you are in the spider zone

exits are NORTH and WEST


return home

The case for Homestuck going public domain

Homestuck has always been heavily influenced by fan works - whether it’s integrating fan theories into the story itself, or hiring big name fans to work on the comic itself, up to and including hiring big name fans to write entire additions to the universe, as with the Homestuck Epilogues. The text of Homestuck, and to a greater extent, the Homestuck Epilogues backs this up - through the conflict of Dirk, an author avatar, and Calliope, a fandom avatar, it outright questions whether fans of the work are better for the work itself than the author, and the authenticity of canon. Writers on Pesterquest seem to agree that fan works carry equal weight as canon. From Kate (@gamblignant8):

if someone labors intensively on a fan work that contradicts your views and that work is subscribed to by a significant portion of the readership, how is that less legitimate?

Hussie himself has also outright encouraged people to add their voices to Homestuck, through fan content. From his letter to Perfectly Generic Podcast, about the Epilogues:

The fanfiction format is effectively a call to action, for another generation of creators to imagine different outcomes, to submit their own work within the universe, to extend what happens beyond the epilogues, or to pave over them with their own ideas. And I believe the direness in tone and some of the subject matter suitably contributes to the urgency of this call to action.

However, with it carries exclusion - it seems to only be big name fans and people with connections to Hussie that get the privilege to make “official” Homestuck content, for profit, no matter how small that profit is. The easiest way to write for Homestuck is to already be writing for Homestuck.

Going public domain would reduce the bar for entry to creating something for Homestuck, and encourage people to add their own voices, and grant them the same prestige as - while this would certainly increase the amount of “low-quality” Homestuck projects bearing the weight of “official Homestuck content”, if MSPFA is anything to go by, it’s not like those low-quality projects aren’t going to exist anyway.

Going public domain would allow creators who want to create Homestuck projects to profit directly from their work - something which is also already happening anyway, but has been sidestepped through third party services like Patreon. The Deconreconstruction Patreon makes $334 a month. I don’t mean to cast it as immoral or shady - creators deserve to be compensated for their labor, even if it does use characters someone else created, and using that language is also a little bit fraught. Homestuck isn’t unique in this sense - fans typically can’t profit off of fan works whether it’s for Homestuck or some other thing, and it’s not like Homestuck fan projects are being shut down either.

This puts Homestuck in a unique place to challenge the relationship between authors and fans in a way that nothing ever has before, in a way that it can’t manage solely by keeping itself privately owned.

In the “Bridges and Off-ramps” letter, he ends it with this:

So now I’m looking to all of you on the matter of where to go next. Wherever the most conscientious and invested members of fandom want to drive this universe, as well as the standards by which we engage with media in general, that will be the direction I follow.

By allowing people to potentially profit, and sustain themselves on their presence as a creator of Homestuck, and going public domain encouraging anyone to try their hand at making “official” Homestuck projects, people can become conscientious and invested in ways that are more interesting for the community as a whole - the questions of the authenticity of canon become much more interesting when no longer burdened by the presence of the “official vs. fan” false dichotomy.

The way I write Homestuck characters isn’t the same way that Hussie, or V, or cephiedvariable would write those characters, since I am not the same person as cephiedvariable or V or Hussie, though I write them as authentically as I can. However, since Homestuck is still privately owned by Hussie, one is seen as “more authentic”, even when deliberately written as inauthentically as possible as in the Homestuck Epilogues.

Most of all, when your options are no longer “either engage with the inauthentic canon, or don’t”, but spread out to answering the questions of “Which authors out there are doing the things I like with the text?” it’s a lot easier to engage with Homestuck on your own terms, instead of having the authoritarian dynamic of author and audience enforced. When “official” Homestuck projects can come from places other than Andrew Hussie (as it is human nature to reinvent Homestuck, after all) I feel like creative freedom will only increase.

People won’t feel they have to follow the Hussie canon just because it’s “the place new Homestuck comes from” and Hussie can do what he wants with it, since new authors with new ideas and visions for the IP can spring up, and they can do their things without the inevitable pressure of “make official content or do your own, original thing”. We aren’t any better off because 50 Shades couldn’t call Christian Grey by the intended name of Edward Cullen.

tl;dr: Homestuck being put in the public domain can only be a good thing for the fandom and for the creators.

This post is mirrored from the original place I wrote this, on the @ishomestuckpublicdomainyet Tumblr account, for both preservation in case of Tumblr's demise and for a completeness in archiving all the stuff I write.