Monday, February 15, 2016

Superversive Fiction

So, last week, we discussed evil books, and I even had a lot of feedback.

Now riddle me this, Batman, what makes good fiction? Or at least not-evil books?

Let's use a negative example in this case. The most recent David Baldacci book, Guilty, started almost as a John Grisham novel. Our hero, government assassin Will Robie, goes home to rural Mississippi after hearing that his father is arrested for murder. The conclusion of the book is, SPOILER, it turns out that Will Robie's high school sweetheart had been repeatedly raped and molested by her own father, had a kid as a result, and spent decades for revenge on Robie for not personally rescuing her (though he himself had no knowledge of the abuse at the time).

Fun, huh?

No, not really.

I think this is a good example of something that is not edifying.

Seriously, it's right up there with how rape is not entertainment.

You want even halfway decent fiction? You need something that at least adds to you as a person, as opposed to crap in evil books, which at least makes you want to take a shower, if not just bash your head against a wall.  Good fiction should at least be uplifting in some degree.

That's the nice thing about the Sad Puppies list, as opposed to the usual crap that's been nominated over the years for the Hugo. It's edifying. Seriously, look at this list: Neal Stephenson, John C Wright, John Ringo, good solid fiction.

Technically, edifying, or superversive, fiction, isn't new. It's very old fashioned, beginning /middle /end, good guys bad guys fiction. Let's take a look at a classic film where the good guys and bad guys aren't exactly traditional: for example, The Sting. The protagonists there aren't necessarily "good" in the usual sense; after all, they're all con artists. But there's the difference between the more standard rogue versus the film's antagonist, Doyle Lonagan (played by the impeccable Robert Shaw, who could do whatever the bloody heck he liked, really). Our antagonists are murderous pricks, and our protagonists are simple thieves. In the hierarchy of sins, most people will go for the thief over the killer.

I won't say that The Sting is perfect or anything, but as far as con movies go, it was one of the first. Though I think White Collar and Leverage have done better since then. (Best car chase of all time: The Rock ... or The Dead Pool.  Bullitt was just okay in comparison, though I will acknowledge).

But at the end of the day, The Sting is just plane fun. It's about pulling one over on a truly bad guy.

That's one of my problems with Twilight -- is anything uplifting? The best interpretation I've seen was by John C. Wright, wherein he suggested that Twilight was about a man being uplifted and improved by a woman. Sadly, I look at it and see a self-involved, petulant little girl who manipulates everyone around her in her quest to become a super-powered monster, as opposed to the plain old blood-thirsty creature she already was. Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Wright are more perceptive than I am, though I have trouble seeing beyond, well, The Nostalgia Critic version.

Let's look at The Prisoner -- as bizarre and as trippy as it was -- which it was one man versus society, or the system, and resisting all trips and traps and snares designed to make him roll over and play dead, to be just like everybody else. It's something that adds to your life.

As I said, superversive fiction is basic, almost simple storytelling in comparison to some of the crap I've seen out there that tries to be "art." It's the difference between Jackson Pollack and Alex Ross -- Pollack is splashes on a canvas that we're told is art, and Alex Ross is "merely" a comic book artist ... who happens to be hung in the Smithsonian.

At the end of the day, The Sting is better fiction than MacTeague. It's rogues versus a villain. It's Die Hard versus an art house film. One uplifts and edifies and builds you up, and most of the "art" seems to be dedicated to tearing us down, punishing optimism and believing that you're anymore than the glorified meat machines of secular humanism.

At the end of the day, there is more artistry in Die Hard than in an Dan Brown or an Ann Leckie novel -- trust me, I did a two-part blog on it.


  1. I haven't actually read Twilight. I read the first chapter or two. It was very charming. I would probably like it. But...

    I have a personal objection to vampires. I couldn't bring myself to read a series about someone who was going to become a vampire.

    I have read stuff about the series, by the author and otherwise, and talked to people about it. I have some theories...but as I haven't read it, they remain theories.

    1. Perhaps I conflated John's opinions with yours on the matter from the radio show. This is what I get for writing from memory. Oh well.

      Heh. You might want to try Honor At Stake sometime ... if you found yourself completely bereft of stuff to read. :)

  2. Person of Interest is a good example of it. The main characters pretty much fight against despair in every episode and, though the victories are small, they keep fighting all the more. Here's hoping the final season makes it worth it whenever it finally starts up again.

    Speaking of superversive, I wrote a review of Honor at Stake on my blog:

    I also posted it on and .ca. Really enjoyed it!

    1. I'm just hoping the final season comes. I haven't heard word one about a date aside from "spring." So here's hoping.

      And thank you. This review is awesome. And will be part of a blog post tomorrow. Expect some more hits. :)


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