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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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My God, Steven Universe is Full of Stars!: SU and Golden Age Sci Fi

The most recent Stevenbomb introduces five episodes of golden age pulp sci fi adventure... but what does the recontextualization of old narrative techniques in this new interconnected narrative form say about golden age sci fi, about Steven Universe's quest for the truth, and... about the fandom's understanding of the show?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Video Killed The Yurio Star: Why Is Yuri On Ice's Soundtrack So Weak?

The homoerotic skating anime Yuri On Ice places great importance on the choice of music for performance. But can its soundtrack live up to its own implicit standards? And what does that say about the rest of the show's creative direction?

Monday, January 2, 2017

If The Twine Stops We All Die

Over this break, I decided to teach myself Twine. As one does. The result, which I'm releasing to all of my Patreon backers as a thank you for supporting me over the past year, is a now hyper version of my last article, "If The Train Stops We All Die." There's nothing too complex going on here, but I've tweaked and expanded some of the text and I'm hoping that the results help to highlight the intertwined nature of this article (which was always written, actually, with a hypertext format in mind).

As my $2+ backers know, I like making my stuff as accessible as possible, and the great thing about these Twines is that you can actually pull them into the program yourself and decompile them to see how they work, in the same way people are welcome to look at my original Krita files to see how I compose the layers for my artwork! This is still pretty dour stuff, of course, to ring in the new year (Happy Yekaterina Bridge! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!) but I really am thankful to all of you for your support, and I wanted to do something extra and experimental as an added sort of end of the year perk.

So check out Patreon to download this new Twine (and something extra...), and if you haven't yet subscribed consider doing so to get access to a couple years' worth of exclusive bonus content!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

Crazy Noisy Bizarre Town: Mob Psycho 100, Diamond Is Unbreakable, and... Post-Shonen Anime?

Mob Psycho 100, like comicker One's previous work One Punch Man, has a premise that seems to undermine core aspects of Shonen narratives... or even action narratives in general. Coincidentally, the current arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Diamond Is Unbreakable, has developed in ways that also disrupt traditional storytelling. Might we call these two works post-Shonen? And what can a 1961 short story by Kurt Vonnegut tell us about what these shows are trying to do?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Look Inside And You Will Find: Are Glitches Part of the Pokemon Experience?

The fan game Pokemon Uranium has some weird behaviors and some astounding glitches, but are those glitches just flaws, or are they important to make Pokemon Uranium feel like a genuine Pokemon game? And what can it tell us about the hype cycle surrounding canon games Sun and Moon, and spinoffs like Pokemon Go? 
Reload the Canons! is an ongoing Storming the Ivory Tower project where I play through The Canon of videogames. 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. You can support Reload the Canons! and my other projects on the Storming the Ivory Tower Patreon.

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.

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