It’s hard to know what to expect from a President-Elect who’s promised a
lot of things he can’t possibly have meant. On the one hand, maybe he did mean
them, in which case, dear God. But on the other, surely not. This leaves a lot
of middle ground for wild speculation, which I now intend to provide.
Also this election has reminded me that however far-fetched I think I’m being,
it’s not far enough. So here are four possible Trumps.
Benevolent Dictator Trump
Beholden to no-one, President Trump dispenses with political bickering,
cuts away swathes of bureaucracy and red tape, and replaces it
with simple, direct, effective solutions that no-one tried before because
they were so caught up in politics or not wanting to offend anyone or
reading books or something. I think that’s right.
Trump crafts an unpredictable yet nimble, energetic, and
effective administration, unafraid to make unpopular decisions so long as
they’re right. It is happy times for everyone who agrees with Trump’s
version of right, which is everyone, by decree of a new federal law.
Protesters and other unpatriotic unAmericans are taken to the desert
to toil to build a statue of Trump so high it can blot out the sun.
Term limits are abolished. In his eleventh year of rule, a small
band of protestors vandalize the statue by blasting off the toupée and are
shot on live national television, their remains displayed outside
the city gates. God-Emperor Trump dies peacefully in his sleep in his
twenty-third year of rule, surrounded by concubines.
After a week of national mourning, the nation descends into bloody civil war
as various full- and half-blooded Trump offspring lead armies in a
battle for control of their father’s empire. Dragons return. Ivanka
Robber Baron Trump
By the time he waves goodbye from the chopper, Trump has vacuumed so
much money from the American public that he and his family are the wealthiest
people in modern history, richer even than he claims to be today. A
drip-feed of revelations of fraud, embezzlement, and cronyism on
an unprecedented scale hound him, along with persistent talk of federal
prosecution, but none of it goes anywhere, dissipating like waves against the
rocky shore of Trump’s now-impenetrable empire of lawyers, cash, and paid-up
Weakened by pillaging, the welfare system faces a short-term
credit crunch, leading to riots among the poor and unemployed. This is held up by
Republicans as proof of the fundamental non-viability of the welfare state
and the need to abolish it altogether, a view supported by low-skilled male white
voters who are shortly to become unemployed themselves as the shock of decreased
government spending rolls through the economy. California and Texas secede and
close their borders. Nevada falls to roaming biker gangs. The Trump family acquires
Manhattan at market-bottom prices and builds a wall around it, a real one,
not just a fence.
With a businessperson’s win/lose perspective on the economy, Trump abolishes
regulatory authorities, slashes taxes, eliminates labor laws, privatizes
public bodies, and ushers in an ultra-capitalist paradise in which corporations
are free to do whatever the hell they feel like. It is a rich, refreshing new world
for the already-wealthy, who find an ever-expanding array of services aimed
at them, while the poor die of easily-preventable diseases or
in back alleys after muggings gone bad on their way home from one of their
Employment becomes so critical to survival that people revert to the ancient
practice of calling each other by their occupation rather than their surname.
A shoe company deliberately incites a violent riot to promote a new brand of
sneakers. A plucky government agent… ah, you know what, just read the book.
By mortgaging its future, the US is temporarily awash with cash, creating
a false dawn that ushers in a second Trump term. He exits office just as the economy
begins to run off the cliff. Via a running commentary of tweets, he blames
his successor for the ensuring collapse, depression, and takeover by Chinese real
estate speculators, labeling all of the above “sad!”
Trump has always been a big believer in the “speak loudly and carry a big stick” approach.
To date, his sticks have been lawyers, but starting January 20, 2017, they are
stealth bombers and 7,100 nuclear warheads. Carrying his philosophy into office,
Trump rattles a few sabers before going ahead and invading someone.
It’s an irresistible dynamic: The benefits of military action are largely
personal (status, pleasure of defeating an opponent) while the costs are born by
an American public and purse he’s only borrowing and is allowed to hand back in any condition.
Military adventures in Asia, the Middle East, and Alaska breed a host of new enemies for America,
ensuring the need for ever-more defense spending and a twitchy, paranoid, nationalistic
voting public. Trump exits office calling his military record his proudest
achievement, despite the loss of several million citizens on the east coast after an
incident that looked a lot like a biological attack but officially was just a bad flu season.
Via a running commentary of tweets, he blasts the new President for
weakness as she attempts reconciliation with foreign powers. Much of the Western hemisphere
is annihilated in a nuclear exchange started by a relatively small rogue nation that
nobody was paying much attention to. Trump relocates to Australia and begins to hoard water,
leading to a Mad Max scenario where he is killed in a car chase after the escape of one of his
That’s what I’ve got for now. I mean, there are other possibilities. But these feel the
Like me, you may be feeling a combination of shock, distress, and terror
at the news that Donald J. Trump will become the next leader of the world’s
largest military and economic superpower.
But it’s all right! It’s all right. It won’t be that bad. I mean, it
will be pretty bad. That’s for sure. But we can get through this. To help
you through this difficult adjustment period, here are some comfort thoughts:
Many Trump policies range from mutually contradictory to the physically
impossible so they can’t all be implemented.
Writers of satire or absurdist comedy need never again be told that their
work is too far-fetched.
Reagan was a TV actor with fantastical economic ideas and latent Alzheimer’s
and the US came out of that pretty okay.
Exposure of electoral system that weights votes of residents of North Dakota
and Wyoming 3-4X greater than those in California and New York, holds
elections on a working Tuesday, and uses plurality voting, may prompt actual
change, perhaps to “Best Out Of Three” system, or drawing straws.
He is pretty funny, for a President.
Inevitable war with foreign power and subsequent nuclear winter may offer
effective solution to global warming.
Nation avoids messy spectre of four years of depressing gridlock where bitter
Republicans hold White House hostage and nothing gets done.
Small children can be told that anything is possible with a straight face.
Nation will undergo a great strengthening, in “what doesn’t kill me
makes me stronger” sense.
Shocking the hell out of the ruling class is necessary from time to time in
order to avoid a build-up of complacency and corruption, so why not now.
And election campaigns are all about demonizing opponents but only rarely
are they actual demons.
Also the UK voted to Brexit, so, you know, sucks to be those guys.
Max, I hear a lot of authors talk about “fresh eyes”. How long is it after finishing a
first draft until you go back and begin the process of revision?
Fresh eyes are very important. I like to wait between one and three minutes. Not really.
That was a joke. I actually don’t wait at all. I go back and re-read and revise
everything all the way through while I’m writing a first draft. By the time
I finish, my first chapter is actually draft thirty-nine, my fifth chapter is
draft twenty, and so on.
I don’t recommend this. The better method is to bang out a first draft without looking
back and only then discover how bad it is. Then at least you have something to
improve. You can’t abandon that thing. You’ve invested too much.
But I can’t do that any more because I know it’s bad. I mean, I like to think of it like I’m
developing higher standards.
But really it’s just that there’s too much counter-evidence to maintain the delusion that I’m capable of writing brilliant first drafts. I’ve seen
them. They are not great.
This exacerbates the “fresh eyes” problem, of becoming too close to a book and losing touch with how it appears to a new reader.
That’s definitely a real thing, and critical in rewriting. If I could truly re-read
drafts through fresh eyes, I could make them a lot better.
But I don’t think the solution is to put it aside for three months. It’s helpful—I have
a couple of unpublished novels that I go back and re-read every few years and the fallow period does show me things
I didn’t notice before. Usually how something I thought was pretty great actually isn’t.
But it’s not enough.
Most writers, including me, need to think about how what they’re writing will
play to a new reader all the time, every sentence. There’s some small technique there, clearing your head
and forgetting what you already know for a moment, that you need to develop in order to write
well. You’re scratching marks on a page; you need to consider what those marks will
do inside other people’s brains. It’s better to become good at this and do it often
than to wait until you have a finished draft and hope a few months away will do it for you.
The hardest time I have is during feedback from early readers. These are people who
are reading something like a fifth or sixth draft, before it goes to my agent or editor.
Often I find someone’s feedback truly mystifying, and it won’t make any sense at all
until I manage to crawl out of my head and into theirs. That process of figuring out how someone
might feel a certain way about the book is tough and confronting but always valuable, even if
I do then decide that they’re insane and we should stop being friends. Because at least I’ll
have fresh eyes.
Hey Max. First, thanks for making NationStates. Second, did you really find a sock full of pennies? If so where?
I did not really find a sock full of pennies. That was a humorous fiction.
But everything else on this site is true. Some people think I make up
stuff for it, like I’m inventing the “Ask Max” questions, but that’s wrong.
I’m actually a little shocked anyone would think that. The truth is that by
the time I finish working on my novel each day, I’m fictionally tapped out. I don’t have enough creativity
left to make up anything. It would be a good interrogation technique: If you have a terrorist, make them write
fiction for eight hours, then ask them where the bomb is. By then he has no lies
left, I guarantee it.
But I have been tardy about answering Ask Max questions, which I feel bad about.
Here are some more:
How do you become a banana for a week?
You start by becoming a banana for a minute and work your way up.
Do you even look at these?
Have you met an Alien?
No. But I’m a little concerned by your capitalization of “Alien.” I feel like
your next question is: “Would you like to?”
Does this site cover the complete list of all your works, or only a certain genre?
Holy God. So, what, I’m maintaining a stable of websites, one devoted to my mainstream
fiction, one to my series of romances, another to my erotic swords-and-sandals fantasies, and
so on? I think you’re saying I don’t publish enough, Skankhunt42. Okay. Message received.
What time is bed time?
I go to bed about 4am Pacific Time. This is 10pm in my local timezone.
What do you put on the census when it asks what your job is? Do you think it is creative that I put penguin tamer?
No I don’t, Greg. I think that’s irresponsible. The census is no joke. It’s used
to make informed public spending decisions, like where to put schools, and which
populations need suppressing because they’re too close to the truth. I
put down “Writer,” which is technically true for anyone who is in the process of
filling out their census.
Have you heard about these creepy clown sightings in the Southern and Eastern US?
It’s nerds with too much time on their hands, right? I mean, I don’t know
anything about it. But it sounds like something I would have thought was an awesome
idea when I was about 19: Dress up as a weird clown. Now it sounds like a good way
to get punched in the face. People don’t like weird clowns.
How are you? Do you still live in Australia? Is there a lot of spiders? I’d love to come to your country, but bugs and spiders scare the sh.t out of me…
I’ll be honest with you, Kenza, there are basically no spiders here. We just like to
perpetuate that idea because it makes us seem tough and fearless. Well I mean there
are some spiders. I did just catch a spider in the living room yesterday and move it
to the back yard. But only because its thick furry body was blocking the light. I could
hardly see a thing in there.
what is your net worth
I am worth several hundred nets.
If there was one word you could use to describe Emily from Lexicon, what would it be?
Is Jennifer Government a young adult novel?
Oh I don’t know, is the MARGARET ALEXANDER EDWARDS ALEX AWARD for young adult novels?
It is. That’s the answer to that question. Well, kind of. It is the American Library Association prize for “adult books with special appeal to teen readers.” Which I guess isn’t quite the same thing. Probably a true young adult novel primarily appeals to teen readers, like features them as main characters. I think that’s right.
I just asked Jen for the definition of a a young adult novel. She is a school teacher-librarian. She said, “It depends what you mean by young adult.” I feel like there isn’t a really hard line here.
Anyway, Jennifer Government is a book I would have liked to read in high school. So there you go.
P.S. Hahaha, I totally misled you. Lexicon won the Alex Award, not Jennifer Government. And Lexicon has sex and death and horror and is quite a lot less goofy than JG, which just goes to show those things don’t disqualify a novel from appealing to teens, at least in the eyes of librarians. The opposite, if anything. Librarians are amazing like that. They will hand you a book they know will make your eyes bug out because they know that is the point of novels, not to satisfy but to surprise.
I was thinking about how unfair it is that reality has evil right-wing corporate overlords
named the Koch Brothers while if I wrote that in a novel people would call me shallow
and juvenile. I mean, it would be true. But also unfair. You’re supposed to have more creative
license in fiction, not less. Then there’s Trump, who does things on a daily basis
that no satirical character could get away with. It makes you wonder where there is left to go.
But then people have been complaining that satire is dead forever. Satire has died a
thousand times, apparently, at the hands of JFK, George W. Bush, in fact probably every
US President since about 1960. Before then I’m not sure. But I imagine a long line of
despairing intellectuals stretching back through the centuries.
So it’s probably just a failure of imagination. We have a set of societal standards, and
when someone veers close to the line, we can satirize them by portraying what it would be
like if they crossed right on over. Oh, you think taxes should be lower? WHAT IF THERE WERE
NONE AT ALL. That kind of thing.
But when someone does cross the line, and stays there, like Trump, it’s a problem.
It feels like there’s no way to satirize it because the only step farther
is pure ridiculousness. Still, on reflection, I think you have to consider that
the line has moved. It moves a little every year, in one direction or another, and this time
it’s moving very pro-clown. Many US Presidents have been a little clownish—Reagan, Clinton,
George W.—and in fact now I think about it, more Presidents than also-rans. It has been
an asset to be clownish. No wonder we wound up here. But my point is that
it’s probably fair to imagine a very clownish
President in the future, and elections contested between clowns.
This time, crossing the line hurts Trump. And that does indeed put him beyond satire, as
well as making him unelectable*. But he also moves the line, and nothing is as shocking
the second time, so the next clown will seem more reasonable. The next clown will be
more reasonable, having observed the hits and misses of Trump. They will keep all
the goofy style over substance and just pare off the awkward Hitler parallels. So get ready for that.
Maybe not next election.
You wouldn’t run a second clown against Hillary if your first clown got obliterated.
But after that. I see 2024, two clowns.