IMAC, author of the award-winning fanfiction "House of Dirk," discusses the new Pesterquest and their sitcom-style world of Dirkuu. Topics: Where PQ is going. RPing Andrew Hussie. Planning long stories. Liking villains. Toblerone.
Listen to this episode at https://perfectlygenericpodcast.com/updates/episodes/56
Kate: The Perfectly Generic Podcast contains spoilers, occasional adult language, and Vriska. You've been warned. This show is listener-supported, and I wanted to thank our Crockertier patrons for their generous support per episode: [names].
Kate: [singing] Do you remember? The 21st night of September? It's the Perfectly Generic Podcast! We're on episode 56. Oh my god, that's so many. I'm here with fanfic author extraordinaire, imarriedacherub, or IMAC. How ya doing?
IMAC: Hey. I'm doing great! I'm hanging in there.
Kate: Nice. How's it been? Have you been... [stutters] This isn't even a question. I'm just—I'm sorry for the terrible start. When somebody new comes on the show, the first thing I actually ask them is, what is your history in Homestuck? Like, how did you get into Homestuck to the degree where now, your life has gotten to the point that you're on a Homestuck podcast? What was the origin for you?
IMAC: I really have to dig into my childhood to answer this question. I've actually been in Homestuck for a while? Like, since I was a child. It's been... god, I don't know, seven years maybe?
IMAC: Something like that. I started in 2011, because an artist that I followed on tumblr kept posting about this weird webcomic called Homestuck, and I was super into their work, so I checked it out. But I was like, a fake fan at the time? 'Cuz I thought the pesterlogs were optional?
Kate: [Bursts out laughing]
IMAC: I thought I could just skip them! I thought, I just looked at the pictures. So my first attempt at reading through it was very confusing. 'Cuz obviously, I was missing the actual story. So then I tried again, like, a couple months later, and realized, "ohhh, if I open these little boxes, that's where the dialogue is."
Kate: Yeah. There is... it's very intense gameplay, required, to read Homestuck.
IMAC: Definitely. I don't think I had the reading comprehension to really understand it the first time around.
Kate: Can I ask how old you were, so I can feel old for a moment?
IMAC: I was like twelve.
Kate: Ohhh, god! [Laughs] OK.
IMAC: Yeah. I mean, it was nice, 'cuz I was around the age of the characters. So it was nice to relate to them—
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: —but also, I didn't understand like half the words being used.
Kate: Yeah, those are some wordy-ass— Like, as someone who was once an extremely wordy, insufferable 13-year-old, I appreciate the representation.
IMAC: Oh yeah.
Kate: But also, it's slightly out of the ordinary, in terms of—
IMAC: I definitely had to pretend I knew what was going on, for certain parts.
IMAC: It wasn't until—'Cuz I was in the fandom for a couple years after that, and I did... post things? But I'm sort of distancing myself from the things I did as a child in the Homestuck fandom, in like 2012, 'cuz—
Kate: Yeah, that makes sense. Fuckin' nobody will find what I did when I was a child online. None of you can find it. And if you go looking, that's weird.
IMAC: Yeah. I think I've heard some people think they know who I was back then, and I'm like, I dunno, I highly doubt it.
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: You know, you change a lot over time. So then I took a break from the fandom, and it wasn't until... I think the Epilogues were probably what brought me back into it. 'Cuz yeah, I just felt like I kinda had to respond to them, in a way.
Kate: Yeah! They're something that really... they really rile you up. They make you think, and they make you respond.
IMAC: Yeah. It's a mixed bag, for me, 'cuz there's definitely things I found... interesting about them, like "hm, that's an interesting choice." But other aspects of it that I did like. But it really did kind of reinvigorate that Homestuck need to make things. So yeah.
Kate: Mhm. And I mean, that's one of the fundamental motivations for fan content, is, y'know, there's two different motivations, right? There's the celebration of a thing that you love, or the correction of a thing that you hate.
IMAC: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there's other media that I think is like near-perfect, and I would never make any fan content for it, 'cuz there's just no need. I feel like you'd have to be kind of frustrated with something, in order to create something for it at this level.
Kate: Yeah. This is actually—one of the first conversations I had with Andrew was about this. Like, if you are satisfied with media, your relationship with it is over, because you are satisfied. It's like, you go buy a thing and you eat it, and then you are done eating it. Whereas, if you eat something and you get food poisoning, then it sticks with you—
Kate: —for a significant amount of time afterwards, and you keep thinking about the food. And so what Homestuck does is, it gives you food poisoning, but for your brain.
IMAC: Yeah. I've heard people describe it as, like, the Homestuck brainworm.
Kate: Yeah, exactly. It goes in and it kicks out all your normal thoughts, one by one, until you are 56 episodes deep into talking about it online. [Laughs]
IMAC: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think it's a good thing, 'cuz it kinda kicks you in the butt and it makes you actually do something, rather than just sitting there, sort of contemplating things.
Kate: Yeah. And, so we'll talk about what you—You dove back into the Homestuck fandom with a thing. And we'll talk about that thing after we continue, this week in Homestuck. So this week, the route for the most popular character in Homestuck, according to the survey, came out. Dave Strider, by James, friend of the show, and I adored it. It takes a lot—and here's the thing, this is also a compliment to you and your work—it takes a lot to get me out of bed for a boy. To get me, really, to give a shit at all. And that Dave route absolutely did it. Have you played it?
IMAC: Oh yeah. Yeah. I played it a couple times. Yeah.
Kate: Nice, so what were your thoughts on it?
IMAC: You know, James had a really tough job, I think. Since Dave is like the most popular character, I think a lot of people are very protective of him and their view of him. So I really respect him, taking on that challenge to interpret the character, and I think he just did a fantastic job. He really hit all of the points that you sort of need to hit, when talking about Dave—
IMAC: —and then some, and added these very detailed little character bits that just made him feel like a real person.
Kate: Yeah. When I got told about this project the first time, my first thought was, "oh, fuck, this is hard."
Kate: Because you have to write them at 13, right, which is such an interesting— 'cuz everyone reading knows all of the ways that this character developed, y'know, in the various paths that they developed in canon.
Kate: But they haven't had that experience yet, when you're meeting them in this game. And so it is a terrifically intimidating challenge to try and take that on, and deliver something that's satisfying in hindsight, to people who are already familiar with the way that this character goes, while feeling authentic to their young self.
IMAC: Yeah, definitely, especially since Dave wasn't as woke, as a kid, as he ended up becoming as an adult. It's a little sad, I guess, to seem sort of back in that mindset he had as a young kid, but I think he was really true to the character, and it was just a well done route.
Kate: Yeah. And that is something that I'm looking forward to seeing more of, and actually, we had a couple of questions about this Pesterquest thing that I wanted to start off with. Ley asked on Discord, "Why is Dave Strider so awesome? But seriously, would you have liked to actually see Bro in the route like we did with the other Guardians?" That's the first part.
IMAC: Um... ok. I'm definitely a person who was, I guess, interested in Bro's character, as a youngun, so I was very much anticipating seeing some sign of Bro in this route, and I think it was exactly the right amount. Like, I think any more would've been too much, but what we had was juuust enough to get the point across, I think.
Kate: Yeah, I thought it was—it maintained that antagonism, and that fear, without— but then it made him into a joke, right? And also, thank god, the discourse has finally been settled. James came down from the heaven and said he's a twunk.
IMAC: Yeah, that's something I was telling people I was stressing out, for the route, if I see the sprite, like... people have different interpretations of how he looks, and I just knew, if there was a sprite, it was gonna spark some interesting conversations. But there wasn't, thank goodness.
Kate: We just have to deal with— MSPA Reader's extremely important internal argument is all we have to go on, which is good. But this is what I actually wanted to get to, which is: "Dave appears to still have the game so he has not yet murdered an innocent bird, do you think this incident not occurring changes a part of Dave's character?" And I think that's a fairly minor question, but more generally, this is sort of the big question hanging over Pesterquest, which is: what are these characters like, without the defining engine of action that drove them through our experience with them, in the past?
IMAC: Yeah, that's something that I honestly have trouble even conceptualizing, because we know Dave through his experience with Sburb, and the game and all that. So to not put him through those experiences— I don't know if it's a bad thing, in the sense of stunting his development, almost, or if it's a good thing, if he ends up finding his friends through different means.
Kate: Yeah. I mean, it's up to you, YOU, MSPA Reader. It's up to the reader listening to this. [Laughs]
Kate: I don't know. I'm very curious about it, and I think that's sort of the core question, that gets more and more noticeable as we see these— You know, with John, John's just like a normal kid, mostly, with a normal life. But then, as you start to get with these escalating absurdity of the situations of life, that Rose, and then Dave, and then Jade have, you get this compounding sense of like, "what the fuck are these people's lives without this game thing that messed up everything?" I don't know the answer to that, and I'm very interested to find out.
IMAC: Yeah, definitely.
Kate: And here's our transition to House of Dirk, which is, sordidCondition asks on Discord: "please explain to us why Dave's Pesterquest volume is secretly about Dirkuu," [pronounced "Dirk-U-U"]
IMAC: Uh, I pronounce it "Dirk-oo."
Kate: Dirk-oo. I will not say that, I absolutely fucking refuse to say that.
IMAC: That's completely valid. And I made a tweet about this, saying how the relationship between Bro and Lil' Cal is actually proto-Dirkuu.
IMAC: And I think that's a conversation that the world just isn't ready to sort of—
Kate: No, I'm ready for it. He loves that fuckin' puppet, dude.
IMAC: Yeah! No, Dave literally says, I think, in his conversation with Dirk, that he felt Bro loved the puppet more than him, and that's kinda heartbreaking, but also when you think about the fact that there is a nonzero amount of Caliborn in there, somewhere, it sort of recontextualizes the whole thing. Yeah. So, it's something to sort of chew on, and definitely something I took into account when I decided to make them married in a fanfiction.
Kate: 'Cuz I mean, look, Bro is basically married to that fucking puppet. He's like that guy that married an anime body pillow, but with a puppet.
IMAC: Yeah, yeah. Basically.
Kate: Yeah, you'll get absolutely no objection from me on that read of Dirk's character. He loved that puppet, it's a heart-rending love story of a man and a puppet.
IMAC: it really is.
Kate: And speaking of heartwarming love stories, your award-winning fic, House of Dirk. So, for those who aren't familiar yet, and who haven't thought to just open up google dot com and type in "House of Dirk," could you explain to them, what is House of Dirk?
IMAC: OK. Well, the general premise is, it's a 1950's sitcom AU in which Dirk and Caliborn are married, and they're hosting a sort of dinner family get-together with Dave and Karkat, but the whole thing quickly falls apart and turns into this metanarrative character study of Dirk.
Kate: Dirk can't fucking trip over his own shoelaces without falling into a metanarrative character study of himself. [Laughs]
IMAC: Basically. That's the best way I can describe it, I think. I intentionally make the summary of it misleading, so people who click on it think "oh, it's gonna be Dirk/Caliborn cute times," and then start reading and are like "wait what?"
Kate: Yeah. It's—I think it occupies that Homestuck zone, of being very funny and then making you think "wait, that's unsettling," quite often.
IMAC: Yeah. That's something I'm really interested in exploring, when something stops being funny and starts just being plain disturbing, really pushing those lines.
Kate: Yeah, and I think of that area where you can't quite tell which one it is, as like, The Homestuck Zone.
Kate: Like, that's the sixth flavor, that's the Homestuck umami, is that feeling that you have when you're not sure whether to laugh or to be squicked out.
IMAC: Absolutely, yeah. That's what sort of drew me to Homestuck in the first place. And that's something I'm trying to sort of recreate in a way, that feeling.
Kate: Mhm. And you take some—it's a work that's basically completely uninterested in the plot machinations of Homestuck, which, thank god.
IMAC: Oh, yeah.
Kate: And, you know, elects to go its own way with the interpretations of the character. And one of the things that I enjoy about it is that, and so I'm not gonna pepper you with questions about the specifics of it, is I enjoy that it doesn't overspecify in terms of "these seven things happened before the story, and this is a world where X happened and then Y happened." Like, it doesn't actually—there's a significant number of Homestuck fans who are very obsessed with these intricacies of plot, who are—
Kate: —who, I think their first reaction would be like, "well how is Caliborn even there?" And it's like, 'cuz he is! 'Cuz he's there, right? [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah! The funny thing is, I think, my audience - having read Homestuck - are sort of conditioned to just accept a lot of things in House of Dirk. I haven't found many people questioning things, 'cuz they're so used to Homestuck just throwing whatever at them that they just take it, like "ok, sure, this is happening now."
Kate: Right. If you're still looking for a justification for anything happening in Homestuck in 2019, you are very lost. You're very lost. [Laughs] You need to go back to the last town and ask a friendly man at the service station about another story. [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah, yeah, probably. But it's interesting, 'cuz I do get people saying it feels very Homestuck,
IMAC: And it's sort of recreating that feeling they had when reading Homestuck, which is a huge compliment. But it's just interesting, considering the plot is a huge step away, and some of the characterizations are considerably different too.
Kate: Mhm. And how would you say the characters differ, from the Homestuck iterations of the characters? Other than Crocker, who we'll get to later.
IMAC: Well, like you said, I don't explain things that happened in between— 'cuz it does follow canon in a weird way, like, the events of canon sort of happened, but then it runs sort of parallel to the epilogues.
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: So it sort of takes canon characterizations, and then imagines a different sequence of events in that in-between time, between 16 and 23. And those are things I don't specify, just sort of implying that certain stuff happened, and it shaped the characters differently.
Kate: Mhm. And instead of the meat or candy route, it's the... duck shot full of buckshot route.
IMAC: [Laughs] Yes, exactly.
Kate: [Laughs] And there's a framing device of this thing as a sitcom, Specifically like a "Leave It To Beaver," like, "Happy Days"-style 50's sitcom. And Sarah Zedig asked on Discord, "what's your draw to the sitcom/50's TV aesthetic?"
IMAC: This is partially just me finding the aesthetic of... I guess, almost like perverting the sanitized picture of a sitcom into something that has murder and other stuff in it.
Kate: Mhm. The "Too Many Cooks" psychological space.
IMAC: Exactly, yeah. The "Too Many Cooks" aesthetic is something I've always just been really interested in. There's also this—I guess, because it's the 50's, it serves as this sort of paradise realm for the two toxicly masculine characters of Dirk and Caliborn—
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: —by mimicking that sort of era. Although it's not actually the 50's, it's just the framing and presentation that makes it seem like that.
IMAC: But people have cell phones and cars and stuff, so.
Kate: It's... it's basically "The Jetsons," but if "The Jetsons" was actually right about everything that would happen in the future. Which, it is, and eventually, we will be puttering around in flying cars, and meeting The Great Gazoo. And part of that is, it's immediately obvious—well, I would say it's immediately obvious, except there's so many prominent Homestuck fanworks that are just about boys, without ever really thinking about or acknowledging it.
IMAC: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Kate: Which is funny for a comic that is literally like half women, and where women are the primary plot drivers. But this one understands what it's doing, from that approach, and I'm interested in that. And obviously, I don't want to get into any territory that we haven't seen yet, but like, this is a very... perfect little fandom yaoi boy play garden.
IMAC: Yep. Yep. It's definitely... you know, the reason for picking Dirk and Caliborn was extremely calculated for many reasons, and part of it is 'cuz that they sort of have that yaoi shipping appeal, but also don't, because one of them is like, a little green skull man, and I think that sort of puts off people who are expecting to find something titillating, or whatever.
IMAC: 'Cuz they're not two pretty boys, or whatever. But the fic itself is very... apparently man-focused, and obsessed with its male characters. And that's something I'm very aware of, and I am going to say, there are going to be female characters in it. Some people have thought, "oh, it's just a world with no women," but no, there's no plague. [Kate laughs.] Yeah, that's definitely something I'm interested in exploring, the relationship between these characters and the women characters, and how they interact with people that are that hostile to their existence. It's definitely something I'm sympathetic towards, and want to shine a light on in a way. But also, the fic's probably not gonna pass the Bechdel test, so... it's a mixed bag. Yeah.
Kate: [Laughs] Uh huh. That's—You know, it happens. Maybe in a later scene you just have Alison Bechdel talking to one of your female characters.
Kate: And, @bkishbrainwaves asked on Twitter, "You've mentioned House of Dirk began improvisationally and is transitioning to a more structured narrative, similar to Homestuck. How has the experience of working with both methods been, and do you prefer one over the other?"
IMAC: OK, so, the sort of original original intent of House of Dirk was me sitting down one day, and being like, "I'm gonna roleplay Hussie!"
Kate: [Laughs] We all do that from time to time.
IMAC: [Laughs] I'm gonna start making content, and I'm gonna update it like every day, and I'm gonna take reader suggestions, and stuff like that. 'Cuz the original update schedule for like a month was like, every other day it was updating or something. Which was actually kind of insane?
Kate: Yeah! Right, the thing about that is that even Andrew, one of the more prominent artistic powerhouses of our time in terms of output, could not keep up with that nonsense.
IMAC: No. It's kind of unhealthy.
IMAC: So it's given me some empathy for him, for sure. But yeah, the beginning was meant to be sort of improvised, as a means of trying to feel out how something like Homestuck was made. But as I've sort of gone along, I've developed a clearer idea of the story I want to be telling, and have more of a structure moving forward. I wouldn't say I prefer one method over the other. Improvising can be fun, but I think it quickly sort of falls apart, and people get frustrated if you set things up and then don't pay them off later, which is hard to do if you're just making it up as you go along. But I do think it leads to funnier jokes in a way, 'cuz it's more spur-of-the-moment.
Kate: Yeah, and I think it's good to occupy a middle ground, when you're planning out these stories.
Kate: —Where you have a plan, but you give yourself flexibility to respond to what the audience thinks and feels and wants. And also there's a part of it where, like Homestuck, you can do this thing where it's very interactive to start, and you're running at a full sprint to start, and then you're popular, and then you can do whatever the fuck you want. [Laughs]
IMAC: Exactly. Sort of, let the fans help out for the beginning, and then rip it away as soon as they start becoming a mob, then you're like "ah, no more."
Kate: Yeah, right, because at a certain point, it really does— it starts being too many people to interact with effectively and take commands from, in any way that isn't just—
Kate: Like, once you reach a certain critical mass, and I think this was sort of part of the point, with Homestuck and even late Problem Sleuth, it's like there were so many people submitting commands that you could just have a plan, and just wait to get whatever command you wanted to get.
IMAC: Yeah! Yeah. I mean, early on, I wasn't even getting commands from people, 'cuz they didn't really understand that I was taking them.
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: 'Cuz it was on Ao3, and there's not really a command form there, I would just randomly pick comments and then incorporate them. But people didn't quite pick up on that going on, so I ended up dropping the whole thing.
Kate: And actually, I want to skip a question ahead, actually. @galactimbibe asked on Discord: "Homestuck played a huge part in paving the way for boundary-pushing, media-mixing narratives that take full control of the limitless possibilities of the internet." Yes, this is hypertext. "Along with a few other Homestuck 'renaissance' comics, HoD seems to be trying to push at the limits of what is possibile within Ao3's coding. What has your experience playing with these boundaries been, and do you have any plans to push them further in the future, such as utilizing different mediums or other sites that allow more coding freedom?"
IMAC: Well, the things I have done with html on House of Dirk, I'm definitely inspired by oxfordRoulette's works—
IMAC: —who just goes totally—like, breaks Ao3's codings and makes it do whatever. It's really amazing to see some of the stuff done in those fics. And I don't have that level of coding knowledge, so what I've done is just kind of what I've figured out on my own.
IMAC: But definitely, as I sort of learn more, I try to incorporate every new thing that I learn into the fic somehow. So the more things I learn how to do, the more the fic is going to expand into something larger. And I am interested in—I like ARGs, so I'm interested in sort of incorporating those kind of—forcing people to hop around different websites, and hiding parts of the text in weird places.
Kate: I wouldn't—
IMAC: Not saying I definitely—what was that?
Kate: I wouldn't know anything about that. [Laughs]
IMAC: [Laughs] Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm interested in sort of pushing the boundaries of the fic beyond the Ao3 website, it's just, I don't hugely have specific plans for that at that point, but we'll see what happens.
Kate: Mhm. And part of the thing of pushing boundaries, and mixing media, and doing that stuff is, it's fun, but also, it's really haaaaaaaard.
IMAC: It is!
Kate: I just wanna post things. [Laughs]
IMAC: I'll have some people sort of come at me, like, "why aren't you writing these characters, or those characters?" And it's like... I understand wanting to see certain content, but sometimes it's just kinda like, "well write your own fic if you want to see that." 'Cuz I'm just writing for me, you know?
Kate: Right! It's... I think a lot of people would be a lot less demanding of fan content if they made... content. [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah, and I totally understand it, 'cuz writing is hard, and drawing is hard, and it's all work.
IMAC: So it's easier to sort of claw at someone else, and try to get them to make the thing you want to see. But sometimes you just gotta be the change you want to see in the world. Do your own thing.
Kate: Yeah, exactly. And that's also part of the message, or the movement that we're in right now, right? Is this idea of, you know, carpe Homestuck. [Laughs] Seize the narrative! And do your own thing. And I've been so happy to see that the epilogue has inspired a significant amount of that, and it, you know, certainly kicked my ass into doing more things. And this actually gets to a question that I had from @somewhatrosy, who asked on Twitter, "how has being a fated, quote, "Writer of Homestuck" (a fic writer in the age of Homestuck fanwork’s seeming nigh-canonicity) affected your approach towards writing, if at all?"
IMAC: It definitely hasn't changed how I approach the characters or anything like that, I'm just kind of doing what I want.
IMAC: It does sort of change how people react to what I'm writing, I think, in the sense that because I'm able to mimic canon to some extent, some people sort of look at House of Dirk as some strange extension of canon, and will sort of interpret the work as though it is canon, as though I can sort of do or show the things they want to happen.
Kate: Uh huh. Well, canon is a funny little miracle that happens in your head. It's like, y'know... Homestuck is longer than the bible, and if you meet someone else, that person— and I'm sorry for the niche Christian sectarian discussion here, but if you meet someone else who also read the bible, they almost certainly believe different things happened in it, and those things mean different things than you do. And this has in fact been a very complicated question throughout history. And the exact same is true of Homestuck. And in fact, the term "canon" was originally created to say, "this is my interpretation of this massive text that you can take a number of different ways. Here is what my group of people considers the real interpretation." But there's different canons, and different ideas. And canon is your concept of Homestuck. Everyone has their own personal canon. They have things that they believe, they have things that they disregard, they have these—and you know, we talk about headcanons, right? And it's like that for everything, right? It's, what do you think—Like, Act 7, for example, was a very ambiguous thing. What do you think happened in it, what do you think it meant, right? That still is a mostly unresolved question. And it's what you take from these symbols and what they mean to you, and what you think happened in all the spaces and gaps in these characters' lives that you don't see in Homestuck, right? 'Cuz a lot of Homestuck happens off-screen, it happens outside of our voyeuristic gaze. And so if someone reads your characters, and thinks, "yes! That is true! That is what Dirk would do, that is what Caliborn would do, that is what they are like." Then that's canon to them, right?
IMAC: Yeah, definitely. Really well said. 'Cuz... I think, when you're able to mimic a person's interpretation of the characters to an extent, and then you start doing something that is a bit different from what they thought, it can add to a sort of incongruence in their interpretation and your interpretation. And that can become a little messy sometimes, when it's like "I'm just trying to write what I wanna write."
Kate: Mhm. And that's the thing, with canon being personal to you, I want people to get out of this mindset of like, demanding that others' interpretations of characters fit their own. Right?
IMAC: Yeah, definitely. And I think it's great that more people are making their own works, and I think it's amazing how different the works can be, how different people interpret the same exact character in hugely different ways, and they're both, like, equally believable? Like, those are both totally reasonable ways to interpret that character.
IMAC: So it's cool to see that, but also it puts some pressure on me as having a work that's regarded as... I guess, a bit more popular? People put a little more weight on it to mimic their interpretation.
Kate: Well, I mean, this gets to the fundamental thing where people act really weird at people who they think have more, quote, "clout" than them.
IMAC: Ohhh yeah.
Kate: And, like, they get really weird and demanding of it, as though they can't just also make shit. And there's no barrier, it's not like you have to pass some sort of follower count number to post things online.
IMAC: I think people forget that I just started posting this, like, out of nowhere.
Kate: Right, exactly! You didn't have big connections, and just like a year ago, I dropped out of nowhere and I was like, "here's an hour about Homestuck I recorded with my friend, who none of you also know, on an earbud mic." It's like... It is a tremendous movement that we are in right now, where there are very few barriers to creation. And if you spend your time focusing on, like, "well the people who are popular aren't doing what I want," then that's such a waste of your mental energy. You're stressing yourself out for nothing.
IMAC: I am sympathetic to people that— 'cuz there's definitely people who sort of don't like House of Dirk for popularizing Dirk and Caliborn as characters. And I'm sympathetic to that, 'cuz they're not the nicest, they're misogynistic, and villains, and stuff like that, so I think some people get frustrated now that they see these characters all over their dash or something like that. I can understand the frustration.
Kate: Kids might go to a showing of Hamlet and then go home and kill their uncle. Hamlet's a bad example for all of us. But this idea that like, the kind of characters that you write about, being a determination of your morals, is a very weird thing. Like, for a sitcom framing to laugh at these exceedingly goofy men... Like, I dunno. I think that when you— fiction, and the things that we say and do in it, is extremely important to the real world. But some people take that football and they run with it so hard, to the degree where portraying a negative thing clearly negatively, or portraying a goofy, toxic masculine person as a goofy toxic masculine joke, right, like fuckin' Caliborn is, all the time... as being endorsing that?
Kate: And I... look, here's the thing, I really am sympathetic to that approach, 'cuz I try to take a feminist approach to media at all times. And what I don't understand is how people don't see that you can have a feminist approach to antagonism in media as well, where an antagonist in your story can reflect things that are actually antagonistic to you in real life, without that being regressive.
IMAC: Yeah, and I think that's definitely... it's strange, 'cuz there are some people who are drawn to House of Dirk, and feel compelled to read it despite really, really hating Dirk and Caliborn. And I don't totally understand why they read it, I guess.
Kate: Life's too short to hate-read things. There's so much stuff on the internet.
IMAC: Well, they'll say they enjoy it, but then at the same time hate the characters, and it's like... I don't totally understand what exactly—'Cuz they'll say they, for example, like House of Dirk!Caliborn more than canon Caliborn. And I don't totally see what the difference is, I guess. 'Cuz they're both awful in their own ways.
Kate: [Laughs] I'm trying to think of, like... House of Dirk!Caliborn doesn't— [Laughs] They just like that he married a man, I guess.
IMAC: I guess... He's still pretty awful. He murders on the first page of the fic. He's not great.
Kate: Yeah, but he murders an unnamed character, and those don't count.
Kate: This is like these arguments that the people in the new Fire Emblem game have, where they go play a mission where everyone on their team kills like seven unnamed enemy units, but then they're like, "well this person killed a named character, so they're a problematic murderer."
Kate: And it's like... nobody sees— like, again, this goes back to the Hamlet thing. Like, nobody sees— you don't see somebody "get got" in a silly fashion in a story, and then go home and kill a clerk at a store, while bringing a raw duck home.to cook for your husband. [Laughs] Like, I dunno. I'm a little bit in the weeds here. But, I just... Sometimes things can be fun, actually.
IMAC: Yeah, I agree. I see where they're coming from, I see that, "oh I don't want to read about these problematic characters," but also, you don't have to, you know? You can read... and the other thing is, there are some people that are almost sort of mad at House of Dirk for being popular, when it's not the most progressive, I guess, type of fic? And I'm not really sure how to respond to that, 'cuz it's like, yes I'm writing it, yes I'm sort of adding to certain harmful tropes, but... I didn't really mean for it to get popular, so.
Kate: Well, y'know, every time you post an update to your fic about boys, you also go to someone's local library and you burn a book featuring interesting women. [Laughs]
IMAC: I do.
Kate: And I think, personally, I have to say, IMAC, I think that might be the line for me. I think that's pretty problematic behavior. [Laughs]
IMAC: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean... I swear I don't hate women, even though I'm writing this boy-focused story.
Kate: I love Caliborn! Caliborn was the second character to get a character episode on this show. I love the shit out of Caliborn, he's like one of my favorite characters in this fucking comic. Because we have all encountered Caliborn, nine hundred thousand times, on the internet and in real life. And it's so satisfying to see this guy laid bare in such a fundamentally ridiculous way.
IMAC: Exactly, yeah. And that's part of the appeal of Dirk, too, I think. I think a lot of us have met a Dirk in real life, and I think it's a lot more unsettling to meet that kind of person in-person than it is to see them in this silly fic setting.
Kate: Mhm. And it's like, I love Dirk. I love Dirk, I think Dirk is very compelling. And also, he's that guy from your freshman philosophy class—and this is a real guy from my freshman philosophy class—who wore a trenchcoat every day and would talk about The Matrix in the philosophy class. And that's Dirk! [Laughs]
IMAC: Oh, god. That is Dirk. Yeah. I used to take computer science classes and I had a lot of Dirks, just, everywhere all the time, it was... I think that's part of my fascination with writing a character like him, is less me... I mean I do relate to him, but I've also dealt with him a lot, and I think there's a need to sort of understand this kind of person that you've had to deal with so many times, that comes through in a fictional setting.
Kate: Mhm. Yeah, absolutely, and it's like—again, y'know, with Caliborn, it's... [Sighs] There's no part of Caliborn that is supposed to make you think, "oh, this guy, this is a guy who's right." [Laughs]
IMAC: Oh, yeah. No, that's definitely not something I'm trying to show. I've definitely seen interpretations of Caliborn that sort of... woobify him, in a way, that sort of make it seem like "oh, he's nice and good and he wants to be friends with everyone," and I'm like, I don't really agree with that, I think he'd do some bad things. But that doesn't mean he can't be a fun and compelling character to watch, from a distance.
Kate: Right. Like, every comedy is about people doing bad things, right?
IMAC: Oh yeah.
Kate: And it's just, they're bad things that are funny. [Laughs] And if your entire comedy is just people doing absolutely— like, not fucking up anything, then where's the humor? I don't get it!
Kate: It's... I enjoy these awful boys of Homestuck, because it's like they're in an aquarium, or like a terrarium I guess, because most of them aren't fish, but some of them are. [Laughs] And you get to observe all these entertaining and awful behaviors without any of it getting on you, without any worry of contamination.
IMAC: Yeah, that's exactly it. If I had to deal with Dirk and Caliborn in real life, I would just lose it. I could not do it. But in a fictional setting, where there's that separation of the screen, I guess, it's a lot more entertaining!
Kate: Mhm. [Laughs] The separation of... Caliborn and state. [Laughs] And so speaking of, writer of Homestuck, you found one of those Toblerones, didn't you?
IMAC: Oh, yeah. Yep. I got a Toblerone. Why did I do it? I don't know, but I did it.
Kate: So we got a question on Twitter that I forgot to put in the outline, but Becca, from the panel, asked on Twitter: "Did you eat the Toblerone? What have you done with the Toblerone?"
IMAC: It's just sitting in my room.
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: I have not—I will never eat it. That's definitely not... I don't think I could do that. But It's just there. I don't know if I should say this—
Kate: Say it.
IMAC: —but I also took the box. I took the box. [Laughs] And I think people are probably gonna be upset about that, but it was really late, and I figured they were gonna throw it away.
Kate: Uh huh. Was it just an empty box?
IMAC: It was just an empty box.
Kate: Well I don't think—Who would be mad at that?
IMAC: I dunno, well, some people are like—'cuz I know some people went to visit the site and nothing was there. And I was thinking, should I have left something? I don't know.
Kate: Well, people actually—Andrew actually went back to the site a few days later and people had left wonderful little notes, which is absolutely fantastic, and I hope that this becomes a pilgrimage site for people to go, just—first off, I think it's great, because a lot of people derisively say "go outside" to Homestuck fans a lot, and Andrew is the only one who's actually out there making them. [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah! Yeah.
Kate: Making them go outside. But, y'know, geocaching is this thing with this really long, old internet heritage, that I've always been a fan of. And it's fun to watch these little bits of real-life sudden events happen. And I think it also helps people discover stuff in their community.
IMAC: Definitely. It's hard to explain to other people that you bring along with you, what exactly you're doing—
Kate: You brought people to get a Toblerone with you?
IMAC: There was one other person.
Kate: Did this person know about Homestuck at all, or...
IMAC: Well, there were two people. One person knew; the other person had no idea and was very confused at the whole thing. [Kate laughs] 'Cuz we got a bit lost, and he was just starting to not believe that it was real at all, so...
Kate: I mean, look, I think that's a perfectly healthy amount of skepticism to have. [Laughs]
IMAC: Trying to explain to someone, like, "oh, we're looking for the Toblerone that a webcomic author left behind in some crevice somewhere" was a very hard thing to sell to someone.
Kate: [Laughs] He's just... fuckin' leaving shit. Maybe... I think, I'm gonna be over on the—I know that a lot of this weird shit that we have been doing has been all on the west coast, so maybe I will go do some other weird shit on the east coast, 'cuz I'm going over to the east half of the country a couple times this year. Maybe Aysha and I will do some weird Homestuck drops somewhere on the Eastern time zone, for you guys suffering over there. [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah, we all need equal suffering, I think.
Kate: The thing is that webcomics, popular webcomics were for so long this very east coast phenomenon, that I think personally that best coast getting a little bit of time in the spotlight with this shit is just fair play.
IMAC: Yeah, I mean, it was convenient for me, 'cuz I was able to get one, but I know a lot of people weren't, and... yeah.
Kate: I mean, again, it's a candy bar. [Laughs] It's just an ephemeral little experience.
IMAC: It's a candy bar—[crosstalk]—Yeah.
Kate: And if it was easy for you to get anywhere, it wouldn't be interesting.
IMAC: Yeah. I even bought a couple Toblerones, just in case there wasn't any.
Kate: Had you ever eaten a Toblerone before that?
IMAC: I have, I have.
Kate: They're good right? I think they're fantastic.
IMAC: Yeah! Y'know, they're not my favorite, but they're—
Kate: Ooooh, I see, I see.
IMAC: Controversial take, but...
Kate: Yeah. [Laughs] We're definitely extremely in the weeds, here. But—and again, I'm not gonna say it like you say it—Foymic asks on Discord, "if Dirkuu is the sleeper m/m ship, what is the sleeper f/f ship?"
IMAC: Well, I've seen some recent popularity with the ship Jane/Meenah? Which people have been comparing to Dirkuu, as evil women, I guess.
Kate: Yeah, I love evil women.
IMAC: So I can get on board with that.
Kate: Yeah, I've been very much enjoying the significant amount of that stuff coming out. [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah, definitely. I think the main f/f ships I ship are the ones that are already kinda canon? So in a way, I feel a bit spoiled with that, but also, it sort of doesn't go enough into that content sometimes? So I don't know if I'd call them—'Cuz a lot of f/f ships are kinda sleeper ships just 'cuz not a lot of people make content for them.
Kate: Or they're just sitting in the background of a fic about boys or whatever.
IMAC: Exactly, so many Rosemary fics are not focused on Rosemary, like, I think most of the fics in that tag are like, it's a side ship and they're just kind of there. So that can be frustrating.
Kate: Yeah. It is extraordinarily frustrating. And for you to sit there and sit there and be like, well there's more fics for Cronus/Kankri than there are Vrisrezi.
IMAC: Ugh, that's—
Kate: And it's like, ok well only one of them is the core romantic arc of Homestuck and it sure as fuck isn't Cronus/Kankri. [Laughs]
IMAC: Y'know, I'm part of the problem, because obviously I'm not writing about that at the moment. But I totally get that frustration. I don't think f/f ships get enough attention.
Kate: Yeah. People often misinterpret this frustration as being like, I don't want people to write less things about gay men. I think that's great, that people write a lot of it. It's just like, I want people to write more things about wlws. At no point in the world do I ever want less Homestuck.
IMAC: Yeah, exactly.
Kate: Like, one of the things about peak fandom and now what we're getting back to with this renaissance, is the idea of "Homestuck should be a fucking deluge." And if the original—no one person can make that deluge of content sustainably and healthily, right? But an army of people sure as fuck can, and together, we can make something that is faster and crazier and even more difficult to understand and keep up with than Homestuck.
IMAC: Absolutely. And that was my draw into the fandom to begin with, is that it had these like "sub-fandoms," just 'cuz there was so much content, people would sort of divide themselves into being solely dedicated to a certain character or a certain ship. And it was like that for almost the whole of the cast, which was really cool to see.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And I love to—part of what I have so much fun doing on this show is, I know that I have these particular zeroed-in interests that I have, but I love just poking around in all the different corners of this fandom and the fan experience of Homestuck, and finding out, "hey, what are you guys talking about over there?" Just crashing the party, like, "what's happening over here?" And thinking about characters in new ways that I never thought about before.
IMAC: Definitely. And I think, in my research for House of Dirk, I've had to step into different corners that I never thought about ever, and I'd have to get the interpretation of "what makes this character compelling? Why do people like them? What's the common interpretation?" Stuff like that.
Kate: Y'know, there's something that I wanted to ask about, which is Jake. [Laughs]
IMAC: [Sighs] Jake.
Kate: [Laughs] I know, right? I can't believe it. I just brought up Jake on this show. If you're keeping score at home, that's a thousand points for the boys. [Laughs] But Jake has a background role in this fic, and it's like—Caliborn, Dirk, and Jake are this inseparable thing at the start of the comic, right? This dynamic between the three of them is very fascinating...
Kate: ...in many ways. Like, Jake is sort of the angel on Dirk's shoulder and Caliborn is the devil on Dirk's shoulder. [Laughs]
Kate: And so what are your thoughts on Jake, and specifically Jake's relationship with Dirk?
IMAC: I definitely have my own interpretation of it, that I think is very colored by my own experiences.
Kate: Uh huh.
IMAC: I can't say I— I used to ship DirkJake when it was first starting in the comic, but it was something I definitely fell out of, and I've had to really try to dive into the DirkJake community and talk to people and ask them, what is it about this ship that makes it appealing? What's the dynamic going on here, what's the appeal? 'Cuz I want to write it sympathetically, and I want to try and understand it, but for some reason Jake just kind of... There's like a blockage whenever I try to think about him, that I just can't quite get in his head as easily as other characters.
Kate: I think that's part of it. I mean, Jake is deliberately obfuscating.
Kate: Jake really tries his hardest to have this front persona, this mask persona that's very simple, but really distracts you from whatever he's actually thinking. Whether that's with constant shirking of responsibility or ridiculous outdated language or his ass. Basically everything about him is designed to make you not think about what's going on inside his head, or even think that there's nothing going on inside his head.
IMAC: Yeah. He's probably one of the characters that one of my opinion has changed the most, talking to people that think about him a lot more than I do. 'Cuz I've been trying to get in that Jake space. And there's gonna be more Jake coming up in the fic, so we'll see how I do when it comes to that.
Kate: [Laughs] I've written everybody at this point, just fucking around just trying to practice everybody's voices, and Jake is so fucking interesting, because you do—you have to be thinking on two layers. but the first—
Kate: But the first layer, where the ink actually touches the page, has to be a really profoundly stupid— deliberately stupid layer. And it's very hard.
IMAC: Yeah. One of the harder scenes that I enjoyed writing was the nightclub scene in House of Dirk, with Jake and Dirk on Dirk's bachelor night or whatever, and there are like twenty layers to that conversation that I had to be thinking on for both of them, dancing around an issue that... it's very challenging to try to get that across, to have a conversation that on paper kind of looks like nothing, but has these like fifty layers of issues going on underneath.
Kate: Yeah. This has become the thing that—the sentence that runs through my head every time I think about Jake is "Jake contains multitudes, unfortunately." He—
IMAC: It's the tru—[cut out]—I've ever heard, yeah.
Kate: It is! [Laugh] It is. No, like, the problem is: if he was just a dumbass, right, or if he was just a woobie, right, then it would be very easy to understand him and then move on. But instead he gave me mental food poisoning! [Laughs]
IMAC: Yeah, I think Jake's the sort of character where once you start getting him, he becomes like a new brainworm, where you're just like "Oh. Ohhhh, this guy."
Kate: It's a terrible curse. It's a terrible curse. Jake is a curse. So the last question that I had here was, Carmi asked on Twitter—and I didn't understand this, but I'll bet you do—so Carmi asked, "opinion on ***'s ****?"
IMAC: [Laughs] I'm like, legally required to mention this. I don't know if I can even say it on air, but the stars stand for "Bro's tits."
Kate: [Laughs hysterically]
IMAC: Yeah, so, when the Dave route came out, I was complaining that I would have to talk about that. So here I am, talking about Bro's tits. They did not feature, but we did see MSPA Reader thinking about them pretty hard.
IMAC: I feel represented. I feel like I have closure for that.
Kate: Uh huh. MSPA Reader is all of us, and I guess now all of us listening to this show are thinking about Bro's tits.
IMAC: Yeah... I'm haunted by it. So thanks for that.
Kate: And that's our show!! On October 26th, 2019, the Perfectly Generic Podcast is going to be live from Chapel Hill, North Carolina—The Pit in Chapel Hill. This is like an actual show. I talked to an audio engineer for this show. We're going to be on a stage with microphones. I cannot believe it. It's fundamentally against the spirit of the show for us to be so prepared and professional. But it's going to be true. It's going to be me, Cro, and Aysha U. Farah. Aysha and I are going to tell the story of how an afternoon at Five Guys changed the future of Homestuck. So I'm really looking forward to sharing that. It's going to be an absolute blast, I can't wait to see everybody. Tickets for that show—there are tickets required, because it's an actual venue, but it is an all-ages show. Anyone of any age can come. But you can buy tickets ahead of time or at the door. If you want to buy them ahead of time, you can buy them at pgenpod.com/live and be sure to RSVP there too, which is useful to me because I'm trying to bring some goodies for people, so it's nice to know how many goodies to bring. And I'm excited for this show! We also have a show in December, in Staten Island, that you can also find on that page. I cannot wait for both. There's gonna be a lot to talk about, because Homestuck just does not keep happening—does not keep from stop happening, in... Hm. In 2019.
Kate, cont.: This show is listener-supported, and all of the proceeds are divided equitably between the people who appear on this show. I actually don't know if I told you that, but you do get paid for appearing on this show, so. [Laughs] The incredible support that we have enables us to support the folks who make the music for this show, the guests and panelists who appear on this show, and now with the level of support that we've reached, we're able to compensate people who transcribe this show, which makes it more accessible for everyone. I can't tell you how much all of that support means to me and everyone who comes on this show. And every month, when I get to give people money for coming and sharing their insights on Homestuck, it's the best feeling in the world. And I want to thank, at the end of our show, our Skylark tier patrons, [names], for their support per episode. You can find this show: iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Overcast, wherever you get your podcasts. Twitter.com/pgenpod. You can find me: twitter.com/gamblignant8. Where can folks find you?
IMAC: I'm @imarriedacherub on twitter and ao3.
Kate: Nice. And be sure to read, if you haven't read it already, please read House of Dirk, it is extremely funny, it is one of my favorite—actually, you know what, it's my favorite ongoing fic right now. And I am so excited to see where it goes next, and I can't wait for the future of things. And that's our show. Thank you for joining us, and thank you for coming, IMAC. I really appreciate having you on.
IMAC: Thanks so much for having me!
Kate: Next week... fuck, what are we doing next week? Oh, I think we're doing an episode on cosplay. We'll see! I will confirm the guest for that and we will see. But I've never done cosplay before, but I'm looking forward to talking about it with someone much more experienced than me. See you next week, everybody! Bye.
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