The funny thing is I can see Jagi Lamplighter recognizing Sword & Flower as a different type of superversive than Anthony is trying to make it. (Anthony is misreading genre and beats here. Sword & Flower is not the type of story he wants it to be.) Which to me highlights the problem Superversive has. Like symbolism, it exists, but in recognition, it usually reveals more about the what the reviewer sees in the text than the text itself. And when fundamentally and intentionally subversive works are held up as superversive, it makes me wonder if superversive is not short for “I like it.”I've held back in my criticism because, while I am not a Superversive, I have respect for the idea, and many Superversives are writers and critics I hold in high esteem. I do not enjoy the fact that my first interaction with Tom Simon was oppositional, for instance. However, I have seen a difference in aim and deed that makes it difficult to sign on with that crowd.
Since writing the quoted post in a private group since made public, I have read a detailed ideal of the Superversive, and, barring a minor point or two, I agree with the list as an aim all writers should consider:
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.Again, these are high ideals, most of which are missing from the writing of today's science fiction and fantasy. And, given that there are more Superversive writers than pulp rev writers, I wish them success. Transforming the current landscape requires writers, and there is nothing in the Superversive standard that clashes with Misha Burnett's idea of pulp or my own. Their success would make more stories that I want to read.
But now it's time to explain my bone with them. Since the birth of the movement, I have seen Superversive writers and critics hold up previous works of deliberate Subversion as examples for today's writers to emulate. Superversive writers have dug their heels in to defend the Campbellian Revolution from criticism, despite the fact that Campbell's reign was the Golden Age of Subversion and a Golden Age of Despair. And the Superversive collection Forbidden Thoughts was unironically tailored after Dangerous Visions, an unapologetic work of Subversion with a capital "S". It is this hypocrisy that mars the otherwise appealing Superversive movement. At the very least, the standards of Superversion do not appear to be applied rigorously in the critical sense at the present, and not at all when nostalgia is invoked. At worst, the current standard of Superversive is fundamentally flawed, and unable to distinguish between subversion and superversion. So, as it lacks any observable consistency in the critical sphere, I again wonder if superversive is nothing more than shorthand for “I like it.”