Caliborn, Caliban, Death of the Author, and YoU.
In a desperate attempt to distract myself from the horror and sadness of the latest flash, I think I want to talk about a theme that’s really come into focus with this last update. And that’s the idea of constructive vs. destructive narratives.
Hussie’s always done some interesting things with how he tells his story - and how he tells us he’s telling his story. Choose-your-own-adventure style titles to pages, authorial inserts, utilizing the header of the site to tell a story in parallel to another story, narratives within narratives, etc.
And I could go on and on about Mindfang’s journals or the ~ATH book or Rose’s journals and Complacency of the Learned and all that, but I think there’s a different avenue that needs to be explored.
Let’s start here:
In the text, we’re presented with two narrators - Hussie’s author avatar, and Doc Scratch. I count Doc Scratch because he literally physically wrenches the narrative out of Hussie’s grasp, and it’s only by fighting with him that Hussie regains control. The parts that Doc Scratch narrates are completely different in structure, tone, and style than other parts of the story, and even the website itself changes to reflect the story-telling handoff.
And we’re presented with two characters who know the whole of Homestuck - from the beta kids to the alpha trolls and back again - who know it as a story. Who know it, perhaps, in the same way that we know it: Calliope and Caliborn.
Hussie, though confrontational in the story in his role as narrator, and though he’s percieved by fans as an entity that’s out to destroy characters and ships and emotions etc, is a force of good in the story. He’s a constructive storyteller. He builds the plot, he shapes it, and he does it for the right reasons: to continue the story. Yes, sometimes that means that someone might die, but generally that’s not a desirable or intended outcome.
Doc Scratch, however, is a destructive narrator. He hijacks the story, and tells it not from the perspective of a person experiencing it in real time, as Hussie’s insert does, but as someone paging through old stories and older memories. He splinters the narratives.
But while Scratch is a passively destructive character, Lord English - and by extension, Caliborn - is actively attempting to destroy the story. The first person we see him attack, and successfully kill, after his transformation is, after all, Hussie. He immediately goes to the author first. Not PM or the Alphas or the kids or the Handmaid, but the author of the story he knows that he himself is a part of.
Why do I say he knows he’s part of the story?
Let’s go back to here -
Both he and Calliope consistently refer to whatever’s happening in the alpha kids timeline as part of a story, one they interact with like we, as fans of Homestuck, interact with the story - fanart, criticism, stories, the whole thing.
He’s the one who draws the “DEAD” for the alpha kids after they fail to escape the Red Miles. As if he knows thats a narrative convention in the story, as if he’s trying to duplicate that, to replace the author.
And then, of course, there’s the matter of him destroying whole universes.
Now let’s talk about his name. The first thing I thought when I saw the name “Caliborn” was “Caliban! He named him Caliban!” before I read it again. Caliban, for those unfamiliar, is one of the antagonists of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He’s Prospero’s slave, the monstrous son of a demon named Sycorax. I should not here that Caliban is sort of a tricky and contentious character, not in the least because there’s some disagreement as to whether the etymology of the word Caliban is a Romani word that means “black or with blackness.” Just - wanted to recognize that!!
Much like Lord English seems to be attempting to break free of the storyteller who controls his fate, Caliban seeks to destroy Prospero, who crafts his - and Miranda’s and Antonio’s and Ariel’s and all the rest’s - story.
It doesn’t help, when drawing this analogy, that Caliborn was literally chained up and literally broke free of those bonds.
Also, there’s this:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
Which, due to the amount of music metaphors and motifs present in Homestuck, I feel might be significant. And this:
The name is an anagram of the Spanish word canibal (Carib people), the source of cannibal in English. The character may be seen as a satire on “Noble cannibal” from Montaigne’s Essays (A.30, “Of Cannibals”).
Much like Hussie and Doc Scratch are foils for each other, so are Calliope and Caliborn, a point I feel like has been talked about a lot. They’re clearly parodies of different parts of the fandom - Calliope of the enthusiastic creative theorizing shipping side, and Caliborn of the, for lack of a better word, “dudebro” part of fandom. Calliope is a creator, named after one of the most famous of the Greek Muses and a literal muse in the game. Caliborn is a destroyer, a cannibal, a part of the void. He is the antithesis of creation, of productive storytelling, of the love of story.
Say what you will about Hussie, but compare how he does the “DEAD” panel as opposed to how Caliborn does it:
I think it’s telling that Caliborn does his on a black background, as well.
One last thing before I wrap up this disjointed mess. We’ve already seen an instance of Hussie fighting Scratch, of course, which was excellent and fairly one-sided, but we’ve also seen Hussie and LE go toe-to-toe.
okay that’s it that’s the post.
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