The Worst Filing System Known To Humans

A Song of Ice and Fire (1) Affect (7) Alienating My Audience (25) Animation (14) Anime (3) Anonymous (3) Anything Salvaged (15) Art Crit (28) Avatar the Last Airbender (2) Black Lives Matter (1) Bonus Article (1) Children's Media (1) Close Reading (87) comics (24) Cyborg Feminism (2) Deconstruction (9) Devin Townsend (2) Evo Psych (1) Fanfiction (16) Feminism (21) Fiction Experiments (13) Food (1) Fragments (14) Games (17) Geek Culture (20) Getting Kicked Off Of TV Tropes For This One (7) Gnostic (2) Guest Posts (8) Guest: Ian McDevitt (2) Guest: Jon Grasseschi (3) Guest: Leslie the Sleepless Film Producer (1) Guest: Sara the Hot Librarian (3) Guest: Timebaum (1) Guest: Yanmato (3) Harry Potter (8) Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (3) Has DC Done Something Stupid Today (3) Homestuck (11) How Very Queer (27) hyperallthethings (2) hyperanimation (1) Hypercomics (7) I Didn't Ask For Your Life Story Sheesh (19) Illustrated (28) In The Shadow Of No Towers (2) It Just Keeps Tumblring Down Tumblring Down Tumblring Down (10) It's D&D (2) Judeo-Christian (13) Lady Gaga (5) Let's Read Theory (2) Lit Crit (18) Living In The Future Problems (5) Lord of the Rings (5) Mad Max (1) Madoka Magica (1) Magic The Gathering (3) Manos (3) Marvel Cinematic Universe (11) Marx My Words (8) Medium Specificity (5) Metal (2) Movies (21) Music (22) Music Videos (20) Object Oriented Ontology (1) Occupy Wall Street (3) Pacific Rim (2) Paper Roundup Clambake Panic Attack (5) Paradise Lost (4) Parafiction (1) Patreon Announcements (8) Poetry (11) Politics and Taxes and People Grinding Axes (11) PONIES (9) Raising My Pageranks Through Porn (4) Reload The Canons! (2) Remixes (7) Review Compilations (5) Science Fiction Double Feature (11) Self-Referential Bullshit (18) Sociology (11) Spooky Stuff (27) Steven Universe (1) Surrealism (8) The Net Is Vast (16) Transhumanism (4) Twilight (4) Using This Thing To Explain That Thing (99) Watchmen (4)

Reload the Canons!

This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.

Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Horizon of Jostling Curiosities: Homestuck and Form RELEASE

Homestuck made headlines in 2012 when it earned 2.5 million dollars to fund the creation of an adventure game based on the series, but few commentators were equipped to discuss the most remarkable part of Homestuck's success:

Homestuck was arguably the first truly successful hypercomic, a comic that can only exist on the web.

A Horizon of Jostling Curiosities analyzes Homestuck in the context of the new hypercomics boom that it inspired. Containing newly revised and updated versions of five articles from Storming the Ivory Tower on Homestuck's formal techniques, the book places them alongside brand new and exclusive reviews of works like Awful Hospital, Ava's Demon, and Neokosmos, digging into the techniques and technologies that make these comics possible. 

Laying out the history of hypercomics for the first time, this book is an essential read for anyone looking to better understand why Homestuck is successful, and the possibilities that its formal techniques offer.

You can instantly access the fully illustrated ebook of A Horizon of Jostling Curiosities, as well as my previous three books, through a $5 subscription on Patreon, or access the text draft for just $1. Additionally, becoming a backer gets you loads of other perks:

$1 Backers: Prequel Adventure Review

Is Prequel Adventure a story about making a cat cry, or is it more a story about coming together to dry her tears?

$1 Backers: Ruby Quest Review

Ruby Quest is uneven as hell, but might it offer a glimpse into an emerging rhetorical mode for fiction?

$1 Backers: Neokosmos Review

Could Neokosmos represent hypercomics becoming the most attractive medium for professional visual storytellers?

$1 Backers: Ava's Demon Review

Does Ava's Demon represent the future of how hypercomics are produced?

$1 Backers: Alastere Review

Does a JRPG actually need an active player at all to tell its story?

$1 Backers: Awful Hospital Review

Does Awful Hospital's blending of form and theme surpass even that of Homestuck?

$3 Backers: Sleuth And His Problems

In this StIT Podcast, I ramble in dazed fashion about Problem Sleuth and get distracted by researching the entire history of HTML development.

$2 Backers: Original Art

Download the original Krita file I used to paint the cover image!

FREE: Problem Sleuth Review

Problem Sleuth, Bard Quest, and Jailbreak may not be as renowned as Homestuck, but they helped put Andrew Hussie on the cultural map. But is Problem Sleuth really a comic? Or is it a game? Or a hypertext? Or is it something else entirely?

$5 Backers: A Bodyless and Timeless Persona

$5 Backers: A Horizon of Jostling Curiosities

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

[READER,PLAYER].DIE();: What Kind Of Media Is Problem Sleuth?

Problem Sleuth, Bard Quest, and Jailbreak may not be as renowned as Andrew Hussie's magnum opus Homestuck, but they helped put him on the cultural map, and they have a lot to offer anyone interested in the current boom of Hypercomics, comics that make special use of their digital platforms. But is Problem Sleuth really a comic? Or is it a game? Or a hypertext? Or is it something else entirely? 
This piece is the first of a series of hypercomic reviews appearing in A Horizon of Jostling Curiosities: Essays on Homestuck and Form, coming on November 28th to my Patreon backers. Subscribe at the $1 tier to gain access to the full text, or the $5 tier to download the text, as well as my previous three books, in illustrated ebook form.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Populism, Politics, People and Superpeople: Luke Cage and This Fucking Election

Luke Cage is a narrative drawing heavily on popular antiracist politics, so why is it so suspicious, narratively, of populism? And how did the Democratic ruling class's own contempt for populism cost them an entire election and usher in four to eight years of proto-fascist stoogery? This article's two interwoven threads explore these questions and freely allows Perfect to be the enemy of Good, because sometimes "good" doesn't translate to "good enough," and god dammit, there's a whole lot of things that just aren't good enough anymore. 
This article is basically a 4500 word primal scream and it is not designed to make anyone feel better about anything at all. Instead of reading this deeply bitter article you could play this as loud as possible. The experience is probably roughly the same.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jared Dark'ness Dementia Raven Leto: Is Suicide Squad Mall Goth?

As trailers for Suicide Squad rolled out, they brought with them jokes about the film resurrecting mall goth and scene kid culture. But we don't joke here on Storming the Ivory Tower, we just do hard hitting serious journalism. If we want to figure out whether Suicide Squad belongs in your local Hot Topic alongside trip pants and Invader Zim hoodies, we have to ask: just what is Mall Goth, and what makes it different from Goth proper?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Which Wicked: Castle Hangnail and Navigating Fantasy Narratives

Ursula Vernon's Castle Hangnail, about a 12 year old girl striving to become master of an ancient magical castle, shares a tradition of humorous and somewhat self-aware fantasy with modern authors like Terry Pratchett and early fantasy writers like Edith Nesbit. Exploring those connections can help us see the way Vernon's book explores ideas about consent, narrative convention, and the vulnerability that comes with being strange. In a world of witches and sorceresses, what does it really mean to be "Wicked," and is it really the same thing as "Bad?"

This article and all the normally Patron-exclusive features accompanying this piece free to the public were underwritten by $10 backer David Formosa. The article was written and edited in a live stream here. To learn when future live streams are happening, and to follow StIT's projects like this, sign up on Patreon and follow the site's Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tangled in Tentacles: The Hauntological and the Weird

China Mieville posits two types of horror: the Weird and the Hauntological. But the boundaries between the two are sometimes hard to make out, and it's possible to mistake one for the other. This review roundup looks at three different mergers of the Weird and the Hauntological--the Rubbery Men of Fallen London, the skulltopus that is HYDRA, and the phenomenon of Global Warming, and asks: just what is the core of the horror here?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pierre Metroid Smashes the Canon: 5 Ways AM2R Transforms Metroid II

AM2R--Another Metroid 2 Remake--made the news a few months ago when its long-anticipated release was immediately followed by a DMCA takedown demand from Nintendo. But is AM2R really just a copy of Metroid II, or is it a transformation? And what does a Jorge Luis Borges story have to do with contemporary fan games?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Too Much Horseman: The Reset Button vs Continuity in BoJack Horseman

You enter the pub, as you always do, and find that, as always, Sam Keeper is sitting in your chair. They've been sitting in your chair rambling at you for years now about everything under the sun, but mostly media studies. Criticism may be a conversation but it's hard to get a word in edge-wise!

Nevertheless, that's the status quo, and the status quo doesn't change.

Well, except for the fact that there's a bunch of other freaks here now, including the infamous Lord Humongous, and a couple of unicorns. Oh and everyone's wearing horse masks today, that's new.

Not the unicorns, they just look like that. You think they... live here now?

Still. When you get right down to it, everything around here stays pretty much the same and oh, hey, Keeper has started talking about that very subject.

BoJack Horseman, the show that we're all dressed as because it's the 10th of Halloween, is fundamentally a sitcom, and as such it's characterized by stasis. It's a show that is really about things remaining the same over time, returning to their starting points. But unlike similar shows which might hang a lampshade on their constant use of a reset button at the end of every episode, this is a show where cyclicality is welded deep into the narrative skeleton.

The premise of BoJack Horseman is that there's people, and there's also people with animal heads. Like in the video for Blow! It's sorta... post-furry.

Within that very strange context, the actual premise of BoJack Horseman is to follow the attempts of a middle-aged washed up former sitcom star, the titular BoJack, to move forward with his career and interpersonal relationships. Much of the show focuses on his search for meaning in his hollow and decadent existence, as his life and the lives of everyone around him continually are propelled back into old habits and self-destructive behaviors.

It's a comedy!

So this is a show characterized fundamentally by a consistent return to the status quo. This causes problems in the final episode of season 3, due to the problem of continuity.

Ghost Sam Coper: Hah, of course an underdeveloped version of myself would think continuity is the big problem here. I remember when I was so naive!

Sam Keeper: Wow what the heck? You're supposed to be dead!

Oh, yeah, you guess this person IS supposed to be dead. This alternate reality version of Keeper tried to take over the blog and then was murdered by the original, much less well adjusted Sam Keeper. You really didn't expect that continuity to be relevant again.

Sam Keeper: I really didn't expect this continuity to be relevant again! Who could possibly have predicted that there might be consequences to my long series of disastrous decisions!

Ghost Sam Coper: See because unlike me, a person who constantly rises above my past faults, you're constantly bogged down by your unacknowledged mistakes! Just like the characters in BoJack Horseman, actually. See this is REALLY a show characterized most strongly by continuity, and it's primarily continuity that allows the final episode of season 3 to succeed! If anything, it's an over-reliance on the reset button that bogs it down.

Sam Keeper: Well that's just ridiculous.

Oh great. They're clearly going to hash this all out, with you as a captive audience.

Ghost Sam Coper: Clearly we need to hash this all out, since we've got a captive audience!

Sam Keeper: Absolutely. Let's start by digging into the main arc of Season 3.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Metroid And Its Human: What Does 'Another Metroid 2 Remake' Tell Us About Environment?

The Chozo Temple Complex is beautiful, golden, expansive. It is a space of lurid yellows, soft oranges, and shadows shading almost into violet, and while much of one's time spent navigating the space and avoiding the various still-active ancient defense systems, it's hard for me not to stop and admire the scenery of this ancient and crumbling structure. Walking across the top of the structure in particular is delightful (if you avoid the native life trying to kill you) as you can see layer upon layer of cavern opening out into mountains and an acid sunset beyond. There's a real sense of depth and space.

I'm not talking about Metroid 2: The Return of Samus. I CAN'T be talking about that game for one major reason: I haven't played Metroid 2, not even once. I didn't grow up in a family where expensive game consoles--and yes, I'd count a gameboy as "expensive"--weren't really a big economic priority, and even if we had the disposable income for them, I get the distinct impression that my parents would've put them in the same highly suspect category as tv shows not on PBS, and music not performed by a symphony. I missed out on most of The Games Canon.

Oh, and well, I guess the other dead giveaway is that Metroid 2 was in black and white.

And yet, I can talk about the vivid colors of the Chozo temple because while I have not played Metroid 2, I have played Another Metroid 2 Remake. AM2R hit the Internet about a month ago, causing significant buzz before basically immediately being slammed with a DMCA takedown notice from Nintendo. Thankfully, the game is still fairly easy to access.

This is a good thing, because AM2R offers up a pretty incredible experience, one that doesn't deserve to be buried under questionable intellectual monopoly laws. AM2R is doing something very special here. It's not just making accessible once more a game made for an obsolete platform. I mean, making the game itself accessible would probably be enough to justify its existence. But AM2R goes a step further, and setpieces like the Chozo Temple help us understand the new value it adds:

AM2R turns Metroid 2 into a game about our interaction with space, our use of space, and possibly, by the end, new ways of thinking about our place within an environment.

Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm Crazy But I'm Not Wrong: Stranger Things and Mental Illness

Spoilers for Stranger Things and Hannibal follow; trigger warnings for gaslighting, medical abuse, and narratively satisfying vivisection.

"I'm not crazy!"

It's a line you hear a lot in everything from urban fantasy to horror to paranoid conspiracy thrillers. The idea is to communicate that what's happening is real, and not just a delusion.

As far as throwaway utilitarian lines go, it's fine enough I suppose, but I think we can come up with a better line. Stranger Things, a Netflix original series which is so aggressively 80s that I keep expecting while watching to spontaneously be enveloped in black leather and chrome, might give us a bit of a glimpse of what a better line might be:

"I'm crazy, but I'm not wrong about this."

The basic narrative of Stranger Things follows a group of kids and adults battling against a Sinister Government Conspiracy and the Horrifying Extradimensional Monster that the government creeps have unleashed. And also there's a girl who can flip vans USING MIND BULLETS.


What's really notable in the series is that major protagonists are, in fact, crazy, in the sense that they struggle with a variety of mental illnesses and traumas predating the start of the story proper. But that doesn't make them wrong. You can be both mentally ill in this show, and a main character, and correct about government forces fucking up your life. This is important to me as someone mentally ill in an exciting variety of ways, and as someone familiar with gaslighting and people taking advantage of my own uncertainty about my perceptions. This show, in setting out a narrative where people are explicitly suffering from various conditions, and who have to fight against those trying to take advantage of them because of this, is doing something important culturally.

A real good starting point for analyzing this is one of the show's absolute best characters: Joyce "Wallfucker" Byers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Self Portrait as a Fused Gem: Steven Universe and 20th Century Art

I've been trying to find an angle on Steven Universe for a while now. It's basically tailor made for my blogging, but I've never quite been able to pull an argument together. This isn't because there's not enough to work with. Rather, there's almost too much to work with! It's an expansive show with a whole lot of complexity and nuance--more so than many of the ostensibly adult-oriented shows that I've covered here previously--and tackling any one subject directly has left me overwhelmed and frustrated.

Luckily, two recent episodes, Beta and Earthlings, gave me just the angle I needed to make headway:

They gave me the chance to talk about early 20th century art.

I swear, I'm not just sort of shoehorning this into Steven Universe as a way of tricking people into learning things. Yes, I have a background in art history from this time period, but my goal here isn't to just invent some thin pretext for babbling about Dadaism. It's actually totally the opposite: I think we can understand Steven Universe better, and in particular understand what's going on thematically in these two episodes, if we understand art in our world similar to the art created by Lapis Lazuli and Peridot!

Excuse me, the "Meep-Morp" created by Lapis Lazuli and Peridot.

And the major question the show is interested in answering is essentially: "what is the use of art within the context of war and trauma?"

What better way to answer that than looking at art produced after the First and Second World Wars?

I'm honestly considering writing an article just on this one gag image.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Vriska as Fight Club Fan: A Bodyless and Timeless Persona Teaser Excerpt and Book Announcement

The following is an excerpt from my new Homestuck collection, A Bodyless and Timeless Persona, part of the essay "Is There A Text In This Classpect?" This essay, exclusive to the collection, applies reader-response theory to Homestuck in order to answer the question: "Just what is a Homestuck character, anyway?" The answer is, predictably, pretty weird and complicated. This excerpt comes from a section about one of the weirder things Homestuck characters represent: you, the reader. You can read a previous excerpt from the beginning of the essay here.
We have the suggestion from the start of Homestuck, even if it's a suggestion that comes pre-undermined, that the characters are... us, the readers. This is the source of some real interpretive weirdness, because it's not really possible to resolve the contradictions present in the first few pages of John's introduction: in many ways we do guide the actions of the characters, but once created the text is static barring the occasional games and things. And if the comic invites us to take on a role of far deeper identification than normal, with sequences like John's trip through the timeline demanding that we do actions for the characters, like entering passwords in order to continue, it also continually reasserts the autonomy of the characters and their ability to reject everything from authorial intervention to our own desires for the narrative.

One of the weirder instances of this comes midway through Act 6, with the line "You are now Caliborn."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Something That Could Never Ever Possibly Destroy Us: Ghostbusters And Its Ghosts

Writing about the new Ghostbusters film is tricky because the kind of stuff I like doing--digging into thematics and interesting structural decisions and so on--is hard to get to when a film is so totally surrounded by a river of malevolent cultural ectoplasm. And you can't really do pure structural critique anymore anyway--that hasn't really been in vogue since the early 20th century, so acting like you can just strip something of its context is disingenuous at best.

Luckily Ghostbusters does a good enough job of anticipating and reacting to its social context that you can get at the structural stuff and the cultural stuff all at once.

It's impossible to ignore the fact that this film has faced a major backlash merely for existence. The simple audacity of it daring-to-be is outrageous to people who might best be describe as "shitheads." Now I've written plenty before about geeks being conservative culturally and politically, hostile to outsiders, and rabid in their determination to ban any new thought whatsoever in the field of ostensibly "speculative" fiction. There's no point in me really retreading it here because while things are certainly badone this is essentially just the world we live in. It's Tuesday, the nerds are raging again.

In an astonishing series of events Leslie Jones was harassed off of Twitter, in the most egregious case of nerds raging. Thankfully, this led finally to the banning from Twitter of Milo Yiannopoulos, a man who is doing his best to bring back the early 20th century "gay-for-fascists" aesthetic, and an utterly repulsive racist piece of shit in the same class as Vox Day and Mencius Moldbug.
But I still feel compelled to cover the film simply because of the way it stands in relation to its predecessor and how we can understand that from a metatextual perspective. It hasn't escaped the notice of viewers that this is a film very conscious of the fact that it's coming on the heels of a "classic" film, rebooting or remaking or retreading or rehashing the film with a gender swapped cast. That is after all what all the nerd rage is about. And the film's creators are quite aware of the context that surrounds them. Sometimes this self-awareness is abrasive... but other times it is quite compelling, compelling enough to spend some time picking apart.

Now, it's probably worth noting that I'm not necessarily making this argument in order to win over long term Ghostbusters fans, because I don't really... care so much about The Ghostbusters Legacy or whatever, and I'm not that interested in consecrating the wider franchise. Someone else can do that. And while I'm always a little skeptical of the "unpleasable fanbase" thing (often a tool of huge corporations like, yes, Sony, who can deride all criticism as simply a vocal minority of over-committed fans), when an actress is getting hatemobbed off social media I feel like we have to accept that we've gone way outside the realm of the reasonable and we're not gonna pull people back.

Instead I want to talk to people who already enjoyed the film enough that they'll be interested in some deeper analysis of what the film is trying to do... and ultimately I want to try giving an imperfect film what a shocking number of people refuse to give it:

A fair chance to receive meaningful analysis.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Bodyless and Timeless Persona: Essays on Homestuck and Theme RELEASE

A Bodyless and Timeless Persona is now available for $5 patrons of Storming the Ivory Tower!

A Bodyless and Timeless Persona: Essays on Homestuck and Theme covers four previous essays from Storming the Ivory Tower exploring everything from Gnostic themes in Homestuck to the way the comic makes use of difficulty. Additionally, the collection features an exclusive triple-length article, "Is There A Text In This Classpect?," which explores all the different possible answers to the question "just what is a character in Homestuck?"

At the end of Homestuck's seven year journey, this collection aims to be a starting point for anyone interested in delving deeper into the meaning of the comic and its complex and rewarding mythology, symbolism, and narrative experimentation.

A Bodyless and Timeless Persona is available as a full PDF collection to $5 subscribers to the Storming the Ivory Tower Patreon, but you can also access the text, including the exclusive bonus article, at lower reward tiers:

And don't forget that all backers at this tier also have access to my previous collections, Neighquiem for a Dream, and My Superpower is Manpain!
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