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.

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 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.

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

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

Pius Rules for Writers

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don’t preach at me. Tell the damn story…

I think this is self explanatory. Heck, even Star Trek IV, which is straight up “save the whales,” did a fairly good job of this. It was mostly a character driven comedy: let’s take all of our characters as fish and through them so far out of the water they’re in a different planet, and watch the fun start. Even the whales that must be saved for the sake of all of Earth are little more than MacGuffin devices, there for the story to happen.

But 2012? Or The Day After Tomorrow? Or Avatar? Kill me now.

Serious, I went out of my way to make A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller about the history of a Church, complete with philosophy, and it somehow still managed to be less preachy than any of these “climate change” films.

Rule #2: Don’t make up your own history, claim that you’ve done your research, and then NOT share your research.

You are not Dan Brown. I don’t tolerate it FROM Dan Brown, and I will waterboard the next schmuck who does that. Anyone want to test that threat? I’m a freaking historian. I know when you’re lying, you morons!!!!!

No, seriously, there was a novel that spent most of the time dealing with a question of “Did Pontius Pilot fake the resurrection???? Gasp!”  The answer was no. But at the end of a book where I wanted to feed it through a paper shredder because of how crappy the history was, his conclusion? “I did my homework. But I won’t tell you what I made up, so do your own homework.”

NO. That is NOT how this works, you douche bag. At least give us a list of authors where you got your BS history, because the only thing I saw in that novel that was even remotely historically accurate was that there was a Roman Empire, and a Pontius Pilate.

Heck, I took my own works cited page for my own novelinto an entire post on my own blog, not to mention making it a five page author note at the back of the book. It’s not hard, people. Really, it’s not.

Rule #3: If you have an action sequence, HAVE an action sequence.

I don’t need a blow-by-blow fight, but I need something. If your concept of a “fight” is “they fell to the roof and struggled with each other until they fell off,” I will hurt you. Jack Higgins did that, and after that, I knew his Sean Dillion series was doomed. I was writing like that when I was 16, for God’s sake. And I think I did it better then. I do it much better now. It was just lazy.

In fact, how about details, hmm? A page that is nothing but dialogue — and most of that a few words a sentence — is boring and hard to track. At least give me a sense of what they’re doing. Give me dialogue tags. Pretend that we might want to know who’s saying what to whom.

Granted, I tend to go overboard in the other direction, what what do I know?

Rule #4: If you have a chapter, it has to be more than a paragraph long.

If you only have snippets from a mad serial killer, we might forgive you if this is done for a handful of chapters. If it’s your entire novel, you should be beaten to death with the hard copy…. I’m looking at you, James Patterson, your books are twice as long as they need to be because the chapter number is half a page, you put a little text under it, and do it again for the next chapter. STOP. IT.

Rule #5: Vampires only sparkle IF THEY’RE ON FIRE.

I shouldn’t need to explain this by now. And if I have to … here, read my books. You’re welcome.

Rule #6: Fantasy authors, please, for the love of God, if you’re going to have a system of magic set in a modern environment, please explain where magic comes from.

Ahem: Dear Madam Rowling, where do wizards get their powers FROM? Why do they actually need wands? Why can some spells not require any wands?  A paragraph over your 7 novels would have been fine to explain any of this. I’m certain that no one would have minded if you stole a few lines of dialogue from Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire.

Rule #7: Stop giving me stupid villains. Just stop. Please.

Rule #7b: Stop giving me insipid heroes. Just … don’t.

Rule #7c: In fact, Stephen King, just stop writing entirely.

Rule #8: While we’re at it, SOMEONE HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA.

I don’t care if you’ve been a bestseller for 20 years, stop pumping out books like they’re an obligation. I’m looking at you King … Higgins … Patterson … Pat Cornwell … I mean, please, Nora Roberts does consistently better and original ideas than you twits, and she’s a ROMANCE NOVELIST.  Gah!

Rule #9: Stop with the utterly dark nonsense.

I’m tired of the same dystopian universes, the same miserable outlooks on humanity, and the same anti-heroes. Snake Plisskin only works once. Twice if you make him into a Metal Gear character. After that I’M BORED. You can give me an anti-hero if he’s well-developed, likable, smart. You can stop giving me the same depressing, dark, amoral character who actually HAS no character development.  Even my book Codename: Winterborn, which has been compared to Escape from New York, went out of its way to describe how society works, how people live, how there’s an economy. I never want to see another Escape from New York or Terminator universe unless they’re in the Escape from New York or the Terminator universe.

Rule #10: Stop, stop STOP making professional soldiers into sociopathic Redshirt canon fodder while the plucky hero WITH ZERO COMBAT EXPERIENCE gets out alive.

Thank you.