The Failure of the Subversive & The Opportunity for the Superversive

If there is anything positive to take away from this weekend, it is this: the people, in general, know when some entertainment doesn’t serve them. If it continues to fail them, then they seek alternatives. Unserved audiences are opportunities that should not be passed up.

Nick Cole and Jason Anspach serve an unsatisfied audience with their Galaxy’s Edge series of novels, to great success so far, and demand grows for more. That’s the same audience realizing, in droves, that Disney’s not interested in serving them- as the reaction to The Last Jedi makes clear.

It won’t come quickly or easily, but the deliberate sabotage of major media properties such as Star Wars opens an opportunity for folks like the Noblebrights, the PulpRevs, and the Superversives to step forth and court that audience abused and discarded by an establishment that conducts itself like so many Hollywood stars and executives got accused of recently.

Of course there’s been talk on how to go about this. Brian Niemeier had a great post on this the other day, leading to a great follow-up post, and more conversation goes on elsewhere about making this happen.

Whatever else is said, this is clear: the time to come forth and contribute your voice to the chorus is now. Our friends across the Pacific have already noticed, and they’re wasting no time in reaching their hands our way. Let me show you just a few things coming early next year.

That’s right, a new Legend of the Galactic Heroes series, airing April of 2018.

A brand new Mazinger Z movie, due about the same time as the aforementioned series, with a worldwide simultaneous release. Don’t disdain this property; it’s got a huge global following, and many of the noble virtues we seek to uplift have always been present here.

We’ve got the opportunity to turn this ship around. Seize it. Fork away from the sick and dying subversives, cut them off, and build up our culture anew by serving that audience hungry for heroes noble and true despite it all, and succeeding.

Signal Boost: The PulpRev Sampler

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”right” asin=”B076WH49CS” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/6173t75Pi7L._SL160_.jpg” tag=”superversivesf-20″ width=”107″]PulpRev released its first fiction anthology late last week: The PulpRev Sampler. This collection has old hands, rising starts, and (like me) totally new authors each putting down something that captures the spitir of the old pulps and brings it forth to an audience hungry–starving–for the quality entertainment of the old days. As no few contributors (including myself) are also Superversive supporters, you that also seek the Superversive will find it here.

I’ve posted here at length, many times, how the Superversive is still out there in popular culture- just not the current Western establishment. As the Superversive and the Pulp Revolution share many common elements as well as participants, you should expect the stories in this collection to aspire to (if not achieve) the Superversive more often than not. If you want to change the culture, you have to get in the arena and fight for it; this is one such entry, and all of us are wanting to make the most of it.

And it’s a whopping 99 cents. Your risk is nothing but one less thing on the Dollar Menu. Just chick through the image link above, make that purchase, and enjoy all of the stories to your heart’s content. Then–please–leave a review and spread the word. Even the old hands who were so gracious as to contribute something could always use a hand in getting the word out, and those of us still ill-known, unknown, or (like me) totally new need that even more. You won’t be disappointed. Give the Sampler a go today.

The Quest For Space Princesses

This past Thursday, over at my main blog, I mentioned how I saw a trend in people making their own Star Wars riffs emphasizing the underworld and Mil-SF elements over the traditional Space Opera ones- and that I want to go the other way.

This led to follow-ups from Brian Niemeier (splicing in a similar thread by Alfred Genesson) and Jeffro Johnson and just about all of us figured that the Space Opera audience just isn’t getting enough Space Princes, Princesses, etc. (unless you go to Japan; they’re rarely lacking in such Romantic figures).

We cannot allow a Space Princess gap!

While we have the efforts of a handful of faithful inheritors of Burroughs and E.E. Smith out there, since 1980 at the latest (There’s that date again!) we have (outside of Star Wars) a distinct lacking of Space Princesses and the other key signifiers of the grand Romantic roots of Space Opera in Western media.

Why does this matter? Because you don’t reliably get Superversive without some Romantic elements; they’re roots for a reason. (Hark! I see you romance novelists over there! Shoo, you uncultured barbarians! These are not the ships you’re looking for!) Like it or not, the way a culture embraces the Superversive can be found in the Operatic mythologies it generates and passes on generation after generation- and we in the West are terrible about this outside of Star Wars.

If we are to regenerate our cultures, then we must embrace once more the heroism that our predecessors did and make it our own. Space Opera–made iconic by Princes & Princesses that are commonplace–is how we do this best now, something even superheroes don’t quite handle, and until we do we’re going to be at a disadvantage.

That means that there is an opportunity, for those bold enough to seize it. Go for it, folks. Take up that quest, and bring us the best Space Opera–laying on the myth and fantastic thick–that you can. Once the West had them in abundance. Now only Japan remembers them so. Make Space Opera Great Again! Bring back our Space Princesses!

The Superversive from the East: Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross

Japan has several long-running science-fiction franchises, but few are truly global in reach. Mobile Suit Gundam is one. Space Battleship Yamato is another. Both got their start in 1979, but the third part of that era’s triumverate came in 1982: Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross, what many in North America may (unfortunately) know better as the most popular part of Robotech.

I won’t go into the details of what makes the original Macross great–you can read the TV Tropes article for that–so I’ll skip straight to why I’m marking this out as a Superversive work. First, and foremost, this is series is a counter-balance to the downbeat stories that the Gundam franchise often did; this was the era was “Kill ‘Em All” Tomino’s penchant for nihilism, despair, and audience-unfriendly narrative decisions were at their worst. While tragedy and loss are present in Macross, they are Things To Overcome and not You Suck Forever elements.

The story, despite the massive warfare going on, ends on a hopeful note that’s borne out before the credits roll for the final time and expanded upon in the many franchise expansions ever since. Brotherhood is rewarded, faith in things greater than oneself key to victory, beauty and culture are explicit superpowers (but that is not enough; Right Needs Might), and real love is not narcissistic delusion.

The transformable fighters and the Space Opera story are what many remember, but what gives Macross its heart is much like what we see with Gurren Lagann: an earnest, relatable hero who struggles to do what is right while doing what is necessary, overcoming his losses by keeping faith with his people (which is also difficult at times for him to do), and in time he becomes a leader in his own right. Maturity, marriage, and the embrace of responsibility are shown to benefit him and make him into the hero he saw in his big brother.

This theme persists across the series: those who embrace the elements necessary to build up a healthy culture with concern for the future are those that succeed, whereas those that embrace nihilism and succumb to despair are those that fail. Not only does this persist throughout the series, it persists throughout the franchise.

While not perfect, Macross is a beloved classic for good reasons- and if “Superversive” was a part of the vocabulary of the culture then, you would’ve seen it used prominently. Recommended.

Hard Sci-fi Made Me Cry

Tired of the remakes, the reboots, the “let’s see how much more blood we can squeeze out of this turnip” output of today’s Hollywood? I think you’ll find Passengers a refreshing change.

If like me, you didn’t rush out to see it in the theatre, it might’ve been because of blurbs like this one from IMDB: “A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.”

Sounds like a snore, doesn’t it?

It is rated PG-13, just under two hours long, and tagged as adventure, drama, and romance. What it is, however, is a story about love, redemption, and forgiveness. It’s about making the best of life, even when things don’t go as planned. It’s about the pioneering spirit, about a positive future, about what a man and a woman can achieve together.

“But wait, you said this is hard sci-fi.”

Yes, I did. And I stand by it. It’s science fiction because of the setting, a spaceship traveling between the stars. It’s hard sci-fi because it’s closer to 2001: A Space Odyssey in that it’s an extrapolation of current knowledge, than to the space-fantasy cum turnip known as Star Wars.

But what this movie actually is, is a great example of using science/setting as a trope, a literary device for delivering a character-driven story. The science is not the point of the story, but there is enough verisimilitude that it has a real feel to it (this comes from someone who can get really picky about the scientific details). Continue reading

The Superversive from the East: Legend of the Galactic Heroes

In the 1980s, one of the greatest works of science fiction ever to come out of Japan first hit the shelves as a light novel: Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It would later get adapted into a 110-episode anime series, produce two movies, and several side-stories mini-series. Unfortunately, only recently did the original light novels get licensed for release into the West. (You can fix that here)

Whether you read the novels or watch the anime, you’ll find a truly epic Space Opera that hits most of the things you want out of a Superversive work. While the moral clarity is muddled at times, as this story reflects the mood of its day, the protagonist and the deuteragonist (and their key allies) are clear heroes with heroic virtue and epic flaws.

There are no supernatural powers. There are no aliens. There are no giant robots, laser swords (save for those shown as part of an in-fiction feature film), transformable machines, or other tropes popular with the famous SF/F franchises arising in Japan at this time. The fantastic elements are confined to FTL travel, cybernetics, the many technologies implied by the fact that galaxy-wide human colonization occurred, and high-end medical technologies. Yet there are massive fleet battles only eclipsed by E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series, and cultural conflicts (with attendant political intrigues) that drive the plot overall (and thus many subplots therein).

What there is, however, is true love (but often filial instead of romantic). What there is, however, is courage against often ridiculous odds. Faith held against powers willing and able to destroy you and yours, and fortitude in times of struggle are what you will find here. And, while individuals can succumb to their tragic flaws, the overall conclusion is hopeful in both absolute and practical terms. If you can find a good playlist online, and you can deal with subtitles, the long-running series and its related works will bring you up without lying to you on what it often takes to climb that mountain to a better tomorrow.

Moreso than any other work of science fiction or fantasy out of Japan, I recommend Legend of the Galactic Heroes, especially if you like your key characters to be competent as well as their opposition. Victory here is earned, and therefore deserved- including the hopeful end.

The Superversive in Film: Char’s Counterattack

Today, I direct your attention once more across the Pacific to Japan. While I can–and do–recommend Hayao Miyazaki’s classic Studio Ghibli films, that’s not the man behind this film. The film is Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, and the man is Yoshiyuki “Kill ’em All” Tomino.

The protagonist and antagonist are, once more, Amuro Rey and Char Aznable. This movie is the end of their story, which began with the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, and it brings their conflict to its conclusion. However, that doesn’t mean you need to watch that series (or Zeta Gundam, or ZZ Gundam) to appreciate this film; you’ll be fine going in cold.

The reason for me marking this out as Superversive is due to the root of the conflict: Despair-fueled egotism, expressed as fanatical terrorism. Char does what he does out of a deep-seated obsession with Amuro, whereas Amuro had moved on and began to–at last–find the possibility of happiness in a future of family and fatherhood as he serves Mankind as part of an autonomous elite unit. (This is mirrored in Bright Noa, the unit’s commander. He is married and a father, happily so, and has only gotten stronger as a character because of that.)

It is also because of that root of conflict that you need not see the previous series to appreciate this film; the root reveals itself early to the audience, as shown by Char’s behavior before executing the big villainous plot to force Mankind off Earth entirely. That root comes full circle in the end as everyone sees through to that root and Char gets his comeuppance in spectacular fashion in the climax.

The film’s theme of Hope v. Despair shapes everyone in the cast, for good or ill, and while the villain’s plot is ended it comes as a high cost. (Another regular Gundam trope.) You can see how each character’s embrace of hope, or succumbing to despair, leads to that character’s fate. Tomino has his status as a master for a reason, and you see it in action here.

Thus the ending is bittersweet, but overall a positive one, but not without leaving some matters unfinished and exposing others heretofore buried. (This would set the stage for Gundam Unicorn, which takes place three years after this film.)

And, for all the men-with-screwdriver sorts out there, yes there’s plenty of science in this fiction- the plot (as it often does for a Gundam title) revolves around dropping very big things on to very populated places on the surface of Earth. (Remember that this is the franchise that destroyed Sidney, Australia by dropping a space colony bigger than Babylon 5 on it.) The robots, even the psychic powers, are consistent if unreal (and have other purposes for their presence).

Recommended. It’s the final chapter of a classic saga of Japanese science fiction for a reason.