REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #51 - March 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Tue Apr 8 16:06:32 PDT 2008

Okay.  I am now at work, which means I have access to one... 
final... trick of trying to get this damnable post to work.  
And if it still doesn't work for the third time then I'm gonna 
give up and go away and sulk. 
On  Monday 7 April 2008 Tom Russell replied:
> On Apr 7, 12:15 pm, Saxon Brenton wrote:
-blink blink-  Hmm.  You're right.  _Jolt City_ didn't 
even cross my mind.  Oh well, the list wasn't meant to 
be comprehensive - but I wonder why I gravitated 
towards the writers who post stories but don't do much 
in the way of commentary?
>> (There are a couple of ways that this could be done, 
>> but that would involve a mini essay in itself.) 
> I for one certainly wouldn't mind reading that mini essay. :-)
I started writing a parenthetical comment along those 
lines, but when it got up to two paragraphs and looked 
like it was going to be longer than the commentary of 
_Godling_ itself, I scrapped it with the brush away 
line about mini essays.  It wasn't well thought out, 
but from memory I was taking a position on the way a 
genre can be alloyed with others in various ways and 
to varying degrees.  IIRC the generalisation I made was 
that some stories took basic superhero format and added 
something to it (the comedy stuff would be the most 
ubiquitous examples on RACC) and OTOH stories that took 
the elements from superhero stories and added them to 
something else.  It involved differences various 
factors.  Such as in degree of hybridisation, so that 
the question becomes is this one thing or another or 
both or neither?  It also occurred to me that there's 
a difference between using elements of a genre and using 
it's... I dunno, underlying mindset, for want of a 
better term. 
As an example of the latter, _Superfreaks_ belongs to 
both police procedural and superhero genres, but I would 
argue that the because the mindset it uses is the 
investigative rationality of the police procedural 
and applies that to elements of superherodom, it comes 
closer to the police procedural (or perhaps hard science 
fiction) than to superheros.  But that's just one way of 
looking at it.  For a counterexample, _Superfreaks_ is 
also a good example of the better type of adult 
superhero story as well: for the most part when the 
mainstream publishers talk about mature superhero 
stories they actually using it as an excuse for graphic 
language and ultraviolence.  By contrast _Superfreaks_ 
has adults acting like responsible adults and trying to 
deal with situations in a responsible manner, which of 
course is antithetical to what you've described as 
anti-superhero stories. 
So, basically it boils down to which criteria you use, 
and which types of elements, and the degree and even 
combinations in which they've been combined. 
And then all of it topped off with the caveat that, in 
my mind at least, superheros as a genre started out as 
a hybrid (basic pulp action/adventure, which then 
satisfies a SF/fantasy sense-of-wonder craving by 
sucking up and incorporating into itself any SF, 
fantasy, horror, or other genre element that catches 
the eye) and then consolidated itself from there.  Then 
it has to recognise that as a publishing concern it, 
like any other genre *and* medium has to continually 
be innovative in order to avoid becoming moribund.  
This means that any serious discussion of hybridising 
the superhero genre with other genres first has to 
define what the superhero genre *is* from among the 
various outlooks, themes, and superficial elements, 
before it can even start getting to how it interacts 
with other genres.  At a superficial level it seems 
like a 'I don't know what it is, but I'll know it when 
I see it' problem; but I'm sure that if someone had 
the time and effort it could be resolved to at least 
*some* satisfaction. 
In that regard, I think the plus and minus approach 
that you've advocated is a good startting point - but 
only a starting point.  The next logical step is: what 
bits do you add and subtract, and in what ways do you 
do it? 
>> Standing back and looking at the overall theme of 
>> this series, I nod my head in satisfaction that Tom 
>> has been able to illicit such a response. 'Kinky' 
>> in this context does not equate to a blanket 
>> description of sex merely because of prudish 
>> cultural taboos; it relates to how different people 
>> have different tastes in their wants and desires.  
>> It's about alternative points of view in one of the 
>> arguably most sensitive and controversial areas of 
>> human society. It makes sense that in a series that 
>> explores 'kinky', that sooner or later the writer 
>> will find a plot that makes the reader feel icky. 
>> And because of the highly idiosyncratic way that 
>> both kinky and icky work for this point of view, 
>> you never know when or from what direction it will 
>> be arriving from. 
> True; and many things that one reader might find kinky 
> (in a titillating way)-- such as Amish Bondage 
> Lesbians-- another might find creepy or sad. 
Or weird, or amusing, or just plain WTF.  The attraction 
or repulsion aspects would be at the extremes, where it 
gets a visceral reaction of desire or repulsion based on 
personal taste.  But it's still 'kinky' in the sense I 
already described: it falls outside the mainstream.  Many 
other people may not have encountered the idea before, 
let alone the practice, and there are any number of ways 
that the human mind can react to something that's strange. 
Saxon Brenton
"These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold 
water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time- 
travel." - Superman, JLA Classified #3 

Find the job of your dreams before someone else does 

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