I’ve been working on the horror chapter of my book Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers. Something I want to talk about there is that multiple small-press horror outlets have promoted themselves as anti-SJW (in a let’s-freak-the-moral-guardians way, rather than a let’s-all-read-Mike-Cernovich way) but, as far as I can see, none of them overlap with the Sad Puppies campaign or its various spin-offs and satellites.
One of the case studies I’ve chosen is the digital horror magazine Deadman’s Tome. Its editor, Jesse Dedman, put out a video called Horror and PC SJW Culture, which is about what you’d expect from a video called Horror and PC SJW Culture. I imagine that the sentiments expressed there would go down well in the Puppysphere, but some of the themed issues of Deadman’s Tome might not be so well-received: the “He’s Risen” issue promises “zombie Jesus eating church goers, baby Jesus pegging a priest, a showdown between Jesus and Moses and more” while the cover of the “Trumpocalypse” issue features a Gentileschi homage depicting the decapitation of Donald Trump (months before the Kathy Griffin photoshoot, no less!) Given the Puppy campaigns’ association with the religious right, it is questionable whether they would embrace such subject matter.
And while following the Deadman’s Tome trail on Amazon, I found that there had, in fact, been a bit of a dust-up along these lines.
First, I came across another anthology called Trumpocalypse, unrelated to Deadman’s Tome: this publication was put out by a London-based outfit called Horrified Press. I looked at Horrified’s website and noticed a list of upcoming anthologies; amongst these is an entry reading, simply, “TRUMPTOPIA – CANCELLED”.
So, Horrified’s Trumpocalypse was to have had a sister title named Trumptopia. But what happened to this project? Well, it turns out that one of the aborted anthology’s contributors was to have been Declan Finn, author of Sad Puppies Bite Back, and he answers this question on his blog:
Speaking of short stories and anthologies, remember the Trumptopia short story collection? It was an idea where they would be a collection of short stories about how amazingly awesome Trump is — genres of SF, fantasy, etc. The same company had already done a “Trumpocalypse” collection, so the call for open submissions pitched this as the opposite end of the spectrum.
…. And then the cover had Trump looking in a cabinet, at his collection of heads in jars.
There was a very, very quick writer revolt. And by quick it started on … Wednesday. By the time I had heard about it on Thursday night, it was well under way. There was a conversation about changing the cover, and it looked like there would be a second cover. I thought the whole thing would blow over by Monday.
By Saturday, it was already
- Cancelled by the publisher (he must have loved that cover)
- Got another publisher and a new title
- Had a new cover already drafted by … wait for it … Dawn Witzke.
Well, that escalated quickly.
So, if Finn’s version of events is to believed, Horrified Press cancelled Trumptopia because some of the contributors objected to a cover illustration depicting Donald Trump alongside severed heads in jars. Whether this was some sort of Futurama reference or an attempt to portray Trump as a head-collecting serial killer is unclear from Finn’s description (Personally, given that Trump himself has already been decapitated in visual media multiple times, I say it’s only fair that we get to see him indulging his inner Robespierre for a change. But hey, that’s just me.)
Finn also notes that Trumptopia will, after a change of title, be going ahead at a new publisher. In a subsequent post he reveals that this is Superversive Press, who have rebranded the book Trump Utopia. The cover art has yet to be unveiled, but it will presumably contain no reference to decapitation.
I would have loved to have been a fly on a wall during this whole dispute. My impression as an outside observer is that Horrified Press, a British publisher, was approaching the theme of Trumptopia with a large degree of ironic detachment, and didn’t count on getting contributions from Trump-supporters of a more sincere stripe — so sincere as to object to the rather irreverent portrayal of the Commander in Chief being as a dude who collects severed heads in jars.
Ah, the genre small press. Never change.
Update: Turns out there’s a thread about this at the Horrified Press Facebook page. The book’s publisher describes the offensive cover as “a Hitchcock-like shadow of Trump peering into a cupboard and surveying the heads of his political enemies” and, speaking of the backlash, comments that “the salt levels were so high over this cover that my doctor had to give me a cardiac examination”. He also copy pastes the internal discussion with the authors (amongst them Superversive’s Marina Fontaine).
Later on, he gets into an argument with Dawn Witzke about the Superversive edition: “It wasn’t your project to begin with, Dawn… ‘Trump Utopia’? How about coming up with an original concept, instead of stealing one from a publisher? Doesn’t say much for your integrity does it! I dare say other publishers might frown upon this when you go knocking on their door in the future…”
Speaking of, Superversive has officially announced its Trumptopia – which will, in fact, keep the original title. The draft cover has Trump riding a unicorn, so I guess everyone’s happy.