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.

 

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

 

Guest Blog: John Williams

If current events have left you at a bit of a loss for words, we can recommend one of our own in-house political experts to help make sense of it all. John Williams, author of IndieBooks’ ‘Robin Cook: Power and Principles’ and ‘Williams on Public Diplomacy’, has started his own blog, and there are some tasters below.

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.

President of the Parallel Universe

‘The reality is even more shocking than the expectation. Within days of becoming President, Donald Trump has made all predictions lame by comparison with the daily spectacle of leader and his spokespeople telling aggressive untruths.

Falsehoods have been re-branded ‘alternative facts’, by Kellyanne Conway, who glories in the title Counselor to the President, while defending the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, for insisting that the Inauguration had been the most well-attended ever.

This is a parallel universe in which the President is always right, the truth is whatever he says. [‘House Science Committee chairman: Americans should get news from Trump, not media‘]. This will be the strategy when things start to go wrong. The objective is to make all evidence suspect if it counters what the President tells his supporters to believe.

As George Orwell put it in describing the one-party state in his 1984: ‘The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command…’

I wish I were confident that the President and his spokespeople will fail, but there are millions of voters who see no alternative and hear no alternative, to the leader’s truth. This is a sinister political correctness – only the leader can be right.

I saw a quote somewhere this morning from Jan Masaryk, a great Czech opponent of tyranny: ‘The truth prevails, but it’s a chore’.’ Read more…

Fact and Fiction in the Post Trump era

‘Donald Trump has changed the rules of politics and challenged the whole basis of strategic communication, with his disregard for facts and evidence. Trump is not the first politician to succeed by getting away with some distortion, but he has put blatant falsehood at the centre of his strategy for capturing the most important democratic position in the world. So it is no longer possible to say that strategic communication – in politics – has to respect facts and reject knowing falsehood, or pay the price in defeat.

It is the speed of social media that has made the Trump technique possible, of instantly setting the agenda by bewildering opponents and reducing old-fashioned fact-based journalism to flat-footed irrelevance.

The paradox of social media is that its miraculous potential for free speech and open minds has given strength to narrow minds and hatefulness. Some social media outlets regard facts as whatever you want to believe. False or distorted news echoes round them, and the more people react, like them, post angry comments about them, the more their readers believe this is the truth because the volume the internet traffic gives falsehoods the credibility of quantity. The sheer quantity of this internet traffic seems to its consumers to be a validation of what they are reading.’ Read more…

 

Entertainments for the Trump epoch

“The election had an apocalyptic feel to it,” says Mr. Thiel, wearing a gray Zegna suit and sipping white wine in a red leather booth at the Monkey Bar in Manhattan. “There was a way in which Trump was funny, so you could be apocalyptic and funny at the same time. It’s a strange combination, but it’s somehow very powerful psychologically” New York Times, 11/01/17

‘Apocalyptic and funny’, respectively, also describe our two latest releases – entertainments for the Trump epoch – ‘begat’ and ‘Attu’.

Attu, released shortly before Christmas, but available for free today on the kindle store, is an escapist eBook for those currently absorbed with anxious political thoughts (so everyone)…

‘A mischievous president announces the End of the World. He’s joking – isn’t he? Eight billion people around the world aren’t so sure.’

 

Today is also the perfect opportunity to announce our latest acquisition – begat – perhaps the first serious comic novella of the Trump era, by Dr Felix Culpepper of Cambridge University.

‘begat’ – out this spring – charts a national plunge into political and social madness with eerie parallels to today’s apotheosis of Trump. It is a satirical study of how an apocalyptic monster is created: ‘the mob drains all the evil stowed within their ids into one phantasmagorical abortion of a human, cherished for his deformities’.

As a taster, you can download an extract of ‘begat’ from our website.

Our Xmas Present to You!

To say thanks tattu-cover-midrezo all our readers and contributors for your support in 2016, we’ve just published Attu, a short story by Richard “Unbearably exciting and witty” Major about a playboy President who announces the end of the world. It’s a mix of black humour and political satire with a hint of romance – the ideal antidote to too much Festive Good Cheer (or anxiety about soon-to-be President Trump).
Attu is available as a free e-book over the Christmas holiday. Just click here and download from the Kindle store in the usual way, but you won’t pay anything and you get to keep it. You can tell all your friends too – but the discount only lasts until the end of Boxing Day, so hurry!