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by John Kendall Hawkins
Hold tight, wait 'til the party's overHold tight, we're in for nasty weatherThere has, got to be a wayBurning down the house-Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House" (1983)
Back in October 2018, more than a few people were terrified when they learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had given President Trump a microphone allowing him to broadcast messages to the nation -- against their will. Given the reputation of his grabby hands, which seem to have a mind of their own in this subspecies type, such an imminent domination was terrifying to many.
The Message was part of FEMA's National Wireless Emergency Alert System. Kind of an update to the old Emergency Broadcast System alerts that the Man thrust upon us back in the 50s and 60s, in preparation for anticipated nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Russians. (Now in our 75th year of tense confrontation.) Remember how quickly we had to get into 50s-style lockdown mode under our desks? We grew up to be the old geezer conspiracy theorists you keep hearing about. Howya doin?
Some feared Trump would p*ssy-grab their ear drums and never stop pounding on their tense typani. But it went off without a hitch, a short, scripted presidential message nobody remembers (onnacounta it was probably a hypnotic suggestion) and back to what passes as normal these days in the US of A. But what if he starts text-messaging us -- against our wills -- like a broken bad bluebird escaped from his supermax tweeter cage? Or he rants directly at us that he'll never leave. Just the other day he was talking 'third term.' You could hear my gulp in Mexico.
That's reality there. In Welcome to Dystopia: 45 Visions of What Lies Ahead edited by Gordon Van Gelder, a thought-locust plague of what-if scenarios is released from the tortured imaginations of Lefty sci-fi writers sharing one unified vision: What if Trump doesn't leave in November?
Well, Hell breaks loose. In a nutshell.
In his introduction Gelder describes the book thusly: "The stories gathered here are angry, bold, snarky, defiant, nervous, and satiric. They reflect a lot of anxiety." Van Gelder dedicated the collection to Harlan Ellison and Octavia Butler, "both so good at envisioning things so bad." And that's about right. And also, writing sci-fi is what Lefties do when they don't want to be called conspiracy theorists. Welcome to Dystopia is a perfect book to have on your commuter ride home, to switch your train of thought, before your bar car is derailed in a terrible tangled tumble requiring State investigations by nincompoops. With your luck, you'll survive to tell about it.
The tales in Welcome to Dystopia represent a parallax view of the same event, from the perspectives of men, women, and the multicultured. In the opening story, "Sneakers," two male Canadians attempt to cross the border into the US to buy quality sneakers cheaply, only to be detained for questioning, for no other reason than the fascist border guard's in love with Trump's immigration vision so much that it eludes him that the men aren't trying to immigrate. Their exchange begins:
"What's the problem-no sneakers in Canada?"
"More bang for your buck in the States. Especially now, the crazy tariffs and all"
"Crazy? What do you mean by 'crazy'?"
And they're off: two Canadians, one named Jordan ("That's an Arab name, right?"), off to a dystopian end at the frisking hands of a border guard with a fourth grade education. "Do you like to run?"
On the South Side, another story, "Walls," by Paul Witcover, rings us through the narrative arc of forced labor marches to the southern border to build the Great Wall. "One thing about this president: he kept his promises," snarks one character. And soon after, as if emulating China, Trump announced that "the Virtual Eminent Domain Act had passed, giving the president control over the Internet." Sounds like our Google Dragonfly come home to roost.
Men tell stories of new laws requiring statue replacements, under a royal Trump regime. In "Statue of Limitations," a pair of men go around Manhattan taking down old statues and erecting new ones, as they exchange deconstructionist justifications. When a Jackie Gleason Honeymooners statue is taken down, Sal explains to his pal Bobby that the Honeymooners are
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