Homestuck Mini(?)-Post: In Defense of Act 6 Act 1

This isn’t really a mini-post at all; it’s pretty much a full blown essay. My Homestuck posts are still on a short pause, but I have an announcement post planned for Friday!

Late in Act 4 I fell behind in the Homestuck community reread and made my own blog posts instead. But in the past few days, when the reread went through Act 6 Act 1, I decided to join in again and share my thoughts.

It’s no secret that the early Act 6 acts with the alpha kids are polarizing. Some people like those acts, some people can’t stand them. Rereading the first of those acts, my feelings are more positive than negative but I do have some issues. What follows is a rundown of my thoughts on this act; skip to the end if you want it briefly summarized.

Note in advance: I still stand by most of what I said in my Act 6 Act 1 posts from 2016 (Part 60 / Part 61 / Part 62 / Part 63). Feel free to refer back to those for more detail. 

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INTRO

Overall, Act 6 Act 1 is a remix of Act 1 done a bit more in the style of Act 5 Act 2. While Homestuck itself opened with a single introductory page, Act 6 opens with a big flash teasing our four new heroes and their new alien friend; I absolutely love that flash and it still gives me chills. After Jane and Jake are introduced we get a character select screen, where you can start with Jane or start with Jake. This time I started with Jane, then did Jake. 

SELECTION SCREEN: JANE

Jane’s half of the selection screen is a bit like John exploring his bedroom, but without any of the captchalogue nonsense and modernized in many other ways. A whole different kind of nonsense is shown in Jane’s half: she is shown to be badly brainwashed by the Condesce, who has led her to believe Betty Crocker is just a friendly company that makes super awesome technology and the hyped up game of Sburb.

Jane has three pesterlogs in her selection screen:

  • One with Jake which is mostly filler and some hints at plot stuff. Kind of boring and reads way better from Jake’s perspective.
  • One with Calliope which is also mostly filler and some hints at plot stuff. Again a little boring but it works because it’s a brand new character’s debut.
  • One with Roxy which is incredibly fun and hilarious, setting us up for a brand new character readers will surely be excited to meet and with some actually exciting plot stuff. Is it any wonder Roxy is everyone’s waifu?
General thoughts on these pesterlogs: My biggest issue with the Act 6 Act 1 pesterlogs is that they tend to start with a bunch of general nonsense, setting the rough tone of the characters’ personalities. It wasn’t really much of a problem that the Act 1 pesterlogs were short; the characters were set up in a perfectly fine and enjoyable way. And this is a case where if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

SELECTION SCREEN: JAKE

Jake’s half of the selection screen is more interesting than Jane’s (who would have guessed?). We get a much more subdued and lonely spin on Jade’s magical home life and it’s surprisingly well done. The narration also doesn’t take long to establish how the bunny mission goes from Jake’s perspective, which also works really well. I’m pretty happy the story gets that arc out of the way early on; it only makes sense to do it now rather than pretending it’s a big mystery.

Jake has four pesterlogs in his selection screen:

  • One with Calliope which gets a lot of nonsense out of the way fast and has more plot hints. Still does get kind of rambly though.
  • One with Dirk, no wait, his auto-responder. Probably the most stupidly rambly of them all, mostly tolerable because the whole pesterlog is pretty much a ruse.
  • One with Jane that we already saw from Jane’s perspective. As I said before, it reads better from Jake’s perspective because the rambly opening seems a bit less out of place and it’s a little more enticing seeing Jane vaguely describe mysteries from Jake’s perspective rather than her own perspective.
  • A second one with Dirk’s responder. This time it’s actually useful to the plot and interesting to read. It also shows some parallels between Dave’s relationship with Bro and Jake’s relationships with Dirk’s splinters.
In this short reread, I wanted to see if Act 6 Act 1 read better from Jane’s perspective first instead of Jake’s perspective. Now I know that the answer is Jake. Jake’s pages give Act 6 a strong start with some plot stuff tying back to earlier acts and ruses involving Dirk; Jane’s pages are more laid back and seem harmless after reading Jake’s. If you start with Jane, you’re more likely to think “oh my god this is so boring” in her half. 

General thoughts on the guardian traits: A lot of what we learn about the alpha kids and their ancestors is extrapolations from the beta kids’ guardians and their traits. Act 6 Act 1 is weird in that regard, both in Jane and Jake’s parts; it’s loaded up with early installment weirdness. In those pages, the author chooses guardian and beta kid traits to call back to, and some of them work while others don’t. If you want specific examples, just reread the act yourself. I don’t want this post to get even more rambly than it already is.

THE FOREBODING DREAM

The next big thing that happens is a pesterlog between Jane and Jake, where she recounts a foreboding dream where Prospitians gathered around holding a funeral for Jake’s dream self. The surprise factor in this scene, as well as the message it gives, is worth analyzing.

A player’s dream self being dead in advance isn’t normally something that just happens. You can’t do that, you just can’t. Prospit and Derse both follow strict rules which are always followed without questioning. What factor could have possibly caused these rules to be thrown out the window?

I bet many readers did not expect the Condesce to be behind these rules getting broken. Jack Noir is the one carapacian who isn’t afraid to break rules, but is always held in check by the black queen. With the queen usurped, everything breaks loose; for more discussion on this topic, check out this post.

Jane thinks the dream was supposed to warn her of something, but she wasn’t sure what. It’s our very first clue to readers that things are going to go even more off the rails than ever before.

SETTING THE STAGE ON JAKE’S ISLAND

As Jake explores his island, everything we knew about Jade’s home life is beautifully subverted. His house was destroyed, with only his room and the small area below remaining; his island is a dark forested area, filled with replications of the trolls’ lusii. I think these scenes are a highlight of this act: it puts a new twist on Jade’s magical life on an island and brings back the lusii in a magnificently unusal way. 

Jake’s following conversation with Roxy is pretty cool too; a decent mix of character stuff and plot stuff. Roxy’s use of troll terminology is a subtle hint that she lives in the future, which I kind of wish was done more often rather than coming across as early installment weirdness here.

JANE’S FINAL(?) MOMENTS

Jane and Jake both have robot pseudo-guardians that I consider to count as Dirk’s splinters. Jake has Brobot who does much more later on. Jane has Lil’ Sebastian who creates a mess in the house. Jane’s conversation with Dirk (finally, the actual Dirk!) is super fun and balances characterization with plot discussion, plus a quick look into Dave’s adult self; a very strong start for Dirk’s character.

Jane’s echo of the nonsense where John (with Rose’s help) messes up his house is quite an oddity. The antics in the early acts were just the kids playing Sburb, but the antics in this act are Jane making a fool of herself trying to leave her home. It’s a much more literal interpretation of the title “Homestuck” than before.

The end of this act is super interesting to me. It’s an echo of the end of Act 1 in a way as direct as possible: a surprise explosion that, to our knowledge, would kill our new hero. In both cases, we have no idea how the victim could possibly have survived.

The Hussiebot interlude following this act is just as hilarious as I remember it being but I’d count it more as Act 6 Intermission 1 so I won’t talk about it here.

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Strong points: Three of the four protagonists are engaging to read and follow.* The twists upon the early acts are surprising and subvert many expectations. And lots of cool mysteries are teased.

Weak points: The pesterlogs spend too much time with lengthy greetings and closings. Some of the guardian callbacks are forced and then left in the dust due to early installment weirdness. One of the four protagonists is not that engaging to read and follow.

* This also holds for the beta kids in the first two acts. Jade in the early acts is kind of a shit character.

Overall: Act 6 Act 1 isn’t as bad as people say but is certainly flawed in its presentation. I can understand people’s annoyances with it, but the positive aspects often aren’t appreciated.

Homestuck Mini-Post: A Revelation About Caliborn and Dirk Strider

Today I realized something about the best character in Homestuck that should have been obvious a long time ago.

Caliborn (the best character) always says that Dirk (also one of the best characters) is the only tolerable one of the alpha kids and his death doesn’t have to be as painful as the others. Until today, I took that literally, akin to Jack Noir’s relationship with his fellow Derse agents; that Caliborn despises Dirk, but less than the others. But now, it’s painfully obvious* that Caliborn is a major fan of Dirk and legitimately idolizes him. As much as Caliborn can’t stand the other three, he genuinely wants to be best friends with this guy.

* I keep using that phrase dammit

Caliborn was always a metaphor for people who read Homestuck and despise it, as was made clear in his debut. But deep down, Caliborn is also a metaphor for people who are fans in denial. He represents fans of something—not even necessarily Homestuck—who are embarrassed about it and very poorly hide it. Think of a guy that thinks he will be ostracized if he likes anime, and thus says that the one anime he really likes, maybe one many people consider to be trashy, “isn’t completely terrible”. That’s how Caliborn feels about Dirk.

EDIT (1/11/2019): I realized there’s something in the comic even more fitting to my analogy, especially the “trashy anime” part, than what I just mentioned. On this page, starting from Dirk’s line “Does your sister even know you’re into this sappy shipping stuff?”, Caliborn insists his interest is completely ironic; he could not more blatantly be a fan in denial.

Homestuck Mini-Post: About John Egbert and Shipping

NOTE: If you’re reading this, my Homestuck post series is back on hiatus until some time before 4/13/2019. Maybe you’re looking for post number 82, my latest post? More information on the pause can be found there.

I purposely scheduled this post a few days later than I actually wrote it, which was pretty much right after I released post 82.

Also I recently updated my post series’ introduction post again!


In the past few days, I’ve been rereading a lot of my old posts about Homestuck. One bad thing about the posts that really sticks out to me is my discussion of romantic relationships and foreshadowing thereof, which I kind of read through gritted teeth.

This is strongest when I reread my discussions of foreshadowing ships involving John Egbert, the comic’s protagonist. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote all of that; now, I can definitely say there is no conceivable way John had genuine feelings for Rose or Vriska, nor is it very likely Hussie thought super far in advance to set him up with Roxy*. While it is fun to point out early instances that can be seen as ships that you like, it was incredibly misinformed of me to think of these instances as anything other than John not knowing what he’s talking about, and I kind of hate how biased I was in that regard, while denying anything about some of the more controversial ships. It is painfully obvious he doesn’t understand how romance works until maybe some time before he meets Roxy, and that is only because the comic blatantly sets them up as a pairing.

* Probably a fair bit in advance actually. But definitely nowhere near before any conception of Roxy existed.

The main point is: I take back at least 90% of what I said about things being foreshadowing for ships. Also I fully admit to being guilty of double standards in those posts. Maybe when I make the abridged edition, or deluxe edition, or whatever I want to call it, of my blog posts, I’ll scrub them of this bias. I won’t change the original posts, but instead not have as much bias in the new posts (or webpage? this really hasn’t been thought out yet).

Homestuck Mini-Post: Why I Didn’t Discuss "It could kill a cat if you dropped it"

One of the most famous bits of foreshadowing in Homestuck is when only 32 pages into the comic, it’s stated that this one book could kill a cat if you dropped it, which happens over four thousand pages later. But I didn’t at all talk about that bit of foreshadowing, not in my first post where that bit of foreshadowing happens or any other time that cat’s death is hinted at. I only ever mentioned it one time in a tangent about retroactive foreshadowing.

Why didn’t I talk about it those other potential times in my post series? Because I didn’t really feel like pointing out stuff readers probably know already. That sentiment didn’t change at all between my first post and my recent posts, but here’s a thing about that: if my early posts were as detailed as my latest posts I probably would’ve discussed that bit but in terms of something people already know.

When talking about the blatant hints leading up to Jaspers’ onscreen death I probably could’ve mentioned the thing from early on as a sort of “bonus” hint for attentive readers. But upon the closer inspection I got from rereading I decided that hint is pretty far removed from all the other hints much closer to the event, and probably serves mostly as something meant for people to catch while rereading the comic.