Review: Alternate Truths

1 Jul

-Bob Brown (Editor)

Alternate Truths is a tricky anthology to review

Contrary to Mr. Burns’ opinion, public figures in the United States (and Britain and the West) have always been fair game for satire. This is a good thing because it helps remind us that they too are mortal. However, at the same time, it is easy to forget that they too are human – and go too far, branding them as everything from saints to monsters without any real appreciation of the political, economic and social realities. Worse, it is very easy to use words as cudgels without realising that it is quite easy to lose credibility.

Indeed, one explanation for the rise of Donald Trump is the simple observation that every GOP candidate over the last twenty years was branded a racist, fascist, sexist, homophobe, etc. Unsurprisingly, society reached a point where large swathes of the American population automatically discounted such accusations – and rightly so, as such accusations rarely had much (if any) grounding in truth. ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ is not just a fairy tale, but a devastatingly accurate comment on human nature. If Trump is the wolf, everyone who screamed ‘wolf’ over the last twenty years bears something of the blame for his election – and for the personalisation of politics.

Alternate Truths bills itself as ‘a look at the post-election America that is, or will be, or could be.’ This is a valid project, although I suspect that attitudes to the anthology will depend hugely on one’s attitude to Trump. And yet, in many ways, it does not come close to a successful study of potential futures. I would say, rather, that it is an illustration of the problem of the ‘resistance’ – there is no valid examination of why Trump won, how everyone from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush affected the election results, nor is there any coherent plan for a post-Trump world. Trump sold his voters a vision – his opponents did not.

Trump looms large throughout the stories in this book – Trump the fool, Trump the monster, Trump … Trump the caricature. Indeed, the opening stories in the book are the weakest – an odd editorial decision – that make fun of Trump, rather than assessing his strengths and weaknesses. They are absurd and in some cases funny, but they contribute nothing to an assessment of post-election America and the world. And a number of them really go too far.

A secondary set of stories plays with the concept of otherworldly invention: cloning, time travel, alien involvement, even reality manipulation. Bruno Lombardi’s story is particularly amusing, but all of them shy away from a fundamental fact: saint, sinner or mortal man, Trump was elected for human reasons, not because of outside intervention. You can’t blame Trump on anything, but the American voter, who had to make a choice between two poor candidates.

A third set of stories try to suggest what life might be like in Trump’s America. None of them are particularly cheerful; most of them are exaggerated, almost to the point of scaremongering. Others blame Trump for problems – healthcare issues, no-knock raids, government overreach – that existed prior to Trump becoming a serious candidate for the nomination. Trump may or may not make them worse, but it is disingenuous to blame a sitting President for problems caused by his three predecessors.

None of these stories (with a couple of minor exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment) address the crucial question – why did people vote for Trump? Indeed, most of the writers seem to have the same reluctance to understand that people might have (or at least thought they had) good reasons to vote for him. “I don’t understand how Trump got elected – I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Instead, they brand his supporters racists, sexists and deplorables … which does not convince them to vote for anyone else. The condescending arrogance shown by establishment figures like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton provides yet another reason for Trump’s election.

It’s All Your Fault is a chat log depicting the aftermath of a church shooting, showing both how events can rapidly become politicised and, more importantly, how common sense is whacked on the head and buried in the backyard. It’s an excellent outline of how fingers are pointed, blame is ducked, insults are hurled and the truth is rapidly lost, as everyone but the shooter himself is blamed for the tragedy. But the story is rapidly spoilt by the inclusion of alien manipulators.

Your attitude to Alternate Truths will probably depend, a great deal, on your attitude to Trump. Some of the stories are worth reading, others take satire too far to tell us anything useful about potential futures. And you really need to read the whole book to pick out the good stories from the weaker ones. (Luckily, it’s on Kindle Unlimited.)

I’d like to close with a quote from Walks Home Alone At Night. It is, perhaps, the closest Alternate Truth gets to understanding the reasons behind Trump’s election.

What most people don’t realize—or don’t care to admit—is that safety is a privilege of the financially secure. It’s easy to warn others against wandering the streets after dark when one knows they’ll be tucked away safe behind locked doors in their gated communities long before evening falls. Everyone else? Well, everyone else takes their chances.”

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2 Responses to “Review: Alternate Truths”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard July 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    Sounds like another book to “not read”. 😦

  2. Pat Wilso July 6, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

    I am 81 years old and seen more than I can remember. I voted for Trump because he was not a politician. Wish we could dump the rest and start with a clean slate. How do we get term limits on the ballot??

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