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, Brennen Hankins:
How long have you been writing?
Professionally, for about a year. As a hobby? For about 13 years. Started off running the editorial page of the school paper in high school, briefly studied journalism afterward, and decided I liked creative writing better. College didn’t pan out, so I went to work oddjobbing for a while before joining the military, and just kept writing as a hobby, until recently.
Which writers inspire you?
Jim Butcher was a big, big inspiration for me. Borrowed “Cold Days” from my stepdad and was instantly hooked; been an ardent fan ever since. His stories carried me through what was probably the darkest moments of my life, and taught me that there’s always hope, always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how bad things get. (Speaking of Superversive writers….).
After that, my brother Aaron turned me on to both John Ringo and Larry Correia, the latter of which not only convinced me to get off the stick and get writing for real (“Write stories, sell books, get paid!”), he inadvertently introduced me to my wife. Which, speaking of, if Larry inadvertently introduced me to her, Brad Torgersen inadvertently convinced her that I was “worth dating”, as she puts it, after a minor incident on his Facebook page. He’s also offered me a little bit of writing advice as well, and we were even published together earlier this year (see below.). So I owe these two men a lot. Brad and Larry are more or less my versions of what Brad would call a “writer dad”, and I’m proud to know them both.
Aside from those four, Louis L’Amour and Elmore Leonard. I have a soft spot for westerns and detective novels.
So, what have you written?
My first professionally written short story, “One Time, One Night on Aldrin Station”, was featured in Space Force: Building A Legacy, an anthology put out by Midland Scribes Press in late May of this year. The anthology is centered around stories of the first 100 years of the Space Force, celebrating the birth of the sixth branch of the U.S. military. “One Time, One Night” (yes, that is a Los Lobos reference) focuses on a hapless electrician and NCO stationed at a base on Titan (a moon of Saturn) and his over-eager apprentice. It was a fun story to write, especially given my background.
My second professionally published short story, “Marching Orders”, appeared in Divided We Fall: One Possible Future, a political thriller anthology that Brad Torgersen, Jon Del Arroz, Sarah Hoyt, and several other fine authors also appeared in, from Fourth Box Press. “Marching Orders” dealt with the commander of a small installation in a largely rural area, that was pushed between his oath of service and the orders sent down to him from on high. It was a little scary to write, especially as some of the things that we wrote about in this anthology ended up happening in real life (prime example: As a throwaway gag in my story, the protagonist is completely dumbfounded that the Air Force eliminated fitness assessments, because they were viewed as “fat shaming”. Today, I just found out that the Air Force is doing away with waist measurements as a component of that assessment, and they’re planning on overhauling the rest of the test. Life imitates art!) Both Divided We Fall and Space Force: Building The Legacy are both available in print and ebook format on Amazon.
Aside from my professionally written works, I am also a moderator for an unofficial Monster Hunter International fanfic group on Facebook, known as “Monster Hunter: Misfits”. We have a small collection of collaborative stories that are outside the canon of the main storyline, mostly involving original characters. We’ve been working on reorganizing our story catalog from Facebook post format to Google Doc format, to make them easier to find and read through. I got about half of the groups’ stories compiled, and hope to have the rest done by next spring.
What draws you to Superversive writing?
I thought about this one for awhile, and the answer came to me while rewatching a favorite movie of mine with my wife last night: Rio Bravo.
The short answer is, the message that it sends to me, both as an author and a reader. The long answer is, well, long.
First, a premier of what Superversive means, as explained to me by J.J. Griffing and several other fine people. A lot of the stories coming out in print and video media today are subversive: stories meant to “change the norm”. They do this by framing things in a radically different light. There is no black and white morality in subversive stories; only shades of grey. These stories often carry messages within them, and those messages tend to push a perception on the reader meant to change their way of thinking. Superversive writing, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. In short, subversive writing seeks to tear down, superversive seeks to build up.
Back to the movie.
There are three overarching plots to Rio Bravo: the beleaguered men of the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office, fighting off Nathan Burdette’s men until the marshal can come get Joe, their prisoner; a short love interest between John Wayne and Angie Dickenson’s characters, and the redemption of Dude (played by Dean Martin), a heartbroken alcoholic, former deputy, and friend of John T. Chance (John Wayne), who fights off his addiction to alcohol and slowly gets his life back together. The part I’m focusing on is that third plot. Here, you have a man that’s broken down, resorting to digging dollars out of spittoons to feed his alcohol habit. The main plot, in fact, kicks off when Joe throws a dollar in the spittoon for Dude to grab. But, between his steadily climbing determination to pull himself off the ground and the help of his loyal friend John T., he loses the shakes and by the end of the movie, has completely cleaned himself up and becomes a whole person again. It’s a very uplifting message, a very positive, very hopeful message, and one that, in my mind, meets the definition of being Superversive. It tells me that no matter how far down you get, nobody is beyond redemption.
Then there’s the jail scene, where they’re singing together. First, the cinematic history: You have three different generations of actor/singers here: You have Ricky Nelson, a young up-and-comer at the time; Dean Martin, who was right in the height of his prime, and Walter Brennan, who was in the twilight of a very accomplished and distinguished career. Three generations, coming together like that and performing together, it just makes one smile thinking about it.
Second, the hopeless situation: The sheriff and three deputies are holed up inside the jail, while Burdette’s men surround the whole town. The battle is so lopsided, it’s not even funny. Burdette even hires a mariachi band to play a Spanish death march, “just like Santa Ana did those boys at the Alamo,” as Ricky Nelson’s character puts it. One would expect everyone in that jail to be scared out of their wits. But here they are, singing folk songs, laughing, and absolutely refusing to let the seriousness of the situation kill their morale, as if to say, “Hey, Burdette, you might win the battle, but you’ll never kill our morale.”
If that doesn’t meet the definition of being superversive, I don’t know what does. And if those men can remain jubilant in the face of absolute desperation, then so can I. That’s what superversive writing does for me.
What are you working on at the minute?
Today, I found out that another short story I wrote back in September for the Unmasked anthology, edited by Kevin J. Anderson and his team of student editors at Western Colorado University, was just accepted for publication. This excites me, especially because the main character of that story is a character I’ve had floating around in my head since early 2016, but hadn’t ever been able to write a complete story for. So the fact that I’m able to finally bring this character to life really makes me happy. That story, “Shot in the Dark”, will be released along with the rest of the Unmasked anthology in June 2021. A full-length novel, involving the same character, is also in the works, though I do not have a completion date planned at this time. I also have another novel in the works involving transport drivers in space (Space truckers, if you will, though in the story, they’re known as Wyrm drivers), and looking forward to getting htat out the door.
Aside from that, I’ve been collaborating on another Misfits story with the rest of the gang. Things are kind of slow on that end, due to the holidays and whatnot, but the story has been coming up in increments within the group. And I’ve been keeping an eye out for more anthologies to jump into as well.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I love reading. As previously mentioned, I am a big fan of Jim Butcher, John Ringo, Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, Elmore Leonard and Louis L’Amour. I’ve also gotten into the works of Jim Curtis (His Tales From the Supper Table anthology, April Fools!, and Rimworld series are fantastic!), Sarah Hoyt, easing my way into Brandon Sanderson, have roared through the catalog of Richard Kadrey, and and just begun dipping my toes into David Weber’s Honorverse.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
For my official works (and night photography photos, which I have been slow to upload), can be found at my website, www.oldhatnation.com, as well as my Amazon author’s page. For the MHI fanfic, you can read them for free within the group “Monster Hunter Misfits” on Facebook and MeWe (just remember to answer the questions three!!!). And as always, you can always find me on Facebook.
Thanks for sharing Brennen. Be sure to check out Brennen’s books and be sure to check back next Sunday for our next chat with a Superversive author.