Just For Fun

Here are my top five superversive SF stories, in order of quality. I will limit myself to Lamplighter superversive, just because I can; otherwise “The Once and Future King” would be on this list, and possibly Lawhead’s “Arthur”. I would also, horrifyingly, find myself not including a “Chronicles of Narnia” book, which is unthinkable.

1) “The Lord of the Rings” – a real no-brainer. Do I even need to explain?

2) “Awake in the Night Land” – The last line of the last story is one of the best I’ve ever read. “Awake in the Night Land” is a great example of “Subverting subversion”. A particularly good example of this is the second tale, “The Cry of the Night Hound”, which is a pretty straightforward Night Land update of the tragedy of Antigone…but with a happy ending.

3) “A Wrinkle in Time” – Another superversive no-brainer, this is one of the most wildly creative books I’ve ever had the good fortune of reading. The ingenuity needed to come up with this thing is extraordinary. It’s also incredibly uncynical, which is a real breath of fresh air.

4) “Watership Down” – Yes, this jumped up much higher than I thought. The story has too many wonderful moments to count, but my personal favorite is when Bigwig, when tempted by General Woundwort with membership in his Owsla, responds that he has been tasked by his Chief Rabbit to defend the run, and that is what he will do. This is the culmination of my favorite character arc in the book, as well as being a very moving moment. Were I not a paragon of masculinity and strength, I might have been tempted to tear up. The ending is also very moving, and very uncynical. <i>Hazel did it</i>, and now he gets his reward. Awesome.

5) “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” – Come on, a book from the Chronicles of Narnia HAS to make this list. There are, in my opinion, better books in the series, but when people think of the series this is the book they think of. A truly wonderful story of hope when all hope is lost, and a celebration of love, courage and, perhaps most strikingly, redemption. This is mandatory superversive reading.

I think this is a fair, representative list that pretty clearly illustrates the sort of stuff Superversive SF tries to stand for; if anybody wants to dispute anything, please don’t hesitate.

  • luckymarty

    How significant is it that this list leans very heavily toward fantasy rather than SF? Two pure fantasies, two books somewhere in the gray area between the genres, and Watership Down (which at least gets shelved with fantasy).

    • Anthony M

      Probably not too significant. I’ve always read more fantasy than SF.

      That said, while some classify “A Wrinkle in Time” as science fantasy and “Awake in the Night Land” as fantasy, I would argue that both are clearly science fiction. Even “A Wrinkle in Time” is pretty clear that all the weird things that occur are rooted in the physical universe.

      And “Awake in the Night Land” is even more clear that the events that occur, including the reincarnation and the predictions of the future, are scientific rather than magical.

      • Agreed.

        I’d include A Wrinkle in Time in my top 10 SF stories (superversive or otherwise), but except for Awake in the Night, my list is a bit different. Probably because I’m even pickier in my fantasy than my SF

        1. Alpha Ralpha Boulevarde by Cordwainer Smith
        2. Awake in the Night by JCW
        3. Out of the Silent Planet by CSL
        4. The Closest School by Zenna Henderson
        5. The Tuvela by James H. Schmitz

        The Fantasy list is easier
        1. LOTR
        2. Narnia
        3. The Dresden Files
        4. Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
        5. So You Want to be a Wizard

      • I’d actually probably argue that it is significant. I read way more SF than I do fantasy, particularly these days, and SF is largely a sort of Gnostic, atheist, or agnostic worldview, because it’s largely written by the adherents of scientism. (Who give Gnosticism a pass for reasons that probably amount to the acknowledging a sort of sehnsucht that yearns for a better country.) Fantasy, if for no other reason that it leans towards a more ancient worldview, is probably more inclined towards the shade of superversive thought.

        • Anthony M

          I mean, that’s definitely possible. Like I said, I’m not really a big enough sci-fi reader to say.

          Actually, I’m kind of picky generally. So far all of my reviews, I believe, have been positive (with the exception of “Heart of Gold”, but that was one episode of a brilliant series). That’s because I only read things I’m pretty sure I’ll like.

          So you might be right. Hard for me to tell.

        • Anthony M

          Plus, I would argue that my list doesn’t really tend towards fantasy anyway.

        • There’s actually a fair bit of superversive SF to pick from these days. Sarah Hoyt, Peter Grant, JCW, Karl Gallagher. There’s a lot of older stuff if you go back to the 90s… Connie Willis, Bujold, Vance, the guy who did Courtship Rites (Kingsley?) and so on.

          The limiters were “top 5”

          But you do have to go indie now, thanks to the torling khreppe-field on the past 10 – 15 years on the field.