Finally, we’re here. After the first, second, third, fourth, fifth (deep breath) sixth and seventh posts in this series, I’m wrapping up my deep-dive into MAGA 2020 & Beyond, an anthology put out in 2017 by right-wing publisher Superversive Press. So, having covered the main course, here are the dregs…
“Where is Barry?” by Richard B. Atkinson III
A group of friends celebrate Trump’s landslide re-election, while their annoying jerk co-worker Barry stays away because he’s a Democrat. That’s it, that’s the plot.
“The Pope’s Vision” by L. Jagi Lamplighter
This story opens with a description of a vision allegedly experienced by Pope Leo XIII:
On October 13 1884, exactly 33 years to the day before the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Pope Leo XIII had finished celebrating a small mass in his private Vatican chapel, when he suddenly stopped cold at the foot of the altar beneath the stained-glass skylight. For ten minutes, the pontiff stood as if in a trance, his face ashen. Waking with a start, he set off for his office. Once there, he wrote a prayer to St. Michael the archangel, which has been said at the end of masses in many Catholic churches ever since […] When his secretary asked him what had paralyzed him and what had sparked the writing of such a prayer, he told the following story:
Turning from the altar after mass, he had seen a vision of demons gathering and tempting men to commit terrible atrocities. As the vision ended, he heard two voices speaking: one kind and the other guttural. The guttural voice, the voice of Satan, boasting in his terrible pride “I can destroy your church.”
The gentle and wise voice of Our Lord: “Can you?”
Satan: “But I need more time and more power,”
My Lord: “How much time? How much power?”
Satan: “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will devote themselves to my service.
My Lord: “I grant you the time and the power. Do with them as you will.”
Lamplighter’s rendition of this (probably apocryphal) event is closely paraphrased from a version published in various other sources – this webpage, to name one example. Lamplighter then provides her own sequel to the narrative.
On October 13 2020, the present Pope describes having a similar experience, hearing the voices of God and Satan. This time, the Devil describes his recent successes: tricking humanity into disbelieving his existence; encouraging abortion; promoting junk food, alcohol and tobacco; leading women to disobey their husbands; and founding the transgender movement. Yet he failed: “It was all mine, I was winning – and I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that meddling Trump!”
“The Pope’s Vision” is the last work of fiction in the anthology, making the above line the book’s last piece of dialogue. Of course, the past few months have shown us that, in reality, that meddling Trump was no match for the forces of Satan, and our father below now reigns supreme over a world of doughnuts and trannies.
In addition to its stories, MAGA 2020 & Beyond has a few non-fiction pieces. The first is a foreword by Milo Yiannopoulos; I summarised this at the start of my series, but having taken a close look at all of the stories I’d like to revisit it.
Yiannopoulos’ main thesis is that left-wing SF/F authors once had imagination, but have since lost it. As an example of an imaginative left-wing author who today’s writers can’t match, he cites George Orwell. This is a blatant own-goal: Orwell’s work still stands because it is still relevant. Animal Farm was written specifically as a satire of Stalin, but it’s themes can be applied to just about any other “meet the new boss” situation. In bringing up Orwell, Yiannopoulos implies that the stories in MAGA 2020 & Beyond reach the same standard – and quite clearly, they don’t.
There’s nothing in this anthology that’ll age as well as Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four. A story that ends with Satan saying “I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that meddling Trump” was destined to end up as a laughing-stock in a few years’ time (and some would say I’m being chronologically over-generous there). By praising timeless speculative fiction, with insights that remain valid decades after publication, Yiannopoulos was merely underlining everything that MAGA 2020 & Beyond isn’t.
Now, on to the articles described by Yiannopoulos as “essays from some of the finest writers in the new right”…
“Father Cincinnatus” by Ivan Throne
In this essay, the author argues that different presidents are different types of patriarch. Obama was a daddy, coddling and infantilising. Bush Jr was a dad, soft and pallish. But Trump – now, Trump, he’s a proper father.
I wondered where Biden might fit into this framework – but then I checked his Twitter profile, where he calls himself a “pop”. Well, that answers that question.
“On Greatness” by Alfred Genesson
This is primarily a potted biography of Alfred the Great, making some tenuous connections between the redoubtable monarch and Trump. The author credits Ben Merkle’s book The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great as his primary source, and truth be told, you’re probably better off reading that.
“The Downfall of Delusional America” by John C. Wright
Well, there’s a title that’s taken on something of a double-meaning. Well, anyway, the essay posits that there are two Americas: the rational America of Christianity and free markets, and the delusional America of political correctness (“the enemy is anyone who calls anyone a racist for any reason”) and intersectionalism. The latter, which considers America “the only evil in the world” and hates Trump for being a self-made man, controls the educational system, the entertainment industry and the federal government.
However, Wright argues, all of this can be brought down if the press is destroyed – and Trump has already started the job by repeatedly saying “fake news”. As per usual for Wright, this essay makes heavy use of metaphor: modern America is compared variously to a man committing suicide, a scene from A Wrinkle in Time, and a boat having holes drilled in it by the crew. In the last of these cases Wright informs us that the drill being used is the federal government, and then immediately portrays the federal government as a captive beast having its chains unbroken – a beast with “the jaws of Caesar”, no less. Tone down the metaphors and the essay would probably be about a third of its length.
Afterword: “Moral Rights” by Monalisa Foster
In her afterword, Monalisa Foster goes over the history of MAGA 2020 & Beyond. As I recapped here, the book started out as a volume from Horrified Press called Trumptopia, but a number of contributors walked out in protest over a cover illustration showing Trump keeping the severed heads of his enemies in jars. Consequently, they re-started the project on their own terms at Superversive Press. Foster, one of the authors who walked out, outlines her objection:
Moral rights allow us to say, no, we will not allow the distortion of our work. While some of our works contained dystopian elements, and even elements some might call horror, none of our stories were about severed heads in jars. Moral rights allow us to say, no, we will not allow for the outright mutilation of our work. What else would you call taking our positive, futuristic perspectives, and turning them into a horror show where Trump’s shadowy figure admires his collection of severed heads?
Personally, had I been in Foster’s shoes I would’ve responded to the cover art by duly adding severed heads in jars to my story. But hey, that’s me.
During the course of her afterword, Foster mentions being labelled “salty” by the original publisher over her objections to the cover, something she uses as a jumping-off point for the historical importance of salt. As it happens, the official Horrified Press Facebook account made the conversation in question public; so, to preserve this piece of small-press history, here’s the full exchange: