"Truth is stranger than fiction," they say. And whoever "they" are, they're right -- even when the fiction is about the impact the living dead would have on a presidential campaign.
A few years back, I wrote a novella called Cadaver in Chief: A Special Report from the Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse. It was part Dawn of the Dead, part Shaun of the Dead and part All the President's Men (with a little sliver of They Live). The premise: What if the dead rose from their graves...and American politics as usual just kept chugging right along?
It was (and still is) one of my favorite things I've ever created because (A) I felt it was pretty darned funny but more importantly (B) it was honest. No other fiction I'd written had allowed me to so directly ridicule the stuff that drives me nuts about modern American life.
Shallow, celebrity-obsessed media. Anti-intellectual demagoguery. Manipulative marketing and magpie materialism. Head-in-the-sand denial. Decaying democracy. Phony baloney politicians on both sides of the aisle. You know -- all the things that could doom our great nation to the dustbin of history. Hilarious, right?
Well, yeah. I thought so. But since novellas fall into the literary Dead Zone -- too long for most short story markets, too short to sell as a novel -- I had no choice but to publish it myself. Which I did. I then got to see just how dead the Dead Zone can be. (Translation: It has not sold like hot cakes. It has sold like cold, moldy cakes.)
That the novella didn't reach more readers was a big disappointment. But I always held out hope that an audience would find it one day. After all, we had some real presidential campaigns coming up. Everything I was mocking in Cadaver in Chief was going to be in the spotlight for many an interminable, infuriating month. Or so I thought.
Then a strange thing happened. The politicians I'd taken aim at -- the rote, soulless creatures driven only by an insatiable hunger for votes -- got shoved into the background. And the candidates doing the shoving (and surging in the polls because of it) aren't the predictable meat puppets I'd satirized. They aren't zombies.
Which isn't to say they aren't monsters. It's just not obvious what kind they are anymore. At the moment, I'm reminded of the Tasmanian Devil -- a drooling, spluttering dynamo of pure destructive energy. But maybe they'll turn out to be werewolves or mummies or dragons or Daleks. (I wouldn't be shocked to hear some of them chanting "Ex-ter-min-ate! Ex-ter-min-ate!") One thing I know they're not: vampires. They aren't that smooth.
But no -- they aren't zombies either. There's life in them. And if there's one thing they treasure, it sure as heck ain't brains.
Does all this mean Cadaver in Chief is no longer valid or meaningful or funny? My fellow Americans, I assure you that's not the case. It's just that the target has shifted a bit. And if I want to hit it squarely again, it might take Cadaver in Chief 2 to do it....
I'm Steve Hockensmith, and I approved this message (whatever it is).