Disorder Reviews: SCP Foundation (2008-) [MEGA REVIEW]

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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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SCP FOUNDATION


Launch Date: 19 January 2008
Genre: science fiction, horror, urban fantasy

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In the previous review, I had discussed the Internet's potential as a tool for research and learning, as well as its dangerous influence on new, impressionable writers. However, for the sake of brevity, I had intentionally neglected another property that makes the Web appealing for many artists-to-be: its ability to host large collaborative circlejerks. The aforementioned TV Tropes and fan-made wikis illustrate this already, but those boil down to fanboys pedantically archiving the most menial of details on their favorite episode of the latest flavor-of-the-month children's cartoon -- in short, they are not particularly interesting creative ventures. (For that matter, neither are fanon wikis, the contributors of which have either the physical or mental age of a fifth-grader that really doesn't want to do his math homework.) This being said, there do exist original projects, some of which have even gained wider appeal through related media and adaptations. Nonetheless, it soon becomes obvious that the very format at the core of their popularity is also what dooms them to spiral into mediocrity when given enough time and manpower.

Before the fan art, the video games, and the "EXPLAINED!!!!" videos with Patreon links, the SCP Foundation boiled down to 4chan users sharing spooky ideas. The first SCP article appeared on the site's "Paranormal" (/x/) board in 2007, at a time where its user base could still come up with good creepypastas instead of asking how they can summon a succubus. Although it would have been hard to imagine its scale today, it's not surprising that the idea would catch on with a premise this irresistible. To put things simply, the SCP Foundation is a fictional organization that apprehends and contains entities that break the laws of nature and pose a threat to humanity. Consequently, each "article" describes one of these entities (known as "SCP objects") as well as the procedure for keeping it contained. However, to prevent the social fabric from unraveling, it's paramount that their existence remain a secret; documents will black out, redact, or hide information behind a security clearance so as to prevent unwanted information leaks. While there would be subsequent additions to the formula, this is the general principle, and it's nothing short of a fucking brilliant premise. First, the need for the Foundation and its workings to be left ambiguous allows for articles to be very free-form in terms of objects and containment procedures; second, the secrecy of the documents adds to the mystique of the individual SCPs, as well as the organization as a whole: what matters is not only what the text tells you, but what it leaves out.

Not every entry was a hit in the early days, far from it, but I'll be damned if there wasn't some worthwhile stuff. As unassuming as its page looks now, the simplicity of the original SCP is precisely why it has persisted as a classic beyond its mere status as the first article. Once again, the ambiguity of the format has led to the inclusion of some genuinely clever concepts, namely the machine that can refine other objects and the SCP that can only be described in terms of what it is not. My favorite has to be SCP-1981, not only for the batshit concept, but because it builds up the tension while remaining solidly in the confines of the format. Mind you, all of these are among the highest-rated pages on the website out of thousands of other entries, but it's only fair that the most distinctive pieces of writing are the ones that reach the top, right? Absolutely, but consider this: if your average Internet user knows about the SCP Foundation, it'll be for an article like this. What about the remaining 5000+ pages?

An online collaborative project will generally go one of two ways: either the novelty wears off after a while and it dies out, or it keeps growing and doesn't stop. For a website like TV Tropes, where the intent is very much to accumulate superfluous information, there's absolutely no reason you'd want the former to happen, but when it comes to a creative venture with a theme as specific as the SCP Foundation, both outcomes have their fair share of problems. Roughly around the same time SCP got started, there was a similar website called The Holders, but it had pretty much died by the end of 2013 because no one knew what to do with the premise other than regurgitate vague prophetic talk about an apocalypse they can't specify with prose that wouldn't have been out of place in Dark Souls III. With such a large community, the SCP Foundation is not likely to experience the same fate any time soon, but therein lies the problem: the website became popular for articles that mostly reside in the first two series (between 0000 and 1999), at a point in time in which the project's /x/ roots were still in place. As the number of authors would increase, this would not be the case for long.

Today, the userbase spans a large amount of writers, many of which come from different communities with their own perspective of the SCP Foundation and what it means to write an article for it; with such a diverse array of styles, it's impossible for the core principles to hold beyond surface-level formalities, such as the inclusion of an object class, the formal writing style, or the obfuscation of information (the latter two aren't even a given, mind you). Minor "news" outlets have commended the website for maintaining a quality standard, since pages with a negative rating eventually get replaced, yet you can easily find people argue that any other SCP past the first 1999 doesn't fit the overall concept, and it's rarely an unfair assessment. The fact of the matter is that an article can get a lot of upvotes as a result of many factors: maybe it's pandering to a specific audience, maybe the author is popular enough that they have their own fanbase, or maybe, in rare cases, it's a genuinely good piece of writing for reasons outside the usual scope of the Foundation. In short, it's a complete fuckfest: one could say that the tone is inconsistent, but the average article has deviated so far from the original material that it would be a bit naïve to imply there is still a "tone" in the first place.

[10000 character cut-off]​
 

Martintox

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When people talk about the inconsistency of SCPs, they generally highlight the most egregiously unfitting pages, the most infamous being the satellite that runs a Tumblr blog about Homestuck. (As an aside, the staff still update the site's Tumblr page regularly; make of that what you will.) Yes, that is exactly as batshit as it sounds, but you don't need to look at the biggest clown to realize you're balls deep in the circus. How about a supercomputer that thinks it's a dog, or an American? Some will argue that there have always been silly entries here and there and this is blatant reactionary right-of-center discourse in response to left-of-center intersectionalist thought, but I'm 100% sure the toaster you can only describe in the first person has a better understanding of politics. (Furthermore, the tone of that particular article remains consistent with other classic pages, even with the meme premise.) Speaking of Americans, it's worth recalling an incident a couple years ago in which the SCP logo was changed to include the rainbow colors for Pride Month. (Some articles, for that matter, permanently have the rainbow or other Pride colors based on the author's discretion.) In addition, there have been known instances of older SCPs getting re-written as an attempt to break away from "channer roots": compare and contrast the original SCP-847 with the long-winded sob story that took its place. Leave it to a group of intersectionalists to say that a female mannequin that has to attack other women to regenerate is an intrinsically misogynistic concept, even though it's clearly a metaphor for women's sexual emancipation by eliminating competition in the prostitution market.

Now, I know the first question on your mind: "are those insensitive bastards insinuating that the Foundation wants to quarantine homosexuals and the transgender to ensure the safety of the social fabric?" I also know the second question: "why would such a secret organization celebrate Pride Month and not Black History Month in addition to that?" Indeed, not only is this insensitive and not very KappaPride, it makes zero sense for an organization like this to care about ephemeral celebrations or redact critical documents to make them more inclusive. Herein lies the awful truth of the SCP project today: to the userbase, the Foundation is not an entity with an image to hold up, but a writing exercise. The over-the-top concepts that clash with the horror-heavy sci-fi/fantasy atmosphere of the classic pages are but one facet of this problem: it's not uncommon for an article to deviate heavily from the standard format and become lost in a sea of logs, addendums, and endless discussions -- in other words, the actual file is a mere setup for an overwrought NaNoWriMo reject, and I do mean that. Why else would they be organizing contests to see who gets to have the big thousandth milestone for each series, as if a real organization would care about numerology bullshit? Why do you think these people write such massive walls of text? Now, to cut these authors some slack, it's bound to be a pain in the ass to come up with something original when there are actual thousands of entries already on the website. These guys try hard. Good fucking god, do they try hard. However, when you're about 27 paragraphs into an article where an alien resides in Al Gore's body, you have to stop and wonder if you might want to invest all this time and effort into something that'll actually look good on your portfolio, like a critical analysis of Grundrisse.

It's taken us plenty of time to conclude that the SCP Foundation has long exceeded the boundaries of its original concept to become a glorified online writing competition. Don't be mistaken: we're nowhere close to done. By now, it's become almost abundantly clear that the average SCP writer is also the type of person to browse TV Tropes and think Cliffside is actually good. Yes, they fell for the "self-awareness" meme also, but I'm not here just to make sure you know what my previous review was about. There is a clear reason why online collaborations such as this are meant by design to either die or devolve into pure thematic anarchy: people who consume media in the Information Age refuse to quit while they are ahead. When they find a good movie or video game, they always want more -- not out of the story, but out of the setting. They make fan art and fanfiction to cover ground that is irrelevant to the ideas of the original work about 90% of the time. Even worse, these unofficial works can also get an audience who, in turn, create their own fanfiction. In the age of the Internet, every piece of media has its own procession of artistic freeloaders with too much time on their hands and not enough confidence to try and come up with their own ideas instead of mooching off those of someone else.

To uncover the final layer of the artistically inept behemoth that has become one with the walls of the SCP Foundation, we need a slight bit of context. In a devious act of anglo skulduggery, J.R.R. Tolkien had cursed the literary world with the technique of "worldbuilding". To the adherents of this wretched ideology, the setting is not just an accessory to the story, but a goal in and of itself. Who gives a shit about a concise plot with interesting characters and thought-provoking moral issues when you can discuss the sewage system of a fantasy steampunk nation that's ultimately just France with extra steps? People who go for this approach when writing are the literary equivalent of an idea man: they have plenty of "really cool" concepts, but they have neither the restraint nor the talent to focus on a few of them for the sake of a streamlined and engaging story. You can tell when something was made by a worldbuilder if you've spent multiple hours on it and it's done nothing except introduce more characters and locations. Imagine if Black Swan had a 400-page prequel novel about Nina's mother, or Tarkovsky's Solaris had an extra 40 minutes discussing the rocket Kelvin used to reach the station, or Nier: Automata's lead voice actors were given roles in the remaster of the original Nier. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure they would be very meaningful additions to their respective canons.

What does the SCP Foundation have to do with this? Well... it has a bit of a worldbuilding problem. Look at this: these are more than 30 different collections of SCP articles and short stories with their own overarching continuity. Yes, I did say "short stories": did you think these people wouldn't take the opportunity to flex their "skills" by using someone else's concept? Have you ever wondered why names like Dr. Bright and Dr. Clef pop up in a whole bunch of articles? Why are there so many object classes beyond the standard three? Have you noticed how multiple of the SCPs I've linked above have references to multiple other SCPs? Hey, ever wanted an origin story for the original SCP? Do you think these are enough examples to make you understand the website has long since reached Homestuck levels of convoluted lore? Too bad, because there's still this, and this, and whatever these are, as well as the 30+ propositions for the first SCP, the highest-rated of which happens to be from the user that gave the highly recurrent character of Dr. Clef his namesake.

[second 10000 character cut-off]​
 

Martintox

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If I do little more than make you aware of all this nonsense, it's not merely because it's already half past midnight by the time I've reached this paragraph -- to simply know of the storytelling Ouroboros that has formed inside the SCP Foundation should be a more than adequate warning. In its current state, the site demonstrates better than anything else the pitfalls of worldbuilding, especially when the original concept is meant to flourish from the precise lack thereof. This is what happens when a bunch of strangers online stick to the same premise for too long. I envy the outsider, who only knows of the project through its most iconic articles, blissfully unaware of the postmodernist rot beneath the thin ice of ignorance. If you are to engage with the Foundation, do yourself a favor and stick to anything that isn't on the actual website. At least SCP - Containment Breach will be fun to play with friends, something your average SCP author and reader probably lacks.

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PERSONAL RATING: READ
RECOMMENDATION RATING: THE
LETTERED RATING: REVIEW


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THE UNDERTALE REMINDER

Deltarune is better than Undertale by a sizeable margin -- this is obvious. Still, it would have been even better if it didn't include multiple characters from the latter as an attempt to set up a meaningless multiverse continuity like the SCP Foundation did. That being said, Deltarune is still garbage in its own right -- this is also obvious. Why am I so confident in such a statement, you may ask?

 

Dalisclock

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I'm kinda shocked you've even attempt to review something to fucking massive, broad and without anything resembling Canon.

So Bravo to you sir, for the attempt.

And I say that as someone is quite fascinated by the whole SCP thing even if it's obviously all over the place and so OOT at times it makes WH40K look restrained. The Exploring Series on youtube has done a pretty good job of highlighting the whole thing as well as giving a decent jumping in point by talking about some of the myriad factions.
 

PointlessKnowledge

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Item #: 432020

Object Class: Keter

Special Containment Procedure: Item SCP-432020 is to be left in front of a computer with a limited internet connection, located in a locked container at all times. It is to be given what French people consider food as sustenance as well as provided large quantities of low-quality media to distract it from accomplishing its goals. Two armed guards are to be located outside of the container to prevent SCP-432020 from leaving its container.

Description: SCP-432020 is an eternally-cucked Frenchman with the ability to write endlessly about any media he consumes. If removed from a computer, he might try to accomplish something with his life. This alone is reason to keep him away from the rest of humanity.