Warning: prepare for a beast of a post.
Last post, we took a look at the origin of the Slender Man through the 2nd Generation of Slenderstories. Today, we’re looking at the more recent stuff. We’re tackling the 3rd Gen and the “Core Theory” blogs at the moment.
This is where things get complicated. 3rd Gen was the “experimental” stage. The basic ideas had been exhausted, so there had to be new twists on old concepts. As a result, thing’s really changed. White Elephants worked on uniting several blogs, and this idea really caught on. Instead of being individual stories, the blogs became one giant, interconnected story.
Okay, so…let’s start with the vague and overarching stuff. The stuff that applies to the 3rd Gen in general. One of the advantages of this style was that it created a feeling of immersion. The feeling of interconnectedness created a feeling of things being real. There were other people confirming that yes, something that happened on this blog affected me, too. The Core Theory and Tulpa Effect added quite a bit to the mythos. Bloggers started focusing more on proxies, and developing certain rules and distinctions between them.
That was the good. Now for the bad. I’ll admit that I didn’t like the 3rd Gen that much, so this will probably be a bit longer than the good. The interconnectedness could have been done well. Unfortunately, it ended up being a crazy clusterfuck that required you to follow ten different blogs just to know what was going on in one of them. 3rd Gen is also when the Slender Man went “mainstream,” and the number of blogs increased. Not only did Sturgeon’s Law take effect, but because people found out about blogs in comment sections instead of word-of-mouth, the bad blogs and the good blogs received equal attention. Because of this and the interconnectedness, the blogs that were written well and the blogs that were written poorly were lumped together, destroying the suspension of disbelief for everyone and “ruining” the 3rd Gen in many ways. Another problem is the style the blogs are written in. They’re written as actual blog entries. This adds realism, but in my opinion, does more harm than good. The entries are far too disconnected. Half the entries have nothing of substance. The entries are aimless. This is the main problem that I had with A hint of serendipity, which was the first blog like that I read. Blogs like that just don’t draw people in. They’re blogs, not stories. They need some more structure. On a related matter, all the stories start up far too quickly. There’s no buildup. No tension. It just launches into the story. There’s no “edge of our seats” period for us to get attached to the character or develop concern for what’s going on with him or her. Finally, the focus on the proxies shifted the threat away from the incomprehensible and terrifying Slender Man to the more understandable and relatable humans. I’m sorry, but proxies just aren’t scary. It’s scary to be driven insane, or to find yourself suddenly bending to the will of something and being unable to fight back, but reading about getting attacked by crazy, brainwashed people just isn’t scary. They’re mooks. Stormtroopers. Orcs. Foot Ninjas. They’re not really good for anything, and they make the Slender Man seem weaker. Why would he need to get people to do his dirty work for him? He’s the Slender Man. He can eviscerate five full-grown adults and kidnap seven children before breakfast.
So let’s address how some of these problems could have been fixed. The interconnectedness was a really good idea, but was ruined by too much of a good thing, and by being too improvisational. It’s like when you’re playing that game where you can only make up a sentence at a time, and there’s always that one wise-ass who completely derails the story with something random and stupid. In this case, the “wise-ass” is a gamejacker. The difference between gamejackers of the past gens and current gamejackers is that everyone can start their own blog. So if someone wants to hijack your story, all they have to do is declare themselves “canon” by making a blog or a twitter or something. What would have worked better was a controlled plan beforehand. Limit what goes on in your universe. Don’t try to be part of everyone’s universe at once. Keep a few interconnected blogs, but limit them. don’t let them get out of hand. What’s more, references to blogs should be optional background, not necessary background. I shouldn’t need to have to follow five blogs to know what’s going on in one. Make your story stand-alone with influence from others’, not completely dependent on others’. Note: this also solves the quality control problem.
As for the lack of buildup and the blog-entry posts…well, this is pretty easy. Just plan a story out ahead. Don’t just jump into it. Come up with background. Come up with a plot. Don’t just jump in and go where your mind takes you. Creating a structured story beforehand solves both of those problems.
As to the proxies…don’t use them. Not in their current form. The whole “Revenant” thing going on right now isn’t a bad idea—for something else. I’d like to see the concept of hypersensitive humans expanded on, and this “I’m gonna hunt down the other Revenants” arc that Reach (and now Ava) have is really interesting. The thing about it though…it just doesn’t feel like part of the Slender Man mythos. It feels like it’s a separate, unrelated arc. In my opinion, it’d be better if it were. The proxies just feel out-of-place compared to the rest of the mythos. The one blog where I think they feel right in their current form is Walking the Hallowed Halls. With proxies, I’d prefer what some call “sleepers” (people who are only sometimes under his control) or what some call “agents” (people who willingly serve him out of insane devotion).
Now, for the more specific things. One blog that’s gotten a lot of hate lately is H(a)unting. It started off okay, and with an interesting concept: the Slender Man follows a girl around and lets her live because she seems to be immune to him and he wants to figure out why. In a way, it’s a similar concept to Twilight. There’s another similarity I think the two share: they both had potential but bungled it. I’m going to lose man points for admitting this, but I’ve read the Twilight saga. I’m going to lose credibility points for saying this, but I actually thought that the books had potential to be a good story. Unfortunately, they were completely ruined by a cliché, baseless romance that the book focused on. Same thing with H(a)unting, only instead of a romance, it’s a sitcom. Their Slender Man is rather affable towards them, and he actually seems protective towards Sandra. What this does is it turns Sandra into a Mary Sue and ruins the Slender Man’s most attractive aspect: the fear. Again, I like the original concept, but it’s morphed into a wacky teen comedy that’s horribly inconsistent with the Slender Man’s character.
Let’s look at A Really Bad Joke now. The thing about this blog is that everything I absolutely love about it, I also absolutely hate about it. The blog focuses on Maduin pulling pranks on the Slender Man. While it’s shown that he’s absolutely terrified as he pulls his pranks and that they don’t always work, I personally feel like some of the pranks he shouldn’t get out of alive. Handing Slendy a “twenny,” for example, or putting a mask over his face. I just feel that if anyone attempted to do that to Slendy, he wouldn’t let them off the hook for free. Perhaps he’s merely curious or amused by the pranks, but it just doesn’t feel right. The giant proxy dance scene was another thing that tore me. On one hand, it really, really stretches the willing suspension of disbelief. On the other hand, it really works well. It feels like Slendy is essentially telling Maduin that he’s amused by him, but ultimately not threatened, and the big dance routine is his way of saying “hey, two can play at this prank thing.” So Maduin, if you’re reading, here’s my advice: a bit more of a sense of danger, and more retaliation. Unique and unusual retaliation is encouraged, but try not to go too over-the-top. Small things like that stretch the willing suspension of disbelief and take the reader out of the experience.
Next blog I’d like to touch on: The London Librarian. This is a blog that just popped up recently. It really has an interesting concept, and has a likable character. Ava (the protagonist) and her mother have cancer, and aren’t long for this planet anyway. As a result, they feel it’s worth risking their lives to find out more about the Slender Man. Currently, Ava is traveling with Reach. This is a blog that I really enjoy the concept of. On the other hand, it does have one or two problems. A new blogging circle is springing up, and they’re gravitating towards Reach and Ava. This results in more of that unplanned interconnectedness that I hate so much. The other problem I’ve seen is the update speed. The blog starts a little more than halfway through January. By the end of the month, there are 63 entries. It’s nice to have a lot to read, but…well, I have a life. Factor in that the comments are frequently important when you have so much interconnectedness going on, and that’s a lot of reading material. I fell behind a day once. I still haven’t managed to catch back up. Keep in mind, people: too few updates, and people will say “eh, they don’t update enough to bother following,” but too many updates, and people will say “damn, it’s not worth catching up on this.
The final blog I’d like to touch on is Musical Occurrences. This blog is completely unrelated to the Core Theory, and is rather unique as far as blogs go. Now, the nice things about this blog are that it seems to have a set storyline, includes difficult and unique puzzles, decent writing, and a ton of character development. Reilly, the protagonist, starts as a happy-go-lucky guy who uses an almost annoying amount of emoticons. There’s a lot of buildup to the actual entrance of the Slender Man, with just enough foreshadowing to keep readers going. After his brother is kidnapped, the blog’s tone changes drastically. It’s very well-written. There’s one large problem I have with it, though: the portrayal of the Slender Man. In Musical Occurrences, he’s being linked with Indian mythology and religion. He also wears a hat and is called “Locust.” While a unique perspective is always nice, I personally feel that the Slender Man portrayed in any blog should be relatively close to the most common views of him. While he’s undeniably the same person (no face, suit, kidnaps children, kills people and hangs them in trees), Locust just doesn’t quite feel like the Slender Man.
Keep in mind that, yes, a lot of these problems are nit-picky. Just because I pointed out problems with your blog, I’m not saying that I don’t like them (or that a blog is perfect because I didn’t mention it). It’s just that there’s a small thing that’s keeping me from declaring the blog an instant classic. Let me take this time to give you my opinions of what exactly I’d like to see as we enter the 4th Gen.
First of all, I’d like to see a return to the basics. I want to see crushing, overwhelming, hopeless fear—or at least, a bit more of it. I’d like to see children play a larger role (though I don’t want things to focus exclusively on children). I’d like to see a return to that complete confusion that’s prevalent in Just Another Fool and Marble Hornets. After all, humans have a natural fear of being in the dark—both literally and figuratively.
That doesn’t mean I’m a canon purist, though. There are some ideas I’d that I’d like to see changed or expanded upon. I’d like to see fire play a larger role than it has (it’s a nice little aspect that often gets neglected). I’d like to see water tied in more somehow. The organs in bags thing is rarely used, and I’d like to see that more often. I’d like to see more ties to actual existing works, like A Nightmare Before Christmas or Struwwelpeter. And finally, I’d like to see Yggdrasil play a larger role.
As for the Operator Symbol…I’ve never liked the idea of it as a deterrent. I’d like it to be a marking of “unsafe territory.” Essentially, if the protagonist sees an Operatory Symbol, they know that the Slender Man is or has been in that area at some time or another.
In regards to proxies, I’d like to see something where the people he uses to do his work for him are just random people that he brainwashes, has perform a task, and then sends on their way. I can see him using puppets, but just randomly and on whims, not as an organized thing. I’ve always liked the idea that the memory loss occurred because you were under his control at that time and had no idea what was going on. I’d also like to see the word “Hallowed” eradicated entirely. It’s a stupid word that has unfortunate connotations in this sense. I’m pretty sure M meant “hollowed” and then decided “eh, screw it, I’ll run with the typo.”
I’d also like to see a change in the style of blog storytelling. Let me give you some examples of what I mean. In all the (horribly drawn and painted) examples, the red is the plot, and the blue is outside ideas.
In Generation Zero, it was essentially just a pooling of random ideas. It was all viewer contribution, and there was no real story.
In 1st Gen, the stories were all secluded, with very little viewer interaction. There are exceptions, of course, but Marble Hornets, early EverymanHYBRID, early Just Another Fool, and TribeTwelve contain almost no viewer interaction.
There was some interaction with viewers—an occasional acknowledgement of what people are saying or a reference to an outside source now and then—but the stories were largely self-contained.
Note how everything is purple. This is because, in the 3rd Gen, every plotline was largely dependent and influential on other blogs. Everything was an influenced and an influence at the same time.
This is what I’d like to see for 4th Gen:
It doesn’t make that much sense compared to the other graphs, so let me explain. This is sort of a compromise between 2nd Gen and 3rd Gen. Think of a “choose your own adventure” type of book. There’s one starting point, and depending on the choices you make, you could end up with many different endings. What I’d like is some planning of an overall story, but with factoring in for the possibility of outside events that could change the course of the story. That way, you get the interaction of the 3rd Gen with the structured story of the 2nd Gen.
And now, for what I don’t want to see. Well, a good place to start would be this thread on the Slender Nation. But as for me personally? Well, I’d like to see fewer “weaknesses.” There’s that whole electricity/electromagnetism going on right now, and that I can see becoming a part of the mythos as something to temporarily keep him at bay. But there are more weaknesses surfacing. Iron. Salt. Magic. All those are stupid weaknesses.
I don’t want him to have any form of coherent speech. On the other hand, I would prefer a sort of incoherent telekinesis. I’ve always sort of imagined that he’d speak by projecting feelings of some sort onto people’s brains.
Well, that’s all I can think of for now, and this post has gone on for long enough (and taken me most of the afternoon to write). So I think I’ll just ask you what you all think of my ideas, and what some ideas of your own are. What do you want to see? What don’t you want to see? Tell me in the comments.