While the anthology Appalling Stories 2: More Appalling Tales of Social Injustice was still in its planning stages, my friend and fellow writer Ray Zacek offered to show me a piece of writing he’d done. It was fragmentary, just a few chapters, and he asked if I could help him flesh it out. Maybe we’d include it as a novelette in Appalling 2. I said sure, I’d consider it, and read what eventually became the penultimate chapter of the satirical novella Appalling Stories 3: Escape from Trumplandia.
What Ray had written was extremely funny, defying genre conventions the way good satire can, but it was unfinished: the punchline of a long joke. We worked on it for months; the cooperation spurred us to complete a narrative that said what we wanted to say in the way we wanted to say it. Ray’s a surprising writer and came up with things I didn’t expect; for example, the intimate encounter near the end of the book was, for the most part, his creation, and I found myself cringing while reading it. That made it perfect. If a piece of satire doesn’t take you out of your comfort zone every once in a while, it’s worthless.
Satire often fails because the writer hates the characters or issues it lampoons, and the reader always picks up on that. It’s why most political humor today is aggressively unfunny; we get hostility to other points of view through news and opinion pieces all day long, so why should we seek it out in fiction? Ray and I wanted you to like the characters in Trumplandia as much as we did, and, more importantly, we wanted you to understand them. Even when they do things that make little sense. If you can’t identify with them, even a little, then you won’t care what happens to them.
We worked hard to ensure that no nickname for Trump was used more than once; even if we didn’t hate him, the protagonist did, and that had to come out in the story. I think there are about 45 rude names for the president in there, which fits, considering he’s the 45th president. Orange Abhorrence, Dolt 45, Cheeto Benito, etc. If a Trump nickname was juvenile and even a little bit funny, it made it into the book. Orangeback Gorilla is probably my favorite.
Some time after Escape from Trumplandia‘s release, I wrote about how Denise McAllister got booted from some conservative publications for getting angry on Twitter. For pushing against the tide of righteous outrage, I made a lot of people mad. One of them got so incensed he wrote a negative review of Escape from Trumplandia, lying about its contents and quality when he obviously hadn’t bought or read it. This is what happens when you stick your neck out. Not a big deal, but it is something that conservative writers have to deal with.
Below the fold is an excerpt from Appalling Stories 3: Escape from Trumplandia.