Every week, Lilian Min muses on reality + sci-fi/fantasy fiction narrative and fantastical world building in her column “Chasing the Unicorn.”
If you’ve ever been on Tumblr, and I mean, really been on Tumblr, then you’ll know what Homestuck is. Actually, no, the correct way of phrasing this is that you know that there is a thing called Homestuck, but you don’t really know what it is at all. Like, at. all. There’s these kids and also these kids with horns and some of them have normal names and some of them don’t and there are these zodiac sign associations and songs and memes and all these other things and basically it’s all very ???
I first found out about Homestuck through Tumblr, but it wasn’t until recently that people I knew IRL (that’s “in real life,” for those of you still not in the know) started telling me that this weird webcomic/game/Flash animation/fandom was kind of up my alley. In fact, the exact phrasing a friend of mine used to describe what Homestuck is to me was:
She [that’s me] thinks she understands how up her alley it is but she could not predict how much, because she has no idea what Homestuck consists of because nothing like Homestuck exists. She is into different ways of storytelling, and deconstructing the idea of a story // thinking of different ways to use media to tell a story and loves fandom culture and LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL need I go on. Gurl read homestuck.
Shots, fired. She kept telling me that I just needed to read ten pages (out of, mind you, 7000+ or something ridiculous total), and so one night, I took the bait and started reading.
Some 600 or some pages later, I’d finished the first act of the story’s seven. Another night later, and quite conveniently so the night before a midterm, I’d finished a second. Another night later, and I’d finished the third. It’s safe to say that I’ve become quite enamored of the story.
She was right though, and so was the friend before her who’d told me that I had to read Homestuck because it was so crazy but it just all seemed to work in ways that she’d never been able to see before. And, as someone who has no problem with calling herself a fangirl, the whole Homestuck thing had always intrigued me but the idea of entering such a strange, strange storytelling space was still a little bit weird to me, especially when coupled with the series’s decidedly non-traditional art and narrative style.
The idea of taking the webcomic format and then building a story based around and in fandom culture is a savvy move by creator Andrew Hussie, especially when you place his decidedly for-the-fans stance against the views of less accommodating authors (cough, George R.R. Martin). In fact, it’s mostly sci-fi/fantasy authors who are asked about their view on fandom culture, probably because their original universes are more fruitful settings for fan storytelling than, say, “Old Man and the Sea.”
That Hussie has created a world that not only embraces fan culture, but draws from it for inspiration and straight up material, and is deeply aware of traditional modes/tactics of storytelling and goes from actively avoiding to straight up subverting them is, in a word, awesome. Here’s a guy who knows not just where he wants his story to go, but has methodically mapped out the most innovative possible way to get there. Instead of giving the reader a boat to cross from one side of a river to the other, he’s dropped mines in the water and there are flying sharks leaping through the air and slicing through the surface and he just pushes you in and it’s like, good luck, but if you can get to the other side, you’ll have survived something so epic and brilliantly constructed that you’ll feel almost as accomplished as the architect behind that masterful machination.