Superversive Press: What’s a Superversive Anyway?

It’s like popcorn. I got one book from Superversive Press, I looked at the ads for other Superversive Press books in the back, and I just had to buy another one….. I’m still jonesing for 2 more Superversive books but can’t probably buy them this month as I’ve had unexpected expenses.
What does ‘superversive’ mean anyway? It’s obviously related to the word ’subversive’ somehow. I looked at the Superversive web page and found several essays on the ’superversive’ movement. But it wasn’t until I asked around for a short definition that L. Jagi Lampwright Wright told me: “Subversive is change by undermining from below. Superversive is change though inspiration from above.”
One of the projects of Superversive Press is Astounding Frontiers, a science fiction periodical. I have issue #1 which was published in July. My author friend Declan Finn has a story in the issue, and I thought it was epic. There were also stories by Patrick S. Baker, Lou Antonelli, Erin Lale, Sarah Salviander, John C. Wright, Ben Wheeler, Nick Cole and Jason Anspach.
I also have the anthology Forbidden Thoughts, which has this on the back cover: “You are not allowed to read this book. Don’t even think about reading this book. In fact, just forget about thinking all together.” So of course I had to read it.
And then there is “For Steam and Country” by Jon del Arroz, which is a steampunk novel about a girl who inherits her dad’s military airship in a time of war…. I haven’t finished it as I keep getting distracted, but I really liked the first third of the book.
It seems that most of my friends in the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance are involved in Superversive Press. I hope the effort succeeds because so far I love Superversive Press’s books. I hope readers will give some of these books a chance.

Superversive Links:
Superversive SF: Science Fiction for a more civilized age
What is Superversive Press?

MAGA 2020 & Beyond

Superversive SF Facebook Page


Would you please do me a big favor? My Facebook author page is Nissa Annakindt, poet, Aspie & cat person . I’m frustrated because I haven’t had new ‘likes’ in a while and my posts don’t have much ‘reach.’ So if you and a couple other people could ‘like’ my page and ‘like’ three posts on the page— at least I can see if that will help. Thank you so much!

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How to Research a Genre #writing #genre

Whether a writer is trying a new genre or continuing in an old genre, genre research is a good idea. Lawrence Block, who wrote ‘Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print’ gives some instruction on how to do this research.

Block gave the example of how he did research for writing mystery short stories for various mystery magazines that in those long-ago days were plentiful. He admits voraciously reading through every magazine of that type he could get.

Since Block encouraged young writers to start with a novel since the short story markets had almost vanished, he suggested reading 8-12 books in the genre. But when he got more specific he suggested starting with six books by six different writers, some established writers in the field and some newer ones.

I would suggest a little more organized approach. Step One: Google the name of the genre. You want to find out: are there alternate names for the genre? Who are the big name writers in the genre right now? Who were the classic writers that were active earlier in the genre history? Can you find any current list of the best-selling books in the genre?

Don’t skip this step if you have been writing in the genre, have been reading the genre since age 8. You need to expand your knowledge and can’t do that sticking to the same old websites and same old writers.

After the research, pick some books. Pick 2-3 books from the current best-seller list, 2-3 books from current authors in the genre, and 2-3 from newer, less known authors.

In the book, Block gives as his example gothic novels. This was a sub-genre of romance. When I was a girl, there were whole sections of just gothic novels in shops. Then the genre pretty much died. The top writers of gothics started calling their books ‘romantic suspense’ or some such thing. I thought it was kind of interesting that Block just randomly picked a doomed genre as his example genre. It shows that a writer needs to be flexible in genre matters.

If you chose ‘science fiction’ as your genre, and you are a Christian, should you limit your reading to just Christian science fiction? Not really. Christian fiction in its broader sense— including not just Evangelicals but Catholic, Lutheran, and even Mormon authors— is still a limited group. Most Christians read more secular novels than specifically Christian ones.

Of course in the science fiction genre we are plagued by a lot of ‘award-winning’ authors that have no interesting ideas but are filled with Social Justice Warrior (SJW) conformity, and just the right kind of non-diverse left-wing diversity with a touch of fashionable hatred for ‘religious people’, mainly Christians and Jews.  If you are picking random books by random authors you may get stuck with one of these books. If the author is a newbie in the field, feel free not to finish the book, but if he/she/they/zie are well-established and actually make the genre best-seller lists, you may feel the need to force your way through it for educational purposes. I’d suggest rationing the poison, and reading a bit of something you actually LIKE after to get the stupidness purged from your mind.

Block suggests in the book that you don’t just read the books, but you write outlines of them This helps you see the structure of the book.

How do you write outlines for a book you are reading? Keep a notepad nearby. When you finish a chapter, write the main things that happen in the chapter. Page back so that you get all the character names right. Make sure that your chapter notes run to several sentences so that you get the main points covered.

When you finish the book, go through your chapter notes. If you have written a longish paragraph for each chapter, try to condense it down to two sentences covering the most important things. The desire is to end up with a tighter outline.

Now, read your draft 2 outline. Can you detect the three acts of the three act structure? Or the doorway of no return and the mirror moment that James Scott Bell speaks of in his how-to-write books?

After you have read through several books in this way, answer some questions. What do the books have in common? What is the minimum that readers of the genre expect, to show that the book IS in the genre? What are some plot elements that are so common in the genre that they might be stereotypes?

If you are trying a genre for the first time, genre research is essential so that you are able to actually know the genre requirements and expectations, and meet them. A more practiced writer in a genre may do research in order to renew their enthusiasm, and to detect changes in the genre. This is important if you tend to read the same authors over and over for years, and are reluctant to try new authors.

Sorting out the details of an as-yet unwritten novel #Writing

This is what happens: a story idea enters your head. You develop it— either by thinking about it, making stories in your head about it, or by writing down various details in a notebook. Before long you’ve got loads of material that need sorting.

The first question: is your material going to be expressed in a short story or novella? A novel? Several novels? It helps to have a general idea. If you have enough material for a seven-novel series, it won’t fit into a short story. Do you like the material a lot? You might be able to go for several novels on it. If it’s just a random idea, you might trim down the content to make it fit in a novella.

If you have more-than-one-novel’s worth: which story pieces would work for the first novel? And by first, I don’t mean chronologically first. You may have ideas that would work better as a prequel novel, after a first novel in the series is published.

I have one idea I’m working with. Some of the ideas I came up for backstory are too interesting— for me at least— to leave in the past, but they don’t work well for a Volume One of the series. So if I write from a better Volume One point, I can come back someday and write prequel. If I think it’s a good idea at the time.

Now, I am sure there are people who have ideas that march in an ordered fashion out of their heads. I’m the kind of person that creates a story-beginning and then marches backward into backstory, or forward into a youthful character’s old age. I create more story-pieces than I need, and am not organized enough to sort them out easily.

I use certain books to help me organize my ideas lately. Two are ‘Structuring your Novel Workbook’ and ‘Outlining your Novel Workbook’ by K.M. Weiland. (I also have ‘Structuring your Novel’ and ‘Outlining your Novel’ by the same author.)

Both of the workbooks have a lot of questions to answer about your story.  It helps remind you of ideas you’ve already had, so you can write them down. And it reminds you of things you might have to create, such as backstory.

Now, you can change, omit or add questions. If you are writing sci-fi, fantasy or a historical, it doesn’t do to answer questions that assume that every character came from a normal American family and went to a normal/horrible American public high school. Your character’s family background and formal education, if any, may be wildly different. Maybe your character is a space alien who was abandoned by his family at age 9 to live on the street because ALL male children in his culture are abandoned at that age. Maybe your character was taught to read by her mother because all the schools in her culture don’t admit peasant children.

Here is one idea I’ve had. When you read a question about a character, don’t answer in your own voice. Let your character answer it. That’s one way to keep yourself from becoming great at writing planning material and unable to actually write the novel. You can include actions of the character in the answer. Such as, “Peter just looked sad at the question and buried his head in his hands.” or “Amy responded to the question by cursing and throwing her beer mug at the questioner.”

Committing to a #Writing Project #indecision

Random Kitten

The secret of writing is to keep working on one writing project until you get done, and then start another. If only my writing life worked that way. It’s really hard to stick with one writing idea. And it seems like I get more indecisive as time goes on. When I was younger I could stick with a project for weeks. Lately I’ve been able to start new writing projects every day, abandoning the old ones as hopeless.

I probably have got to stop doing that. I think my indecision is based on three things: first, my brain keeps coming up with shiny new ideas which of course are more attractive than the older ones.

Second, the older and, possibly, more mature I get, the more possibilities I see. When I was younger I could see only one way a story could go. Now, each story-beginning could lead in infinite directions. I hate that.

Third, the longer I go without finishing a novel, the more of a failure I am. Ever project I failed to finish— failure. And after some years of failure I feel it’s hopeless. Which makes any project I’m working on a doomed-to-failure project.

I don’t really know how to fix this. I can visualize a blue decisiveness pill that would fix all my problems if I took it, but I won’t take it because it’s probably really just a blue button that my kitten War has been playing with.

I feel like an utter failure today. But— there’s a good reason I won’t stop writing. Because my brain will keep providing me with story ideas and I will keep making up stories in my head because I’ve been doing it all my life. Without calling myself a writer I’d be just a weird crazy person living in a fantasy world. And I don’t want to be a weird crazy person. I want to be a NORMAL crazy person.


The kitten in the picture is named Umberto. She’s a girl, and all grown up now. She’s had kittens— usually litters of 1 kitten, as she was. She has a daughter named Norbert who’s probably 2-3 years old. I don’t know how old Umberto is.

The problem with #Superman as a fictional character #writing

Superman. I like him, perhaps because I come from an era when comic books were safe for kids. But there is one interesting think about Superman. As he was originally conceived, it was very hard to write interesting stories about him.

Superman was basically invulnerable, with no weaknesses. We felt he was quite heroic, but everything was so easy for him, was he really heroic after all? He could pick up street criminals by the bunch and drop them at the jail. Of course he probably had to go back to pick up eyewitnesses so the criminals could get convicted. But it wasn’t really a challenge for him.

The writers of Superman added kryptonite so that Superman had a point of vulnerability. It’s kind of silly that rocks from Superman’s destroyed home planet would be harmful to him. And that so many villains could obtain kryptonite. But by making Superman vulnerable— at least to one thing— it made it easier to identify him. And he could be really heroic by taking real risks in order to save someone.

The other thing that the writers of Superman had to invent were supervillians. Ordinary, realistic street criminals were too easy for Superman to defeat. So there had to be villains with superpowers of their own, or who were evil geniuses who could figure out how to seriously endanger Superman or thwart his efforts.

The rule we should learn from this is a real hero needs to be vulnerable in some way, and needs to have an opponent who can actually harm or defeat him.

This can be a problem in some fantasy fiction. Writers might create heroes with amazing magical powers so that the reader wonders: why doesn’t he just use his magic? Unlimited powers in a hero lead to boring stories where the hero is unchallenged. Or unrealistic stories where the hero doesn’t attempt to use his magic powers to accomplish his goals without any real reason to not use this power.

A villain that seems too powerful to defeat does work in fiction, as long as the author plants clues that the villain has a weakness, a limit to his powers, or a way to be defeated. The Harry Potter series works in part because we know Lord Voldemort had limits. He couldn’t just sit in his lair with magic wand out, chanting ‘Aveda Kadavera’ and have his distant enemies all drop dead. We know from the beginning of Harry Potter that Lord Voldemort was defeated once, and that he had opposition as well as supporters.

Writers that don’t think their story through, give both villain and hero non-unlimited sets of abilities, and arrange defeats-of-villains that make actual sense in the story world don’t manage to create entertaining stories.

Book-oriented Writers and TV-oriented Writers #amwriting

There are two kinds of aspiring writers in our age— book-oriented ones who get much of their fiction through books, and TV-oriented writers who get much, most or all of their fiction through television and movies.

Since television and books are different art forms, you can guess that the more book-oriented a writer is the better he is able to produce good books of his own. But with television ever-present in American homes and beyond- with DVD players in vans so little tots don’t have to do without entertainment on the ride to the grocery store, and televisions even intruding into family restaurants— we can understand how some folks can be TV-oriented.

I was almost wholly TV-oriented myself. My mother wrote in my baby book that they sat me up in front of the TV to watch Captain Kangaroo at six months. They thought I was a TV-watching prodigy or something. And as I grew older the first fiction that really inspired me to make up stories of my own was the original Star Trek.

But I was lucky enough to be born into a book-loving home. Neither of my parents went to college— in their day it was rare for people of their lower-income background to have that chance. I always remember my father having a collection of ‘serious’ non-fiction books– about the lives of recent presidents and statesmen, about wars, a set of books by Winston Churchill. My mother had some popular novels like Gone With the Wind and The Silver Chalice, and some sets of mystery short stories.

When I was a baby my mother bought a 12 volume set of children’s books for me called ‘My Book House.’ The first volume had nursery rhymes from around the world. The second had simpler fairy tales, and the next had more complex ones. The last volume was advanced enough that it had chapters from ‘The Mill on the Floss’ in it. When I was about nine I decided that the numbers on the books indicated the age of child who was allowed to read it. So I didn’t read the last few books as often, since by then I was finding reading material on my own.

I got the idea to want to be a writer from reading ‘Little Women.’ I don’t know that I liked writing, or the character Jo from the book who wrote, all that much. I just was afraid if I cultivated my musical talent like Beth, I’d die young.

But, more so in these days, there are a lot of people who are keen on TV shows and want to tell TV inspired stories. That’s where the impulse to write TV-based fanfiction comes from. And there are a lot of fans of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter that experienced the movies first, and may or may not have read the book series. If you are from a TV-oriented family where no one owns books or reads them, it may not occur to you that the books can be deeper and richer than any movie could be.

The answer, if you are a TV-oriented aspiring writer, is to find books you like and read them. Novelizations of movies and TV shows count, at first. As a kid, when in about fourth grade I saw another kid reading the Star Trek book illustrating this blog post— Star Trek 3 by James Blish. I nagged my parents into buying me the other books in that series, and later used my allowance to buy others in that eventual 13 book series. Later, after the movie Star Trek 2 came out, original Star Trek novels started being published by Pocket books and I regularly bought them. I now have a nearly-full bookshelf of them— though some very recent Star Trek novels I bought were so very bad, riddled with political correctness, that I don’t think I need to be buying any more. Imagine a character in the middle of action worrying about which pronoun she should use when thinking about a gender-neutral alien species. People that dumb wouldn’t survive long in a hostile situation.

Of course an aspiring writer, even of genre fiction, will want to read a variety of books, including some that are rated ‘good literature.’ Don’t be afraid of trying books like that. Some of them are even better than Star Trek 3.

Detecting a scene’s viewpoint character #writing

When I read a novel for my own pleasure, I read fast. I don’t stop to think ‘this is a new scene’ or ‘Buck is this new scene’s viewpoint character.’ I just inhale the story.

But sometimes a reader— especially if the reader is a would-be writer— needs to slow down and notice things. In a novel written in the Third-Person-Limited point of view, the story may jump around in different places with different characters present. Each scene should have a viewpoint character— this helps the reader feel anchored. But only if the writer has left easy clues as to which character is the viewpoint character.

  • The viewpoint character may be mentioned by name in the first sentence of the scene. In the book I am reading right now, ‘Armageddon’ by LaHaye and Jenkins, I checked several random scenes to find that the very first word in the scene is the viewpoint character’s name. The name should at least be mentioned before the end of the first paragraph.
  • The viewpoint character is the one we follow. Some scenes are in motion— characters don’t stay in the same room or same setting, perhaps because they are chasing a suspect or a clue. The viewpoint character will be moving along with other characters in motion.
  • We are often shown the viewpoint characters emotions and thoughts. We don’t know these things directly about the other characters in the scene.
  • Other characters in the scene become known to readers through the observations and interactions of the viewpoint character. These other characters are observed externally— we aren’t told their thoughts and feelings directly.
  • If the viewpoint character leaves the scene or dies, the scene ends.
  • Every scene in fiction has a purpose to the overall story. The viewpoint character usually has a stake in that purpose. At least the viewpoint character will have a goal for the scene.
  • If the viewpoint character is not the main character or an important character in the novel as a whole, there must be a reason why the author chooses to show this particular scene through this character.
  • Some novels stick mostly with the main character as a viewpoint character. Others have many different characters who serve as viewpoint characters in scenes. Novels with a lot of action in a variety of settings, like ‘A Pius Man’ by Declan Finn, often need to have many viewpoint characters.

Writers and would-be writers should be aware of the viewpoint characters in scenes, especially when reading fiction by skilled or popular authors. By learning how other authors handle this issue in scenes, you can improve how you do it yourself.

Exercise:

Find a book at random (by a skilled author) and pick three random scenes. For each scene, write down the answers to these questions.

  1. Who is the viewpoint character for this scene?
  2. How did the author establish that this was the viewpoint character for this scene? Was this done in the first sentence?
  3. What does the viewpoint character seem to want in this scene? Does he get it?
  4. Was this character a good choice for the viewpoint character in this scene? Why or why not?
  5. Is there an opposition character that is trying to prevent the viewpoint character from getting what he wants? If there is, imagine how the scene would be different from this opposition character’s point-of-view.

If you have any difficulties on the issue of viewpoint characters, do ask a question in a comment