The Goal of the Superversive

Throwback Thursday Superversive Blog Repost:

Subversive Literary Movement

Any new venture needs a mission statement. So, what are the goals of the Superversive Literary Movement?

Well…let me tell you a brief story.

As a child, I distained Cliffsnotes. I insisted on actually reading the book. I would like to instill the same virtue in my children. But recently, I made my first exception.

My daughter had to read Steinbeck’s The Pearl for class. We read it together. She read part. I read part. The writing was just gorgeous. The life of the people involved drawn so lovingly. The dreams the young man had for his baby son were so poignant, so touching.

Worried about what kind of book this  might be, I read the end first. It looked okay. So, we read the book together.

Turns out, I had missed something—the part where the baby got shot.

Not a happy story.

Next, she brought home Of Mice and Men. We started it together. What a gorgeous and beautifully writing—the descriptions of nature, the interaction between the two characters. A man named George, who could be off doing well on his own, is taking care of a big and simple man named Lennie, who accidentally kills the mice he loves because of his awkward big strength. In George, despite his gruff manner and his bad language, we see a glimpse of what is best in the human spirit, a glimpse of light in a benighted world.

The scene of the two camping out and discussing their hopes of someday owning their own little farm, where Lennie could tend rabbits, was so touching and hopeful, so filled with pathos and sorrow, and so beautifully written. Steinbeck is clearly one of the great masters of word use.

But I remembered The Pearl.  I glanced ahead, but this time, I looked more carefully.

On the next to last page, while discussing how their hoped-for little farm with rabbits is almost within their grasp, George presses a pistol against the back of Lennie’s head and shoots.

Now, in the story, he does it with a terribly heavy heart. He does it for “a good reason”—Lennie accidentally killed someone, but…

That doesn’t make it better.

I sat there holding the remains of my heart, which Steinbeck had just ripped out and stamped on. The devotion of this good man George had led to nothing. All their golden hopes turned to dross, sand.

And it wasn’t just the end. The book was full of examples of “the ends justify the means” type of thinking – such as a man killing four of nine puppies, so that the other five will have a chance.

Very realistic? Check. Very down to earth? Check. Very “the way of the world”? Check.

Why give a book like this to children to read? What are we trying to teach them? That life is difficult and meaningless? That sometimes its okay to kill something we love for a “good reason”? That life is pointless? That dreams and hopes are a sham? That no matter how you try, you cannot improve upon your circumstance, so it’s better not to even hope? (That was what The Pearl was about.)

What possible good is such a message doing our children?

Maybe if a child grew up in posh circumstances and had never seen hardship—maybe then, there would be a good reason for letting them know that “out there” it can get hard.

But this was my daughter—whose youth resembles that of Hansel and Gretel, and not the fun parts about candy houses and witches. There are many things she needs in life—but pathos-filled reminders of how harsh life can be is not one of them.

The book was also full of cursing. I’m not sure I would have noticed, but my daughter kept complaining.

I closed the book and refused to read any more of it. I told her we’d find the answers online. She ended up getting help with it from her brother (who had been forced to read the book at school the previous year) and from a friend.

I’ve seen some of the other books on the school curriculum. Many of them are like this. In the name of “realism,” these works preach hopelessness and darkness.

They are lies!

So, you might ask, why does it matter if our children are being fed lies? They’re just stories, right?

What do stories matter?

Stores teach us about how the world is. They teach us despair, or they teach us hope. In particular, they teach us about the nature of hope and when it is appropriate to have it.

So why is hope—that fragile, little flutter at the bottom of Pandora’s jar—so important?

Because hope needs to be hoped before miracles can be requested.

In life, some things will go badly. True. Some things will go well. But what about everything in between? What about those moments when hope, trust, dare I say, faith, is required to make the difference between a dark ending and a happy one?

If we have been taught that hope and dreams are a pointless fantasy, a waste of time, we might never take the step of faith necessary to turn a dark ending into a joyful one.

Think I am being unrealistic, and my head’s in the clouds? Let me give a few examples.

Example One:

I heard a story on the radio the other day. A woman named Trisha is dying of cancer. She has an eight year old son named Wesley and no one else. No close friends. No relatives. No hope for her son.

Trisha met another Trisha…the angel who ministered to her in the hospital in the form of her nurse. When the news came that her illness was terminal, Trisha worked up the courage to do something astonishing. She asked her nurse: “When I die, will you take my son?”

The nurse went home and spoke to her husband and her four children. They said yes. They not only agreed to take Wesley, they took both Wesley and Trisha into their home, caring for them both as Trisha’s illness grows worse.

What if Trisha, laying in her bed in pain, had not had the faith, the hope, to ask her nurse this question? What would have become of her little boy?

If Trish believed the “realism” preached by Steinbeck and other “realists”, she would never have had the courage to ask her nurse for help.

Example Two:

Don Ritchie is an Australian who lives across from a famous suicide spot, a cliff known as The Gap. At least once a week, someone comes to commit suicide there.

Don and his wife keep an eye out the window. If they see someone at the edge, Don strolls out there. He smiles and talks to them. He offers them a cup of tea.

Sometimes, they come in for tea. Sometimes, they just go home. On a few occasions, he’s had to hold someone, while his wife called the police. Sometimes, the person jumps anyway.

Don and his wife figure they’ve saved around a hundred and sixty lives.

What if Don had believed that hopes and dreams are dross, and he never walked out there? What if he had spent the years standing in his living room, shaking his head and cursing the fact that he bought a house in such an unlucky place?

There are people living lives, perhaps children born who would not have been, merely because Don did not give up on those caught by despair.

Example Three:

Andrea Pauline was a student at the University of Colorado. She traveled to Uganda to study microfinancing for a semester. While she was there, she discovered that some of the local orphan children were being abused.

Andrea refused to leave the country until the government did something. She received death threats. She would not back down.

The government of Uganda took the forty-some children away from their caretakers—and gave them to Andrea. She and her sister now run an orphanage in Uganda called Musana (Sunshine). They have over a hundred children. (Matthew West was inspired by her story to write the song Do Somethinghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8 )

What if Andrea had believed the things preached by Of Mice and Men and The Pearl?

What if she had come home to America and cried into her pillow over the sad plight of those children back in Africa? What if she pent her time putting plaintive posts on Facebook about how the sad state of the world and how blue it made her feel?

Over a hundred children, living a better life, because one teenage girl refused to give up hope.

This is what the Superversive Literary Movement is for—to whisper to the future Trisha’s, Don’s, and Andrea’s that miracles are possible.

That hope is not a cheat.

The goal of the Superversive is to bring hope, where there is no hope; to bring courage, where without courage, hope would never be manifested.

The goal of the Superversive is to be light to a benighted world.

The goal of the Superversive is:

To tell the truth.


Milo Libeled, Fools Fooled

From the blog of John C. Wright:

The whole thing is a libel. Hope Milo sues them into bankruptcy. Found this interesting tidbit not long after hearing about the smear attack:

An anonymous journalist on 4chan posted a detailed warning of the media’s upcoming pedo-smear attack on Milo one day before it happened.

An image of the 4chan post can be found here:
https://twitter.com/correctthemedia/status/833834249673404421

H/T to gxg on Vox Day.

I have been on the receiving end of a coordinated libel Campaign like this but smaller and not this vicious.

The tactic is simple: simply edit what the victim says to make it sound like he said what you want him to say.

Then you have your Newsmen and paid trolls repeat it.

By the time the truth comes out, everyone already believes the narrative and it’s too late.

I realize that if you have never seen a fake edit job before, it will fool you. What you do to do a fake editing job is take parts of one sentence parts of one conversation and clip them to another. In this case you take a conversation about how many times two college students engaged in copulation are required to ask each other about the continued ongoing state of their consent, and then you clip in a discussion of the consent between a 17 year old and a 27 year old gay couple.

You take a sentence where the speaker uses the word ‘boy’ to refer to a seventeen-year-old and you clip it to a question when someone is asking about a 14 year old boy , clever editing makes it sound as if he is talking about lowering the age of consent to 14.

And even wary and careful viewer will be deceived.

In an unrelated news story,

Salon scrubbed it’s site of Todd Nickerson articles.
https://archive.is/search/?q=Todd+Nickerson

Here’s his main one though:
“I’m a pedophile, but not a monster”
http://archive.is/TBuaR

Why the need for Superversion

One of the most popular and highly esteemed novels in English literature, Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, sold very poorly at first and received only mixed reviews.
Victorian readers found the book shocking with its blunt depictions of various incidents of passionate love and cruelty (despite the fact that the novel actually portrays no actual sex or bloodshed). Emily Brontë’s sister Charlotte was very reserved about the strange intensity of her sister’s novel. She stated, ‘Whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know. I scarcely think it is.’

Today, however, Wuthering Heights has secured a position in the canon of world literature. Emily Brontë is respected as one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century. The novel itself is based partly on the Gothic tradition of the late eighteenth century, which largely contained elements of supernatural encounters, crumbling ruins, moonless nights, and grotesque imagery, portraying atmospheres of mystery and fear, but transcends its genre with its sophisticated and artistic subtlety. Examined using every imaginable critical perspective, the novel’s symbolism, themes, structure, language and unforgettable characters remain unexhausted.

Undoubtedly, part of the success of Wuthering Heights, in rising from being almost rejected to its current fantastic acceptance, though, stems from its relationship to the accepted social and literary conventions of its day – it draws that power from the very knowledge of the existence of Victorian social and literary conventions, not only in the story but in the readers’ minds. Its wildness is wild because it is in the context of something less wild; symbolism, theme, structure, language are all counterpointed.

Its strength is based on underlying patterns, then, even when it seems to subvert them -partly because it seems to subvert them. The novel marks a point in English literature at which a turn in the culture began, which is a subject for another day. The important point here is that even those novels or stories which appear to defy standard fictive conventions draw much of their power from those conventions.

A man appearing upside down in a film (see Back to the Future Part II) only appears outlandish because we are used to seeing men standing the right way up. American novelist William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch (1959), deals with life as a drug addict in a unique, surreal style by chopping up pages of text and rearranging them in an apparently random order – but this only has an effect because we are used to seeing text in the correct order. So what might be termed ‘subversive’ literature – that is, literature which goes ‘against the grain’ of its surrounding culture, or tries to ‘turn it from under’ (based on the derivation of the word ‘subvert’) – only appears subversive because of that surrounding culture and its norms. Men appearing upside down would seem unremarkable if all men did so; novels arranged in random order would be considered normal if all novels were arranged so. Context is important.

But there is more to this. There are times in human culture when ‘subversion’, or the presentation of something at odds with the cultural norms around it, is more prevalent than at other times, just as there are times when ‘subversion’ is isolated and unremarkable . This has important ramifications for fiction of many kinds as a whole, as is touched upon in the book How Stories Really Work.

Subversion can thus be a ‘good’ thing at certain times, when the cultural norms become oppressive, and a ‘bad’ thing when those norms are supportive and when rejecting them or undermining them would be destructive.

For our society, the majority of cultural norms are extrapolated from the Bible. But at the time when the New Testament was put together, slavery and patriarchy were the norm. St. Paul instructs slaves to obey their masters and wives to obey their husbands:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Slaves, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
Masters, give your slaves what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Col 3:18-4:1)

There are other similar passages to do with the Roman Emperor and respecting earthly authorities. These are easily misunderstood as being supportive of oppressive cultural norms. In Romans 13, for example, Paul writes:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. (Rom 13:1-7)

Taken to an extreme, this can be seen as an evocation to support Hitler. But Christianity is in many ways the ultimate in positive subversion. Christ commanded us to love our enemies not because they were ‘good’ but because God is good. The examples above outline Christian subversion: Christians do not do these things to uphold the powers of the world but to undermine them by asserting the supremacy of God. They place the world in perspective.
Paul writes:

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21)

Slaves should not obey their masters because their masters are right to own them as slaves; they do it because we all must serve the Lord. The Scriptures clearly portray a Lord who sides with slaves over masters.

Christian subversion is not therefore an earthly matter. Think of Christ’s conversation Pontius Pilate. Pilate threatens Him and reminds Him that he has the power to release Him or condemn Him:

You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. (Jn 19:11)

In other words, ‘you cannot do anything that I don’t want you to do’. Obedience and service are not offered out of obligation or because others are right to demand them: they are voluntary. The world is powerless. True subversion is this standing apart from the world and only continuing to participate in its oppressive ways by choice, as part of a larger and wider obedience. The difference between ‘good’ subversion and ‘bad’ subversion is in the intention. Anchored to the Good, the world can wash over us without harming us. We have already subverted it, as the anchored and harboured ship ‘subverts’ the storm.

What gives subversion a bad name is when it is an attempt to do the opposite – to reject all obedience, to undermine all goodness, to destroy from within (or to ‘turn from below’) the nourishment of the spirit. When subversive literature points to no safe harbour, it becomes destructive. We live in a period where subversive literature with this negative intention has become the norm.

Hence the need for Superversion.

Grant P. Hudson B.A.(Hons.)

Grant P. Hudson is an editor, management consultant, founder of Clarendon House Publications, an online venue for independent writers, self-publishers and others around the world, and the author of several books including How Stories Really Work: Exploring the Physics of Fiction and the 12-week e-course How to Write Stories That Work – and Get Them Published!

Holy Godzilla of the Apocalypse: or How to Identify a Superversive Story

Throwback Thursday–early Superversive Blog repost.

So, you want to be Superversive? Eager to join the new movement but not sure how to tell if you have? This post will, God willing, help sort out a bit of the confusion.

So, without further ado: The Benchmarks of the Superversive:

First and foremost, a Superversive story has to have good storytelling.

By which I do not mean that it has to be well-written. Obviously, it would be great if every story was well-written. It is impossible, however, to define a genre or literary movement as “well-written”, as that would instantly remove the possibility of a beginner striving to join.

What I mean by good storytelling is that the story follows the principles of a good story. That, by the end, the good prosper, the bad stumble, that there is action, motion to the plot, and a reasonable about of sense to the overall structure.

Second, the characters must be heroic.

By this, I do not mean that they cannot have weaknesses. Technically, a character without weaknesses could not be heroic, because nothing would require effort upon his part.

Nor do I mean that a character must avoid despair. A hero is not defined by his inability to wander into the Valley of Despair, but by what he does when he finds himself knee deep in its quagmire. Does he throw in the towel and moan about the unfairness of life? Or does he pull his feet out of the mud with both hands and soldier onward?

Nor do I mean that every character has to be heroic, obviously some might not be. But in general, there should be characters with a heroic, positive attitude toward life.

However, many, many stories have good storytelling and heroic characters. Most decent fantasies are like that.

Are all decent fantasies Superversive?

No.

Because one element of Superversive literature is still missing.

Wonder.

Third, Superversive literature must have an element of wonder

But not ordinary wonder. (Take a moment to parse that out. Go ahead. I’ll still be here. )

Unknown Object

Specifically, the kind of wonder that comes from suddenly realizing that there is something greater than yourself in the universe, that the world is a grander place than you had previously envisioned. The kind of wonder that comes from a sudden hint of a Higher Power, a more solid truth.

There might be another word for that kind of wonder: awe.

Specifically, the awe that comes when you are pulled out of your ordinary life by being made aware of the structure of the moral order of the universe.

That kind of awe.

To be Superversive, a story needs that moment when you are going along at a good clip and you suddenly draw back, because you have been lifted outside of yourself by the realization that there is something Bigger.

(And I don’t mean bigger like Godzilla. Just the God part. No zilla. Unless this Godzilla works for God. Godzilla, Holy Monster of the Apocalypse, or something.)

On this blog, I will often talk about Christian Superversive stories. Stories that have that moment, when the greater truths of the Creator of the Universe are suddenly glimpsed by the reader and/or the characters in the story.

If the Superversive Movement is about storming the moral high ground—bringing a moral order into our stories, adding the power of a greater truth. Then, the most effective stories are likely to be the ones that reflect the author’s highest sense of truth. For me, that means the truths of Christianity, as I understand it.

However, I want to make it clear, right from the beginning, that Superversive literature does not have to be Christian. You can write Jewish Superversive or Buddhist Superversive. It does, however, require a moral order and a glimpse of the awareness of this order in the story.

My favorite movie of all time is Winter’s Tale, the movie made from Mark Halprin’s novel. Winter’s Tale is Jewish Superversive.

What makes it so good is these moments I refer to above, moments that take you out of yourself and make you realize that something Bigger is going on. (Again, not Godzilla…except for Holy Godzilla, who most likely lives in a Pokaball on Batman’s belt…so Robin can shout out: Holy Godzilla, Batman! And Batman can shout, “Holy Godzilla, I choose you!” and Holy Godzilla can appear and stomp on the Joker (and probably half of New York, too, but…ah well.)

My favorite TV show, Chinese Paladin Three, is Taoist Superversive. You are going along, minding your own business, enjoying this pure fantasy romp, and suddenly, toward the last third, there is this section where the villain tries to convince the Taoist priest of the futility of the human condition.

The story line suddenly becomes so deep and so touching, so insightful and so unexpected. The depth of the moral questions being presented to the priest character and the horror of what he suffers adds a whole vertical dimension to what had previously been a lighthearted adventure.

It brings a sense of awe.

Two questions come to mind:

1) Can you write Wicca or Pagan Superversive?

Possibly, but it would be difficult. Why? Because fantasy…gods, myths, etc…is the matter of Pagans. If the story starts out about such things, adding more of the same is not superversive.

However, if the story were about, say wizards or nymphs and fauns, or any other worldly matter, and the gods made brief unexpected appearances in which they put across moral ideas that lifted the story to a higher level, that might possibly be superversive. (Gene Wolfe’s Solder In The Mist comes to mind.)

2) Can  Christian Fiction (or Jewish Fiction, or Taoist Fiction) be superversive?

Probably not. It certainly could be inspirational, if done well. But if something starts out already being about these matters, then it is not superversive to introduce them. It is just part of the tale. Such a story could be written in a way that would make it enjoyable to those who love superversive stories, but it would not be superversive in and of itself.

An Example:

I don’t want to give too much away about Winter’s Tale, part of the wonder of the story is that everything is so unexpected. But I think I can describe this scene without ruining too much of the joy.

Crime boss Pearly Soames approaches another man in 1915 New York, reminding the second man that he owes Pearly a favor. He asks for help in his plan to kill Beverly Penn. The second man wants nothing to do with it, but Pearly calls the debt and insists.

Then, suddenly, in the midst of this intrigue scene, Pearly says:

I’ve been wondering.

With all these trying to go up…and you come down.

Was it worth it, becoming human?  Or was it an impulse buy?

You must miss the wings, right?

Oh, come on. You must.

And in that instant, you suddenly realize that something very different is going on that you first thought, and it opens a glimpse into some greater working of the universe, a glimpse that makes you pause and think…about heaven and fallen angels and what it means to be human and whether it is a good thing or no.

And that, my friends, is Superversive.

 

New Feature–Throwback Thursday

The Superversive Literary Movement
Good storytelling. Great ideas.

As a new feature, we will be reposting the original Superversive Blog posts from 2014, starting with the post that started it all: Tom Simon’s opening essay:

 

 

 

Print

The Art of Courage

by Tom Simon

Behold the Underminer! I am always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me!

The Incredibles

For about a hundred years now, ever since the First World War broke the confidence of Western civilization, it has been fashionable to praise subversion. Art, music, and literature, as many of the critics tell us, are not supposed to go chasing after obsolete values like truth or beauty; they are supposed to shock, to wound, to épater les bourgeois – to subvert the values of society. Here is a fairly typical example, from the literary critic, John Grant:

It must meddle with our thinking, it must delight in being controversial, it must hope to be condemned by authority (whatever authority one chooses to identify), it must be at the cutting edge of the imagination, it must flirt with madness, it must surprise.

Grant is prescribing goals for fantasy, but the same demand has been heard in every genre and every art form, much to the harm of the arts. Most people don’t share Grant’s ideological preoccupations; they see the arts not as vehicles of propaganda, but as entertainment. Trying to get yourself condemned by authority may be good sophomoric fun while you are doing it, but it makes a dull spectator sport. Considered as entertainment, it has no virtue except novelty; and it has not been novel since about the 1920s. This is one reason why the ‘serious’ arts see their audiences shrinking year after year, until they are only maintained in precarious existence by public subsidy.

Part of the trouble comes from that apparently blank cheque, ‘whatever authority one chooses to identify’. In practice, this always means the same authority: the ghost of Mrs. Grundy, the narrow-minded, puritanical, bourgeois authority that lost most of its power in 1914, and does not exist at all anymore. If you rebel against a different authority – the Chinese Communist Party, or the rulers of militant Islam – you will not find the critics so approving. They will call you reactionary or even neocon, and the hand of Buzzfeed will be raised against you.

For the world of art and literature is largely dominated by the Left, and the Left is dominated by people whose world-view is inherited from their great-grandfathers. In this view, we need labour unions to defend us against the peril of child labour, Big Government to defend us against Standard Oil. America is one false move away from theocracy and Jim Crow; Europe is one false move away from another World War. Nothing can save us except a wonderful new panacea called Socialism, which has never been tried before, and with which nothing can possibly go wrong. These, in the main, are the ideas of the Left even today; and the people who believe these things have the nerve to call themselves Progressives. They call for progress; but they are still trying to progress from 1914 into 1915. They call for subversion; but the thing they are trying to subvert no longer exists.

To subvert a thing literally means ‘to turn from below’: to undermine. In olden days, men built their forts and castles on high ground, because high ground is easier to defend. A hilltop fortress can be made almost impregnable. But only almost: for a fortress can be undermined. The attacking army digs tunnels underneath the fortifications, scooping out the earth and rock until the walls cave in from their own unsupported weight. This is the original kind of subversion.

Nobody uses the word subversion in that literal sense anymore, but it is helpful to keep it in mind, because it applies metaphorically to every other kind of subversion. Our brave Progressive rebels have been subverting the walls of nineteenth-century capitalism and imperialism for a hundred years, and the walls fell down long ago. All that remains now is a hole in the ground, under which armies of activists like crazed moles are busily undermining each other’s mines. One mole calls another mole’s mine sexist, and digs a tunnel to make it collapse; the second mole calls the first mole racist, and digs a tunnel under that. They have lost the power to create; all they have left is the mere reflex of criticism.

At this point, subversives can do nothing but dig the hole deeper, or at best, rearrange some of the rubble on the surface. Further subversion achieves nothing; it creates nothing; but they go on doing it from sheer force of habit – the habit of feeding the ego. If they fought effectively, they might win, and then they would not feel needed anymore. As long as they fight by useless methods, the war can continue, and they can take pride in being on the right side.

On the face of it, this is insane; but it is exactly the kind of insanity that you will always find among sane people. It is the insanity of the committee, where people who disagree about their destination have to agree which road to take. Those who want to go north reject the road that goes south, and those who want to go south reject the road that goes east; in the end they compromise and take a road that goes round in circles. Ritual subversion satisfies the craving for activity without ever risking achievement.

G. K. Chesterton described the process in Heretics:

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down…. But as things go on they do not work out so easily.  Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil.  Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes.

The subversives have pulled down their lamp-post, and they must go on pulling it down for ever, because they cannot agree on what to do next.

What, then, can we do, those of us who are not Progressives? We cannot fight subversion by its own methods; that only makes the hole deeper. But if subversion means ‘turning from below’, there can be such a thing as turning from above. We have nothing to gain by digging a bigger hole, but we can build right over it. It seems natural enough to me to invent a new word for this by changing part of the old one; so I call it superversion.

The job of the superversive is at once difficult and rewarding. We shall need to build on the high ground, as people used to do: not only for defence, but because the high ground is more solid. Before the subversives dug their mines under the churches, there was a parable that used to be widely known. The gist of it was that a house built on rock will stand firm, but a house built on sand will soon fall down. High ground is usually rocky ground, and from that perspective, ideal for us to build on.

For those of us who write stories, this chiefly means moral high ground. I am not speaking of sexual morality; that, nowadays, is a subject so difficult to approach, so fraught with ego and emotion, that we are liable to lose most of our readers if we begin there. Fortunately, there are other areas of morality where most people still have an instinctive preference for the good. Progressivism tells us that we are all pawns pushed about by socioeconomic forces (which only the great god Government can hope to alter). Our instincts and experience are all on the opposite side. We know, and feel that we know, that individuals can actually do things, and sometimes great and heroic things. And we know that the best things are often done against the odds; the socioeconomic forces do not inevitably win. Progressivism sneers at the idea of good and evil; but we persist in admiring qualities like honesty, unselfishness, and fair dealing, and most of us feel shame when we do the opposite things. Most people like the kind of story that can be called heroic, where the main character wants something and accomplishes it in spite of opposition. Very few people like stories where all the characters’ actions are doomed to futility, no matter how much they were taught to admire such stories at school.

It has been truly said that courage is not a virtue, but the form that every virtue takes at the testing point. In this sense, most good stories are about courage – the courage to make a sustained effort. It takes physical effort to climb a mountain or build a castle; it takes an effort of will to lift yourself above your worse impulses and climb up to the moral high ground. That is one reason why the metaphor refers to high ground. Temptation is as universal as gravity, and we spend most of our time and effort resisting them both. It is true that courage is not an unmixed blessing. It can take as much courage to commit a murder as to save a life. But it is fair to say that no good thing was ever accomplished without courage; that our whole civilization is built on the courage of men and women who would not surrender to their circumstances, but strove for something better.

I believe it follows, then, that courage is the essential quality of a superversive story: not the dumb, dull fortitude that passively endures in the face of suffering, but the courage that allows the character to take action – to risk becoming a hero. In a double sense, fiction is the art of courage. It is the art that teaches courage by example; it is also the art that is about courage. If the characters have no problem, there is no story; but if they do not have the courage to try and solve the problem, the story has no point, and the audience will not be entertained. There are plenty of non-stories and pointless stories already; plenty of literature, full of pretty language and therefore praised by the critics, in which nobody does anything, or even tries. I say we have had enough of those stories. Let us be superversive; let us build on mountains instead of making molehills. Let us make up stories about people with courage, and have the courage to tell them, as much as the critics and the Progressives wish us to be silent.

Tom Simon is an author and essayist. He has written many really fine and inspiring essays on a host of topics, including some excellent essays on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. To find out more about his work:

His blog:

http://bondwine.com

His author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Simon/e/B00AR3EN7G

His novel, Lord Talon's Revenge 

Writing Down the Dragon ( and other Essays on the Tolkien Method and the Craft of Fantasy.)

WHY SUPERVERSIVE FICTION?

Excellent article by Declan Finn. This article first appeared at A Pius Geek blog.

CS Lewis’ demon, Screwtape, once had to advise his nephew Wormwood about a moment when the junior demon could not influence his targeted human. Screwtape patiently explained that Wormwood made the mistake of allowing the targeted human to read a good book. Any demon worth his sulfur should know that they must make certain that the humans they tempt must only be made to read important books. When people read good books that warm the soul, it cloaks them in a fog that a demon can’t penetrate.

“Important” books like that have been why the term “literature” has always had a bad rap – especially 19ths and 20th century literature. Because, you will notice, that Lord of the Rings is rarely put in the literature section of a bookstore – if ever. I know of no English Literature program that will include Lord of the Rings as part of the curriculum. No. For “literature,” people are subjected to Steinbeck, or Lord of the Flies, or half of Russian literature, which makes you want to slit your wrists by the time you’re done. To heck with being subversive, I would submit that much of the drivel labeled as “literature” is in fact corrosive to the human spirit, if not the human soul.

Much of the science fiction during the Cold War has the same problem. Ellison’s I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, may indeed be great literature, or may even be brilliant, but I do come away from it wondering why I cared, or why I read it. It’s a good example of Cold War science fiction, filled with the despair for the future. Heck, one of the reasons Star Trek worked so well is that it was perhaps the first Cold War sci-fi that showed a world after World War 3 that didn’t look like a variation on Mad Max or The Terminator.

So, that’s why Superversive fiction has always been a mystery to me – not because I didn’t understand the concept, but because I didn’t see the need for the term. Growing up, I always understood the difference between fiction that edifies and fiction that doesn’t. Which was my original problem with the concept of Superversive fiction. Shouldn’t all fiction be Superversive? Why does it need a moment, or coinage of a new term?

Obviously, the deeper one looks at some of the fiction being shoved into the face of the general population, the more it becomes apparent that we need a Superversive movement, mostly because of all the works being labeled “important” and then thrust into the face of the general reading public, insisting that we should read it. Too much fiction tries to be “important” fiction, and in being “important,” goes for “reality” … only their reality is grim, dismal, and becomes amazingly Unreal in the process. If you’re trying for literature, and making it a matter of despair, you’re doing it wrong. Because, sorry, I’ve met people whose lives have been misery, and hope is quite abundant in them. To be Jean Paul Sartre about life is to invite suicide. Indeed, when Sartre was asked about why he never killed himself if life was so absurd, he never had an answer.

Michael Straczynski, in his comic The Book of Lost Souls, has one tale of a street artist who recently lost her boyfriend to drug abuse. Soon after, the mural she made of him has come alive, and is talking to her … and telling her to come and join him, offering her a needle. And it is not the voice of a demon, or a monster, but, as our hero explains,

It is the voice of reason and resentment .… The voice of madness is the voice that Believes, despite all of the evidence to the contrary … that sustains us when logic demands that we surrender to the louder voice – the voice of reason, and resentment. And it always comes in the guise of those who love us most, who want only the best for us …. Someimes their motives are pure, wishing only to save us from pain. And sometimes the pain they wish to spare is their own, because if you can be convinced to set aside your own dreams, they can remain comfortable with their decision to do the same. The Voice of reason is the voice that tells us that our dreams are foolish ….[it sometimes becomes] a genius loci, the spirit of the place. And the spirit of this place is despair.”

And that’s the problem with those “literary” souls who want to sacrifice their characters, and their audience, on an altar of “reality.” Sometimes, just because something is “rational,” doesn’t necessarily make it true.

This concept of “the real” is as unreal as Tolstoy’s lie, that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” an idea that probably requires being Russian to believe. Is there any more Russian concept than to believe that being happy is bland and uniform, but being miserable is unique? Perhaps even special? It is a lie, but perhaps Tolstoy didn’t know that at the time. If those of the self proclaimed literati truly see the world as miserable as they write it, it does make me wonder why the authors in question just don’t do away with themselves and leave the rest of us alone.

Unless, perhaps, they don’t believe the lie, and know that they peddle falsehoods. In which case, there is a place for those people who make others despair. Dante described it vividly.

 

I would argue that most true literature is written by those who aren’t trying. There is more truth in the hope of John Ringo’s Black Tide series, than in the shallow materialism of Wagner’s Ring cycle (his Twilight of the Gods has the hero die, the villain die, the king die and his sister die, the heroine die, and her horse die, and the mermaids of the Rhine get their ring back and they live happily ever after … and why did we care?). Then you have the epic scope of John C. Wright’s Iron Chamber of Memory and the magic around us, and the wonder and majesty of the world and the universe.

And if you doubt me that there’s wonder and majesty in the universe, go Google some Hubble photos.

If you’re writing a novel, and no one in it laughs, or has a reason to hope, or live … or if you write sci-fi and fantasy without a sense of wonder … or you write about space without the terrifying beauty of what’s in the dark … you might just be doing it wrong.

In fact, I’m almost certain you’re doing it wrong.

Just consider, for a moment, Captain America. The traditional story of Steve Rogers is about a psychically perfect human – not an ubermench, not a superman, or even a supernatural man, but essentially a preternatural man – and that says and suggests more about the dignity and ability of the human person than anything in that Thomas Hobbes knockoff, Lord of the Flies. (Yes, I have problems with a whole book based upon one line by a philosopher who has no real concept about how human beings, or society, works.) It suggests that, at the height of human nature, we are essentially good.

For those who claim to write “literature” and “true to life” fiction, being ignoble is real, and being noble is the fiction – mankind are merely meat machines that are no different than the animals on the nature channel. When the people of “literature” kill characters, it’s because “life is full of chance, anarchy, people die randomly and for not reason” … they ignore instances where people do die for reasons – God, country, honor, their fellow man. Because that might mean that one’s fellow man is worth dying for. There is no agape and phileo, there is usually only sex.

To write well is to write Superversive. To write fun, entertaining books is Superversive. To acknowledge the nobility and spirit of the human being is Superversive. Because to entertain well is to edify, to build up the reader. I would put more faith in Die Hard than in Lord of the Flies. I would put more faith in John Ringo, Larry Correia and Wright than all of the art films in all the world. I’d rather read CS Forester and David Weber than Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim. I’d rather read any Ringo novel with a 90% casualty rate than anything by Stephen King or George RR Martin with a similar body count. When John Ringo kills off someone, it’s for a dang good reason.

At the end of the day, Superversive fiction – any fiction worth its salt – could be summed up by GK Chesterton: “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Which makes them a thousand times more real than anything most recent “literature” has to offer.

Why Superversive fiction? Because it might not be “real,” but it’s true.

Superversive Book List!

Update: Forgot to mention: Once we get the list, the folks at Superversive will go over the list. Anything that gets additional votes from us will go on the official list. Anything that does not will go on a special “and some folks also liked these books” list.

Today’s the day!

We are actually beginning our Superversive Book List! Our goal is to have a suggested reading list that can be shared about, listing books–from all time periods–that are worth reading! Hopefully, this will eventuall lead to a Year’s Best list and a Superversive Award.

But for now, we are merely compiling a list. The results will be posted in a special Superversive Reading List place.

What is a Superversive book, you ask? A book that lives up to the motto: Good storytelling, great ideas.

For convenience sake, while this is not necessary, it would be nice if you could mark your suggestions by catagory:

Superversive — good storytelling, great ideas

Starship Trooper
 Harry Potter 

Noumenal Superversive (NS) – what I call Superversive–a story that lifts you out of the ordinary into something finer and higher.

 The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe — and all the Narnia books
 Wrinkle In Time

Childrens — books that are Superversive, but specifically for children.

Watership Down
   The Dark is Rising

So come one, come all!

Write down your favorite Superversive book titles! 

Suggestions so far (note: some may be missing. I will add them, but please feel free to write them in the comments)

Watership Down”

“A Wrinkle in Time”

“Awake in the Night Land”

Narnia books, of course

“Lord of the Rings”, of course

Tunnel in the Sky —- Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress — Heinlein

The Iliad ———Homer

Man Who Was Thursday

Anything by Stephen Lawhead

Citizen of the Galaxy — Heinlein

Starship Troopers — Heinlein

“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Series

Harry Potter

Nine Princes of Amber

Screwtape Letters.

The Prisoner of Zenda

The Charwoman’s Shadow,

The King of Elfland’s Daughter.

Ballad of the White Horse

The Napoleon of Notting Hill

The Four Men: A Farrago

For Young Children: The Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans

The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot…
A Little Princess (or Sara Crewe) by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

the Princess series by Jessica Day George

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne CollinsT

The Rachel Griffin series by L. Jagi Lamplighter…
O. Henry’s short stories–The Last Leaf

The Gift of the Magi; the story story by Isaac Asimov

The Ugly Little Boy; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

The Lord of the Ring series by J.R.R. Tolkien

True Grit by Charles Portis

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz

Shane by Jack Schaefer

The People series by Zenna Henderson

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmauska Orczy

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Antigone by Sophocles

Psalms of Isaak by Ken Scholes

Joy Cometh with the Mourning by Dave Freer

Frontier Magic series by Patricia C. Wrede

Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series by Larry Correia

the Chronicles of Brather Cadfael by Ellis Peters

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Good Omens e Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

The Shifter series by Sarah A. Hoyt

St. Patrick’s Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz…

The Secret Garden

The Railway Children

Roger Lancelyn Green’s Adventures of Robin Hood

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ring of Bright Water

Pride and Prejudice.

“Who Fears the Devil?” by Manly Wade Wellman