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.

A Brief History of Vatican Ninjas

I think the first time I came up with the concept of the Vatican ninjas I’ve used in my Love at First Bite series was as a joke I made during a Dan Brown review.

In The Da Vinci Code, The protagonist stated that he, personally, knew the current pope, and therefore he was certain that the Catholic church couldn’t be behind the plot, because “the Church didn’t do such things anymore.”

My response was: “Anymore? You mean, the church used to have Ninjas? I WANT MY VATICAN NINJAS.”

Thus, a running joke was born, and, like everything else in my writing worlds, it quickly spiraled out of control.

When I bounced the concept of Vatican Ninjas off of a Catholic Facebook group as a force for fighting the legions of darkness, the first, almost reflex question by a lot of the group was: “Why does the Vatican have to do this? Why is it all on the shoulders of the Catholic church to do all of this?”

Aside from exorcism?

I think my response at the time was “Well, who else would be better equipped for such a position? It’s a long standing institution that deals with the supernatural on a routine basis. The Church would feel obligated to fight back Satan’s forces, of course.”

So … yes, my argument was “With Great Power, comes great responsibility.”

Though my first thought was really: Who else is gonna do it? (This was before I had been exposed to Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International, and the idea of hunting monsters for fun and profit.)

Of course, the Vatican has its own army. It’s not a very big one, granted, but if anyone is going to be able to give shooters training to fight the abyss, it’s going to be a few thousand priests. There would have to be meditative prayers before battle, that can hide them from the enhanced senses of vampires. IE: Basically, if a vampire has the senses of a Sith lord, going through this silent, prayerful meditation would make them invisible. In fact, if it’s a saint versus a vampire, a vampire would have to directly lock eyes on them — assuming, of course, the saint doesn’t have the power to cloud vampire’s minds…

Sadly, I now have a Simon Templar / The Shadow crossover in my head. But that’s another conversation.

The Vatican Ninjas would probably start to become a serious institution somewhere around the Protestant Revolt of the 1500s. It’s when Europe started to really go dark.

How dark? Look up the Anabaptists sometime: these guys were so nasty, Lutherans and Catholics stopped fighting each other, looked at the Anabaptists, and promptly joined forces to wipe them off the face of the Earth.

The crucifix fell out of fashion in Protestant areas, and traditional Vampire lore stress a crucifix, not a cross, being a problem for a vampire — otherwise a lowercase T in block letters will do it. This would require forces that are specialized in battling creatures that are stronger, faster, and nigh indestructible.

After two hundred years. and the “Enlightenment” hit, superstition increased. Ouja boards became common. Isaac Newton dabbled in the occult, and had volumes of horoscopes that he had forecast. The mythical age of intellectual brightness really had a five to one ratio of dark, dim occultist crap emerge. The only thing we really discuss today is everything history kept and took with it. (It’s almost like discussing the “Golden Age of Movies,” but if you watch TCM, you see just how much really is garbage).

Of course, in a world where vampires exist, the obvious reason for the increase in superstition during the Enlightenment is simple: the Catholic church used to have local teams to deal with the Supernatural. When the Church left, so did said teams. With the suppression teams being removed, demonic activity spiked. Occult belief was a “rational” response … at least to people who abandoned faith for whatever nonsense they came up with along the way.

So, going to clean up the mess? That’s right. The only organized game in town, who covers … well, the planet. They’d probably be called something like “tegumento daemonium interfectores,” which is what I get when I load “covert demon killers” into Google translate, so I expect this to be hysterically inaccurate. Or “occulte daemon interfectores,” which is Google Translates idea for “secret demon killers.”  Though “Excursor Vaticanae” has been suggested by people who know Latin better than I do.

….ANYWAY, no matter the Latin name, the load out for the ninjas would, over time, have to evolve, but it would still be a wide ranging arsenal. Fifty-caliber sniper rifles would be mandatory for removing the heads off of vampires at a distance. There would be silver ammunition components (hollowpoints with silver balls instead of stems– according to Larry Correia, silver is too hard, and doesn’t have the right spiral of regular bullets). They could carry crosses, and holy water, and squirt guns. Their traps would include bouncing Bettys filled with holy water. Incendiary grenades and high explosives would have to be mandatory, I’d figure.

And, even though I have them dealing with a lot of vampires, they will, of course, be trained to deal with other supernatural threats. I figure that demons, elves and werewolves would be in the top five threats in their inventory.

The Ninjas will of course, have a mandatory retirement age of 65. Why 65? Because that’s the retirement age for priests. Why not sooner? Because the ones who survive the field long enough become trainers … if they can be dragged out of the field. Outside of someone who is a careerist, name me one average beat cop or soldier who wants to be transferred too far away from the street / the action / their men.

But as noted, they have to survive the job long enough.

See who lives and who dies in Good to the Last Drop, the conclusion to my Dragon Award Nominated series.

Declan Finn is a three time Dragon Award Finalist. Honor at Stake and Live and Let Bite, books #1 and #2 of his Love at First Bite series, were nominated for best horror in 2016 and 2017, and his co-authored work, Codename: UnSub, was nominated in best apocalyptic in 2017

Marvel MCU at #SDCC, with Captain Marvel, Thor, and Infinity War

This may not be strictly superversive, but as we have a surfeit of geeks and nerds in our readership (assuming we’re not the entire readership), I thought we should take a quick look at some of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe had at San Diego Comic Con this year.This is “some,” in part, because they dropped an Avengers trailer during SDCC … and not to the public. It was leaked and taken down in short order.

To start with, it seems to have been confirmed that the Punisher will be in The Defenders. Meaning there will be a fourth person I will actually care about in The Defenders (The other three being Stick, Daredevil, and possibly Luke Cage).

And if the Punisher isn’t in Defenders, then they’ve got some explaining to do. (At the 60 second mark)

Other than the Punisher, the trailer didn’t add much … except show us that Stan Lee is still alive. Good for him.

And then, we’ve got Thor: Ragnarok

Early on, I had been a little worried that they were going to be focused on the wrong things in this film. I like that Bruce Banner appears in the trailer as Bruce Banner. It could have been all too easy for them to have the not so jolly green giant have all the screen time. But seeing Mark Ruffalo is reassuring. And …

Is that Hulk versus the wolf Fenris? Really? And Thor, with Loki, with fully automatic blasters, mowing people down like Arnold in Commando. And Valkyrie riding a winged horse. Again, we’ve got more of a humor vibe here, with our opening to the trailer, and even the conversation — actual whole sentences from Hulk, huh — at the end. And I’m still getting more and more of a Guardians, over the top vibe. Gee, I think someone’s been taking notes on what audiences actually like. (If only Sony would do the same.)

Though I’m amused that Jeff Goldblum is even in the franchise now. And it sounds like he’s stopped with the Jurassic Park stutter.

I especially like how Loki is revealed here. I was wondering how they were going to handle it.

But, dang it, I want to see how Doctor Strange shows up in the film. I’d rather it would be more than just a glance at the end.

Though, I’m a little curious about how much Ragnarok is going to act as a direct lead in to Infinity War. Why? because the Infinity War trailer opened with the Guardians running into space debris … an unconscious, beaten up Thor. Which makes me wonder if Ragnarok is actually well-titled.

Speaking of Avengers Infinity War, it’s also got some poster art.

infinity-war-poster

In other news, SDCC discussed the Captain Marvel film. In the comics, Carol Danvers, air force fighter pilot, was kidnapped by aliens called the Skrulls, experimented on, and turned into a flying juggernaut who shoots lasers out of her hands, and is build like Marilyn Monroe.

In the Cinematic universe … Captain Marvel will be set in the 1990s.

… What?

Sigh. Okay. Let’s dig down into this a bit.
It’s been confirmed that the Skrulls will actually show up in the film, despite the half dozen missed opportunities for them to have shown up earlier. In the comics, the Skrulls are the long-running foe of the Kree … yet in Guardians of the Galaxy, they were at war was Xandar? It’s almost like they were cautious about showing another alien race that wasn’t tall and blue. But I suppose that legal issues have been settled.
Captain Marvel will apparently feature the Kree-Skrull war. Unless Captain Marvel  will feature an actual end to said war. Eh. Who knows?

The film will also star Samuel L. Jackson with two eyes. Because the 90s.

Yeah, I have no idea why they’d set it in the 90s. The actress they have for Captain Marvel, Brie Larson, looks like she’s 12. Unless they’re going to say that her powers have slowed down her aging, this would make her a middle aged superheroine today … but if that’s the case, where the bleep has she been through: three alien invasions, a robot army, and a SHIELD meltdown?The answer is probably … IN SSSSSPPPPPPAAAAAAAAAACCCCCEEEE.

But we’ll see. They may have the balls to actually kill off a superhero… No, I don’t think so either.
All in all, it looks like Marvel is going to stay on top for another year or so. As long as you don’t count their network TV shows. Those still look like they merely suck.

Signal Boost: Good to the Last Drop

Live and Let Bite is the second book of the Love at First Bite series to be nominated for a Dragon Award. And yes, when half of my quartet is nominated for an award, it’s the award nominated series. If I recall correctly, Brian Niemeier had gotten away with it when it was just Nethereal nominated.

So what does this nomination mean? It means business as usual.

Book four of the Dragon Award Nominated series is coming: Good to the Last Drop is coming, August 28th. Why the 28th? It’s coincidentally right before DragonCon. Funny that.

And yes, it’s the last book. This is a quartet. Marco and Amanda are going to have one last ride, and when I say that the armies of darkness are coming for them, I’m not exaggerating.

Of course, you know what it means when it’s the end of a series, don’t you? That’s right! It’s time to up the body count!

For the Whedon fans out there, let’s just say that it’s time to …. Wash the cast.

The final war is about to begin, in this conclusion to the Dragon Award Nominated series

 

Merle Kraft, Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt have battled against the mythical Council, a supernatural conspiracy that monsters fear. This war has brought them up against vampires, minions, and demons from Hell.. Along the way, they have accumulated allies among the police, the military, the mafia, college students, lowly street gangs, and even other vampires.

 

Marco and Amanda have overcome their biggest terror — their passion for each other.

 

But now, they face the final threat, one that is the culmination of every threat before them. This creature from Hell has powers beyond anything they’ve ever seen before, and has allies of his own: including SpecOps minions, an army of vampires, and packs of werewolves.

 

And that was before Marco got bit.

Yeah. This ending is going to be epic.

Pre order TODAY

“Manly men with brains,” masculinity and writing

In a writing context, what exactly defines being “manly”? Really, I’m starting to wonder. It’s a word that’s been tossed around a lot lately: there is talk about emasculating women in SFWA; a writer’s group I’m a part of lamented the death of the “manly male” characters like Dirk Pitt in popular novels. Even a review of one of my novels — A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller — referred to it as “a book for manly men with brains.” Huh? Really? Interesting Though on the other hand, I’ve been praised for my female characters, both in private and in public. So … I wonder what goes on here.

Both were alien concepts to me, namely because I never considered either while I wrote it, the characters weren’t “strong women” or “manly men,” the characters just … were. They’re characters. I write up their biographies — which, for me, is basically winding up the toys — and letting them wander wherever they want to go. But then again, let’s face it, how many writers evaluate their own stuff like their readers? William Shakespeare would probably fail a course on his own plays, considering what people have seen in his own work that he, in all honesty, probably hadn’t seen himself when he wrote it.

But I’m certain that the easy definition of manliness also includes a willingness to draw a line, hold it, and be willing to defend it, and fight back.  Few men have ever been pushed around and been considered “manly.”  Then again, the ultimate Man, Jesus, did instruct us to go the extra mile when someone’s walking all over us, but a “manly male” could take that and make it into “You want to shanghai me into carrying your stuff for a mile? I’ll do it for two. Hah, you wuss.”

And … what do you do with men on an emotional level? What feelings does one express? How does one express them? That sort of thing.

Since I mentioned the Bard, Shakespeare has also had some thoughts on manliness, particularly in MacBeth. After MacDuff is informed that his family has been slaughtered, he is told to take it like a man; MacDuff replies that he must also “feel it as a man.” So, I guess a man actually can be “in touch with his feelings” – feelings of loss, of love, of filial devotion, as well as rage and homicidal intent.

Manly? Or too much leather?

Even in the Facebook conversation that started this post mourned for a manly character who fights, gets laid, saves the girl, smokes, drinks, but is also educated….
Educated? Huh. Really? Does that mean James Bond, perfect psychopath, count? Spider Robinson once noted Robert Mitchum as a perfect example of manliness, but I never saw the man as more than a moving block of wood. Neither of them are the sort of man you find in Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride.
Looking at all of the “manly” characters I can think of, the best I can come up with is being vaguely detached. At least the ability to be detached. Looking at men who are manly without being He-Man exaggerated, what is there? Bond, Montoya, Batman, Tony Stark, all exude “I don’t give a f—,” either about the opinions of others, or perhaps the law. Captain America, Thor, Superman, all stand for something, defying what others think or feel. They are in touch with their own feelings – honor, patriotism, ethics.
This has the correct level of self-possessed spirit that says “Yes, I can act independently if abandoned.” Sure, a manly fellow can fit in with society, any Band of Brothers sentiment relies on a variety of emotional connections, but he is not attached at the hip to society write large.
But all things in balance, please. Even “sociopaths” who kill in the military can feel the loss of a friend, feel sad over the loss of a civilian, et al. They love who they love, and if you mess with them or theirs … well, let’s just say that they don’t love you. James Bond shows an unnatural level of detachment, caring about … nothing, really. At the end of the day, attempts to give James Bond depth fail because he only cares about his job – not any woman he sleeps with, and his sense of patriotism only seems to go only as deep as it is his day job to defend the country. If one day, someone ever writes a book where Bond’s failure leads to mass casualties, I suspect his biggest response will be to shrug and treat it like an unsuccessful chess match.
So, does being a man entail sociopathy? Heck, one of the Superversive Roundtable discussions brought up that “male” and “sociopath” weren’t all that far off.
Well, let’s break that down a bit. In John Ringo’s Under a Graveyard Sky, two men say that they’re sociopaths because killing doesn’t bother them, and they don’t see the enemy as people. I don’t find that too strange, since if I’m being shot at, I’d see the threat, not a person. Little definitions like this lead some people to say that a sociopath is defined as someone who merely scares the psychologist. And now that sociopaths come in flavors (high/low-functioning, genetic, situational), sure, maybe being a man does involve that on some level, the same way that Autism Spectrum Disorder has been expanded to cover people who were once merely a-holes.

Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbach, is frequently described as a “high-functioning sociopath,” but is not usually considered manly because he borders on being a thinking machine. Yet Martin Freeman’s Watson, in the first episode, shoots a serial killer with no remorse, and it didn’t faze him one little bit. Psychology has gotten to the point where many would see Watson as a sociopath, so let’s not get too carried away with that label.

Heck, Kevin Anderson, the hero of my co-authored novel Codename: Winterborn, has a lot of similar characteristics to all of these “manly” qualities mentioned: rage, love, filial devotion, will stand up for what he believes in, up to and including killing people, will let no one push him around unless he wants to be pushed around … and one review (who gave it 5-stars) slapped a label on Kevin as a simple psycho.

Is he crazed and damaged in Codename: Winterborn?  Oh, you betcha.  But just calling him a psycho because he has no problem killing people might simplify things just a little too much. Heck, he had no problem killing people before the book started.

And let’s face it, the term “sociopath” is so overused, it’s become meaningless.

At the end of the day, for a literary character to be manly, yes, he can have feelings – in fact, he must – but he must also have the right ones, and in the proper degree, otherwise, he becomes a caricature.

A Pius Superversive Novel? #PulpRev

Yesterday, I did an article on whether or not A Pius Man fell under Pulp novels. I think the answer is a strong “Maybe!”Let’s look at the definition for Superversive and see if I can do better this time.

Now, this one comes from qualities mentioned by Corey in his post on Superversive SF. We cobbled it together from a podcast we all did a while back where we compiles the list.

Aspiring/Inspiring- These mean that the characters aspire to something greater than themselves, and inspire others to seek greatness, and not remain where they are. This also refers to characters who theoretically aspire for uplifting things that aren’t necessarily a part of the moral sphere, such as beauty. “Betterment” and “wonder” both fall here.

Oooh, so many choices with this one. I wonder if I should even go into it.

Granted, this isn’t as big or as epic as they’re shooting for. Most of my characters are just trying to live their lives, do their jobs, and go home. Sure, they’re cops, or even spies, so their “Day to Day” is probably thrilling to us. Scott Murphy, the Mossad spy, doesn’t want to be noticeable or noticed.

But there is one thing that they all want in this particular case. There is one, overriding and overpowering desire that all of my heroes are interesting in: the truth. You could say that the truth in this case will also lead to justice, so that’s two virtues, but the lines blur here. You could also say that, as the writer, my goals are truth and justice.

As I’ve mentioned, the plot revolves around the history of Pope Pius XII and his actions during World War II. Those who have already read Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist already know this answer.

So, if Truth and Justice are something to aspire to, check.

Virtuous- This means that there is a right and wrong in the world. This does not mean there can’t be moral complexity and ambiguity – in fact, when done well this can be incredibly powerful – but even then there needs to be an understanding that there’s a difference between right and wrong. The characters themselves don’t necessarily need to be virtuous, but the concept of virtue must exist in the framework of the story.

Considering that I’m tackling the whole “Hitler’s Pope” discussion? You can be darn certain that there will be a right and a wrong, and moral complexity. There won’t be much in the way of ambiguity … though at certain points along The Pius Trilogy, there are some interrogation methods that are definitely in a moral gray area. Heh heh heh.

So, check.

Heroic- Closely entwined with the second category, the Heroic category means that there is a standard of heroism. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have a hero (for a brilliant superversive story that features a protagonist who isn’t a hero, see John C. Wright’s “Pale Realms of Shade”), it means that the protagonist has a code of ethics under which they work, a code of ethics that marks them as something more than a villain. To go back to “Pale Realms of Shade”, the protagonist, Flint, might be a Grade A jerk and even a murderer, but he’s different from the demons he’s fighting against; in fact, he has to be for the story to work, because the temptation to become demonic is central to the story. While having truly villainous villains is something of a lost art nowadays and can certainly help flesh out this category, it is not strictly necessary for an Agnes Trunchbull to exist – but a standard for heroism is an absolute must.

If I recall correctly, Agnes Trunchbull is the antagonist of Matilda, by Roald Dahl, so was such a two-dimensional evil, it was nearly jarring.

However, to work backwards, yeah, I’ve got a bad guy. In fact, he’s such a bad guy, the reason that The Pius Trilogy is three books is due to the villain having so many backup plans, he just wouldn’t stay down. I did everything but drop a house on him. But villainous enough? Well, how about a plan to take down the Catholic church, as many religions as possible, and aiming to be a mass murderer by the time his plan is over? I hope that’s evil enough for everyone.

As for heroes …. well, I did have someone once compare my team here to the Justice League. Though Avengers is hotter right now.

Decisive – This means that the characters are active; their actions matter. They are not bereft of agency, at the whim of fate, or purely reactive to the things going on around them. These characters make decisions that affect the plot, and their decisions have to mean something. Books that ultimately preach the meaninglessness of life and the futility of struggling to change it don’t fit this section.

Check. This part is easy. I even make certain to note at several points over the course of the trilogy that none of these folks are locked into the story. They can ditch at any time.

Non-Subversive- This is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. These are works that do not attempt to subvert the paradigms of healthy culture, and don’t mock and criticize needlessly. While many great superversive works contain certain subversive aspects – even Lewis’s Narnia series and Tolkien’s Middle Earth books aren’t free of this, nor should they be – the work as a whole should be predicated on building up society rather than bringing it down.

Also easy…. I was expecting more work for this one. Western Civilization is built on the back of Judeo-Christian …. everything. Even the contributions of Greece and Rome were preserved largely by the religious, up to and including Irish monks. A Pius Man basically supports everything built by that history. And if you don’t believe me when I say “everything” …. you’d be surprised what I can cram into a book.

Huh. That was surprisingly easy. I expected another nightmare like with Pulp. I’ll take it.

Illegitimi non carborundum

So, I guess if you’re into Superversive books, A Pius Man might just be your cup of tea.

And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

Pius #PulpRevolution? Or Superversive?

I’ve been looking at the Pulp Revolution lately, as well as hanging out here, with the Superversive crowd. Recently, I have been pondering if A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller fits into either of these movements. Mostly because 1) I have no idea, and 2) it might help me understand these movements better if I see what can and can’t match up.Well, as Pulp is mentioned first, I should probably see if I check any boxes. Yes, I HAVE READ APPENDIX N. I’ve even reviewed it. It was awesome. It was also sprawling, and if I used that as the basis for a definition, I’m going to have to do a bullet point for each chapter, since each chapter has a point to it.

I had to go in Castalia’s archives, and found the post … not by Jeffro. In fact, it even cites another blog by Misha Burnett.

Huh. Okay. I guess what I’m going to have to do is go down and break this down as I read along. Basically, I’m going to write the post as I read the blog, like I do with Fisking posts that are so painful, I can only read through it by breaking it apart.

So what I’ll do is break down the Burnett post, and then use the add-ons by Castalia.

With my luck, I’ll make no one happy.

Action: The focus of the storytelling is on what happens. We know who people are by what they do. This does not mean that every scene has to involve a knife fight on the top of a speeding train. Ordinary every day actions can also inform—Raymond Chandler could describe a couple’s relationship by showing us the man lighting the woman’s cigarette. We don’t want the writer to tells us that a scientist is an unconventional genius, we want to see him tearing a rival’s paper to shreds and throwing the pieces out the window when asked to critique it.

Huh. I thought this was called “show don’t tell.” It’s basic story telling. I don’t see how that’s particularly pulpy. I make sure to do that as often as possible.

As for the knife fight on top of a moving train…. [Makes a note to include that in the next book]

Anyway, I do have an action sequence every once in a while. I open with an assassination, then a bombing, and I wait thirty pages before I have a fight scene with a commando priest, who has another fight a few pages later involving throwing scalpels, then there’s running gun battle with the RPGs…

So I have a little action. Here and there.

Impact: These actions have consequences. While a character’s actions do inform us of that character’s personality, significant actions should never be only character studies. They have lasting real world consequences. You don’t go into a pulp story with an expectation of a happy ending. Pulp heroes are fallible heroes, and when they fail, bad things happen. Neither, though, is worse coming to worst a forgone conclusion. Up until the very end a pulp character has the power to change his or her fate. They can always do something.

MAUHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAAHAHAAHAHAHA

Oh, trust me, these actions are going to have consequences. Over the course of the Trilogy, when they fail, train wreck to follow.  Sometimes when they succeed, a train wreck will follow.

Moral Peril: Consequences are more than just material. In Pulp stories there is not simply the risk that that the hero may fail to defeat the villain, there is also the greater risk that the hero may become the villain. A hero should have a code to follow, and lines that he or she is resolved not to cross. That line should be close enough that the temptation to cross is real—maybe not constantly, but from time to time. There is almost always a really good reason to break one’s moral code, particularly to protect a loved one in danger.

I was actually about to say that A Pius Man[/easyazon_link] fails this part of the test. I figured there was no one and nothing in the entire book that really threatened the heroes. There may have been the temptation just to get out of the cross fire, but that was it.

Then I realized that I quite literally looked past the white elephant in my story. It’s basically the primary subplot, and I didn’t even consider it.

Romance: Pulp heroes are motivated by love. Not always romance in the modern sense of a relationship involving physical attraction, but a relationship that obligates the pulp hero to take risks on behalf of another. An old military buddy, a long lost friend, even a client who paid in advance. The consequences, both physical and moral, effect more than just the hero, and those affected should be given a human face. When the hero is working to thwart a villain’s plan we want to see the potential victims not in the abstract, but in the concrete. “Saving Humanity” is a vague, bumper sticker kind of motivation, saving the fair maiden with the sparkling eyes and plucky wit, or the ragged waif with a mewling kitten is much more satisfying.

Huh. I’m getting the feeling that this is going to be far, far too easy. Then again, I did grow up with Die Hard as my Christmas movie, so maybe I was wired for the Pulpy people.

But, yes, suffice it to say, there is romance. I’ve even done a post or two on this over time. But I’ve got someone there fore love. I’ve got several people who go there because of their jobs, but the reasons they stay … is spoilery in nature.

Mystery: I am using the word here not in the genre sense of a plot concerned with discovering the identity of a criminal, but in the broader sense of the unknown. There are many potential unknowns—the setting, the true identities of other characters, the events that led up to the current crises. Something is going on and neither the protagonists nor the reader should be quite sure what. Things are never quite what they seem which, of course, also serves to increase the tension. A pulp hero is playing a very dangerous game for high stakes, and no one knows all of the rules…

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.  Wow, have I got this one covered six ways from Sunday.  The long version is over in this blog. I didn’t even know that this was going to be here when I wrote that one. Heh.

Let’s see what else is mentioned …. “More traditional boy-girl romances.” Okay, check. I don’t even have a gay character, to my knowledge (there is a character who I haven’t “asked” yet, so I don’t know. She could just be apathetic).

“More action-oriented fiction.” Check.

“No real distinction between sci-fi and fantasy – those genres should blend more. Into a new genre…pulp” …. well, I understand what JD Cowan meant with I blurred genre lines. Sadly, this has limited SFF qualities here.

But yeah, it looks like I’ve hit a lot of these boxes. Yes. I might even be considered pulpy by nature! Yes!

…. Sigh.

Anyway, so I talked to the guy who WROTE the article. I hang out with him as part of the Superversive Crowd. Jeffro, in the comments, disagreed with him vehemently.

So I then did something I never do, and I dug through the comments….

Apparently, Pulp really does boil down to “I know it when I see it.

I was then referred to a post by a fellow named Nathan, I believe he’s a Nathan Housley of the Puppy of the Month Book Club.

According to THAT post, we can keep action, romance, moral peril isn’t needed, but it can stay…. And “Impact” includes “consequences,” all actions are final. No take backs.  Okay. Still qualifies.

detective pulps “heart interest and human emotion are the special requirements. Stories should be strongly melodramatic, the characters should be very real and appealing, and situations should deal with the poignant phases of crime.” (2) To accomplish this, pulp writers avoided the Cloud Strife ciphers used today as reader surrogates.  Instead, they took likable characters with personality and ratcheted up the stakes, creating tension that built an unease and concern in the reader

Likable characters with personality.

Heh. Yeah. You could say my characters have personality.

Okay. Reading down… mystery can stay, good.

Then there’s story structure…

Sigh. Someone else will have to tell me if I’ve done enough with that. I don’t outline, I don’t really use structure. I have–“Attack! What did this encounter tell us? Move forward. More action. Repeat.” So, it’s a structure.

So, Nathan’s bullet points are

  • Action — Check
  • Romance — Check
  • Moral peril — Check
  • Consequence — Check with smoking bullet holes.
  • Emotion — God, I hope so.
  • Mortal peril — This is an understatement.
  • Exploration of the unknown: We got that. It’s in archives, but we’ve got that.
  • Love for the unknown: [Coin Toss]. Read Sean AP Ryan, get back to me.
  • Story structure: Check. I hope.

Okay. I guess it passes the Pulp Test.

I think I’ll do Superversive in the next post. This was a long one.

Illegitimi non carborundum
So, I guess if you’re into Pulp, [easyazon_link asin="1547196939" locale="US" new_window="default" nofollow="default" tag="superversivesf-20" add_to_cart="default" cloaking="default" localization="default" popups="default"]A Pius Man might just be your cup of tea. Just click here, and you can orderit.

 


And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.