Writing Fiction in Post-Truth America
The soul of my creativity, such as it is, has been thoroughly stupified by the election of Donald Trump to the office of president of the United States. I’m serious. I don’t know why. I haven’t accomplished a damn thing since November 9th. Every day is the same. Walk and feed the dog. Make a delicious espresso beverage. Turn on the computer. Click on the daily news feed. There is Donald Trump’s gigantic orange visage mocking everything I believe in. Fuck me!
Trump’s election is an embarrassment to the nation I love. It’s not enough that he is an idiot, an unsophisticated lout with the diplomatic sensibilities of a skinhead and the verbal skills of a learning-disabled third grader. He is a liar to boot. In fact, he is a liar of monumental proportions in a ‘post truth’ society.
I don’t know how this happened. I’ve been reading everyone else’s idea of how it happened, and I’m convinced they don’t know either. It’s certainly not Trump’s fault. He’s an idiot. It’s not Hillary Clinton’s fault. She’s too smart to be sucked into Trump’s game. I guess you could say that no one called him out on his bullshit, but a lot of people really did. It didn’t seem to matter any.
They used to call Ronald Regan the teflon president because nothing ever stuck to him. He was surrounded by scandal and corruption, yet he never seemed to get any on him. Trump is more like the oil slick president. He lives at the center of the toxicity and it spreads out from him by the barrel until everything is tainted and the innocent are flopping around the beach mired in gritty crude.
I guess you could blame the press. They gleefully reported everything he said as if it were actually newsworthy . . . right up until it reached critical mass and became newsworthy by default. If they’d just ignored him from the start, he would have had to buy the advertising instead of getting it for free. Given his appetite for seeing himself in print and on the TV, he would have spent his fortune in a couple of weeks and disappeared from public life before he had the chance to do any real harm. Now the harm is done, and we only have to wait a little while longer to find out how bad it’s going to be.
Meanwhile, I have to figure out how to continue writing humorous fiction in an age and place where virtually everything is humorous fiction … and if it isn’t, all too many of us are wishing that it was. When the fiction and non-fiction camps were well defined and easy to identify, when there was a clear distinction between news and jokes, there was a smaller pool of work in which I could compete as a writer and wit. I had a better chance of getting noticed in a smaller pond. Now that the lines have been blurred, I have to compete with everything. It doesn’t seem fair, especially when it’s so much harder now to be funny in any original sense. The easy route is just to parrot the things said by people who don’t actually mean to be funny. They are hilarious, or at least they would be if they weren’t so frightening.