In the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story, young Bastian Bux takes a novel of the same title from a bookseller and reads it in his school’s attic. The book describes a world called Fantasia, a land filled with mystical beasts, incredible creatures, and wondrous peoples ruled by a Child Empress. But this world is slowly dying, being devoured from within by a strange force known only as “The Nothing.” Later in the adventure, Fantasia is revealed to be the realm of mankind’s imagination, hopes, and dreams, while The Nothing is the lack thereof.
At the climax of the story Bastian finds himself incorporated into the adventure, whereupon the Child Empress begs him to give her a name in order to save her country. When he does, Bastian finds himself alone in an empty void with the Empress. She then holds out a single grain of sand – all that remains of her dominion – before telling him that he can restore Fantasia with his imagination.
Looking at the present entertainment landscape, it is not hard to draw parallels between the central conflict of The NeverEnding Story and the apparent death of modern storytelling. Hollywood is bankrupt of ideas, having sold its soul in the service of cheap politics, bleeding itself dry in the process. The American comic book industry, along with the publishing industry in general, has chosen to follow the same path by producing volumes of “fiction” that worship the ever-shifting tenets of Woke culture.
The Nothing has come to our own world and, wherever we look Fantasia (mankind's imagination) is crumbling before our eyes. In an age that declares God dead, when men are told they are naught but machines, this disintegration of storytelling should come as no surprise. Nature abhors a vacuum. When her Creator is thrust from the square that rightfully belongs to Him, it is only natural that dark things crawl in to try to fill the space from which man has evicted Him. In the end, could a man – should a man – expect anything else?
But reality itself is part of the true Neverending Story written by the Creator. There is yet hope, as real life Bastians seek to restore the land of Fantasia. Many may think of and point to The Daily Wire’s recent foray into the film industry, along with other such attempts to make good movies once again. While these are indeed mighty warriors in the culture conflict, they are far from the only entrepreneurs to sally forth to reclaim the entertainment landscape. After all, in order to save Fantasia, one only needs their imagination…. And a single grain of sand.
The Superversive Movement
The Superversive Movement began in 2014 and was inspired in part by essayist Tom Simon and other authors who hungered for heroic tales of adventure, morality, and chivalry. They banded together to form a loose confederacy under a banner (and a blog) they called the Superversive Movement, who’s name came from the idea that “As a subversive work strives to bring about change by undermining from below, a superversive work strives to bring about change by inspiring from above.”
Examples of superversive stories are not hard to discover. Most tales in the Western canon, from the ancient classics to the now-corroding pop culture, abound with rich and varied tales that “inspire change from above” through their emphasis on heroic individuals striving to achieve some goal through a commensurate growth in – and pursuit of – virtue. It is finding new stories in this vein that has proven so difficult for modern man, due in no small part to the fact that large companies presently have a death-grip on various formerly superversive intellectual properties.
The Superversive Movement seeks to change that, with authors of various ages and both sexes plunging into the field of fiction to restore it to its former glory. Such works as John C. Wright’s Moth & Cobweb series and Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology series are examples of Superversive works. Brian Niemeier’s Combat Frame XSeed Mecha series and L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Rachel Griffin series also follow the Superversive dictum. Most interesting of all, in advancing the movement, is probaby Declan Finn’s St. Tommy, NYPD series, which features a modern-day saint doing battle with demons and their vassels in the streets of New York City. Furthermore, Superversive writers have also reclaimed the audio drama with a horror anthology in a classic radio series format available online, called Pinkerton’s Ghosts, that follows the titular Pinkerton Detectives as they deal with the creatures “…of outre terre.”
No “woke” agendas are present in their works – unless they are being lampooned and mocked. And even when Superversive authors do this, they understand that the ridicule must serve the story, not their vanity. Politics, which have become the cheap currency of the writing world, fall by the wayside as these storytellers’ heroes do battle with the powers of darkness. Publishing their books through small presses such as Silver Empire Publishing and Tuscany Bay Books, or independently through print-on-demand services, these artists are re-seeding Fantasia by putting virtue, heroism, and morality at the heart of every tale they weave.
The Pulp Revolution
Developed at roughly the same time as the Superversive Movement, the Pulp Revolution is a similar association of authors committed to the same ethos, but which is made up of admirers of the pulp writers of the past. Having thrilled to tales created by the likes of Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, and Leigh Brackett – who continued writing well past the pulp era – as well as insights drawn from the role-playing games that were based upon these giants’ works. Writers in the Pulp Rev movement produce stories quickly, emphasizing action and derring-do along with romance and adventure in their novels. They make an effort to write action-packed tales without restricting themselves to the typical genre classifications presently espoused by larger publishers.
Storytellers who follow the “Pulp Rev” philosophy work to re-establish the pulse-pounding, soul-stirring form of fiction that disappeared from the publishing world over the past two to three decades. Benjamin Cheah (who also writes under the names Kit Sun and Kai Wai Cheah) crafts tales of high-octane action mixed with magic in Babylon Blues, Dungeon Samurai, and the superhero series set in Hollow City. Cirsova Publishing releases pulp-style fiction primarily through their flagship quarterly magazine, Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense. Pursuing the same path but in a slightly different manner is Storyhack Magazine, while author Schuyler Hernstrom harkens back to Howard’s Conan stories, most notably in his book The Eye of Sounnu.
Once again, “Woke” agendas and political screeds are entirely lacking in these works. If it does not serve the narrative in some way, then it does not appear in the tale. All that matters to authors in the Pulp Rev circuit is that the story remains quick, gripping, and thoroughly entertaining. Anything else – up to and including what genres into which the story does or does not fit – are considered irrelevant. Provided the readers have as much fun as the writers, the novelists are satisfied.
Storytellers in both of these movements also create comic books that are distinctly different from those typically found in stores. The artwork and writing in these tales range from absurdly humorous to breathtakingly stunning, while the stories themselves harken back to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original superhero comics or move beyond their formulae entirely. Jon Del Arroz is the author of the Flying Sparks superheroine series as well as Clockwork Dancer and Spectacular Comics. Voyage Publishing and Comics recently entered the superhero realm with their Phoenix series, while continuing to maintain their production of faith-filled books like the ongoing Finnian saga.
Chuck Dixon (the creator of Batman’s nemesis Bane) has begun producing his own comics. The breakout Kamen America series, an answer to Marvel’s abhorrent treatment of the Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel character, has already won a great deal of reader admiration and love. So if one has tired of the current trends in DC and Marvel, consider searching out comic book creators such as these, as they will open the door to a whole new subset of “funny papers” that will refresh the reader’s imagination.
All of This is Just the Beginning
The Nothing that seeks to devour Fantasia cannot win. A void is just that: an empty expanse that is nothing, that offers nothing. No matter what it devours it can never satiate its hunger, nor fill itself with the bounty it consumes. Once it has finally run its course, when Hollywood and the entertainment industry at last collapse, then there may yet be only “a single grain of sand” left for the world to view.
But from even so small a beginning, great things are already being made. If they are nurtured, perhaps they will grow big enough to stand tall amidst the ruins of what was. All of these works point us toward what could and can be – and what, in many ways, already is.
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