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Every once in a while, I’ll craft something here about Superversive as opposed to “subversive” writing and other art forms in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The idea is that for the past several decades, the entertainment industry in general has moved away from ideas such as:
- Heroes being heroic
- Doing good for the sake of being good
- A happy ending isn’t such a bad thing after all
- Love and beauty are real in the world and in people
- It’s okay to be spiritual/religious beings and maybe we aren’t complete if we shun that
- Family is positive and not dysfunctional
- Civilization is better than chaos
- Strength, courage, honor, beauty, truth, sacrifice, spirituality, hope, and humility are all virtues and have their place in stories. Superversive tales should NEVER leave the reader in despair
No, not every single SF/F book published in the last twenty years is doom, gloom, and overridden by a progressive politics and social view…
…it just seems that way sometimes.
I’m going to get to the main point of my missive, superversive books for children”, and why that’s so important, but I want to pave the way first.
Generally to get a lot of buzz in the world of SF/F publishing, you have to pay attention to organizations like the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). These organizations control the vast majority of prestigious awards and conventions, and if you are a creator and you want to come on their radar in a positive way, the content you produce and who you are as a person, including your gender, ethnic, and a bunch of other qualities “identity” is important. If you don’t pass the litmus test, well…that’s pretty much that as far as they are concerned.
Additionally, to even have your written work considered significant, you also have to be published by an SFWA approved…uh, qualifying market (surprised Baen Books is still there given the Baen Books brouhaha of about six months or so ago).
There’s something of an analogy to this with the group GLAAD focusing their laser on the film industry, making demands, uh…issuing a report that says there needs to be so many percent of transgender characters in major studio releases, such and such percent of characters should be gender fluid, such and such percent of characters should be gay and struggling with HIV, and so on. No really, they are telling filmmakers that regardless of the needs of the story, they should meet GLAAD requirements.
Actually, I mischaracterized SFWA because they are nowhere near as heavy-handed as GLAAD.
On the other hand, we’re living in a world where Professor in the Humanities and #1 New York Times and National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi (Ibram Henry Rogers) has published a children’s book called Antiracist Baby (which has 88% 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon and is number 40 on their list of Children’s Books on the U.S.). I guess kids become racist in toddlerhood if not earlier according to this view. Never mind that a number of Amazon non-complementary reviews, including from parents of biracial kids, said that the book’s language is well above the level if its target audience and tends to be more of an indoctrination guide for the parents of toddlers.
That leads me to the article Conservative children’s publisher Brave Books debuts with ‘Elephants Are Not Birds’. I found the Brave Books Facebook page but not a website, which is not a good sign.
I did find the book on shop.bravebooks.us but not on Amazon, which also may not be a good sign. On that page, I also found a blurb for the author of the book:
Ashley St. Clair is an American political commentator and media personality who has dedicated her career to being an outspoken defender of free speech. She is a leading political strategist with an impressive background in fundraising and has become an expert on tackling the radical Left’s assault on gender and objective reality as a whole. Ashley is passionate about preserving America for future generations by engaging more conservatives to fight back against the cultural war that the Left is waging. Throughout the years, Ashley’s cultural messaging has been featured on a variety on outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart, OAN, CNN, Newsmax, Billboard, and many more.
Okay, words like “Fox News,” “Breitbart,” and “Newsmax” often trigger a lot of people who associate them with far-right Republicans and Donald Trump, so you if you didn’t have reservations about this content before, you may be having them now. Frankly, she sounds more conservative than I am.
According to the New York Post article, the book is definitely an “unapologetic rebuke of transgender acceptance and the growing number of young people identifying as trans.” It also said:
Company CEO Trent Talbot, who had his first child a little more than a year ago, conceived of Brave Books when, he said, he started to notice “that there is a real war going on for the hearts and minds of our kids. And everywhere I looked was propaganda,” the Montgomery, Texas-based dad told The Post.
22-year-old Ms. St. Clair, the author, told the Post:
“I am going to have a little boy in November, and it’s scary to think he could come home and say, ‘My friends all identify as something else and that’s how I feel’ and have my son crying because he’s not put on hormone replacement therapy.”
Now let’s hold on a second. As I said before, it’s not like every single children’s book currently on the market is selling a radical ideology left or right. Plus, as I also said, there are still plenty of older children’s books in print (or just left over in homes where the children grew up and are now being consumed by the grandkids) suitable for what I’d consider your average, mainstream (however you define that) family.
Certainly if your personal and family values encompass “Antiracist Baby” or Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies, then yes, you should absolutely buy those books for your children/grandchildren and read them often.
But not all families present what they consider age-appropriate material to children in the same way. Some parents may not bring up “antiracism” or “two mommies” or “transgender” to their toddlers or elementary school age kids. That should be a parent’s choice.
Now let’s get back to “superversive.”
If you’re an adult who tends to view the world in a superversive way and consumes adult books that are a tad more uplifting and optimistic than what might be considered popular in the world of publishing, why not pass that on to your kiddos?
I think, in a way, that’s what “Elephants Are Not Birds” is trying to do, but let’s take it a step further, or maybe a step backward. There are already tons and tons of books for children that are superversive, so we really don’t need to proverbially reinvent the wheel.
Heck, for two-and-a-half years, I wrote an ongoing adventure to my grandson on this very blog based on the imaginative games we play together. He eventually lost interest in the blog stories, but he’s twelve now and we still play “the game.” My granddaughter has been dying to “play the game” with us, but because she’s so much younger, it’s hard for her to keep up with a more sophisticated storyline. Now that she’s six, we play our own game. True, it leans heavily on princesses and unicorns, but I also introduce solar system objects as characters so at least she’ll understand the difference between gas giants and the asteroid belt.
I even have a couple of published stories based on my relationship with my grandson such as “The Dragon’s Family” found in Pixie Forest Publishing’s Magical Reality and “Joey” featured in Zombie Pirate Publishing’s anthology World War Four. So if push came to shove, I’d just move over to writing children’s books for my grandkids and for the larger world of children and families who don’t think “traditional family values” is a dirty word.
If there can be superversive movement for grown ups providing science fiction for a more civilized age, we can do that for children’s books, too.
What do you think? Books for kids that have heroic heroes, that believe people are basically good, where folks do good, who love, appreciate beauty, uplift a spiritual and religious nature, celebrate family and a culture that supports family, embraces strength, courage, and honor. Radical idea or something we need sorely to get back to as we raise children in an uncertain and morally “plastic” world?
One more thing: None of the above means that I’m racist, sexist, oppose LBGTQ representation in the arts, or desire harm to come to anyone, whether they are like or unlike me. It doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that there are families who have values that are not the same as my own. It’s perfectly okay to be different people and families in the same community and in the same nation. That’s the true definition of accepting diversity. There’s room for everyone at the table. That includes a Grandpa who tells his little granddaughter stories about a princess and a unicorn doing battle to save the inner solar system from the Queen of the Oort Cloud whose demons control the gas giants.