Welcome to this week’s Superversive Sunday Spotlight. Every week we will chat with a Superversive author that you really should be reading.
This week we welcome Superversive author, J.J. Griffing:
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been making up stories since I was three, probably: I recall “talking myself to sleep” as my folks called it, making up stories about my toys and I all going on adventures. I read early, and often late, and was always making up narratives for the games I played with my brothers or with my toys. In third grade I filled a sketchbook with an entire zoology of fantastic chimerae I’d invented for the “West Pole,” where they were all waiting to be discovered. The least said about my first attempts at writing, the better, but I started composing stories in earnest in about eighth grade. I took a Creative Writing class in tenth grade and that’s when I first got real audience response that I’d say confirmed my passion and desire to really be a writer. So around three-fifths of my life so far.
Which writers inspire you?
As a little boy, my parents always had a full bookshelf, and Dad always read the Bible to us before bed. When we were very little (I was the second of four kids), he’d read storybooks to us sometimes before the Bible reading, and I believe I learned to read at age four in order to read those books myself: C. S. Lewis’ Narnia and Space Trilogy, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Scott’s Ivanho, the Hardy Boys book The Shore Road Mystery, Twain’s Tom Sawyer, London’s Call of the Wild, and missionary biographies like Bruchko, God’s Smuggler, and Lords of the Earth.
As I got older and began to read on my own, I discovered Kipling, Hawthorne, Poe, and Tennyson, Tolkien, and T. S. Eliot, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, and hundreds of others. Some I only started on in college or after, like Edgar Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett, and Walker Percy. But I think at the root of all my stories is the quest for Narnia, the Fields of Arbol, Torquelstone Castle and the Treasure Island.
So, what have you written?
Well, it depends on how far back you want to go. In fourth grade, I wrote a … that’s best forgotten, and in eighth I burned a handwritten manuscript of a coming-of-age story I’d been writing, and somewhere at the house I’ve got a notebook from high-school with a tale I never finished, and… A couple of the pieces on my blog were actually written for—or started in—that sophomore writing class I mentioned.
In college, I majored in English because I wanted to read good books and I wanted to write. So over the four years of my undergrad degree, I composed a Gordian fantasy that was supposed to be the first of a trilogy about a planetary “Ætlantis,” which I published in 2007 through a POD vanity press. Frankly, the book was lousy as written, and I never did finish the trilogy it was assigned to. Then life and family got in the way a bit, and I didn’t write much of anything for a number of years. I submitted one piece to Orson Card’s IGMS about 2012 and was declined, but the itch to write, and to keep writing and creating worlds, was always there.
The first piece I actually sold to a publisher was the short story Under a Wayward Sun in Superversive Press’ Planetary: Earth anthology in 2018 (recently re-released by Tuscany Bay). It’s no spoiler to say I took the title from a certain Kansas song. After that I got a short piece from my college days into Impossible Hope, a GoFundMe charity anthology, and sold the story IGMS rejected to Tuscany Bay for Planetary: Luna: it’s called The Night My Father Shot the Werewolf. And my non-winning entry for Baen’s 2019 Fantasy Short Story competition, a piece called God Save the King, will appear in Planetary: Sol.
What draws you to Superversive writing?
I’ve always been a “superversive” writer, you might say. Early on, as I mentioned, I was flooded with great stories of real heroes in credible crises and facing genuine problems. I was also soaked in the Bible’s stories and grew up in a Bible-belt evangelical subculture, and saw almost from the start the disjunct between “Christian” books and good books, even when I couldn’t put my finger on it. The Ætlantis story was begun in part as an answer to the chalk-and-saccharine formula and self-assured but ham-fisted eschatology of the Left Behind stories that were The Big Thing at the time. If our God is the perfect Creator and we’re here in His image, then why the hell couldn’t “His people” create anything worth seeing the light of day? When I wrote my book during college—and even in my HS stories—I tried to avoid the churchy clichés and the cellophane-wrapped Altar Call moments that so annoyed me in books like Left Behind and Frank Peretti’s Darkness books and the like. The purpose of a fiction book isn’t to Lead-Me-To-Jesus, nor to remind me that Thou Shalt Not Steal. The purpose is to inspire: either awe, or grief, or horror, or triumph, or courage, or reflection, or even mirth, and to inspire it rightly as a response to right stimuli of the intent. And I saw that “Christian Books” were an intellectual and marketing ghetto, written by and for the same small set that judged book quality by the number of sex scenes and cuss words, and whether the Good Guys are Christians (or Get-Saved) or not. And if I marketed my book as “Christian Fiction,” that’s the only audience that would notice it at all, and the rubric on which it would be judged.
I discovered the Superversive Movement, per se, by means of Facebook associations with more prolific fellow writers like Lars Walker, Brad Torgersen, and Sarah Hoyt, and their associations with John C. Wright’s blog and books. I was eager to read new material at the time and to learn from more seasoned writers, but was long-since cynical of the dominant PC zeitgeist of writers like Kim Stanley Robinson and John Scalzi. So when I found Wright’s Everness books, I knew good books and good stories were no longer mutually excluded, and when I discovered that he and his wife were starting “a movement” to tell good stories well, I quickly sought out the Calls For Submissions, also known as Where-Do-I-Sign-Up?
What are you working on at the minute?
I just submitted an entry for Planetary: Saturn that I wrote as a prequel to Wayward Sun, but the prequel ran to more than double the length of the first story. I’ve got a novel fragment in the works that prequels Wayward Sun from another angle, and a sequel (badly needing re-done) to God Save the King. One day I intend to re-structure the Ætlantis story as well, maybe finish its trilogy, and so forth, but that’s not so much back-burnered as Tupperwared, in the back of the freezer, until I get around to returning it to the stove at all.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
You mean aside from those I’ve already mentioned? Or out of that list? I’d have to say that C. S. Lewis will likely always be in the top five, but along with him Tolkien, Kipling, Stevenson, and either T. S. Eliot or Flannery O’Connor. There’s something in their stories and their use of language that brings me back not only to read another of their stories but to re-read those I’ve already come to know and love.
Of contemporary writers, there are a few whom I’d read eagerly and with little hesitation: much of David Weber’s corpus, or Timothy Zahn’s, or Declan Finn’s. Orson Scott Card’s books catch my attention, and so do those by Larry Correia, Taylor Anderson, and Kevin J. Anderson, but of all those, only certain of the Ender’s Game books (Card), or the War God’s Own series (Weber), or perhaps Zahn’s Thrawn and Quadrail stories, stand out as re-readable.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Several of my back-catalogue of stories, including a couple that were never more than fan-fiction from message boards, are on my blog at https://subcreated-worlds.com/, along with various samples of my artwork and a few essays I’ve written on different topics.
Thanks for sharing J.J.. Be sure to check out J.J.’s books and be sure to check back next Sunday for our next chat with a Superversive author.