GioCities

blogs by Gio

Homestuck’s Ruse of Authorial Homogeneity

Somebody asked me about a comment I made online about the odd situation raised by the state of Homestuck^2 and Hiveswap’s authorship. I sent them a long message but by the time I was done I realized I had quite a few thoughts on the issue, and so this is me expanding that out a bit.

Authorial teams🔗

Probably the defining aspect of the “post-canon” Homestuck era has been the deliberate movement away from Andrew’s auteurship and to the form of these nebulous authorial teams. It’s almost impossible to overstate how key Andrew and his personal identity was to Homestuck and its interactions with fandom, and this period represented a deliberate and forced shift away from that.

Homestuck, the comic as written exclusively by Andrew Hussie, officially ended in 2016. Hiveswap Act 1, written by Cohen Edenfield, launched in 2017. Later in 2017, K.C. Green, Dril, and Andrew co-wrote a SBAHJ book. Hiveswap Friendsim launched in 2018, featuring stories written by a list of contributors, mostly people who had been involved in Hiveswap or the original art/music teams. In 2019 there were the Epilogues, written by a group in which Andrew was one of five. Pesterquest released in 2019, with much the same makeup as Hiveswap Friendsim. Hiveswap Act 2 released in 2020 without any writing credits at all.

Finally, there was Homestuck^2: written by Aysha Farah, Lalo Hunt, and Pip Dillistone. Andrew was originally listed as a director, but later removed entirely from the credits — not even moved to the surprisingly long “directors emeritus” section — indicating he never contributed any direction to the project.1

The gambit itself🔗

So, when Andrew stops working on Homestuck and hands the reigns over to another set of people (and, later, even formally leaves the company), there’s an obvious problem. In addition to the usual questions (“how is the media going to be different now”, etc), there’s this very distinct question raised about the works’ connections at all.

So if Andrew isn’t involved is it “really Homestuck”? Is it canon? Is it relevant? Those questions directly translate to both the artistic legitimacy and the finances of the HS2 authors. So it makes sense that post-canon Homestuck is sensitive about authorship, because their legitimacy is tied to their relationship with Andrew, the original guru. It’s a big deal.

As I mentioned I’m absolutely not going to touch on the answers. That’s way out of scope, and for the HS2 story, it actually matters less than you’d think. What’s crucial here is the sense of it — both fans and the new writers understood that the perceived “legitimacy” of works like Hiveswap and HS2 hinges on its connection to the perceived genius behind the original work. “Legitimacy” is extremely hard to define here, but it was felt.

So how do you handle the fact that you have other authors on the writing team for the epilogues and Hiveswap? Simple; you have to create a ruse of authorial homogeneity, so that no matter which person writes which word, they’re all treated the same (and as narratively consistent). That’s what the teams do.

If you took the Epilogues, for instance, and highlighted each line according to who conceived of the plot point and who wrote the text, you’d immediately get factions of fans who only considered Andrew’s words “canon”, or discarded parts introduced by specific people they didn’t like. It would create a holy war between fans and the “new authorship”, which is something the whole team — Hussie included — didn’t want.

The goal, of course, is to take that “legitimacy”, whatever it was, and distribute it with this extended period of collaboration. Andrew could get it to the point where anyone’s words carry the same weight as his, and then he really could slip out the back door and the engine would keep running. This is an interesting idea! Could it have worked? Maybe. But if you look at the community and the state of WP it’s clear it didn’t.


Probably the best example of this — maybe even the culmination of it — is this answer from the very short-lived homestuckteam curiouscat.

The team itself was composed… ambiguously. The most information anyone ever got about this was the non-answer to the very first question answered by the account:

November 20 giovan_h: Who all is involved with this account, specifically?‬

homestuckteam: Whoever is active on current Homestuck projects and wants to participate.

So, given that the person answering any given question could be pretty much anybody, there are some obvious limitations here. If you asked someone a very specific question about what one person in particular thought, for instance, that couldn’t be answered with any legitimacy by an account like this.

But they did it anyway.

November 21 Konstantin3001: Some time ago, Hussie answered the question (that sounded something like “do you think Homestuck is going to be your Magnum Opus”) with a statement, that Homestuck was just a warm up for his next project, kinda like Problem Sleuth was to Homestuck. Is that still true (and relevant)?

homestuckteam: yeah

No, really, that was the answer, the single word “yeah” in lowercase. Given by some anonymous person.

It shouldn’t matter who wrote this part of the story/answered this specific question” is sort of a nice idea, on paper, but once it gets to a specific case where it doesn’t work anymore you’ve gotta know better than to just keep doing it

If you’ll publicly answer questions like “what does person X think about issue Y” but refuse to confirm whether or not person X was even consulted about the answer you gave, you’ve written yourself into a corner.

Aftermath🔗

So, what’s the result of this kind of situation? Tension. Extreme tension, up to and beyond the point of collapse.

The homestuckteam curiouscat shut down after only a few months. Any public discussion about Homestuck is taken with an extreme, extreme defence reflex. The Homestuck^2 project itself, along with the patreon, shut down entirely. The authorial homogeneity experiment was actually a very interesting one, but at this point I think it’s safe to say the results were — and, with Hiveswap, continue to be — disastrous.


  1. Several credible reports note Andrew as having written the outline for the Epilogues and HS2 (including specifically designing and naming the character “Yiffy”, to some controversy). HS2 is a direct continuation of the Homestuck epilogues, which Andrew definitely contributed to and outlined. As for the specific question of whether he technically contributed to HS2, I am deferring to the official word, which is no. 

Comments