Book Review: To Be Men

Metier, Sirius, and Richard Paolinelli, eds. To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity. (Superversive Press, 2018) Kindle Edition.

Back in 2012-2013, Sarah A. Hoyt wrote two essays/blog posts about the problem of too much anti-human, anti-fun “grey goo” fiction being foisted on readers. This led to the idea of “human wave” fiction. From there, John C. Wright and others developed the idea of Superversive Fiction, the kind of story that elevates the human spirit and (90% of the time) contains overtly Christian elements*. Since indie publishing was also starting to flourish, this led to the creation of a loose group of writers who became associated with the Superversive idea, and the stories in this collection are part of that.

There are seventeen stories, ranging from police procedural to fantasy to military fiction to sci-fi. All of them are about, well, men being men and doing guy things, be it solving crimes (with the help of a wise-@ss dragon detective), stopping a casino robbery (one of my favorite stories in the book), teaching sheltered teens to be men and women, rising to duty, standing up for team-mates, overcoming the wolves of their natures (literally in one case), and making sacrifices to protect a child and wife. All are fairly short, fun reads. There is also an introduction about why the collection came about, and an essay about the problem of society’s degrading of traditional masculinity.

There was not a story that I did not like, although two of the military fiction works were not exactly suitable for young readers (language, insults about things military guys insult each other about). The story about the casino security boss and his team who borrow from movies to prevent trouble is one of the better ones, because it is more about wits and sacrifice than force. All the stories are positive and hopeful, even if they go dark places on occasion. So does life. The story “Cooper” was a bit too eerily prescient about a dystopian-leaning future in some ways. I got that “skin crawling on the back of my neck” feeling because it wasn’t as overtly over-the-top “what if current trends continue” as one of the police stories was.

Authors include “His Tankness” T. L. Knighton, Jon del Arroz, C. J. Brightly, Julie Frost, Michael Herbert, and others. The Sherlock Holmes story was very well done and deals delicately with a rough topic. I fully admit to giggling at Tom Knighton’s story, because as soon as I started reading it, I knew exactly which award-winning fiction** he was riffing off of . . . and then went in a totally different direction with it.

The down side is that the e-book seems to be out of print, and Amazon only lists the collection as available used. I suspect the rights reverted to the individual authors and the book may be out of print. Which is too bad, and I hope it is made available again. I highly recommend it for teenaged guys, college-age guys, (girls too, for that matter), and anyone looking for clean stories about courage, justice, honor, and bravery. I agree with the reviewer on Amazon that because of the language in two of the military stories, it’s probably not suitable for younger teens (say, 15 and younger, unless the teen is very mature and his or her parents are willing to have some discussions about “why are the other guys saying that.”)

*I’ve seen some with Jewish elements as well, but most are Christian.

**That short story has spawned more “oh good grief, that’s not really sci-fi. Let’s see what would happen if I filed the numbers off and . . .” stories than almost any other in recent memory. All I’ll say is “T. Rex and bar-fight.”


2 thoughts on “Book Review: To Be Men

  1. I read “Cooper” as a stand-alone short story, and if that is an example of the quality of writing in this collection, BUY IT!
    I liked the story, the characters, and the humanity of the challenges the main character faces.

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