by Shelton Bumgarner
I am writing a scifi novel and as I do, it’s gradually becoming not only something a personal critique of the Trump Era, but also allegory of the 2016 presidential campaign. I have set the events of the story during a presidential campaign for no other reason than it seems what happened in 2016 is ripe for pop art to address in some manner.
Pop is how we process recent history. For me, at least, I find myself looking around as I work on this novel and seeing that what happened in 2016 is something so fucked up and dramatic that it’s perfect for the work of mass, pop art I hope to produce. I want to write a rip-roaring yarn that not only has action and adventure but is thought-provoking along the way. As I mature as a fiction writer — which, to be honest, is a much bigger process than I ever imagined going into this — I begin to understand why it’s so difficult to address something as culturally potent as the 2016 election directly.
Pop art has to deal in allegory because on a basic level because talking about something like the 2016 election directly is kind of like staring at the sun on a creative level. It takes time for passions to subside enough that you can entertain people talking about something as divisive as 2016’s presidential politics.
But as I get closer understanding what this novel is about, I realize I really want to use the conditions of the 2016 presidential campaign as a framing device of sorts. It’s the major subplot of the story is what I’m trying to say. I thought about making the entire novel an allegory, but I realized that’s not what this novel is about.
This novel is about what would happen if you forced a group of people to make some basic decisions when the stakes could not be higher. What would happen? The presidential election taking place is something influences the main plot, but it’s not the main point of the story. I have to say, however, that I find myself being really influenced by such a hodgepodge of other works of fiction as Stranger In A Strange Land, The Girl Who Played With Fire as well as the most recent Mission: Impossible.
Regardless, the novel I’m writing is really, really ambitious. I’m giving myself 200,000 words to work with because my favorite recent first novel, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is about that size. I really like the middle book in that series, The Girl Who Played With Fire. I wish I could come up with a character as special and unique as Lizbeth Salander, but she’s a one-in-a-generation creation. One thing I’m really interested in with this novel is representation. So, in that sense, this novel is kind of my personal globalist cuck equivalent of Alas Shrugged.
What I mean by that is just as Alas Shrugged really is an explanation of Objectivism, my novel aims to explain the moderate liberal worldview in a pop art manner that is easily to digest to the average mass market reader. I am no where near done with this novel — I’m just a month in to seriously developing at this point — but the process is a lot of fun and I can’t help by talk about whatever is going on in my life and right now what’s going on in my life is I’m writing a novel.
Anyway, no one is paying any attention to me. I’ll be pleased if I can get one person I don’t know personally to read this book I’m writing and demand to know what happens next. If I happen to explain my personal worldview — and give people a thought-provoking beach read along the way — all the better.
Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.