What Is the Superversive Canon?

As much as I have enjoyed reading mission statements and manifestos for the Superversive movement, nothing conveys an idea like an example. However, I have not yet found a list of superversive stories. Does one exist? Examples of superversive stories are given in various places, but they are scattered around the discussion. This is SuperversiveSF.com, and I cannot think of a better place to compile and present a recommended reading list for superversive fiction. So I turn to you, dear reader. Will you volunteer a list of stories that exemplify superversiveness for you? Do you know of any lists we could copy? A slightly different question involves asking which are the best stories that are also superversive. And whilst the superversive movement is self-consciously positive in outlook, it is also worth identifying some stories which are the antithesis of the superversive canon, and some which sit on its periphery.

We cannot expect everyone to instantly agree to a single list of recommendations. I imagine the canon will evolve as we discuss which stories belong to it. Some stories will feature on many people’s lists, whilst others will feature on only a few. Perhaps we might not start with a list of stories, but with a list of lists, allowing everyone the freedom to make their own suggestions. Over time, the comparison of the lists will reveal where the center of gravity lies.

Discussing specific stories, and debating whether they are superversive, is also a splendid way to enrich the concept of superversiveness. We do not want to be like politicians and diplomats, who use words to draft manifestos and policies that are open to a variety of conflicting interpretations. Political leaders seek power in order to make decisions, and voters want to understand what those decisions will be. In the same way, readers want advice on what to read, so the leaders of a literary movement should give clear and specific recommendations.

Positive recommendations are especially important for an optimistic movement. We should not allow superversiveness to be defined by counter-examples. There is more to be gained by telling people about books they would enjoy reading, rather than decrying the stories they should avoid. The latter list would be of most use to fans of anti-superversive storytelling! And so far, it is not clear to me if the Superversive movement would actively discourage the reading of non-superversive stories. An artist may belong to a movement whilst applauding work produced by other movements.

Finally, let me observe that many people have debated the merits of awards. An award is ultimately a kind of recommendation. If we wish to walk before we run, it makes sense to discuss and recommend great superversive works of the past. Identifying the historic canon will clarify the future we choose. Readers may intellectually agree with a manifesto, but they feel an emotional bond to stories they have read and loved, so let us introduce people to the Superversive movement by highlighting great superversive stories they are already familiar with. Growing the community makes it easier and more worthwhile to share news about the publication of new superversive stories. In the end, the goal is to encourage the reading and writing of great stories. To get better at making recommendations, we should first get into the habit of making recommendations.

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About Ray Blank

Ray Blank is one of several identities deployed by a confused cosmopolitan who splits his time between navigating the internet, wandering the countryside, and flying overseas to give talks about using the phone instead. The other identities are responsible for a book about flawed communications, a film about losing your mind in Arabia, and a website for professionals who worry about risk. The Ray Blank identity
writes science fiction stories and ceaselessly toils to subjugate the others.

  • Anthony M

    Without thinking I immediately jumped to “A Wrinkle in Time”. As far as SF, and not fantasy (though we seem to be pretty tied up with that too, which is fine by me) goes, that might be THE superversive story.

    Fantasy you’re naturally jumping to “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia”, Narnia especially. Also, Lewis’s space trilogy, going back to sci-fi.

    For more adult SF…hmmmmm…look, I get it, I know John C. Wright is connected to us and all and maybe we’re biased or something, but come on, “Awake in the Night Land” is one of the most superversive books I’ve ever read.

    You could probably at least make a case for “Starship Troopers” as well, though it’s borderline. “The Martian” you can make a pretty good case for too, I’d say better than “Starship Troopers”. It’s the sense of wonder that’s the debatable point in both cases, I think. “The Caves of Steel” belongs on this border list too, as does “The Naked Sun”.

    Right now, by the way, I’m using Mrs. Wright’s guidelines as my criteria. If we want to use Tom Simon’s broader superversive criteria I could expand the list a bit to include books like “A Canticle for Leibowitz” and “Eifelheim”. And I’m restricting myself to SF and fantasy.

    • Hi Anthony, thanks for these suggestions. I’ll look into ways to collate these recommendations so they are easy for visitors to find.