And the Last Trump Shall Sound consists of three novellas depicting a chilling imminent future for the U.S. How did this anthology come about?
The book was the brainchild of Shahid Mahmud, who runs a small press called Arc Manor out of Rockville, Maryland. He invited me into the anthology back in October of 2019, explaining that he’d already lined up Harry Turtledove and Cat Rambo.
I believe the project crystallized in Shahid’s mind when he observed the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, which he thought captured in microcosm what was happening to this country on both the public level—an unbridgeable chasm between Democrats and Republicans—and the private level: families split into warring camps over the
Donald Trump phenomenon. Shahid sensed that we’d become divided to the point of acute instability, and he wanted to do a book that would somehow address the crisis.
Three amazing writers penned the stories in this anthology. What was your collaboration process like?
The essential premise, a string of Republican White House victories leading to the secession of the three West Coast states, emerged from conversations between Shahid and his friend Harry Turtledove, one of sf’s premier practitioners of alternative history. When Shahid proposed that I join the project, an early draft of Harry’s novella existed, and I was expected to pick up where “The Breaking of Nations” left off.
At first I turned Shahid down. The mere idea of a second Trump term followed by eight years of Mike Pence depressed me so profoundly I couldn’t image wanting to write within such a universe. But I couple of days after Shahid approached me, I remembered a detail from his pitch: when “The Breaking of Nations” opens, Trump is already in his grave. I thought it would be fun if Pence got the idea—reinforced by an adult-movie star masquerading as his spiritual counselor—that with the help of Heaven he could bring Trump back from the dead.
So I emailed Shahid and was delighted to learn the slot hadn’t been filled yet. I penned most of my contribution during a Christmas visit in Denver with my wife’s side of the family, including my intended climax: Trump’s resurrection in the Washington National Cathedral—not a miracle but a feat predicated on a robot doppelgänger.
Shahid passed my first draft on to Cat Rambo, who then faced the formidable challenge of writing a novella that would give readers a self-contained narrative that stayed within the parameters of “The Breaking of Nations” and “The Purloined Republic.” Cat came through in spades with a dystopian vision titled—from the Stephen Crane poem—“Because It Is Bitter.”
All of which is a complicated way of saying that And the Last Trump Shall Sound was not so much a collaboration as a round robin experiment in freewheeling extrapolation.
What is the main thing you hope readers will take away from the book?
I hope that Harry, Cat, and I might help readers understand that the American experiment, with its roots in sophisticated political philosophy and the 18th-century Enlightenment, is in dire jeopardy right now. They won’t come out and admit it, but the men at the top—Trump, Pence, Mitch McConnell, and so on—obviously no longer believe in this experiment. The President would like to see our republic become a monarchy, Pence would like to see it become an evangelical Christian theocracy, and McConnell is doing everything in his power to sustain the kleptocracy.
That said, And the Last Trump Shall Sound is not a counsel of despair. It’s a warning, not a prophecy. All three novellas, I feel, leaven their darkest moments with a certain buoyancy and between-the-lines affirmation. As I often say, pessimism can be its own sort of naivety, cynicism its own sentimentality. There is still a common good.
What are you are working on now?
Way back in 1986, an editor at Henry Holt, Marion Wood, bought a manuscript from me called Those Who Favor Fire. At the last minute we changed the title because it had just appeared on an sf novel by Marta Randall, and we wanted to avoid confusion (though titles cannot be copyrighted). My nuclear-war comedy ultimately rolled off the presses as This Is the Way the World Ends.
Thirty-four years later, I am applying Those Who Favor Fire to my satire-in-progress. It’s an absurdist take on the climate crisis, spun from the notion that the Hollow Earth theory is correct. It turns out that our surface world is mirrored by Quondonia, a subterranean civilization menaced by global freezing. The conceit is ridiculous, of course, but I’ve found that if I live long enough with my premises—I’m a slow writer—I actually start to believe them at some level, and I come to imagine the reader will too.
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Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?
Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.
I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.
There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.
This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM
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If you’d like to know how people feel in a country different than your own, you should read collections of their thoughts. Century Sentence by Xu Xue Chun is just that: a collection of previously published thoughts from a man who lives in China. At a staggering volume of over five hundred pages, you will learn how Chun’s thoughts have impacted his life and how he feels about the state of the world. Available in both Chinese and English, for the purposes of this review we will be referring to the English version. Here, readers will be able to see inside the mind of a single citizen of China while learning how one man has taken his upbringing and applied his cultural views on various states and topics of global concern and turning it back again upon his own country.
This book is broken down into three key sections and the thoughts within are organized as such. The first section refers to a commentary on China. Here, readers will find the thoughts of a man who is not always at peace with the decisions of his country. Chun gives readers a glimpse at what his reality is and how he feels about this. He dabbles with philosophical ideas and his views on them. The second section is a commentary on Islam. Chun is not pleased with how things are developing around the world and within China on this subject. The final section is a commentary on Western and other countries. As a writer from a western country, it is interesting to see how others perceive my country from a completely different perspective. By sectioning off his thoughts like this, Chun makes it easy for readers to get into a flow.
As the author is Chinese and has limited English skills, by his own admission, grammatical and spelling mistakes are expected. It can be difficult to read this, however, because of how the translation was done. There is no flow and sentences can feel choppy and uncomfortable. Chun’s thoughts on western countries are fairly archaic. His thoughts on gender roles and how the world can resolve its incessant need to keep fighting itself are also alarming. There are several passages in the book where Chun makes reference to how men and women should treat each other and what Japan can do to be seen in a better light from his perspective.
If anything, Century Sentence by Xu Xue Chun is an exercise in seeing how a citizen of a country as large as China views the world around him. The thoughts are fairly well organized although the translation could use a bit of work. It is an exhausting read, however, and not one that would be easily recommended. This book could be useful for those who are studying international societies or for people who are looking for a wildly different perspective on world cultures.
Pages: 895 | ASIN: B01M8LIWBS
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