For those of you just joining this series, MAGA 2020 & Beyond is an anthology of short stories put out in 2017 by right-wing science fiction publisher Superversive Press. The book was based on the premise that Trump was destined to win the 2020 election, and the assembled authors all predicted the glorious spectacle of an America made great again. Part 1 saw the border wall defended by a giant robot and zombie voters purged; part 2 saw Hillary on trial and the Musk family on Mars; now, here’s part 3.
One thing I’d like to mention before going on is that not only did the anthology fail to predict the actual result of the 2020, it failed to in any way predict the MAGA narrative of how the 2020 election panned out.
The Trumpist interpretation of the past months is bursting with dramatic potential: the dastardly Democrats win an election by cheating, forcing the POTUS into the role of underdog hero; a string of shock betrayals take place, up to and including Trump’s own vice president; the Capitol is stormed by a rag-tag band of patriotic rebels and/or Antifa false-flaggers; and the day may yet be saved by Trump pulling a rabbit out of his hat and remaining president/Trump being elected in 2024/one of Trump’s family members being elected in 2024 or later (delete where applicable). Any one of these elements would have made a juicy premise for a story, yet none of them turn up in MAGA 2020 & Beyond (well, except the one about the Trump family winning elections after 2020). Instead, the book generally relies on the assumption that the Donald will have plain sailing throughout his administration.
This points to a larger issue with the anthology, from a formalistic perspective: the bulk of these stories take place after Trump’s victories have been won, and so lack conflict. The first story has Barron Trump piloting a robot against a giant mutant Kim Jong-Un, yes, but it’s set in a future where the POTUS has already subdued North Korea and achieved world peace and even has God on his side (the battle being decided by divine intervention). The second story is about soldiers facing a lone terrorist – after the regime that the terrorist represents has already crumbled. The anthology’s general unwillingness to portray Trump and his avatars as anything other than unstoppable really does get monotonous after a while – even Superman runs into Kryptonite every now and again.
Having said that, a few of the stories do manage to reconcile the can’t-stump-the-Trump ethos with actual conflict. They do so by locating their action entirely within the darkest depths of the beast’s belly, where not even 45’s light has yet penetrated: liberal-ruled hellscapes like Hollywood and Canada…
“An ‘Out’-standing Chanukah” by Marina Fontaine
In this story, set shortly after Trump’s re-election, we’re told that a lot of people are refusing to accept the results and at least one state is threatening to secede (a pretty accurate projection save for one detail, then). The main character is a student who wants to come out to his family, and seeks advice from an uncle who came out over the family Chanukah with his partner. The twist revelation is that the characters aren’t coming out as gay – they’re coming out as Trump supporters. This might have been a surprise twist were it not for the fact that the story is part of an anthology devoted specifically to Trump and his supporters.
“The Man in the Bubble” by Elaine Arias
The prrotagonist of this story is an obnoxious Hollywood liberal who hates Trump but has trouble articulating his reasons for disliking the president beyond “orange man bad” quips. The central joke is that he hired a Hispanic assistant who he believed to be an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, only for her to turn out to be a New York born-and-bred Trump supporter.
The liberal (an immigrant himself, although it’s not clear where from – he mentions Nigel Farage, so Britain maybe?) is portrayed as a creepy pervert who complains that his 14-year-old daughter isn’t having sex like a normal kid her age. Meanwhile, the Republican assistant – intended to be the more well-rounded character – turns out to be the author’s soapbox for a rant about the evils of the Obama era.
Some of the story’s jokes left me bewildered: the narrator brags about making a manga adaption without knowing what manga is, and later objects to his daughter listening to Slayer and Kid Rock instead of Wagner. I must admit, I haven’t come across the “liberals like Wagner and don’t know what manga is” stereotype before, so points for originality there. If you’re wondering about predictive content, this one’s set during the 2020 elections; the Democratic candidate is Elizabeth Warren, who’s promised tax cuts for Hollywood professionals.
“Free Falling” by Justin Robinson
A young black man sees an elderly white woman drop a purse, and helps out by picking it up for her. Then a policeman walks past, and the black man is scared that the racial optics of the situation will lead to trouble. Twist: it’s not the black dude who provokes the cop’s ire – it’s the white woman who let him help her, on the grounds that that it’s “a serious offence to exploit minority persons for their labour.”
The story turns out to be set in a future when Ontario has become a socialist dystopia. The protagonist’s food business was ruined because the government drove up the price of milk (to support dairy farmers) and then raised the minimum wage (because people couldn’t afford milk). Meanwhile, to vanquish body-shaming, the authorities limit citizens’ access to fitness facilities. The main character gets around this by using multiple fake IDs so that he can obtain illicit hours at the swimming pool – and even then he has to wear a body-covering one-piece suit as part of the measures against body-shaming. Oh yeah, and all websites hosted outside Ontario are blocked to residents.
Finally exhausted by this brutal regime, the story’s hero escapes Ontario via the Niagara Falls and becomes an undocumented immigrant in the US of A (just as well they didn’t build a border wall on the north, then). All in all, “Free Falling” is further proof that dystopia is the easiest form of social commentary.
I imagine everyone’s had enough for one day, so let’s take a break. Part 4 will have another dystopian Canada! And another giant robot, too!