at Hussie for like, how, um, in some people's minds the, uh, the Dancestor trolls feel kind of flat or hollowed out, and I was — that only came into context for me when I realized, when I was told that the entire Openbound segment plays out more-or-less like an epic heroes descent into the Underworld.

Kate: Yes!

oD: Um, and y'know, the, the — it's very much a descent to Hell narrative, where Hell is just like, endless, uh, social circle, like, uh, social media consumption.

Kate: [laughs] Yeah Hell, Hell is teenage — Hell is teenage internet problems. [laughs]

oD: Yeah! Um, we were in Hell all along, it's time to get, to escape, guys!

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Um —

Kate: Hell is a whirling circle of, of just, like, constant dramatic social interaction! [laughs]

oD: Um, but like, that's fascinating that for example you can have a, uh, a work where, um, the structure of an epic poem just coincides with like, a casual observation about like, teenage interaction on social media in our modern age. Like, what other story do you get that in?!

Kate: Yeah, absolutely, and I think *that* is probably how it is closest to Ulysses. Um, because in the end like, Ulysses was revolutionary in that is was a more direct, like, stream of consciousness, like, y'know, illustration of just what day-to-day life is like for the characters. Um, and unlike Ulysses, Homestuck is telling, like, a grand story on top of that stream of consciousness, so it is sort of Ulysses', like, epic structure, but also big things are happening in addition to the like, mundane internal narratives that drive the, like, characters' motivations.

oD: Totally.

Kate: Um, yeah, and so uh, there's also a uh, y'know some very important discussion of what's next for Homestuck in this interview. And obviously that's something that, uh, y'know — you and I have both been uh, Epilogue optimists for a while? Y'know, uh, sort of, it's been sort of core to my reading of the work, uh and the structure of it, that like, it was intended, like, so many of these beats, especially ones that people are unsatisfied with, were like, intended to set up what's next? Um —

oD: Mhmm.

Kate: And, y'know, it's, there's very obvious things in Homestuck that are just, like, it feels like you're sorta tossing the ball up into the air and getting ready to serve it. Um, like there's some, like, there are many stories which are concluded thoughtfully, uh, and y'know, do have complete arcs, but the story that we see at the end? It feels almost like an uneasy truce. Um, y'know, like the — the situations the characters are in in Earth C and the happy ending that many of them got? It's still built on that unsettling fact that there's still so much we don't know, and there's still so much that we know will happen that hasn't happened yet.

oD: Exactly. It's worth mentioning that, like, this is a scenario we've been in before with Hussie. Um, it's not — I'm not sure how well known it is but like, uh, Problem Sleuth's ending was originally like, fairly unsatisfying, um, until the epilogue for that came out, which was generally regarded as like, successfully tying up all the loose ends and like, delivering like, the final satisfying conclusion to the narrative.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But there was like an ending before that, that people felt, um, cheated by, uh, is the sense that I've gotten in my, my research. So, y'know, like, this just seems to be how Hussie do, with uh, ending his stories and like, uh, this relationship to an epilogue.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Especially since, uh...the Epilogue seems to be a bit more than an epilogue?! [laughs] Judging by things he's said. Um, in the...in the un— in the un— Do you wanna get into the unedited transcript now?

Kate: Yeah of course.

oD: Or do you wanna —

Kate: You, yeah, go ahead.

oD: Alright, so, in the unedited transcript of the Andrew Hussie, uh, Washington Post interview, he actually says, uh, he utters the phrase 'sequel' himself. Um, y'know, he says 'sequel' or 'post canon content'. Uh, for...it is what the Epilogue is going to be, like it's going to address the events that follow after the end of the story, and um, it's something like a full-blown sequel. Which is interesting in light of his other interviews, because, um, he's been doing interviews with the other books, and um, with Barnes and Noble, I think it was, he, um, referred to Homestuck as an anime? And with another interview publication he, um, he was asked how he felt about Homestuck having ended, and he just refused to validate the premise of the question and was like, 'Homestuck never ends!'

Kate: Uh-huh!

oD: The ride never ends!

Kate: [laughs]

oD: So...at the beginning around Act 7 I wasn't sure if, y'know, the end of the epilogue was going to represent like a formal end to the story, and we wouldn't really see the characters, um, after that? But since, I'm, I'm like pretty sure that if we're not getting a follow-up Homestuck anime through Hussie and Viz Media's partnership, we're getting something about as ambitious, like —

Kate: Right, like, the statement, like the press release when Viz acquired Homestuck specifically mentioned, like...this wasn't just for book publishing. It was, it was — the deal was partially because of Viz's experience...like, like, putting together many different types of multimedia projects!

oD: And like, there's something to be said for the fact that...Viz Media is a manga publisher technically?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Not an animation publisher. But that's still a ton of connections, and like, you gotta understand like, the way that Homestuck is like, crafted, is uh, perfect for introducing people who have nothing to do with Homestuck to the world *now*.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Specifically now, because Earth C is set up like a superhero universe, right?

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Um —

Kate: Yes! Absolutely, I've, y'know, it looks like — I don't think there is going to be a strict ending, I think, especially with this new relationship with a major publisher, like, there is, there is a world where, y'know, multiple, like, concurrent superhero universe-style stories can be told at the same time. Something that, I think, was maybe given a little bit of a trial balloon on the, on the Snapchat before that...but, y'know, just like, a little test of what that content could be like.

oD: Exactly. Um, who knows how ambitious exactly that content's gonna get, but my guess is extremely? Because we're dealing with Hussie.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and because Homestuck is so, like, Homestuck has a lot of built-in appeal for like an anime-style project, but it also is attuned to Western sensibilities and American sensibilities in a way that not all anime necessarily is?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So for example, the idea of having these characters who are like, actually adults now, and are just like, all friends and have established relationships and like, having the kind of like, fan-service type stuff that anime likes to do, but done, uh, y'know, in a way that is less skeevy?

Kate: Yeah [laughs]

oD: And more, y'know — done with the attention to detail and like, the care for the characters that I know Homestuck is capable of —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: That's actually a really exciting idea for me, and I think it would be for a lot of, um, these Western markets, once they see it, y'know?

Kate: Yeah absolutely, and uh, also I should note that like, while Viz does primarily publish manga, um, and books, um, they do have the Viz production arms where they license a great deal of anime. They also have a, uh, streaming relationship with Hulu, um, and have financed and developed a couple of films, including, uh, the underrated Tom Cruise flick 'Edge of Tomorrow' [laughs]

oD: Oh no!

Kate: [laughs]

oD: I had no idea actually!

Kate: Yeah!

oD: That's really exciting!

Kate: Yeah. Um, which, which...not to get into shitty action movie hour, but that's a pretty Homestuck film [laughs]

oD: I'm gonna have to go watch it!

Kate: Uh-huh, it's a, y'know it's about a repetitive timeline. Um, it's that sort of thing. Uh, yeah, and so y'know, I think that uh, those who are optimistic and excited for what's happening next in the Homestuck universe have a lot of reasons to, to feel that way. Um, and y'know this recent rash of media has been really really great, and it's been uh — and y'know it's, it's been a good, it's been a good week, it's been a good week and few months, uh, for y'know those of us in this fanspace. And I'm really excited, and I do wanna, I wanna close this discussion of the uh, of the interview with a quote that is sort of a thesis statement for this entire podcast. Um, and, so here's the quote: 'Maybe the only true running gag in Homestuck is how everyone keeps thinking it's full of gags, when in fact all of this material is extremely important to me, and carries a sort of somber, deeply spiritual gravity to it all. Homestuck is essentially my religion, and I do not take derisive or frivolous remarks about it lightly at all. The good news is, if you have ever read a substantial portion of Homestuck, that means it is your religion as well, and you likely feel the exact same way.' [laughs]

oD: [laughs] Wow!

Kate: And obviously that's walking a tightrope of irony, but like, there is real kernel of truth to it!

oD: Yeah. I always think about, um, that Aranea quote where she's like, um, she is a follower of The Sufferer but she, rather than framing herself as like religiously about it, she prefers to frame herself as a fan of the story and what it represents? Um, and that's how I try to position myself, but like it's definitely...um, it's definitely true that...y'know, there's like, a resonance between the meaning that I see in Homestuck's work, and just the world and the way that I relate to it.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

oD: So, like, if that makes the story spiritual then like, I guess that's where we're at!

Kate: Right!

oD: But —

Kate: And that's, and, and that is not weakened by the story's constant like, sort of ironic self-reference and like, y'know, like humor about what it's trying to accomplish. In fact I feel like that is, like, almost a more relatable form of spirituality for the modern age, since we're always, we're always on this like, y'know, irony jokes train as a culture now. And so to be able to engage with something with like, deep spiritual themes, while also being like, 'Am I being serious? Am I not?' is, is...y'know, sort of, uh, closer to our lived experience these days than reading about, y'know, than — y'know like experiencing spirituality as this Big Serious Thing.

oD: Mhmm. I also think it's more practical, and in a way this kinda reflects, too — in another section of the interview he like, refers to Homestuck, um, as like the best way to relate to it is probably as a big farce?

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Um, and I like that quote a lot actually. Some people seem to take it in a derogatory way, but I didn't seem to— I didn't really feel that way at all because the reality is, um, a lot of our modern, uh, sense of irony, um, is like at least partly rooted in an ex— uh, like an existential scepticism. Like, how many times do we find ourselves like, wondering like, 'Well, time probably isn't even real', or like, 'Reality is a hologram' is just like, something you see on the news nowadays.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like, there is a real sense in Homestuck, um, that its reality is, um, unreal on one level, like I think that's kinda the basis of Gamzee's character arc, is he gets in on the joke that Homestuck is like — that he is a joke to Homestuck's existence.

Kate: Right —

oD: Um —

Kate: That is the Vast Riddle. That is the answer to the Vast Riddle.

oD: Yes, we figured it out everyone.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Um, um, and like that's true in the sense that Homestuck is a fictional story in relation to us, but that doesn't mean that the characters don't have their own inner truths and inner realities that they wanna live by. Um, and that has a lot of, uh, merit as an approach for dealing with like our own real lives too, I feel like. Like, I try not to um, take reality too seriously in my day-to-day life because...the world is what it is right now!

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and I just think it's easier, um, if you, um, try to be kind and try and do good with yo— where you *can*, while also trying to keep a sort of detached skepticism from stuff. Um, just as like a practical matter, honestly.

Kate: Right, you can't fix the unending, like, ceaseless nightmare of misery. You can't. You can't do it all on your own.

oD: Yes. You're not —

Kate: But what is real and what you can do is build strong connections and solidarity with other people. Um, and that's what real to the characters of Homestuck and that's what real to the readers as well. And y'know, that's, that's something that I keep coming back to because it's, it's expressed especially well in Tyzias' route of Friendsim, which is sort of a summation of that, and it's sort of what the Blood aspect is about a little bit, not to get too much into Aspects cause we are, we're gonna talk about those some other time [laughs]

oD: It'll happen.

Kate: Uh-huh. Um, but yeah, and they, y'know, so that's, it's, it's just, it's just good. It's just *good*, baby. It's just a good, it's just a good thing to, to sorta turn around in your head, for how to exist and like, to understand that stuff's awful and you can't fix it all without becoming like, just a, edgy nihilist, and just not caring and not making the lives of other people around you better.

oD: Yep. As Hussie implies, like, we're not always necessarily sure how much of it is real, either.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like, so much of how we relate to the world nowadays is just through the internet, um, and it's like he says, like, reality feels very differently when you engage with people face-to-face.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: So, y'know. It cou— a lot of the, the hellishness that we see might not even be there, so.

Kate: Yeah exactly.

oD: There's a source of optimism. Take optimism wherever you find it!

Kate: [laughs] Yes! Find it wherever you can, even if it's, y'know, even if it's in a, in an interview about a fictional webcomic [laughs]

oD: Yes!

Kate: Um, and, uh, yeah, so good interview. Good, good — good job dude, thanks for giving me stuff to talk about this week! [laughs] Uh —

oD: No kidding!

Kate: Yeah! Um, and so I, I did wanna get, before we got into our listener questions, I did wanna talk to you — and we sort of squeezed this by, by talking about the interview for a very long time, which was good because there was a lot to talk about — um, but the meat/candy/vegetables, like, trinary of Homestuck's storytelling, was sort of teased in the uh, Book Three author's notes?

oD: Yes.

Kate: And was sort of set up, and it's something that I think is really fundamental to the work, and, y'know like, has been a sorta subject of meta for a very long time, which it turns out was pretty close to spot on. Um, and uh, I'm gonna read an excerpt real quick and then I wanna get your thoughts on like, the meat/candy binary: uh, 'I think this one marks the start of Homestuck's trend thereafter' — and this is from the Book Three author notes — 'of dropping exceptionally violent, high-octane, game-changing animations out of nowhere. There are so many like this from now on, right up until the end of Act 5. Only then does the number sort of taper off, but from this point I just sorta started shovelling more and more red meat into the story's maw. This stretch is where I was starting to get a feel for this type of sensationalistic storytelling content as something I'd later code, mostly for my own internal purposes, as meat, in the meat/candy binary of storycraft theory. I really shouldn't talk about this yet though. It's too soon.'

oD: What the *hell* does 'it's too soon' mean, Hussie?! Just give me the meat, for lack of a better word! Um —

Kate: I think what that means, I think what 'it's too soon' means is...it's not fully understood in the text until the cherubs show up.

oD: I think that's likely, yes. Um, I mean...I try to hedge this stuff because, um...so, all we really got confirmation of was the meat/candy binary. I presented the idea of pumpkin and vegetable matter as like an alternative based on Caliborn, because I like working more of the text that off what Hussie says anyway.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, but I saw a few other interpretations, um, that I didn't necessarily, um, feel compelled by? But y'know, part of this is just my interpretation, with a lot of —

Kate: Mhmm. So really —

oD: So —

Kate: So, what is 'meat'?

oD: Well, meat at least is like, pretty clearly defined, like this is uh — that quote was in reference to the, uh, Jack, uh, Ascend or Descend. One of those two animations. But either way, those are animations where, y'know, Jack kills a bunch of people, and, um, a lot of game-changing, uh, very violent things happen very very fast. Um, so that's basically what I think, uh, meat entails, is just, very sensational, um, content, that changes the status quo of the comic's plot very quickly, and usually involves a lot of death and violence.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, the way Calib— the way this is framed with Caliborn is he likes meat, um, he likes candy, and he tells us the only parts of the story Caliborn actually likes are when the kids are, when the Alpha kids are tricksters, um, which is obviously very candy-coated —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and he —

Kate: Yeah literally candy-themed all over the place!

oD: Yeah. Um, and he explicitly likes the parts where people die. Those are the parts of Homestuck that he likes. He likes watching the characters suffer, he likes watching them perish, he likes seeing them plead —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And, having them like, reduced to sort of meat puppets —

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Basically. Um, so if — based on that, based on that, that binary of interests that Caliborn, and Calliope to a lesser extent, have, um, I suppose that candy, um, would be, uh, shipping and like, uh, shows of affection between characters, but like in a very specific way that Caliborn likes. Um, this was rooted in, um, his conversation with Dirk, um, which is interesting because Dirk and Caliborn are both, um, linked to Yaldabaoth.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, they're both, like, sort of, um...demiurge figures, figures who end up building the world of Homestuck. Caliborn directly, obviously, um, and Dirk, um, not so much himself but through the Auto Responder, who becomes part of Lord English and like, fulfills Dirk's Yaldabaoth, uh, symbolism that way.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, but —

Kate: Which is very appropriate for a Heart player, having their biggest influence on the story being uh, like an alternate self, like a splinter of themselves.

oD: Yeah. Um, and, uh, so — but basically what I'm getting at is like, this is basically two creators of the world, like, talking about how the narrative might be constructed. Um, so...Caliborn basically says he likes meat, he likes candy, and he refers to cotton candy, which is like the ship between Jane and Roxy specifically, um, uh, as candy that he, y'know, like he talks about having it between his teeth and like, how sweet it is and stuff, so like, there's a very strong visual parallel drawn between the kind of 'smut' that Caliborn has Dirk draw, and uh, candy as like an item for consumption.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, so you've got...fluffy, um, lacking in substance kinds of shipping, um, that are specifically either heterosexual or between two girls —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Basically, is what Caliborn is interested in. Much much later two boys come into the picture in the form of Dave and Karkat, when Caliborn discovers that most powerful of all Arts, the hot Yaois.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Um, but um, for a lot of the story, like, it's, it's catering to like, these very specific um, kinds of uh, shipping that Caliborn wants to indulge in.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And it's all very fluffy, um, there's no real conflict involved with like, candy shipping relationships.

Kate: Right.

oD: It's all just like a Trickster mode, it's like they all get married, and they kiss a lot, and um, everyone has babies and does productive things, and has no interpersonal conflicts or does any growing because all the problems are solved~ hooray!!

Kate: Uh-huh.

oD: Um, so...y'know, if I, if you wanted to be mean-spirited you could say that Andrew is like, taking a shot at y'know, people who like to do shipping for shipping's sake, or whatever, with like, ships that don't necessarily have much to do with the canon of the comic. Um, I wouldn't say that? Uh, it's —

Kate: The thing is, uh, yeah I don't think, I think Caliborn's viewpoint is intended to be a bit repulsive [laughs]

oD: Yeah. Um, and like, even Calliope, um, likes both of these things but like, she grows in a way that Caliborn doesn't —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Because early on in the story she sees the characters *as characters* as much as she sees them as friends, like she — there's actually a line where Calliope slips up, um, from calling them characters instead of calling them her friends, and she has to correct herself and call them her friends.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, so like, Callie — Calliope's arc features an evolution of her growing to see these people as like, real actual people, instead of just like, fictional characters in a story she's consuming.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, which gets us to the part of this like, binary that I suggested and I added to, which was like the pumpkin matter or vegetable, um, part of it, where I suggested that it, uh, we might actually be looking at a conceptual Trinity. Um, because you've got these two different forms of fan titillation, basically, with like, meat representing like, game-changing plot, like...uh, violence. And like the characters suffering for the sake of advancing the plot basically. Um, and you've got candy with like, being fan titillation by way of the characters performatively, um, engaging in romantic relationships and like, being sweet to each other and like, kissing and doing all this stuff that's like, fun for us to watch but doesn't necessarily advance their characters?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, and then he...Dirk uh, suggests drawing him and Jake, and Caliborn rejects the notion outright, saying that he doesn't want to, uh, languish in the pumpkin patch, and he doesn't like vegetables.

Kate: Yeah!

oD: Um —

Kate: And that, cause that's a hard relationship. It's, y'know, it's not, it's challenging.

oD: Yeah.

Kate: It's not fluffy.

oD: Dirk and Jake's relationship is like, not easy to understand. It's not, um, always comfortable, and uh, we don't — they seem to have sweet moments at some points? But we don't really get to see them. Like, the audience is denied, uh, the moments of, uh, levity or like, uh, affection that we typically latch onto for the sake of a relationship. And that's sort of like the running trend with every endgame relationship in Homestuck, like we never really see, um, Vriska and Terezi for example being too affectionate with each-other. Or you mentioned DaveKat earlier.

Kate: Yeah, I was gonna, I was going to mention that, like, like Vriska and Terezi feel like a big analogue for Dirk and Jake, and I wasn't just gonna mention it because we actually hadn't talked about Vriska yet, and that's a crime on this podcast [laughs] but y'know like, they, yeah, like — the sweet moments, they don't, we don't get to see them. And it's almost like a — the most meaningful relationships of this comic are almost like, not available to the voyeuristic eyes of the audience and the narrative.

oD: Mhmm. Which are, in a sense, Caliborn's eyes —

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Because Lord English is the architect of everything that's happening in Homestuck that is important. That is like, important to the plot specifically.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Um, what we do get with these relationships usually, is that they'll be marked as important through the symbol of light, and by that I mean like, you'll either see the Sun symbol, in some cases, um, like with Vriska and Terezi. Um, you'll...like, with Vriska and Rose you'll see the Sun symbol because they're Light players?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But like, light itself with emanate in relation to these characters at some points. Um, like for example, when Vriska and Terezi find each other in the void, during [S] Remem8er, they immediately just like, see, like, all the light in the multiverse basically —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like the key to like, existential enlightenment was just finding your One True Girlfriend I guess.

Kate: YES!! [laughs]

oD: Uh, Rose too, like, Rose's entire arc is about grappling with the world as like a place of darkness and meaninglessness. And when she finds Kanaya and starts really connecting with Kanaya, she grows closer to light, both metaphorically and like in terms of character growth, and literally because Kanaya lights up in the dark?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, so like, uh, Dirk and Jake, when Jake kisses Dirk's head, uh, the lantern that represents Dirk — like the four Alpha kids have lanterns and uh, uh, the lanterns like, the — the other three lanterns explode when Jane, Jake and Roxy god tier.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But Dirk's lantern explodes way before that, um, during the Unite/Synchronize sequence, when Jake kisses his head. Like, the whole, the thing just — there's like a smaller animation between Unite and Synchronize that I think a lot of us just like, missed, in like the fanfare of it, um, where Dirk's lantern just fills up with light and explodes!

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And then Dirk just...goes off and does his cool boy thing. Um...and conversely, when Aranea lights Jake up and like, makes him like, the brightest object in the sky for like, a good chunk of the Game Over timeline, um, Jake immediately summons Brain Ghost Dirk, who has nothing to do with Alpha Dirk, and is calling himself Jake's boyfriend, and like, quoting a romantic comedy movie [The Princess Bride] while like, saving him from a scary girl.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Because that's how Jake handles problems.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Um, so like, you see these recurring patterns, um, and the more you start, like, identifying them, and like, connecting them to each other, the more you understand all of the relationships as a whole. So like, this is what I mean when I say that like, Homestuck's just...set up as like a puzzle. With like, these symbols and these recurring motifs being sort of like our lamplights as we try and figure out what the story is actually trying to say, because not all of it is conveyed through text.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So, let's uh, let's get to some listener questions. So first off, uh, xoxowwh asks on Twitter, uh: 'What's your understanding of your aspect? Did the way you perceive yourself influence it in any major way?'

oD: I've gotta be honest here, um, so...when I was really little, I liked Digimon a lot. And my favourite character was like, TK, and the thing with Digimon was, um, the first seasons had, the major characters all had these like, crests, that represented like virtues —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: That they held? Um, and TK's virtue was hope. So, I've been a hope player like, just...since I was like seven. Since way before I learned about Homestuck. Um, but in general terms, like, Hope represents, y'know, positive emotions and optimism and like, storytelling and fiction as coherent entities —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: That you can believe in, in general, and like my life is defined by those things. Like it's not just Homestuck I'm this intense about, I feel — I, before it was Homestuck I felt this way about Earthbound, and Revolutionary Girl Utena, um, and I feel like a lot of who I am and like, how I analyze both fiction and the world, is defined by how I was influenced by those stories and like, the meaning that I saw in them that helped shape me.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So, just, everything about me is defined by Hope. And I view myself as...hopefully, like, trying to make the world a better place by making it easier to access that kind of meaning in works. So...that's what I'm about.

Kate: Yeah. Um, and uh, I actually wanted to answer this question too. Uh, because for me, uh, so I'm a pretty busy person, I've got a lot of irons in the fire as it were, and so y'know, I feel a deep connection to the aspect of Time, and Time players usually have a fuckin' lot on their plate as well. Um, and, for me the meaning of Time, uh, is learning how to manage the finite nature of it to do the most good and, and y'know...do the most you can without burning yourself out, by becoming a master of Time and becoming comfortable with the flow of time and the length of your days. Um, so yeah, that's what I get from Time. Thanks for the question xoxowwh! Uh, sorry if you have a name that you prefer other than your username, uh, cause that's pretty long! Uh, Zillyhoolio asks on our Discord, uh, 'what are your takes on the meaning/metaphor of frogs? I've completely forgotten if there was anything deeper there.' There definitely is something deeper there!

oD: This ties back into, y'know, the symbols — the, the Denizens are probably like, the biggest symbols for both the characters themselves and the under-occuring [?] motifs of Sburb and Paradox Space. So, the interesting thing about uh, gnostic works, is that you see a lot of references to amphibians throughout it, like...I was struck when I read about, um, Alan Moore's 'Jerusalem', that humans are described as an amphibious race because we exist in the physical world but we can also swim through the sea of the imaginary —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Or something like that. Um, and...y'know, frogs ultimately tie back to like, Echidna and Abraxas, both most prominently. Um, Abraxas because Abraxas is understood to be the gnostic deity, deity that's behind the demiurge as like the true God so to speak, and it's explicitly marked as a figure of duality. It's, um, understood as both a hermaphrodite, and uh, a figure that is the lord of amphibians specifically, it's actually noted to be the lord of frogs and toads —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: In Carl Jung's 'Seven Sermons to the Dead.' Um, so I think the frogs are ultimately like, calling back to that whole, like, gnostic symbolism lineage that Homestuck is drawing on.

Kate: Mhmm. And, y'know, you could even uh, I think you could even get into uh, like, because of the like, mutable nature of, of gender and physicality in amphibians, that it's another aspect of like, gender normativity, like, y'know, being, being the enemy, and the virtue, the creation of the universe, exists in transcending those binary definitions of self.

oD: Change being the biggest constant —

Kate: Yeah.

oD: Of reality, so to speak.

Kate: Uh, and our last question, uh, Ciro asked on our Discord: 'What do you want to feel at the conclusion of the Epilogue? Satisfaction? There's a part of me that wants to be dissatisfied and left with more questions because I feel like those emotions generate more conversation. Would you prefer to be left with something more open-ended, or a concrete/resolute Epilogue?' We talked about this a little bit, uh, so, like, just y'know, what are your specific hopes for what's coming next?

oD: Um [sighs] I wanna see Dirk and Jake kiss. [transcriber's note: ME TOO >:( ]

Kate: Yeah, yeah!

oD: That's all I want [laughs] Um, I honestly...I expect that we're going to be left with more questions than answers, just because I'm, uh, like we covered a little bit ago, like, I don't think we're seeing the end of the story here, like this is going to be a continuing narrative, and there's like, really big plot threads, um, that I think are going to be, uh, recurring throughout whatever Homestuck becomes next.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um, so I'm expected to stay confused, I'm expected to keep having questions, um, I kind of hope that we get a bit more closure and satisfaction in terms of the characters? Um, which y'know I think that's likely to be the case. But if it's not the case then I think it's only deferring it so that those character dynamics can be explored more in whatever Homestuck becomes.

Kate: Yeah exactly.

oD: Um, so...I don't really have too many specific expectations or hopes, I just want more Homestuck, so I guess I would say that I hope it comes sooner rather than later.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Um...and—

Kate: There's no clear indication of when this is going to be, uh, obviously Homestuck has been a very, uh, like, monumental date-based work, and we do have a tenth anniversary coming up in April, so like, I do not want to create expectations, or y'know like psyche myself up for something that has not been explicitly said to be at a time, but like I'm assuming — I'm thinking something will happen for the tenth anniversary.

oD: I've actually been wondering if something might happen on November 11th, actually [spoilers: it did not]. Um, which, this is not me creating expectations because I float guesses like this all the time, but —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: If we're going to see Homestuck make a major transition into something new, um, that sounds like the kind of thing that marks a rebranding of some kind. And 11/11 is of course, um, the day that the Alpha kids, uh, y'know like, start their session, but it's also the day that uh, Crockercorp rebrands officially, and like changes up how it approaches everything.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So that's a possibility I've been keeping under my hat. Um, who knows. It'll happen at some point. I think the tenth anniversary sounds more likely.

Kate: Mhmm. We shall see what happens. Alright, well that's our show! Uh, our uh, intro music was 'Thinks' by myself, the theme of the podcast. Our outro music, uh, playing now, is 'Nothing Special' by FRUITYTEE, friend of the show Goomy. Uh, that's a bonus track on Vast Error Volume 4. You can check that out at vasterror.bandcamp.com, you can also check out FRUITYTEE's other music at uh, smoothiefruitee, that's f-r-u-i-t-e-e, dot bandcamp dot com, uh, and Goomy can be found at uh, itsgoomy_ on Twitter. Uh, next week on the show, uh, Sam, Sapharodon, our very first guest from Episode 1 returns, we're gonna talk about the absolutely monumental Friendsim that's coming up this Friday, uh, and we're also gonna discuss Deltarune in the second half of the show. Uh, so y'know, get ready for that, I'm really excited about this next week. Um...optimisticDuelist, where can people find you, on, on the Social Media?

oD: Uh, I'm on Tumblr as revolutionaryduelist, and I'm also on YouTube at optimisticDuelist, and on Twitter as @RoseOfNobility. Those are the main places.

Kate: Alright! Um, you can find this show at perfectlygenericpodcast.com, on the iTunes, Google Play and Overcast podcast directories, uh, @pgenpod on Twitter and Tumblr. You can find myself at twitter.com/gamblignant8 for my Homestuck account, or my main, twitter.com/KateMitchellOW for my Overwatch work. Uh, thank you so much for listening, and, and thank you for coming on oD, I really appreciate it.

oD: Thanks, it was my pleasure, thanks for having me.

[outro]

Condensed ScriptEdit

[Doctor, by George Buzinkai, gently plays.]

Kate: Hi, Kate here, I wanted to open the show with a note. After the conclusion of this week's recording we received some terrible news. We lost a titan of the Homestuck creative community: George Buzinkai, the composer and musician who created some of the most iconic melodies in Homestuck, including "Explore", "Doctor" and "Endless Climb", passed away recently. Our thoughts are with his friends, family, every member of the Homestuck music and creative team that worked with him, and every fan that's taken inspiration from his work. We will remember him, his work, and his impact on our community always, thank you so much George for everything. We return to this week's show with heavy hearts.

[rest in peace George <3]

[silence]

Kate: The Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You've been warned.

[intro]

Kate: Wait, I forgot, I didn't come up with something clever to say at the start. I guess this is now the start of the episode! [laughs]

oD: [laughs]

Kate: Welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast! I'm Kate Mitchell. Our guest this week is optimisticDuelist, hello, it is so good to have you on the show!

oD: Hi! It's a pleasure to be here!

Kate: So I've long been a fan of your essays on Homestuck. Frankly, I read them all before I did the first episode of the podcast, and it was one of the major inspirations for me doing this podcast. Cause it was sort of like, 'Yeah, there is actually a lotta discussion to be had about this piece of literature, and we can have some productive discussions about it'. And so I'm so glad it's come full circle and you're on the show.

oD: Oh wow! I'm moved to hear that.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: I wasn't aware of the extent to which that was the case.

Kate: [laughs] Yeah. So whenever we have a new panelist on the show I always like to ask: what's your history with this work? How did it start for you?

oD: So for me Homestuck really started with Earthbound, which I played when I was like, twelve. And I only found Homestuck several years later. Like, late into my teens. I remember the exact page I caught up, I caught up on the page where Rose asks Kanaya her name? That was where they were in Act 5.2, so sometime in 2011 I caught up on Homestuck. And then I moved away from the fandom for a while over the course of Act 6, as the updates were slowing down and stuff like that. And I got into Utena and Dark Souls, which were both very established stories that later came to define how I approached Homestuck after it was over, because they had such vigorous analysis communities figuring everything out after it was over. So it was this huge ridiculous journey that just kept leading me back to Homestuck through other stories across the course of my life, and now I'm still here, wearing my Hope hoodie.

Kate: [laughs] Would you say that Homestuck is the Dark Souls of webcomics?

oD: YES, absolutely, I have that script written actually! I have like a script for a three part video series arguing that, because of their shared gnostic symbolism and motifs, Utena is in fact the Dark Souls of anime, and Dark Souls is the Homestuck of video games. And Homestuck is the Utena of webcomics, so it's like this whole ridiculous triangle —

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Everything is Homestuck.

Kate: Right, of course, the nature of humanity is that every so often people write Homestuck, and they have been — people have been writing Homestuck since Ancient Greek literature! [laughs]

oD: Yes! Absolutely.

Kate: [laughs] Homestuck is just the Platonic ideal of what a Homestuck is, but it's been happening ever since the beginning of writing.

oD: Forever, yes, with varying amounts of success.

Kate: Gilgamesh truly is the Homestuck of epic poetry!

oD: Oh yes.

Kate: [laughs] So this week in Homestuck we got fed, like a lot. First off, Viz Media released the cover of Homestuck Book Four and gave us a date. It's gonna be Act 5: Part 1? Or Act 1? God I don't remember any of this. I don't remember what any of the ridiculous sub-categories are called in this fucking comic. It's the one with the trolls! So we got some lovely new official art of all the trolls. I'm excited for the book, I've really enjoyed the first three, especially since we're now getting into the territory where we're getting new commentary that wasn't covered by the original Topatoco run of the books? And it's definitely been super insightful — we're gonna talk about some of that commentary later. Also this week, Toby Fox dropped a nuclear bomb on us on Halloween: DELTARUNE. Obviously you're a big fan of Undertale and now Deltarune, so what was that like, just suddenly waking up to a brand new game?

oD: I spent this morning recording a video for it — there's so much to it — and it seems like it's the Act 6 of Undertale? And I'm terrified for all of us.

Kate: [laughs] Yeah.

oD: SPOILERS: it's the Scratch!

Kate: [laughs] Yes.

oD: The whole set-up is the Scratch!

Kate: Yeah. And if you haven't played Deltarune yet we're not gonna spoil anything, we're not gonna get into it yet, BUT, on next week's show we are gonna talk about it, we're gonna dive into some spoiler stuff. So play it by next week. That's my Official Recommendation, you should definitely play this game. It's amazing, it's a great iteration on the Undertale formula, it's just a maturation of the product, gameplay- and graphics-wise. And obviously it has the same incredible music and writing as Undertale did. And then, this was the off-week for Friendsim, so this is the week where where they, the team, messes with us, and teases us horribly.

oD: And *how*.

Kate: And how. So this week, David Turnbull said we've been wishing for more lore, we wanted more explanation of what's going on, and that wish was on the monkey's paw and it's curling up and we are getting the wish this week. Can I ask: what do you think of that?

oD: Oh god I don't know but I'm so scared! It could be anything! I don't know, it could be... Marvus showing up to Hisoka this story up with his terrible clown antics. It could be Doc Scratch? We could be getting Doc Scratch directly involved finally. If I'm really really lucky it'll be Lanque [spoilers: it was not Lanque] with his alchemist shtick, telling us more about aspects through the whole alchemy motif. I have no idea! The great thing about Homestuck is that you never really know what's coming, and it's guaranteed to surprise you and leave youcjust slobbering on the floor every time.

Kate: Yeah!

oD: So, that's all I'm expecting, is just to be shell-shocked.

Kate: Yeah, and I think that's a fair assumption. Before this episode comes out and drops some lore on us, I wanna— I don't usually do predictions on this show, but I find a little bit of delight in this one. So what do you think is going on? What do you think is, like, why is MSPA Reader there? Like, what is happening in this story?

oD: It's interesting because there's no precedent for something like this in the Paradox Space universe. We don't have a precedent for any character being as, the way Boldir put it, dis-attached from the timeline in the way that the MSPA Reader is. Homestuck is a very structured, very locked-in story, everyone is trapped on the carousel, so to speak, of Lord English's time loop. But the MSPA Reader isn't like that! They seem to able to just come and go from timelines as they please. So...I am guessing that Doc Scratch put them there [spoilers: correct], and when the lore really starts coming out, I think Doc Scratch is going to be heavily involved [right again] just because I can't think of any other figure directly involved in the story who would have the capability to do that. I saw one very interesting meta post noting that the start of every Friendsim actually has white text speaking to you, kind of like...a command from an exile? Like, just giving you the flavor text for your motivation? So that being white text actually did make me feel a little more confident in the idea that it would be Doc Scratch involved. But ultimately the MSPA Reader, I would guess, is here as a force to connect the trolls. And I'm guessing that it's going to tie directly into Hiveswap, especially since we know that the Friendsim was in the works parallel to Hiveswap while all of this was happening. So I don't think it's just an ancillary story any more, I think we crossed that threshold a while ago.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that surprised a lot of people that were expecting this to be just like a little fun side project, but it is important and I think it is essential to understanding where Hiveswap is going in the future. And in addition it *is* fun on top of that, so congrats to Hiveswap Friendsim for being a real delight this whole way through.

oD: Yes.

Kate: This week we also got a really extensive media push. We got Andrew talking to the media at length for the first time in a while! In a Washington Post interview that was in their book section. It was a fantastic article, and Andrew released through What Pumpkin the full, unedited transcript of that interview, which is about four thousand words of answers. And that's like the meat of this episode, because I loved that interview so much, and so we're just gonna go bit-by-bit through it, and talk a little bit about what was said there and what was dropped. But first off: welcome back from the woods, obviously, it's nice to see the author come back and dish about it again.

oD: Bigfoot rises from dark depths of the forest.

Kate: [laughs] So the first question in this interview definitely really, really hit home for me cause it was about the length of Homestuck and about the real investment that creating it was. And there was a part of that answer, I'm just gonna — a lot of this section is gonna be just, me reading stuff from this interview, because frankly it's important and interesting stuff — so here's a quote: 'Once a project goes on a few years it starts to consume an appreciable percentage of your actual lifespan. And life is a chaotic thing. If you let a project take up a significant part of you life then life has a way of returning the favor by intruding on the project. And the intrusion stretches the project out even further, thus perpetuating the grim cycle. I doubt there's anyone who's working on an ambitious creative project who doesn't relate to this somewhat. Those of you with that unfinished thing sitting on your computer, nagging at you. What's taking so long to finish it? Sounds like life's been messing with you.'

oD: Yeah. [laughs]

Kate: And I, I definitely found this to be sort of an inspiring wake-up call, and also illustrative of just what a big deal a creative work of that scale is. And how difficult it can be to make something both your work and your passion.

oD: Mhmm.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: It obviously comments so much on the things we've heard about how Homestuck's evolution was deviated by events in the fandom that I won't name, and how Hiveswap sorta fed into that. But it's interesting to me that Hussie framed that as just life being life! Because Homestuck is so much about the relationship between the characters and the world around them, and the way the world and just the natural course of their lives influences and defines them? It struck me in the way, in particular, as sort of like...Hussie coming close to saying that life was similar to the way he depicted the characters in the comic, which is sort of a running motif throughout this interview to be honest.

Kate: Yeah absolutely, the 'Real World' informs Homestuck, because it's about characters who are supposed to feel real struggling with chaotic and unexpected events. The story of Homestuck is the story of how Homestuck got made in many ways as well. Now that we're talking about meta, that also reminds me of the discussion of the ending as a 'metatheological thesis', sort of outlining what the point of the story was. And *you* are a much bigger-brain expert on this than I am, so do you wanna talk about what that means to you?

oD: Yes. So, actually the very first piece of meta that I ever wrote for Homestuck was like a month after Act 7, and I spent a month writing it. From the night Act 7 dropped basically I just couldn't fall asleep, and all these thoughts started crystallizing in my head about how Homestuck is ultimately this deeply symbolic, spiritual work. There's this quote Rose has, into Act 6, where she says that 'The symbols hold all the power'. There are symbols coded into Homestuck that illuminate a lot of the meaning and a lot of the grander events of the story, and once you understand those symbols and how they relate to the story, a lot of the elements that fans might have felt were unsatisfying in some way, like for example Lord English as an antagonist start to fall into place, or at least that was my experience. For example, you've got the Denizens: Caliborn's and Dirk's Denizen is Yaldabaoth. And that figure is very interesting because mythologically it's described as this very arrogant god that can't perceive the realm of ideas or the realm of imagination. But it's also the architect of the physical world, right? And that's in many ways the role that Lord English ends up playing. He is the agent that creates all four of the worlds that Homestuck takes place in. But he can't actually see ideas that Homestuck is about, none of that filters into his head. And it reaches into a metanarrative standpoint of course, because the creator is posited as God, as a god of Homestuck's world. And Homestuck borrows that tradition from Earthbound, actually, where the audience is an inherent part of the narrative. I don't know if you've played Earthbound, or Mother 3? But the player character is actually like a god figure. You have characters ask you your name in Earthbound, and then later at the end when you're fighting this eldritch demon your name is actually called on to pray for the characters and send them your power to allow them to be free and have a happy ending. So there's a very clear relationship between us the audience and the characters, and the forces at work making the story what it is, like Lord English or Calliope, where we're all sort of aware of each-other. And understanding that dynamic is really core to trying to understand what Homestuck is trying to say.

Kate: Yeah, in the end so much of this sort of happens between the lines, or just in visual symbols.

oD: Yes.

Kate: And those who rely a little bit more on explicit writing did tend to be a little disappointed by the entirely visual conclusion of Homestuck, whereas I feel like those who enjoy the more visual motifs and metaphors and symbolic thinking enjoyed it more. And perhaps there's an accord to be reached between those two groups of thinkers about what this story means, and what it's going to mean moving forward.

oD: Definitely. Definitely. There's also a lot to be said for people who felt dissatisfied from a character perspective, because a lot of the character resolutions and the romantic culminations of characters' relationships were delivered the same way. You don't necessarily get, let's say, Vriska and Terezi outright explicitly confessing love on-screen. What you get is both of them meeting each-other in the endless void that Lord English has created, on a red quadrant, for example. Like they just happened to meet on a red quadrant. There's a lot of, uh, that kind of storytelling at work with those characters too.

Kate: Right, and if you want the story to explicitly tell you what's happening in the relationships between characters, you'll probably be little disappointed. I mean even the relationship between Dave and Karkat is a really important relationship that matters a *lot* for both of their characters, but it still is presented in a way where it's elided by the characters, or not directly discussed or shown.

oD: Yeah. My big thing is DirkJake [transcriber's note: hell fucking yes], as anyone who follows me closely knows. So I'm well in that camp! I definitely sympathize with people who would like the characters to talk more, and hopefully we'll get that, but we'll talk about that a little later I think.

Kate: But also I would say — and I do talk about this — I think it's one of the bigger compliments for the work that in something that's over 300,000 words long, the most common piece of criticism or desire is: 'I would like more talking please.' [laughs]

oD: [laughs] Yes!

Kate: [laughs] It's like —

oD: We just can't get enough!

Kate: Yeah, the fact that it does leave you with questions, and you want to know more, you wanna hear more about these characters. I have always enjoyed the open-ended ending of Homestuck in that it does leave you a lot to think about, especially in a work that had such a symbiotic relationship with its own fandom. It still gives you a lotta meat to chew on, it does not say 'there's no more room for fan interpretation'. There's still a lot of room for it.

oD: And I think that's very important for long-term community building. Because you see these fandoms, Revolutionary Girl Utena for example is a show that came out in 1997, and the fandom for it is still going strong just off the strength of how much there is to uncover and talk about and think about with the characters and symbols at play there. Dark Souls is another good example. I've brought it back to that, oops! But that communal search for higher levels of truth to a story, I think, can be a very important and very rewarding experience in fandom all on its own, and I don't think I can imagine a way that Homestuck could have ended that would've delivered that experience more fully, at least to me.

Kate: Yeah exactly. I completely agree with you there, and I think that's important. I think it's important that we're still arguing about it. That was definitely the intention, not to resolve everything — to keep fomenting the Discourse, as it were, for years. And it's a work that masterfully knew what it was doing. It's so hard, and Andrew talks about this a little bit in the interview. He didn't seem to feel much pressure at all from the fact that every little thing was torn to shreds and investigated extremely deeply — in fact that seemed to be close to his favorite thing about the writing process, the ability to play with that extraordinary amount of attention. So that was the writing process, we just talked about that and how it's informed, so I'm gonna move further down to a part about something that's obviously been important to me and a lot of readers, which is the LGBTQ content in Homestuck. That was asked about in this interview, so I'm just gonna read that question and answer and then we can talk about that a little bit. 'As HOMESTUCK continued to unfold, the LGBTQ character representation seemed to increase exponentially. Did you always plan that ó or did something specific along the way spur you to create numerous gay and non-binary characters?' 'I didn't plan it, but was generally open to any type of development for the characters. Again, that was the point, to let them grow with the story and discover who they really were, just like real kids do. But I think this feature of the story was definitely influenced by the fandom. The story has ways of reflecting the fandom back at itself in many respects. As things went along, I noticed there was an ever-growing LGBTQ portion of the fandom, which I wasn't really expecting to happen, but it seemed like a welcome development. If these were going to feel like real kids whose experiences of growing up resonated with real people reading this, it felt like a big portion of the readership should have their own experiences reflected in the thing they're reading. I guess this is a more elaborate way of saying they should receive "representation in media". I wasn't thinking about it in such terms back then though. I think it was more about just being true about people, and the diverse range of experiences they have.'

oD: It's such a good quote.

Kate: I know, right? That's part of why the representation in Homestuck feels authentic and feels cool: it's not 'Okay I'm gonna throw this in here because I have to to represent people'. It's more like, these are the people that have engaged with this work. These are the people that have, through their fanon, expounded on what these characters' perspectives are, and it just seems right. It just seems like the right development for them. And all of the queerness in Homestuck feels like it's just a natural extension of those characters' life experiences. And it's always been interesting to me in this story because in so much media, in *so much* media over the history of media, queer-codedness is used as like a villainous element, or an unsettling thing. But queer love, and gay love, is a force for good. It's an elemental force for good in the universe of Homestuck. Whereas some of the most unsettling moments in the story, and I think about the Equius/Aradiabot kiss, or —

oD: Caliborn —

Kate: Yeah!

oD: Just in general.

Kate: Yeah, or just Caliborn's general existence. A lot of the parts of the story that are intended to make you be like 'EEERGH' are super heterosexual! [laughs] And it's really funny to me, and this is even mentioned in some of the book commentaries: heterosexuality and heteronormativity and gender normativity are the *bad guys* in this story. And it shouldn't be revolutionary but it is!

oD: It really shouldn't. But this brings us back a little bit to the metatheological thesis comment — because Yaldabaoth, as a deity, is known for being a demiurge and whatever, but specifically he was a certain sect of Christianity's criticism of the Old Testament fire and brimstone, wrathful interpretation of God. So that's still an element that we see at work in parts of society right now, very much down on LGBT identity and LGBT rights, so to me it feels like Caliborn is in a sense carrying on that aspect of that deity's interpretation by wider culture.

Kate: You know what, this actually reminds me of a part of this interview — the distinction between the physical and the emotional — talking about engaging with people directly. Andrew says 'It's very odd how all the argumentative chaos, invective and incrimination of the internet seems to completely vanish when you directly confront great numbers of people in their physical forms. The two realms are so different, it's hard to reconcile, but it does lend a sense of optimism that the complete hell we perceive on the internet every day is just some sort of horrific illusion conspiring to agitate or demoralize us, without much truth or substance behind it.' [laughs]

oD: I hold onto that quote like a rosary prayer lately. Cause the world is a lot!

Kate: Yeah, the world *sucks* right now. Welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast, where every week we do mention that yes, we are aware that the world is imploding! And this work, and these authors working on it now, are aware of that too, and it is a very timely message to think about. There is transcendent love and community that persists, even under the *worst* possible circumstances.

oD: Necessary messages for our time, unfortunately.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And it is very on point and it is a work of literature for our time, and it is often compared to Ulysses. What do you think of those comparisons?

oD: They're very interesting to me. I believe, if not the first, then certainly the most recognized person to raise that idea was Mike Rugnetta from Idea Channel. And Idea Channel is actually an enormous influence in how I decided to take my exploration of Homestuck to YouTube, just because it's more accessible, and it allows for more fun ways to explore the subject matter without necessarily bogging people down under a ton of text. But as to Ulysses itself: whenever Homestuck references anything it takes those references extremely seriously, and it takes it as a challenge, almost, to actually incorporate the ideas that those things embody into itself. So Homestuck is itself an epic poem: there's been posts about this several times, I'm not the first person to bring it up, but...Calliope is originally the name of the goddess of epic poetry. And the whole story has many of the traits of an epic poem. You've got the invocation of a muse, with Calliope essentially starting the events of Homestuck by reading about them and talking about them in the first place. Which is what influences Caliborn to then put everything into motion. You've got the uncommon birth motif, in the heroes all being not born normally: they're born through ectobiology. One really interesting note that a friend of mine brought to me recently is the Openbound segment. A lot of criticism has been thrown at Hussie for how, in some people's minds, the Dancestor trolls feel kind of flat or hollowed out. And that only came into context for me when I was told that the entire Openbound segment plays out more or less like an epic hero's descent into the Underworld. It's very much a descent to Hell narrative, where Hell is just endless social media consumption.

Kate: [laughs] Yeah, Hell is teenage internet problems! [laughs]

oD: Yeah! We were in Hell all along, it's time to escape, guys!

Kate: Hell is a whirling circle of constant dramatic social interaction! [laughs]

oD: But that's fascinating, that for example you can have a work where the structure of an epic poem just coincides with a casual observation about teenage interaction on social media in our modern age. What other story do you get that in!?

Kate: Yeah, absolutely, and I think *that* is probably how it is closest to Ulysses. Because in the end, Ulysses was revolutionary in that it was a more direct stream-of-consciousness illustration of just what day-to-day life is like for the characters. And unlike Ulysses, Homestuck is telling a grand story on top of that stream-of-consciousness. So it has Ulysses' epic structure, but also big things are happening in addition to the mundane internal narratives that drive the characters' motivations.

oD: Totally.

Kate:Yeah, and so there's also some very important discussion of what's next for Homestuck in this interview. And obviously you and I have both been Epilogue optimists for a while. It's been core to my reading of the work, and the structure of it, that it was intended — so many of these beats, especially ones that people are unsatisfied with — were intended to set up what's next. And there's very obvious things in Homestuck that feel like you're tossing the ball up into the air and getting ready to serve it. There are many stories which are concluded thoughtfully, and do have complete arcs. But the story that we see at the end? It feels almost like an uneasy truce. The situations the characters are in in Earth C and the happy ending that many of them got, it's still built on that unsettling fact that there's still so much we don't know, and there's still so much that we know will happen that hasn't happened yet.

oD: Exactly. It's worth mentioning that this is a scenario we've been in before with Hussie. I'm not sure how well known it is, but Problem Sleuth's ending was originally fairly unsatisfying until the epilogue for that came out, which was generally regarded as successfully tying up all the loose ends and delivering the final satisfying conclusion to the narrative. But there was an ending before that that people felt cheated by, is the sense that I've gotten in my research. So this just seems to be how Hussie do, with ending his stories and this relationship to an epilogue. Especially since the Epilogue seems to be a bit more than an epilogue?! [laughs] Judging by things he's said. Do you wanna get into the unedited transcript now?

Kate: Yeah of course.

oD: Alright, so in the unedited transcript of the Andrew Hussie/Washington Post interview, he actually utters the phrase 'sequel' himself. He says 'sequel' or 'post canon content'. It's what the Epilogue is going to be, it's going to address the events that follow after the end of the story, and it's something like a full-blown sequel. Which is interesting in light of his other interviews, because he's been doing interviews with the other books. And with Barnes and Noble, I think it was, he referred to Homestuck as an anime? And with another interview publication he was asked how he felt about Homestuck having ended, and he just refused to validate the premise of the question and was like, 'Homestuck never ends!'

Kate: Uh-huh!

oD: The ride never ends!

Kate: [laughs]

oD: So...at the beginning around Act 7 I wasn't sure if the end of the Epilogue was going to represent a formal end to the story, and we wouldn't really see the characters after that. But since, I'm like pretty sure that if we're not getting a follow-up Homestuck anime through Hussie and Viz Media's partnership, we're getting something about as ambitious.

Kate: Right, the press release when Viz acquired Homestuck specifically mentioned, like...this wasn't just for book publishing. The deal was partially because of Viz's experience putting together many different types of multimedia projects!

oD: And there's something to be said for the fact that Viz Media is a manga publisher technically, not an animation publisher. But that's still a ton of connections, and you gotta understand the way that Homestuck is crafted is perfect for introducing people, who have nothing to do with Homestuck, to the world *now*. Specifically now, because Earth C is set up like a superhero universe, right?

Kate: Yes! Absolutely. I don't think there is going to be a strict ending, I think — especially with this new relationship with a major publisher — there is a world where multiple concurrent superhero universe-style stories can be told at the same time. Something that, I think, was maybe given a little bit of a trial balloon on the Snapchat, before that...But, y'know, just like, a little test of what that content could be like.

oD: Exactly. Who knows how ambitious exactly that content's gonna get, but my guess is extremely. Because we're dealing with Hussie. And because Homestuck has a lot of built-in appeal for an anime-style project, but it also is attuned to Western sensibilities and American sensibilities in a way that not all anime necessarily is. So, for example, the idea of having these characters who are actually adults now, and are all friends and have established relationships, and having the kind of fanservice-type stuff that anime likes to do, but done in a way that is less skeevy...And done with the attention to detail and like, the care for the characters that I know Homestuck is capable of...That's actually a really exciting idea for me, and I think it would be for a lot of these Western markets, once they see it, y'know?

Kate: Yeah absolutely, and I should note that while Viz does primarily publish manga and books, they do have the Viz production arms where they license a great deal of anime. They also have a streaming relationship with Hulu, and have financed and developed a couple of films, including, the underrated Tom Cruise flick 'Edge of Tomorrow' [laughs]

oD: Oh no!

Kate: [laughs]

oD: I had no idea actually!

Kate: Yeah!

oD: That's really exciting!

Kate: Yeah. Which...not to get into shitty action movie hour, but that's a pretty Homestuck film [laughs]

oD: I'm gonna have to go watch it!

Kate: Uh-huh, it's about a repetitive timeline, it's that sort of thing. So yeah, I think that those who are optimistic and excited for what's happening next in the Homestuck universe have a lot of reasons to feel that way. And this recent rash of media has been really really great, and it's been a good week and few months for those of us in this fanspace. And I'm really excited, and I do wanna close this discussion of the interview with a quote that is sort of a thesis statement for this entire podcast: 'Maybe the only true running gag in Homestuck is how everyone keeps thinking it's full of gags, when in fact all of this material is extremely important to me, and carries a sort of somber, deeply spiritual gravity to it all. Homestuck is essentially my religion, and I do not take derisive or frivolous remarks about it lightly at all. The good news is, if you have ever read a substantial portion of Homestuck, that means it is your religion as well, and you likely feel the exact same way.' [laughs]

oD: [laughs] Wow!

Kate: And obviously that's walking a tightrope of irony, but there is real kernel of truth to it.

oD: Yeah. I always think about that Aranea quote where she's like, she is a follower of The Sufferer but, rather than framing herself as like religiously about it, prefers to frame herself as a fan of the story and what it represents. And that's how I try to position myself, but it's definitely true that there's a resonance between the meaning that I see in Homestuck's work and just the world and the way that I relate to it. So if that makes the story spiritual then I guess that's where we're at!

Kate: Right! And that is not weakened by the story's constant ironic self-reference and humor about what it's trying to accomplish. In fact I feel like that is almost a more relatable form of spirituality for the modern age, since we're always on this irony jokes train as a culture now. And so to be able to engage with something with deep spiritual themes, while also being like, 'Am I being serious? Am I not?' is closer to our lived experience these days than experiencing spirituality as this Big Serious Thing.

oD: Mhmm. I also think it's more practical, and in a way this kinda reflects...in another section of the interview he refers to Homestuck — the best way to relate to it is probably as a big farce. And I like that quote a lot actually. Some people seem to take it in a derogatory way, but I didn't really feel that way at all because the reality is a lot of our modern sense of irony is at least partly rooted in an existential scepticism. Like, how many times do we find ourselves wondering 'Well, time probably isn't even real'. Or 'Reality is a hologram' is just something you see on the news nowadays. There is a real sense in Homestuck that its reality is unreal on one level. I think that's kinda the basis of Gamzee's character arc — he gets in on the fact that he is a joke to Homestuck's existence.

Kate: Right — that is the Vast Riddle. That is the answer to the Vast Riddle.

oD: Yes, we figured it out everyone.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: And that's true in the sense that Homestuck is a fictional story in relation to us, but that doesn't mean that the characters don't have their own inner truths and inner realities that they wanna live by. And that has a lot of merit as an approach for dealing with like our own real lives too, I feel like. I try not to take reality too seriously in my day-to-day life because...the world is what it is right now! And I just think it's easier if you try to be kind and try and do good where you can, while also trying to keep a sort of detached skepticism from stuff. Just as a practical matter, honestly.

Kate: Right, you can't fix the unending, ceaseless nightmare of misery. You can't. You can't do it all on your own. But what is real and what you can do is build strong connections and solidarity with other people. And that's what's real to the characters of Homestuck and that's what's real to the readers as well. And that's something that I keep coming back to because it's expressed especially well in Tyzias' route of Friendsim, which is sort of a summation of that. And it's sort of what the Blood aspect is about a little bit, not to get too much into Aspects cause we're gonna talk about those some other time [laughs]

oD: It'll happen.

Kate: Uh-huh. And so that...is just good. It's just *good*, baby! It's just a good thing to turn around in your head, for how to exist and to understand that stuff's awful and you can't fix it all without becoming just an edgy nihilist, and just not caring and not making the lives of other people around you better.

oD: Yep. As Hussie implies, we're not always necessarily sure how much of it is real, either. So much of how we relate to the world nowadays is just through the internet, and it's like he says. Reality feels very differently when you engage with people face-to-face. So, y'know. A lot of the hellishness that we see might not even be there.

Kate: Yeah exactly.

oD: So there's a source of optimism. Take optimism wherever you find it!

Kate: [laughs] Yes! Find it wherever you can, even if it's in an interview about a fictional webcomic [laughs]

oD: Yes!

Kate: So good interview. Good job dude, thanks for giving me stuff to talk about this week! [laughs]

oD: No kidding!

Kate: Yeah! And so before we got into our listener questions I did wanna talk to you — and we sort of squeezed this by, by talking about the interview for a very long time, which was good because there was a lot to talk about — but the meat/candy/vegetables trinary of Homestuck's storytelling was sort of teased in the Book Three author's notes.

oD: Yes.

Kate: And was sort of set up, and it's something that I think is really fundamental to the work, and has been a subject of meta for a very long time which it turns out was pretty close to spot on. I'm gonna read an excerpt real quick and then I wanna get your thoughts on the meat/candy binary: 'I think this one marks the start of Homestuck's trend thereafter' — and this is from the Book Three author notes — 'of dropping exceptionally violent, high-octane, game-changing animations out of nowhere. There are so many like this from now on, right up until the end of Act 5. Only then does the number sort of taper off, but from this point I just sorta started shovelling more and more red meat into the story's maw. This stretch is where I was starting to get a feel for this type of sensationalistic storytelling content as something I'd later code, mostly for my own internal purposes, as meat, in the meat/candy binary of storycraft theory. I really shouldn't talk about this yet though. It's too soon.'

oD: What the *hell* does 'it's too soon' mean, Hussie?! Just give me the meat, for lack of a better word!

Kate: I think what 'it's too soon' means is...it's not fully understood in the text until the cherubs show up.

oD: I think that's likely, yes. I try to hedge this stuff because all we really got confirmation of was the meat/candy binary. I presented the idea of pumpkin and vegetable matter as like an alternative based on Caliborn, because I like working more off the text than off what Hussie says anyway. But I saw a few other interpretations that I didn't necessarily feel compelled by. But part of this is just my interpretation.

Kate: So, what is 'meat'?

oD: Well, meat at least is pretty clearly defined — that quote was in reference to the Jack: Ascend or Descend. One of those two animations. But either way, those are animations where Jack kills a bunch of people, and a lot of game-changing, very violent things happen very very fast. So that's basically what I think meat entails, just very sensational content that changes the status quo of the comic's plot very quickly, and usually involves a lot of death and violence. The way this is framed with Caliborn is he likes meat, he likes candy, and he tells us the only parts of the story Caliborn actually likes are when the Alpha kids are tricksters, which is obviously very candy-coated.

Kate: Yeah literally candy-themed all over the place!

oD: Yeah. And he explicitly likes the parts where people die. Those are the parts of Homestuck that he likes. He likes watching the characters suffer, he likes watching them perish, he likes seeing them plead, and having them reduced to sort of meat puppets, basically. So, based on that binary of interests that Caliborn, and Calliope to a lesser extent, have, I suppose that candy would be shipping and shows of affection between characters, but in a very specific way that Caliborn likes. This was rooted in his conversation with Dirk, which is interesting because Dirk and Caliborn are both linked to Yaldabaoth. They're both sort of...demiurge figures, figures who end up building the world of Homestuck. Caliborn directly, obviously, and Dirk not so much himself but through the Auto Responder, who becomes part of Lord English and fulfills Dirk's Yaldabaoth symbolism that way.

Kate: Which is very appropriate for a Heart player, having their biggest influence on the story being an alternate self, like a splinter of themselves.

oD: Yeah. But basically what I'm getting at is: this is basically two creators of the world talking about how the narrative might be constructed. So...Caliborn basically says he likes meat, he likes candy, and he refers to cotton candy, which is like the ship between Jane and Roxy specifically, as candy that he talks about having between his teeth, and how sweet it is and stuff. So there's a very strong visual parallel drawn between the kind of 'smut' that Caliborn has Dirk draw, and candy as like an item for consumption. So you've got...fluffy, lacking in substance kinds of shipping, that are specifically either heterosexual or between two girls, basically, is what Caliborn is interested in. Much much later two boys come into the picture in the form of Dave and Karkat, when Caliborn discovers that most powerful of all Arts, the hot Yaois.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: But for a lot of the story it's catering to these very specific kinds of shipping that Caliborn wants to indulge in. And it's all very fluffy, there's no real conflict involved with candy shipping relationships. It's all just like a Trickster mode, it's like they all get married, and they kiss a lot, and everyone has babies and does productive things, and has no interpersonal conflicts or does any growing because all the problems are solved~ hooray!! So, if you wanted to be mean-spirited you could say that Andrew is taking a shot at people who like to do shipping for shipping's sake, with ships that don't necessarily have much to do with the canon of the comic. I wouldn't say that.

Kate: The thing is, I think Caliborn's viewpoint is intended to be a bit repulsive [laughs]

oD: Yeah. And even Calliope likes both of these things, but she grows in a way that Caliborn doesn't, because early on in the story she sees the characters *as characters* as much as she sees them as friends. There's actually a line where Calliope slips up, calling them characters instead of calling them her friends, and she has to correct herself and call them her friends.So Calliope's arc features an evolution of her growing to see these people as real actual people, instead of just fictional characters in a story she's consuming. Which gets us to the part of this binary that I suggested and I added to, which was the pumpkin matter or vegetable part of it, where I suggested that we might actually be looking at a conceptual Trinity. Because you've got these two different forms of fan titillation, basically, with meat representing game-changing plot violence and the characters suffering for the sake of advancing the plot basically; and you've got candy being fan titillation by way of the characters performatively engaging in romantic relationships and being sweet to each other and kissing and doing all this stuff that's fun for us to watch but doesn't necessarily advance their characters. And then Dirk suggests drawing him and Jake, and Caliborn rejects the notion outright saying that he doesn't want to 'languish in the pumpkin patch', and he doesn't like vegetables.

Kate: Yeah! Cause that's a hard relationship. It's challenging. It's not fluffy.

oD: Dirk and Jake's relationship is not easy to understand. It's not always comfortable, and they seem to have sweet moments at some points, but we don't really get to see them. Like, the audience is denied the moments of levity or affection that we typically latch onto for the sake of a relationship. And that's sort of the running trend with every endgame relationship in Homestuck. Like we never really see Vriska and Terezi, for example, being too affectionate with each-other. You mentioned DaveKat earlier.

Kate: Yeah, I was going to mention that Vriska and Terezi feel like a big analogue for Dirk and Jake, and I wasn't just gonna mention it because we actually hadn't talked about Vriska yet, and that's a crime on this podcast [laughs] But yeah, the sweet moments...we don't get to see them. And it's almost like the most meaningful relationships of this comic are almost not available to the voyeuristic eyes of the audience and the narrative.

oD: Mhmm. Which are, in a sense, Caliborn's eyes, because Lord English is the architect of everything that's happening in Homestuck that is important. That is important to the plot, specifically. What we do get with these relationships usually is they'll be marked as important through the symbol of Light, and by that I mean you'll either see the Sun symbol, in some cases: With Vriska and Rose you'll see the Sun symbol because they're Light players. But also light itself will emanate in relation to these characters at some points. For example, when Vriska and Terezi find each other in the void, during [S] Remem8er, they immediately see all the light in the multiverse basically. Like the key to existential enlightenment was just finding your One True Girlfriend I guess.

Kate: YES!! [laughs]

oD: Rose too, Rose's entire arc is about grappling with the world as like a place of darkness and meaninglessness. And when she finds Kanaya and starts really connecting with Kanaya she grows closer to light, both metaphorically and in terms of character growth, and literally because Kanaya lights up in the dark! And when Jake kisses Dirk's head, the lantern that represents Dirk...So, the four Alpha kids have lanterns, and the other three lanterns explode when Jane, Jake and Roxy god tier. But Dirk's lantern explodes way before that, during the Unite/Synchronize sequence when Jake kisses his head. There's like a smaller animation between Unite and Synchronize that I think a lot of us just missed in the fanfare of it, where Dirk's lantern just fills up with light and explodes! And then Dirk just...goes off and does his cool boy thing. And conversely, when Aranea lights Jake up and makes him the brightest object in the sky for a good chunk of the Game Over timeline, Jake immediately summons Brain Ghost Dirk, who has nothing to do with Alpha Dirk, and who is calling himself Jake's boyfriend, and quoting a romantic comedy movie while saving him from a scary girl.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Because that's how Jake handles problems.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: So you see these recurring patterns, and the more you start identifying them and connecting them to each other, the more you understand all of the relationships as a whole. So this is what I mean when I say that Homestuck's just set up as a puzzle. With these symbols and these recurring motifs being sort of like our lamplights as we try and figure out what the story is actually trying to say, because not all of it is conveyed through text.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So, let's get to some listener questions. First off, xoxowwh asks on Twitter: 'What's your understanding of your aspect? Did the way you perceive yourself influence it in any major way?'

oD: I've gotta be honest here...when I was really little, I liked Digimon a lot. And my favourite character was TK, and the thing with Digimon was that in the first seasons, the major characters all had these crests that represented virtues that they held. And TK's virtue was hope. So, I've been a Hope player since I was like seven. Since way before I learned about Homestuck. But in general terms, Hope represents positive emotions and optimism and storytelling and fiction as coherent entities that you can believe in, in general, and like my life is defined by those things. It's not just Homestuck I'm this intense about — before it was Homestuck I felt this way about Earthbound, and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and I feel like a lot of who I am and how I analyze both fiction and the world is defined by how I was influenced by those stories and the meaning that I saw in them that helped shape me. So everything about me is defined by Hope. And I view myself as hopefully trying to make the world a better place by making it easier to access that kind of meaning in works. So that's what I'm about.

Kate: Yeah. I actually wanted to answer this question too, because for me...I'm a pretty busy person, I've got a lot of irons in the fire as it were. And so I feel a deep connection to the aspect of Time, and Time players usually have a fuckin' lot on their plate as well. And for me the meaning of Time is learning how to manage the finite nature of it to do the most good, and do the most you can without burning yourself out, by becoming a master of Time and becoming comfortable with the flow of time and the length of your days. So that's what I get from Time. Thanks for the question xoxowwh! Zillyhoolio asks on our Discord: 'What are your takes on the meaning/metaphor of frogs? I've completely forgotten if there was anything deeper there.' There definitely is something deeper there!

oD: This ties back into the symbols — the Denizens are probably the biggest symbols for both the characters themselves and the under-occurring [?] motifs of Sburb and Paradox Space. So the interesting thing about Gnostic works is that you see a lot of references to amphibians throughout it. I was struck when I read about Alan Moore's 'Jerusalem', that humans are described as an amphibious race because we exist in the physical world but we can also swim through the sea of the imaginary, or something like that. And frogs ultimately tie back to Echidna and Abraxas most prominently. Abraxas because it is understood to be the Gnostic deity that's behind the demiurge as the true God so to speak, and it's explicitly marked as a figure of duality. It's understood as both a hermaphrodite, and a figure that is the lord of amphibians specifically. It's actually noted to be the lord of frogs and toads in Carl Jung's 'Seven Sermons to the Dead.' So I think the frogs are ultimately calling back to that whole Gnostic symbolism lineage that Homestuck is drawing on.

Kate: And I think you could even get into, because of the mutable nature of gender and physicality in amphibians, that it's another aspect of gender normativity being the enemy; and the virtue, the creation of the universe, exists in transcending those binary definitions of self.

oD: Change being the biggest constant of reality, so to speak.

Kate: And our last question Ciro asked on our Discord: 'What do you want to feel at the conclusion of the Epilogue? Satisfaction? There's a part of me that wants to be dissatisfied and left with more questions because I feel like those emotions generate more conversation. Would you prefer to be left with something more open-ended, or a concrete/resolute Epilogue?' We talked about this a little bit, so what are your specific hopes for what's coming next?

oD: [sighs] I wanna see Dirk and Jake kiss. [transcriber's note: ME TOO >:( ] That's all I want! [laughs] I expect that we're going to be left with more questions than answers, just because, like we covered a little bit ago, I don't think we're seeing the end of the story here: this is going to be a continuing narrative, and there's really big plot threads that I think are going to be recurring throughout whatever Homestuck becomes next. So I'm expected to stay confused, I'm expected to keep having questions. I kind of hope that we get a bit more closure and satisfaction in terms of the characters. I think that's likely to be the case. But if it's not the case then I think it's only deferring it so that those character dynamics can be explored more in whatever Homestuck becomes. So...I don't really have too many specific expectations or hopes, I just want more Homestuck, so I guess I would say that I hope it comes sooner rather than later.

Kate: Mhmm. There's no clear indication of when this is going to be. Obviously Homestuck has been a very monumental date-based work, and we do have a tenth anniversary coming up in April, so...I do not want to create expectations, or psyche myself up for something that has not been explicitly said to be at a time, but I'm thinking something will happen for the tenth anniversary.

oD: I've actually been wondering if something might happen on November 11th, actually. This is not me creating expectations because I float guesses like this all the time, but if we're going to see Homestuck make a major transition into something new, that sounds like the kind of thing that marks a rebranding of some kind. And 11/11 is of course the day that the Alpha kids start their session, but it's also the day that Crockercorp rebrands officially, and changes up how it approaches everything. So that's a possibility I've been keeping under my hat. Who knows. It'll happen at some point. I think the tenth anniversary sounds more likely.

Kate: Mhmm. We shall see what happens. Alright, well that's our show! Our intro music was 'Thinks' by myself, the theme of the podcast. Our outro music, playing now, is 'Nothing Special' by FRUITYTEE, friend of the show Goomy. That's a bonus track on Vast Error Volume 4. You can check that out at vasterror.bandcamp.com, you can also check out FRUITYTEE's other music at smoothiefruitee.bandcamp.com, and Goomy can be found at @itsgoomy_ on Twitter. Next week on the show Sam (Sapharodon), our very first guest from Episode 1 returns, we're gonna talk about the absolutely monumental Friendsim that's coming up this Friday, and we're also gonna discuss Deltarune in the second half of the show. So get ready for that, I'm really excited about this next week. optimisticDuelist, where can people find you on The Social Media?

oD: I'm on Tumblr as revolutionaryduelist, and I'm also on YouTube at optimisticDuelist, and on Twitter as @RoseOfNobility. Those are the main places.

Kate: Alright! You can find this show at perfectlygenericpodcast.com, on the iTunes, Google Play and Overcast podcast directories, and @pgenpod on Twitter and Tumblr. You can find myself at twitter.com/gamblignant8 for my Homestuck account, or my main, twitter.com/KateMitchellOW, for my Overwatch work. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for coming on oD, I really appreciate it.

oD: Thanks, it was my pleasure, thanks for having me.

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