Interviewing Icons - The Great Hippo
rating: +51+x

Apologies everyone for the long break in between interviews, these take a considerable amount of time, and I have had a minuscule amount of free time to do these in the past few months. We are back on track though! Without further ado, allow me to welcome our Parawatch aficionado, the creator of Murphy Law, and a whole lot more, please give a virtual round of applause to The Great Hippo everybody! ~ WhiteGuardWhiteGuard

Who is The Great HippoThe Great Hippo?

The user The Great Hippo became a member of this site on the 10th of April, 2018, and his top 3 most popular pages on the site by rating are The Great Hippo's Proposal (feat. PeppersGhost): A Good Boy at +638, SCP-3034: The Counting Station at +636, and SCP-2639: Video Game Violence at +571. As an author, The Great Hippo has written a total of 40 SCP articles, 27 Tales, 0 GoI Formats, and 10 other pages for a grand total of 77 pages contributed. One of the areas The Great Hippo is most well known for is the horror/creepypasta side of the Wiki, which is shown with his success with Parawatch having written some of the first tales for the group. Additionally, who could forget his famous noir investigator, Murphy Law. The following interview will consist of 20 questions from myself with his responses.

The bold text represents the questions whereas the text within the boxes are The Great Hippo's responses.

Interview Questions:

Hello, Mr. Hippo! Let's start with my usual introductory style questions. How did you come across the SCP Wiki? It is my understanding that you knew about the SCP project as early as Series I. Why did you wait until 2018 to create an account?

The first article I ever read was SCP-165, otherwise known as The Creeping, Hungry Sands of Tule. I'm going to say it was in… 2011? -Ish? Back when there was only Series 1, at least. I found myself enamored with the format and how it could be used to tell a story (and I was always really big into creepypasta) but didn't even think of contributing at that time.

A couple of years later — early in 2018, I think — I chanced upon the site again. Glancing through recent articles, it occurred to me that it'd be a fun challenge to try and write something like this. And so… that's what I did (SCP-3034 - The Counting Station).

What exactly about the SCP Wiki was attractive to you? Did you happen to have any favorite authors whose work inspired your own writing?

The format was novel, and I thought it might be fun to try writing within a particular constraint. As for authors who have inspired me — ophite, qntm, djkaktus, minmin, and Michael Atreus were all significant influences (and people who's work I had read on-site before deciding to participate).

Do you feel the Wiki is welcoming of newcomers? Were you nervous at all when you released your first work? Is there anything you would recommend to newcomers when it comes to submitting works to the site?

Admittedly, I haven't been around very much recently, so I can't speak to any current trends regarding how welcoming it is (or isn't). I wasn't nervous at the time, but that's because I felt confident about my writing (to the point where even if it hadn't worked, I'd be able to accept that; different writing styles for different communities).

Re: newcomers, I think my main suggestion would be to understand that you're submitting your work to a community built on fanfiction about a poopy murder statue. Don't take it too seriously. If you find yourself obsessing about whether or not your work will succeed (or how 'much' it will succeed) to a point where it's stressing you out, it might be time to take a step back and re-assess. Don't chain your sense of self-worth as a writer to how many 'upvotes' you've gotten (or whether or not you can succeed on a poopy murder statue fanfic site).

You can treat your time on the site as an opportunity to improve as a writer, and a little frustration is — quite naturally! — part of that. But if it's screwing with your head, take a break. The stakes here are all but non-existent; don't let this place mess with you the same way social media messes with us all.

What experience did you have in writing prior to joining the site? Do you believe your previous work helped prepare you for some of the success you have enjoyed here?

I've written plenty of fanfic nonsense in other communities. I also did a lot of essay writing in college (and have a minor background in teaching).

Outside of that, I've always been enamored with spooky stories. Do you remember back when you and some other kids would get together to mess with an ouija board, and the piece would start spelling things out? And everyone would panic, screaming: I'm not moving it! I'm not moving it?

That was me. I was the kid moving it.

What is your general approach and writing process when it comes to writing for the wiki? What would say the average amount of time it takes and so on. Is there anything that you find to be "the most challenging step" when it comes to writing for this place?

Oh, jeez. Uh. Anywhere from (literally) 20 minutes to several months (or even years). My process is a bit like sculpting; I come across something I want to do, figure out some basics (image, containment procedures, maybe the description, maybe the logs), then proceed to chip away at everything until the story I want to tell kind of… emerges. Sometimes this process is ridiculously fast (I finished SCP-3352 - Bethlehem Steel in a matter of hours). Other times, it's ridiculously slow (I'd been tweaking SCP-3117 - A Monster Shaped Hole for literally over a year before I finally posted it).

My approach is very chaotic and unstructured. The hardest part for me has always been the endings; that's the part I spend the most time thinking about. Getting the reader engaged is something I find easy — leaving them with a sense of satisfaction, making that engagement pay off — that's always something I've found hard.

Your 001 proposal with PeppersGhostPeppersGhost, A Good Boy, is your most popular work by rating. (At the time of this interview, it is only a couple votes apart from the article the next question covers.) I always find it interesting when established authors try their hand at a 001 proposal collaboration. Interestingly enough, this proposal is the only 001 proposal that is listed as an "Explained" SCP. How did the collaborative process work for this article and what inspired you to write about "such a good boy"?

I've always been fascinated with neural nets and AI. One thing that always bugged me, though, is how sci-fi treats AI like awkward metal humans. I love Data from Star Trek, but that whole trope is played out for me. I wanted to write something about an AI that actually felt like AI. Alien and bizarre.

PeppersGhost had just written SCP-\̅\̅\̅\̅-J, which uses predictive text based off tons of other articles to produce weird, creepy results. I realized I wanted to do something with that. Collaborating with Peppersghost was a natural step, too, because I realized he was far more steeped in the lore of the site than I was — and I wanted the SCP to refer to a bunch of other older SCPs with 'esoteric' containment procedures.

The '-EX' designation was last minute. I think Captain Kirby helped clinch that — it happened around the time I threw in the whole 'count-down' thing (where the reader realizes that ERZATZ is going to get the SCP-001 slot only because every SCP below it has been neutralized). While we were talking about it, either him or me said something like "is this thing even anomalous anymore?" — at which point it hit me that it absolutely wasn't.

Finally, the collaborative process was… I wrote out the basic structure (three acts; one of the rare times when I did have a pretty organized structure for the article in mind). Peppersghost cleaned up the formatting and got Botnik working to produce the excellent chunks of bot-text, and then went over a lot of my stuff and tidied it up (as well as adding a couple of touches of his own — I believe 'ethical felines' was his, as well as the realization that this thing acted like a dog). We both reeled in each other's excesses (he wanted images of dead cats, I wanted to call this thing "DR GOODBOY, OR: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my ROM"). We played to each other's strengths.

SCP-3034: The Counting Station was the first article that you released onto the SCP Wiki. I do not recall if I told you this during our preliminary interview together, but this is one of the articles that renewed my interest in the site after years away from it and remains to this day as an all-time favorite of mine. How did you manage to write such an excellent article that portrays such a sinister feeling as your first to the site? Additionally, you have repeatedly mentioned wanting to tweak or remove the interview from the article. Why do you feel like that in particular is a weak spot in the article?

IDK, man; counting stations are weird. I think one of the reasons it works so well is because there's a solid principle behind taking creepy things that are 100% real and then adding a slight, creepy, magical twist. It's my favorite type of horror — horror that's so subtle you're not even sure where the line between what's real and what isn't is, anymore.

I came up with this idea years ago in some distant corner of the internet when a bunch of people were throwing out their ideas for SCPs. I just threw out the basic premise there: "What if there's this counting station you stumble across? Everyone's gone, the only thing you find is "DON'T LET HER FINISH" scratched into a table, and then suddenly the radio kicks in and you hear a little girl counting down to zero." The idea lodged into my head, and then — years later, I figured: 'what the hell; I'll write it'.

Re: the interview, I won't take it out because literally no one I talk to thinks I should, but it always bugged me because it feels a little too… 'cinematic'. Like the author trying to tell the reader what's going on, rather than letting the reader figure it out on their own. I always love ambiguity; I love leaving things up to the reader's imagination. I feel like the interview crosses that line.

It's time to explain what Mage: The Ascension is and why it has inspired your writing in two different articles, SCP-2639: Video Game Violence, and the next article we will talk about. What is the deal with SCP-2639 and why did you change the MTF name? This article is also a bit different from your usual writing. What inspired the change in direction?

Mage: The Ascension is this weird, open-ended game where the reality that we understand is just a consensus we all agree to. Science is a form of magic that the Technocrats (the bad guys) have convinced everyone to abide by. Mages are people who don't 'agree' — each operates on their own paradigm, casting magic based on their own unique, personal understanding of how the universe works. It's a wild, fun, and extremely deep system.

Anyway, there are these things called Marauders in the setting. Marauders are… effectively, they're mages so wrapped up in their personal paradigm that they ignore paradox (the thing that limits mages from getting too wild) and just force their paradigm on everyone in their vicinity. A trio of Virtual Adepts (think mages who treat reality like the Matrix) became Marauders while playing an FPS, and ended up gaining the ability to respawn, etc. That was the basis for SCP-2639.

I changed the MTF name because someone pointed out that the original name (Griefers, I think?) wouldn't have been part of the lexicon of a bunch of Quake nerds back in the 90s.

As for the change in approach… honestly, outside of the opening (which I think is way too long, in retrospect; cut it down and get to those logs!), this is pretty standard for me. I love dialogue; writing these characters is the easiest thing in the world for me. I just don't do it too often because it feels a bit like cheating — but since the bulk of this are just chat-logs between gamers, it was an opportunity to cut loose and let my delight for dialogue really shine.

I'm still enamored with wtf_gtfo's line, "we are unstoppable nigh-immortal digitized death-gods who have spent 10+ years practice-killing each other in endlessly looped murder-orgies".

wtf_gtfo is just me when I was 14. An angry, bitter, self-obsessed ball of vicious queerness.

I had not read any Murphy Law articles until I prepared for this interview. They are quite the trip, starting with SCP-3043: Murphy Law in… Type 3043 — FOR MURDER!. You managed to pull off one of those articles where the anomaly itself isn't the actual focal point, but it is a noir-based investigator who does the heavy lifting in this one. With the format and the character being unique to the SCP Wiki, what inspired you to write this article and introduce a character such as Murphy Law?

Part Marauder from Mage: The Ascension (as mentioned above), part Tracer Bullet (from Calvin and Hobbes). Every so often, Watterson (C&H's creator) would have Calvin (the little kid and main character) re-imagine all of his childhood interactions in this gritty, black-and-white landscape where he was the titular private eye ("Tracer Bullet") trying to solve a "case" (typically, his mom trying to get him to admit to breaking a vase or something). That was the germ of the idea: "What if Tracer Bullet, but real?"

I love noir. I love Raymond Chandler, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep — etc. Simultaneously, though, noir's got a lot of… let's call it "problems"? I didn't want to write something genuinely hard-boiled. I wanted something that was light and fun, but still managed to contain the core nugget of what made me love noir (its cheesy one-liners, its over-the-top hard-boiled heroes…). Murphy Law is basically just me playing dress-up and pretending to be noir, but in a very silly, fun sort of way.

Staying on the topic of Murphy Law, you followed things up by writing an article based on him, SCP-3143: Murphy Law in... The Foundation Always Rings Twice!. Let's start out with some rapid-fire questions. Where did the name come from for Mr. Law and is there any significance that both of the Murphy Law SCPs end in "43"? Were you nervous to write another Murphy Law article after the success of the first?

The name is based on a roleplay character I once created called… well, Murphy Law. He was also a private eye, and I just found the name so amusing (and the idea of him being endlessly heckled over it) that it stuck in my head. When I started writing this, I thought it would be great to write a Murphy Law that — rather than endlessly getting heckled over it — embraced the name in all its cheesy glory. Hence the line: "I'm the guy you call when everything that could go wrong… did."

No significance in the '43'; it was just an opportunity to have the sequel sync up numerically.

I was… 'nervous' might be the wrong word. Intrigued? I knew it would be excessively difficult, because I had to 1) Make it a clear sequel, 2) Make it work on its own, and 3) Make it also pataphysical, but in a way that wouldn't just feel like the first article (in short, in a way the reader wouldn't expect). I had to pull a fast one. That's why I decided to write it in the first place — because it struck me as a heck of a challenge.

You have 5 Parawatch tales in total, all of which are within the top 10 of the GoI's tales by rating. Additionally, you have some writing advice posted on the hub itself. What about writing Parawatch articles plays into your strengths as a writer?

My favorite type of horror is horror that doesn't feel like it's trying to be scary. Once you notice the monster's TRYING to scare you, the jig is up; you realize it's not a monster at all. It's just a guy in a spooky mask.

Parawatch articles let me focus on that sort of scary — creating a sense of dread through tension, unease, and a sense of the real. Every Parawatch article I write is based on something that's 100% real… but just twisted enough where things start to unravel. I love putting the reader in that space — a space where they're not sure where what's "true" ends and what's "fiction" begins.

Most of my Parawatch stuff (and, in fact, the entire GOI approach) was inspired by classic creepypasta like the Lenintine Cards and KillSwitch.

During my preliminary interview with you, you had some interesting thoughts on struggling new authors, how you personally rate things, and the general rating system and culture surrounding it. For our readers, what were the thoughts you had about the rating system and your thoughts on some of the pitfalls with the system?

I think that the whole upvote/downvote system is one of those things that hot-wires our reptile brains into obsessing over something that ultimately shouldn't matter (that brief rush of endorphins when someone upvotes your article). I think that the way this overlaps with lots of newer folks (especially those with insecurities around themselves and their writing) is… concerning.

I don't know any solution to this. You kind of need a mechanic to filter articles on the site, and any voting system is going to hit the same problem. But I think being aware of how this can screw with people's heads is important. There's nothing wrong with wanting upvotes, but we shouldn't encourage people to base their self-worth as writers off of them. It's like basing your self-worth off of your ability to produce a Twitter shitpost with 10k 'Likes'.

I mean, yeah — writing an article on this site requires a lot more effort than writing a Twitter shitpost. But that's the problem — you're much more invested in your article than your Twitter shitpost. And yet… I can pass judgement on your article just as quickly as I can your Twitter shitpost.

Basically, this — combined with the fact that we've got a lot of teenagers in the community (people who are already struggling with identity issues — people who are vulnerable to approval as a commodity) — gives me a lot of concern. It's one of the reasons I rarely downvote.

Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting upvotes (and I don't think there's anything wrong with downvoting!). I just dislike how the commodification of approval/disapproval can play havoc with our sense of self-worth.

Mildly put, I never thought I would see Don Quixote in an SCP article, but you managed just that in SCP-4028: La Historia de Don Quixote de la Mancha. You have mentioned in a couple of different places that Don Quixote is your hero. That might seem like a strange statement to some readers, so please explain what you mean when you say that. Talk a little about how you placed your hero in the SCP format.

Cervantes definitely considered Don Quixote to be a cautionary tale about letting too much romantic (not romance — there's a difference!) fiction into your head, but just about everyone takes the exact opposite read (a fact I still find hilarious). I think all good heroes have a grain of Don Quixote lurking in them; a tendency to launch themselves toward lost causes, struggling against impossible odds.

SCP-4028 happened because I pointed out how CadaverCommander's articles often had a quixotic element to them, which prompted him to respond with how he was surprised there wasn't a Don Quixote article on the site… which led me to immediately correcting this. I decided at once that Don Quixote had to be pataphysical (part of the impossible challenge; making yet another pataphysical article that wasn't a bore to read), and also had to be uplifting. I also wrote it because someone told me they refused to upvote pataphysical articles ever again, which I took as a challenge. I'm happy to say that they upvoted SCP-4028.

During our preliminary interview, you specifically mentioned having a particular fondness for Vincent Price and the style of movies he was in. This fondness appears to have sparked the idea for SCP-4153: Vincent Price presents… IT CAME FROM SITE-9!. Take us through your article and explain what you believe Vincent Price brought to the table in regards to the works he was a part of

As much as I go on and on about verisimilitude, subtly, and never letting the reader know you're trying to scare them… I have a deep fondness for the exact opposite approach. Nothing about Vincent Price's work is subtle; everything is delightfully campy, theatrical, and over the top. I wanted to give that a try, which is what led to… well, this article.

The article contains one of my core recurring themes (or, at least, one of my favorite): Reconciling the old with the new. It's a theme that appears in SCP-3241 - The SS Sommerfeld, too — this idea of an old guard and new guard being in disunity, with the article itself being about reconciliation between those two forces. Vincent Price and friends are feeling left behind by the Foundation with its new, 'sophisticated' approach to spooky ghost stories… so what are they to do? Why, find a way to tell a 'sophisticated' (and yet still ghoulish!) ghost story of their own — within the Foundation's framework.

SCP-3352: Bethlehem Steel is your most recent work and it was quite successful. From your author post, you seemed to not expect it to reach +50, let alone the +223 it is currently at now. You also mentioned there was some truth to the article. What is the backstory of this article and why did you feel like it was something you had to get off your chest?

I mention this in the article, but the steel I-beam is 100% real; the stakes just weren't nearly that high. It was in a spot it had no business being in and managed to catch an elbow when it started dropping — saving a handful of people (rather than a whole city).

I've worked in a litany of industrial environments, refineries included. And I think these are… decisively unsafe places. I'm not some sort of 'primitivist'; I don't want to tear down all the factories. But the more I work in these places, the more I realize just how dangerous they are. Not just to the people working in them, but to the communities surrounding them.

The theme I wanted to hammer with this article — the thing I wanted to get off my chest — is how the people who pay for these places, the people who profit off of them, the people who invest in them — when these places go down, they aren't the ones who pay the cost. The people who work there are. And if they don't pay the cost? The communities surrounding these places will.

So many probably know about this, but your current account is not your first one. In fact, you self-deleted your original account after providing a message informing us that you would be leaving the site. A month or so later, you returned with a new account and have been going strong ever since then. You were very successful here from the very beginning. Many people adored your work. What brought about this action and what would you like to tell people who may be going through similar situations?

I had a personal mental break aggravated by a lot of RL stuff going on at the time. I think my main regret is just that I let that break show in public. I should have just said "I need a bit to myself, see y'all later" and left it at that.

My situation, in this case, was kind of uniquely mine, so there's not too much advice I can give anyone going through similar things here, beyond that… don't be afraid to just take a break. You're allowed to leave, do other stuff — hell, you're allowed to just leave for good if you have to. Not every community fits every person; there's no shame in realizing that this place isn't conducive to your particular mental health.

Looking back at the site, what would you say is the most successful thing about this massive collaborative writing project that we call the SCP Foundation Wiki? Additionally, where do you believe our shortcomings are and the places we need to improve the most?

That a bunch of goofy roleplay chat-logs between some internet refugees had this much-staying power.

Re: the other thing, I think the biggest shortcoming is the community's struggle to fully grasp the power older and more established authors have over newer, less established ones (or readers). At least, that's how I felt when I was more involved in the community — it's admittedly been a while. But I've always sensed a sort of disconnect between these two things.

This is one of the reasons I don't downvote; because — as arrogant as it might sound (I'm hardly one of the 'older' authors!) — I'm always concerned about the impact my downvote might have on a new writer. I don't want a writer to feel terrible about their work just because I didn't happen to like it.

Do you happen to have any projects outside of the wiki going on currently that you would like to share or talk about? Alternatively, do you have any hobbies that you think people would be interested to hear about?

Not really, no. I keep to myself outside of the wiki (but I appreciate the ask nevertheless!).

And at the end of the day, who truly is "The Great Hippo"?

Has spirit-medium powers. Like the immortals. His flesh and bone are atomized. He becomes… a dream…

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”1

Llenósele la fantasía de todo aquello que leía en los libros, así de encantamentos como de pendencias, batallas, desafíos, heridas, requiebros, amores, tormentas y disparates imposibles; y asentósele de tal modo en la imaginación que era verdad toda aquella máquina de aquellas sonadas soñadas invenciones que leía, que para él no había otra historia más cierta en el mundo.

His fantasy was filled with all he read in books: enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, agonies, and impossible nonsense; and it possessed his imagination that the whole fabric of fanciful invention he read of was true — for him, there was no other history more certain in the world.

This concludes the interview. I really hope you enjoyed it! I would like to thank The Great Hippo for being awesome. I have taken forever to get back to Hippo on this, and he has taken it like a champ. Anyways, thanks to everyone who reads these. I have been amazed by the support I have received for these and I certainly intend to keep them going. I hope this break was nothing more than an outlier. The next one is already on the way as well!

Thank you for reading!

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