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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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Just A Blog Before I Go

Looking back at the blog's eight year run, and recent past.

See ya later suckers, I'm outta here!

Wait hold on, maybe I should clarify. I the Sam Keeper writing this article, am not shutting down Storming the Ivory Tower, I the Sam Keeper persona who years ago stole your favorite seat in a fictional pub, moved that pub to the icy red spot of Jupiter, died, ascended to God Tier, acquired a bunch of alternate selves, died again, came back as a ghost, hung around with such luminaries as Lord Humongous The Ayatolla Of Rock And Rolla, and generally acted as a framing device for a bunch of articles over the course of this blog, am going away, and so is the Pub framing device, at least for the foreseeable future.

Because I mean... reread that paragraph, that's a real mess. Why does a blog that now mostly posts about like semiotics and gay stuff have an EIGHT YEAR CONTINUITY?

It seems a bit excessive. Honestly I haven't had a clue how to explain to new readers the weird inside joke that started eight years ago last week and has gotten progressively more abstract and burdened by Homestuck references since. Leaving aside the fact that I, myself, barely relate to the person I was when I started this at, gulp, 21 years old, writing a new article in this character seems to present a big barrier to entry to new readers.

So, I, the spooky ghost of the ascended God Tier version of Sam Keeper, am departing for a whole different universe and plotline which may or may not ever see the light of day.

Before I go, though, let's talk about the last few articles published on this site.

After a long hiatus while Shit Went Down In My Life, I burst back onto the vibrant and definitely alive blogging scene of 2019 with what turned into a block of seven articles. Previously I'd written kind of whatever struck my fancy at the moment, and at first glance this set of articles seems similar. I covered everything from the ubiquitous Homestuck to Neon Genesis Evangelion to the Muppets. Underlying that, though, lurked a number of recurring ideas, some of which I've been examining for many years.

If you missed any of these articles, or just want to take another look at how it all fits together before I launch my next long term project, now's a good time to review.

Evil Be Thou My Good

I started strong with an article on Homestuck's own Dirk Strider, and how he's Satan. I mean, specifically Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost. This piece is a bit of an outlier among the articles, in that it's written mainly to an audience familiar with Homestuck and the Homestuck Epilogues, but it introduces the kind of mythological juxtapositions that appear in a few later articles. If you're interested in the trope of the Villain Song, this examines such songs at length. It also introduces a minor theme of this block: me being back on my Gnostic Christianity shit, comparing modern works to those apocryphal scriptures.

Complicated and Messy

Some of my thinking with this batch of articles was that surely anyone into Homestuck would also be into Kingdom Hearts and other such weird anime bullshit. The article explores the Kingdom Hearts series and their convoluted lore as an expression of teenage queerness, and the way my own queerness was parsed through a kind of wild recombinative play with the characters I had to hand. Which is really what Kingdom Hearts feels like: a game of pretend using every action figure Disney has.

I originally wasn't going to ever publish this article, because the queer discourse online kind of sucks a lot right now, and this went to some raw places in terms of my confused adolescence. I'm glad I did publish it though, even if the Kingdom Hearts subreddit REALLY hated it. I think it's a pretty accessible entry point for why this series is so captivating to people, and to how we construct our identities as teenagers, or how I did anyway. It also introduces the idea of who gets to produce these kinds of stories which can exist either in fanfiction, or in the hands of a huge media monopoly like Disney. Oh also there's some more Gnostic references here.

Dubious Forms

This Homestuck article analyzes the recently published Homestuck Epilogues as fanfiction, which is how they're presented. This posits that fandom might reorient itself away from Official Canons, dictated by rights holders, (back?) towards a sense of Canonicity as fan driven and possibly including fan works. It also considers how hard that task might be.

If you're interested in my upcoming guide series on writing shared world fiction, this article is worth your time even if you're not a Homestuck fan.

All Streamers Are Rose Brides

Not an article but a series of podcasts, these chats between me and optimisticDuelist of Homestuck Explained explore Kunihiko Ikuhara's classic anime Revolutionary Girl Utena from a whole bunch of angles. Among other things we talk a bunch about the show's Gnostic content, and its exploration of adolescent queerness, so if you're into that aspect of these recent articles, it's well worth listening to. We also watch several episodes so you can use the podcasts as a commentary track.

I Want To Connect (But It's Hard To Understand

Continuing the Gay Anime Bullshit theme is this pair of articles on Ikuhara's new anime Sarazanmai, a show about teenagers who turn into cute kappas to steal the secret hidden desires hidden within the anuses of giant ghosts. It's a weird show, and this two parter asks: why would a show that's all about connections thematically throw up so many barriers in front of its audience, making itself so difficult to understand?

Part of the answer is that the show teaches you to watch it, through the power of cartoons and their semiotic flexibility. But the other part is that we can work as a community to make sense of Sarazanmai's ideas and symbols, and that allows us to connect to each other and to the show more strongly.

This might be my definitive statement on why I gravitate towards so much obscure storytelling, and does a pretty great job of explaining some thorny problems in how we "read" images.

Eve Laughed At Their Decision

Another Gnostic piece, this explores Neon Genesis Evangelion's Christian iconography and what we can learn from it about the characters. In particular, I end up closely reading the character of Rei Ayanami alongside the Gnostic Eve, and find power and comfort in their paired stories of overcoming and transcending abuse and sexual assault. And all that ends up being an argument against Word of God as a prevailing standard in nerd debates, the final resource we refer to when we want to know the True Meaning of a story. This might be my definitive statement on why I care so much about Death of the Author as a critical principle. It explores why the ability to find my own meaning in stories isn't just academic to me, but deeply personal.

Just Put "Whatever" Down For Gender

Rounding things out is this frankly really funny and just plain entertaining piece on Gonzo the Great from The Muppets. Really. This might seem out of left field, but it's really working with the same ideas as all these articles, in one way or another. Written with Juniper Angel Barber, we juxtapose the queer undertones of The Muppets with a parafictional academic account of Gonzo as a famous performance artist, rubbing furry elbows with the great luminaries of post-60s performance art. In the process, we question who gets to determine Gonzo's identity. If we want to turn them into a queer artist, do we just refer to the canon, to Word of God, to see if it's permitted, or do we take the materials we've been given, use them as toys in a wildly imaginative way, take the process of writing fanfiction and juxtaposing surprising elements together as a serious game, and--

Oh, you know the answer to this already, obviously. It's right there in the process: I didn't carefully code a bunch of paragraphs to look like pages torn from an academic manuscript because I thought to myself, hm, maybe it'd be better to just let the big companies tell me how best to treat their IP!

Gonzo, we conclude, would really want us to take whatever we can and use it to entertain and inspire.

And that's what I hope these articles have done.

Next week, I (the actual Sam Keeper) will be launching To Bake An Apple Pie From Scratch, an article series on how to practically organize a shared world fiction project written by the fans, for the fans. If you want to support this and other future projects, please sign up on my Patreon, and pick up previous books and games on Itchio.

And keep an eye out for me (the fictional Sam Keeper) in other locales in the future, beyond the wreckage of this blog's defunct framing narrative. I may be a ghost, but that just lets me pop up in places you don't expect.

Till next time.


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