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optimisticDuelist joins Kate for a discussion of Trickster Mode’s purpose and symbolism. Topics include Gnosticism, race in Homestuck, and living in a society. A post-episode discussion about Vast Error and the inherent value of independent media follows the end credits.

Transcript Edit

Kate: The Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You've been warned. Stick around after the show for a discussion of independent media and Vast Error.

[intro]

oD: Hello, gamer.

Kate: [laughs] I need you to do something for me. I need you to go to Gamestop, and I need you to get Bambi for the PS2.

oD: Oh god!

Kate: If you come back [laughs] if you come back empty handed I'll be very disappointed young man.

oD: Oh no.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: Okay.

Kate: [laughs] Welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast, Episode 15. We're gonna be talking about Trickster Mode today. We have optimisticDuelist back — welcome back to the show oD, how's it been?

oD: Hey! It's been pretty good. I'm a Vast Error now, thank you.

Kate: You are a Vast Error, maybe we'll talk about that after the — after the credits in the post-show, we'll — we'll dish on some Vast Error spoilers for people. [laughs]

oD: Woo!

Kate: [laughs]

oD: I'm ready.

Kate: So — what have — you've been up to quite a bit since the last — since the last show. We've got — we've got some new videos out.

oD: Yeah, when was the last — what were the videos that came out since last time I came on? I think it was the Vriska one; on the Guardians and Ancestors and role-play, I've been meaning to get that one out for a while; and then I put one out on the bunny and the Homestuck sequel announcement, where I actually used our last episode —

Kate: Mhmm. The Homestuck sequel —

oD: For that.

Kate: Quote 'announcement'. [laughs]

oD: Yeah.

Kate: Where — where part of the — where part of the announcement is: what do words mean, and how are they [laughs] but does anything really mean anything? Which I guess —

oD: What —

Kate: Is a very post-modern way to say you're continuing a story.

oD: Yeah. Something's happening at *some* point, it seems like.

Kate: Yes.

oD: We won't be ready but we can pretend.

Kate: We can — yeah, we can — we can prepare, we can get our emergency supplies and get in our — y'know, and get our bunkers ready.

oD: Yeah. Oh and speaking of emergency supplies we've got Lanque coming up —

Kate: Yeah, it's true.

oD: We're finally at the end of the Friendsims next week.

Kate: It's true. The End of Friendvangelion approaches quickly.

oD: Oh Boy. I'm definitely tryin' to prepare for that, since we've been getting some hints that Lanque is a little more complicated than we were maybe expecting to begin with.

Kate: Yeah, I'm sorry if you wanted a pure uwu soft boy, because every indication is that we're not gonna be getting that. And also you should be ashamed for wanting a pure uwu soft boy.

oD: Those don't exist in Homestuck.

Kate: Yeah! Exactly —

oD: There aren't any.

Kate: Like, everyone — everyone is like a take off something, right? Like the closest we got in, like — like we got Diemen and Zebede in Friendsim, right, and there's still like, a dark turn to each of them.

oD: Yeah, absolutely.

Kate: Like — like Diemen is representative of sort of, like, the hopelessness of — of Alternia, and Zebede is, y'know — is — is a strange possessive child who writes real person fic.

oD: Yeah. Alternia messes you up!

Kate: Yeah!

oD: Living in a hell world leads to some unhealthy coping mechanisms —

Kate: That's very true.

oD: And I think it's just better to take a general approach of empathy and understanding of the circumstances these kids are dealing with than, like, trying to make sure they're, like, your pure fave.

Kate: Yeah exactly, and y'know — the thing about the Friendsims so far is that they've been excellent at giving depth to characters. Every character is flawed in some way except Tyzias, who's not. [laughs]

oD: Yeah. Tyzias is just perfect and here to protect us.

Kate: Well Tyzi— Tyzias' flaw is that she's nerfing her own effectiveness by — by not sleeping. [laughs]

oD: She'll learn to sleep someday. I believe in her.

Kate: Hopefully. That's what — that's what protag really taught her. So I wanted to have you on to talk about — especially since we talked about clownery last week, this felt like the natural follow-up — something that is the — perhaps one of the most reader-hostile, controversial and visually jarring parts of Homestuck, which is the Trickster Mode arc, and tricksterism in general. Y'know, Trickster — the Trickster Mode, it — it evokes this feeling of a — of a sugar rush. It is — it is actually nauseating. It is visually and audio — it is, in visuals and audio, like, an assault on the reader [laughs]

oD: Yeah, it's like — it's like painful and potentially even dangerous to someone like, dealing with epilepsy or something in a way that not much in the comic is, besides like, Lord English's coat, which feels very intentional to me. Like, it's a direct asau— assault on us as an audience on like, every level.

Kate: Mhmm. And — and so I guess what I wanna ask of you is: what is the intent of the Trickster arc? What is the point of it in the story?

oD: Alright, so the thing to understand about the Trickster arc is it feels very shallow and goofy and like, the story's kinda taking the piss out of itself. And the thing is that's exactly what it's doing. Like, it — the — the whole thing seems to be structured, to me, like a satyr play, which is basically an old old theatrical tradition from like, back when theater was getting started in like, Greeks — the Greek Dionysian days — that's kind of separate from either comedy or tragedy traditions. And what satyr plays were, were like these really slapstick comedic performances, basically. They were like, pretty lighthearted, pretty goofy — and generally involved themes of like, gods interfering with the affairs of men and like, manipulating ma— men through like, fate and stuff. And like, there's a lot of indications to read it that way, like Gamzee is obviously affiliated with satyrs: he's a half goat man, y'know. And he's just hanging — hanging out there in the — during every Trickster Mode sequence, like he's just chilling in the background, potentially having set up these events. You've got very literal god figures setting Trickster Mode up for the heroes in the form of both Caliborn and The Condesce, both of whom are like, really larger-than-life deific figures who are like, borderline omnipotent in the context of the story.

Kate: Mhmm, and also Calliope is equally responsible for the Trickster arc, I mean the Trickster arc's only possible with a combination of the powers of Caliborn and Calliope.

oD: Yeah. Absolutely.

Kate: It's a — it's a hot fresh collab.

oD: Yes. That might be the only time they ever collab — no, wait, that's the entire story of Homestuck. Guys, please pay attention to Calliope and Caliborn, they're so important.

Kate: Yeah, they're actually — they're actually maybe the most important.

oD: Um —

Kate: Homestuck is a — Homestuck is fundamentally a struggle between Caliborn and Calliope, you just see Caliborn more because the role of the Lord is much more active than the role of the Muse.

oD: Mhmm. Absolutely. So the — I — I'd maybe single out Caliborn here just because Calliope doesn't actively like, watch and comment on Trickster Mode as it's happening.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Which, y'know, like I co— I actually forgot to mention Calliope there, thank you for that. But yeah —

Kate: No problem. I'm always drinking my Calliope respecting juice.

oD: It's so good, I need to stock up on it.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: So — Caliborn, like, actively orchestrates Trickster Mode as a way to set the kids up to god-tier, and like, initiate like, the next phase of the story where The Condesce already has a plan to like, take over Jade, take over Jane and sort of just assume control of everything. And that control doesn't really collapse until like, the retcon, where we get Vriska back basically. And it's an interesting sequence, both in terms of like, being maybe when Caliborn is most overt about like, setting up the story to fall in his favor and like, play things out exactly the way they need to for the Masterpiece to happen eventually —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But also in terms of, it's being geared towards like, what he likes as an audience viewer. Like, one the kids enter Trickster Mode, everything — the plot just starts happening at a really frenetic pace, they just like, start gathering each other up and then they just go to the moon to die, and like — a lot of plot happens very quickly —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Which is something that Caliborn likes a lot. He like — he tells us pretty explicitly that he just likes seeing people get stuff done and he hates how much time they waste on like, emotions and stuff. And all of that goes out the window with Trickster Mode, it just becomes plot and candy, which we'll get to in a minute.

Kate: And — and y'know — and sweet, sweet gearing up. [laughs]

oD: Yes. Increasing those power levels.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Which Caliborn's always all about.

Kate: Uh-huh, and — and in a way I find it to be sort of an — a mirror or an analog for like, the first — a lot of the events of the first four acts, which are — y'know, like, sort of silly fucking around and like, making funny items, right? It's like —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: It's like Cal — it's like Caliborn's version of the fucking around at the start of Homestuck.

oD: Yeah, I absolutely agree there. It's like a return — a return to like, the most basic form that Homestuck ever took, but in like, this really like, silly, mocking way that like, paints it as like, completely — whimsical and meaningless, basically. Which speaks a lot to Caliborn's sentimentality about the story, I think.

Kate: Mhmm. And — I — I think that one of the most — that pretty much the most important conversation about this arc — like actually like, the argument of what is the point of the Trickster arc happens in the story between Caliborn and the Author avatar character.

oD: Yeah.

Kate: Let's — lemme — lemme read a little bit from this and we can talk about it. 'You see teenagers are sensitive and beautiful creatures. Well, not you. You're repulsive. But most teenagers, I mean. You can't just force them to settle all their issues with insane psychotropic game power-ups. They have to learn to face all those issues themselves or they'll never learn and grow as people.' 'WHO CARES.' 'Well you don't, but human beings do. The journey itself is more important than the destination. The struggle is what builds character and teaches us about ourselves and about life'. And then there's a further comparison to the Mario star, where Mario becomes Trickster Mario. [laughs]

oD: Yep.

Kate: And how like, being invincible the entire game is not actually fulfilling gameplay. It's not actually — it's not actually, like, meaningful, it does not provide the player of the game any growth, it does not provide them any challenge. And the challenge is the important part, and the entire game of Sburb and the entire universe and narrative of Homestuck, according to Andrew Hussie, is built around growing up. Whereas the narrative of Homestuck according to Caliborn is about never growing up and becoming powerful and smashing things.

oD: Mhmm. That's really like the philosophical idea at the core of the story that we — like, you basically always need to keep in mind if you wanna try to understand what the story is trying to say.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And what the story's not trying to say! Like for example the racial commentary that some people read into the Trickster Mode arc when that was going on, as a — in a serial experience kind of way. Did you wanna get into that now, or —

Kate: Yeah, I did. We got a lot of questions about this, and that's part of why I wanted you to talk about it because I think that you've had some really good and interesting takes on — on race in this work, and like, what the Trickster arc has to say as like, a piece of racial horror.

oD: Absolutely. I'm glad you think so, because half the time I can't super tell if I'm just off my rocker with this stuff. But basically at the time a lot of people took Trickster Mode as Hussie like, poking fun at — at fans that — were dissatisfied or felt like the story wasn't — wasn't really explaining itself on the matter of race —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And felt that Homestuck was trying to like, have it both — have it both ways, like have its cake and eat it too with presenting the characters as aracial, like the — the — the party line with Homestuck has always been that the human kids are depicted as white, but in like the blank, y'know, no color kind of white, so that they can have like, any race or any skin tone projected onto them. But because of like, some early lines suggesting maybe races for some of the kids, there have been — there's been this long-standing debate about whether the kids are like, only aracial like, in name, and really meant to, y'know, just be read as white while just like, keeping what some would call, like, the woke points or something. Or whether it was like a genuine earnest attempt to design these characters in a way that anyone could project onto on that basis.

Kate: Mhmm. And — and so I guess for some context, since we got a few questions that implied that some more recent readers actually don't know this — the original — at the start of the Trickster story when — when Jane is — is sort of horrifically introducing herself, she — she originally said she's feeling 'Caucasian', instead of feeling peachy. [laughs]

oD: Right, yeah, that punchline was actually changed —

Kate: It was!

oD: Because Trickster Mode caused such a bout of a very specific kind of controversy —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: That Hussie actually felt moved to change it. And I'm pretty sure that's like the only time in the entire run of Homestuck that he actually retconned something in response to audience criticism.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: That I can think of.

Kate: And — and I think it's important to sorta look at the — that author statements about this. Because there was a great deal of controversy over the joke. And according to Andrew, like, the worst part of it was people who were using it to attack folks who saw the characters as non-white. Like — let's see. 'Admonishing those who — the thing the joke was not, admonishing those who wish to maintain non-white headcanons for characters, or those disappointed to see Trickster Jane with skin tone, or anyone really. There was not any coherent 'take that!' going on here.At least that was not the intent. I can see how it would appear that was what I wished to communicate but it is not. If this is an interpretation that will commonly persist I'd rather just ditch the joke, or at least tone it way down, which I did. But actually what motivates me more to revise it is noticing more than a few unsavoury individuals using it as justification to harass people of color or anyone who reasonably wanted to voice their concerns. On reflection, I'd rather not have my decisions serve as fodder for the arguments of such people. They don't speak for me.' And the second post on this ends with: 'If you feel convinced social justice is a crushing form of censorship, you might want to rethink that idea. Because apparently one of the only people who could say and do whatever they damn well pleased for the first time ever decided to redact a joke, not because of social justice bloggers but because of the behavior of their most strident critics. And if you truly dislike censorship and do not wish to see more self-censorship in the future, then you would be doing your part to behave in a way that doesn't make creators feel embarrassed to be defended by you.'

oD: Yep.

Kate: And — and so I think that's basically the — the first — the — like, I think that's sort of the like, core thesis statement of like, Homestuck's relationship to social justice. And I think it's something that people should keep in mind when they're thinking about not just the Trickster arc and the joke there, but also characters like Kankri, who are not intended to make people who care look bad. They're intended to make people who performatively care look bad.

oD: Mhmm. Zebruh in a lot of ways is like, critiquing a different aspect of like, that same crowd, so like, I've — I've come to stand by Kankri quite a bit as a writing choice. And just for context, I am coming at this as someone who — y'know, like I'm not white. I was on Tumblr during those years where that controversy was going on, and initially like, before I'd like, really took the time to look directly at what Homestuck was doing and like — Huss— what Hussie himself has said about it, I did find myself swayed and even put off, just by like the tenor of the commentary around the event.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Just because it was like — it was so intense and so all over the place on both sides at that point. In terms of like, people just feeling disenchanted with Hussie and feeling like this was backtracking, basically.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: And I just — I really don't feel like that's the case, basically. I can understand people who would assume that —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But I feel like the intent that Hussie is like, playing with here, and like the — the way that race is handled in Homestuck in general has a lot of grounding in like, the philosophical structure of how the story is built.

Kate: Do you — do you wanna expound on that?

oD: Yeah, absolutely. So to really get into this we're — we have to touch on Gnosticism a little bit, which is basically like — Homestuck draws from a lot of mythological sources, y'know, like Greek — you've got Rose and potentially even like, Vriska's like, Jewish commentary through Cetus — so like, Homestuck's a work that draws from a lot of mythologies. But what I think it draws on the most with regards to building it's like, own coherent thesis statement about like, reality, is Gnosticism. Which is a very — very old, very loose term meant to describe like — a very wide grouping of different veins of marginalized Christian thought. So basically it's — we're just talking about the Christian fanon movement. Like, all of the fanfiction that like, any like, philosophical writers that like, diverged from like, what we know as canon Christianity ever commented on. So this is like a really broad movement that sometimes contradicts itself and — the core of it as I would see it is this idea that originates from like, Plato and Greek thought, that the world of ideas is — in some ways a sort of source of goodness, so to speak, like this is where we get the term 'sophia', which is like wisdom, and then you get 'philo', which is 'love of', like 'philosophy', philo-sophia, that's — that's — this seems to be like the train of thought that that term comes from —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So it's like, a movement very built on the love of wisdom and on like, trying to piece things together through logic and wisdom and reason. So there's a lot here with having an infatuation with the world of ideas and not necessarily an a— an aversion to material, but a scepticism of it as a source of truth.

Kate: As Rose said, the symbols hold all the power.

oD: Yes. You see this show up in like, a couple places. Jade's chumhandle is gardenGnostic; Roxy's chumhandle is tip— tipsyGnostalgic; and Dirk and Jake's denizens are, y'know, Yaldabaoth and Abraxas, which are sort of the most prominent Gnostic figures mythologically.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But the root of its relevance here to Trickster Mode is that when you look at the base traits of the human kids, what you're seeing is like a loose conglomeration of like, character attributes that don't have any like, grounded physicality to them.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: It's like a schematic design, where it's: you've got some very iconic features, like Dave and Dirk's shades and like, the outfits that they wear which are just clothes that anyone could put on a fit in any way; y'know, Rose's headband. Like, these little traits that are like, sort of superfluous to an i— to — to a body but very indicative of an identity.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So I've taken to calling those, like, schematic character designs, right — and what happens with Trickster Mode is that all of those character designs are more or less subverted or consumed by this like, clown-y, jokey aesthetic, while their physical bodies are made more physical.

Kate: Mhmm — they're — they're homogenized.

oD: Yeah, they're homogenized.

Kate: And — and I guess what — what better representation of cultural homogenization than the — than the concept of whiteness, which is just a fabrication.

oD: Exactly. Especially since it's not even just like, straight — the characters being depicted as white, like they've got this like, colorful hair that — it's the — the kind of thing that you would really see as a trope from anime.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So w— I think what's really being conveyed here is not so much like, ha ha the kids are white now, it's — Trickster Mode is a representation of power and the ways that our culture interprets power most commonly are like, Western media which is typically very homogeneously white, and in our more fandom culture — online culture that Homestuck comments on a lot — anime, which is, y'know, suffused with power fantasy and typically has these like, really colorful hairstyles and stuff, so there's kind of a mixture of motifs here.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But y'know, white — white anime characters that can like, overpower all circumstances and like, fulfil all the ships they want, and like do all the — all the cool anime stuff that everyone wants to see and be super saiyan all the time is like a specific kind of — audience fantasy that I think Trickster Mode is commenting on. And it like, incorporates both of those aspects into it. So it's not so much that the kids are like, literally physically white and the Trickster Mode makes that real. It's that Trickster Mode as a concept sort of imposes whiteness onto whatever it's being projected on, just because of the way that we perceive it. Like, cherubs — when Jane hits a cherub with a lollipop during, y'know, the little Jane: Engage flashes where she's teleporting, it turns into Lil Cal. And Lil Cal is a representation of whiteness as well. So it's like — it's not something specific to the kids, I don't think anyone's gonna seriously argue that a cherub is like, actually white all along.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: So I think — y'know, it's something more inherent to Trickster Mode.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: I don't know if I'm being particularly coherent here, this is a difficult subject to broach.

Kate: No, it is — I — I think you are, I think that it's one of the — like, one of the many ways that it's jarring is it takes you out of your previous imagination of the characters, it takes the characters out — except for Dirk — out of the way that they act. It — it is — it is horrific! It is —

oD: Mhmm!

Kate: It is frankly — it is — it is the scariest part of Homestuck, perhaps! And you, in your essay True Light, False Light, which I'm gonna link in the description of this episode and everyone should read — like, compare and contrast it to horrorstuck.

oD: Yeah, absolutely. This is actually not my observation, it's something that I got from a friend of mine. I don't remember where exactly I heard it, I just know I heard it from someone who's very smart —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And who I owe you a thank you — for this one. But it's like, y'know, Gamzee's involves here, like Gamzee sets up a lot of what leads to the Trickster arc. And just like — like Rage incorporates both sides of like, there's the horror and the tragic elements that we see in horrorstuck, where like, Gamzee directly or indirectly causes a lot of death and despair and just endless suffering that goes on for years that the audience found like, very exhausting eventually. Like I think Terezi's like a really — the best representation of this because she's really an audience analog for like, the later parts of Homestuck in some ways I think.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And in Trickster Mode you've got Rage as comedy, which is like, everything's jokey and meaningless and funny, and it's still scary but the punchline in — to the — the release of the tension in murderstuck was when like, Equius and Nepeta like, got murdered, or like — y'know, some — Vriska finally died, like the punchline was death in horrorstuck. In Tricksterstuck it's like, a pumpkin to the head or a pie to the face, it's like it's slapstick.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: It's — it's meant to be funny throughout. And rather than resulting in like, the characters dying, it results in them coming like, even more alive. Like Jane —

Kate: Mhmm. It results in a — in a literal rebirth.

oD: Yeah. Jane actually like, says that she feels so alive after — to Jake, like, right before she converts him, she's like 'I feel so alive~'. And that's really interesting, both in terms of Jane's character arc as a Maid of Life — I think Trickster Mode is like one of the most overlooked parts of the story with regards to Jane's narrative —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Because, y'know, a lot of people feel like she got shafted, and I don't necessarily feel that way I just feel like her character arc is more compact.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And also because the lollipop — a lot of people might have missed this 'cause it's like a blink-and -you-miss-it sort of frame shot — but when the — when Jane's two lollipops come together to form the Trickster lollipop you actually get a still shot of like, a ying and yang, black-and-white styled shot of the two snakes from The Neverending Story, like, sort of like converging and connecting, and it's like a double ouroboros that's inside the lollipop.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So the lollipop in a sense is identified with this symbol of AURYN, which is also the same symbol that shows up when cherubs mate that Aranea describes as them tapping into the forces of everything that's eternal. Homestuck takes a lot from The Neverending Story and I think this is one of those cases, because the — the — in The Neverending Story AURYN is — it turns out to be a place that stands at the crux of the world of man, which is like the physical world, and the world of Fantastica which is like the world of the fantasy and the imaginary.

Kate: Like The Aleph in Borges. The Aleph, in — in Jorge Luis Borges's work is a — it's a place that contains all other places, and a place that allows you to perceive everything when you're in it.

oD: Yeah, absolutely! Which is like, pretty similar to paradox space when you think about it.

Kate: Yeah!

oD: Like, it's a realm — it's like an idealistic realm that like contains everything in reality and then some, because like, the only limit to it is imagination.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And y'know, this principle of AURYN, like the — the — this symbol is like the — the eternal force that pervades everything, at the very least explicitly in The Neverending Story, and by connection to the — to the — to the cherubs, in paradox space too, because the cherubs are like, an intrinsic part of paradox space, they function kind of like its immune system.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And — the — the core principle of AURYN is it turns out to be a place that is specifically the fountain of life. Y'know, like the — the place that houses like, the waters of life.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Is how it's identified in the book. So — and — and AURYN has like a — a mantra inscribed on the back of it that just simply says something like 'do as you wish', or 'do as you will'. So it's like, the — the — in the conception of life that is being shared between The Neverending Story and Homestuck, life as like a faculty of reality depends on the individ— on the will of the individual experiencing it, and like the wishes that they house inside them. Which is why Trickster Mode is inherently like this intensely wish-fulfil-y exercise on the part of the characters. Like, Jane goes Trickster and she immediately just zeroes in on Jake and trying to make this wish that she's been holding dear for years come true.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And — y'know, Roxy immediately just goes back to like, indulging her desire for drinking. Jake just —

Kate: And indulging her desire for Dirk.

oD: Oh yeah. And y'know, Jake is happy to make everyone happy, basically, and — has a particular desire that we'll get to [audio cuts out]

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But just to round him off, he is happy to indulge the idea of physicality with anyone. Y'know, where things get complicated for Jake is when he has to deal with the nasty parts, or like the difficult parts of relationships, but he says himself to Jane that he — y'know, he's had fanciful thoughts about all of his friends because that's just the kind of guy he is. So Trickster Mode is like this — this — this experience where all of the thoughts that the kids are holding in their heads, all of these like, wishes that they don't feel able or like, they should act on, just materialize immediately like there's no resistance to it.

Kate: It's pure indulgence.

oD: Pure indulgence. Which in the — in terms of the meat/candy binary — probably represents the candy to the like, plot progression and violence and conflict that is the meat that Caliborn likes. Like Cali—

Kate: And — and so it's like — it's a perfect meal for Caliborn, because —

oD: Abs—

Kate: The can— you get the candy-coated, y'know, indulgent madness, and then the meat of the kids dying and being reborn.

oD: Exactly, it's the best of both worlds for him.

Kate: Mhmm. It's a — it's a three Michelin star meal for the Cherub sensibility. And it's horrific to the human sensibility. And before I talk about that cherub sensibility and sort of how that developed in the credits, I also wanted to get to Dirk because three of the kids indulge their deepest desires and find themselves in this punch drunk state. But Dirk does not change.

oD: At all.

Kate: At all.

oD: So — there's a lot going on there. I think the basic mechanic answer to how — to why Dirk doesn't change is simply that he's a Heart player, and like, Heart has to do directly with like the soul, so not just the expression of your will onto reality but like, the nuances of like, how the particular ideas that you feel deeply attached to and ingrained with manifest in your life through your actions and through like, your — the physicality of you.

Kate: Mhmm. So this is an interesting discussion because I wanted to talk a little bit about Nepeta as a Heart player. Because in the — in the horrorstuck arc that we've been comparing it to, like, Nepeta remains consistent. She is what she's always been. And she throws herself at the problem, at the horror, and does not succeed in changing the horror. She does not su— like, she is herself, she is unchanging, she is stubborn, and she dies for it. And Dirk, like, cannot put a stop to this Trickster arc either, he too is consumed by it unwillingly.

oD: Yeah. And it's interesting in both cases because both times the horror being represented as something that's just bigger than either of them, like it's a system — because I think a lot of what locks, like — Nepeta dies basically to the hemospectrum because Equius is just unable to resist the pull of it, right? And what the —

Kate: He doesn't change.

oD: He does not change. She does — he — she makes good progress, Equius changes by the end, with — as Arquius, but here, like, she just hasn't been able to get through to him enough in the amount of time that they've had for him to like, overcome that. So Gamzee gets the drop of — on her through like, the power of this like, wider social system that controls all the trolls, right?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: What I think locks Dirk out of really being able to indulge the Trickster Mode is the fact that he's just so, like, uninterested what would see as heterosexuality. And specifically I think that has connotations of procreation, here.

Kate: Oh yeah.

oD: Because, y'know, the whole thing with the Trickster Modes is making babies~!

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: That's — that's what it's about~! And I think that's also a reflection of — of Caliborn and what he's — the cherubic ideals that Trickster mode is meant to embody, because cherubs only seek out any kind of like, social or romantic, or like, pro— context — *contact* of any kind in the context of procreation.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: They only touch other people when it results in making more people, so to speak. And that's the kind of involvement that all of the kids are like, involving themselves in, and Jane gets that out of Jake pretty easily, but Roxy tries *really* hard to get that out of Dirk. Not just in Trickster Mode but for years.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And — the way — the way she puts it to Jake later is that the — the Trickster Mode episode just like, drug— dragged out a lot of old stuff, like bad shit between the two of them as a result of her like, pushing Dirk to, y'know, be normal in this way, so to speak. Like just be a dude, and like, make some babies with her I guess.

Kate: Mhmm. It's —

oD: And —

Kate: It erased her character development. It's just like —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: By that point in the story, like, Jane had come to terms with like, not — not being in love with Jake, right, and like Roxy had come to terms with like, accepting Dirk's gayness, and like — y'know, and stop— and no longer having like, such a reductive view of human sexuality. And it's all erased! Every bit of progress that they've made is — is erased and it's instead replaced with the most indulgent ideas that you could have had on these characters' introduction.

oD: Mhmm! And the only character — like, Dirk — all things aside, like, Dirk is the only character to escape, like, the — the horror of the — of the Trickster Mode, like experience — but Jake is the only character who seems to like, actively resist it or maintain any shred of self-awareness inside its context. And I think this is like, one of the most romantic beats in the story, and everyone who doesn't think so can like, not '@' me —

Kate: [laughs]

oD: But — the — the way Trickster Mode goes down when the — when they finally like, reach Dirk, before Roxy like — right before Roxy like, gets really gung-ho about this and like, starts going — puts the — starts trying to put the ring on Dirk's finger and stuff — the — Roxy and Jane get bored with Dirk really fast because he's being this wet blanket and not — not playing along with y'know, like the Trickster Mode feel, and —

Kate: He's not role-playing!

oD: He's not role-playing. But AR — Arquius, at this point, is, and they're just like 'well Arquius is ripped now, Arquius is a Dirk and he's more fun, so let's just get married to AR, and Dirk can just sit in the corner I guess', right?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And it's like this really callous disregard for Dirk as a person because he won't like, perform this particular model of attraction.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Which, whatever, it's — they're — they're in a moment of indiscretion, there's context.

Kate: But it's — it's also an analog for the implied fact that Roxy and the AR like, had a — had a flirtatious or even sexual relationship.

oD: Yeah. And that that was like, a — a continuing reminder to Dirk that he, like, in this particular way, because of his gayness, just wasn't good enough for Roxy. And like, she needed this like, replacement proxy that was like a younger version of him that was more pliable and agreeable to what she wanted out of him.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So y'know, it's a little messed up. The Alpha kids are a mess but I love 'em.

Kate: Yep — yeah they're a big mess, man.

oD: Yeah. But Jake, the darling, the precious dear sweet son, he is just like, 'woah girls, hold on! Let's not be hasty about dropping Dirk here!' And then in the haze of the — the Trickster rush — only now in the context that like, he's acting out like all of his deepest desires, and like, fulfilling all of his wishes and stuff — it's in that context, with this like, sugar rush plowing through his head, that Jake has the presence of mind to apologize to Dirk for everything — for like, ignoring him and like, avoiding him and stuff, and admit that he was feeling bad about it. And he just says 'well, I was feeling bad about stuff but now I realize that all I need to do is make everyone happy, and everyone can be happy and no one has to fight over me, and I don't ever have to make anyone sad. So what do you say buddy, do you wanna marry me?' And it's like [talking into hands] Oh my God — he just like, he's not — what Jake — it's — that's the — one of the moments where like it really comes through for me that like, what Jake wants is Dirk specifically. Like, he's not just looking for like, any kind of like fulfilment, or like just going with the flow of what other people want from him. He's got an innate desire to just have Dirk in his life in a close capacity. You can take that however you wanna take that.

Kate: He, like — if he was just passive in this scene he would not be continuing to pursue Dirk, but he's not. He's not passive.

oD: Exactly.

Kate: He — he actively seeks out Dirk. And what he really wants is to be able to have Dirk without upsetting his other friends.

oD: Ugh! And like, that's a really important and understated character beat, especially since, like, later that comes out again with Brain Ghost Dirk —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Once Jake's kinda like, had it with like, girls, like, controlling him and using him for his — for whatever purposes they have, which is like — Jane's development is stepped back, like, more ha— even more harshly than this because Jane actually, like, gets some catharsis out of this eventually, and like, gets to talk to Dirk about like, how awful she felt for having done it. But then Crockertier starts and sets her back even further and makes her even more controlling and domineering over Jake. So it's like —

Kate: Mhmm. And I think it's impossible to argue that Jane in that Crockertier scene is not indulging her worst qualities. It's not —

oD: Abs—

Kate: It's not involuntary, how she's acting.

oD: Absolutely. Jane, early on, like right — okay, so, right in — in the lead-up to Trickster Mode, when Jane is like really upset at Jake for having like, trying to re-gift her the lollipop from Caliborn —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: She actually like, tears up a poster that Jake gave her and like, complains about how Tobias had like, repressed feelings for men and how it was like, hurting everyone around him. And then during Crockec— Crockertier, when Gamzee like, jumps onto Jane at one point, like while — during the Game Over sequence when like, everything's going to like, complete hell — Gamzee, while he's mind-controlled, like, jumps on Jane at one point. And is like, just all over her, and she's like, 'did you just touch my boob?' But like, the way she responds to that is really interesting because she starts just fl— flooding Gamzee with insults, but specifically insults suggesting that he's gay.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Or has like some kind of interest in men. So there's a lot to Crockertier Jane that is like, contextualized by the stuff that'd been repressing before.

Kate: Mhmm. And in many ways, like, Jane being the only character from this post-scratch universe who had anything resembling a normal human childhood is like, the representation of We Live In A Society. Jane lives in a society the most! And she still carries all of that baggage from it. Jane is the least woke!

oD: Absolutely. She — she might be ahead of John by now, on Earth C, we'll see how it goes.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: But at the point of the story that she's in, she's absolutely the least woke. And like, that's really important to her character. I love Jane a lot, please don't '@' me with going like, that Jane is problematic now. Jane is great and she's doing her best, but like, there's a lot of forces at work in bringing out the worst of her. And that's —

Kate: Mhmm. And well it's — it's just like, right, when I say that Jane is a representation of the societal baggage of human society, that doesn't mean you shouldn't sympathize with her. In the same way that, when I say Vriska is a expression of the, like, ideals of troll society, that's because she was shaped by this horrific system, right, it's — it's compulsory.

oD: Absolutely.

Kate: Like, that participation in society. And Jane just takes longer to shed it than — than other characters, just as Vriska takes longer to shed it than other characters.

oD: Yeah. Definitely. And when Jane is in her right mind, she tries *very* hard to her own extreme detriment, for *months*, to be supportive of Jake on a cons— on a conscious level. So it's like —

Kate: And in — and in a way she's acting out a sort of passive ingrained femininity in that — in that way.

oD: Yes. Yes. So yeah, like there's a lot going on character-ways in the Trickster arc that like, goes unnoticed I think, or like, unrecognized because of the framing of it. But that's very deliberate.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like, y'know, it's the same as the clowns. Like, the clowns' ridiculousness hiding like, the truth of like, how right they are and how much insight they have into what's going on around them. Like, the Trickster Mode arc, for all its silliness, gives us a lot of insight into every character participating in it.

Kate: Alright. Let's get into some listener questions. ArsenicCatnip asks on our Discord: okay, if grimdark is when one is overcharged with Void, and Trickster is an overcharge of Life, what happens when someone adheres to the ideals of other aspects too fiercely?

oD: Y'know this is interesting to me because I think we see a lot of that in Homestuck in general. Not always in the vein of like, this dramatic transformation that just happens overnight. But for example AR in — at the height of Unite/Synchronize tells Jake that he has like, infinite or unfathomable heuristic knowledge. Now the word heuristic refers to like, knowledge of the self, basically. So like, it reads to me kind of like, Heart commentary. Yeah, heuristic means 'enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves'.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So it reads to me like, in his isolation — because AR's whole thing is that he's completely isolated from his friends, like on an existential level, like there's an — there's an inherent divide that colors everything about how they treat him and how he treats them — and he's like a supercomputer so he's like, literally cyber-omniscient, he is like, *the* scary AI, the Skynet or whatever that, y'know, we — we're supposed to fear.

Kate: And it — well there's also the double-meaning of heuristic there, where heuristics in computer science are — are used to describe like, a self-sustaining machine learning. A machine that gets smarter over time.

oD: Right. Yes. So it's like, all of that reads to me pretty clearly like commentary on Heart. AR's nature as a Dirk who understands his own thought processes and his own potential and who understands his nature as like, a supercomputer and how to best exploit his faculties in that respect. So you can see AR as being sort of over-encumbered with Heart, or over — like, just like, indulged entirely in Heart. In the same way Jade's arc is about being like, flooded with Space, both in terms of like, being isolated and put away from the people around her, and in terms of like, having the power of the Green Sun, which is like, this completely dominant force in terms of like, sheer raw power in Homestuck.

Kate: Mhmm. And I would argue that, if you look at Aranea's like, ta— like, attempt to take control of the narrative that goes disastrously in her attempt to — to seize the knowledge and control is — is pretty obviously a like, overin— like, an — an overcharge of Light.

oD: Absolutely. Yeah. So it's like you can see this in like, a lot of places. I think above all else Homestuck tries to caution towards having a mindset of balance. And part of why teamwork and friendship is so important in this story is that we all have these like, affinities, or like these quirks that pull us in one of these like, twelve abstract directions, right? These like, twelve ways of seeing the world. And you can get pretty far by understanding one part of the world really thoroughly, but the only way that you can really understand the world entirely and have like, a balanced perspective, is by sharing your perspective with other people.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Just because of the way that — the way the board is set up in this world, everyone has like, these particular affinities that they can't really get around.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So it's like, really important to be able to embrace the perspectives of other people and try to find a middle ground.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Any time that you go too far off the deep end of your own inner self, you're gonna end up somewhere — where you're like, either lying to yourself, playing at something you're not, or where you're just so much yourself that you're like, pushing over the wills of other people. And both of those are very dangerous places to be.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Alt!Calliope is the other biggest obvious example for Space. Like, yes, she's — she's got immense mastery over her — her — over her potential as a Space player, but it's not entirely clear that she's like, happy or balanced. And —

Kate: She doesn't — she doesn't appear to even have the ability to grasp what happiness is.

oD: Yeah.

Kate: Which is, I guess, the perfect expression of Space.

oD: Mhmm.

Kate: Just as I would say that like, Caliborn becoming Lord English and being everywhere simultaneously — he is already here — that's an overcharge of Time.

oD: Yeah. Absolutely.

Kate: It's Time without context, it's Time without meaning.

oD: Mhmm. So yeah, that's how I'd put it.

Kate: Yeah that's a — that's a good question, AC. Thank you — thank you for the question. Trash Ghost asks on Discord: thoughts on the early Flash game eastereggs, also called Trickster Mode?

oD: Hmm, well they're interesting in that they're like, fundamentally this like, game-breaking piece that like, speaks directly to the audience.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: I think that that metatextual awareness is really important to Trickster Mode, and like anything where Gamzee's involved, because I read it as — anything where the Rage players are involved I tend to read as a direct attack on the audience's ability to care about Homestuck at this point.

Kate: Uh-huh!

oD: I — like, the — the crux of Lord English's agenda through the Rage players is to convince us that the story of Homestuck is bad and not worth caring about. So any time that you catch yourself being annoyed or angry or skeptical of whether something in the story is meaningful or like — the story's like, really not that worth reading or caring about at this point — pay attention to whether Gamzee is around, 'cause I think it tends to be enlightening!

Kate: Yeah, it's true! Like — like, y'know, Gamzee is positioned in this very off-putting way. And like —

oD: Mhmm.

Kate: Like, y'know, he's a — he's a distraction to the reader, which we sorta talked about last week too.

oD: Yeah.

Kate: Let's see — vera_pocalypse asks on Twitter, and I already mentioned Vriska but I wanted to get this one in: how do you think Vriska and Terezi would act in Trickster Mode? Well, I would — Vriska, feared universe-wide! Oh no! [laughs]

oD: Yeah! Feared multiverse-wide!

Kate: Uh-huh.

oD: I think Trickster Vriska's out there in paradox space and she's coming for us someday.

Kate: Uh-huh. It's — it's the worst thing. [laughs]

oD: Yeah.

Kate: And Terezi — I don't know. My first thought would be like Dirk, even though she's not —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: A Heart player. She's still like, got that introspective.

oD: Yeah I think there's a lot of truth to that. The — I think it's interesting that like, Gamzee goes out of his way to target the Heart and the Mind players —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Of his session. Like, Nepeta's taken out of the picture pretty quickly, and then basically everything he does, including orchestrating Vriska's death, is like this long-standing assault on Terezi.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: So it's like, I wouldn't be surprised if Tere— if Mind players were similarly immune to the wiles of Trickster Mode, just because they're so self-analytical and thought-driven. I'm not really sure how that would play out.

Kate: A s— by the way, I actually forgot to me— bring this up earlier. But this episode was originally going to have Austinado on it as well. He's ill today, send him well-wishes. Y'know, we're— I wanna have him back soon and I hope he's feeling alright. But he was gonna be the bad cop here, because he — his argument is that the Trickster arc is not good. [laughs] And —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: And y'know, he's — he al— and so I wanna read some of what he said because he can't be here. His argument is based on how it affects the structure and narrative of Homestuck and its plot in a mostly annoying and negative way. He "has nothing but respect for what Homestuck does", and he "loves the metatextual aspects." "In a meta sense it really works, but if you're looking more to it, if you aren't interested in relationship issues or Mario Paint sound effects, you don't really get it. It comes off to the casual and intensive reader, especially at the time, as nothing more than a way to have a callback gag with a little symbolic space thrown in, and take the cast to their needed power level and get the ending on track. It feels like, despite the hidden meanings and relentless backlog of ideology Homestuck throws at you in this scene, that the comic took the easy way out." And he also mentioned it's very much interested in that aspect of Homestuck, y'know, being reader-hostile, and how it's utilized against its own fanbase to a shockingly high degree. And as an immortal wise man once said, shout-outs to Zich 'peak homestuck': "I still had to read it". [laughs]

oD: [laughs]

Kate: Like, and there is an argument to be made there — that like, what we've been talking about. Like, that those reader-hostile elements of Homestuck, and that includes not just — not just Trickster Mode but like the dancestors, y'know, the visual artefacts, the Caliborn segments — like, that they are maybe too clever by half. And — and like, some readers frankly might just not want to deal with the bullshit to get at the meat of the story. And they might — and y'know, it *is* off-putting, and — and that's not inherently merit— that's not a inherently meritorious thing, so I think it is totally valid to say " I still had to read it and it sucked".

oD: Yeah. Absolutely. Especially since that experience is like, an acknowledged part of the narrative I think.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like it's just — it's har— it's weird. Homestuck's weird, but it's valid to —

Kate: [laughs] It's weird and valid. Just like all of you, listeners.

oD: Yes.

Kate: Remele, from the Netherlands, asked on Discord: not really a lore question, but what Trickster candy/food would you have if you went Trickster? I love this question — I love when people ask silly questions. Mine would be that like, horrible like, Hershey's white chocolate cookies and cream. That would be me.

oD: Oh god I *love* those!

Kate: Yeah I love them too! They're my — they're my favorite candy! That's my Trickster candy.

oD: I love those, but it — for me it would definitely be a Pirouline, which is like, these like thin circular wafer sticks with like, chocolate filling in them.

Kate: Uh-huh.

oD: I could eat these things until I die.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: No regrets.

Kate: [laughs] I — yeah. And — and I mentioned that Remele was dutch when she asked this question because hers is a stroopwafel and I think that's adorable. [laughs]

oD: That is adorable!

Kate: Thanks for the question. Alright, so that's our show! The intro and outro music is "green orb red orb" by President for Life of the Perfectly Generic music team, goomy, who you can find @FRUITYTEEMUSIC. You can find a link to this track and all of their works on Bandcamp in the description of this episode. I wanted to mention at the top of the end here, like, the Perfectly Generic Podcast will be live from Burbank, California, March 24th 2019, at the Guildhall Bar. We are going to — it's — it's open to all ages despite being at a bar. We're gonna be discussing some topics that we haven't fully decided on yet, but you can meet me, Austinado, gingerslappin who you might recall from our — from our Friendsim livestreams — James Roach will be there helping with audio, thank you so much James, you're — you're a saint. And, y'know, there's gonna be other members of the panel and special guests that are — that are gonna be there. I'm trying to convince optimisticDuelist himself to come! [laughs]

oD: We'll see, if things go well —

Kate: Yeah, we'll —

oD: I'll be happy to.

Kate: [laughs] So you can RSVP for that at perfectlygenericpodcast.com/live. You can follow this show at perfectlygenericpodcast.com, in the iTunes store, on Spotify, in the Google Play podcast client or on Overcast. You can see us at pgenpod on both Twitter and Tumblr — pour one out for Tumblr, by the way. [laughs]

oD: Rest in peace.

Kate: Yeah, and you can find me at gamblignant8 on both Twitter and Tumblr as well. oD, where can folks find you?

oD: Anyone can find me on YouTube at optimisticDuelist, I've got some Deltarune videos coming up on top of the usual Homestuck stuff. And I'm also on Medium as optimisticDuelist if you just want my sweet, sweet essays that are way too long.

Kate: I recommend reading all of them. If I could recommend you homework, listeners, it's reading all of those essays.

oD: Thank you, I appreciate the endorsement. And yeah, I'm on revolutionaryduelist.tumblr.com until, y'know, it dies, I guess.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: And I'm on Twitter at RoseOfNobility.

Kate: Keep on — keep on chooglin'. Next week we're gonna talk about the — the Lanque and Soleil twins Friendsim route with a guest that hasn't been completely decided yet, so get excited for that!

oD: Wooo!

Kate: [laughs]

[outro]

Kate: So after — so I wanted to do a little bit after the show where we talk about Vast Error, 'cause you just read Vast Error recently.

oD: Yes.

Kate: Are you — are you down to chat about that a little bit?

oD: Dismas/Murrit is canon and DirkJake tier, and everyone needs to read it.

Kate: It is a god-tier ship, it's true. It is — it is — it's really giving the mlms everything that they want.

oD: It really, truly do be like that.

Kate: [laughs] So —

oD: Oh my god.

Kate: I wanted to talk about sort of, like, how do you see, like, Vast Error — like, as a like — as a reflection of and commentary on Homestuck?

oD: I think it's fascinating. Both because it's like — it's de— it's a direct divergence — for those of you who don't know, Vast Error had a completely separate story from Homestuck. It features a group of trolls living on a planet that's terrible, like Alternia, but not Alternia. It's terrible in different ways. And they're playing a game that seems to have them fucked, that seems like Sburb — it has parts of Sburb, like Classpects, dream selves, Skaia, Derse and Prospit — but it's not Sburb. It's just a different game, and we don't really know what's up with it or what it's for, and all of these mechanics seem to work slightly differently. And all of the pieces seem to be adding up to like, a different fundamental picture. So it's a work that's playing with a lot of the foundational elements that Homestuck set up, but re-appropriating them in its own way for, y'know, the points that it's making with — and its points generally seem to involve commenting on the experience of having read Homestuck, while also delivering like, its own narrative themes about feeling stagnant and stuck in place and, y'know, not knowing where to go after you've grown up.

Kate: Yeah, it's a —

oD: Which is like —

Kate: Yeah, all the characters are older, it's — it's about, sort of, what happens to you if you didn't have a heroic and fulfilling narrative from, y'know, 13 to 18, like the characters in Homestuck did. What if you were stagnant for that time, y'know? What's the — it's kind of — it's — it's a mournful place to be, and one that I think a lot of readers can understand.

oD: Mhmm! Yeah. Like, if — at least for me personally, I can't tell how many times I've fantasized about Sburb being real, just to like have that ideal fantasy of like, my ideal version coming out. Like, Homestuck's a great fantasy to experience in a lot of ways, but there's something to be said for it leaving you kind of wistful that reality isn't like that, as awful as parts of it are.

Kate: Yeah, it's true, you do — you — you leave Homestuck with a genuine, I think, desire for things to be better. And for people to be able to express themselves more. And that's why it's so powerfully meaningful to a lot of people. And I think Vast Error's the same way. I think, y'know, Vast Error sort of inspires you less to take a fantastical escape and more to think about how your actions affect the complicated web of social relationships that we all exist in. And, y'know, how kindness and understanding and empathy can overcome even the most complicated, ingrained and entrenched like, interpersonal tragedies.

oD: Absolutely.

Kate: It's a story about recovery.

oD: Ahhh, it's so emotional. I love it so much so far.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: I caught up over the course of like, two days, so it wasn't too — too hard to catch up. I had the pleasure of talking to you and Austin through most of it. But I — I really — god. Just, it reminds me so much of what the — the environment of the fandom reminds me so much of like, how Homestuck felt early on, when I was just getting involved in it. With like, the waiting around for updates and what updates seem to come out, whenever. Like if you're feeling nostalgic for like, the old Homestuck experience of like, just having like, updates and like slowly piecing together this broader plot through, like, this very specific format that we've all gotten so obsessed with —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: It just — Vast Error's it, man. Like it's so good at doing what it's doing.

Kate: It is. [laughs]

oD: And —

Kate: And I'm not just saying that because I'm — I'm on the team now, like — what we're ta— like, y'know, this is— that's a recent development. Like, this was, y'know, Austinado and — and Sparaze's baby.

oD: Yeah.

Kate: And Xamag is now, like — has provided a— just an incredible amount of iconic art and brilliant panelling to it as well.

oD: Yeah. If you're like a newbie Homestuck and you somehow don't know who Xamag is, she's the artist who did like, the amazing shots of the trolls in like, Cascade for example. That was Xamag, right?

Kate: Yeah it was, and those shots of like —

oD: Yes.

Kate: Y'know, Rose and Dave looking at each other on — like, y'know — on the — on the dream moon.

oD: Oh Jesus Christ. So basically she's a wizard.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: All of Vast Error's art as of late is like, straight up just wizardry.

Kate: Yeah it is.

oD: Like it's magic.

Kate: Like — like, y'know, between Heather (Sparaze)'s designs and like, y'know, visual flourish, and — and like detail — and Xamag's like, mastery of lighting and framing and like, communicating physical action through panelling — like, I'll just say personally like, as someone who like, gets to write a bit for — for these artists, it's absurd. It is absurdly amazing how much, like, this art and understanding like, flatters your writing [laughs]

oD: [laughs] God. Yeah. It — it like evolves so fast, from my perspective too. Because like, there's that real sense of like, growth in all aspects of the production's execution.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: From like page one to like, the latest page, which is — I think you're up to like, about 700 now?

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like, it just — everything — the writing gets sharper, the — the — the art gets more and more varied and evocative. Like all of it is just so constantly evolving.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like, it's great. The flash animations are amazing. In — I was lucky enough to — in [S] Engage, an Utena reference snuck into Arcjec's Engage flash, if I'm remembering the title right.

Kate: Yes.

oD: Which just goes to show, like, I've — I was only, like, loosely — I was only like, loosely involved in the fandom, distantly, until like right now, basically.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And just being able to like, just like, have that subtle impact, like it really makes you think about how responsive the comic already is to its burgeoning fandom. And it really is growing a decent fandom, like it's — it's probably — it seems to be like the second most popular fan adventure on Vast Err— on MSPaint Fan Adventures. And it's just the people gathering around it make me feel like it's going to get pretty dang big compared to most fan adventures as it continues.

Kate: Yeah, and I wanted to — I also, like — it's — it's been honestly incredible, like especially the explosion of fanart. I mean there are so many incredible fanartists, and I wanna give a shout-out to all of them. And there's also, to — to sort of end this segment — if you feel like writing some fic about Vast Error, if you're fan, if you started listening 'cause of this show or you just got into it, there is a — there is a fic jam going on right now, we're doing a bit of a contest. You can have your fic read by me, Austin, Heather and Xam, the creative team behind Vast Error, and we're gonna pick some winners. And you can find more details on that at vasterror.tumblr.com. And I'll also provide a link to that contest in the description.

oD: That is awesome, I might join in there if I find the time.

Kate: [laughs]

oD: That's exciting. One thing I didn't say about Vast Error is, I've — while I was listening to the music yesterday I started thinking about how it reminds me a lot, not just of Homestuck, but of how it felt to like, be on Newgrounds. Does that make sense? Like it's just — it's — Vast Error exists in such a like, fascinating little place on the internet because it's like an unofficial project that's like, derived from Homestuck, which is itself all about, like building off what came before it and like, appropriating all these like, cultural ideas and stuff from elsewhere.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: But like, the symbols and like the stories that Vast Error works from are so different that it gives it a pretty different feel, just from like, the bottom up.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And I think that says a lot about how flexible Homestuck's style of storytelling is.

Kate: Yeah, exactly. It's — it's a story — I always say — so like, Homestuck starts slow because it spends a really long time, like, building your fluency in the visual language of Homestuck. And Vast Error gets to take that fluency that it assumes you already have and just run with it. So it u— y'know, it like — it's a lot more — it gets to be a lot more dense because it assumes you already know how information gets communicated in the Homestuck, like, visual style, and like with the style of what an MSPA is.

oD: Yeah. And then it like, takes it and uses its own thing — like it's so much more anime-inspired.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: Like you've got your, like, Komaedas —

Kate: [laughs]

oD: And like, whatever.

Kate: And people do love those Komaedas.

oD: They sure do. Wow. And it's like — like the music especially, I think, is where felt this like, Newgrounds-y feel the most, because it's like so sample-y and so playing off like, western pop culture and like fa— online fandom community in a way that reminds me of Newgrounds.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And it's like, such a passion project. Like it's weird! Like it's, like, straight up just like, a cartoon. Like a — a comic cartoon that — that has these like, flash animations, that is like — y'know, like, web animation is like what Newgrounds was like, built off, and it's go— got all this like, sampling of like, different musical eras from like, the 90s and stuff like that.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: And it's not like — it's not official, but it's got all this music anyway just running off, like, the sheer energy of the fandom itself. Like you— it — and even though, like, there's no, like, monetary, like, reward for the music — like the albums aren't actually meant to be sold, is my understanding.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: And even with like, the trolls, the characters themselves — because it exists in this like — this like, legal space of being like, just adjacent to Homestuck but not actually official —

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: It like — the only like, actual merch, I think, is like the alchemical symbols that are like, on the characters.

Kate: Yeah.

oD: So like, it a— it does — it does do well enough as a fandom to monetize to some extent, but only because the fandom is so passionate and the branding that it actually uses to like, monetize is so cleverly distanced from Homestuck. Like —

Kate: Mhmm. And y'know, there's — there's no — there's no intention to sorta step on any toes at What Pumpkin or sell any merch or in any way monetize, like, the concept or visuals of trolls. And so, y'know, whatever's moving forward for like, merchandizing, will obviously not include any of that. But it could include original characters like White Noise.

oD: Exactly. That's fascinating, that's just such a fascinating place to be in, just as like a creative endeavor on the internet nowadays. Like I can't think of anything else even remotely in this position.

Kate: Mhmm. And — and, y'know —

oD: Like —

Kate: Part of it is also — just, a huge credit to What Pumpkin and the entire Homestuck and Hiveswap team at not just — not just being tolerant of fan work but like, actively encouraging and cultivating it. With, y'know, the artists and writers behind Hiveswap Friendsim being drawn from, like, the best members of the fan community.

oD: Absolutely. And if m— if my understanding is correct there's even like, some like tacit acknowledgement, if not outright like, endorsement of what Vast Error is too, because like, Hiveswap Friendsim has had some cameos to Vast Error.

Kate: Yeah — yeah, there are some — there's — there's a little — there's a little Arcjec and a little Murrit in the background of — of two of the Friendsim routes, and that is — that is absolutely wonderful to like, see that sort of like, acknowledgement and encouragement. [laughs]

oD: Yeah. It really makes you think about how, like, What Pumpkin has always been this like, guiding light in terms of like, redefining how media might engage with its audience.

Kate: Mhmm.

oD: You know? Like, that — that's just so different from anything you would see in regular, like, branded media for something as popular as Homestuck is.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely, like — y'know — a fan project of this scale for a bit of corporate media would have been slapped with a Cease and Desist a while ago. [laughs] Like —

oD: Yeah.

Kate: Like, it's — that's just — that's just how it is, and that's part of why Homestuck is so important for me, like not just as a cultural touchstone but also as sort of a political statement. Because it is important and inspirational to see something that does not have the massive multi-million-dollar media budget and advertizing budget, and it doesn't have people in a boardroom like, deciding no you can't be this gay, or you can't do X, right? It is a like, powerful statement of the possibility of independent media, and what we can do outside the reins of corporate control.

oD: Absolutely.

Kate: And — and it has started a wave of, y'know, fan-inspired or team-inspired, like, independent works, y'know, and like — including like, Undertale or — or Deltarune. That, y'know, sort of really powerfully say, like — we can do this. We do not have to rely on the homogenous mainstream culture, quote-unquote, to dictate to us our media tastes. You, right now, listening to this show — you can make something. And I hope that you do. And I hope that Homestuck inspires you to make something.

oD: I do too.

Kate: And that's our show.

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