Over the past century society has been forced to come to terms with the rapidly quickening race to what we now refer to as the Information Age. While other basic instruments of permanent communication (paper, printing press, etc.) have been around for a while, it was really radio that sparked the mass dissemination of information we know as pop culture. Radio was something you could flip on while you chatted with your friends or while you cooked dinner, and in retrospect a key part to it was that it was too quick-moving to be pinned down by serious thought in the same way the written word could command and be commanded by intellect. Radio had a mental ceiling, a point past which you would lose the listener, and from radio to television to our grand Internet this limit has gotten steadily more restrictive. Radio and television were still in some sense inaccessible; you had to convince a publisher/producer that what you were doing was worth airing for the masses, and then the sheer number of people involved in the actual production and broadcast was enough both to keep the common man out of the backstage and to keep him tuned in. The Internet, however, has no such barrier; anyone with $30 of free income a month is capable of purchasing the service and sharing his worldview with anyone who cares to listen. Of course, the average person is unforgivably stupid, and so a better word for ‘share’ is maybe something along the lines of ‘spew.’ Luckily the sheer popularity of the device keeps any one voice from being heard too clearly, and instead there is a billion-man cacophony consisting in part of nuanced poetry and in part of advanced mathematics and science — icons of intellectual ability and roots of cultural infrastructure — but the vast majority contains just “lol ^_^” over and over.
This, our Internet, is the stage for an 18-year-old Thai boy who goes by the moniker “assassingao” (though among us proud and few admirers, we prefer to shorthand it as “Gao,” a practice I will use here). The trouble with stupidity is that it isn’t an emotional disability but an intellectual one. The average 18-year-old will not understand a religious argument, but he will still be incensed by it. Gao, however, is much more extreme than this; he is so amazingly, mind-numbingly vacant that he speaks straight from his soul. Indeed, many times he reaches beyond this and touches the soul of the everyman, and many more times he loses all ability to communicate and we see only flashes and fragments of ideas, coated in undecipherable gibberish, a veritable mind-dump of information. It is with this mindset that we must approach his works. Take, for instance, his fanfiction account. The second chapter of his (misleadingly titled) work Trying To Die, reads as:
“He cried. Soon, he laid on his futon. Still crying. A moment later, he drifted to sleep.”
This, right here, is something that everyone in his mid-20s can relate to. It is — it is damn near universal, substituting ‘futon’ for ‘park bench’ or ‘curb’ but keeping the same mode of thought. There is no one who hasn’t been there. Gao is an untapped vein of straight up human experience, and despite both Jon Irons and me pressuring him, he has decided to leave his writing career behind him without much comment. Luckily for us, he wrote his magnum opus of Marathon-related work before abandoning his duty as a human being, and while we regret his decision we are thankful for what we have.
Now, anyone can simply read Gao’s prose (dare I call it poetry?), and so I will try to restrict discussion to reading between the lines instead of discussing the surface material. (I suspect that this will lose steam pretty quickly; while every time I read Gao I find something new, my knowledge is still relatively small compared to the body of work itself, and we will run out of material in short order.) Let’s begin with Gao’s only other Marathon-related work. I’ll give you some time to read; try not to focus too hard on that surface content, look instead for those hidden messages, focus especially on the parts that tend towards nonsense.
First, there’s the comicbook-esque random boldfacing of words, but stringing them together makes it seem a lot less contrived. “Destiny built destiny,” Gao tells us, “it’s wrong.” Then, “dangerous spy tenth mjolnir battleroid,” and we have a working thesis for this piece. (Also, 7 words, plus the 3 from “tenth mjolnir battleroid,” coincidence?) And this at first glance might seem to be gibberish (worse, pulling gibberish out of gibberish), but if there is a God then he speaks through Gao, and this is where we must look if there is meaning to be had anywhere. The other place on the first page that this really turns to white noise is
emotions are same as humans.
If you squint, you can see the inspiration for the introduction of this post.
Here’s the second page. (As an aside: thinking about it now, Gao hasn’t ever really finished a story completely, and it’s possible that the philosophical quips are embedded largely in his introductions, where he doesn’t have to worry so much about the action. We may never know, since we don’t have a serious conclusion to compare against.) Gao spends the majority of this page writing (bad) action, drawing heavily on regurgitated Matrix-style imagery. This truly is the western mind laid bare. The only confusing point is the ending, where it is not clear if Gao fired the shots and his hands are messed up (could easily be heading for Gheritt White) or if Gao only noticed some time later that he didn’t actually fire the shock bolts. My bet is on the latter; it seems more his style based on — well, let’s revisit this point when we’re through with -Untitled-.
For you sorry saps who haven’t read -Untitled-, here’s a link to the relevant Pfhorums thread. Gao leads off by demonstrating utter mastery of the English language:
“Graaawl!” Laid there was the flick’ta, it was alive before it was killed by the marine just a second ago with his fists.
The amount of effort needed to decompose this impressively crafted sentence nearly registers on the Richter scale. Continuing on, we begin to get a feel for the story’s raison d’être; Gao is not interested in the portrayal of the Marine as a God-like figure and has instead put himself in the Marine’s shoes, transforming him into an idiot with a pistol. “Hello!” he shouts at the lifeless computer screen, and we can almost feel the spray of spittle and see the lazy eye. This is a man working with what he has. This is a common man.
Gao is also unafraid of bringing out tough topical items like homoeroticism:
he had sweat all over his body. He can take a lot of heat away from his hardware by just sweating.
The Pfhor are already an established vehicle for human oppression, and here he simply takes that one step farther. That it’s so subtle suggests that Gao himself may not even fully comprehend what he’s written. Here we see the mind of a 16-year-old male coming to grips with a — well, perhaps not a slippery sexuality, but at least one that’s at least a little greasy. Gao in addition makes a play at discussing the moral questions of the classic Man vs. Society struggle with the doppelgänger Marine, a manifestation of the Marine’s rage against his resurrection (since Blake is directly responsible for the creation of the S’acv) and his plans to help the secondary forces intertwined throughout the story. He fights, however, only with Blake, and he is handed his defeat because of it. The message Gao wishes to convey is that no one man is responsible for society’s actions or prahblums, that it is wrong to single someone out as a root cause.
I know that this isn’t really the post you guys wanted; when I speak of Gao it typically goes more along the lines of
thermoplyae: “‘Wake up’ Blake said while punching the marine’s head.”
thermoplyae: gao has clearly had a roommate before
jon_irons: a room mate named genius
thermoplyae: and one morning genius yelled “Wake up!” while it punched him in the head
jon_irons: let’s write a biography
but this is the post you’re getting. Gao deserves to be appreciated for what he’s brought into this world; you hardly need me to point out the funny parts. They are self-identifying. Again, the important point (and this is the point that ties it loosely to loch) is that Gao doesn’t know any better to cloak his thoughts in what he thinks society wants to hear, nor does he know any better to be something other than average. Sure, his work is meant to be enjoyed as it’s written, but it’s important to realize what it is that you’re reading to appreciate it fully. This is more than Gao; it is you and me, and Gao tells us without hesitation or remorse that we are the spittle on the screen.
As a parting gift, here’s an actual, honest-to-God conversation with Gao:
gao: I felt like a brain-dead zombie now
gao: When did it was?
gao: At least, here’s a fact: I never spam with less than one alphabet.
gao: I’m gonna play for a sex
Maybe that connection with loch isn’t so tenuous after all.
(Email Gao to tell him how much you appreciate him.)