Great stories aren't subversive

When the writers try to critique everything, they're only telling bad stories

Great stories aren't subversive
The subversive, by its very nature, seeks to tear down that which has been built up over the years, decades, and centuries. We see it at work whenever we watch the news on TV or on the ‘Net.

We even see it in the realms of fiction within the last decade. Long established characters and franchises with followings created over decades, are being “re-imagined.” The alterations tearing down what had been built up and what has emerged from the rubble is hardly recognizable.

- Richard Paolinelli

You know what they say to writers?

"Show, don't tell."

That means that you, if you're a writer, want to paint a picture for the reader.

Let them experience the scene through the character's five senses, opinions, judgments, beliefs, and emotions.

For the reader, showing through description draws them into your created world.

You want the reader to experience the first rays of a warming sunrise on a morning where the wind bites your nose and burns your lungs.

The description creates immersion. Writing "The sun rose and it was cold" doesn't have the same hit, does it?

It's the same in the movies.

Many a horror film can carry suspense and a real hint of terror... right up to the moment when you see the monster.

What is implied by the monster is always more terrifying than the thing itself. The reader's own imagination can create demons worse than any artist.

Masters of horror and suspense stories understand this. They use the power of "Show, don't tell."

But not today's pop culture entertainment. Today we're going to tell the hell out of you.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus, which Your Host considers an otherwise satisfying (if flawed) movie, single-handedly wrecked the cosmic horror of the original Alien.

Discovering the long-dead "Space Jockey" in the crashed ship remains one of the most powerful and chilling scenes in the 1979 original.

We never get any idea of who or what this thing was. What's this weird-looking elephant thing doing there? Why is it plugged into a massive telescope thing? How long has it been there? The dialogue hints that it's been there long enough to fossilize.

The image works because it raises more questions than it answers. Since the Space Jockey is incidental to the main plot of the film, as the crew is far more interested in surviving a rampaging kill-monster, the audience leaves the film with nothing but a mystery.

That's weird fiction at its best.

But, no, wait. Actually that horrific cosmic mystery was a 9 foot tall albino bodybuilder in a flight suit. The ship's only been there maybe 2000 years. We've got a prequel to explain it all for you.

It's bad storytelling, yes. But let's call back to Richard Paolinelli's quote at the opening of this post.

This tendency to explain everything, to get rid of the showing and replace it with all the telling they can shove down our throats, doesn't stop at the ruination of storytelling.

Seeing the man in the rubber suit is the beginning of a subversive project. The "telling" explanations aren't there because the writers and directors and producers think the audiences are dumber.

Telling rather than showing opens the door to subversion.

Once you bring all the background assumptions into the light, you can start to question them.

Criticism isn't just about stuffy art critics writing mean-spirited sarcastic reviews.

It means challenging your most basic assumptions about how the world works.

The lack of creative energies in Hollywood and other once-fertile sectors of art and culture maybe isn't about laziness.

It's also a creeping sense of nihilism. Nothing has any meaning, we're going to critique it all, and then we'll rebuild it as we see fit.

They can try.

The only problem is that subversive art usually isn't entertaining. It's often humorless, unsatisfying, and insulting the reader with heavy-handed moralizing.

Burroughs, Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith may be "problematic", if you buy into that scam of language, but they knew how to tell a fun, exciting, entertaining, page-turning story.

I'd rather have a tale of Conan hacking a space-squid to bits than another boring sanitized lecture told by humorless drones with an agenda.

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