Marcy Nabors tried to get me to read Homestuck for a few years. I understand why: It's an important work to them, and something they've worked on directly. I had tried a few times, though, some at their urging, and it never stuck.
It wasn't just the pandemic that made me finally give it a fair shake, though the chance to lean into a goof about being home, stuck certainly helped. It was talking about Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers' plot, along with Marcy giving me an offer: We would read Problem Sleuth first, and if I didn't like it, they wouldn't ask me to read Homestuck ever again.
i blame @Shadolith pic.twitter.com/IIIjveYSBF— fionna adams (is a strategist dying of bonecourse) (@internetFionna) March 9, 2020
We then proceeded to ruin our sleep, reading all of Problem Sleuth and Acts 1-4 of Homestuck in two days, and then Act 5 over the course of the rest of the week. We took a month off before starting to climb the mountain that is Act 6.
I never had much of a teenage period. I was a teenager as far as the linear progression of time and aging is concerned, but my teenaged years were spent trying to live up to everyone's expectations of me, up to and including "being a boy." I was barely an individual. I started to develop dimension towards the end of high school, but my self of those years and my very early 20s tended to be steamrolled by the strongest personalities in a space. When I figured out I'm not cis, I figured I must be a binary trans woman, and speedran getting hormones and name-affirming things done. I was too concerned with pushing out external influences on my self that I didn't consider anything further than what was, in my mind, the furthest thing from being a cis man.
Then 2019 and the pandemic happened. I was living alone, socially isolated, and deeply unhappy with the self I was.
To say Homestuck resonated is a vast understatement.
Growing up, the sentiment from my parents was that I was being raised to fulfill a role in society that I didn't need to understand as a child, but would as an adult. Creative pursuits and hobbies were distractions from my eventual destiny as a cog in capitalism's machine; any attempt to write or draw growing up was met with mockery; any interest in playing an instrument was treated like a joke; my mother called Dungeons and Dragons demonic in 2005, even though my Baptist then-best friend would be playing in the game too; video games were, and are, treated with derision.
So seeing groups of kids, seemingly normal but all with lives that are clearly put on hold, who are isolated from each other and their comforts over and over, hit home. Watching them figure themselves out without the trappings of the world they were forced to leave behind mirrored what I was actively going through. In a series that invented labels that became memes regarding their supposed complexity, watching characters eschew them and choose nebulousness and vagueness struck a very strong chord.
Getting to share this with close friends, and get closer to them, helped, too. Marcy and I were voice-acting Homestuck as we read it, with our other friends sometimes joining in as they were available. There was a point where Marcy was reading Dave Strider's lines, our friend Jamie Paige was reading Dirk Strider's, and I was muted on Discord, crying and sobbing as they read a deeply moving conversation that put words to feelings I was carrying for years.
pic.twitter.com/szk1zUvxq4— diabolical (@eviltweets725) April 23, 2021
I started reading Homestuck while thinking I was a binary trans woman. I adapted to the nebulousness, the vagueness, though, and came out the other side of it non-binary. I was, however, still clinging to my femininity. I referred to my gender as "Janet", like from The Good Place: She/Her, but Not A Girl. I spent so long fighting to be something other than what was preordained for me that I couldn't figure out how to let go of something I built for myself, even if it didn't fit as well as I thought.
My last essay, "They Say You And Me Are Tautology," led me to Crows Danger, someone I now count as a close friend. She introduced to Ghostpaw, another now-close friend, who pushed me over the executive dysfunction hump and got me to sign up for Blaseball.
On the off-chance you haven't heard of Blaseball, it is all of the following at once: A baseball simulator, a horror game, and an exercise in building a community to handle circumstances outside of one's control.
At first, I decided to be a fan of the New York Millennials, but their culture is acronym-heavy and I am chronically bad at parsing acronyms. After listening to ENCORE. or, an incomplete and contradictory history of jaylen hotdogfingers, her trials and tribulations by the garages (the band, not the team), however, I changed over to the Seattle Garages (the team, not the band). "mike townsend (knows what he's gotta do)" is on a short list of songs that can make me cry at the drop of a hat. All of the songs on this list are by the garages (the band. You get it at this point, right?).
I followed the team the best I could from Twitter, as being in big Discord servers intimidated me (and still does), but after the first boss battle against The Shelled One, I decided to join the main Blaseball server, as well as the Society for Internet Blaseball Research (SIBR)'s server.
That was October 10th, 2020.
The first thing I noticed upon joining the Blaseball maincord was one of the moderators having it/its pronouns in its display name. Those pronouns were something I was considering, especially as I turned over my non-binaryness in my mind, so seeing them made me feel like I could try them on.
It took all of two hours around fellow Garages fans to go from she/her to she/it. Ten days later, I went it/she. Part of what made me comfortable changing pronouns so soon was the speed at which Blaseball occurs. Every hour is a day; every week is a year. No one blinked at pronouns changing, or the rapid iteration thereof.
Blaseball helped me explore my system more, too. Blaseball is the first fandom I've engaged with on this scale; most video game fandoms turn me off for some reason or another, and it's hard to engage with comics fandom as someone who's drawn a paycheck from writing a comic. This is the first time I've been filled with such enthusiasm and joy from a shared interest in a very long time. It turns out that having something light up my whole soul makes me and Charra synchronize, for lack of a better term, and we become too many birds, a murder of crows made up of her, me, and every part of us that is too small to be a self.
& made themselves known during the Coffee Cup, an exhibition tournament held during the Grand Siesta1, when SIBR got its own team in the form of the Society Data Witches. At first, I thought my system gained a fictive, but it turned out to be similar to how I and Charra use Final Fantasy XIV to extend ourselves into a fictional setting, through Asemoko Tayochu and her Esteem (who we've named Kakyu). As such, & fronts sometimes in the Blaseball maincord. In a space with so many other plural fans, it's easy for all of me to exist there.
I don't have to pretend to be something or someone I'm not.
I lied, slightly, when describing Blaseball. Its exercise in community-building was an accident that came out of a horror game directed by obscured dice rolls that fans can barely influence bringing queer people together in the middle of a pandemic. "Sometimes, that's just the way that it goes," Riley Banks sings in the garages' "The Ballad of Unremarkable Derrick Krueger," off DISCIPLINE, followed by backing vocals of "no loss, no disappointment." Fans can't meaningfully control whether a player gets incinerated, or what the in-game weather will be. All we can do is come together and do our best to live through each moment, to love each player we see, to mourn them as they leave in some way or another, and to build up who comes next.
And that's all we can do for each other, too, and ourselves. We have to let go of what has passed in order to embrace the future.
📖 THE PRONOUN BOOK OPENS.— fionna adams (is a strategist dying of bonecourse) (@internetFionna) November 21, 2020
Pronouns "she/her" are incinerated.
THE IT/ITS ERA BEGINS. 📖
So, on November 21, 2020, I stopped pretending. I incinerated my she/her pronouns like a rogue umpire, fully embraced my non-binaryness, and rocked on as an it/its mouse, who is sometimes a she/her dragon or a they/them crow(s).
.@internetFionna (is an exceptionally sweet sqk) pic.twitter.com/jnnPx2FZB8— Roxie (@RoxannaRachnid) October 31, 2020
A statistically significant amount of trans people often experiment with gender by playing as their ideal one in video games, or as close to it as they can. That wasn't the case, for me. I did, however, find myself playing robots and synthetic beings if given the option, more often than not. That's where my fantasies laid, growing up.
I've spent my time living in Seattle slowly coming to terms with the fact that I'm disabled. I knew I had chronic gastrointestinal problems, and that without surgery or a lifelong need for medication, that they would sideline me. That's something I had been dealing with since high school. Living on the west coast, however, made me have to confront my mobility issues, and new aches and pains.
"Why can't I be a robot yet," or something along those lines, was a constant refrain.
During Blaseball's Grand Siesta, after the Coffee Cup, I decided to make a dent in the very, very long list of webcomics I ought to read. I decided on O Human Star first, partially because Blue Delliquanti was rerunning it, and partially because what I did know about it drew my interest most immediately.
I read it all in one sitting and cried most of the time.
Besides my disabilities, there's a lot I don't like about my body. I don't like how, after seven years of estrogen, my fat distribution hasn't changed. I don't like that I look in the mirror and see the same face I saw before 2014. I don't like how wide my shoulders are, or how tall I am, or the color of my eyes. I barely like my voice. These are either things surgery cannot fix, or things that would cost a lot of money.
So I fantasized. Who wouldn't?
Alterhumanity is something that other people have written about better than me, but it's something I grappled with for a while. There's an old adage that ending up surrounded by queer or trans people may indicate that you're queer or trans. It kept happening to me with otherkin; most of my partners are otherkin, and most of the furries I'm friends with are otherkin or alterhuman in some regard.
It was a label that didn't feel right about myself, though. What did feel right, though, was referring to myself as a mouse, a hologram, and a mouse hologram. And as comfortable as it is to be a mouse, and to be called a mouse, I still like looking human, sometimes. The trappings of it are comfortable, in some regard. I just wish I could change the chassis. I wish I could tweak sliders and hex values as easily as I can in Final Fantasy XIV, or when getting edits on a portrait commission.
O Human Star gave me comfort in that fantasy, that desire. It told the story that has always needed to be told about synthetic bodies, but that most writers in that space can't even fathom needs to be told, let alone tell it well. Delliquanti tells this story in a way that makes me feel so deeply and significantly perceived. I look at Sulla and Alastair's parallel confessions of dysphoria, Sulla fidgeting with her arms and Alastair screaming in pain, and see myself there. I get jealous of the ease with which Sulla is able to get modifications to her body. It still takes months of testing and sourcing of materials, but it's painless and limitless.
But there's no chance, in my lifetime, of becoming synthetic. My mind wouldn't be important enough to preserve if that ever became a thing, and I don't think I'd want to be, anyway. O Human Star gave me comfort in this deep need, but I still lacked a way to describe myself to others. Something remained wrong.
Early on in our friendship, Crows talked to me about the games of Jenna Moran, specifically Glitch and Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. They, with Nobilis, are tabletop RPGs that focus on Creation and the Not, and the war between them.
Crows is2 a Deceiver, a type of Excrucian that sees Creation as a lie and seeks to destroy that lie, to let the truth underneath be seen by all. They usually try to confront others about the lie, doing whatever they can in their (sizable) power to get others to acknowledge it.
Crows asked if I saw the lie of the world. I, a queer trans enby living alone in the middle of a pandemic, scared and afraid of what the future would bring, said yes.
At the time, I was lying.
Strategists, the type of Excrucian focused on in Glitch, do not see the world as a lie. They are aware that the world, and Creation, have a foundational Glitch, and how that Glitch causes other glitches. One of those other, smaller glitches makes them die, and then they come back, plagued by it. They could be dying of flooding, of ants, or of sunrises. They could be dying of sandwiches, of questions, or of subprime mortgages. They die, and they die until what remains of them after all these deaths isn't enough to be themself. Or, they realize the world is wrong and awaken as an Excrucian3.
Most Excrucians, upon their actualization, immediately wage war upon Creation, in some fashion. Some don't, and some of those that do burn out. The Strategists that stop fighting in the war against Creation, for some reason or another, band together into a support group, the Rider's Abstinence Society. Players of Glitch are members of this group.
Excrucians are beings of the Not, of Ɲinuan, with eyes of night and falling stars. Creation is constantly going, active, even without one's attention, just like the world we live in. Ɲinuan is dormant, resting, until focus is brought to it, and then it alights like a spark to kindling.
In my last essay, I commented on how Charra went dormant during the winter. She stayed dormant for longer than that, if I'm being honest, and I somewhat cyclically worried about if I was actually plural. If Charra was only there when I wanted her to be, or if something sparked her attention, then clearly I was faking it, right? Yes, every system is different, but much like my gender, sexuality, and genetics4, my being an outlier made me feel like something was wrong.
Moran's descriptions of Ɲinuan made me feel more secure not only in my plurality, but in how my mind works overall. I've never had much of a working visual imagination. It's very difficult for me to imagine how thinks look, or may act out, in my mind. It gets caught in loops or just won't visualize at all. My system doesn't have a headspace to speak of, either. I've often described trying to figure myself out as groping around in darkness, my hands getting caught on sharp edges.
fionna adams, a strategist dying of being Perceived— fionna adams (is a strategist dying of bonecourse) (@internetFionna) April 2, 2021
I finally saw a glitch in Creation: The way I was raised to perceive myself. I had spent 32 years hung up on the ways that cisgender, heteronormative, neurotypical people act and perceive themselves and others, all without an opposing viewpoint. Now, it no longer concerned me that Charra was only there when I looked for her, or that my own mind is nigh-imperceptible. I reveled in it. I finally had a reflection of a core part of myself and, in that mirror, I had eyes of night and falling stars.
No one in Blaseball has blinked about me being non-human. They rolled with it. They ran with it, even. In the same way Garages fans instantly and nigh-exclusively referred to me with it/its pronouns, even after only adopting she/it, they also refer to me as a mouse in lieu of any gendered terms.
Once I realized I'm Excrucian, I realized my bane immediately: Bonecourse5. Even after having it explained to me, it plagues me in Blaseball fandom spaces, destruction-of-meaning conversations chasing me around like hot dog sandwiches and pizza tacos and sun cereals. One person tried to explain Bonecourse to me through her roommate, a friend of mine. That words can lose all of their meaning in such a way is a glitch; it shows that the world is wrong.
When crows show up during Lots of Birds weather, & will sometimes front for a moment, joining in the chorus of caws that fill the Garages' watch party chat. Charra makes herself known sometimes, but the unbridled enthusiasm and enjoyment that Blaseball fills me with makes it really easy for me to synchronize with her and front as &.
After the Garages' stadium, the Hotdogfingers Memorial Climate Pledge Garage and Parking Facility, got a Fax Machine, people goofed about about faxing me, or compressing me. I, now a representative for the Garages to other teams and the maincord's mod team, insisted that we pay for WinRAR.
And, in the document where (amongst other things) each rep introduces themselves to the team, I describe myself in the most accurate way I've been able to in my entire life:
fionna adams— fionna adams (is a strategist dying of bonecourse) (@internetFionna) May 4, 2021
"a hazard, memetically and physically;
do not begin to count."
it's me, as a strategist, dying of bonecourse
illustrated by @candiedreptile pic.twitter.com/CrJCvBOCXJ