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 subversiveThe superversives decorated the object with daisy chains, linked their arms around it and sang “Jerusalem.”
“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:
The “What every boy needs to know about being a man” speech from Secondhand Lions sums it up very well.
I 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.
Anthony M over at SuperversiveSF.com has opened submissions for an Arthurian themed anthology of short stories. I’d like to submit one myself but I’m not sure I’ll have time to get one done. So you should submit one! Details are available at the link.
This is not a Silver Empire project, and I have no relation to it other than the fact that I love Arthurian legends and I love superversive fiction. However, we are still accepting submissions of science fiction and fantasy short stories (Arthurian and otherwise) for an upcoming project.
Anthony and Joe Russo have hit it out of the park again. Captain America: Civil War doesn’t quite manage to be the greatest superhero film of all time. But a very close second is no mean feat. Furthermore, they’ve managed to eclipse even their own previous entry, The Winter Soldier. Given how excellent that film was in its own right, this is no small feat. Brian Niemeier summed up my own thoughts best when he said that Civil War is “A two and a half hour master class on writing.” Can confirm. My immediate thought upon exiting the movie is that I hope someday to write something of my own that is that good.
The action and the special effects are absolutely top notch. But given the budget involved and the history of these films, you already knew that. Where this film really shines is in the story and the characters. You care what happens to these people. You care a lot. As others have noted, some of this is because we’ve had eight films to come to love them. This is true. Yet we must be careful to also note that the Russo brothers have built on top of that with masterful writing, without which this film wouldn’t hit the peaks that it does. And then, when you’re fully invested in these characters, the film hits you where it hurts – and hard. The climactic fight at the end is brutal – physically and emotionally.
But that’s not the only place this film succeeds. Avengers: Age of Ultron is a film about Tony Stark’s hubris. Ultimately, so is Civil War. But where that film, though ultimately enjoyable, is a bit clunky and forced, this film feels effortless and true. In many ways this film is a mirror image of that one, but it’s the stronger, better mirror image.
Most interestingly, however, this film succeeds in a way that so few modern works really do, although many attempt it. Each of these characters has an absolutely believable, absolutely understandable motivation, absolutely relatable motivation. Even though I am one thousand percent Team Cap, at no point did I think that Stark was evil or stupid. He was merely being Stark.
With that said… the film is not perfect. There’s one scene that, while wonderful in its own right, also really hurts the pacing of the film. The fight scenes are absolutely amazing, but I really wish they’d dial back the handheld camera work just a bit. It’s the rage these days, and I get why. But it’s also headache inducing, and it makes it hard to follow what’s going on. In many cases, directors use it because it makes it hard to follow the fight. This film absolutely didn’t need that, and it should have avoided the gimmick. Also, this film had so… much… falling. Seriously, there is so much falling in this film that both my wife and I independently were thinking it. Worse, we were thinking it during the movie, not afterward when we were mulling it over. But this last one is a pretty small quibble, given the film.
But two things, ultimately, keep it from dethroning The Dark Knight. First, the villain of the piece simply isn’t as iconic as Heath Ledger’s Joker. With that said, the core villain in this film is very interesting. He continues to demonstrate my thesis that there is nothing so dangerous as an ordinary man with nothing left to lose. But he will never be as remembered as the Joker. Second, this film simply isn’t quite as tight as Nolan’s masterpiece. Don’t believe me? Go watch The Dark Knight again. That film is tight. There isn’t a single frame of that film that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. Civil War is tight – but not that tight. This is partly due to the need to setup future Marvel films (Vision’s brief monologue about the soul gem on his forehead, for instance, clearly only exists to set up Infinity War). And it’s handled far better than some other Marvel films have done. Yet it’s still there.
The rest of the film is so excellent that none of this is enough to even take half a star away. This is a five star film, plain and simple. If you have ever enjoyed any of these Marvel films, get out and see this one. You won’t regret it.
Oh, and by the way – Brian is still wrong. Team Cap all the way. But explaining that requires spoilers. So with that, we’ll jump into the second part of this review.
As I’ve already noted, this film – like Age of Ultron – is ultimately about Tony Stark’s hubris. The driving force behind the Sokovia Accords isn’t the incident in the beginning of this film. That’s a convenient political excuse. The fact of the matter is that governments all over the world – including ours – participate in military and police actions every year that produce more unintentional civilian casualties than that one incident. And the plain and simple truth is that they accomplished their goal – preventing the outbreak of a bioweapon. The collateral damage came from a simple mistake of the variety that simply happens in combat. No amount of oversight will ever prevent that kind of mistake from happening, not entirely.
The true driving force of the Sokovia Accords is clearly the incident in Age of Ultron. The very name of the accords bears this out, as Sokovia was the site not of Wanda’s mistake but of Stark’s. Of all the incidents in Secretary Ross’s montage, Sokovia is the only one where the Avengers were clearly out of line as opposed to merely making a mistake. And by “The Avengers” I mean Tony Stark. All of the other Avengers tried to stop him from creating Ultron – even Banner (though Banner ultimately helped him do it). Tony simply wouldn’t listen.
And therein lies the first major problem with the Sokovia Accords: they’re unenforceable. The only people in the MCU who have the power to enforce the Sokovia Accords are the Avengers themselves. And yet Age of Ultron clearly showed us that even they can’t do it. If Tony wanted to create another Ultron tomorrow, ultimately nothing in this universe could stop him.
The entirety of Civil War continues to demonstrate this point, over and over again. Nobody can stop Cap from saving his friend. Nobody can stop Iron Man from striking off on his own once he realizes that Cap has the truth on his side. And at the end, nobody can stop Cap from rescuing his friends. The Avengers are unaccountable not because nobody wants to hold them to account but because nobody can.
Indeed, this is so true that even in the enforcement of the accords themselves games are being played. Stark tells Rogers directly that the whole thing is a farce: “…sign. We can live the last 24 hours legit. Barnes gets transferred to an American psych center instead of a Wakanda prison.” Later, Ross says something similar to Stark. If approval comes ex post facto rather than before an action then it’s completely and utterly pointless.
Have I mentioned yet that the film is about Tony’s hubris? In the handful of days over which the story occurs, Stark himself violates the Accords he pushed his fellow Avengers to sign no less than three times.
The second problem with the Accords is one that my friend Brian has already mentioned, and it’s why even he agreed that in practice the Accords couldn’t work. The UN is the most corrupt organization on Earth. It’s a cesspool of corruption and scandal, and it has no business carrying out oversight of this kind. Furthermore, the fact that 117 nations agreed on the Accords does far more to convince me that it’s a terrible idea than that it’s a good one. How many of those nations have democratically elected governments? How many of them recognize basic human rights such as free speech, free association, free press, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, etc? None are perfect, including ours. Most of them don’t even pay lip service to those ideals.
Finally, we cannot forget that the entirety of Rogers’ previous outing was spent exposing the corruption of such bureaucracies. If SHIELD itself is corrupted through and through, than why on Earth should the Avengers even consider letting the body that controlled it control them?
Make no mistake about it. At the end of the day, the Sokovia Accords is about what such things are always about. It’s not about weapons control – it’s about people control. It’s about the people at the top maintaining their privilege and power no matter what, and it’s never about the people at the bottom. Oh, there are people involved who are well meaning. But this sort of thing never ends well.
Rogers sums it up best: “I believe in individuals, and mostly they haven’t let me down.” In our fallen world, that’s the best one can ever hope for.
Reader praise for my last anthology of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories, Make Death Proud to Take Us, has been strong. Here’s a sample of what readers have said about it:
- “Each and every one of these stories is well written and the editing is also accomplished with perfection.”
- “From the first story till the last I was hooked. If you love adventure, courage, space, dragons, giants, elves, witches and knights….. ect, you will love this book!!!!”
- “Take a chance on this collection of short stories; I’m inclined to believe that this book will have something to interest nearly any person interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy.”
- “From the first story, I knew this was going to be good. The stories creates worlds of adventures for the mind to deliver magical dreams for feeding the souls of man.“
And if you loved this one, stay tuned. We’ll be announcing our next one very soon!
Update 5/1/16: Submissions are now CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who submitted!
Silver Empire is now accepting submissions for our next superversive science fiction and fantasy anthology! Our last anthology, MAKE DEATH PROUD TO TAKE US, focused on “manly courage.” The theme this time around is “family devotion.” Submission guidelines follow below:
The future history of “The Fourth Fleet” (available in the anthologies Make Death Proud to Take Us and There Will Be War: Volume X) makes several assumptions about the course of historical development over the next century or so. However, they were intentionally left out of the story. They weren’t immediately relevant, and including them would have bogged the story down.
A big part of the setting of “The Fourth Fleet” is the course of history of the United States between now and the time of the story. The United States of America, at the time of the story (the specific year is intentionally left off in order to give me maximum story flexibility, but assume that it’s roughly 150 years from now) is no longer the nation that we think of today. It’s borders have changed but also – and more importantly – its government has changed. It is no longer a democratically representative republic. Unlike the government of today, which more often than not acts as an empire, the government of my future world is an empire. However, much like the Roman Empire of old, it strives hard to maintain all appearances of still being a constitutionally limited republic.
Some examples: President Covington is currently serving his fifth four year term in office. Before that, he finished out the term of his predecessor. It’s an open secret that he had his predecessor assassinated, but nobody very much minds because the man was a Nero-like lunatic. He was “elected” by the people in sham contests that garnered him vast majorities of the votes. He will never lose an election in the system as it exists in the books.
Simultaneously, the geopolitical landscape around the USA has changed. In the early twenty-first century, the powder keg we call the Middle East exploded (hmm…). After a time of constant warfare, much of the region was finally forcibly united under a single ruling warlord calling himself the Caliph, and the new Caliphate was born. World War between the US, Japan and Europe on the one hand and the Caliphate on the other left Europe mostly a smoldering husk, including a few literally nuked cities. It is no longer a hub of civilization.
China rose – but not as fast as many feared. Despite the calamity facing the rest of the world, China had its own issues – including economic issues that are unfurling now in the real world and massive wars for Asian dominance against India, Russia, and Japan.
Thus in the story you have a sort of triumvirate of global (and extra-global, as it is a space story) powers: the US, China and India. The severely weakened but not destroyed Caliphate tries to play in this power game as well, but is most often lagging behind.
I would’ve liked to have worked more of this directly into the story. But the reality is that it would’ve bogged it down quite a bit. Even here in this form it took 460 words to very briefly summarize. The entire tale of “The Fourth Fleet” is a mere 8,017 words. Expanding the story by literally 6% (probably more after working it into the story cleanly) just to add this backstory would have ended up being cumbersome, and the reader would have bogged down in details that were only loosely relevant.
Instead, the story provides quite a bit of clues to give the reader just enough of a framework to figure out the major balance of power. It then leaves the rest to the reader’s imagination.
There’s another part of the backstory that I don’t particularly mind didn’t make it into the tale, because it really was irrelevant to this particular story. I am also strongly of the opinion that the Protestant Reformation is an aberration (albeit it one triggered with good justification) and that eventually (perhaps much sooner than many would think) the majority of Protestants will find themselves rejoining the fold in the mother Church. The Church will eventually come to regard this as “that weird little heresy that lasted for a short blip there.” The church thinks on different timescales than you and I. To a two thousand year old church, five hundred years just isn’t the same thing as it is to us mortals.
I also believe that the Church will find itself mending the Great Schism and reconciling with the Orthodox churches, although that will likely be more complicated. The Great Schism wasn’t primarily over issues of doctrine; it’s proximate cause was political conflict with Rome. Egos will have to be soothed and face maintained. But I believe that will eventually happen.
Within the context of the world of “The Fourth Fleet,” the churches largely reunite when a future pope calls for a new Crusade to respond to the potentially world-ending threat of a nuclear armed new Caliphate.
Interesting as it may be, all of this is just the speculation of a sci-fi author, right? Maybe.
Then again, maybe not.
I just finished uploading the final files for Make Death Proud to Take Us. It will be available to readers on Sunday, June 21 (Father’s Day). And I have to say, I think this is the best product that Silver Empire has put out to date.
There are some really enjoyable stories in this one from myself, my wife Morgon, and my friends K Bethany Sawyer and Jennifer L Weir. Jennifer’s contribution, “Major Hunter” (from her Wayfarer Chronicles series) is her first publication with us. In my own personal opinion, I think each of the other authors has contributed stories that are their personal best so far. I won’t pretend to be unbiased, but that’s also my honest opinion.
My personal favorite of the series is the novella at the end, “Down the Dragon Hole,” by my wife Morgon. It’s got a fun, Pratchett-esque feel to it (although not as silly). But again, I feel that it’s the strongest of a strong collection.
You can preorder your copy from Amazon.com today. If you’re a science fiction or fantasy fan, I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
CNN asks, “What’s glowing on Ceres?” According to their article, NASA claims that it’s, “due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface.”
That highly reflective material is the hulls of space ships. Space pirate ships, specifically! And you can read more about them in “The Fourth Fleet,” one of my stories in the new science fiction and fantasy anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.
We’re giving away some great prizes from Silver Empire!
See the giveaway information below to enter: