Last week I started a story-by-story review of MAGA 2020 & Beyond, an anthology released back in 2017 by right-wing science fiction publisher Superversive Press. As its title suggests, the aim of the anthology was to predict the glorious future that would arise from the landslide re-election that Trump was destined to win.
Having read the entire thing and experienced an unusual mixture of pain, tedium and hilarity, I felt the burning need to share my emotions with the wider public. Here are three more stories from the timeline of Bizarro Trump…
“M.A.G.A.I.” by Arlan Andrews Jr.
For the first time, the anthology gives a story that actually manages to utilise Trump-era political concerns as anything other than a pinball background. Here, the president obtains advice from a science fiction writer – possibly a self-insertion on the part of Andrews, who has worked at the White House Science Office – and commissions an artificial intelligence (or more accurately, a developing intelligence) called Gepetto to monitor international crime.
One programmer, a former left-wing activist who accepted a job working on Gepetto’s facial algorithms, accidentally leaves the text “Make America Great Again” in the wrong place when coding, turning it from an onscreen message to a command. And so, Gepetto sets about making America great again – according to its own understanding of the world.
The DI’s first act is to electronically sabotage the nuclear capabilities of hostile states. Then, after deducing that any weapon in any foreign country could potentially be put to hostile use, it sabotages the manufacture and storage of all weapons in all countries outside the US. Next, it eliminates America’s foreign debts and distributes the freed money to people living in poverty around the globe. Finally, it exposes corruption in Washington DC.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world finds out that it has been disarmed and begins objecting. Gepetto now has a new task: protecting America from potential retaliation. It identifies the 3000-odd people most likely to react violently to the development, and orders drone strikes against them; the story ends just as the protagonist and her co-workers learn who is targeted, a revelation that is left to our imagination.
Say what you will about its subtext, “M.A.G.A.I.” fills its brief as a science fiction story about the Trump administration. But then, Andrews is an old hand at the genre. He’s a science fiction author who was tasked to write a story about Trump; this is in contrast to most of the other contributors, who give the general impression that they’re Trump supporters first and fiction writers second. This highlight in MAGA 2020 & Beyond serves to emphasise just how dire the project as a whole is.
“An Afternoon with Grandpa” by Daniel Humphreys
In the year 2044, a 12-year-old girl discusses an ongoing Mars colonisation project with her grandfather. The project is a privately-funded endeavour carried out by the Musk triplets, something that Gramps disapproves of: he believes that state funding is the way to go (“Star Trek is space exploration done right”). This leads to a conversation about economics: the girl reveals that she gets more pocket money than her younger brother because she does more household chores, an arrangement the grandfather derides as unfair.
In a twist revelation we find that the grandfather is Barack Obama, who begins reminiscing about how the achievements of his administration (regulation, universal healthcare and “forced diversity”) were overturned by Trump. The story then informs us of how Trump built the border wall, cut taxes, abolished universal healthcare, and then declined re-election in 2020, allowing Mike Pence to win two landslide victories in a row. Meanwhile, the influence of the mainstream media faded and various independent news bodies took its place, with the facts sifting to the surface because most Americans are “loathe to follow ideological nonsense.” The final line mentions Obama by name, on the off-chance that any readers had somehow failed to figure out who the grandfather was supposed to be.
This story picks a promising topic – private versus state-funded space exploration – but sets it aside in favour of a rant about Obama and a wish-fulfilment fantasy about the Trump/Pence years. So, what we end up with is a political blog post with a tenuous narrative justification.
“Dolus Magnus: The Great Hoax” by Monalisa Foster
Griffin, a beaten-up man, goes into a bar to drown his sorrows. Through a conversation with his bartender we gradually piece together his life story: Griffin took a doctorate in atmospheric sciences, only to find that his peers were deliberately distorting the data about climate change. Speaking out on this matter led to him being disowned and disinherited by his family and physically attacked by his ex-fiancée. The bartender, who would have been Griffin’s best man, lifts his spirits by pointing out that no matter how hard things get, his skill at engineering will get him a place in the American workforce.
Again, this feels like a blog post that’s been put into the mouths of two characters. Even the connections to the Trump era are tenuous: the bartender briefly mentions “Hillary’s trial” and points to Trump’s re-election (which occurs in the background of the story) as evidence that “the world is waking up” but that’s about it. Still, it gets prescience points for mentioning a lockdown occurring in 2020 – albeit due to riots rather than a pandemic.
I think that’s enough for another day. Join me next week as I visit the dystopian nightmare that is Canada!