Richard Major: ‘Why I wrote the world’s first satirical novel about Trump’

IndieBooks’ Richard Major has been talking to Oxford Today about how he came to pre-write a satirical novel about Trump.

‘…In autumn 2015 my family and I were living in Budapest. On a certain night of November, a night as dark-and-stormy as any gothic yarn might require, I enjoyed an elaborate nightmare. I saw the students of a huge Northern ex-polytechnic invent a mascot, a made-up student. They cobbled its portrait together with Photoshop, using visual scraps from here and there; they registered it for its course, meaning to write its essays, and eventually get it its degree – for at this dreadful place no student need ever speak to a lecturer. Only the creators outdid themselves. They emptied into their concoction all the filth of their own ids: ideas too dire to air on their own Facebook pages. Their mascot became hypnotically awful; became nationally infamous; rose to supreme power; dragged the country into general ruin. – Such was my nightmare. 

In a way it’s easily analysed. As everyone knows, Mary Shelley had a similar dream, which she wrote up over the next three days; this eventually grew into the novel Frankenstein. We had been talking about Frankenstein before I went to bed that night; here was Frankenstein’s creature reimagined. 

The difference is that Mrs Shelley, being an optimistic Liberal, gave her  monster no political role. Its public acts are limited to murders; it didn’t stand for office in the Republic of Geneva. 

But what if it had? There’s a kink in human nature (Augustine called it the mysterium iniquitatis) which draws us toward iniquity, if the iniquity’s sufficiently extreme and bizarre.Frankenstein’s creature was so frightful, so unreal – physically as well as morally – that it would surely have spoken to the basest layer of humanity, always a lively constituency. Wouldn’t it have been enthralling? So enthralling that in the end it would be irresistible? 

Anyway, I jotted down my dream; in pious imitation of Mary Shelley I managed this in three days, between lectures. Then I put it away and pretty much forgot it. 

A year later it came to mind again because history had jumped tracks.  Autumn 2015 is a long, long time ago. The issues in international politics were the Paris climate agreement and intervention in Syria. Even American politics were adult: either Jeb or Rubio was to be the Republican nominee; the debates were about the economy. Donald Trump was low-comic relief at the margin of affairs; I’d scarcely heard of him. 

But now it’s as if Shakespeare’s hunchback had hobbled downstage, dropped himself onto the shoulders of the groundlings, been carried with howls across London Bridge, been deposited in the palace, given the crown. We have slid (suddenly, how suddenly!) into an age of made-up monsters. Satire cannot keep up with the phantasmagoria…’

Intrigued? Luckily begat is still available on our website for the special launch price of just £5.

 

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Sir Reg: “Britain Backs Brexit”

Sir Reginald Futtock, the chair of the Government’s Brexit Advisory Committee and author of “Mr Brexit – the Man with the Plan” (out this September) has asked us to allow him to offer some reassurance to the country at this time of National Confusion.

I’ve been watching the results of the election from my villa in Cancun and feel the time has come to silence some of the more excitable speculation about our plans for Brexit.

Take it from me, this election has been a triumph for Brexit. After all, when you add up all the parties who back leaving the EU, it comes to over 600 MPs. The pro-EU parties have lost seats like a BA computer!

It’s hardly surprising. After all, we’ve been saying how Brexit will liberate our country and bring unparalleled prosperity (for the Few, and perhaps even some of the Many, though that doesn’t matter so much). Fortunately the People had a choice between one leader who was lukewarm for Remaining but has converted to Leaving; and another leader who has believed in Leaving since 1973.

And now the People have spoken, they can clear off again while we get back to the serious business of negotiating our way out of the European octopus and into the arms of the Chinese.

Jiānqiáng wěndìng

 

Explaining May’s…

No sooner had we announced the release of Explaining Cameron’s Catastrophe, our expert analysis of the 2016 European Referendum, did Theresa May announce a 2017 snap election.

So now Cameron’s Catastrophe – which will be launched on 12th July – will have an unexpected, and yet to be named, successor…Will it be the majority May expected? Or did she miscalculate?

Guess today’s result to win a free copy of Explaining Cameron’s Catastrophe•!

Explaining Cameron’s Catastrophe uses expert analyses of hundreds of surveys and focus groups run by Ipsos MORI to make sense of the UK’s 2016 EU referendum: how we got here; the context, content and process; lessons from 1975; what remain did wrong; why the leave campaign was so successful; voters attitudes; and the aftermath. It also explores what the 2016 referendum result, the 2017 general election results and life without the EU, means for the future of the UK.

If you haven’t had enough politics talk today you can read a couple of bits on the election from the authors here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paul-baines/conservative-lead-polling_b_16920440.html

http://talkradio.co.uk/news/election-hinges-how-many-labour-supporters-turn-out-says-ipsos-mori-founder-17060714851

SIR ROBERT WORCESTER is the founder of Ipsos MORI. ROGER MORTIMORE is Director of Political Analysis at Ipsos MORI and Professor of Public Opinion and Political Analysis at King’s College London.  PAUL BAINES is Professor of Political Marketing at Cranfield University and a specialist in the application of marketing in politics. MARK GILL advises governments and organisations around the world on public opinion research.

Pre-order today to receive a £5 discount.

*Winner to be announced 9th June 2017. One chosen at random from correct guesses.

What Brexit Means For Us

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One of our authors was asking the other day about the impact of Brexit on IndieBooks. So we thought we’d share our answer.

The most immediate impact is that our books will be more expensive to print. Almost all the paper we use comes from sustainable forests in Scandinavia, and paper is the biggest single cost in book production, and with the Pound down 20% since Brexit, that paper will rise in cost accordingly.

The second is that Brexit will have a profound effect on the economy, reflected in the eye-watering projections for the UK national debt: and if people have less money in their pockets, then book sales will suffer just like everything else.

The third is that our export sales will be worth more to us, again because of the fall in the value of the pound. That’s welcome – but though we’re always trying to export more, it’s still not going to do much to offset the negative impact.

The biggest impact, though, is cultural: the sense of the UK cutting itself adrift from the rest of Europe. Even if there were no financial cost, we’d still think it wrong to leave the EU because of the barriers it creates. It’s one reason we’re delighted to have three new European authors joining us in 2017, and why we’ll be promoting our books much more in the rest of Europe too.

And if you want to know why it happened, then watch out for ‘Explaining Cameron’s Catastrophe’,  in which Sir Robert Worcester and his colleagues explore the wealth of polling data to reveal why people voted as they did and what it means for the future. This follow-up to ‘Explaining Cameron’s Comeback’ is due out in January 2017.

 

 

Guest Blog: ‘to trumplicate’

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“I am inventing a verb, to trumplicate, from which the noun is trumplication and the adjective trumplicated.

The definition of trumplicate is to disguise untruth by complicating what is essentially straightforward, so that most people are misled; a practice frequently used to defend the indefensible without actually lying outright.

An example of trumplication is the excuse given by President Trump (the eponymous founder of the technique) for restricting access to the United States from seven countries who happen to have Muslim majority populations, in order to convince people that this is not a Muslim ban.

Here is what the Trumplicator said: ‘The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.’

So the intended trumplicity is to give an impression that the policy is soundly based on president set by the previous precedent. (Trumplifiers often confuse their words, as the Great Trumplicator has been known to do on twitter, for example inventing the apt mis-spelling ‘unpresidented’. Mr Trump’s actions are already way into ‘unpresidented’ territory.)

If it was OK for Obama, why are so many soggy liberals marching up and down? This is the underlying question, intended to confuse and create doubt.

The point of trumplication is not to persuade elites, like the bosses of Apple, Google and Coca-Cola, who are so distant from real people’s lives as to be critical of restrictions on the seven coincidentally Moslem-majority countries: the target is those real people.

It works. My wife came home from her pilates class saying that people there were saying – but didn’t Obama select these seven countries? I don’t suppose they went home and found a reliably old-fashioned media outlet for an accurate account.

Here is what AP Fact Check (Associated Press) says about the above quote from the Great Trumplicator:

‘That is misleading. The Republican-led Congress in 2015 voted to require visas and additional security checks for foreign citizens who normally wouldn’t need visas — such as those from Britain — if they had visited the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. This was included in a large spending bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Obama.

As the law was enacted, the Obama administration announced that journalists, aid workers and others who travelled to the listed countries for official work could apply for exemptions. There were no special U.S. travel restrictions on citizens of those seven countries.’

So there was no Obama ban on those seven countries, but only an extra layer of checks. This demonstrates how trumplication is not the same as lying – it is true that President Obama was party to a decision involving these countries, in a very specific and limited way, unlike the unspecific, unlimited way in which entire populations are now subject to blanket restrictions. A carefully calibrated measure of caution is not the same thing as wholesale and arbitrary actions. Trump campaigned on banning Muslims and is delivering: it’s as straightforward as that. A lie is easy to spot, but unravelling a trumplication needs a little effort (as in Jan Masaryk’s saying about the truth being a chore – see last blog)

This piece of trumplication has also had some effect on elites. The Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, has instructed his reporters not to use the term Muslim-majority because it is ‘very loaded’. It is also very factual.”

From ‘Word for Word‘, by John Williams. Read more here.

John was director of communications and press secretary at the Foreign Office for six years. Working for Robin Cook, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, he was the chief media advisor to the Foreign Office on every major international event since the Kosovo conflict, and was heavily involved in the negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme. He was also political correspondent of the London Evening Standard, and political editor and columnist for the Daily Mirror, in a journalistic career that spanned 25 years.

John is also author of IndieBooks’ ‘Robin Cook: Power and Principles’ and ‘Williams on Public Diplomacy’.

The UK Government Guide to European Union Negotiations Published

As Britain now prepares for its most crucial negotiations in a generation, IndieBooks is republishing the UK Government’s official Guide to European Union Negotiations.

Originally commissioned in 1996, the Guide explains how the EU works, how to build alliances and develop successful strategies, and the most effective negotiating and lobbying techniques – all of which remain relevant to the Brexit deal-making that will follow Article 50.

The Guide’s author James Humphreys was himself an EU negotiator and more recently visiting Professor of Government at City University. He has contributed a new preface to set the Guide in the context of Brexit. In it he says:

“The world has moved on since the Guide was first published. But its key messages – about how to secure the best possible deal from Europe – are if anything more important than ever. Brexit is the defining political and economic decision of our times. The Guide provides some sharp insights about the realities to come.”

Unusually for a government publication, the Guide has a lively and engaging style, making it an ideal introduction for the Euro-novice. It also includes specially-commissioned cartoons by Banx of the Financial Times.
IndieBooks will also soon be publishing the definitive account of the EU Referendum, ‘Explaining Cameron’s Catastrophe’, by Sir Robert Worcester, the Founder of MORI, and his colleagues. This will be the latest in the influential ‘Explaining…” series, including 2016’s ‘Explaining Cameron’s Comeback’ on the 2015 election.

For more information please contact frances@indiebooks.co.uk. eBook available here now.

 

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Our Brexit Titles

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-14-01-54Today’s Guardian has a fascinating piece on publishers’ plans for post-Brexit books. So we thought we’d give a preview of the two – perhaps three – IndieBooks Brexit-linked titles due out in 2017.

In the lead is ‘Explaining Cameron’s Catastrophe’, the follow-up to last year’s guide to the 2015 election, ‘Explaining Cameron’s Comeback’. Political analyst and pollster Sir Robert Worcester leads a team of academics and experts exploring how the EU referendum came about, how the campaign was fought and – crucially – what lay behind the outcome, with insights into the state of Britain and what it may mean for the future of politics. As always the team are working on the data right up to the print deadline but it’s currently due in the shops at the start of April.

And with Article 50 about to kick off the most important negotiation in British history since 1973, what better time for us to reissue the UK Government’s official guide to EU negotiations, the imaginatively-titled “Negotiating in the European Union”. It gives the inside story on alliance-building, multi-lateral negotiations, procedures, tactics and even the best restaurants to recover in afterwards, and is illustrated by the FT’s cartoonist Banx. This is due out later in January. Let’s hope Boris has his copy to hand.

And finally, for all those who found ‘Five on Brexit Island’ a bit of light relief, we’re hoping to sign up our own tongue-in-cheek guide to Britain’s post-Brexit future entitled ‘Mr Brexit: the Man with the Plan’.

More to follow on all these and more.

Robin’s resignation & the Chilcot report

It’s hard to find media coverage of today’s publication of the Chilcot report that doesn’t reference Robin Cook’s memorable resignation in 2003, due to his opposition to military action in Iraq – reportedly the first speech to ever receive a standing ovation in the House of Commons.

The findings of the Chilcot Enquiry, today, 13 years on, vindicate his decision.

His speech forms the epilogue to “Robin Cook: Principles and Power”, by John Williams – who as Press Secretary was at Robin’s side during a turbulent three years as Foreign Secretary. John also reflects on what today’s politicians – and voters – can learn from Robin Cook: a man who understood the realities of power but also remained true to his principles.