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Vast Error authors Heather and Austin join Kate to discuss one of the most popular MSPA fan adventures, its origins and how it relates to and subverts Homestuck.

https://perfectlygenericpodcast.com/updates/episodes/2

Transcript Edit

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

[Intro music: 'Deep Sea Trouble', from Running for Eons by SplitSuns]

Kate: Let's start from the start and take it away, this is the Perfectly Generic Podcast. I'm your host, Kate Mitchell, and before we introduce our lovely guests this week, let's get into this week in Homestuck news. Since the last episode of the podcast, another edition of Hiveswap Friendsim came out: it was Volume Eleven, it featured Mallek by Aysha Farah, and Lynera by Cee L. Kyle. I really enjoyed both of them, if you've been a fan of the friendsims so far I would suggest picking it up. There's also the first images of the next Homestuck book, which you can find on whatpumpkin.tumblr.com [transcriber's note: this blog has since been closed!], I'm really excited for these hardcover releases. Now then, let's get to our guests today: first off we have Austin.

Austin: Uh, I'm Austinado Vast Error, or Austin, if you think that by my voice I look like Bart Simpson, you are completely correct.

Kate: And Heather, or Sparaze.

Heather: Yeah I can't follow up with that, but I'm Heather, hello.

Kate: [laughs] Hello, and Austin and Heather are the authors of the MSPFA Vast Error, which is one of the longest-running and most popular fan works loosely based on Homestuck. It's currently in its busiest year so far, and has a number of really exciting things coming down the pipe. Now, how would you summarize Vast Error to a, let's say a new reader, Austin?

Austin: Um, normally when anybody asks me about Vast Error, I try and give them as little detail as possible, unless they want something more — so normally my go-to is just: 'twelve trolls, based on fantroll tropes, play a video game and have to revive the tangible personification of existence itself'.

Kate: That's a pretty solid summary! [laughs] So, you started — the both of you started Vast Error back in 2011?

Austin: Yes.

Kate: So what was it like, sort of, what's it — what's different in the fan scene since then, and what's developed in your style and approach to this work since 2011?

Austin: Well, I can't really speak for Heather, but I know the biggest thing for me is that we actually have fans now!

Kate: [laughs]

Austin: 2011 to about 2013 was pretty much a null year, it was sort of just testing out the waters, seeing what works, what doesn't, and pretty much everything from 2011 to 2013 did not work, and continues to not work, like, there's pretty much nothing from that span of time to now that's the same as it was: the Vast Error beta, and Vast Error currently, are two completely different beasts.

Kate: Heather do you wanna speak to that, how have things changed for you as a creator since 2011?

Heather: Yeah, well of course obviously my art improved a lot along the way. Back in 2011 Vast Error's art was pretty awful? [laughs] It's gone...through a lot of changes even in just the almost two years now we've been more actively working on it, and with all the help we've received that only has improved it more. But um, a lot of the story and artistic designs, everything was changed tremendously throughout the entire process, and I think taking so long to get there is really what allowed us to hone it in, and make it as good as we wanted it to be.

Austin: Yeah, when uh, when we first started doing Vast Error and even throughout the years up until about 2016, I was actually extremely...I was actually extremely hung up over the fact that we weren't able to consistently put out updates for personal reasons, or be able to work on the comic consistently because, from then until now, it's pretty much been my major focus creatively, and while I do think that's definitely helped in the long run, me in the past was kind of mentally stressing out and throwing a fit over it, but like Heather said, if we didn't do that nothing would be halfway as good or even as memorable as it is now, like, Repiton wouldn't be a thing, the way the game works wouldn't be a thing, it would've just been another Sburb knockoff kind of thing, or Sburb with a twist: ~ooooh~ they have a funky glitch to get the ghost out of the system or whatever the fuck we had back then.

Kate: So, it's kind of a brave decision to just ball up what you've got, throw it in the bin and start again. How did you guys come to that decision, how did you guys decide: 'okay you know what we're gonna do, we're gonna hit the reset button and do, y'know, call this the beta.'

Austin: I think it was my decision personally to call it the beta? I don't think Heather had much objection to it because we pretty much talk about every major facet of the comic with each other, and nothing really gets by one of us without the other one knowing, as any good partnership should do.

Kate: Mhmm.

Austin: But...I don't exactly remember the exact time and date where we finally decided, this shit just doesn't work. Maybe Heather does, Heather do you remember anything about that?

Heather: It was more of a process, it wasn't like a definitive single moment or two, it was more along the lines of: as we continued to work on the concepts for the story we would find a hole that we didn't like so we would say, okay how can we fix this, and we would change something else, or 'I don't like this aspect of this character' and then we'd change that, and the changes just kinda started adding on top of each other to a point where we said, 'okay we need to reevaluate what we're doing as a whole to make sure everything works and we like the product we're coming up with'.

Austin: Yeah, and as time goes — went on, me and Heather both got inspired by different things that made Vast Error what it is, I think one of the most specific inspirations that got Vast Error to where it is currently, that me and Heather worked through, was me sitting down as like a 15-year old kid, and watching through Neon Genesis Evangelion for the first time.

Kate: [laughs]

Austin: Uh, which is funny because Heather has actually not watched it still.

Kate: [laughs] So, so you guys have very different creative inspirations coming into this work.

Austin: Oh yeah absolutely.

Heather: Yeah.

Kate: Heather what are — what would you describe as your like, primary artistic inspiration coming into this?

Heather: Mine tend to be kinda spread all over the place depending in what I'm interested at different points in time, but I think ones that really stand out to me frequently tend to be things like World of Warcraft, Silent Hill...yeah it kinda just depends on different points in time, I move all over the place and I'm constantly trying to evolve the scope of what I produce.

Kate: Mhmm. Um, and obviously we've avoided talking to it up to this point, but obviously Homestuck as a work is important to Vast Error, and important to understanding Vast Error and, and its intentions. Um, so one of the things I like to do with every guest that comes on the show is uh, sort of ask like: what is your story with Homestuck, how did you get into it, what has it meant to you over the years, and y'know, what is your story of engaging with the fan culture of this work, and obviously you guys have engaged with it a lot more than most people [laughs] Um, Austin, you go first, what's your sort of, what's your, y'know, how did you get into Homestuck, and then how d'you, y'know, how d'you engage with Homestuck fan culture?

Austin: There's actually a very long-winded story that I could tell about this and I have before, but uh, I believe the simplest, cut-down version, and it actually ties into Heather's experience with it, is that uh, me, Heather, and a mutual friend all got into Homestuck at about the same time, in about, like, late 2010, sometime after Cascade dropped. Or wait, no, not Cascade, my bad, it was sometime in Act 5: Act 2. Uh, but they wanted me to read it really badly, and at the time I shamefully admit that I was really into My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

[laughter]

Austin: And uh, I didn't really want to get into anything else? I have a very one-track mind when it comes to my interests for the most part, I'm very — I'm interested in a select number of things, but those select number of things that I'm interested in, even if they dwindle over time, the time that I spend with them is spent...analysing and going through pretty much every facet of what I enjoy with it in one way or another, so, back then, when I was interested in this one thing, having this completely separate, other thing, that I didn't even really know about except for like, small visuals from a few niche people who kind of knew what it was too...it kind of set me off a bit, I was like, 'what's this shit', and I think for a long while, like a few weeks, I basically just refused to read it, like, that and the mix of that same fan culture that Vast Error is based off of, just completely turned me off from reading it because eventually everyone was telling me: 'Hey, you should read this, you would like this', and young me didn't really like to be told what to do, so —

Kate: Very contrarian.

Austin: (continuing) I didn't read it. Yeah, exactly Um, but eventually I did read it, and I read all the way through [S: Enter], in one night, and I did not like it.

Kate: [laughs]

Austin: Uh, I thought it was really dumb, and I was never going to touch it again, but something in my heart told me, 'hey, you should look at that again', and I did, it was like a few days later. I read through it slower, and I got to Descend, and as soon as I got to Descend, I, for — I don't know how, but my entire body quivered —

Kate: [laughs]

Austin: And it told me, 'you're in this for the long haul', and here I am still, almost eight years later, in it for the long haul.

Kate: And haul you do! And uh [laughs] Heather what's your — what's your story of getting into Homestuck, obviously it was around the same time as Austin did.

Heather: Right, so to start off, uh, yeah, I got into it just a little bit before he did, my friend at the time had suggested it to me, partially because she wanted to make fan-characters with me, which is something that I, I enjoy making characters and especially back then for fandom related things it was just enjoyable, so it was like okay, I'll give it a shot, check it out. I actually enjoyed it right off the bat, I thought it was cute and charming, and then I realized as I kept going, 'hey this has a lot more story to it than just, goofy antics', and I really appreciated that. So I kept up with it pretty consistently for a while, and, yeah we...got Austin to read it eventually, like he said, first time he didn't like it, I remember specifically he called me on the phone and said: 'Hey I just read this and I hate it.'

Kate: [laughs]

Heather: And I was like, alright, fine! [laughs] Um, but then he read it again, he liked it, and at the time me and my friend had started working on fantrolls and we were going to create our own story together — I won't get all into that now, it didn't work out and eventually me and Austin got together to start Vast Error. I've never been super active in terms of a broad community sort of scope?  

Kate: Mmm.

Heather: Um, but I did meet quite a few friends in real life in various places through Homestuck, just general interests, like I see someone drawing and I'm like, 'hey, I know that' [laughs] or vice versa, um, so it has brought me to a lot of people at the same time, and honestly aside from my love for the story in of itself I can really appreciate that fact as well.

Kate: Mhmm, for sure. Uh, so I wanted to uh, circle back, Austin, to something you mentioned before, um, which is I think well known to fans of Vast Error, but may be something that, that y'know new readers wouldn't know, is that Vast Error is sort of a commentary with a lot of characters based on common fan behaviors or interpretations of Homestuck, um —

Austin: Mhmm.

Kate: Do you wanna talk a little bit more about that, like what sort of — what sort of 'fan stereotypes', quote unquote, went into making some of the characters of Vast Error?

Austin: Uh I actually, both on our official Discord and uh, under the Frequently Asked Questions of Vast Error, uh, I do go into each and every one of the character's, uh specific tropes, and each of these tropes are tropes that me and Heather have seen before, multiple times, and they tend to be sort of like, the epicentre of each and every fantroll group, like almost every single fantroll group that we've met at some point in time, or read about, or y'know, saw on another fan adventure, has tropes to where they're similar to the way that the Vast Error characters are, like, Arcjec is kind of based off of my younger self, and he's just, kinda — he's the main character and that's pretty much his biggest plot-driven attribute, is that he's the protagonist. Taz is the terrifying cult murder clown who is angry and does angry things, and y'know, murders and shit. Uh, Dismas is an edgy character, Albion is the fucking uh, always perpe — [laughs] sorry, always perfect Mary Sue character, uh, Murrit's just a mess, Laivan is a furry, Ellsee is the really important character, uh et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Kate: Mhmm.

Austin: And, they're based off of this because, as Vast Error is a work based upon the narrative of Homestuck, and pretty much every piece of nature that goes into Homestuck, it's kind of like, the — it's kind of like the next general step of evolution from what Homestuck was, if Homestuck was a story about internet culture and how that works into society and playing it off of these kids and these trolls and their world, then Vast Error is a story about Homestuck, and how that has played off of the world and these characters.

Kate: I think that's part of why people are — people find it so engaging, is cause it's uh, it's, feels sort of authentic to — it speaks really directly to a, to a group of people that, y'know, have this sort of — so Homestuck establishes a really good storytelling vocabulary, right —

Austin: Mhmm.

Kate: It, y'know it creates these categories and expectations, and it teaches the reader to be fluent in them, while combining and synthesizing them to make new concepts. Um, so Vast Error can actually be read without reading Homestuck first, I would love to hear the reaction of someone who read it that way, but —

Austin: There have been a few people —

Kate: Mhmm.

Austin: (continuing) who have read it that way, specifically uh, friends of Heather —

Heather: Yeah.

Austin: (continuing) who she's gotten into it aren't into Homestuck, and there are a few other people just, sort of sprinkled around, and part of me feels that if you do read Vast Error without the context of Homestuck, you might be missing that meta-textual aspect of it that makes a lot of it so engaging from an analysis standpoint, but also it does make reading it at a face value level, since Vast Error and a lot of its concepts and its troll world are so different and unique from Alternia, that it might make reading it on a face value level easier. So there is that, if you don't read Homestuck first.

Kate: Yeah and so, yeah I wanted to ask you about that then, Heather, um, y'know like, how do you feel like the fans, like the people that just have read Vast Error, how do you think their experience differs from the Homestuck fans that then read Vast Error?

Heather: Well there are some obvious, um, bits of lack of understanding in terms of the more fundamental aspects that we use, just like, how trolls work on a more general standpoint, um...Of course, the trolls in Vast Error work a little differently than the trolls in Homestuck so like Austin said it's kind of that, if you have it at face value you're learning it from a starting point anyway so it doesn't really matter that much, but, it does provide a little bit of confusion for people who don't have pre-expectation —

Kate: Mhmm.

Heather: (continuing) for what that should be like? However, as far as the story goes, and the characters, and just the general basis of what's going on and what they need to understand to enjoy the story, I've been told it's still there and it's still plenty functionable.

Kate: Mhmm, and so, Vast Error I think, um, intentionally plays with your expectations coming in, if you're an existing Homestuck fan, it —

Heather: Oh yeah.

Kate: It intentionally subverts your expectation and subverts the stereotypes you would've expected, um, and I think that leads to a lot of readers having misconceptions about it, perhaps, which uh —

Heather: Mmm

Austin: Yeah, definitely.

Kate: (continuing) Austin you, [laughs] yeah you've talked about quite a bit, um, and so...What is it that made you decide, 'we're gonna play with it in this way', like, 'we're going to, we're gonna subvert expectations, we're going to...change, we're gonna change some fundamental facts about this world, in ways that change how these characters function and how this world functions'?

Austin: I think, as time went on, and the story evolved from regular run-of-the-mill Homestuck fan adventure just made by two people in their spare time, and it became more of a, I'm definitely not gonna say phenomena, but uh, as it became much more of a thing that people read and like, and even before that, as it evolved into this sort of, The Good The Bad and The Ugly of what Homestuck is to me and Heather, and what it represented to us both back then and even now, um, I definitely feel that the evolution of what took place was um, god, what's the word I'm lookin' for...It's very natural to what we ended up producing, uh, in our minds about the comic and where exactly we wanted it to go and all these representations of the characters, they all sort of flow into this already existing melting-pot of various fantroll archetypes, and even though that these characters are based on archetypes, I hear a lot of people saying like, 'Oh I read through it like this, and I never really understood that there were tropes in it at all', that's because we didn't really want you to notice the tropes first, it's supposed to be more of a subtext kind of thing. You can read Vast Error on that face value level and still get enjoyment out of it, but the reason why we decide to subvert expectation and the reason why we decide to mess with readers by taking their preconceived notions about Homestuck and what it does, is simply because the readers have probably read Homestuck at that point, why would you just wanna read Homestuck again?

Kate: [laughs] And uh, it's, this does remind me since you were, Heather you were talking about, y'know trolls and making fan characters and having done this for a while, and y'know taking reader expectations of how trolls work and sort of playing with them: what is compelling to you about trolls, and what is, like, what is the — what is the most fun thing for you about, sort of designing and engaging with this new world of trolls?

Heather: I think a big part of it just, from a starting point with everything being more like Homestuck beginning, trolls are very fun to me because of the unique qualities they provide that you don't see in a lot of other places, it was something new and different, while also not being too off the wall? They're just humanoids with horns, but they're very easy to create both simplistic and interesting designs for in my opinion because of their color schemes and how they work with that, and I found that extremely enjoyable for one.

Kate: Yeah, so this actually transitions really well to the next part — to the next part of our sort of outline that I wanted to talk about, which was uh, part of the strength of Vast Error is the iconic visual design? Um, y'know the cast of characters do not look at all generic, there's unique silhouettes, there's unique color schemes for all of them, uh, and an overarching sort of color palette of the planet of Repiton that matches the tone of the story really well, um...So I wanted to ask first about colors, y'know, the colors of Vast Error are different than the colors of Homestuck, and that comes down, y'know, that goes to blood colors, clothing colors, the, just the color of the landscape...

Heather: Mmm.

Kate: How has that been — how have you informed the writing and informed the story with your color choices?

Heather: Well I think the most notable and obvious first point about that would be that Vast Error's color palette, generally as a whole, is quite a bit more dull in a lot of senses? Homestuck had a lot of really bright, flashy colors all over the place, in your face, making it more high-energy, sharp. Uh, Vast Error however, because of what we're trying to do with it, has a lot more darker moments of coloration. Character designs I personally just prefer when there's as much variation as possible to make every character distinct in one way or another, and, if there's no big difference between them then it can get kinda dull, both in drawing and just...seeing them in the story, if they all look the same.

Kate: Mhmm, uh yeah, I think there's a, there's really distinct like, visual comprehension and the visuals of the characters communicates so much, um, which, Sam was our guest last week and I introduced him to Vast Error and, we were talking about how it's an efficient story. It...it actually communicates — it manages to communicate so much information, while not asking too much of your time to get that information across. And it's sort of a common critique of Homestuck, is that sometimes explanations can drag a little? Whereas for V.E I feel like there's a really concise method of getting across, not just plot information, but visual information with the, with the distinctions that you have. Um, Austin, how...when you're, y'know — V.E doesn't just, uh, doesn't really hold the reader's hand a lot. It is, it is, presents in many ways a challenge to the reader, uh, it does not dumb down or introduce concepts very slowly, it just sorta throws you in and is confident in what it's telling you. I'm assuming that was a, was an intentional choice and, d'you wanna talk more about why you made that choice?

Austin: Uh, yeah, so...I think one of the biggest things to note with this is that the narrator of Vast Error is not me, it's not Heather, it's not Andrew Hussie, it's an actual character in the comic, it's being narrated by White Noise, who is the eternal guardian of Repiton and basically the watcher of the Solitary Universe that Repiton is confined within. And, I think a lot of the narration in Vast Error is done with the intention of being withheld to White Noise's characteristics as well as just being narration, which...White Noise as a character is one who is very confident in his ability to get information across, do things at the right time, show things when they need to be shown, and skip away when something isn't important, and I think the reason why it comes across as pretty plain or goes in such a way where, I dunno, that the narration doesn't necessarily teach you all of these things that you're immediately wanting to know, is because of that standard that White Noise himself puts onto the narrative and how it's told. And I also think that, if we did hold the reader's hand, as y'know, me and Heather writing the story instead of just, White Noise, I think if we did hold the reader's hand throughout the entire thing a lot of it would just end up becoming...more expidi — sorry, more exposition dump than actual plot moving forward. We have a lot of stuff to cover within the first Act and the second Act, and pretty much every Act after that. If we spend a lot of time holding the reader's hand and telling them everything here does this, and this is its exact purpose, this is how it's going to be used later, this is going to be how it's going to be y'know, accessed by the characters, what have you — I think it kind of does a disservice to how the story is structured and where exactly we wanted to go, we want the readers to be able to make these connections naturally as they appear instead of us just saying, 'This, this right here, this is important, you're gonna wanna keep an eye out on it because it's just that important', because if we did that it kind of takes away any of the likeability away from, not even just...a narrative perspective. It just kinda takes away the enjoyment of the experience of reading.

Kate: Yeah, that makes sense. Um, I think it's a lo— One of my favourite things about reading Vast Error was the sort of satisfaction of piecing out how these characters had changed over time, and how these characters' relationships to each other had changed over time, without having to be explicitly told, 'Oh, I used to...I used to feel x way about y person, and now I don't because of z', and [laughs] which is fairly inelegant, instead you just see it in the way that they act and live and speak, it's a show not a tell sort of comic, um...

Austin: Which is, it's kind of odd, cause some people consider it to be the exact opposite, at least at some points.

Kate: Eh... [laughs] I, y'know, I'm usually open to multiple different interpretations of media, but I think those people are just wrong. Uh, [laughs] Um...let's see. Back on the, the aesthetic point, uh, Heather, do you have a particular favorite segment of the comic so far artistically?

Heather: Jeez that's, that's tough! [laughs]

Kate: [laughs]

Heather: Y'know I honestly have to say that, just, as far as my vision for the story goes, and what I have in my head for what I want to see, I don't think we've reached that point yet. There are points in the story later on that I'm much more excited to be able to help show, and I believe that those will be the really nice, awesome-looking stuff in the story. Not to say it doesn't have its moments already —

Kate: Mhmm.

Heather: Especially with Xamag's recent artwork helping out, she does an amazing job and she does exactly what Austin and I want, it's like she's an artist too so um, that's been a big help definitely.

Kate: Yeah so you've brought on, you've started, much like, as Homestuck progressed it started working with uh, with a broader art team, you've brought in Xamag to help with some of, with some of the art — how has that been, bringing in, like, working — so you say that you guys are really close to the same page, so it's, it's allowed you to sort of up the scale in output of the comic?

Heather: Yeah.

Austin: Uh, yeah, absolutely.

Heather: I uh, honestly at first I had a lot of trouble with the idea of letting someone else help me, and that's...there's uh, several reasons for that. One is because I personally, I'm not a super fast worker, and I had a feeling that if I put too much work on someone else, I would not have the motivation to do that work any more on my own, which I did not want because this is my story that I started with Austin and I wanted to be able to keep up with it! Um, and then, the second point is that, being the main artist for the story, at least initially, was extremely important to me, because I felt like that was my most major obvious contribution, because I am a little bit more behind the scenes, I'm not as actively social as Austin is, being able to say, 'yes, well I do most of the artwork' was much more identifiable than just saying, 'well hey this other person's here too'.

Kate: Mhmm. And it, yeah, and Austin definitely takes point on, sort of the rubber meeting the road of like, talking to the fans directly, um —

Heather: Right.

Kate: What, i— and uh, y'know there's obviously multiple different approaches to creating a work and to engaging with people who are fans of your work. Um, you enjoy...d'you enjoy that more behind-the-scenes role, d'you enjoy just, y'know, like watching people react?

Heather: It's a bit of a half-and-half? I honestly would like to engage more than I do currently, a big part of it has just been because I'm so busy, mostly with school a lot of the time, so that I don't really have the same amount of time to put into it as Austin does, however I also just really struggle emotionally with...a lot of online interaction and it's, it's hard for me to keep up on both of those and so a lot of the times I end up not being able to show up unless I'm called to.

Kate: That actually brings me uh, to the next point, which is that, uh, Vast Error is a comic with complicated characters, and in many ways it's a comic with a lot to say about having trouble relating to other people, it's a comic with a lot to say about struggling with motivation, struggling with finding purpose in life, um...I would argue that one of the core themes of the work is depression, and working through it, and finding, and finding some way — y'know, finding a way to live with it? Uh, Austin, in your writing is that something that is, is that something that you're exploring on purpose or is it just a, is it just a function of the, of the world of Repiton?

Austin: Uh, it's a mixture of both, and they are both not mutually exclusive. Repiton is a very drab and dire planet where depression is pretty much the commonplace, nobody except for the main twelve characters are extremely important to Repiton, or to anything else outside of Repiton, and even the main twelve characters have, a slew of issues and depression and, general....fuck, I think 'fuck' is the best word to describe —

Kate: [laughs] A malaise, as it were.

Austin: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that's no more apparent than in the two major protagonists, Arcjec and Ellsee, albeit in completely different manners.

Kate: What are their, what are those different manners of exploring that concept of, of helplessness or depression? Like, what is, what is Arcjec's — what is the way that Arcjec explores that, versus the way that Ellsee explores that?

Austin: Uh, Arcjec is a character that started out as a person who wanted to help other people, and was generally a extremely happy-go-lucky, caring, considerate member of society, something that Repiton does not have for the most part. It's very hard to give a shit on a planet where everything is just poised to either be an escape or something that just straight up won't matter as time goes on. Arcjec got a lot of those dreams that he had, and a lot of those suggestions that he had about the world, shattered at his swi — sorry, at his six sweeps wriggling day, and since then, something that I can't really get into happened with him, we can just say in general that it got to him, and that he doesn't really feel the same way that he did when he was younger, quite the opposite in fact, pretty much every facet of his personality, appearance, and even general demeanor, both in physical things such as his room, and mentally, have completely changed in some way. Compared to Ellsee, who...I personally would say has never exactly been happy, uh, at least not to the extent that most people may want to see her as, Ellsee was always sort of a hot-ticket item on Repiton because of her blood and the lineage that she passes on, and as such she's sort of had to be in a personal sort of witness-protection fort because people either want to kill her, want to do horrible things to her for her blood, or just generally don't want anything to do with her. [transcriber's note: fuck you Austin :( ] She is a character who is extremely...lonely. And there's nothing that she can really do about that. And I think they really contrast in the sense of, Arcjec has a lot of people that care about him, and he doesn't feel like he deserves those people that care about him, and Ellsee is a character that doesn't really have much of anything at all, and she still feels that nobody cares about her, that she's even likeable in the first place.

Kate: So that does, sort of, come into — we were talking about this a little bit before the podcast, but...acceptance being a core theme of Vast Error. And, I'm gonna sort of ask you both, like, what...what is the, what do you see as like, the core emotional message that the comic is getting across, what is the, what is the emotional arc of Vast Error?

Heather: So, I think a major part of the story, and some of it's gonna be kind of obviously subjective depending on how someone may perceive it, or the variety of characters we have dealing with very similar yet different problems, um...though I would say acceptance is definitely a big part of it. It's, it's a concept of taking what you have and making the best of it. Now...it may not entirely seem like that yet with where the story is, but things are moving in that direction, or they will move in that direction, and there's gonna be a lot of things that we'll show, stuff that is very relatable to a lot of people that could be struggling with similar problems. And I...feel like it's...it comes across decently well—

Kate: Mhmm.

Heather: (continuing) considering Austin and I both have struggled with things plenty, I especially still am in a lot of ways, and that does come through in what the characters are dealing with as well. And...we want to keep that there? Something that's, 'hey, this is a problem that a lot of people deal with, and it comes in all shapes and colors, it's not a one-ticket line, one-size-fits-all sort of deal, everybody experiences even the same situation entirely differently, and someone could have a lot more goin' on in their head than you could even imagine'. So, it is partially learning how to deal with that, and learning how to get better to an extent, and just...do what you have to do.

Kate: Mhmm. Uh, in...in Vast Error there is no...y'know, the theme of static is, is very clearly y'know, there's black and white everywhere but there is, there is no lack of subtlety. Every character in Vast Error has their own struggles and their own challenges, and nobody's just a bastard because they're a bastard, nobody's just sad because they're sad, everything has a reason set up for it. And Austin, d'you wanna talk a little bit more about that?  

Austin: Uh, yeah. So...I think one of the biggest attributes of Vast Error, and what contributes to these characters' lives, is seeing them at the age that most people see the Homestuck cast as throughout a majority of the comic. A lot of the characters' past takes place when they were six sweep old— six sweeps old, sorry. Uh, [clears throat] just like, the original beta cast of the Homestuck trolls, and a lot of things have changed in their lives since then, some more drastically than others, but all of which affect them, and affect their personality, who they are, what they do, and why they do it. And I think one of the biggest arcs in Vast Error for every character, it is a problem that every single character in the cast has, is just...to be able to accept themselves and what has happened to them, what will continue to happen to them, how they can work past it, and not putting themselves in a consistently negative light just because so many negative experiences have happened to them in the past.

Kate: Mhmm, and I think that's a useful message for these times, certainly. So, let's move on to our reader question segment, um....let's see. We've got, uh, we've got a bunch of questions from listeners today, uh, I did not include the one about pregnant Calder, uh [laughs]

Austin: Thank. GOD.

Heather: [laughs]

Kate: [laughs] Although, although crackheads, if you're out there, I appreciate your patronage. @froggyaradia asks: who is best girl? Heather, who is best girl?

Heather: Well I, I would say Ellsee, but that's the wrong answer.

Kate: [laughs] Austin, who is best girl?

Austin: All of them are best girl.

Kate: See you can't —

Heather: See?

Kate: He can never pick favourites!

Heather: No.

Kate: [laughs] See, uh, personally in my opinion, I, I love Ellsee to death, but Albion is my favorite so far, um..there's not a character in Vast Error I dislike? And as, as Austin saw on the, y'know I made a character rater poll, I put four girls at the top, so this is a contentious position [laughs] Um, what do you like about Ellsee, Heather?

Heather: Well, um, it — Ellsee's more of the character, for me, that [clears throat] I put a lot more personal stuff into, I feel —

Kate: Mhmm.

Heather: Compared to some of the others. Of course, they all have some little portion of, something both Austin and I can relate to, but Ellsee is one that...reflects a lot of things that I just, really like, on my own, or that I struggle with on my own, and of course I, I like her for her role in the story as well. Being the more important individual just, that doesn't necessarily mean anything as far as her character goes, but she has that role for a reason, and I enjoy working with her a lot.

Kate: Mhmm. Uh, @imagiantpotato asks: why is Calder stinky fish boy? And...Austin, now, you can d— now obviously you're the arbiter here, but the impression I got from Calder's appearance in this comic was that he was probably very well groomed. He probably doesn't stink.

Austin: Define [laughs] uh, no, I do not believe he stinks at all, in fact I believe that if you say that he stinks in the sense of, 'whoo, man, that fuckin', that's fuckin' rank', uh, you are completely wrong —

Kate: Mhmm.

Austin: The man only uses the finest, the finest sprays and fragrances, especially under his amazing chiseled jaw that I'm sure people have drawn him with.

Kate: Uh-huh...

Austin: Uh, also, uh, just if it's talking in the sense of, 'why is his character the way that he is, and why is he a bastard man', I just want to simply say that, if you experienced what Calder experienced growing up, then I think you'd be a little bitter and jaded yourself.

Kate: Alright. Let's see...uh, FearMonger asks: [laughing] 'What's the loop-to-USD conversion rate?' And Austin, we've had some conversations about the economics and political system of Repiton, um...So, d'you want to explain what, what is a loop?

Austin: Uh, loops have not come in, at the comic, at the time of this recording. It kind of just started as a joke, between uh, me, Heather, and the mods and teammates who have been spoiled on Vast Error and what exactly goes on within it. We kind of have this cavalcade of team members and friends that know what's going to happen in the comic and can kind of peer review us to make sure that everything falls into the right place and we don't miss any spots, so —

Kate: And also they can tease the rest of us relentlessly, and enjoy our pain and struggle.

Austin: Oh I do that, I do that regardless —

Kate: Yes.

Austin: So you would be getting it either way. [laughs]

Kate: [laughs]

Austin: But...so, loops are a coin currency that is the exclusive and only currency on Repiton, with the exception of trading, there's kind of like a bartering system that trolls will use as far as currency goes. But loops are the main monetary value on the planet. I have not taken the time to think about what exactly the conversion rate is, so I'm just going to speak out of my ass here and say that, it's 3.22 US dollars, because meme numbers.

Kate: [laughs] Alright, that's, that's an excellent answer. And uh, finally, Jackie asks: 'Which of your own characters do you think would be the best material for an episode of Friendsim?' And uh, Heather you haven't played Friendsim at all, right?

Heather: Not entirely myself, I've watched Austin play several portions and I've seen a good chunk of pieces of it, but I haven't actually played through it myself.

Kate: Who would, who would you want to meet in a Vast Error Friendsim?

Heather: Honestly I'd love to see any of them, I...I really don't know if I'd have a particular one that would be the best example, but I think if I had to pick I think it would probably be someone a bit more...easy to get along with, like Laivan?

Kate: Mhmm. So uh, some fans are actually putting together a uh, a fan Friendsim project, I've seen some of the like, excellent sprite work that uh, Bees has done already for it, um...Y'know, I'm really looking forward to this project, I've apparently, I'm apparently writing for it at some point, so, so good luck to me, on that one, um...But yeah, I, y'know, I've, I think it uh...I think that the sort of outpouring of fan work recently for Vast Error has been excellent, and how do you guys feel about that? Like, it seems like there is a genuine sort of uh, there's the Vast Error sensation that's sweeping the nation right now, and how has that been for you guys?

Austin: Uh, for me personally it is...quite literally everything I've ever talked about and wanted since I was about 13 years old.

Kate: [laughs]

Austin: Uh, I've gotten to work with so many talented people, and people that I have admired both in the Homestuck fan community, the fantroll community, the MSPFA community, and even just the Homestuck art and music team themselves in one way or another, and now uh, apparently we're slowly dripping into the Hiveswap work team, so that's always neat!

Kate: And Heather how has, how has this sort of outpouring of fan work, of late, like, how has that made you feel?

Heather: It's come...exceedingly fast, for one thing, I...Like Austin said as well, we both talked about it like, 'hey, if we actually got this going and we could keep up with it, I think people would really like it and maybe we would actually have something to contribute to the world that people enjoy and can appreciate and...do things back with us and for us', and, it all kinda happened so quickly, and a lot of that, or most of it, is thanks to Austin with how social he is, I, I can't reach out to people the same way he does, but honestly I'm still floored and...so touched by how much we get every single day from people just in terms of even, a nice comment or fanart, and it really, sometimes it still doesn't even feel like it's real? But it's there?

Kate: It's been, it's been really awesome watching the, y'know, watching so many new people engage with it recently. Um, we're coming to the end part of our show now, uh, so let's talk about what's coming up for Vast Error, because part of why I wanted you guys to come on the podcast was that this is a really excellent time to start reading, I feel like. Um, y'know the story is at a, is at a really, is at a really great place right now, and the road map coming ahead is, is really exciting, so...you wanna talk about what's coming up, Austin?

Austin: Uh, yeah, so, sometime near today, and the end of September hopefully, at worst it would probably come sometime in October, early October, we have uh, [S] Engage [watch it here], that is going to be the follow-up to what just happened in the comic with Arcjec, along with uh, quite a few other plot points that've been happening throughout Act 2, and a few lead-ins to uh, certain aspects of the story to come, and then on October 31st, if all goes well, we have Volume 4, which is going to be our longest and most crucial album to date, with somewhere in the ballpark of forty to fifty songs on it, with a lot of newcomers to the Vast Error music team, and a lot of guest artists. And I'm going to just, cut all my losses and go for a reveal here, uh, one of those songs is going to be a collaboration with Homestuck musician and talented singer extraordinaire, Michael Guy Bowman.

Kate: God I'm so fuckin' excited [laughs] I, y'know, uh, part of — we didn't even get to talk about this yet, and that's why I wanna have you both on again, to, y'know, this was the one where I tried to avoid spoilers and talk about the overall themes of the work, um, but the music team that, y'know has been supporting this work is...just outstanding, I absolutely love the albums that they've put out and I'm so excited for Volume 4. I'm counting down the days to Halloween already. Um, if y'know — go to Vast Error dot com, read this comic, please, it's the Official Opinion of the Perfectly Generic Podcast that you should read Vast Error, this is the number one platform point here, and check out the music, check out the merch available, and uh, you can also follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/vasterror, and that's Austin's meme emporium. Uh, or vasterror.tumblr.com. Uh, do either of you guys wanna pitch any personal social, or do you wanna leave it at that?

Austin: Um, I'm also personally on Twitter: @avstinado, Twitter. We also have the Vast Error booru, created by my friend Groeuf, if you want to look at the over one thousand images, nearing two thousand images of fanart and bullshit that we have on there. We also have the official community Vast Error Discord, where you can talk to almost 700 other Vast Error fans at current, if you would like to join that.

Kate: There's some really cursed stuff in there, so you should really check it out.

Austin: It's mostly my fault.

Kate: [laughs] And Heather, Heather where can folks find you, or do you not want them to find you?

Heather: [laughs] Oh noo [laughs] No I'm fine with uh, being found, my issue again is I'm not super active on a lot of my social platforms, but I do have myself in all the same places. I have a Twitter, um, I have Tumblr, I do use Deviantart but that's mostly for non-Vast Error related things, if anyone was interested in seeing some of the other work I do. And all of those should still be under the same name, sparaze.

Kate: Alright, thank you so much. Uh, let's see here, so you can follow this podcast, you can follow us on iTunes, just search for 'Perfectly Generic Podcast ' uh, if you could give us a rating on iTunes that would be awesome. You can also follow at twitter.com/pgenpod, p-g-e-n-p-o-d, uh, you can follow me on Twitter, @gamblignant8, which is my Homestuck account, or uh, KateMitchellOW which you don't wanna follow unless you really care about my new job as president of video games. Um, the intro music for this music was uh, was a special addition, it was 'Deep Sea Trouble' by SplitSuns, from the EP Running for Eons, which is, just an incredible EP, you should absolutely spin at first opportunity. The music playing over this outro is 'Cosmic Significance' by Circlejourney from Vast Error Volume 3. Uh, next week on the podcast uh, Xtine joins me for an episode about the girls of Homestuck that aren't Vriska. We will talk to each other for an hour and we'll not mention Vriska even once, and that's a promise. [transcriber's note: this promise is broken almost immediately] This has been the Perfectly Generic Podcast. Austin, Heather, thank you so much for joining me, it's been awesome talking to you, I look forward to having you on again.

Austin: Uh, same to you! Uh, I enjoyed talking with you, I enjoy talking to people who like Vast Error, I enjoy talking to people who might not like Vast Error, and I really fucking love Bart Simpson.

Heather: [laughs]

Kate: We didn't even talk about the Simpsons! Here, welcome to the post show! [laughs] Where we talk about the Simpsons! No [laughs] no, but Heather, Heather seriously thank you so much for coming on, uh, I really appreciate getting to meet you, and it's really awesome getting to talk to, y'know this less public creative force that's so important to this comic, that I and a lot of the listeners here really love.

Heather: Yeah, thank you very much, I'm, I'm so glad I got to come here as well, and I definitely, I told you this already, appreciate the chance to be here as well.

Kate: Yeah absolutely! Well, that's our show folks, keep doing the Bartman, see you next week.

[outro]

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