Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ignore Everything I Have Said

Okay, maybe not EVERYTHING everything. I don’t want you to ignore this post. And there’s probably plenty of other things I’ve said in here which you shouldn’t ignore. Okay maybe “everything’s” a bit broad a generalization-ARGH WHAT AM I SAYING FOCUS OMEGA.

This post is going to be about canon. And since it is also going to be about me shouting NO STOP THAT at the way a lot of people are doing things, I figure we should start with a silly picture regarding canon as a means of getting things off with a more cheerful tone.

Anyways, canon. Those of you who know my non-Slenderia writing are likely aware that the majority of my focus has shifted away from the Slender Man Mythos toward the Fear Mythos. I do still have active projects in the Slenderverse, but most of my writing time is being spent on my Fearblog and Fear creepypastas. And there are several reasons for this, but one of the biggest for me is how both universes treat their canon.

You see, two of the mottos for the Fear Mythos are “There is no canon” and “Everything is up to the writer.” While I have heard the claim that the Slender Man Mythos also has no canon, in practice this isn’t always the case. Throughout the history of the Mythos, I have seen several instances of people claiming that a blog is “doing it wrong” or “not really Slender Man” when they try to do something different than the norm. Contrast to the Fear Mythos, where the mentality is “whatevs man, we’re all afraid of different things. The Fears have different universes. Wanna make a new Fear? Das cool, brah.” (quote from Slendyslayer) The reason for this is, I believe, because the Slender Man Mythos is viewed as a setting, while the Fear Mythos is viewed as a writing tool. In the Slenderverse, there is the assumption that every story takes place in the same universe, where every story adds more to the overall canon, and with every inconsistency handwaved away by “dimensional bleeding” (this is primarily with blogs; while there have been vlog crossovers, there is much less of an effort to create a consistent setting in that medium.) In the Fear Mythos, on the other hand, it is assumed that, unless stated otherwise, all stories take place in their own universe, with the only connection being a shared pantheon of eldritch abominations. Even those abominations are not consistent: at the base you start with the “Vanilla Fears,” which are the most basic concepts of what the Fears are (ex. The Fear Mythos Series Bible currently describes the Wooden Girl as simply as “The Wooden Girl is a life-sized marionette of a girl. She uses her strings to control others. She is said to represent the fear of control.”) From that bare bones description a writer can go in any direction they want to.

In the early days of the Slenderverse, the shared setting was one of my favorite aspects. Seeing people come together and create an entire universe together out of nothing was fascinating. To document that phenomenon was one of the main reasons I made this blog in the first place, and my World of Slender Man post was almost a celebration of that creation, taking in the entire universe which we had made as a whole. Yet as time has passed and I’ve gained more perspective on the Mythos, I’ve begun to find that the shared setting often has stifled creativity rather than encouraged it.

In its more extreme instances, this has resulted in series being trolled out of existence because they did something different; two examples being Breaker and Frap and Friends (blog is dead, therefore no link). In its more common form, the stifling of creativity comes from writers seemingly following a canon checklist when creating their stories. “Alright, slenderproxies, check. Path of Black Leaves, check. Slender Man is silent, evil, and spends more time chilling in the background than actually doing anything, check. Protagonist either runs from Slender Man, fights proxies, is a proxy, or studies the Slender Man, check.” And so on. I don’t mean to insult Slenderblogs, as there are many good blogs which work creatively within the formula. But at the same time, they are still working within a formula. And as time passes, that formula has only grown, as more is added to the canon and more points are added to the checklist.
Then there’s the issues of continuity snarls and lockout. As each story continues to work within the same continuity, they add more to that continuity and build upon all previous stories. Within a small group of stories this works fine, but as the number of stories grows, such a system makes the overall continuity begin to become increasingly complicated and difficult to penetrate. Most major stories these days work under the assumption that their audience is familiar with several other aspects of the Mythos prior to coming to their series, which can turn many new readers off from a series. “You must read/watch series X,Y, and Z prior to reading this blog” is not the best marketing strategy. Just imagine what would go through the brain of some poor soul who happened to stumble upon the current Mythos and everyone is talking about Redlight v2; they wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.

This has led to a very repetitive setting, where experimentation is encouraged only so long as it remains within proper boundaries. Sure, you can say that anyone can write anything they want to, and technically that’s true. There’s nothing stopping someone from writing a completely unique story and posting it online. But if you want to play with the cool kids, you need to play by the rules. Most of the popular Slenderblogs are ones which follow the standard conventions of the Slenderverse. You do get some more unique stories amongst the popular blogs, such as Records of an Impossibility, but even that blog is tied to the general Slenderverse canon. Two very good blogs which I’ve recently read have been LakeReflections and Nowhere, No One,Nothing, both of which are very different from the normal Slenderstory. Yet while both often receive acclaim from those who read them, they tend to be overlooked in favor of the more conventional stories. (Seriously though, check them out. They’re good and completely different than most of what you’ve probably read in the ‘verse.)

Looking again at the Fear Mythos for comparison, where things tend to get a lot crazier. Slender Man’s one of the more popular Fears to use, but he is much less defined than in the Slender Man Mythos. In Fear, Slendy is a tall guy in a business suit who usually doesn’t have a face, and around whom people tend to disappear/die. That’s it. Everything else about him is completely dependent on what the writer wants. Most writers tend to borrow heavily from the canon of the Slenderverse, using ideas such as proxies or the Path of Black Leaves, but they’re also completely free to do something radically different. Someone could write a story where it is discovered that Slendy’s one weakness is kittens, and the blog ends with the protagonist throwing kittens at Slendy until he dies from cuteness. And this would be completely alright. Hell, my own blog has a time traveler attacking the Slender Man with a flaming sword in the middle of a hidden research facility being used by a secret CIA conspiracy to conquer the world (OF COURSE), and that was acceptable for the Fear Mythos. Just looking at the blogs I’ve read recently, there’s Chain Mail, which used the end of the friggin’ world halfway through as a plot point (something which could never happen in a shared setting,) and City of Sinopia which essentially goes “Hey everyone I’m creating a new Fear for the sake of this story and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” And then of course I must mention OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING. Words cannot describe RAPTURE, except to say that it is completely unlike any Slender or Fear blog which you have ever read. There is no way it could work in the mainstream Slenderverse, because it spits in the face of every established canon concept of the Slender Man Mythos and how Slendy stories are supposed to go, and it does so without any shame.

What I’m trying to say here isn’t that everyone should drop ship and head over to the Fear Mythos although you totally should because we have cookies and the Wooden Girl always could use more pets. What I am saying is that writers need to be less afraid of breaking away from the “canon” of the Slender Man Mythos. All the things I discuss in this blog are wonderful tools to be used in a story, but one shouldn’t feel that they have to be a part of that story’s setting. Say you’re writing a story which doesn’t need proxies for the story to be told? Then there’s no reason to feel obligated to include proxies just because everyone else says Slendy uses proxies. Want to make a story where Slendy’s actually a benevolent figure? Go right ahead; even if every other story contradicts you, you’re writing your own story. Their canon shouldn’t matter to your canon. Don’t be constrained by the writing of others; be free like buffalo! But not hunted to near extinction like buffalo! Because that would be bad!