What I’ve Learned Reading Every New SCP Wiki Article for One Month
OPINION/ANALYSIS — Article influx is moving faster than the standards can.
“Yes. I remembered one part before I’d even read it. A good chunk of what I’m reading feels familiar too.”
“I guess that makes sense. You’re certain?”
“L. Moix: Let’s get this over and done with. I’m sick of these damn Summits.”
— from SCP-6488
As of last month, I synopsize and cover every article successfully posted to the SCP Wiki in a given week, and granularly. This is first and foremost a challenge; there is a fire hydrant’s rush of content coming out of the wiki these days, and reading it all has become somewhat of an infamously tall order over the years. It’s not an exaggeration to call this a full-time job’s worth of work.
Secondly, it is a service. The audience can stay caught up and get a guided tour of what is new in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take. This can help them zoom in on what they think they’ll like and what they don’t need to waste their time on.
Thirdly, it is a more intentional and philosophical procedure of creating a new heuristic for an article’s immediately-available reputation. The effort is to deliberately displace that current job away from something as woeful as the rating module.
Fourthly, it is an exploration log, and I’m going to submit my first report on what I’ve observed.
The hardest part in this effort is not finding enough to say about these articles; it’s whittling what I have down in a manner that will not cause the listener to become too disinterested by the sheer content, or not fatigue my brain by the stream’s sheer length. I have too much to say about almost everything in this space, even the crap articles; my readers will be sharply aware of this.
That brings me to this post. Occasionally, I come across an article or two that I have so much commentary on, it is unrealistic even to fit into the hyper-granular, 3+ hour live streams (every Friday night 7:30 PM CST on Twitch). So, some of those reviews will be converted to blog posts. Our first post is in regards to a tandem of SCP articles that have a lot in common I think; SCP-6488 and SCP-CN-1109. I’m going to talk less about the articles themselves. Instead, we’ll use them as a string of goombas; something to Mario-bounce off of in pursuit of taller flags.
SCP-6488 “The Eighth Commandment” is by Lyrin (previously Azamo), Placeholder McD, and — as if a rap track — features Jack Ike. It is the most recent installment in the ADMONITION hub, which is a series of loosely-gathered articles that explore some of the Foundation’s most dramatic containment efforts, such as an elaborate termination attempt of SCP-628. The hub has no sufficiently grip-able overarching theme from what I understand, save for an attempt to “subvert expectations”. (We as SCP Wiki readers are used to this claim. It might as well read “World’s Best Cup of Coffee”.) For example, after reading all of the articles in the hub, I still do not know why the word “admonition” specifically is used. The modern-movie-esque crawl gives the definition of the word, but that doesn’t seem to help me either. I’m sure I’m missing something deliberately planted, but then again, maybe that’s my point.
The hub plays like a Netflix production. Guest authors co-write on each installment, these are termed “directors” in the hub’s nomenclature. The series is not written by the two resident authors, but is “managed” by them. The hub is categorized into “phases”. Each phase has 5 slots for installments, and each unrealized one is “locked” until the future release occupies it. A notice underneath each phase’s header says how many of the articles are “unlocked”, e.g. “4/5 unlocked”.
The hub has this to say of itself:
“ADMONITION is a collaborative anthology/miniseries, generally comprised of SCP articles, portraying an uber-competent, uber-confident Foundation attempting to contain the uncontainable, to achieve the unachievable, in the name of their mission and in the spirit of human arrogance.
Each installment, “directed” by a unique volunteer author, aims to explore a special aspect of the Foundationverse and its relation to the series’ themes. New episodes are periodically released according to an overarching plan — all future episodes and their featured authors have now been lined up.”
The far-reaching promise to have a thematically consistent series conceptualized years in advance might call to mind some of the flopped-on promises of the circa 2000s TV series Lost. For those not old enough to remember, Lost was a multi-season paranormal post-survival-drama extravaganza. It kept introducing one-ups in terms of plot escalation and craziness; one new, plushy Twinkie laid down after another, in a (successful) reel-out marketing strategy breadcrumbing a trail to God-knows-what.
Like too many lies, the complexities got so fever-pitched that it began to seem as though the authors didn’t really know what they were doing, although mega-fans and the show’s writers swore they knew exactly where everything was going. Never fear; all mysteries would be made clear, all character arcs resolved. Everything was meticulously planned out with a definitive purpose and reason from the start.
Until the end came that is, where the disappointment ran out of runway. It was made painfully clear that the authors had no clue what was going to happen for most of the series. They had been ad libbing the grander arc as they went, pumping their own bags in response to the FUD, and enacting a sort of compositional Ponzi scheme that left the audience holding the bags… most of these being empty, cellophane, Twinkie wrappers.
The Admonition series is teetering very close to this cliff of over-ambition, only 4 articles in. It bills itself as “high-concept”. The subheader for this hub is “Deepwell”, and I don’t believe that’s supposed to be a subtle double entendre either. Both quoted phrases, self-awarded mind you, are the authors’ method of giving themselves good reviews. (We’d all like to be our own critics.) It is marketing photoshoppery that tells the more impressionable readers (which are most of them) exactly how they should be taking the material. Think of it as subliminal advertising. No need to really let the material speak for itself. Let the authors insist that for you.
There’s no better sign of someone who’s bad at something than that person constantly insisting that they’re good.
Take for example, the preceding entry in the series, SCP-6659 (“Metagnostic”). The article grapples clumsily with definitions of what a “God” is and makes soaring philosophical choreography towards theology and theosophy that it is not fit for. It believes that being about philosophical things makes it auto-deeper than other articles… invoking the visage of profundity while achieving less than contemporaries who don’t try half as hard. But the reason why this article is as simple as it claims to be deep is very easy to state: it is a magic trick, coated in the signature glittering Admonition CSS treatment (props to Lyrin, I believe). The authors gamble of an error is to shoehorn deities via definition as fundamentally conceivable things. It then re-introduces the deistic aspect of suddenly being beyond comprehension as its cornerstone and climax.
This is like trying to sell a sandwich with only once slice of bread, and then calling the second slice a bonus, and expecting people to be wowed by the deal. Or starting a song with a terrible equalization mix so that the chorus can blast through in full, relative technicolor. It’s like advertising a free game, only for there to be a stifling paywall of in-app purchases. The double-take is scammy.
SCP-6659 makes much ado about philosophy and thinking deeply, sure, yet it relies on the immediate failure to incorporate the most fundamental component of what a deity classically & necessarily is. So it fails as philosophy and only rises to semantic play. It’s slight of hand. There’s a central flaw implanted by the authors own wishing as a zero-day error, and their correction of it is taken to be a heroic accomplishment. It’s a fake-out, and it’s cheap. Anyone not distracted by the almost cognitohazardous nature of the visual sugar, or the forced pretense of intelligence will, I think, see this relatively easily.
Unsurprisingly, the series performs the same tricks with other high-brow, self-important writing efforts present on the SCP Wiki, such as pataphysics. One of the articles’ designation numbers is an allusions to the greatest hits of the subgenre, such as how SCP-6747 calls back SCP-2747. If you don’t know what pataphysics is: it is an attempt to read deeply into the most mundane actions of the average SCP Wiki author in order to make them as significant as gods and therefore any little thing they do really is super important and extra plus, plus deep. For example, the act of putting a pencil onto a sheet of paper to re-write a dead character is taken to be an intricately anomalous procedure on the engineering scale of a moon landing. These are Honey-I-Shrunk-The-Kids levels of both magnification and contrivance.
This brings us to our second case study, SCP-CN-1109 — a Foundation-sanctioned, pataphysical procedure that can stabilize narratives from universal deletion at the hands of evil authors entities.
A simple splash screen is an access link, and when clicked, this transitions into an impressive bit of immersive terminal-like work. There is a brilliant piece of code here that will not let you access the document until you login to WikiDot. It leans aggressively on the 4th wall in this way, but the immersion of this is a singing triumph.
Signing in makes the pataphysics explicit, and the SCP Foundation logo turns into the pataphysics one. The layout looks so damn good. All the flourish and flash of something like SCP-6747 without the dramatic fractal backdrop or the neon-colors fit for children’s figurine toys. The pataphysics logo fades from the screen and inserts itself seamlessly into the article’s background. Very nicely executed, in a restrained, dynamic elegance I’m not sure -EN could achieve, which is more often the Volume Wars, maximum-compression kind.
The conprocs make it clear that this is a narrative hazard. There is an unfortunately dead cross link to what would be another -CN article, the link goes nowhere. Another cross-link describes one of the more famous pataphysical articles, SCP-3309, in reference to Project Tapered Spear, which if you don’t know or recall, is a pataphysical method to neutralize anomalies by introducing grammatical errors into it, thereby invoking the authors’ disdain and downvotes.
The meat of SCP-CN-1109 is a similar project; “Project Longinus”. Longinus was both a 1st century Greek scholar who was concerned with the moral function of literature… this having nothing to do with the article, as I thought initially it might… and the unnamed Roman soldier who supposedly pierced Jesus with a… spear. Ah. See how that ties together?
Pataphysically, IRL upvotes are represented here as a narrative’s “stability index”. A device is introduced that is essentially the locking of a page on the Wiki by Administration, “stabilizing” the narrativic plane.
More cross links to pre-pataphysics staples such as Swann’s + Kate McTiriss’ proposals, minmin’s SCP-2747, the “pointer article” SCP-2719, as well as what might be the moment of formalization of pataphysics as a school of composition in the SCP Wiki, Rimple’s Operation OverMeta. There is also a cross-link to the SCP Wiki tag page for “author”, showing all author pages. (Oh look, there’s mine!)
Once through a tall patch of jargon, we get to enact the anomalous procedure, as is typical of pataphysics articles. This takes the reader to an offset that in an immodest display, uses the WikiDot user name and profile picture to reach out through the fourth wall. You are suddenly in something akin to a messenger system, receiving DMs in real-time from the primary researcher of this pataphysical contraption. It decides that you are a Swan-entity (author) and — gasp! — are therefore the target.
What’s really impressive about this is that, unlike the WikiDot user and profile pic gimmick, which we’ve seen thousands of times, I don’t think I’ve seen this new one before, which is an analysis of your unique activity on Wikidot. This brings to mind MSG2’s Psycho-Mantis, reading of the players gaming activity from the PlayStation 2 memory. It is a neat trick.
But it becomes immediately evident by this trick why the log-in gimmick at the outset had to be there; this wouldn’t work if you weren’t logged in. So the withor has doubled down on excluding the audience, in order to enact the CSS trickery. This is a fundamental compromise with bad decision-making. It secures the critique that this article is one large excuse to enact some flashy code, bypass anything of literary value on the way.
The structure of the article is not sure what else to do, so it dictates a coda and cycles back to the beginning. This is an architecture seen in other pataphysical forays such as Placeholder’s SCP-001, again, not by any coincidence. If you haven’t noticed, the fractal acts as the sort of mascot of pataphysics. While this is flattering in one way — a fractal is remarkably complex; simple yet elegant — a fractal is also the same thing repeated ad infinitum with no terminus and nothing new to see in any given direction. Big things are made small, and small things big, but it is all really the same thing; no frame more or less profound than the last. But at the cruising altitude of a stoner’s high, this is kaleidoscopically entrancing, and at all times, the most mind-blowing thing you’ve ever seen.
The issues seen in both SCP-CN-1109 and Admonition articles are really the common pitfalls of the informal subgenre of pataphysics on the whole. These include (but are not limited to):
- Recasting of mundane IRL actions as if they are complex, when truly, they are not. Downvoting. Locking pages. Writing (anything) on the SCP Wiki. Quantum physics reskins. Pataphysics utilizes either the most familiar and unexciting, or outlandishly incomprehensible topics to be its most fundamental ingredients. It’s the fractal again; what is seen as a framing shape is suddenly demoted one level into a lower-budget pataphysical plane in which to repeat itself as the very thing it is, over and over again. Following this “woah bro” momentum — such as interpreting the “physics” part of pataphysics literally —is probably the worst direction to take pataphysics in. We are denied the charm of the the obverse, absurdist direction, where pataphysics is self-addressed as theatrical play, as in Rounderhouse’s recent SCP-6456. The levity of pataphysics-as-fun is instead replaced by an insistence from the article that we take it entirely too seriously. We often have no better reason for doing so than such an insistence.
- Recursive, ultimately circular anomalies. The fractal rears. As is the case in SCP-3309, SCP-CN-1109, and SCP-6747, the pataphysical anomaly is commonly just itself; the article as a placeholder for an actual other, absent anomaly somewhere else out there that the author can’t be bothered to think up. The conceptual scope is therefore claustrophobic, without the ability to reach very far out of its own cloistered interests. The tell-tale sign of such a hollow anomaly is a description featuring a pataphysical technique, as either a tool or weapon. While I believe there is value in mining different possible points of the pataphysical framework — I’d like to see a narrative set from the perspective of an article in the process of being downvoted and deleted, for example — without couching the larger pataphysical motions in characters or a narrative, the effort is factored out to become the authors’ own act of thinking up an anomaly; hyper-fixation on extreme self-mythologizing, or to again quote Kalinin, “navel-gazing”.
- CSS crutches. It is no coincidence that there are so many visual and code-based embellishments in pataphysics, on the whole; the articles that purport to be the most intellectual have the flashiest presentations. As described, pataphysics has the inherent problem of dealing with such mundane concepts, that it feels the need to compensate, like that 15-foot tall, ear-ripping, black-smoke spitting monster truck of a Ford F-150 that just pulled up next to you at the red light. The act of an SCP Wiki administrator, locking a Wiki page with Mountain-Dew sticky and Cheetos-stained fingers, must be decorated in the most ornate prose and conceptual jewelry available. CSS code novelties are right at home and can even set up shop as viable articles in pataphysics, with very little paperwork; it’s almost plug-and-play. If many of these are going to impress, they might be forced to do so through slight of hand and gimmicks, a sort of conceptual credit seeing as how they have no real intellectual capital. Be on the lookout for impossible-to-justify-in-universe things like “accessibility modes” to act as catch-nets for those who would otherwise downvote such garish visuals on-sight.
- Unnecessarily complicated jargon and pato-babble. Were it not for its loud announcement of itself in things like splash page notice statements, custom logos, and CSS excess, pataphysics articles might could be tagged by their lecture-like passages of gibberish syllables. The readability in such passages is so indifferent, it feels like a nomenclature class, or like an opera dedicated to one’s self — both performed by the confic equivalent of the sleepy NPR voice. Oddly, such bland exposition dumps are meant to gesture to the audience how the involved terms should work; ironically, they are meant to be clear and educational. You won’t be able to understand what is happening if you don’t take the time to guzzle the required reading, and love it. To paraphrase Kalinin, if you have to wave to the audience directly like that, you’ve spoiled the game. Pato-babble, soaked in the slipperiest of intellectual substances, flails embarrassingly like an adult thrown into the shallow end and who cannot swim. Take for example a passage in SCP-CN-1109:
“The “Shining One” Passive Probe is an improved model of the old “Θ” Type Detection Device. After an swn-001–1 object interacts with the “Project Longinus” system, the Probe will be activated and obtain the metaphysical imprint coordinate of the object, then retrieving “SCP” narratives that match the object.”
“Inject the Anti-Narrative Concept to “SCP” narrative blocks with the Abstract-Metaphysical Structure Injector, in order that its narreme interdependence collapses and causes echelon effect, neutralizing designated anomalous items on the current narrative plane.”
- Over-reliance on pataphysics’ past greatest hits. Pataphysics articles often feature many cross-links. These are invariably used as an embedded vocabulary glossary. Each cross-link represents a function or character that has been pataphysical-ized, such that you feel like you’re being guided through a walking tour of someone’s family history in portraits. This establishes an interminable inter-dependence that requires either dramatic familiarity with the components or a semester’s syllabus of catch up reading. It also means that the failures of one article are inherited into the new one. Like an incautious hedge fund, multiple links in a chain of endlessly re-hypothecating others’ profundity means a catastrophic chain-reaction of intelligence defaults if one falters. The plexus is so self-leveraged, one default pops the whole network’s bubble. You kind of get the feeling that such an article isn’t its own property; as if it is an empty space that other concepts have rented out. A placeholder, if you will.
The result of all these common pitfalls is a very pungent impression of pseudo-intelligence; it’s the kind of stuff that the stereotypical philosopher seen in children’s shows sits around ruminating upon. The worst articles come off as a robust illusion of substance when there is little. Nearly everything in them is a compositional misstep aimed exclusively at sending the impression of being more substantive than it actually is.
SCP-CN-1109 gets more explicit and less timid than other attempts to sell its content as profound:
“Without footprints left, has a traveler really crossed the jungle; Without being told, has a story really been written?”
There is, for example, no compositional substance to this. It is a philosophical featherweight. Considering such inclusions as passable intelligence reinforces the reputation of pataphysics as bad joke, a smoke and mirrors magic trick show, any and all content successfully sold by the jingling keys of CSS wizardry. You might as well try to impress a potential date by asking them that if a falling tree which no one hears actually makes a sound. Such TED-talk-tier platitudes unfortunately reinforce that those empty calories are sufficient to convince the palate of the SCP voting class it is eating something substantial, as both SCP-CN-1109 and Admonition articles demonstrate.
Here’s an example from SCP-6488:
“… the proofs — derived from the total sum of the entire, unrestricted narrative-space-time continuum, their findings irrefutable, inescapable — flash by with increasing speed, matching the grey spider’s increasing pace.”
There might not be a better Rorschach test for anyone wanting to know if they are a sucker for the plastic suggestions of pseudo-intelligence.
What Does All This Have To Do With Anything, You Bastard?
It has to do with what I’ve learned from reading every article to come out of the SCP Wiki for the last month.
But first, it is important to understand that any Admonition hub article prior to being released on the SCP Wiki is paraded around social media sites in an elaborate hype campaign, as seen here:
This is how SCP authors promote themselves and their articles nowadays. No longer are be-something articles simply fed into the list of new entries at SCP to sink or swim on their own merits, to be caught by those who care enough to pay attention because the content is just that good. The SCP Wiki is oversaturated with mostly mediocre content due to a ballooning of mainstream exposure and severely lagging standards that can’t keep up. The amount of content is so overwhelming, it is impossible for any crit-directed apparatus to properly adjudicate each article in accordance to the long-standing bar of acceptability at SCP (though some do wonderfully as unsung heroes, such as LORDXVNV).
In short, this is essentially a staffing shortage, as the SCP Wiki staff’s official team for this has never been gestated to the point of viability. The SCP Wiki is top heavy with eager writers, and relatively less and less solid foundational grounding of consistent curation. The content quality is thus dropping precipitously, with truly awful articles falling through the cracks, while ones that are entirely better are ganged up on. Success on the SCP Wiki has to some extent become a chance-game of reader roulette.
In response to this overcrowding, authors now cater to the telescoping and rapidly devolving attention spans of people attentive to things like Twitter and even TikTok. These creators want to be renowned in a jam-packed market in which they must excessively prostitute themselves in order to stand out. As a result, much of the pivotal, initial attention on such articles is nearly automatic and boosts the article to a safe rating, like timing the “GO” on a video game to achieve a starting boost off the line. This creates a runaway feedback loop of bandwagon voting. The spectacle of an article attaining such a swift ascent to an impressive rating illicits knee-jerk votes and assessments from others, subconsciously suggesting that the post is better simply because of its score. This system bolsters particular content regardless of its writing quality.
Articles that cater to the shapes of social media marketing will, by no coincidence, commonly feature social media responses. This is most egregiously evident in what I call “NPC-praise”, or “bot-praise” if you want to be less offensive. This type of comment on an article is either mono- or duosyllabic, and is almost always accompanied by a “+1”. The intelligence and critical thinking required to type it is indistinguishable from a crude algorithm. Things like “milk +1” or “lol pig” are the same responses that my two year old daughter would give, if I could somehow have her process it instantly. (Don’t get me wrong, she’s a smart toddler, and I would never damage her by letting her read such drivel, but today she was caught licking a window.) This is, in part, the kind of attention span and critical stamina currently defining what the word “success” — and worse yet, “quality” — means on the SCP Wiki.
Keep in mind also that this initial snow in the snowball effect comes from the perpetually online individual, someone who is gleefully consumptive of content tailored towards conditionally-atrophied attention spans (30 seconds on TikTok, 45 on Instagram, 208 characters on Twitter). The result is an influx of adjudicators less capable of critical thought. Few of them aware that in knowing who the author is before reading an article, they are contaminated instantly (and by design) away from any possibility of unbiased assessment. This is a well-established and popular manner of self-promotion in the SCP Wiki culture, headlined by the most successful of these businessman types, those being djkaktus and Rounderhouse. (See this article and ask yourself if it is any coincidence that the only two SCP-K000 winners that have been surpassed in popularity on a long enough timeline are both from these immediate-satiation, metric-obsessed, pop-marketing, short-time-horizon-philosophy authors.)
A second tactic developed to stand out from the crowd is homerism & clique bandwagoning. This is primarily visible in the deluge of INT translation articles that have become very common in the last weeks due to the -EN staff clarifying to international branches that they can post translations directly to the Wiki. In this method, translation articles — particularly the ones that have really, really bad broken English — will be upvoted quickly out of the gate by people from an INT branch who want badly to have representation on -EN. Articles absolutely cancerous with grammatical and spelling errors will make you wonder how in the world it is in the positives. Occasionally, if you check who upvotes, unfortunately it can be numerous unfamiliar, foreign names. This is a shame, because survival should be about quality and the standards of the Wiki maintained. But basically what this amounts to is gaming the upvote system to get articles to stick. Many clearly would not be, were they not backed by an international steroid shot.
The real message here is just how easy it is to game the rating system at SCP. If you think this is being done only by the international branches, and only in the last weeks, you should think again. At least this is showing the attentive reader that such gaming can be done…
A last tactic developed to stand out from the crowd has been mega-conglomeration efforts from mid-profile authors; for example SCP-5999 and SCP-6500, the latter of which the headlining Admonition figure, Placeholder McD, was participatory — just to give you an idea of the compositional proximities here. These executive-visioned projects make parallels with the most bombastic and high-profile Hollywood studio projects. That is both a softening fact and a damning one. Its softening, because these are less criticisms about the SCP Wiki and instead the invasion of it by lower-common-demoninator tactics in composition, receptive strategies, and marketing.
However, and as I’ve said regarding other such slumming seen on the SCP Wiki, this is also precisely why it is so egregious. Such tactics should be here last. On a site that is the Ivy League of amateur, collaborative writing, to see an effort like Admonition thrive on the fumes of a pseudo-intelligensia marketing campaign is a hallmark of increasingly foreign elements successfully displacing what has for so long made SCP unique.
One can imagine design-by-committee storyboard meetings for such enterprise-scale collaborations not being dissimilar to those of, say, the Star Wars sequel trilogy, with the writers believing that there will be an almost religious attention to every fine detail in the piece. Cookies are awarded for correct exposition homework. The unique qualities of the genre are here reduced into video game mechanics. The design-by-committee, next-guest-celebrity-up feel of Admonition in particular — again, this interpretation is explicit and encouraged by its own nomenclature — gives the entries an inauthentic, segmented feel. Connections to past and future entries adopt a synthetic, retroactive, contrived, and best-fit relationship; allusions and cross-links seem interjected and are bent towards to satisfy the mandate for canonicity.
As you could have guessed, I have a lot of tailored but unspoken thoughts on SCP-6844. It would double or triple the length of this post, and most of it not flatteringly so, so I have decided to omit those thoughts. I can sum it up, and everything I’ve said here today, in one simple phrase that will have more satiating intellegensia, more profundity, and more tangible meaning than all of Admonition’s word count combined:
All flavor packet, no ramen.
© Lack of Lepers