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Meta calls to me!

I wish I had enough time to finish writing up some Meta things tonight because agh, authorial intent! It is haunting me. Thankfully I got through Reichenbach without any meta-level issues, but I still have some lingering from ASiB, and somehow Andrew Hussie is massively stepping into it in regards to race on Tumblr tonight and this makes an excellent counterpoint to the gender and sexuality issues Moffat has been poking at in some of his writing recently. I must get some sitting-still time in the near future! I need to pose endless open-ended questions about how much we should take authorial intent into account! And whether we should hold authors responsible for failings we only detect (or, more accurately, feel we can confirm beyond usual suspicions) in context of their extra-narrative actions! Ugh! (Actually, now that I've started this maybe it'll happen in the comments and I can just participate?)

(Incidentally, for those of you who were involved in one of my previous meta rambles on race, Hussie's attempting to defend the same "readers can be held accountable for the racism they read into a story/default-to-white-bias is not the author's responsibility to dispel" points I've tried defending before (with limited success). And I'm feeling residual embarrassment for how haughty that argument sounds in retrospect. Still really fascinating, though, especially in regards to a story that's so heavily reliant on archetypes. And I really want to corner Hussie in a bar somewhere or something and talk to him about this stuff beyond the somewhat condescending tone he always takes when talking to his fandom at large. Because this is an actual issue that he's poking at here, and it's got me intrigued.)

But, since I don't really have time for anything in depth, here's something entirely irrelevant. I've done a post-mortem on my deceased lock, just so everyone can have a friendly reminder to always have a spare key.


18th Jan, 2012 03:02 (UTC)
Wanting to punch Hussie in the face is a pretty common thing. I'm not going to defend his persona toward his fans, because while it's amusing when he's approaching his own characters and explaining his creative process, it's a hugely terrible way to approach an argument like this. Unfortunately, either he doesn't know how to break character, or he's a tremendous asshat.

That said, there is a little more nuance to this than an author just saying "you're all racist for assuming they're white." There had been dust-ups between the fans, with a certain subset insisting that the characters were white. What I'm taking away from this is that his issue was the idea of forcing that interpretation on others. (He just made the argument very poorly, possibly because he's trying to argue on the same level as his fandom.) Then things escalated from there into utter nonsense and flailing and one very random invocation of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In regards to "an author interested in representing diversity..." He's not. He's basically out and said that. I'm still not sure whether it's problematic for someone to refuse to assign a race to their characters, but I'm giving him a bye because so much of the rest of the story is built on giving fans a blank slate to work off of (this started out as a choose-your-own adventure, after all).

I think my general question isn't so much going to be about the readers' assumptions, but about the attempts to retcon what Hussie admitted were inadvertent screw-ups in his attempts to create archetype characters that were a-racial. He's admitted his own default-to-white bias in this case, and has also admitted that a-racial characters weren't always his intention, though he's aiming more toward that (when, exactly, he decided this is anyone's guess. All we know is that it's sometime after page 4000, but presumably before 6371, which is what we're on now).

So, his inept arguments aside, and knowing that in the whole of canon there is one reference to "pink" as a skin tone (for some, but not all, baby versions of the characters) and one reference to "white" (in regards to one specific character), exactly how much should/can the author be held accountable for the way his bias inadvertently creeps into his work? And is it possible at all to keep individual experiences from coloring a fictional world? Is it a useful goal, or would attempts to create aracial archetype characters eventually backfire just like this, turning the characters into a mirror for the author's own privilege?

Personally, I'm pretty sure it's impossible to keep an author's assumptions and experience from showing through in their work (and at times it's painful). But in this case, we have four kids who are given very specific geographic locations, and very specific interests (most of which are ridiculous references to strange bits of pop culture), a haircut, and eye color. I honestly think Hussie is playing stupid when he says he can't think of anything that he could put in their houses that would indicate race, but he's also diverting attention from the most obvious way to indicate race (more specifically, culture) and that is through interests. And I'm not sure I believe that the interests he invents for the kids are as a-racial as he thinks, because almost all of them come out of a middle-class suburban teenage pop culture set of assumptions... and while the US is a diverse place, that particular set of ideals is very white, and while it's silly to deny that other races also fit neatly into that subset (which is what the combative fans were purportedly doing), there are usually parts of other cultures that are brought along and kept, even if they're subtle. I was going to link the intro pages for each of the kids, but the more I think about it, the more I'm realizing that what I'm looking to most of all for these cultural cues are the kids' families (which are, in general, very whitewashed. We have descendants of Betty Crocker and Mark Twain doppelgangers and... yeah. Problematic.)

And I also realize that I'm talking to you like you have a clue what I'm nattering on about. (-; Feel free to ignore this, since I'm mostly trying to sort this out, anyway.
26th Jan, 2012 01:59 (UTC)
I like how I was all, "I wanna talk about this!" and then proceeded to ignore this post completely. So it's just as well that you've basically articulated my thoughts on the matter perfectly. But as a postscript, there's some discussion on it today on fandomsecrets. Oh look, there I am all over the place in it, admittedly mostly regarding Dirk. Dirk and Roxy are rapidly becoming my favorite characters in Homestuck, no lie.
26th Jan, 2012 04:45 (UTC)
Hehe, no worries, I've managed to not provide my lingering questions to you in your other post yet, so we're probably even. (-;

Tangential to the whole Homestuck Racism 2012 Debate, what's your stance on Hussie's sudden interest in making non-inflammatory and semi-informative, considered posts about things like gender? Five bucks on Complacency of the Learned being a thinly-veiled, maybe-or-maybe-not-cringeworthy treatise on gender and race that reflects Hussie's habit of learning from/absorbing/weirdly reimagining his fandom's ideas? (I'm pretty sure about 68% of what I love about Homestuck is the way it's so self- and fandom-referential and you can just sort of watch ideas cycling around and evolving. Another 15% is Dirk Strider.)

And omg, I've been wanting to flail at you about Dirk and Roxy. I didn't think the Alpha kids would grow on me, but then Dirk and Roxy. Mostly Dirk... I adore Dirk more than should technically be allowed. (And the AR... the "I'm glasses" line just about killed me in several different ways.) I want to write about both of them basically constantly, which is my way of expressing extreme devotion to a character. (-; Roxy's a lot more problematic for me, because of the alcoholism, but she's also so interesting, and there are all the wonderful insightful typos, so I've decided to just pretend she's a really terrible typist and drinks out of a martini glass for ironic purposes just to mess with us (she is into breaking fourth walls, after all).

Edited at 2012-01-26 04:47 (UTC)
27th Jan, 2012 02:10 (UTC)
I have always thought that Andrew Hussie "got it" more than the average dude who has just about every kind of privilege there is (as far as I can tell), which is the main reason I was so disappointed by the racewank. But maybe it's my own privilege that makes me think that, and I would see things differently if I were nonwhite or disabled. As it is, my only real SJ-related complaint with Homestuck is the frequency with which characters throw around "retarded," like do we really still have to tell people not to say that? With regard to other things, especially sex- and gender-related stuff, however, I think it might be the best canon I've ever seen. It's straight-up escapism for me; after reading about all the stupid crap that goes on in this world, sometimes I just want to read about another world where all of the earth's problems have been rendered irrelevant due to apocalypse, and power, wealth, and (sometimes) immortality are freely available to all.

All this is to say that I thought the post on Calmasis and pronouns was pretty great, but that I wouldn't have expected anything less. Which is a compliment. <3 I'll take your bet, though, because
I'm expecting Complacency of the Learned to be full of subliminal messages to Roxy personally to help her remember her former life. Wait, I guess the two things aren't mutually exclusive, are they? But yeah, seeing the wheels turn as the story and storytelling style evolve is just another reason to love this fandom.

I didn't think the Alpha kids would grow on me either. I remember looking at the forums right after Jane quoted Roxy's "BFFSIES 4EVERZ" and boggling at the garments being rent over the horror that was
supposedly about to be unleashed, and although the reaction was totally over the top, I admit that that quote made me a little apprehensive at first as well. But then I remembered that Andrew Hussie can make me love ANYONE. It is his superpower. So I relaxed, and to a good end, because here we are.

Honestly, I don't think I would be able to handle being friends with someone like Roxy in real life. Extensive experience with the alcoholism that runs in my family has kind of sapped my sense of humor
when it comes to drunk people. Also, she's only fifteen and it just kills me to think about what the alcohol must be doing to her big, juicy brain. But she manages to be so awesome and funny anyway that
somehow it doesn't matter, as long as she's just words and pictures on my screen. Maybe I'll try pretending she's drinking water out of the martini glass too. At any rate, I want to see her sober sometime, and find out whether she's just as silly and candid and, yeah, terrible at typing then.

Dirk is the perfect character. He's like Dave, but neither insufferable nor a prick. Also, there are basically two of him. Two Dirks! It is almost too much. They had better have a chatlog together sometime; I about died as it was when they were arguing in front of Roxy. Did you notice, though, that Roxy and the AR seemed to have much better chemistry than Roxy and Dirk? I wonder if it was just because Dirk has about a million different things on his plate at the moment and he was annoyed that Roxy just wanted to goof around, or if there really is a difference in personality between him and the AR.

Also, I wanted to alert you to some changes in the Sleepwalk flash that I noticed when I rewatched it last night! First, I'm positive that Dirk's eyes were originally red, but now they're a much more logical orange. Second, and more interestingly, Dreampeta and Godkat* (?!?!?!, by the way) have their eyes whited out. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN! How cool would it be if that was an alternate timeline
Karkat who god tiered before dying permanently? I hope that's the case, at least. I will be incredibly sad if it turns out to be alpha Karkat. I still don't understand why Nepeta was in her Derse nightgown, though. Do...do dead dreamselves get their own dream bubbles? How the heck does that work? Well, I guess it would explain the "friends" that dream Jade mentioned when she was telling Jade why she was upset about coming back to life.


**Jade/Karkat: dogkat?
5th Feb, 2012 04:48 (UTC)
Almost entirely unrelated to everything ever, but my brain locked on to this idea at work tonight and wouldn't let go: So... this sort of started when Dirk's unbeatable rap robot Sawtooth was mentioned, and for some reason my mind immediately went to Sawbuck even though I know it's just another wave pattern but I'm pretty sure I can tease out some foreshadowing of the Felt there anyway. And so from that I'm thinking... what if everything goes all dark/horror on us again and it turns out Dirk abuses his powers of Heart in regards to his feelings toward Jake and things go awry resulting in the creation of Lord English by Dirk in the twisted image of Jake (also, there's the whole "I will turn him into a RUTHLESS KILLING MACHINE" thing). I'm not sure how to make this into an actual working theory, but the idea of Dirk making an evil turn seems like it might be a given at this point. As much as I love him, he's so expressionless (which I really noticed in the Squarewave flash. Also awww, Squarewave), and kind of casual about murder*... and that sort of seeming-180 would cause much shirt-rending and wailing among the fans (myself included). Alternately, I think it may also be interesting for Dirk's dream self and actual self to sort of grow in different directions (kind of like Dirk and the AR have)... how weird would it be to have an evil twin you were always conscious of but no longer completely in control of? (But that's more out there than the Dirk Creates Lord English theory... somehow, in my mind. Now that I write it down I'm not sure anything is more out there than a Dirk Creates Lord English theory.)

*I had a third point here, too, but I don't remember it at the moment. I will revisit this.
7th Feb, 2012 02:59 (UTC)

This would all make me very sad!

To be fair, the murder Dirk was casual about was committed in self-defense. It wouldn't surprise me if he were just very pragmatic about that kind of thing, particularly if he sees Incipisphere beings as automatons rather than sentient creatures (as he might, given how much he knows about the game already) - but then the question is how his relationship with his AR and his robots has affected his perception of human vs. artificial intelligence.

Anyway, I thought of Sawbuck too when he introduced Sawtooth. Maybe it is foreshadowing - foreshadowing for Dirk's creation of all the Felt? That would be something. To be clear, are you suggesting that Lord English is Jake, transformed somehow by Dirk, or that he is a separate entity created by Dirk with characteristics inspired by Jake? If it has to be either, I sure hope it's the latter. And on that note, I have kind of been thinking...what is the prognosis supposed to be on Lord English, exactly? Are the heroes going to try to kill him or whatever? Because I get why they want to defeat Jack, and why they might want to defeat the Condesce/Betty Crocker/etc., but when it comes to Lord English? Honestly, I'm...kind of wondering what the point would be.

I definitely have been wondering how Dirk's Prince of Heart title is going to play into whatever big plans he's got lined up for Jake. Now that we know what Rogues do, and what Nepeta does naturally, Heart powers seem to have been at least partially elucidated. Not that we have any idea what a Prince does, besides possibly have terrible ideas and kill everyone he meets until someone chainsaws him in half. I kind of hope that isn't what a Prince does.

God, that rap flash. I seriously considered commenting on this post just to flail about it. When I caught my breath after watching it, I clapped like a seal and exclaimed "BEST FLASH BEST FLASH BEST FLASH" over and over; it was pretty embarrassing and I'm glad nobody was around to see.
9th Feb, 2012 05:43 (UTC)
I am always full of terrible, depressing theories. It's why I should never be trusted with fictional characters of my own. (-;

I've been thinking about Dirk's casual murder, and I'm not entirely sure I'm not just pasting Hussie's narration onto Dirk's thought processes (it's a mistake I make far too often). There is something that seems off, but that may be the part of me that's wary of engaging emotionally with coolkids. (-; At the moment, I'm imagining he's going through much the same sort of debate in his head as we're having, in regards to how he views the Dersites and his different AIs. A lot is probably going to hinge on what he decides. (Also, I love all the attempts at multi-tasking and the actual exploration of Dirk's existential duality(ies?), because I kind of wished we got more of how that worked from Sollux.)

I think my theory right now is that Jake himself doesn't have much to do with Lord English, but is in some way what Lord English will be based on by whoever does create him (for which Dirk seems to be the obvious choice).

I'm not sure, either, about what the point of defeating Lord English will be, which is why I think this bit will be about how he's created, and eventually we'll get around to how he's destroyed after we figure out exactly what he is and why he's actually a worthwhile enemy other than the menacing-sounding habit of "eating" universes--which is kind of irrelevant at this point since we've already destroyed at least two (which I'm not counting as him eating them, even though purportedly these things were all brought into place for his benefit). I dunno... I think on this one I'm going to check the "Not Enough Information" box.

If Princes all inevitably kill everyone and then get sawed in half I... am not sure what I will do, but it will involve some heretofore combination of laughter and crying that will probably not be seen again. I think our best hint is that we know the thief/rogue divide, and I'm assuming the prince/heir divide should go along the same sort of route, with heir being the passive version, but I also cannot figure out what the heck an heir actually does, either. Other than inherit things. So I dunno, maybe that is how it works. I mean, Dirk does get everyone's hearts. (The Alpha Sburb session will be nothing but sloppy, awkward makeouts that somehow thwart the Condesce's attempts at murder?) Also, I feel like there's something to be picked at in that Nepeta seems to inherently understand romance, while Dirk seems to be pretty cagey about it and while he's out to everyone else is kind of walled off in terms of discussing it. I hadn't thought of it in these terms before, but I wonder if the titles have more to do with how the players interact with the information and inner-workings of the game and their fellow players? It would make sense that thieves and rogues find and take, while princes and heirs wait for it to come to them. Which puts Dirk's machinations toward Jake sort of outside his scope, unless he goes for the "Let Jake save me" gambit...

(Okay, I am pretty clearly rambling here now. So I'm going to stop. But before I go, I just wanted to note that I couldn't help but think, when Jane mentioned the "computer shaped like a man" in the study, that maybe Dirk had built some kind of awkward robot-man-computer and stuck it in Jane's house for ironic-yet-useful purposes... until I realized it was probably the Crosbytop.)
10th Feb, 2012 00:51 (UTC)
Kind-of update spoiler

10th Feb, 2012 02:41 (UTC)
Re: Kind-of update spoiler
Okay, that update was really kind of weird, in that it covered... exactly what we were talking about. (THIS IS WHY I CAN NEVER WRITE FIC FOR HOMESTUCK, GREAT MERCIFUL CRAP HUSSIE STOP TREADING ON MY META.) Also, I kind of want to write fic about the kids as a troll would write it. That would be all kinds of awesome (if I could pull it off).

Also UU-fanart is adorable.

Also also: Dirk Strider, Destroyer of Souls.
10th Feb, 2012 03:11 (UTC)
Re: Kind-of update spoiler
I KNOW, RIGHT. Okay, Hussie, admit it; you've been reading evilhippo's journal. There is no use in hiding anymore because we can see you through the window. We can tell it's you by the madness of your giggles.

Reading the update was bizarre on every level, really. First, for the reason you mentioned. Second, in that there was an unusually large amount of exposition. Third - you know how sometimes you have a brief out-of-body experience in which you feel like you're watching yourself say or do something, because it's just such an integral part of your nature that you wouldn't be able to control it if you wanted to? It was like I was watching myself react to every line of the update exactly like I knew I was supposed to.

I checked out his tumblr because I thought he might have sourced the art there, and he did! I hope we get to see more UU fanart. And eventually some UU fic, although I hardly dare hope.

Destroyer of Souls. I have so many conflicting feelings right now.
10th Feb, 2012 04:47 (UTC)
Re: Kind-of update spoiler
I'm kind of unnerved by the way the story keeps going along the same path my brain was already wandering down. I'm so used to being way off base. But I think this has more to do with my brain growing accustomed to/being absorbed into Hussie's style than anything else. (-; But yeah... I definitely felt like I knew exactly where I was being led, but could do nothing to stop it (because I didn't mind being led there). In conclusion we're all doomed.

It's kind of odd that we're getting so much exposition right now, but I'm thinking Hussie is just drawing things out until they enter on the 14th (or shortly beforehand--I'm pretty convinced that Dirk's Overtures will go down on Valentine's Day).

I'm thinking we probably will get some trollfic, but possibly not from UU? I get the sense there is an entire troll fandom for the alpha kids, and the brain-breaking meta that could come from that just seems like the sort of thing that'd be irresistible next time the story comes to a point where lots of filler needs to be put in while other things fall into place (like the Ancestor Diversion). Hey Hussie, while you're lurking over there in the window I'd like to officially offer my services as a source for trolls-writing-Alpha-kids fanfic. I'm even moderately experienced in sounding British.

It's unnerving because it fits my theories. I don't think I want it to fit my theories. Also I have these sad thoughts of Dirk accidentally destroying souls the way Equius destroys bows. But then I also have amused/evil thoughts of him becoming a cartoonishly villainous sorcerer.

Oh, right, and also what are your thoughts on what I can only assume is the intervention of Void powers in the Beta session, given that's the apparent reason for a blackout in the Alpha session? Some sort of cross-session Roxy intervention? Some sort of weird Equius intervention hitherto unexplored? Alternate-troll session intervention? Up to this point I'd written Rose's Trollian blackout as having to do with the horrorterrors and the broodfester throes, but its link to Void now seems more probable, if less easily explicable.
15th Feb, 2012 05:54 (UTC)
I think it's very likely that Rose's blackout was caused by someone's Void powers (assuming that's what it is in the Alpha), but I'm less curious about the who than about the why. There's a reason the trolls couldn't be allowed to see Rose while she was grimdark, and I want to know what it is. Especially since it was apparently so important that somebody had to use their powers transuniversally. And if it was inadvertent, the how is also relevant to my interests.

Alternatively, Rose is a red herring and it was Mom all along who was causing the blackout. Rose went grimdark soon after learning of Mom's death through the crystal ball, and then she went straight to Skaia, where the body was, and died there herself. Then the blackout apparently stayed on Skaia instead of following Rose to Derse, because Karkat couldn't see John until he left for LOHAC but knew that his attempt to revive Rose had been successful - although that doesn't explain why Kanaya couldn't see her at that point...? At any rate, the area surrounding Mom seems to remain blacked out.

I would totally not be surprised if there were an Alpha kid fandom! Remember in Past Karkat: Wake up when Nepeta asked Terezi who her favorite human was and talked about them like...uh...we talk about trolls? Same deal. In that vein, remember how during the Doc Scratch interlude, AH referred to his story as "Ancestor fanfiction"? I know some people have argued that this means we shouldn't necessarily assume that the story of the Sufferer was entirely factual. What if we were to see something in the comic that later turned out to be Alpha kid fanfic written by trolls? Like for April Fool's or something? And I totally vote that you should write it.

Okay, as little as I want Dirk to be evil, I am completely charmed by the idea of him and Equius (because they will totally meet at some point, and I don't mind telling you that I already ship the hell out of them; their feelings for each other are sure to be STRONG) causing inadvertent destruction together throughout the Furthest Ring. "Whoops, there goes another soul." "Oh no, I just popped a dream bubble." Wait a minute, maybe that's why the Horrorterrors are calling for help.

Hey, did you notice that Jane totally agrees with you about Roxy's spelling?

(P.S. Happy Valentine's Day to you! ♥♥)
18th Feb, 2012 04:14 (UTC)
Oh, you know what... I think you're probably on to something with Mom being the source of the Void power intervention. I definitely think there was something more at play as far as the Guardians being in the beta session, and the idea that their destined hero powers might also be in play... I'm actually not sure what that would mean yet, but I could definitely see it being a Thing. Given the importance of death for god tier ascension, I wouldn't be surprised if it's necessary for alpha/beta versions of the same player to be dead in order for the powers to be in play at all (preventing cross-universe overlap). I think it would (in a way) explain the void-out, provided timey-wimey-spacey-wacey shenanigans would line Roxy's first use of her powers up with her beta-self's death. It might also neatly explain why all the Beta kids' would-be-Guardian selves are dead/mysteriously missing and presumed dead by the time the alpha kids are ready to enter the game.

(I think it was mentioned that the Trolls couldn't ever see the kids' dream selves, so it's probably not weird that Kanaya lost track of Rose after she became her dream self. I'd actually forgotten that the blackout was localized. Man, so many things I overlook...)

I had forgotten about Nepeta asking about favorite humans... though I'll admit that I never really thought of that as fannish, since the portrayal of the Trolls' relationship to the beta kids was always skewed toward creator/creation (at least at first). I felt like it was more like the way we watch and assign personalities to fish in a tank or something. (-; Which probably says something weird about the differences in and similarities between how creators and their creations and fans and their fandoms relate. This is a thought I intend to come back to after I've had a chance to go back and reread some things.

Dirk and Equius would be so awesome together. Actually, it'd probably be a total trainwreck because I don't imagine Dirk would be onboard with the whole obsession with social strata and roles, but they could probably break work through that.

This is doubtlessly exactly why the Horrorterrors are crying out for help.

And aaaah, that flash! (Why is every flash with Dirk so excellent?) I'm actually pretty sure now that Dirk is just calm and calculating enough that he's not going to tip over the edge into cartoonishly evil sorcerer. There's a part of me that's worried about all the badassery that he's displayed so far, though. That sort of thing always makes me feel like a big fall is in store, but so much is already wonky with their session that it's probably just necessary for them not to be creamed automatically (I mean, in theory somewhere there's an Alpha Doc Scratch grooming everyone).

I totally felt validated when Jane pointed out Roxy's five-times-wonking. It's ironic glassware and water all the way down, most certainly! (-; (I love that Roxy's writing style is basically designed for Rose to pick apart with Freudian psychology.)