Sword and Flower: A Superversive Perspective

In the comments of my review of Rawle Nyanzi’s “Sword and Flower”, Jeffro Johnson asked me this:

Okay, I can see you’re bouncing here. Not gonna argue with that!

What I want to know, though… is how superversive or un-superversive this is in comparison to, say, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and first season Daredevil on Netflix. Anything strike you as being significant from that angle…?

A good question! After some thought, yes, I think there was an element of superversion “missing”, so to speak. I don’t think Rawle took advantage enough of his concept.

I’ll explain.

“Sword and Flower” is a book about dead people. Literally – the protagonists are all in the “Lesser Heaven”, a place where those who died sudden and violent deaths live out a sort of second life so they can get the fair shot they were robbed of to reach Heaven. Thus, everybody in it is, for all intents and purposes, a ghost.

Specifically here, this is a book about ghosts whose lives were literally cut so short that Heaven decided they didn’t get a fair shake at things.

So, here’s my question for you: What type of a story does this hint at?

This is the set-up for a redemption story. And when done well, a redemption story is perhaps the most powerfully superversive of all.

Let me try to give an example for what could have been done here. There is this book called “The Wish List”, by Eoin Colfer, that I think works pretty well as a comparison piece to “Sword and Flower”.

TWL is an underrated book by Colfer, whose Artemis Fowl series is quite good but sometimes dips it toe in too far in the feminism/environmentalism/gurrrrrrrrl power well. “The Wish List” actually hits a lot of beats in the pulp formula (in fact, Colfer is probably the closest super-popular modern equivalent to a pulp writer). It takes on fantasy from a clearly Christian perspective (in fact, it’s kind of astonishing how unashamedly, 100% Christian it is), it features a clear and powerful good/evil dichotomy, it has dynamic characters who act decisively and face moral dilemmas and, most importantly, it is very, very superversive. Also, unlike the Artemis Fowl series, there really isn’t any sort of feminism in it to speak of, which is nice.

It’s not a perfect book; the Chekhov’s gun used at the end was flashed a little too obviously and a lot of the beats it hit were predictable. But it was all very well executed and the book was fun and heartwarming. I’ll have to remember to do a review of it one day.

I go through all of this to try and show you the parallels. “Sword and Flower” comes at things from a clearly Christian perspective, features a clear good/evil dichotomy, and is about a character who suffers an untimely death at the beginning of the narrative (in fact, both main characters die from explosions!). But “The Wish List” was the far superior book. Why?

“The Wish List” motivated its characters. When Meg Finn reaches the afterlife, she is given a task: Help this man complete his wish list, and you can make it into Heaven. The book turns into a redemption story, as Meg finds that by helping Lowry complete his tasks, she is also atoning for the all of the wrongs she committed in life and learning how to think about people besides herself.

The characters in “Sword and Flower” are – and this will sound odd unless, I think, you’ve read the book – weirdly unmotivated. Dimity is in the Lesser Heaven, but she doesn’t seem to occupy herself with much more than surviving. Mash and the Puritans live normal Puritan lives punctuated with demon fighting. There’s no extra drive there outside of survival and self-preservation.

But the pieces are right there! Dimity gets a second chance in Lesser Heaven. What does this mean for her?

Well, what do second chances ever mean? She needs to atone for something. Maybe she was materialistic, or greedy, or selfish; this can even tie into her leveraging her fame to foolishly accept free money.Now atoning for this needs to drive her actions. What can she do to make up for her sins on earth? What sacrifices will she make? Will she redeem herself? Suddenly Dimity is given a much more powerful character arc.

Ditto Mash. Who is Mash, anyway? Why is he so sympathetic to Dimity and Elizabeth? Well, why is he a part of the Puritans? Maybe he’s so sympathetic because he joined the Puritans intentionally; because he’s ashamed of something he’s done, and believes the strict lifestyle of the Puritans is penance. This makes Mash different, and makes him interesting, and makes it plausible that he would be more interested in defending Dimity than the other Puritans necessarily would be.

I think that this element of redemption – of characters striving to better themselves and the world around them, to atone for their sins, to reach out to the divine – is what would put “Sword and Flower” over the top. The simple A to C story Rawle is telling becomes FAR more powerful when your protagonists have a goal and something motivating what they do.

And it makes it superversive. Redemption stories are about looking past yourself and to something higher and better – if for no other reason than that you want to make yourself higher and better. It means that you recognize a higher moral order that you’ve violated and need to make right.

Jeffro originally brought up “Daredevil”. “Daredevil’s” superversiveness comes from a few places. One is that Daredevil suffers in his fights, and keeps fighting anyway. He doesn’t walk away from fights; he limps, or gets thrown into dumpsters, or is absolutely ripped to shreds. He is beaten down and broken and bloodied like crazy. But he keeps fighting anyway. That’s superversive!

Daredevil remains a human character because he’s still acting like a real person, odd as that sounds. You always know why he does what he does; he’s helping people. He’s saving lives. When a child’s been kidnapped you can understand why Daredevil would allow himself to be beaten half to death if it means rescuing him.

Dimity is never really given the chance to make a decision like that. At the end of the story she does reject a demon’s offer to become an all-powerful god-like creature, but really, he just killed how many people? And implied that he might have raped her? It’s hardly a choice (though I will say that the effort to add in a moment like that is appreciated). Daredevil’s choice is much more powerful: He can walk away, save himself the pain, and nobody would be any the wiser, or really even blame him. But he goes in anyway, because he knows he can make a difference.

So there’s my answer: The lack of character motivation is also a lack of superversion. When characters aren’t motivated, then they’re not striving to improve themselves, and there’s no opportunity to let in something higher or greater. In a Christian cosmology, in a world that’s explicitly designed for people who get a second chance at life, the opportunity for a redemption story is there for the taking. And redemption stories are some of the most superversive of all. This could have been fantastic!

But we never get to see it, and the result feels like finishing a very unsatisfying meal: There’s just something missing…

So we go back to square one: What’s the biggest problem with “Sword and Flower”?

It needs to be more superversive. The story is just begging for it. Hopefully Rawle learns from the experience and is able to give us something more powerful in the future. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

REVIEW: “Sword and Flower”, by Rawle Nyanzi

Let me start off with this: I went into this thinking I’d like it.

I went into this hoping I’d like it.

I’d read reviews from people I trust who liked it.

I like Rawle. I certainly have no ax to grind with him. I WANTED to like “Sword and Flower”.

But I couldn’t. It’s just not a very good book.

It’s not terrible. And I certainly think Rawle can and will get better. It’s just…not good.

Forget the prose style. That was fine. I barely noticed it, and it’s the big criticism I’ve seen cropping up.

The problem is the characters, and it’s a big problem. I had two big issues with them. They either,

  1. Had barely two-dimensional personalities, or worse,
  2. Didn’t act like real people at all

Let me give you an example of what I mean (SPOILERS from her on out – you’ve been warned). Our protagonist, Dimity, a Japanese pop star with magical powers that apparently are a common thing in “Sword and Flower” world, has this happen to her:

Someone has hacked into Dimity’s account. She goes to the bank to clear it up.

She learns that the banker is a fan of hers. She has trouble clearing up her money when this happens (this is the banker speaking):

“…I wouldn’t want you to miss your next concert, so I can do something for you: I’ll have the bank give you one million yen for your personal use. It will come with an official letter from the bank so that it can sail through customs with no problems,” Sugihara said. Dimity beamed. “That’s wonderful!” she said. She hadn’t expected free money, but here it was, handed to her on a silver platter.

What? Who reacts like that? Your immediate reaction to being handed ten thosuand dollars (the rough equivalent of a million yen) is never “Free money!” it’s “That sounds completely illegal and doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.”

Later Dimity’s security is “very suspicious” of the money. This is also unrealistic. Even IF Dimity is naive enough to accept the money, security isn’t going to be “suspicious”, it’s going to tell her not to take the money, since it’s an obvious scam, since banks can’t hand out ten thousand dollars just because.

So let’s move on. Dimity dies in a violent explosion. Her immediate reaction to landing in the afterlife is puzzlement, until she fights a demon monster. An angel of God helps her out.

Dimity doesn’t react like a normal human being. She’s not remotely afraid of the demon monster – again, the demon monster – and, worse, she doesn’t seem even slightly concerned that she’s died.

I compared her reaction to Meg Finn’s in Eoin Colfer’s novel “The Wish List”. Meg also dies in a violent explosion. Her first thought afterward is to assume she woke up in a hospital. When she realizes she died, her reaction is muted, but Colfer specifically mentions that the tunnel to the afterlife has a calming effect on her. Later, when she ends up back on earth as a ghost, she tries to stay calm for awhile but eventually breaks down emotionally; when she gets over this – quickly – she acts decisively for the rest of the novel.

That is how an actual person reacts to dying. Even if Dimity is the sort of person with a strong enough will to not be freaked out at the concept of literally exploding, shouldn’t she at least be upset at not getting to see any of her friends again? Never getting to perform at any more concerts? Heck, fighting demons?

She just…isn’t. She doesn’t come off as particularly brave or strong-willed for this. She comes off as sort of robotic.

One of the things I did like about the novel is the concept of the lesser heaven, a sort of “second chance” world for people who die sudden, violent deaths. It’s an interesting answer to the theological question of how fair it is to judge people who didn’t have a real chance to prepare for their deaths.

Unfortunately, interesting as it is in the concept phase, Rawle doesn’t go very far with it. Lesser Heaven is a lot like earth, but where demons attack and divided in subsections for different cultural groups – including the Puritans, who feature prominently. I wanted to see something more – but with that said, he seemed to be setting up a sequel hook at the end of it and I’m hopeful that things will get more interesting.

Let’s go back to the bigger problems – the characters. After rescuing the Puritans from a demon, Dimity is put on trial for witchcraft for using her magical powers in the fight. She is defended by a swordsman named Mash, and instead of being executed is made a sort of housekeeper for one of he families until her sentence is complete.

Let’s look at Mash. The problem with Mash is that he acts exactly the same as all the other Puritans…except he defends Dimity. Why? There’s a hint that because another character, Elizabeth, healed him earlier from the brink of death with magic he’s more sympathetic to magic, but this doesn’t work; after all, Dimity did save all of their lives earlier thanks to her magic. Mash is dull. He’s another Puritan who inexplicably acts like every other Puritan except when the plot requires him not to.

Moving on. I’ll try to avoid some spoilers. Suffice to say that Dimity and a group of Puritan warriors are now fighting demons in their lair. This scene is all fine. Rawle has some good ideas here – the setting where they fight the demons, a creepy, semi-organic Japanese castle, is very cool. The fight scenes work well enough.

But the people still don’t act like real people. In the attack, all of the Puritan warriors are killed except for Mash and Dimity. This doesn’t even slow them down! Shouldn’t Mash, at least, be briefly upset? Horrified? Disturbed?

But he’s not. He keeps on fighting and moving as if everything is perfectly fine and things are going well. The effect, again, isn’t heroic; it’s robotic.

Okay. They make it through the cool organic castle, and after some fighting and other things – handled fairly well – Dimity and Mash are in a stand off against the villain, the head demon. Elizabeth, the girl who used magic to save Mash’s life earlier, showed up and is killed in the fight. This, for the first time, affects Mash very strongly; it is the first time in the book either him or Dimity (who also reacts, if not as strongly) acts like a real life human to a tragic events. This is good!

But then it’s all cut short by the ending. Again, I don’t want to be overly harsh here…but this is really, really inexcusable. After the defeat of the head demon monster, Dimity and Mash go back to the village. A service and period of mourning is held for Elizabeth…but not for any of the warriors who died.

What?

An entire team of warriors is killed, and this isn’t even worth bringing up again at the end of the novel. It’s never mentioned. Apparently not only do Mash and Dimity not care, but nobody cares. This is such an egregious oversight that I’m still not sure if I’m missing something, but until I find what it is, I really can’t excuse this. It’s the sort of thing that, even if you forgot about when you wrote it, you have to find in a proofread. It’s just too big.

The book ends on an interesting sequel hook. I’ll probably buy the sequel to see how Rawle improves.

Here’s the thing: I know I’m supposed to focus on the pulpy formula, and how it affects and improves the work…but I can’t, because I just did not care about the characters. They weren’t people, they were automatons who reacted the way they did in order to push the plot forward. They didn’t have normal human reactions to events. As a result, even though it’s nice, for once, to have a feminine-ish (it’s hard for me to say feminine when she’s fighting monsters right alongside the male hero) heroine and masculine hero, I didn’t really care because why would I care about these people? They’re not people. They’re robots. With Mash this is even more egregious since he acted exactly the same as the other Puritans anyway! If another Puritan warrior suddenly changed his mind and decided he liked Dimity, we’d have a clone of Mash. I just couldn’t get invested.

That’s not to say it was a total disaster, as bad as all that sounds. The story had a couple of Way Cool ideas. Rawle threw you right into the action, which is good. The writing is competent, the fight scenes effective, and everything moves logically. There were no egregious plot holes (unless, I suppose, you count the massive oversight of the suddenly ignored Puritan warriors). Rawle didn’t embarass himself, in the sense that he wrote a logical work of fiction with competent prose and some cool ideas.

It’s not a poor book, just a mediocre one. What he’s missing are the characters.

The thing is, this is a BIG deal. To overcome unrealistic characters, you need some other hook to draw the reader in and make them overlook that flaw; for example, Asimov’s robot stories weren’t about the characters but about solving the puzzle. “The Three Body Problem” wasn’t about the characters but about the aliens, the mystery surrounding the game, and the protagonist’s weird visions. Rawle just didn’t have a strong enough hook to make me ignore the characters, and for that reason “Sword anf Flower” just didn’t work.

One last thing: When I was asked to describe what I meant by “mediocre”, I thought for a moment then mentioned an early story of mine. Needless to say, I haven’t given up on my own writing, and I haven’t given up on Rawle’s. There is room for improvement here, and I think he can do it. This is not the work of somebody who wasn’t trying. This is the work of somebody who tried and simply fell short of the mark. I look forward to seeing Rawle progress and hopefully start to hit those marks he sets for himself.

The effort is admirable; now let’s see if he can nail the execution.

Miyazaki Retrospective: “The Wind Rises”

So here we are. Miyazaki’s final latest! film, “The Wind Rises”. What is there to say about it that hasn’t been said about the great man’s other films?

Quite a lot, as it turns out. “The Wind Rises” is one of the most difficult and uncomfortable movies I’ve ever watched. So of course I watched it twice.

The movie is a very, VERY fictionalized biopic of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the creator of the Japanese airplane the Zero fighter, one of the most remarkable fighter planes of WWII and most notoriously one of the planes involved in the Pearl Harbor attacks. Given this knowledge, a movie that gives an extremely sympathetic, even kind-hearted, portrayal of the designer should be incredibly tasteless at best and horrifying at worst.

Well, perhaps for a normal director, but Miyazaki is no normal director. “The Wind Rises” is many things – an exploration of the role of art in society, the horror of war, the fleetingness of life, and one simple tragedy: In life, there are endings. But one thing it is very much not is tasteless.

As far as the production quality, well, it’s Studio Ghibli. Yet I can’t help but think that the visuals are stunning even for a Miyazaki film; the only one that really comes close on visuals alone is “Ponyo”. Jiro’s fantasy sequences, where he meets with his hero, the (real life!) Italian aircraft designer Caproni, are nothing short of stunning, and Miyazaki’s airplanes (also real airplane designs!) are magnificent. Miyazaki made the interesting artistic decision to have actual humans imitate the various airplane noises rather than use sound effects. It sounds kind of crazy, but it works, enhancing the already vaguely dreamlike feel of the world: This is all happening in a real historical place and time and even with real people, but not QUITE in the real world. This is the real world as imagined by Hayao Miyazaki.

One must be careful psychoanalyzing creators through their art, but after reading some interviews and quotes from Miyazaki it becomes difficult not to imagine Miyazaki’s version of Jiro as a creator analogue. The debates and discussions Jiro has with Caproni in his head don’t actually sound very confident; Miyazaki doesn’t seem overly sure of the answers he’s giving to the questions Jiro is asking. This is actually to the movie’s strength – instead of being lectured at with a message we’re exploring an idea.

You can perhaps say that the main conflict of the movie is reconciling Jiro’s love of aircraft design with Japan’s involvement in WWII. Miyazaki was inspired by a quote from the real Jiro Horikoshi: “All I ever wanted was to make something beautiful”. There’s something highly unsettling about the phrase due to the context – the “beautiful” thing Jiro is making is a WWII fighter plane that was used to kill thousands of people.

In one of the dream sequences Caproni addresses the conflict with this question: “Would you rather live in a world with pyramids or without them?”. When  I brought this up to a friend, he said “Well, no pyramids if it means not killing slaves, right?”

And he’s right! If it means not enslaving people and getting them to work to the bone, then it’s wrong to make pyramids!

But making planes for your country is a little more complicated, isn’t it? Helping your own country in a war is also a matter of patriotism and loyalty. After all, in our own country, draft dodgers are shamed, even if the war is a controversial one. Is it really fair to blame a man for making something beautiful to serve his country?

It’s not an easy question, and Miyazaki doesn’t shy away from it. By the end of the film, Jiro points out to Caproni that every single one of his planes has been destroyed in the war. As he says, flying is a cursed dream; for man to fly is also for man to use flying machines to kill each other.

The heart of the movie is the (in this case, fictional) romance between Noriko and and Jiro. For the first time I’ve seen so far (two films to go!) Miyazaki doesn’t have a strong female protagonist or deuteragonist to go with his male hero (his sister, who becomes a doctor, is a major character but not really on the level of a lead). This really isn’t a bad thing. Noriko is a lovely character, and her romance with Jiro is charming.

And tragic, of course. Noriko and Jiro’s doomed romance serves as another exploration of Miyazaki’s theme of endings, and of balance. Jiro’s love for his wife leads to him to…

…Okay, I’m going to stop here for a moment and talk about briefly why I stalled so long on this section of the review. Because I’ve been stuck, and now I think I know why.

Both times I watched “The Wind Rises”, the romance was actually my favorite part of the film. This is quite rare for me, as I don’t particularly like romances, but this one moved me. For a long time I wasn’t sure why, but I think I do now. It’s because I’ve been making a category error.

I separated the incredible visuals of the film from the storytelling. This cripples some of my language as a result, like talking about what I thought was so great about “Firefly” after passing over the dialogue in the first paragraph. The visuals aren’t separate from the movie, they’re at the heart of it (this was even more the case in “Ponyo”, which was a weaker movie and so leaned – quite successfully – even more on the quality of its animation than “The Wind Rises” does).

The romance is so wonderful because the images we get associated with the romance are some of the most memorable of the film. The umbrella scene – partially portrayed in many of the posters for “The Wind Rises” – is not only charming, but amazingly animated; only Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli cold make fighting over a windswept umbrella so compelling.

Similarly, later scenes intended to build the romance are sweet on their own but coupled with the animation sing with life. One scene has Jiro making and throwing paper airplanes off a balcony to Noriko. The scene is cute in itself but the effects of the wind on the little paper planes is simply stunning, bringing new energy to a simple, quiet moment between the couple.

This energy and life serves the movie well later when Noriko’s illness takes a turn for the worse. Early scenes with Noriko were deliberately set outdoors and in a bright, breezy, almost dream-like environment, but after Noriko’s first health setback everything shifts. The spark of life and energy to the scenes is gone; Noriko spends almost the entirety of the rest of the movie literally lying down. The brightness is gone – there is no sun. Everything is set indoors. There’s no umbrella chasing, no flying paper airplanes.

Much like in “My Neighbor Totoro” some of those earlier scenes seem to have no obvious point, but suddenly when Noriko is framed as the only thing that could potentially unfocus Jiro from his planes – and, perhaps tragically, does not – it all fits, because we saw the relationship, why it formed, who they are, and what makes it so wonderful and special. We know why Noriko puts rouge on her cheeks to hide the extent of her illness from Jiro, and why Jiro makes sure to move so he can be next to her every day. The biggest tragedy of the film isn’t really Noriko’s death; we knew that was coming. It’s that Jiro also knew it was coming but still decided it was worth it to leave town.

In a way, this reframes Caproni’s initial question: Would you rather live in a world with Noriko or without her?

Jiro ultimately makes the decision to leave his extremely ill wife behind for several days to see to his planes, yet in the end his planes are all destroyed, while his wife dies alone.

Was it worth it? Really?

In the end it doesn’t matter. The choices were made. And even while the whole world dies around him, for Jiro, the wind still rises. He must try to live.

And he does.

Jiro Horikoshi lived to be 78 years old. Excerpts from his personal diary made it clear that he greatly opposed Japan’s involvement in World War II.

Well, that’ll work

You know, I was all set to do one, last, big post, explaining my motivations, why I wrote the bombshell, clarifying things I meant, and responding to a few more points before signing off…Then John C. Wright wrote this.

And you know what? It’s so good, so well-written and compellingly argued, I have nothing else to really say about the matter. If everyone can get behind that, I think we’ll do just fine.

That’s all from me for now, folks. Jeffro offered me a deal that’s too good to pass up. I mentioned that I’d keep up with the debate until it stopped being fun, and it stopped. But the cross-pollination was good for both blogs (though ours especially, for obvious reasons), and I’m all in favor of keeping that up. So expect to see some short fiction reviews showing up here and less editorials, at least from me (as always, I don’t speak for anyone but myself). That’s more fun anyway!

So after all of that…I encourage everyone to read Mr. Wright’s post. Trust me. You won’t regret it if you find this topic remotely interesting.

And now I’ll relax.

Pulp and Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Oh My!

This is a companion to my current bombshell post at Castalia House.

First: I’m delighted at the response it’s gotten to far. Lots of comments clarifying various positions was the point of writing it!

I didn’t really get into another point I hope to make: If we can define pulp as a thing, we can define fantasy and science fiction as a thing too.

Here’s the thing. Everybody and their mother knew and acknowledged what hard sci-fi was, what fantasy was, and what hard science fiction was…right up until the pulp rev folks started acting like the difference was difficult to distinguish. I’m not making this up. A whole post was written on how hard SF just doesn’t exist.

(Note, here, all of the things I’m NOT saying, and be careful what views you extrapolate).

The thing is, if it’s difficult and pointless to come up with a difference between science fiction and fantasy, then it’s even more difficult and pointless to define a difference between pulp and non-pulp.

Pulp is a much more nebulous, vague concept. In its broadest sense, it means the stories that were published in the magazines that used cheap pulpy paper – but that’s clearly not the only metric being used. Lots of other metrics have been added on qualifying fiction that counts as the modern day equivalent to pulp.

But from my perspective what we’re calling as a shorthand the pulp revolution is really more of an Appendix N revolution. And it’s silly to act on one hand as if pulp is free from those petty genre distinctions plaguing modern works while at the same time coming up with metrics and definitions to define what is and isn’t pulp. Of course you want to distinguish between genres; you’re just using a new pulp genre you created as your preferred form of fiction.

This is a good thing! If this wasn’t done, then we’d be talking about nothing at all! But it’s what’s happening.

Looking in the early comments (boy did I provoke quite a few comments quite fast) it seems that a lot of people A) Don’t believe me when I point out the many things that have been disqualified from pulp, B) Seem to think that a hard SF cabal is the source of this pushback, or C) Just misunderstand my point completely.

For example, I did not disqualify superheroes from pulp. That happened in the comments of a post where I brought up superheroes; it was Daddy Warpig who did it*. I’ll dig through the many, many comments on those posts to find exact quotes one day, but I’m not making this up wholesale.

Some commenters at least seem to be quite angry, but since I figured that was going to be the case anyway I won’t comment on it. The post was pushback against prevailing wisdom. When DOESN’T that provoke anger?

The other point too, that I’ve continually made, that (at least some) people seem to think I haven’t, is that I support the pulp revolution!

This “war” between the pulp revolution and the superversive movement? It simply doesn’t exist. Heck, we’re getting close to putting out a pulp magazine soon. We want to bring back pulp fiction!

I’ll leave that as the thought to chew on for now.

*To be fair, I should probably qualify that it was the post-Cambellian revolution modern superheroes that were being discussed as not being examples of pulp works; this has understandably lead to some confusion, since Batman has been acknowledged as a pulp character since the beginning. Misunderstandings on that front are really my own fault.

No, really, why AM I superversive?

One may – or may not – be surprised to know that despite being a part of the superversive team, I have a reputation in my family as a curmudgeon. In “real life”, distinct from my writing here and other places, I am quite cynical. I tend to believe that bad news is far more likely than good; as a Catholic, like Tolkien, I believe we’re in for the long defeat.

It was my sister who posed the question to me. I don’t remember the context, but I was complaining about something or other when she looked at me and said “Why are you even part of Superversive SF, anyway”?

It’s a great question, and the answer is somewhat personal. You see, I have a secret.

A BIG secret. It’s one I really don’t like to admit out loud. But here it is:

I’m not really a cynic. I’m actually a romantic. Deep down, I believe in true love, happy endings, heroism, and miracles. Or rather, I want to believe in them. I want desperately to believe they’re true.

Of course, out here in real life, we’re living in the enemy’s world. So those things don’t happen as often as they should. But they DO happen…and more importantly, they SHOULD happen. And I don’t mean that in a pathetic way, either, like it’s a fool’s dream and I’m just not willing to face reality. I mean that the world was literally created to be better than this.

And I think that in fiction, the most powerful stories are the ones that recognize we live in this horrible, messed up, dangerous world…and that we’re destined for something better. That humanity can be better. That yes, things suck, but we have the ability to rise up and change – to live for something greater than ourselves.

And that’s the heart of superversive SF, right? That we’re out here hoping and praying and living and dying not for ourselves, but for something higher and better than us.

In a world that is often terrible and depressing we need to be reminded sometimes that there’s hope. We need to remember that hope is just as real and just as important – maybe even more important – than all of those terrible things, and that we fools who strive to be better do not strive in vain.

And we go back around again to square one. Why am I, a cynical curmudgeon who complains about things all the time and picks petty fights with people for no good reason, a member of the superversive fiction movement?

Maybe it’s because guys like me need superversion most of all.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

Looking through some of the links that have been popping up on Superversive SF lately, I feel like I might be coming off the wrong way to people. Let me try and clear things up.

Here’s the thing: The whole pulp revolution v. Superversive movement/genre debate thing? This is all fun to me. I love discussing and analyzing this stuff. It’s interesting. I get to read interesting things, talk with interesting people, and get into fun conversations with folks I have a lot of respect for.

So far, nothing I’ve written has been meanspirited. If it’s come off that way, believe me, it was unintentional – and anyway, considering how charged the whole pulp rev atmosphere tends to be I don’t even really think I’m on the more extreme end.

Anyway, the moral of the story is this: I’m not angry or upset with anyone when I write those posts unless I explicitly spell it out. Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned this has been a blast, and I hope that’s the spirit in which my posts are taken.