When an author takes a prolonged break from their series, It’s not really surprising that their audience tends to fade away and find different fandoms to occupy their time. This might be more true with webcomics than with any other form of media, or at least it didn’t take me long to flounce from Homestuck to the numerous other things that were just a click away. But now that the comic has returned to its irregularly scheduled updates from its months-long hiatus, I felt it only fitting that I recommend a fic that reminded me why I loved the series in the first place. Or at least what attracted me to the fandom so strongly.
One of the most endearing things about the original comic was John’s protective instinct over the strange creatures that inhabited his planet when he entered Sburb (Don’t know what that is? Lady Saika did a fantastic post summing up the beginning of Homestuck here). Actually, just one. One lucky yellow salamander was chosen by John to be his surrogate ‘daughter’, named Casey after the daughter in his favorite movie Con Air. If you think that fandom didn’t jump all over this, you’re wrong. So incredibly wrong. In fact, that’s where today’s story starts.
In a stunning example of the title perfectly explaining the story, The Complex Art Of Playing House by kancake follows John Egbert through a new time in his life. A time he wasn’t expecting. From his later teenage years on, the now mid twenty-something John has been faced with the struggle of trying to raise his daughter, Casey (who is actually human in this fic), while owning a business and trying to keep everything else in check. However, when Casey becomes close to one of the caretakers at her daycare, John finds himself falling in love. He’s not falling in love with just anyone: he’s falling in love with the coolest kid in his high school graduating class, Dave Strider. Admittedly, he only went out with Dave the first time to please his daughter–who wants her daddy and Dave to be boyfriends so bad– but after a time he found it was much more than that.
Just from glancing over a summary like this, or probably any summary, you might get the impression that this story is a simple bunch of fluff. And while it is fluffy, The Complex Art of Playing House has many more layers than are initially apparent.
John’s everyday stress comes from the fact that while he has a job, he doesn’t have a car (or even a license for that matter), and has to support both himself and his daughter as a single parent. They’re not destitute, but there’s a certain melancholy when John laments that he can’t give Casey all the things she deserves. There’s also a sense of John trying to live under the pressure of his “perfect” life and the futility in it. Mirroring the comic, John in this story also has a fantastic, supportive dad, but also like in the comic,
John feels like he will never be able to live up to his dad’s name. This is reflected perfectly in the moments where Casey reveals that she thinks that her biological mother didn’t want her, and that’s why she’s not around. No matter how much he loves Casey, John will never be able to get rid of those thoughts. He will never be able to have his daughter grow up as carefree as his father allowed him to.
On the other side, Dave, for all his coolness, has no idea how to deal with people. Scratch that, he has no idea how to act around “normal” people. The thought of being in a relationship with one of the most normal boys in the world is scary for him because he thinks he’s going to fuck it up. In this story, Dave’s bro parties hard and avoids personal relationships like the plague. Dave’s only contact with him is when his bro breaks into Dave’s apartment and steals some of his stuff, then calls it visiting. Dave knows as he was brought up by a person as abnormal as his brother, he not only has no idea how to handle normal family interactions (he almost has a meltdown when faced with John’s dad), but he also has no reliable support system.
All of these issues, plus more, intertwine beautifully and make a compelling family fic. The only real complaint I have with it is that it follows the yaoi trope of having no important female characters outside of Casey. John’s ex is there to provide drama and that’s about it. Victoria, John’s employee, is a cool character, but doesn’t seem to have a life outside of making sure John is free to date Dave or trying to get the pair to kiss. Terezi even shows up, but she’s more of a symbol of how weird Dave’s life is rather than her own character.
Nonetheless, I would highly recommend this fic. And for once, my recommendation is complete: all thirty chapters are up on AO3 to read at your leisure.