Wonder is the Fire Fueling the Superversive

You’re wanting to come join to the party, eh? Well, this pool gets pretty deep, so you’re going to want something to use as a diving platform, and that something is “wonder”.

  • n. One that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration; a marvel: “The decision of one age or country is a wonder to another” ( John Stuart Mill).
  • n. The emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous: gazed with wonder at the northern lights.
  • n. An event inexplicable by the laws of nature; a miracle.

You’ve got to bring the wonder. It’s part-and-parcel of the Superversive, and the audience you’re looking to court wants it, seeks it out, and cherishes it as if it were a newborn child. Wonder is priceless, and in that moment of wonder you can do something so profound for the reader that–in satisfying their desire for entertainment–you give them something True and Beautiful, even if your work is a tragedy.

Go back. Look again at all your favorite stories, artworks, music, etc. and pay attention to those moments of wonder. Remember how you felt the first time you experienced those moments? Take another look above at those definitions; that’s your desired outcome from the reader. Pay that experience forward; give them the wonder that your predecessors gave unto you.

Don’t worry about how you’ll make that happen. You’ve got friends here, and you’ve got friends elsewhere who are no less dedicated to bringing that wonder back. Just ask, and we’ll find a way to help you learn how to bring it to the people.

Wonder shared is wonder multiplied, so share yours today. Join the Superversive chorus.

The Time To Join The Game Is Now

I hope that you’re now a regular reader here. Furthermore, I hope that you’ve added this blog to some form of reader or feed aggregator. Every day you’re going to see more and more opportunities for getting involved, and I don’t just mean Call For Submission posts.

Take a look at what’s been posted over the last few weeks. New books getting published? That’s an opportunity because you reading that book and then writing a review is a big deal, both for you and for the author. You’d be wise to post it to your own blog, and then to the book page at Amazon; the former grows your audience, and the latter helps the author by spreading word of mouth. Win-win. The same applies to new magazines and anthologies.

Are there some relevant events–a signing, a convention, a meetup–coming up in your area? Spread the word; hype that up, assuming that it’s not thoroughly subverted to the enemy’s cause. All that takes is a little time to post to your blog and then spread the links to all the socials; you can do that over a lunch break.

Can you draw? Are you at all serious about getting good enough for people to cut you checks? There’s always room for more of you, as even the most dedicated of the professionals can’t do it all, and this is the time to get in and make yourself into the next Frazetta, Bradstreet, Takahashi, or Toriyama. Especially if you study the great art of the past and heed the wisdom within its frames.

I’m going somewhere with this. Do you remember the Parable of the Spoons?

A man is near death. As he leaves his body, an angel appears and puts him before two doors. The angel opens both doors, and in each is revealed a feasting hall full of people at table wielding spoons longer than their arms. At first they seem identical, but soon the differences are apparent: in one, they are crazed with hunger as they attempt ceaselessly to shorten the spoons so they may feed themselves only for the shafts to stretch anew; in the other, they take turns feeding their fellows using the reach provided, and all are satisfied and merry. The angel turns to the man and says “Now you see what Hell and Heaven are like.” The man survives, and thereafter dedicates his life to improving his people.

That’s what we’ve got to do now. You’ll be fed in turn by feeding others now. Get in the game. Now is the time.

Why Catholic Vampires?

Love at First Bite is my My Dragon Award Nominated series. Usually, my elevator pitch is “Traditional Vampires that integrate free will into the mythology, resulting in a unique end result.”

What I don’t say is that by “Traditional Vampires that integrate free will,” I mean “Catholic Vampires.”

This is in part because, as one person replied: Weren’t Vampires always Catholic?

There’s a point there. In the original mythology that I can recall, Vampires weren’t repelled by a cross, but to the crucifix. They reacted to a consecrated host.

But they were also automatically evil. And that was the part I drew the line at. How did that make any sense?

In Dracula, the novel, Vlad Tempes was never considered a nice guy. And I’m certain that Stoker’s history wasn’t exactly half as detailed as ours would be today. For Stoker, Dracula was probably evil even before he was a vampire. When Lucy was turned, she could be little more than a feral dog, overwhelmed by urges and appetites she’d never had before. All easily explained.

But after a while, once you get into other vampires, why would all of them in fiction become automatically evil? Doesn’t that subvert free will? Unless you go for the Buffy solution, which was that all vampires were soulless, and the soul was replaced with a carbon copy of a demon. Basically, people were the skin suits that a demon wore. They drank blood as a perverted mockery of the Eucharist, and that’s that.

But otherwise, it’s generally unexplained. I don’t even remember Larry’s Monster Hunter International series addressing it, really. It was just “Vampires are evil, they don’t sparkle, just kill the f**kers.” (Though if anyone has a better recollection, let me know.)

My vampires at the very least needed to address free will.

Which becomes a problem. How can I have people become vampires, and then automatically afflicted by holy artifacts? Unless I go the “demon wearing a skin suit” route, it doesn’t make much sense.

But what if vampires, like people, are formed by their actions?

Catholic theology states that a resurrected body is a body that is perfectly controlled by the soul. So, the more actions one makes, the more the vampire is formed, and the closer body and soul comes together. The more evil actions one commit, the vampire becomes more powerful, but is also more afflicted by religious artifacts.

Anyone who is “good” is something different.

Here’s yet another tenant of Catholicism that ended up in the novel: Aristotle. Yes, the vampires are based around Catholic philosophy because the Church still uses Aristotle. “Actions form the person” is straight out of his Ethics. RPGs also use a similar system (the one I’m familiar with is Knights of the Old Republic).

Now, even under this model, I would not, and will not argue for being just “people with fangs.” I submit that when you take a person, remove all sense of personal consequences from their life, and give them the powers of a vampire, then they are not “people with fangs,” it’s a grave temptation to become a serial killer with fangs. One monster or another, there’s very little difference except in scale and scope.

Keep in mind, I’m not saying “people are naturally evil.” I’d say at least half of my vampires are just folk who would like to survive and move along. Wearing a cross is gonna hurt, unless they go to frequent confessions, because even venial sins are going to mount up after a while.

And yes, I want redemption to be a possibility. Why? In part because I sometimes write bad guys that I like enough to want to redeem. They’re not pure evil, they just try to be. Also, hell, if you’re still on the planet Earth, and not in Hell, I’m fully convinced that Heaven continue to try to catch sinners until the last possible moment. When you consider the number of Catholic saints who used to be schmucks, redemption will sneak into my series eventually.

Keep in mind, this still circles back to the “actions maketh the man” aspect. Evil people can still do good things — it’s rare, but it happens. Granted, some of the most evil pricks on Earth have ironic “virtues” that are comedically small in comparison to their crimes, but some don’t even have that much. I don’t recall anyone trying to spin Stalin as having a single quality that made him look like anything less than a total prick, while Hitler was a vegetarian who painted flowers.

Granted, the levels of evil I’m dealing with … well, let’s just say that their isn’t a LOT of redemption from the antagonists. I may have redeemed two vampire antagonists over the course of the series.

But then again, look at my protagonists, will you? There’s Marco … who’s his own type of dark. There’s Amanda, who had to participate in things that she still thinks about sometimes. Let’s not even discuss Rory, shall we?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: That’s all very nice, but how do I do this as a “neutral” thing? How do I leave Free Will while having an obviously supernatural problem? Well, vampirism is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact, so it’s a blood born virus. We know the vector.

Obviously, it must be a supernatural virus, transmitted from human / supernatural contact.

In Honor at Stake, I suggested Nephilim were the origin, but I’ve kept it vague, if only because I don’t have any vampires that old to confirm it, nor is there anyone kicking around who has that much history.

If I ever continue the world, I’m going to have to dive into the virology more. After all, vampires have worked with governments — Nazis, Soviets– so we know there were experiments. I’m just never going to do those stories, because I suspect it’s going to look like Wolfenstein or Hellboy if I do that.

One of the few things I’ve spelled out is one of the quirks of viruses: most of them try to not kill the host. In fact, if I treat vampirism as being a disease, it’s actually a symbiotic relationship, as it keeps the host alive. Which means it would act like it. There are some viruses that actually aid the host by providing food (for example, one real life avian virus that encourages bugs to climb to higher altitude, making it easy for the birds to eat them).

And finally, the best reason I have for doing Catholic vampires …

I’m Catholic.

Duh.

See if anyone else gets redeemed in the climactic conclusion to the series, with Good to the Last Drop. Or, if you’re new here and haven’t read the series yet,  click here to get the entire Love at First Bite cycle.

The Superversive In You: Joining The Chorus

Now that you’re aware of the Superversive’s existence in popular media across the globe, and you’re already sold on it, you want to join the choir and add to the chorus. Good. Welcome to the party.

But you’re wonder how, aren’t you?

There’s something you should keep firmly fixed in your mind, and that something is this: Two Hands.

In stage magic, the magician wants you focusing your attention on one hand while he does his thing with the other. The idea is that you engage your audience with one thing here and how, while you work on the other thing to get it ready for the reveal. This means having a short-term and a long-term operation going simultaneously; it’s the same thing as an A-plot and a B-plot in an on-going serialized story told on television or in comics.

That means that you’re wise to have something you can do right now while you work towards something you can contribute down the road.

Your long-term is your novels, your illustrations, your music, etc. that requires time and persistence to get up to professional standards prior to putting it out there for others to buy (or not). Even for the writers that post here, it’s still a hustle and will remain a hustle for years on end. Keep at it.

It’s the short-term stuff that I’m going to talk about here, because that’s how you can contribute here and how while building up that long-term thing.

  • Blogging: Especially if you want to make it as a writer, get into blogging. Post daily, and spread your posts as far and as wide as you can. From this point, many other short-term things are easily executed.
  • Reviews: Good God, the writers need book reviews. Illustrators need reviews. Podcasters need reviews. You’re already reading/watching/listening to this stuff, so take the time to turn your opinion into an essay and then your essay into a review. Then post that to your blog, and repost it to the relevant Amazon page (or other online store) page (as applicable).
  • Hyping: Spread the word about the things you love. Link to them on your blog early, often, and repeatedly. That novel? That movie? That picture? Find the creator, link to whatever their landing page is, and tell all who will hear that This Thing You Love is done by That Guy.

The reason for basing this out of a blog is that, once you get into the habit of daily posting, you will build up an audience over time. That audience will then be there for when you start doing reveals for your long-term projects, whatever they are, and you may be invited to guest-post to other blogs as well as become a contributor to a group blog (like I have, here). Your posts need not take a lot of time to do, especially once you’ve learned just enough HTML to not need to rely on a visual text editor to do the markups for you.

Your short-term hustle will also help you learn the basics behind getting the word out on your own long-term stuff when it becomes ready for prime-time; by helping those you love get the word out, you learn how to spread the word (and the love) for your own in turn, and the audience you garner will do the same for you when you take your turn at bat and swing for the fences.

If this sounds a lot like how a healthy community cultivates and regenerates its talent and productive capacity over time, building up its culture from below and building upon the deeds of their forebearers, you’re not wrong; it stands to reason that to achieve a Superversive culture, one must resort to Superversive methods. It seems so small, so humble, yet it moves mountains. Do it, keep at it, and take joy in the process; you won’t even notice the time go by before you see the results.

The Superversive is Everywhere. Join the Chorus!

Since I began writing here at SuperversiveSF, I’ve emphasized already-existing examples of the Superversive. The reason is simple: so that, when you’re talking to others, you have ready examples to point to of existing works that are popular, influential, or both. This matters when persuading others, because if they can associate the Superversive concept with things they already know (and, hopefully, like) then getting them to look into what the Superversive Movement has to offer becomes easier.

By the same token, we should seek out others working in those other media and encourage them in creating their own Superversive works. Comics, films, poems, statuary, paintings- whatever. As the word grows (and it will), so will more flock to the banners, and with that change comes the opportunity to make visible the invisible damage done to our cultures worldwide- and then to present the replacements that repair and rejuvenate it.

Which is why I’m making a shift in my posting topic. Rather than show you more of what is already there, I want to show you how to add your voice to that mighty chorus and sing forth again the Song of Creation that made this beautiful world possible.

You’ve seen where the Superversive exists, and have taken from there into yourself. Now? Now we make our own, here, and bring it forth unto there and harmonize with that infinite chorus to carry the music forward yet another generation and drown out the discord of the subversive that seeks to reduce one and all to nameless goo under some disposable psuedo-culture. Write, draw, sculpt, play- however you do, do here and do now. Come join the chorus.

The Iconic Hero and the Superversive

I make no bones about the fact that I prefer Sean Connery when I’m talking about James Bond movies. It’s not merely that his take on the character is consistently entertaining, but that it’s consistent period from film to film. This is a man who knows who and what he is, does not apologize for it, and has no issues with what he does; he lives for the mission, and believes in the mission. It’s nothing like Danial Craig’s Bond at all. Robin D.
Laws identifies this as “The Iconic Hero”, and explained in this 2012 post why this is a valid characterization choice:

While a dramatic hero follows a character arc in which he is changed by his experience of the world (examples: Orpheus, King Lear, Ben Braddock), an iconic hero undertakes tasks (often serially) and changes the world, restoring order to it, by remaining true to his essential self.

Prevailing creative writing wisdom favors the changeable dramatic character over his serially unchanging iconic counterpart, but examples of the latter remain enduring tentpoles of popular culture. It’s the clear, simple, elemental iconic heroes who keep getting reinvented every generation. Each such classic character spoke to the era of its invention, while also evoking an eternal quality granting it a continuing resonance. We are going to create a new set of heroes who speak to the contemporary world while evoking the inescapable power of the iconic model.

An iconic hero re-imposes order on the world by reasserting his essential selfhood. The nature of his radical individuality can be summed up with a statement of his iconic ethos. It is the ethos that grants higher meaning to the hero’s actions, and a clue to his creator’s intentions. An iconic hero’s ethos motivates and empowers him.

The first paragraph in particular is the mission of a Superversive hero: to restore order to the world. What he does is how he makes that happen, that assertion Laws speaks of, is where the variation lies. In the quoted post, Laws goes over several iconic characters and shows how you can summarize their stories in a sentence by identifying their ethos and how they assert it to restore order to their world time and again. What he doesn’t identify, but nonetheless shows, is that this summary also serves as the basis for every story outline you’ll need in writing stories about those characters that are true and faithful additions to their literary corpus that the readers will accept.

There’s something else that this post, and the concept in it, reveals: how the Enemy subverts the culture. They do resort to making Iconic Heroes into Dynamic Characters, putting them through “arcs” that denigrate their ethos and thereby degrade the characters into agents of subversion to further the Enemy’s agenda. (One need only look at what goes on at Marvel and D.C. Comics to see this in action.)

While stories that have characters changed by the experiences of the narrative are necessary and valuable, this is not a universal requirement. Just look at what’s been done with the Arthurian Mythos to see (a) that it’s not necessary and (b) it’s often done to subvert, degrade, and destroy a targeted culture- and therefore, not to be trusted anymore.

Consider an Iconic Hero when you’re next sitting down to create something, especially if you’re looking to do so as part of a series–writing, gaming, etc.–because you may find it better suited to your objectives than you might think.

The Superversive in Tabletop RPGs: Why Is It So Rare?

There aren’t many tabletop RPGs, or supplements thereof, that are clearly or explicitly Superversive. However, many such games (and the official settings sold so eagerly for them) contain that potential. The publishers explicitly sell their games, and those settings, with a slant of “Be the good guys against the bad guys!” Yet it is increasingly rare for actual Superversive play to occur, something that’s been a known issue in gaming forums and sites for over 20 years.

Well, there IS an explanation. Dragon Award winner Brian Niemeier made a post his blog today regarding this sort of discussion as it applies to the Big Two of the American comics world, D.C. and Marvel. As those two big giants routinely miss the point, so do their fellow travelers in the tabletop gaming world. As I know first-hand that SJWs in comics, gaming, film, television, and SF/F publishing all network via the convention scene it’s not hard at all to see how this moral malaise spread to all of these cultural subsectors.

(Brian’s post contains the over-arching conversational thread, and I encourage you to read it before you come back here, because I’m explicitly building upon that thread as it relates to Superversive RPGs.)

There are two key observations to be had here. The first is by Jeffro Johnson (said here):

If you want people to employ traditional virtues in service of civilization, they first have to be able to imagine them. Heroism and romance were suppressed specifically to make it easier to destroy a people. The poindexters hold loyalty in contempt and sneer at sacrifice. They think goodness is for chumps. And they have held the reigns of culture for decades.

By the time that Dungeons & Dragons exploded into the mainstream around 1980 (there’s that timestamp again), this degree of cultural subversion had already occurred. If not for the brief turnaround in the zeitgeist by films like the original Star Wars through to the mid-’80s (e.g. Flash Gordon, Krull, Raiders of the Lost Ark) the degeneracy would have concluded well before the turn of the century. Instead, one last generation had the opportunity to have the Superversive shown to them in their early years.

In short, without examples of the Superversive to fire our imaginations, many of us will never even think to play that out in our fantasy adventures when we play tabletop RPGs no matter how well either the rules or the settling allow for it– and that, right there, is a major factor for why explicitly Superversive tabletop RPGs such as Pendragon remain niche games in a niche hobby.

Following that aforementioned thread, this observer nailed why the very publishers that comprise the thought-leaders in tabletop RPGs constantly undermine the Superversive potential of their own creations:

But they can’t imagine that. Reason number two is because of their self-imposed lifting of hypocrisy as the “ultimate” sin. It is better to not have a code at all than to have one and fail to live up to it. This is reflected in the method by which they try and tear down icons – hell, they even said it in Spider-Man 1 (Toby MacGuire), “the thing people like best is to see a hero fall.” (Paraphrased). They cannot fathom that the (a) the purpose of a code, even an unreachable one, is to set a goal for all people to strive to achieve, and (b) that you can’t live up to it all the time is because we are flawed, fallen, and human. However, (c) that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying.

I’ve seen this first-hand. They can’t conceive of it at all. The non-stop mockery of virtue, of the pursuit of a moral or ethical standard, and the misunderstanding (often willfully so) of what “hypocrisy” means all contribute to this subversion of the ostensible claim to “heroic adventure” (which they also misunderstand).

You see this in the long-form when the rules for games in strongly moral settings, such as Star Wars, keep getting watered down to allow for that demoralization to feed upon itself at the table. You see this in the creep of their Pink Slime amorality into their rules and settings, and the pushing of clearly subversive messages (i.e. yet more virtue-signalling) into every part of their business output- product and service alike.

While there are some people left in tabletop gaming who haven’t been fully converged, most long ago bent the knee and drank the demon’s blood- they are part of the cult, and they hate you. This is why the Superversive is rare in tabletop RPGs: they hate it. Don’t give them your money, or your children.

Just as readers closed their wallets and walked away from The Big Two in comics, and do so to the Big 5 in SF/F, this is necessary in tabletop gaming. Close the wallets, and walk away from Omelas- it’s YOUR child they forsake.

(And yes, this is much the case for videogames as well.)