Dress Rehearsal Rag

dress-rehearsal-rag

The Conquerors began to punish the whole planet for their actions, destroying the eastern swamps and laying waste to the breeding grounds. The boy and girl, now a man and a woman, could no longer stand to see their world destroyed and they came forward, offering their lives to spare their home. Cra does not cry when they execute the man, but he does weep a little when the Storyteller sings the woman’s mourning song. He’s not the only one, and more eyes are wet than dry when the last notes fade.

Just as they are about to execute the woman, the Gods rouse themselves from their cesspit and let loose the Endless Croak. The Conquerors were laid low and they bled out as the sound echoed through the universe, punishing them for their wickedness. Cra looks up at the statues of the Conquerors and their strange ‘hair’ and ‘horns’, and he tries to imagine how they must have bled, every colour of the rainbow pouring from their veins. The story ends with the woman taking the body of the man and seizing hold of a Conquerors ship, sailing away into the darkness of space to search for a way to retrieve him from death. Everyone applauds, including an excited Cra, his grief over the woman’s song quickly forgotten.

On the way home, sitting on his father’s shoulders, Cra makes up his mind, “One day, I’ll travel to another world.”

“You’ll never go anywhere. All the ships are long dead, and no one knows how to fix them,” Cra’s father says. Later, when Cra is a man, he will reflect on these words and conclude that this was the first sign that his father was an awful one, “Dream about something real.”

Some authors consider themselves unlucky enough to have one fandom. Imagine their dread if they knew it was possible to have several fandoms for one work.

To my knowledge, Homestuck is unique in that, due to its 55 or so primary and secondary characters, it has several niche fandoms, the largest of which is for the first Intermission. The Intermission appears in the webcomic with a sudden change in color scheme, a modified drawing style, a completely new cast of characters, and seemingly no connection to the story preceding it. A couple hundred pages later, it ends as suddenly and without explanation as it began. It is only much later in the storyline that the reader is provided with a reason for this madness. But even when the Intermission was finally linked to the main canon, it was too late: with its completely different aesthetics and style, and by being so separate for so long, it had essentially become its own miniature canon and gained its own miniature fandom. Today, Intermission fanfictions are frequently listed under both the Homestuck fandom and the Intermission-fandom. Both in canon and in the niche fandom, the characters in the Intermission rarely interact with the other characters in Homestuck, and when they do, it is with the same excitement as crossovers. Such is the gap between the Intermission and the rest of Homestuck that the characters in the Intermission are more frequently written alongside characters in an entirely different story than alongside their Homestuck counterparts – but we’ll get to that with a later fanfiction.

This particular Homestuck/Intermission fanfiction covers a character that gets approximately 260 words in the over-a-million-word webcomic, 3 or 4 scenes, is dead before the Intermission begins, and dies a couple more times during it. Such is the way Homestuck goes.

There’s no room in Crowbar’s time-ignorant life for backstory, so this fanfiction theorizes what his life might have been like before he joined the Felt gang, a choice that has led to his demise so many times. The fanfiction assumes that Crowbar (known as Cra on his home planet) comes from a planet of a species like himself and like the other members of the Felt, a species known alternatively as gnomes, elves, frog people, puppet people, and leprechauns in canon. To construct Cra’s backstory, the story uses the traditional gangster recipe: 1 absent father, 1 poor family, and a pinch of apathy about your fellow men, and whether they continue living or not. Conceptofzero parallels the gangster archetype in order to create enough of a similar society on that frog planet that we human readers can easily understand what’s transpiring. The familiar feel of the gangster grunge makes it all the more obvious when slang or cultural references pop up that are decidedly not human. More than likely, no human has ever accused another of “acting like he’s still got a tail.” But with some basic knowledge of frog life cycles, we can easily infer what this phrase means. This creates the effect of an alien, yet understandable culture. The author also makes use of folklore and other characters in Homestuck to connect their fanfiction to the larger canon.

I must be upfront: this is a dark story. The protagonist is desperate, and ruthless, and all the events that follow are to be expected. But it is not, as Cra thinks to himself, that he’s a sadist. It takes a certain kind of person who will do what it takes to pull himself and his family out of fatal poverty, to follow amoral orders without a thought, to murder without hesitation: that kind of person is not kind. Thus there is no fluff in this story, but plenty of angst. There are references to ‘fooling around,’ but nothing explicit.

Fluff: +

Angst: +++++

Smut: ++

Overall Rating: +++++

Read it here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/139551

Overall, this fanfiction is a masterpiece of character development, and is highly consistent with the little information we know about the character. Unfortunately, like the last Homestuck fanfictions that I recommended, the story is a little challenging to appreciate completely without knowledge of Homestuck canon. But by no means should that discourage anyone from reading it. The slyer references to the rest of the webcomic will go unnoticed, but the overall quality and flow of the storyline is evident regardless. If you are a fan of gangster, film noir, or crime fiction, this is the story for you.

Please enjoy, and consider the art of minor character backstories, and the effects of fictional violence.

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