Manfred Weichsel is the author of Going Native & other stories, which includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales that originally appeared in Cirsova Magazine, the Planetary: Earth anthology from Superversive Press, Weird Mask Zine, and various publications from Millhaven Press. Superversive Press sat down with Weichsel recently for a brief interview.
Superversive Press: What does “superversive” mean to you?
Manfred Weichsel: First, before I answer, I want to thank everybody at Superversive Press for having me here today to talk about myself and about Going Native & other stories.
Literature is in a real state of crisis, and the books being published by the mainstream publishing houses no longer represent the authentic voice of the people. Superversive Press, along with several other small presses, is doing a truly heroic job filling the void left by the big publishing houses.
To answer your question: Literature, like all art, is about the transmission of culture. We are all familiar with the kind of culture being transmitted by Hollywood movies, TV shows, traditionally published books, and big two comics. It is one that, personally speaking, makes me feel culturally alienated, and I know that I am not alone.
When navigating these works, I cannot help but notice the little sign posts, both subtle and not so subtle, that say that this isn’t for me, and that I don’t belong here. Furthermore, I cannot help but notice the overall message of these works, which is that there is something wrong with me on the inside, and that I am personally to blame for much of the misery and injustice in the world.
We call the kind of abovementioned cultural artifacts “popular culture,” but what they really are, is a cultural attack on the people. These works portray an inverted universe, in which people like you and I are the villains, and the heroes are the ones who beat us up and thwart our plans. It is no wonder that, after having been fed a steady diet of such junk for so long, so many people have internalized the message of these movies, TV shows, and books, and come to hate themselves.
To me, there is nothing radical about Superversive. It is simply a return of storytelling to its natural order, in which we are good, evil tries to undermine us, and we thwart evil. It is about telling stories that we, both as individuals and as a culture, can connect to and feel proud of.
I said before that literature and art are about the transmission of culture, and they are, but they are also about the creation of culture. Ideally, cultures exist with a purpose, and Superversive is about reclaiming that purpose for ourselves.
In a way, we are all very lucky to be alive when we are. Yes, the old culture has been destroyed and supplanted by a fake “popular culture” that hates us, but because we were born into a world without a real culture, we have a unique opportunity to create a culture for ourselves, in our own image, and to imbue it with the purposes of our choice. How many generations of writers and artists have been able to say the same?
SP: In what way is your work “superversive?”
JMW: As far as the stories in Going Native & other stories are concerned, Complicit in Their Bondage is the one that is the most purely Superversive. Set in Afghanistan, the story deals with the ramifications of positive eugenics, that is, of breeding human beings for specific traits.
I wrote Complicit with the intention of submitting it to the Planetary: Earth anthology from Superversive Press, which was then open for submissions, and in preparation I pulled up and read every article I could find on the Superversive Press blog about Superversive theory.
Everything I read had a profound impact on me, but there were a few things in particular that stood out. One, just thinking off the top of my head, is that Superversive works can be dark. Because of its moral imperative, it can be tempting to view Superversive as being light, but the truth is that light shines at its brightest in the dark, and that because of its moral imperative, Superversive is more equipped to explore and illuminate the darkest reaches of the world we live in than most other strains of literature that are popular right now.
Another thing that stood out to me is that you can always tell a work is Superversive when the hero is searching for truth, and the villain tries to hide the truth from him. This last one became the basic formula for Complicit in Their Bondage, as well as a few other works that appear in Going Native & other stories.
SP: Tell me about your book.
JMW: I already mentioned Complicit in Their Bondage, which is the story in the book that is the most Superversive and has the closest connection to the Superversive literary movement.
The story that is the most PulpRev in the collection is We Might Not Have Fire, But We Sure as Hell Have Fury. The story is a nonstop swashbuckler about a Vietnam veteran who is thrown into an active volcano in Central America by Aztecs, but instead of dying he is transported to a strange and violent land.
The inspiration for the story came from A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which is one of the holy texts of the PulpRev movement and one of my all time favorite novels. My idea was that A Princess of Mars, which is about a Civil War Veteran who is transported to Mars after being attacked by Indians, was written in 1911, forty-six years after The Civil War ended.
In 2018, when I wrote We Might Not Have Fire, it had been forty-three years since The Vietnam War ended, so I figured I should write an Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche starring a Vietnam veteran before somebody else came up with the idea and wrote it first.
Even though We Might Not Have Fire is the most PulpRev story in the book, it also has an element of the Superversive in it, because the entire story is about the hero trying to discover the truth about the strange land he has entered, while the villains, walking sword wielding snakes called Darskans and their willing human slaves, try to keep the truth from him.
To be perfectly honest, while a lot of Going Native & other stories can be described as Superversive or PulpRev, I write in many different genres and don’t like to limit myself to just one or a few things. There is even a story in the book called The Funniest Story Ever Told that is a pretty traditional Campbellian puzzle story, in that instead of engaging in heroics, the protagonists use the scientific method of trial and error in order to solve, or in this case try to solve, the problem that is before them.
I have had a few people tell me that The Funniest Story is their favorite story in the collection, which really surprised me at first. I gave this some thought, and I suspect that the reason why is that along with being Campbellian, it is the most purely satirical story in the collection as well.
One thing that I think makes my work stand out is that there is an element of social satire throughout. I just love the old satirical novels such as Gulliver’s Travels, Tristram Shandy, Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Candide, and when I started writing fiction a few years ago, I knew that social satire would be a part of my work.
I was a little concerned at first because social satire is so closely associated with subversion, which we are of course against, but then I thought about it and I realized that there is no reason social satire should be considered inherently subversive.
Social satire is a weapon, and as with all weapons it requires a human to operate it, and that human, not the weapon itself, is going to decide what its targets are. So while the weapon of satire can be employed in order to attack everything that is beautiful and good in the world, it can also be employed to attack that which is ugly, debased, oppressive, and stupid.
SP: Thank you so much. It looks like we are running out of time. Is there anything else you would like to add before we go?
JMW: I just want to thank you and everybody at Superversive Press again for having me here today and giving me this opportunity to talk about my work.
I also want to thank everybody at DimensionBucket Media for publishing Going Native & other stories. DimensionBucket Media did a great job on the cover design, editing, and layout, and everybody put a lot of passion and effort into making Going Native & other stories the best book that it could be. I am truly lucky to have them as my publishers.