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.
Posted in Interviews
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A memoir of four decades into the future set against the backdrop of difficult times in the United States, starting from late 2010 and ending in 2045. This is the story of an unusual American family as they struggle against the convergence of oncoming economic hard times, social ills and political instability. From witnessing a complete economic collapse to the unfolding of a race war to a full-scale revolution, the family matriarch’s dream of riding the success of American civilization, instead veers to living the nightmare of the country’s demise.
This is the only futurology book where three of the predictions in the book have, in such a short amount of time, manifested: the disintegration of the Iran nuclear deal, Trumps tariff wars and the Russian meddling in US affairs. Read to find out further…
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A poem by Jeffrey Cooper.
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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“While Kenyatta initiated corruption, and made it a pastime for well-placed government officials, Moi institutionalized it and made it routine within all ranks of society.”
Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite by Joe Khamisi is a detailed account of the historical and contemporary corruption plaguing the African country of Kenya. It details corruption from the highest levels of government down to average citizens. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme of corruption spanning from 1963 to 2017 and encompassing four presidencies; Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
I started this book thinking there would be some kind of a silver lining at the end, but there isn’t one. What you’ll find is a detailed account of the pervasive corruption that is literally everywhere in Kenya. Time and time again it’s shown how corruption is despised by all but is undertaken at every opportunity. It seems that anti-corruption is the political rallying call, but profit is always the underlying goal.
This is a historical book in that it does describe the rise of four of Kenya’s presidents, Kenya’s independence from Britain, and the development of Kenya’s modern government, but it does all of this with a focus on corruption; from it’s inception into it’s many manifestations in every part of Kenya’s government. One thing that I learned is how corruption in Kenya is not a local affair, but a global enterprise. European, Asian, and Western countries have had their turn profiting from corruption in Kenya.
One thing I did enjoy was how we get to see the country develop, through stories of corruption, into modern times. We go from President Kenyatta who is the first president when Kenya receives its independence from Britain, to president Uhuru who its noted as having a large Twitter following. At one point even mentioning Paul Manafort and his company helping the Kenyan President resuscitate his global image.
This is a good book for those interested in history, African culture, political science students, and most of all corruption. If you’re interested in learning how corruption is instituted, contributed to, and perpetuated, then this book is a master class in delivering specific examples.
What concerned me the most after reading account after account was that, as the author states, these are the corruption cases that we know about, and have been documented or reported on by the media. I’m sure there are plenty more that we don’t know about.
This book is exceptionally researched with a wealth of references. Joe Khamisi has done a fantastic job turning a list of corruption cases into a linear narrative that is compelling and thought provoking.
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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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The Game Changer revolves around the life of creative businessman Henk who finds himself in trouble after an art robbery takes place in the heart of Rotterdam. This book is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a romance, crime, and art history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Thanks first for all the time and effort to read my book. This is a very good question and maybe therefore not easy to answer: it’s both in a mixture I would say. I started with some basic ideas and investigations, did some research on the subjects and meanwhile, on the other hand, write highly intuitive. Then I switch from these two mindsets every now and then, like in a loop that rolls forth until you get the feeling it’s almost finished. I certainly have no idea how it will end when writing and I am surprised at times about the direction the novel or characters takes… so then I change the research and idea’s to be able to go on a bit further. In the end, it takes a lot of editing, and in this process the book is also enriched a bit, blended.
The relationship between Henk and his daughter Julia is intriguing and risque. What was the driving ideas behind these characters traits and relationship?
Emancipation and seeking of one’s identity/freedom of Julia and maybe also the idea that world problems might need to be solved by women. But in this novel, it’s mainly about Henk, the businessman whom you might in some ways see as a Donald Trump kind of guy (thinking now of the open letter I read on the website of Michael Moore written to Ivanka Trump: ‘your dad is not well’, but it’s written after writing my novel). It’s about the chaos in Henk’s mind, the obsession of dominating, maybe caused by fear of women taking over power, confused with and entangled in the love for his daughter.
There is some fantastic art history in this novel. Was that intentional? Did you have to do research for this book?
Yes, I did quite some research, but in the intuitive writing process most of it is done for nothing probably, you never know for sure. The general idea I guess is indeed that art can maybe help us, it’s an investigation if so and if the answer is yes, how this can be done. What role can art play, seen from the viewpoint of the eighteen-year young Julia. She wants art to be decisive.
Why did you choose Rotterdam as the setting for this novel?
It’s close to my hometown, Vlaardingen, and plays a major role in the area where I live, historically and still from this day on, although the work in the harbour gets more automated nowadays. Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-fe (‘Die Blendung’), written in 1935, was an inspiration for my novel, mainly regarding the atmosphere. As a tribute, I mentioned his name once deliberately within the novel in the middle somewhere, as well as using the term ‘stipendium’, which I came to know reading this novel and ‘Masse und Macht’. I consider this novel my personal and modern ‘die blendung’.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
The next book is all about Julia, Henk his artistic daughter. At this point in time I feel that it can still take a while before it will be finished, although there are more than 100k words written and severely edited so far. I tend to be rather ambitious regarding goals and ideas of a new book I guess, so to finish it, to pull it off is unsure: it might not work at all. Especially since the new novel will partly be science fiction, playing in 2050, I wonder if I will manage.
Sneak preview of the new novel:
The floating pavilion called The Game Changer, peacefully located between the landscaped garden and artistic attributes crammed with solar – panels, foils and conductive basins along the eaves – is virtually deserted, a rarity. As if Providence feels there is something special happening since I will, after all these years, speak privately with her. After several decades, the moment finally arrives. The ring gives an orange signal, I will have to do sport for half an hour the least, followed by a silent meditation to bring my blood pressure and pulse combination back to acceptable levels. The nerves vultures in my throat, my nasal breathing is irregular, but I consider it too late for intense exercise; I can at best apply a short-term yoga technique, click the ring signal back to inactive and start enjoying the view. In the distance I see a dot rising, it could be the amphibian taxi, one that brings her to this magnificent pavilion, two miles off the coast of Hoek van Holland situated in the North Sea, a sea largely transformed into a sea farm: one big floating habitat of many thousands of hectares. It remains beautiful to see how the east side of our integrated Maasvlakte has become a place for handling assembly of environmentally friendly products surrounded by renewables and encapsulated between tens of thousands of wind turbines, seaweed farms and solar generating systems with modern forms of salt mining. We are a leader in the world, people! Mom will not believe her eyes. In a country like the U.S.A., they are still jealous; they have looked with uttermost suspicion at our ultra-modern business, our activities that saved the planet and ourselves, mankind, from The Great Catastrophe.
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