SCP Staff Present: Minimal Critical Thinking Does Wonders

NEWS/OPINION — Or, How the SCP Wiki is in Arrested Development

The SCP Wiki Staff have seen some real innovations recently.

First, there was brutal honesty of the 2021 admission of the 2020 Age Raise’s futility, idiocy, selfishness and sheer cowardice, which couldn’t be admitted a year earlier, even when pointed out, due to peer pressure and herd-based momentum.

Now, we have, uniquely, a stalled instance of Staff’s ongoing effort to fortify the low-info interpretation of the current-day SCP Wiki by outer-rim fans who believe that it is irrationally and religiously attempting to voluntarily purge itself of its own history, for the sake of being impressively progressive. Oddly, both of these false starts involve SCP Wiki Staff member OptimisticLucio at the helm, whose policy batting average is by now pretty low, and who seems to have a penchant for hitting foul balls.

A recent O5 Command thread and vote was posted (Feb 19 2022) that addressed an “Unarchival Vote” for an old article, SCP-013-ARC.

SCP-013-ARC is as old as the SCP Wiki. It was one of the original imports from EditThis, and was vandalized in and survived the Haggar attacks of 2008. It was re-written in 2012 by Quikngruvn “before its rating got too low”, and re-written again a few months later by deleted WikiDot user Cellar Door. It was archived (ARC’d) in October 2012 to Staff consensus, and again put up for rewrite in July 2021. (Source; the page’s edit history.)

In 2011, the mainlist article kept a life-support rating of sub +10. Later that year, Staff members enacted a downvote brigade on it, as it didn’t fit the current-day style (this termed a “downvote bandwagon” then). It would be nice to get some more information and insight on this, but Scpper DB is as slow, clunky, and inoperable as WikiDot… with a worse search function to boot, if you can believe that. In any case, the downvote brigade seems to have brought out some polemics; some wanted the article preserved from this pseudo-fiat decision by Staff, and felt there were things to appreciate besides its discrepancy with current tastes.

Eskobar, the de facto guerrilla leader of the article’s reputational collapse, wrote:

“I know that this SCP was around long before many of the current guides and well before most of the current members were here to judge it, but when I read an SCP, I try to approach it as if it was just posted today. I appreciate the historical value of a piece this old (and I’d be reticent to come so strongly against it if the author were still around)…”

In the debate, the article’s better angle was put forward, including its unique containment through politeness, and the personality of what is essentially a religious, floating orb.

When rewriting it, author Quikngruvn wrote:

“My goal in rewriting 013 was to bring the article up to more current standards while keeping the original item as intact as possible.”

By late 2012, the article was suffering in rating despite this and another rewrite:

Guess that’s just one of those old articles that should get archived, doesn’t fit the new standards.

And that, by a Staff vote in the discussion thread, is exactly what happened.

Fast-forward 10 years later, to the modern day. We have an SCP Wiki Staffer who was apparently perusing the -ARC list in hopes of finding a target to snipe for political points. (This is despite and in dismissal of a reported past discussion that “galvanized… people to volunteer to rewrite [ARCs].”) OptimisticLucio argues for SCP-013-ARC’s deletion on the grounds that it is old, low-rated, only protected by Staff consensus, and not culturally significant. This last claim is challenged by those who know better. However, and in any case, this article would certainly attain cultural significance in the conversation that would follow.

Initially, and with a reliable, unquestioning default that is fitting of most SCP Wiki Staff members by now, the reaction was in favor of unarchival and essentially deletion. One commenter, in an obtuse and unfounded claim of remarkable destructive capacity, casually writes:

“Honestly I’d be willing to go so far as to say all currently archived articles should be unarchived and given a chance to live or die by their own merits. The archival system of old was a well intentioned idea, but is a relic of a much smaller community in need of a sense of narrative cohesion that we haven’t needed in over 5 years.”

No one knows what the hell you are talking about.

However, in a dramatic entrance and pwn, it took the short essay of one individual, aismallard, to break the idiocy spell. Amazing what power one person who is thinking clearly has in this environment! The first and faintest introduction of independent, critical thinking was enough to overturn the opinion of so many, some of who perhaps mindlessly voted to get rid of the thing simply because someone had suggested it (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc). The frailty of these individuals’ thought-processes is in clear view, no matter how you slice it.

The counter-argument came down to a remarkably simple barrier, but one that was insurmountable:

“My main thing here is… why? What’s the harm in leaving it?”

Despite this victory for the SCP Wiki at large (good job on the whole, Staff), we shouldn’t forget; while past ARCs are clearly a matter of debate still, the Staff has unanimously allowed for the unarchival and deletion of ARCs, and also prevented any other articles from being archived going forward. The first torn down ARC was SCP-252-ARC, but only a fool would expect the march and creep to somehow limit itself to stay concerned with just those old articles that offended modern-day political sensitivities —a separate discussion of arrested development in its own right.

There are a few missteps of note here. First, in the unarchival thread, the argument is made that the only reason it is ARC’d is that a bunch of Staff decided it should be, for whatever reason, and that the only historical significance such an article has is its posting date.

“This article has had roughly as much impact on the cultural history of the SCP Wiki as the 5 dollars I forgot in an old pair of jeans have had on the trajectory of my life.”

The inferior standards of the past are leaned upon heavily to argue for its non-worth, noting that it was low-rated “even a decade ago”. It does not mention the downvote brigade, leading one to question both his eagerness to put this article on the chopping block for personal status, and how carefully he read the available discussion on the article prior to doing so.

The most fundamental oversight is that Lucio doesn’t consider that the initial turn into the negatives was due to the same thing he says was a poor reason it was archived in the first place; that the Staff collectively just decided so, and today’s result is simply the sustained homeostasis of that push.

Second, and more importantly to note, is the genral obliviousness that the SCP Wiki has seemingly always had for the importance of preserving its own history. The task of preserving the genre’s history has been outsourced to third-party projects, whether it be bluesoul’s archive, ObserverSeptember’s SCP Article Archive, or the Containment Fiction Wiki. The History of the Universe even is only appreciated on-site in so far as it is an Old Testament; a cosmological creation text that contains trivia and decorates participants’ sense of evolution in the present tense. (It is worth far more than that.) Additionally, we can routinely see criminally low appreciation on the SCP Wiki and affiliated areas (r/SCP) for other important archaeological efforts by the likes of WikiDot user Cooldude971. (Whether or not these are less appreciated in that they are purely for historical purposes, and not to flatter the current community, is something to consider.)

This insatiable and nearly capitalistic attitude of retconning everything to milk more value out of it can of course be seen in the modern-day, this particular unarchival really only being done for the sake of “we’re superior now” and, again, for OptimisticLucio’s bureaucratically-motivated kill-counts, to tally the Staff resume. But we can see it as far back as 2012 also, in the above Quikngruvn quote.

It has escaped and continues to escape key members of the Wiki that if you can’t let history be history, then you won’t have any of it any more one day. Anachronistically applying modern-day styles (notice I didn’t say “standards”) to old articles, taken to its logical conclusion, means a routine shedding of the skin of the SCP Wiki and its historical products every few years or so. We don’t need to look further than the SCP-049 rewrite to see this attitude isn’t reserved for poor-performing articles.

There is an obsessive compulsion to update older articles to modern styles, even when that obsessive compulsion will render those modern styles out of fashion in turn. Despite perpetually changing, SCP Wiki’s “today’s standards” resentfully sweeps its gaze across the shoulders that got them where they are. The SCP Wiki regards its past as a ladder that, once climbed, can be confidently kicked away in thanks.

In an odd axiom there that remains un-examined sufficiently, the hyper-pop mentality dominant at the SCP Wiki concludes in a circular fashion that only the modern-day compositional approaches should be valid. This is the same mentality that writes articles with the charts in mind; as radio-friendly as possible. In this way, it is less of a style, and more of a void of one — like a stomach — that will fill itself with whatever is available and most abundant at that specific time. Thus, the SCP Wiki’s artistic prerogative includes the maintenance of a narrow compositional style, the creation of which means the dissolution of things it grew out of, and that the stubbornness of means a calcification into — ironically —ongoing creative immobility. When everybody has the same political views, the same thoughts, the same style, the same rules; that’s how you stagnate SCP and make it insular.

We can draw from the documented and preserved histories of other art forms that style and fashion are somewhat cyclical. Consider artistic approaches to jazz in the 1950's:

“… they set out to recreate that 1920’s music as accurately as they could. They were playing traditional jazz, or “trad” as it was known. These rather ernest young men were very much the same kind of people who would, ten years later, form bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and The Animals, and they saw themselves as scholars, as much as those later musicians did. They were looking at the history and trying to figure out how to re-capture the work of other people. They were working for cultural preservation, not to create new music themselves as such; although many of them became important musicians in their own right.” — A History of Rock and Roll Music in 500 Songs, Episode 21

Not only that, but the compositional preferences seen at the SCP Wiki are predictable and expected embryological stages of any and all art forms. Again from the same podcast:

“There’s a cycle that all popular genres in any art form seem to go through. They start off as super simplistic, discarding all the fripprey of whatever previous genre was currently disappearing, and prizing simplicity, self-expression, and the idea that anyone can create art.”

This might be dubbed “First Wave”; or in the containment fiction world, things like pre-WikiDot, Series 1–2, maybe early Series 3. For example, Series 1 did away with the “frippery” of The Holders’ purple prose, which came in-tandem but also unavoidably before in influence.

“They then get a second generation, who want to do more sophisticated, interesting things. And then you get a couple of things happening at once: you get a group of people who move ever further on from the sophisticated work and who create art that is even more intellectually complex, and that only appeals to people who have a lot of time to study the work intensely. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing.”

This is “Second Wave”. At SCP, this begins possibly around Series 3–4, and has continued onward with the incorporation of more complexity, especially narratively. Modern day exemplars of this, to make the point clear, might be djkaktus’ Oroborous cycle, SCP-6500, Placeholder et al’s Admonition hub, Site-42, a Cambrian explosion of SCP-001s, cannons, and departments, even a multi-canon canon (Metafoundation/Megacannon), etc.

“And another group whose reaction is to say “Let’s go back to the simple, original style.”

This is the “Counter Second Wave” or “Third Wave”. Listen carefully; there has been no Counter Second Wave or Third Wave at the SCP Wiki. Something happened to the artistry there, and its development has been arrested at this stage.

To make this very clear, we can notice the ubiquitous argument given by Second-Wave (modern-day) SCP Wiki authors: “We’ve done Series 1 stuff to death; you have to find a way to be original, therefore narrative-heavy.” Counter-Second Wave/Third-Wave would ask; “At what point do we apply the ‘it’s been done to death’ argument to the Second Wave?” e.g. the narrative-heavy stuff. Series 1 only lasted for… well 1 series (or so)… the narrative-heavy stuff has been going on for much longer; arguably from Series 4 and unto the present day (currently at Series 7 with no signs of slowing).

Something like the RPC Authority, therefore, is best contextualized artistically (as opposed to politically, which it too-often is) as in part this Counter-Second Wave/Third-Wave. It was steeped in a political controversy, and so the artistic statement and opportunity of the motion was largely overshadowed (still is for most SCP people, who are stuck in 2018 regarding this… part of the arrested development there). The Society for Containment Fiction, the AOEL Database, AOE and others are less politically-embroiled and more direct Third-Wave.

The statement of this sort of direction is that you can retain the lessons and sophistication of the developments in modern styles and incorporate, re-vision, and even return to a more fundamental philosophy.

The most interesting part about how and why the Second-Wave argument (“you need to have a narrative, you can’t write in a Series 1 style anymore”) is a failure is that it doesn’t technically apply. As of today, Third-Wave articles have been and still are written, rare but noticeable; articles such as SCP-4514, SCP-4465, or SCP-6336… well-received but never blockbuster entries whose strength lies in the conceptual lyricism of their anomaly, without the need for an excessive narrative and character development to buttress it. Or consider the 2019 Cliche Contest, meant for SCP Wiki authors to revisit First-Wave mentalities and participate in the fusion that a Third-Wave movement would display (although it was not stated as such, of course). We got some excellent articles out of it, once the artificial poo-poo’ing of these actions were relaxed from being heresies.

But the point is that these examples and articles are outliers. They are the exceptions that prove the current set of rules at SCP. Because they are excellent articles, we know that there is still value to be mined in this direction. Unfortunately, as in the Cliche Contest, the politically-steeped and sociologically subservient participants at the SCP Wiki need to be given permission to enjoy it again before admitting this direction’s value and fertility.

Old styles are worth preservation, even when far-removed from the flux of current ones, in that they are valid stores of value which can be drawn upon for renewed creativity and direction. If rock music had the attitude that the SCP Wiki did, we wouldn’t have literally the whole of pop music. It’s as an author of Paste magazine wrote in 2012: “These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who hasn’t been influenced by The Rolling Stones in some way or another.”

And yet, we see that a potential incentive to return to First-Wave sensibilities is now subject to being processed by this “flavor of the week” mentality. The crowning of a Third-Wave effort was (unwittingly) flirted with by the SCP Wiki Staff’s creation of a “Shortest New Articles” page last year. As predicted by myself at that time, and lamented after it happened, this fertile land was expressly ravaged by opportunist authors, who would rather capitalize on the “new” territory to grow from its soil meager, ephemeral buds of social congratulations than treat it with any functional respect, or establish it as a lasting settlement. In short, the authors devoured the potential creative offshoot like a cloud of cultural locusts:

The locusts are not going to have the self-awareness or principles to stop, as they think with their stomachs, and rather the easiest meal possible. All the while, critical components of the culture and site are being desiccated:

“Definitely I’d say the preferences have evolved. What I was saying before, how each SCP was kind of its own narrative gem; I’d definitely say that’s something which isn’t as true. SCP’s have sort of become longer and larger. And I think that’s possibly just the consequence of remaining unique after having already done several thousand stories. You need to have more information. … It’s not surprising that the selective pressure has been on longer and longer stories.

I would say that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a small, self-contained gem of a story which can be conveyed, which is sufficiently distinct from everything that came before. It’s gotten harder; you’ve got to put more effort in.” — Randomini, Creative Stuff Podcast, Episode 13

What that means, then, is that we have a bunch of authors and Staff members — the people who are driving the site, really — who are not fans of their own genre, its breadth, and its compositional diversity; and so who can’t participate in it any more than political commentary from someone who doesn’t follow politics can, or who doesn’t know any history. I feel, unfortunately, that this prioritization of immediate taste-satiation and instant positive commercial feedback has made some individuals lost causes; so partisan in omni-applied-political attitudes that their mental processing is sub-vegetable:

“People sometimes within this community kinda get hung up on the idea of articles being a certain way and I think it is more important, especially when you are talking about, you know, writing for an audience that you have to remember, you are trying to entertain people. Right? Like you are trying to do something creative in a way that provides a benefit to an audience. And, for my money, if I think I can do that more effectively with a story that doesn’t fit within the boundaries of the format, then I don’t give a shit about the format. It is more important to me that I’m able to tell a story that is cool and that people like, than it is that I tell a story in a way that fits within a certain set of rules.

Not to say that the rules don’t have value… they’re effectively a restriction on fiction by forcing you to a certain kind of confine as you’re working on creating a narrative, but… fighting against those rules, and finding ways to be creative around them, while still maintaining the general shape of those rules is one of the really cool things about writing here, because you always have to be doing that if you want to be pushing the envelope.” — djkaktus, Creative Stuff Podcast, Episode 12

What “rules” are truly being worked around here when there are soft ones against alternative writing styles, like First-Wave or Third-Wave composition? This above mentality is the rule now. Claiming to be innovative around rules that no one observes anymore in order to cast yourself as an innovator is oxymoronic. This is the epitome of the status quo, and defeats its own rhetoric in practice.

Contrast this to comments on the next episode of the Podcast by Randomini:

“When I’m writing, I almost entirely make the decisions that are entertaining to me at the time, rather than the ones which necessarily make sense narratively. It’s more important to me that the act of writing itself is something which is enjoyable and engaging, rather than the story itself being entertaining or engaging. I write, so long as I’m having fun, and if I stop having fun, I decide to throw a wrench into the mix and write something completely different.

[“What is your goal when you write?”] Mostly to entertain myself. Ideally, people will read it and enjoy what they are reading, but as I said before; I’m perfectly fine writing things and not publishing them…

It’s important to not be writing or creating art for external approval. It’s reasonable to try and improve, and getting other people’s opinions about your work is a very effective way of being sure that you are improving, but being able to do your own self-assessment of what you‘ve written is also a very valuable skill.”

This is a battle and dichotomy that has existed throughout all creative history. Djkaktus’ philosophy is people-pleasing and defines itself by others’ reception; Randomini’s is self-fidelitous, self-respectful, and contently spiritual. One treats writing as a means to an more desired goal, the other treats writing as a means unto itself. One writes with the charts in mind, the other is accountable to an incompressible sense of unshakable artistic self-worth.

The philosophy that panders to the lowest common denominator of raw resource-accrual (upvotes) is also the one that most definitively stunts potential paradigm shifts of artistic embryology to be in lockstep with the concerns and mental traps of personal status. The failure of even elementary-school level thinking by this mentality — one that is dominant on the SCP Wiki, as evidenced by the initial suggestion and assent to the unarchival & deletion of SCP-013-ARC, and particularly evidenced by the slightest introduction of independent thinking on the subject — is that you can find nuance, a compromise. You can find ways to push the envelope and maintain fidelity to the genre and its history.

The challenge is now greater, the task harder, as Randomini correctly states. Writing narratives is far easier than writing compelling containment fiction, if only by the immediate fact that once you have broken the barrier to overt narrative, there is a plethora of tried & true, but also tired, literary devices and tools to call upon. TvTropes filled itself with SCP Wiki entries early on for good reason; these were relatively new and innovative developments.

Because of this philosophical lock-step with crowd-appeasement, we have compounding generations of Second-Wave authors at the SCP Wiki. They do not progress in artistic embryology, and worse, are hostile against others who do so. They have settled for degenerate motives and outcomes for the process of writing, and decided that they would rather use compositional cheat codes, and attain what they want through less-artistically-honest, sleazy, and easier methods. There’s the growing trend of Neo-lolFoundation, containment fiction’s equivalent to mumble rap, which prints out a rapid amount of articles about nothing, and squeezes them through with basal marketing strategies. The dialogue in these articles is that of sheer idiots with brain damage. Half of them boil down to cringey, one-liner jokes, often in a dedicated punch-line collapsible. In conflict with the ideals and founding principles of the SCP Wiki, this style is satisfied to be at the compositional level of a middle school intelligence.

Stop it with the corny ass shit.

Paragons of this style — including djkaktus, Rounderhouse, J Dune, HarryBlank, PlaceholderMcD, PlaguePJP, and others — almost can’t do anything other than use the SCP Wiki to boast or turn the genre into these corny one-liners; “jokes” that a comedian pushed off stage would boo. They have amassed a braindead, meme-minded, Zoomer-humor audience that is addicted to mediocrity. You have to give it to this school; they are supremely good at taking better ideas, pulling anything challenging or interesting out of them, and filing it down for audiences that don’t have the framework (or preserved history) to understand why these authors are in a far lower creative tier than their less commercially-apparent contemporaries.

The spoils of low-effort Second-Wave articles and its chronic signs like Neo-lolFoundation are too lucrative. This game is just too easy when you have the right mix of talent, marketability, indecency, and a lack of appreciation, preservation, or context with what came immediately prior. (Just ask DrBob and other animation channels on YouTube.)

Now let’s do something else.

By comparison, the Third-Wave effort is more difficult.The current SCP Wiki has locked in a way to endlessly mine upvotes for itself in the prolonged Second-Wave, and so is highly reluctant to change course. So, this task has fallen to others to pick up. This is what Third-Wave efforts like RPC Authority and the Society for Containment Fiction are actually doing. That — more than a drama server, more than a political affiliation (or lack thereof) — is what most defines these projects and efforts.

I’d echo the refreshing amount of critical thinking seen in this attempt & failure of SCP-013-ARC’s deletion, and apply it one order of magnitude up. Instead of disingenuously astro-turfing a sociologically-based requirement for the inclusion of something like heavy doses of narrative in containment fiction articles, when it comes to alternative styles of writing…

“My main thing here is… why? What’s the harm in leaving it?”

© Lack of Lepers

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