And what’s beautiful is that I don’t think he realizes it. If he did realize it, it is my intense hope that he wouldn’t give a shit about it, because this is not the sort of thing that anyone, forever, should care about. Except for me, obviously, because I have got nothing better to do than think about this stuff for a ‘living,’ if ‘living’ means ‘way to angle for a job in three years or so.’ Which I think we can all agree that it does, right? Right. Of course. But I’m getting ahead of myself and assuming that we all know who Andrew Hussie is. But we all don’t, of course.
Andrew Hussie is the guy behind MS Paint Adventures, which you should all have been reading ages ago because I am pretty sure I bring it up about once every two days at the very least on the twitters, so come on. You have no excuse. If you click on the link above, it will even take you to the beginning of Homestuck, which is the culmination of his efforts. If you want to check out the rest of his work, I fully support that decision as well, but for the sake of my own sanity I will just focus on Homestuck for this little screed.
So let’s briefly outline the conceit of Homestuck, which is in itself brilliantly aware of the culture in which it operates: You are one of four children, and you are playing a game called SBURB (the beta of the game, in fact). In fact, the first thing you do as John is attempt to retrieve your copy of the game from the mail. Things become increasingly complicated, the game is more than it seems, and the fact that the readers are exerting their own control over the events via a forum-based suggestion box (or rather, were exerting control, the suggestion box is currently closed for reasons I will chew over later) does not make things any less complex. I should note that what Hussie has done here is take his story, which is about kids playing a game, and present it to the audience in the manner of… you got it, a game. An old school interactive adventure, complete with second person narration and the odd insulting response to an incorrect command.
This is without the addition later on of other characters issuing commands to the kids who are still under the ostensible control of the readers. Wheels within wheels, as they say. But the real masterpiece of the whole thing is the animation and the soundtrack. It’s the use of these two elements that warm my heart and give me hope for electronic literature as a genre. See, electronic literature has married art with text before, but that’s not enough—that’s just making comics, or a picture book. And while yes, it is OH SO FANCY to have people click links instead of turning pages, or to make narratives that do not move in one direction, there is still so much more that electronic literature can do. For example, check out this recent page, which not only has animation and music, but also lets you explore (or not explore) the landscape. It’s a game, stuck in the middle of a story. And it’s amazing and there needs desperately to be more works of literature like this.
I mentioned I’d chew over the closing of the suggestion box, but honestly I’ve decided not to do so after all. Not just because it is a simple enough thing: if he has a direction he needs the story to take, he cannot just rely on suggestions, for starters. Also, as he has said in the past, the whole thing has been his choice from the start. Some elements are written on the fly, and some are not, and some things really do come from the forums, but probably not directly through the suggestion box. But that’s the best part of the whole enterprise—the readers felt they were in control of the story, but they never really were in the first place; Hussie is writing a story, and he can take it wherever the fuck he wants. It’s not User Generated Content, because if you put a group of people into a room and ask them to write a story you will probably get something terrible if someone doesn’t step up and ignore the chatter. There has to be a leader of sorts, and it’s that leader role that Hussie’s taken, only in a far more commanding way because it was his story to begin with. The reader commands are part of the experience and it is a shame to see them go, but honestly I didn’t even realize the suggestion box had been closed until he commented on its closure in a formspring response to a question which was, incidentally, all that needed to be said on the matter. And now I’ve clearly said all that I need to say, chewed it over just like I said I wouldn’t… the best laid plans of mice, they say…
There’s more to say about this, but I’m out of gas, this post’s been put on hold for a day already and the sun just came out so I need to take advantage of that… the point is that Homestuck is the best thing to happen to the electronic literature format since its inception, it’s professionally done, inasmuch as the writing is solid, the music is gorgeous, and the art and animations are constantly improving (really the same can be said of the writing). Compare this to some of the other dreck that the critics (all two of them) who are writing on electronic literature talk about, and you have a good case for scrapping electronic literature entirely. When I realized that Homestuck actually counted as electronic literature, it was like Jesus came down and gave me a high five.
I’m all done with everything that isn’t writing dissertations right now, so this might perk its ears back up and become a regularly updated site again… nothing else to throw at you guys, but I did manage to see Kick Ass last week and I’ve got some thoughts on the movie vs the book, which is one of those conversations that you really should never have in the first place but I feel compelled to talk about it, because reading Kick Ass before seeing the movie made me feel conflicted while watching the movie (which is a fun movie- the sort of movie Tarantino wishes he could make but never could because he is a fucking hack)… where was I going with this?
No idea. Signing off.