Hiveswap Friendsim writer Cee L. Kyle (Bronya, Zebruh, Remele, Lynera, Daraya) joins Kate to discuss rebellion, the halfway point of the Homestuck media universe, psychology at knifepoint, and the Zebruhs all around us.
Listen to this episode at https://perfectlygenericpodcast.com/updates/episodes/20
Kate: The Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You've been warned.
Kate: Alright, welcome to the Perfectly Generic Podcast, Episode 20! I cannot believe that we have — we have now — this is now the twentieth one of these. If you have listened to all of them, you've — you are almost approaching a full day of listening to me talk about Homestuck. And I appreciate it, and I'm sorry [laughs] We have a very special episode this week. We have Cee L. Kyle, who wrote some of my very favorite routes in Hiveswap Friendsim. Welcome to the show, it's so nice to have you!
Cee: Thank you! I'm excited to be on here.
Kate: And so when somebody joins this show for the first time I like to ask the question: what's your story of engagement with Homestuck? Like, how did it start for you — how did you find this thing and how — what was your journey with — with ending up, y'know, liking it?
Cee: [laughs] Oh gosh, well — I read the comic in the summer of 2013 and I don't really remember what my impressions of Homestuck had been before starting to read it. I think I'd had it recommended by a few people but overall most of my sort of internet friends were not into Homestuck. I really started reading it because some people that I had met, like, not on the internet, were trying to get me to read it, including Lalo. I read it that summer and I caught up that summer, and got pretty — y'know I really loved it, and — sorry I'm just — for some reason 2013 feels really far away in distance —
Kate: It *does*, it feels like an entirely other — it feels like an entire other life.
Cee: Yes, I'm like, trying to remember but I mean the short story is that I just read it and loved it and then got increasingly involved over the years. And I think I was more or less passionate about Homestuck depending on, y'know, whether it was on hiatus, whether it was currently being updated. I think I was as surprised as a lot of people were when we finally heard that it was going to come back from hiatus and then going to finish in 2016.
Cee: But y'know, I started out reading and writing fanfiction and being on Tumblr, and met a few Homestuck people on Tumblr but really it was not — it was more something that I did sort of off the internet, like, just talking about it with my friends.
Cee: So I would say my current involvement with writing Friendsim and being on Twitter and talking about Homestuck on Twitter with people — that's probably the most involved I've ever been with like, the online fandom.
Kate: It's a — it's — it's been a complicated journey for the Homestuck online fandom, and it's a — it's — it's always a whirlwind, and —
Cee: Gee, yes!
Kate: It's nice to have this environment now where there's so many folks who are like, creators on the project who feel comfortable, y'know, shitposting with us [laughs]
Cee: Yeah, that's been really nice, it is not something that I expected to get out of starting to write for Friendsim, but it's been a really nice benefit, I think, to interact with the fandom so much and to sort of see the other creators interacting and being able to sort of share ideas and things like that I guess.
Cee: And I really like Homestuck fandom on Twitter, it's sort of — the timing of it sort of worked out in terms of that like, I was really shifting away from Tumblr as a platform in the past year and moving more towards Twitter anyway, and I felt sort of shy about interacting with people on Twitter but — I really like Homestuck fandom these days [laughs] I like that it's a little bit smaller than it was when I first started getting into the comic in 2013, because I started — I caught up with Homestuck right before the Terezi and Gamzee relationship reveal happened. Which, I don't know if you were involved in the fandom at the time, but it — there were a lot internet fights [laughs]
Cee: Around that time the discourse was pretty intense, and so sort of my inter— introduction to the fandom was like, oh god this is — the people here are very angry [laughs]
Cee: And there are a lot of them being very angry. And so Homestuck fandom these days feels a little bit friendlier and a little bit cozier to me, and I've had a very pleasant experience with the fandom so far, so that's been really nice.
Kate: Mhmm. Like, that's the thing, I think part of it is that, like, with the work being finished or at least, like — with the story being told in its original form, like, we've had some time to sort of sit on it and — and have it like, calcify in our minds, and so it's a little less raw and argumentative. And everybody has had time to like, come up with their own unique ideas and things they're enthusiastic about, so it's — it's a nice conversation starter to just say, well, what do you got for me? Cause there's something you could — cause it's — y'know, it's longer than the Bible so like, you can pretty much always learn something from someone else's read.
Cee: That's a really good point, and it's kind of I think one of the benefits of loving something that is sort of a closed canon. Like, in the — in the years between when Harry Potter the book series finished and before J. K. Rowling started adding to it with debate-ably good authorial additions — additions, there was that nice period where it's like, oh the story was finished, you're — no idea you come up with is going to be, y'know, jossed by a later book that's coming out and we can all just play with what's already here and expand on it and — y'know it's that — that's in a way that freedom that comes with like, okay, we have the story for what it is, and with the with Hiveswap and Friendsim coming out it's sort of building on a universe that is already very established by this thing that is closed, and it's like, very surreal to me still to think of Homestuck as a comic that is finished, but it's true. It's this thing that we can now all sort of play around in and you're right, it's had time to sort of calcify in our minds and we've gotten used to everything that has been added to it over the years.
Kate: Mhmm, and y'know, Homestuck's always been a conversation between its fans and the work itself. And y'know, it was obviously true at the very start of the comic when fans literally quote 'decided' the next steps for updates with submissions. But even after that it was, y'know, community consensus, and the — the vaunted discourse that like, was genuinely responded to in-text.
Kate: And Hiveswap and Friendsim have like, taken that to a new level because it's the first time that this property has had official, like — has had a significant amount of official content — Paradox Space also was — from new sources, right? From new writers, from folks who started out on the other side of the equation having ideas, having y'know, theories, having a passion for the project and then getting to contribute to it. How did that transition go for you?
Cee: It was pretty weird! It was definitely not something that I ever imagined for myself, y'know, when I first read the comic and was really excited about it. Y'know, I think definitely when you're reading the comic for the first time, up until you get to the point where Andrew started adding a lot of art and animation by other people, for such a long time it just felt like you're reading someone's personal project.
Cee: And like — as a fan I would never think, y'know — I would never think of adding on to someone's personal project in an official way, and so — now, these days, I'm used to thinking of Homestuck, and especially of Hiveswap, as something that is more collaborative. Like, the video game is not something that he's doing just by himself, and it made — made sense to have that the Friendsim would be something that would be — that would involve a lot of other writers, but it took a really — even after I had written the first couple of routes it took a really long time to sort of get used to the idea in my mind that like, oh I am actually contributing to these thing— to this thing, like this isn't just something that like, I'm doing as a fan and people can take or leave, like this is establishing things in the canon of this particular Homestuck offshoot.
Cee: Which has been very fun and exciting and overall positive, but is definitely still a little bit weird for me to sit back and think about.
Kate: Yeah! Because we had gotten to that point where it felt like it was like — what had been said had been said and it was concluded, and then it turns out there's more to say, there's — there's ways to enrich this world and this setting from new perspectives. And personally I was, y'know — I was quite fond of Friendsim, I thought it was a fantastic — it was my personal favorite game of the year, sorry Return of the Obra Dinn, you finished second. And — and the importance of it was like, how something turns from one story or a personal project into, to use soulless corporate language, like, a media universe.
Cee: [laughs] Yes!
Kate: Is by being able to succeed with multiple creators and being able to succeed in collaboration, right? Like, y'know —
Kate: Marvel didn't take over the world and make ten million dollar— like, ten *billion* dollars like, with Stan Lee writing every single thing, and Jack Kirby —
Kate: Writing every single thing, like it took a larger team of individuals.
Cee: That's very true, and also can I just say that the Homestuck media universe is both a cursed and blessed phrase.
Kate: It is!
Kate: I — y'know, I — I really do — I, y'know — we're — we're almost at ten years of this thing. Which is a pretty remarkable chunk of time, really. But there is the real fact of like, what do the next ten years look like for this? Because it is — it is a property that like, has a lot of sto— potential for stories to tell in it. And y'know, just the plan for Hiveswap would suggest that like, to — to finish telling the story of Hiveswap it will probably take like, around ten years [laughs] like, we actually have that much —
Kate: Like, we're — we're at like the midway point of Homestuck probably, in terms —
Kate: Of just like the overall universe, which is a — which is a frightening thing to think. But also really exciting! Because that conversation continues, and like, the — y'know, the new perspective keep getting stronger and stronger. So let's talk a little bit about the sort of — the transitional — one of the transitional elements in this work going from just one webcomic to something bigger, which was Hiveswap Friendsim, a project from — y'know, that sort of spanned all of last year, where a large writing and art team and a — a brilliant music guy [laughs] teamed up to — and excellent programmers — teamed up to make this visual novel series set in the Homestuck universe. And y'know, expounding on the side characters and minor characters that are going to appear in the main series of Hiveswap moving forward. And you contributed five routes to this — to this world, and so I kinda wanted to — to dig into each of these troll individually and talk about the — the process and y'know, talk about these characters that people ended up falling in love with. So your first route was Bronya, and — so — when you sit down, like — when you sit down with a character, especially this very first time, like, what was your feeling, like what was your first approach to — to writing Bronya?
Cee: Oh gosh, I was so anxious [laughs] At that time I was definitely more anxious and concerned about getting it right with Bronya than with any of the others because not only was she the first route that I wrote, but also at that time the only example routes that I had to read were the ones that Andrew had written for Ardata and Dee-men [Diemen] ? Die-men? I don't know what the consensus is on —
Kate: Nobody knows! It's fantastic
Cee: With his name.
Cee: Yeah, but — and y'know those two routes are both — they're very funny, very dark humour, very just classic Homestuck style. And here I am with this character who is — y'know, she's like the camp counsellor that you had a crush on because she like, took care of you. She's not — she's kind of like in — a — a straight man in comedy terms, like she's not, y'know, I — I couldn't quite figure out how to find a vein of dark humour there. So I think that, sort of, I felt like was challenging, because it was like, well if every route is supposed to be like these two that I have examples of, how do I make this — that work with this character who, especially by Alternian standards, is — like, not a bad person! [laughs]
Cee: So I think it was mostly just fleshing her out in my mind and figuring out, I guess, what the pathos of her character was. Because my favorite part of the first two routes that I read was the moment in Ardata's route when, y'know, she starts crying and talking about ho— the pressure of how, like, she has to do all these horrible things to people on camera but it's so hard being menacing and people don't understand, and it's very funny and she's still being a horrible person, but it's — you still — at the same time you kind of feel for her so it's like, okay what — what are the things that are going to make Bronya really sympathetic, what kind of throws into relief her specific struggle in Alternian society? And so everything kinda — everything in her route kind of came from there, where it's like she's — I — for me this is what makes all of jadebloods so fascinating, is that they're kind of the middle class of the Alternian hemospectrum.
Cee: And they have this job which — their job is really to keep Alternian society going. It's to keep trolls going as a species. So they're — they're — have a very hands-on role in continuing the hemospectrum that is horrible to most other troll.
Cee: And yet at the same time they're caretakers, so they might have — I don't wanna say they might naturally be more sympathetic because that's not entirely what I mean, but just by virtue of the role they have to play they might be seeing more — they might be having more sympathy for lowbloods, they might be less inclined to violence than some of the other trolls that are also actively involved in keeping this system going.
Kate: Unlike other trolls higher up the hemospectrum, like, their encouraged and like, imposed societal role is not about oppression.
Kate: So they have an awareness of the system and they propagate the system, while being tasked with not just perpetrating injustice further down the spectrum. Which is a — a very unique place to be. And it — and it means that all of them do, like — they know to a greater degree than most, like, how fucked up it is, and are more — and I think would probably be more naturally inclined to acts of resistance.
Cee: Yeah. I — I would agree with that, that I think that their position in the hemospectrum definitely allows for that interpretation. And I think with Bronya, y'know, her main motivations are taking care of and sort of raising, in a way, her other jadebloods, and then also taking care of grubs. And she knows that Alternian society doesn't believe in protecting the weak, doesn't believe in helping any grub that can't hack it grow to adulthood. But to me it made sense that even though she knows it's against the rules, she would find herself with a personal investment in helping out grubs that would otherwise die.
Cee: So that was kind of where I started, I guess. And then came up with a plot and sort of her personality, and how — how you would become her friend, sort of through that motivation.
Kate: Mhmm. And — and flyingThinker actually asks a related question on Discord: how do you think Bronya conforms to or defies the role of her caste?
Cee: Well I think in a lot of ways she is very conformist to her caste because she is this caretaker, and that's sort of the jadeblood stereotype —
Cee: And so I think in a lot of ways she definitely does conform to the role of her caste, and I think Bronya's rebellions, such as they are, are fairly small. I mean she — her whol— her typing quirk tells you a lot about her, right? She likes organization. She likes hierarchies. She likes when order is imposed. But in a way she almost finds herself rebelling despite herself.
Cee: Like the whole thing with the nursery — she can't stand the idea that someone would see that as revolutionary but it kind of is. But she's smart enough to keep those things pretty well under wraps. So I would say that she definitely does conform to her caste, probably more so I think than any of the other jadebloods that we've met through Friendsim.
Kate: Partially the other jadebloods get to have more freedom and get the chance to be more rebellious because of that orderly presence leading them.
Kate: Like —
Kate: Bronya conforms and orders things so that the others don't have to as much.
Cee: I think that's true. I think she has such a investment in making her jades feel safe and making them feel — kind of putting off the horrors of Alternian society for them as long as possible — that in a way, even if that isn't her intention, but it still makes them feel like they can be more exploratory and curious.
Kate: Mhmm. And Bronya appears again a couple of times, in routes written by other writers.
Kate: For you — like, were you already aware of like, the existing relationship structure, like her relationship with Elwurd when you were writing, or was that a later addition?
Cee: Yes I was familiar with that existing structure.
Kate: I think it says a lot about her [laughs] that is — that is — that goes unsaid otherwise.
Cee: No that's so true, and it was one of the things that most excited me about her when I was reading that description. Because it does kinda complicate the role of just this mom friend. It's like, oh she's the mom friend, *but* also like, had this torrid affair with a like, character that everyone thinks is the most badass lesbian around. Like there must be something about her.
Cee: So yes I was definitely — I was aware of that and I was also aware of her thing with Lynera.
Cee: And I actually had wanted to involve both of those characters in the route but the thing with Friendsim is that you can only involve characters that have already gotten a route —
Cee: If that makes sense. So for a lot of those early characters, y'know, you'll notice that they don't have as many guest stars coming on because fewer routes have been written, and then once a character has gotten their own chance to shine and their own route, then they can show up in later editions.
Kate: Mhmm. And I actually wanted to go ahead and skip ahead, then —
Cee: Go ahead!
Kate: While we're talking about jades, and talk about Lynera.
Kate: Because, y'know, her and Bronya are sort of inextricably linked.
Kate: And so for — for — like, let's — let's continue that, like what is the — since you wrote both of these characters, like what is the crux of like, Lynera's — so we see because of that, we s— because of the way that they were ordered we see how Lynera thinks about Bronya a great deal. But we don't get quite as much insight into how Bronya feels the other way — which is a little bit of — which is a little bit of mystery which I appreciate, I'm not saying like, spill all the beans, but like —
Kate: D'you — d'you wanna elucidate a little bit on like, how that affected your approach of writing Bronya?
Cee: Of course. So this is really just my speculation because I don't know what is gonna happen with either of these characters in Hiveswap Act 2. But my feeling about Bronya is that she is definitely aware of Lynera's feelings on some level and thinks that the most charitable thing to do is to just ignore it. Which, of course, makes the problem worse because when you have an obsession like what Lynera has, that's not going to disappear on its own, right?
Cee: And I don't think Bronya sees what she's doing this — in this way, but I think she's essentially stringing Lynera along by continuing to be like, oh yeah, we're best friends, you're my second in command, couldn't do this without you — but at the same time for Lynera it's so much more than that and for Bronya it isn't. So I think that —
Kate: You can't — listeners, you can't see it, but I'm clutching my chest as though I'm having a —
Kate: Like — like, severe heartburn. [laughs]
Cee: Yeah, it's [laughs] To me it's a very, sort of classic high school queer angst kind of story.
Cee: Because I think that these things happen a lot in friendships, and I think that they happen especially between — in friendships between young girls because it's — it can feel so much easier to continue letting a dysfunctional situation continue along as opposed to starting any kind of confrontation or conflict. And I think even for Alternian trolls who generally speaking embrace conflict, I think you can see that in their personal relationships something like this can still happen, and can get probably fairly passive-aggressive.
Kate: Mhmm. And y'know, it — in a — in a more violent and dangerous society you end up, y'know, having a fascination with knives and threatening people who —
Kate: Talk to your crush instead of just — instead of just pining.
Cee: Exactly! Exactly. And I don't — unfortunately,y'know, I don't think Bronya would really be surprised to learn that Lynera was tapping her phone essentially, I feel like that's probably happened before. Probably would happen again after Lyner— Lynera's route. I feel like because Bronya feels so much pressure to sort of hold things together and has this view of herself, of like an authority figure who is responsible and has to juggle a lot of things, she probably has been pushing the Lynera situation to the side for sweeps. And just thinking like, well, it's fine, I don't need to talk to her about this or get upset, who is it hurting really — she hasn't killed anyone in front of me yet, so —
Cee: It's fine [laughs]
Kate: Yeah, there —
Cee: And she real—
Kate: There sure was a lot of blood in her background — in her background art in her room.
Cee: [laughs] Yeah! [laughs] I can't speak to that, y'know, who knows really what kind of literal bodies are in Lynera's closet.
Kate: Yeah [laughs] It's definitely concerning!
Cee: [laughs] Yes, I agree.
Kate: [laughs] And — and so, y'know, Lynera — oh man. Here, I'll just — I'll throw a couple of the listener questions about Lynera in. Heroboof asks on Discord: how was Lynera's knife meter decided on?
Cee: [laughs] That was my idea, and I was pretty pleased that the programmers liked it and decided to use it, and I think that they pulled it off visually even better than I was imagining. So yeah, I liked the idea that, even when you're sort of transitioning to essentially becoming Lynera's therapist in her creepy cave, that there be a visual reminder that like, she's still threatening you with a knife —
Cee: This is not like, a neutral situation that you're in! This is still, like, very violent and not okay. And I think that it worked well —
Cee: In that regard.
Kate: It tested — it tested the full skills of MSPA Reader.
Kate: That's — it's a — that's a psychology trial by fire!
Cee: [laughs] It really — yeah. Yeah. MSPA Reader's friend-making skills were really — put to a knife point —
Cee: With Lynera.
Kate: And Aleph Null asks on Discord: is Lynera a Vriska?
Cee: Oooh. Good question. I think — I mean of course, y'know, that depends on how you define 'a Vriska'. My personal sense is no, because Lynera is motivated so much more by just her personal feelings and personal relationships, whereas to me what defines a Vriska is that desire to out-strategize everyone else and like, game the system and kind of fight your way to the top, and tell other people what to do. And I think Lynera definitely has control issues and she likes telling people what to do, but her primary concern really is, at least in how we've seen her so far — her primary concern is her relationships with people and where she stands with them. Who her best friend is, who her crush is, things like that. And maybe as an adult Lynera could become a Vriska? I could see her motivation sort of changing as she matu— matures. But I think right now I would say that she's more of a Lynera.
Kate: Yeah, I — I do not — I don't think she's a Vriska because, fund— like, fundamentally she is — she sees — she has a — the biggest goal in her life, she does not act to — to execute. And that —
Cee: That's also a really good point.
Kate: Yeah, and like — like Vriska — to Vriska is to act. And typically —
Kate: To suffer — to suffer for said acting, but y'know, you act. And in — and I've always subscribed to the sort of theory when I'm like, breaking down the Hiveswap trolls, of like, each one can sort of ha— trace an aspect of their character back to the like, original example of their caste in Homestuck. And so for me, the like — the Homestuck troll that Lynera reminds me the most of is if you took the part of Kanaya's character that was pining after Vriska, and — and like, expanded that into the central focus of a character. And that's — that's always — that's what she embodies for me, that like — that sort of very — very metal-y and like, obsessive —
Kate: Sort of youthful pining. [laughs]
Cee: Yeah. I mean she is a nice girl, y'know. Like — I mean, like Nice Girl capitalized —
Cee: Like she is [audio cuts out] character type, I think, ultimately. She also has a lot in common with Eridan.
Kate: [laughs] That's —
Kate: You know — now that you said that, it's true, but I don't like it.
Cee: I agree. That's not something that had really occurred to me while writing, but kinda going back and revisiting — especially revisiting those earlier — earliest scenes when we're first getting introduced to the trolls in Homestuck, it's like oh yeah, this was such a huge of Eridan's personality and it is *very* Lynera.
Kate: Mhmm. [laughs] So let's — let's turn back the clock and move back to a past route, and talk about — just the worst guy.
Kate: [laughs] So — so — so Zebruh, speaking of characters who are a bit like Eridan. [laughs] Sorry Eridan fans!
Kate: Zebruh is — well, one of the most — one of the most distinctive characters in the Hiveswap Friendsim cast, that's for sure!
Cee: Thank you! [laughs]
Kate: So you — so you took on Zebruh, like — why?!
Cee: Honestly I had a blast writing him.
Cee: His was one of the most fun routes for me to write. And I think when I was first assigned his character I was a little bit intimidated, but then I started thinking about the potential to basically just — essentially vent [laughs]
Cee: About so many of the faux woke guys that I have either personally known or just seen online. And it got to be really exciting, and I — I feel like Zebruh's route was the route in which I kind of went no holds barred the most, because I wasn't trying to write a likeable character *at all*.
Cee: And in a way that was very freeing and I think it allowed to me — allowed me to be funnier, at least to myself, I don't know if it made anyone else laugh. But I made myself laugh the most with his route than any of the other routes I think. And I also like that, of the five routes I have written, it's four girls and then Zebruh, I don't know why but that's really fa—
Cee: Like, satisfying to me.
Kate: Yeah, it's praxis.
Cee: [laughs] Yeah!
Kate: [laughs] And — so — yeah, Zebruh definitely made me laugh. And it was a sort of — it was — in that like, perfectly like, uniquely Homestuck zone of really uncomfortable laughter of recognition. Cause it's like, ha, like somebody's finally saying this shit, like somebody's finally roasting this guy. Cause I think anybody who is like, not a cishet man, who has worked in any creative space, or really any competitive space whatsoever, like, knows a Zebruh. Like you can go into any —
Kate: Industry, you can go into any community, and there is a network of people who know who the Zebruhs are and will tell you to watch out for the Zebruhs.
Cee: Exactly, he is — he is not uncommon. He is like, a cockroach. If Hiveswap Friendsim were a trading card game Zebruhs would be all over the place. There would be too many of that card, you couldn't sell it to anyone. He is — I think — I think that was why I had so much fun writing him, because it was like oh yeah, this is — this is just so recognizable. All I have to do to feel inspired to write this guy is to go on Twitter for like, half a second.
Cee: And he really was not inspi— I didn't have any individual in mind when writing him, like he doesn't — his mannerisms, his way of speaking, all of that does not remind me of anyone specifically, it's more just that he is like a horrifying amalgamation of all of those dudes.
Kate: Yeah. And — and so — now, I don't usually take — I don't usually put listen— listener questions in just to say, no I'm sorry, but Tiredtrash —
Kate: Tiredtrash asks on Discord: Are Zebruh's intentions pure? Like, he says he's a lowblood supporter, but is he really? Or does he just think that? And so I'm gonna let you take that question.
Cee: I'm going to say that, no, his intentions are not pure. He might have been telling himself that his intentions are pure for a long time, but I think it's pretty clear when you look at his actions that those are not the actions of a person that it thinking about anyone but themselves and of what they can get from other people. And specifically from people with less power than they have.
Kate: Yeah. It's — it's, y'know — it's — it's uncomfortably fetish-y.
Cee: Yeah. Well, and like I think that — if I had to draw on my personal headcanon about what drew Zebruh initially to becoming like, an activist for lowbloods as opposed to just embracing the hemospectrum, like many of the other highblood trolls do — I would say that he probably just thought it was fashionable. Like he thought it looked cool. I think that — probably for a lot of these guys that we see being the worst Zebruhs out there, that that's probably what drew them to being very loud about their lefty poli— that's also what motivates them.
Cee: Is that some time ago they realized that they could get clout and impress other people by adopting this language and these mannerisms without ever having to actually do any work on their own privilege. And they —
Kate: Yeah he's got a BMW with a 'COEXIST' sticker and he runs you over with it.
Cee: Yeah! Exactly!
Cee: And so I think Zebruh has memorized a lot of buzzwords. And that's something that I tried to show in his route, that he was using a lot of language that he doesn't really know what it means.
Cee: He hasn't like, bothered to think it through because if he had he would realize that his whole existence is a lie.
Kate: Mhmm. And — and in that way he reminds me of, if you wanna take characters — like, talk about characters from Homestuck proper — like, he reminds me of Kankri and Cronus in like, knowing how to speak the language of social justice but just being like — like disappearing up his own ass about it.
Cee: Exactly. And I do think — I've thought some about the similarities between Kankri and Zebruh, and I will say that I think that Kankri is coming to his praxis with much better intentions.
Cee: I think he does mean well, but fumbles in the execution. And as for Cronus — doesn't mean well but I see him as being at least slightly more honest about not meaning well than Zebruh. With — full disclosure, it has been a while since I've revisited the dancestors, so I may be wrong about both of those characters, but to me that's more —
Kate: That — that seems like — that seems like a correct read of those characters to me.
Cee: Yeah, for me I think that's why Zebruh is the worst of them, and in fact that is one of the character notes that I was given about Zebruh before writing him. It was just 'he's the worst dude that — '
Kate: He's the worst! And well, congrats, he's the fucking worst! [laughs]
Kate: Panellist Sapharodon asks on Discord: would you rather fight one hundred duck-sized Zebruhs or one Zebruh-sized duck? This assumes these are Alternian ducks so they probably have like, fangs and shit.
Cee: I would go with the large duck. Even if it had it had fangs and shit. Because I don't think the large duck would try to grope me, or —
Kate: [noise of disgust]
Cee: Ask me out but in a friend way.
Kate: Yeah. Ouch.
Cee: To be really real about it.
Kate: Alright, tune in next week where Cee L. Kyle fights a duck!
Cee: I am going to eat my words.
Kate: Yeah, so let's get a palate cleanser, let's talk about some — let's talk about some characters that just aren't the worst.
Kate: So let's go to Remele.
Cee: Cool. Love her.
Kate: Yeah. So let's — so talk about sort of, like, how you took Remele from just — from, y'know, outline to execution.
Cee: She was sort of a tough one for me just because the outlines that I was given for her — I didn't have a lot of frame-of-reference for, like — she was an artist, she was a pirate, she was kind of a scam artist but I personally am not an artist and don't have a whole lot of experience in sort of the online fanart community, so it was sort of tricky for me to visualize how that would translate to how she talks and behaves. So I kind of went in a direction with her that probably was not that, but was sort of my clo— closest approximation to it. I think with her I leaned more heavily on the sort of classic ceruleanblood aspects of like, she has her shit together, she's very confident, she's very competent, and whether her thing is art or hacking or some other hobby she is not going to undercut herself. And is not going to not believe in herself.
Cee: So that sort of informed a lot of her character and informed a lot of how I wanted her to interact with MSPA Reader, where you know the things that impressed her and made her want to be your friend were things like displays of competence, and the things that made her want to drop you as a friend were showing signs of weakness, essentially.
Kate: Yeah, and — and it's — in the end it like, moves — instead of being about like, abstract art piracy, it ends up, like — there's a literal art heist in her — in her route.
Kate: Which is — which is much better — which is much more 'show, don't tell' than —
Kate: Than just describing some plagiarism.
Cee: I had a lot of fun with that. It — I had actually outlined a totally different bad end for her route, and then the Homestuck soundtrack song 'Let's All Rock the Heist' came up on shuffle and I was like, oh wait a second. I could write a heist! That would be really fun! And so I just decided to do that instead. And I also liked the idea that, y'know, one of the things that would make Remele seem more empathetic or more appealing, or even just like, a twist to what you would expect of that character, is if she did the unexpected thing and sort of got self-sacrificing and noble in a way that ceruleanbloods don't usually do.
Cee: Which is why, in her good end, I had her show up and save you from the juggalo. Even though she didn't have to, and it was a substantial risk to herself, which is like, not the usual ceruleanblood thing. They're not big on risking their own necks, but I liked the idea that that was something that would be strong enough to like, cement a friendship with her.
Kate: It was — it was — I was personally like, shocked when she showed back up. I thought I was in the bad end when I played that!
Kate: And yeah — and so that's — she's got a surprising amount of heart to her. And you sort of see that immediately, like — like it's confidence but it's not a — it's not a sort of off-putting kind of confidence, which is nice.
Cee: Yeah. I don't see — I don't see her as smug —
Cee: Or getting any particular joy from putting other people down unless it's hyping herself up, if that makes sense?
Cee: Like it's not that she's not cutthroat. I think that she is just not cutthroat for the fuck of it.
Cee: So it's like she has some shades of Vriska but I don't think she really has Vriska's cruelty.
Kate: Mhmm. I — one of my favorite little character details in all of Friendsim is just the little bit where she — she gets commissions from Zebruh and she charges him three times as much as everybody else!
Cee: [laughs] That was actually — weirdly that was one of the first things I came up with for her route —
Cee: When I was like, first brainstorming I was like, what could her relationships with other trolls be? Oh yeah, Zebruh definitely commissions her and she definitely up-charges him! [laughs]
Kate: Uh-huh. Oh god that fucking guy, even when we're not talking about him we're talking about him.
Cee: Yeah. Yeah, he's sort of like a black hole that just leads all the conversation down — down his way. [laughs]
Kate: The dutch Homestuck Twitter user who goes by Remele asked on Discord: what is Remele's webcomic about?
Cee: That is a great question, and unfortunately I have no idea. I ima—
Kate: So it's a — so it's a little comic called Vast Error, about [laughs]
Cee: [laughs very hard] Sure! [laughs]
Cee: I mean I've said that given her routes in artistic piracy that it probably draws on many different elements of troll pop culture and profits from them obscenely while stopping just shy of doing anything illegal.
Cee: Not that copyright protections really exist on Alternia, but her webcomic is —
Kate: I feel like copyright — copyright on Alternia is enforced sort of the same way that most things are enforced, which are if you piss of the wrong person they kill you.
Cee: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, not really enforced by legislacerators, even though, y'know, Tagora is — is trying to get that bread.
Kate: [laughs] God bless.
Cee: Maybe he'll — maybe he'll succeed. I don't know. Maybe Remele would be the first one to be sued for copyright infringement on Alternia.
Kate: Uh-huh [laughs] It's a landmark — it's a landmark precedent. Stay tuned for —
Kate: For — for Friendsim 2, which is just like, Alternian legal proceedings.
Cee: It's just a legal drama!
Kate: Yeah! I would absolutely kill for that.
Cee: I would actually really like that as well.
Kate: Yeah, I want — I want like tealblood Private Practice. Let's go.
Cee: [laughs] Yes!
Kate: And so the — the final route you contribute to — to the game was also one that really sort of expanded our view of jadebloods and their place in like, the adult troll ecosystem, and it's something that was really not explored at all by — by Homestuck because, y'know, all of the — like, Alternia was destroyed while our characters were still kids. Daraya is this, y'know — could've been this very stereotypical angst-y teen, but she's got a lot to be angst-y about! Like there's a lot of — there's a lotta real hurt in — in the way that she feels. And how did you bring that to the page?
Cee: Mostly by projecting a *lot*, I would say.
Cee: Y'know I always knew that I didn't want to write her as just sort a bad girl. rebel girl stereotype, even thought that is a stereotype I definitely happen to love.
Cee: And I thought that it would be interesting if some of her rebellious impulses were not just about her personally but about her sort of realizing that she lives in a bullshit world!
Cee: Because that's — y'know, that's a lot of what influenced my own teenage rebellions. So it was hard for me to take that out of the picture when I thought about writing something rebellious. So Daraya is sort of not — she's not really a rebel without a cause. Like, there are — you can't hit a sto— like, you can't throw a stone on Alternia without finding something to be very justifiably angry about.
Cee: And so I think that that informs a lot of her teen angst, a lot of her unwillingness to listen to Bronya, and a lot of her reluctance to just go off and do her part to keep this thing going. Not that she's, y'know, totally selfless or anything, I also think that she doesn't want to go off and be a nun for the rest of her life, so it's — she's motivated for herself too, of course, but y'know it's also like — I think one of the things that started emerging as a major theme in a lot of Friendsim routes was these teens sort of looking out around and realizing like, holy crap, this is not a good system that we're living in!
Cee: Which of course was a big theme in Homestuck, it was a huge thing I took away from the Homestuck trolls as well, but in Friendsim it go— you get to go deeper with it because you're really in their world.
Cee: You're not just in their world for a second before everyone gets pulled into the game.
Kate: Yeah, and — and in like Homestuck you get this escapist power fantasy of breaking out of the reins of society. And for —
Kate: And there's a lot more pathos in these Hiveswap trolls because we have not gotten to see them do that. They are — they are, like, a— as of press time they are all still restricted and imposed by this society. They're all still struggling under that yoke of Alternia. And in — in Daraya's route you see, like, the two possible ways that that anger and frustration at being in a hell world can go. Where you do get one direction where it is like, aimless and destructive and self-destructive. And that was a really affecting scene in the — in the mall. But you also see in the good end, like, how it can become — how that anger and how that passion can be turned productive. And you see it through one of my very favorites, her interaction with Tyzias.
Cee: Yeah. I — Tyzias is also one of my favorites. And I really wanted them to interact because I think Tyzias is one of the other majorly rebellious characters that we see in Friendsim.
Cee: And especially we see a lot of her motivations as to why she's rebellious. So I thought it would be interesting for her to meet Daraya because they, I think, are very different.
Cee: I mean, Tyzias is all about sort of, hard work, staying up until 4 AM to do that research and write those papers. Not sleeping, taking on the group project for yourself, And Daraya is like the literal opposite of all that. So I thought it would be interesting for them to have a conversation and see what Daraya would get out of that. And it's also like, y'know, so much of the Friendsim is MSPA Reader making friends with individual trolls. And some of my favorite little moments in the Friendsim are when we see the trolls becoming friends with each other.
Cee: So I was excited to do that, especially with Daraya because she's such an angst-y loner and you kinda get the sense that she doesn't really see the other jadebloods as her friends.
Kate: Mhmm. And you also — you also, like — and from the other side there is the sense that, you know what? I think that Tyzias needs to not be surrounded by people who are so uptight about fitting in all the time, and y'know, get — get a little bit more rebellion [laughs]
Cee: Yeah, that's probably true. It's probably [laughs] yeah.
Kate: It — Tyzias<>Daraya is my favorite pale ship in Hiveswap Friendsim. Please feel free to — please feel free to '@' me, Homestuck Twitter.
Cee: It's good. It's good shit.
Kate: Yeah, it is. And — and so for — for — acmusic27 asks on Twitter: how much of the jadeblood lore in Daraya's route was pre-planned, and how much did you write specifically for the route?
Cee: I would say probably about half-and-half. I had already has the bones of her route outlined and kind of figured out in my head, including her anger about having to go off with the jadebloods for the rest of her life. And then at that point the outline for Lanque's route came out, so I got to see that jadeblood lore that was decided on in that and incorporate it. I think I had a slightly — a very slightly different motivation behind some of Daraya's lines about the jadebloods lore. and then I ended up tweaking those to incorporate the jadeblood lore that was to come out in the route directly after hers.
Kate: That obviously like, that's — it's — that's such a — that's such an imposition to — to put on — I mean all of Alternia is so much put onto like, people too young to handle it. But in this case it's like — it like — literally as you saw in like, later routes and Lanques route, like it feels like your life is over as soon as you're — as soon as you're taken off-planet. And there is that sense of anxiety from a lot of characters, like you see it from Mallek too.
Cee: Right. Right — the thing that struck me in the Homestuck trolls is that a lot of them, y'know like for instance Karkat, are pretty sure they're just gonna die when they stop being teenagers.
Cee: Y'know, that's the thing — or — or y'know — goldbloods are going to become these like, psychic engines driving war machines, like there's definitely a sense for I think a lot of them that life ends when you become an adult. And that's sort of less literal for the jadebloods, but it's still pretty grim.
Kate: Mhmm. Yeah, it is. It's a — it's a very challenging thing. Let's see. So let's — let's take some questions that fit into the more — that were not just about one troll. Let's see, this one's silly. Orioniic asks on Twitter: why you gotta make so many perfect women? I can't smooch all of them at the same time!
Cee: [laughs] See, that question made me so happy you have no idea. One of the things that I was really, really happy about the Friendsim was that it gave me such an opportunity to write really great female characters and then just see fandom embrace those characters, was incredibly rewarding. Like, not something I expected, and something that I was — that I am still really really touched every time I see it. Especially characters like Lynera, who I kind of thought that people were going to hate her when I wrote that route!
Cee: [laughs] And instead she has a pretty enthusiastic fan-base which is really awesome, I think. And — yeah, I don't know, I — I love writing female characters and working on Friendsim has definitely given me some excellent motivation to continue writing a lot of female characters and a lot of female characters having relationships with each other.
Kate: Mhmm. It's — it's really — it's incredible, like the, y'know, the amount. It's — it's a very excellent project if you're a fan of interesting girls having relationships with other interesting girls.
Cee: I agree. That's always been one of my favorite aspects of Homestuck, it's one of the first things that I talk to people about it when I am telling someone about Homestuck, is like, hey, this character has some of the best female characters and the most numerous female characters of almost any piece of media I've ever consumed.
Kate: Mhmm. Let's see, curiousCantrip asked on Discord: which character was the most challenging to write for?
Cee: I would say Bronya, because of what I was talking about earlier, where she was the first one I had to write, so I had never written a Friendsim route before. I had to figure out how to do it. And then also I had to figure out how to make jokes about this character — what would make her interesting. But aside from her I think Remele, because Remele is also a character type that I had to sort of — she's not a character type that came naturally to me, in terms of a character type that I had written before. So I'd say those two were the most challenging ones.
Cee: And — Daraya was also — I had a — I had a long time to think about Daraya's route and what I wanted to do with it because she was one of the last routes to come out.
Cee: But it definitely — it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with that route.
Cee: And then once I had sort of figured out what it was really about, then it came fairly easily. But for a long time I felt pretty stumped about it.
Kate: Yes. And so this next question — it's one that we — that varies a lot by writers on this, like even within the same project. Panellist optimisticDuelist asks on Discord: any thoughts on how Aspects did or didn't feature into your writing process? For that matter, did Class ever come into it much?
Cee: I'm sorry to say but I never really considered either of those factors very much when writing them. I think by the second or third route I had remembered, like, oh yeah, Aspects are a thing that exists and I can look at the descriptions of each of these Aspects, but I never really felt like that gave me much insight into how to write the character or what their motivations were, so I would say that they didn't really influence my personal writing of those characters much at all.
Kate: Mhmm. And then — and this is — this is an — an old traditional question of the Perfectly Generic Podcast. It's very open-ended. Panellist Becca asks on Twitter: who is best girl?
Cee: Ooooh. Oh that's so — that's a hard one, but I'm gonna have to say that for me Daraya is best girl. That's out of the — that's out of the Friendsim.
Cee: Is this like Homestuck in general?
Kate: It's an open-ended question! Who's best girl in Homestuck?
Kate: That's the right answer. That's the correct answer.
Cee: [laughs] Thank you! I — I do believe that there is a correct answer to that question and the correct answer is Terezi. [laughs]
Kate: Yeah, it's — that's just objectively right [laughs] So let's see — that's our show for this week! You can find this show at perfectlygenericpodcast.com. You can find this show on Twitter at twitter.com/pgenpod, we're also on Tumblr at pgenpod. You can join our Discord server, you can find the link in this episode description or on our pinned tweet. This week's theme music is provide by James Roach from — the opening music was — oh god — "Trollkind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain something of equal value must be lost. That is Alchemy's first law of equivalent exchange. In those days we really believed that to be the world's one and only truth', the theme of Daraya's route.
Kate: [laughs] And — and our closing musi— and our closing theme is "Piwates ',:^]", winking emoji. So thanks as always James for —
Kate: Making song titles that I have to read. [laughs] And for proving excellent music. [laughs]
Cee: The best.
Kate: Yeah. Where can folks find you on the internet, Cee?
Cee: I am on Twitter — what is my god dang Twitter handle? I think I'm ceekylewrites — is that — I'm checking this. Yes, @ceekylewrite, c-e-e-k-y-l-e-w-r-i-t-e. I pretty much abandoned Tumblr, I'm sorry to say, so if you are interested in finding me on the internet please hit me up on twitter.com.
Kate: Mhmm. Alright, well thank you so much for listening, and to the audience thank you for understanding the delay. Took a big move to LA. If you wanna know more about that you can find me on my main at twitter.com/KateMitchellOW. And everybody have a good week!
Cee: Yeah thank you so much for having me, it was a blast to talk about Homestuck!
Kate: Thank you.