June 15, 2016 - Russell Newquist

Archive Daily Archives: June 15, 2016

What Is Superversive Fiction?


Some of my works have been labeled with the term “superversive.” But it’s not a common term, and people often ask me what it means.

Urban Dictionary says the following:

Nurturing; supportive, building up — opposite of subversive
The superversives decorated the object with daisy chains, linked their arms around it and sang “Jerusalem.”
The definition is quite good for a short definition, but it only takes us so far – and their example usage is truly bizarre. So let’s take another stab at it. Here’s a definition given by Mr. John C. Wright, as relayed by his wife, L. Jagi Lamplighter, on Sarah Hoyt’s blog.
“You know how subversive means to change something by undermining from below? Superversive is change by inspiration from above.”

This definition is slightly less concise but far more informative. The last half century or so has seen quite a bit of subversive literature – literature designed not for building up civilization but for tearing it down. It has many features to it: heroes who aren’t heroic, the world is portrayed as a terrible, evil place, beauty is nowhere to be found, good always loses in the end, etc. Some of this started out as a fair and necessary reaction to literature that had become too whitewashed. The world has warts in it, and portraying a world without them lacked character and truth. But the pendulum has swung too far. Too much art today shows only the warts and neglects to show the beauty of the world.

OK, that gives us a good idea of what superversive isn’t. But superversive is more than just “not subversive.” We could take the next step by looking at the Superversive Manifesto, proposed by M.C. Tuggle. But although there’s plenty there to like, I think it misses some the mark.

If subversive is about tearing down the structures of society, superversive must be about building them back up. Specifically, I believe superversive fiction absolutely must contain some of the following elements:

  • Heroes who are actually heroic. They don’t have to be heroic all of the time, or even most of the time. But when the time comes, they must actually be heroic.
  • People are basically good. Not all the time, not in every case – and certainly not every person. But basically.
  • Good Wins. Not every time – a good story always has setbacks in it. But evil winning is most definitely not superversive.
  • True love is real. Again, maybe not for everybody. But it’s real.
  • Beauty is real. It’s ok to show the warts. But show the beauty, too.
  • The transcendent is awesome. There’s no obligation to show any particular religion, or even really religion at all. But superversive literature should show the glory and splendor of the wider universe around us, and it should leave us in awe of it.
  • Family is good and important. Not every family, sure. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.
  • Civilization is better than barbarism. This doesn’t mean barbarians are evil, or that they aren’t fun. But in the end, they’re… well, barbaric.
  • Strength, courage, honor, beauty, truth, sacrifice, spirituality, and humility are virtues. This can be demonstrated by showing people breaking the virtues. But they must be recognized as virtues.
  • There is hope. Superversive stories should never leave the reader feeling despair.

The “What every boy needs to know about being a man” speech from Secondhand Lions sums it up very well.

BetweenTheWallAndTheFireI apply the term superversive pretty strictly. I’ve put out two anthologies of science fiction and fantasy short stories that were deliberately themed with superversive intent. The first, Make Death Proud to Take Us, carried a theme of manly courage. Every story is specifically written to showcase men being courageous – something that is lost in a great deal of modern fiction, where too many men are slimy, sleazy, weaselly, and fearful. The second, Between the Wall and the Fire, tells stories about devotion to family. We live in a world that is constantly trying to break down families in every way. We opted to instead showcase families: why they are important, what they bring to the world.

Some of the contributors didn’t even know they were participating in superversive projects. In fact, I’ve had to explain the term – after the fact – to more than one of them. And yet in the case of one of my authors, I can specifically say that throwing out a superversive topic – with no explanation of why I’d chosen that topic – resulted in the best story she’d yet submitted to me, hands down. The fact of the matter is that even if you don’t agree with the superversive movement, these are the kind of stories that resonate with people.

At Silver Empire, we continue to make the effort to publish superversive fiction. Not everything we publish is explicitly superversive. Indeed, I’m pretty strict about using the label. But I’m also not particularly interested in publishing subversive fiction. There are plenty of other outlets who will do that. Enough other people are tearing the world down without my help. I’m ready to build.

World War Is A Fact On the Ground



  • Saudi Arabia has forces fighting in Yemen and is quietly providing aid in other Middle Eastern conflicts.
  • Boko Haram, an Islamic insurgency, is fighting in four African nations.
  • ISIS is involved in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Algeria, and other parts of Africa… and France and the US and the Caucasus Mountains (in Russia).
  • Turkey has forces involved in civil war with Kurds in its own territory – a civil war that has spilled over into Iraq.
  • Pakistan is involved in the conflict in Afghanistan, it’s in semi-civil-war with itself, and it’s involved in conflict with India over Kashmir.
  • The US has forces involved in conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and has participated in and/or instigated conflict in the Ukraine.
  • Russia is involved in conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, the Caucasus Mountains and more.
  • The Phillipines is still fighting a conflict against Islamic insurgents… with US aid.

Notice the pattern yet? This isn’t just a list of all currently ongoing conflicts in the world. That list is much longer. Every conflict on this list is connected, and the fighting is occurring on at least four continents: Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. There’s a good case to be made that current conflicts in South America are part of this as well, bringing it up to five continents. That leaves only Australia and Antarctica out… but Australia has provided aid to the US in several of these conflicts, as have many western European nations.

There is interconnected conflict going on involving nations from at least five and maybe six continents involving dozens of countries. In what way is this not a world war already?

Only one: the intensity level is much lower than what we associate with a world war. Now consider further:

  • Saudi Arabia is fundamentally unstable, and getting worse.
  • Ukraine still hasn’t stabilized from its conflict.
  • ISIS’s influence outside of the middle east – and inside it – is growing.
  • Syria is fundamentally unstable.
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is threatening to blow up again.
  • Russia is meddling in everything in the Middle East, which is typical for them.
  • The US is also meddling in everything in the Middle East, and not always for the best.
  • Mass migration of refugees from the Middle East is already a destabilizing influence in Europe, and it’s getting worse.
  • Portugal, Italy, Spain and especially Greece still face major economic crises that threaten to destabilize them – just as that same mass migration is destabilizing in other ways.

Now tell me exactly how any of this isn’t going to the next level.