This post will come in two parts: Looking Back and Looking Ahead. The former will cover the earlier Slenderstories, and the latter will cover the more recent ones.
Well, I think it’s safe to say that the 3rd gen is officially drawing to a close. The solstice is over. A few prominent 3rd gen bloggers have died. There’s a good chance that a few more soon might. Nessa left, returned, and then left again. Robert returned, although he’s a bit of a different man. A bunch of newcomers are joining the game and have already started forming a community. So now’s probably the best time for me to explain my thoughts on the previous generations—what they did wrong, and what they did right—and how the 4th gen can learn from them.
Now, before I start, I’m going to be mentioning blogs by name. I know some of these blogs are owned by some of my readers (i.e., you guys). Let it be known that this is critique, not flat-out criticism.
I’d like to start with “Generation Zero,” the original Something Awful thread. This was more or less the “brainstorming” phase of the Slender Man. Victor Surge thought him up, made a few posts giving some additional information, and then let everyone add their own bits. Almost everything now part of the mythos originated from there, from his fondness for children to the organs-in-plastic-bags bit to his “origins” in Germany. Of course, not everything in this thread was picked up on. There were some stories that didn’t make the “final cut.” But the ones that did became the base of the 1st Gen.
Generation One was what I’d call the “defining” phase. It compiled the best aspects of the Slender Man and focused on creating overarching projects centered around him. The 1st Gen consisted primarily of Marble Hornets, Just Another Fool and Tribe Twelve (I don’t count EverymanHYBRID just because it’s so different—less a Slenderproject and more an ARG that features the Slender Man). These series got quite a bit of praise, but were not without their faults. They actually had an easy ride in a lot of ways. After all, they were breaking new ground, so they didn’t have to be as creative or original. In fact, one of the biggest complaints against Tribe Twelve (now one of the most prominent series) is that it’s too derivative. It doesn’t just draw from Marble Hornets, either—the story from My Grandfather Karl is taken almost word-for-word from the Something Awful thread. Just Another Fool admitted to having pacing problems near the end, and I would have liked to see the concepts in it expanded on just a bit more. Even Marble Hornets has problems—the slow updates sort of ease tension, and the effects have failed once or twice (I laughed when I saw the “blood” running down Alex’s face). The characters in all the series also tend to be bland. What made Logan any different from Josh? Jay even admitted on his blog that, in season one, Jay was little more than an extension of the camera.
Because EverymanHYBRID is so different, I’m going into it here. EverymanHYBRID has the wonderful advantage of pretty much being a full ARG. Viewer interaction is part of what makes the series, and it really puts people in a “HOLY SHIT THIS IS REAL” attitude. On top of that, the characters are all believable (if not a little annoying at times—I’m looking at you, Jeff), a problem that most other series lack. The problem with EverymanHYBRID, though, is that it’s a hard-to-follow clusterfuck for anyone who’s late to the party. The main story is spread out over two YouTube channels, a Twitter feed, and a blog, and that’s not even counting all the side-stuff. This is a series where a wiki is necessary instead of just helpful. On top of that, the ARG aspect is taking over things—HABIT is a spotlight-stealing gamejacker (in-universe, that is). The plot focuses heavily on that now, and between the TRIALS and the Rake, the series doesn’t really seem like it’s about Slendy anymore.
But back to the 1st Gen in general. While these stories all had their problems, there’s a reason that they’re so popular: they’re good. Troy (not sure about Joseph) is a film student, Tribe Twelve has impressive video effects, the HYBRIDS involve their viewers quite frequently, and Just Another Fool had extremely frightening visuals. Their stories were lacking at times, perhaps, but they worked. They actually worked really well. They sparked a huge interest in the Slender Man, and paved the way for Generation Two.
Generation Two dealt with an expansion and application of the themes set forth in the 1st Gen. While the 1st Gen focused mostly on frightening images and a sense of fear, the 2nd Gen focused on working that fear into structured stories. Seeking Truth and Dreams in Darkness probably did this best, as they were the most fleshed-out stories. There was some reader interaction, but for the most part, the stories would have been the same without them. With real stories and real characters, things changed a bit. It was no longer us freaking out over some random dude going insane. It was us freaking out over all these horrible things happening to characters we grew attached to and began to care about. We heard about Damien’s life for about a month before things really went downhill, Zeke was a lovable asshole right off the bat, and M was the everyman that any one of us could have been. We really got attached to these characters.
On the downside, they didn’t allow much room for interaction. Characters would answer questions they were asked, but never much else. Another problem was that the 2nd Gen really didn’t add much. The only things that were added was the beginnings of the Tulpa Effect (M mentions the “Philip Phenomenon”) and the idea that he could be fought (brought on by Zeke’s later posts). The blogs also had to sacrifice some fear for some cohesion. Overall, though, it was quite probably the best generation.
And those are my opinions on the early days of the Slender Man. There’s been some bad, but it’s all still mostly good. However, in my opinion, things started to fall apart in the 3rd Gen. I’ll cover some of those problems (along with some of the strengths) next post, and finish by outlining what I’d like to see more of in the upcoming generation of blogs.