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The Big Stupid Review


American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss)

By Kane X Faucher

I am not a fan of the zombie genre which I find somewhat an infantile rendering of prosaic Hobbesianism mashed up with the usual American fascination with arch-individualist heroics all the rage in glory of war and superhero movies. That being said, the curious circumstances by which the book arrived in the post compelled me to read and give my reflections. Wrapped in a brown paper bag and seemingly tossed from a moving car to land on my doorstep, the package was indeed addressed to me personally with a veiled threat I need not repeat here. More interesting would be the fact that the author, Donald Strauss, is largely considered the Conservative Party of Canada's "Prime Minister in waiting" should anything happen to our current Dear Leader. Whether Strauss is in fact the successor or just a policy wonk we leave to others to dispute.

The novel is set in an apocalyptic near-future, as is the common setting for this genre. We immediately open to the painfully obvious protagonist, Paul Hankson, who tells us, "As I finished brushing socialist guts off my disruption pattern suit, I loaded two more shells into my Reaganator, ready to take on the hordes swarming and oozing out of the ghetto." Hankson, a former high profile derivatives speculator, is said to have made the ultimate sacrifice in leaving his gated McMansion community to rid the world of a perceived pestilence. Armed with only his Reaganator and his firm belief in the catechism of private property, Hankson has tasked himself to wage war against the brainless, penniless hordes that wish to infect the silent majority with their democratic or communal beliefs. In a telling line, Hankson makes his views clear: "I'll gut these state commie-socialists like we gutted social security… I'll block their shambling monstrosity like we blocked the freedom-killing attempts at universal healthcare." Ideologically over the top, yes, but apropos this genre of political zombie fiction.

Hankson is also on a mission to find Dr Friedrich who had unleashed the Volcker Virus. The virus resulted in vast deindustrialization and the dissolution of all international trade barriers to invade foreign markets. Hankson is somewhat ambivalent about the effects of the virus since although it is viewed by him as a progressive step to concentrate wealth into the hands of the natural ruling classes, his complaint is that the release of the virus did not correspond with appropriate state cooperation to ensure that the average masses were suitably pacified or corralled securely in the now derelict urban centers. For Hankson, and indeed the author of the novel, the neoliberal apparatus is seen as partially flawed. That is, the core principles of promoting possessive pecuniary individualism are sound, but that there has to be a counterbalance of state intervention circumscribed in its function to ensure that the state's primary role is to provide adequate police and military protection of the elite, and in providing the masses the uniting fabric of abstraction where zealous nationalism and evangelical religion replace former and more substantial means of community belonging.

The measure of Hankson's success to rid the world of socialist zombies is more than just a body count. Each borough he liberates, he immediately privatizes. To him, anything public is a symptom of entitlement disease and inefficient state intervention. In this sweeping paean to neoliberalism, Hankson does not spare any contempt for the democratic process, preferring to side with a modified feudalism where business takes on a patronize and control role in a society that simply does not know any better. The book is also a neoconservative epic that attempts to smooth over the uncomfortable dialectic of to conserve and to consume. Fiscal imprudence is the aristocratic right of the "fitter" members of society in this perversion of Darwinism strained through bad economic theory.

Hankson's dialogue is studded with made-for-Hollywood one-liners: "I'm the market correction, you socialist beasts!", "You've been privatized!", "It's time to debt-finance your ass!", "Speculation is freedom!", "It's right-to-work or right-to-die, commies!", "Prepare to have your assets stripped!", and other "bon mots" drenched in the usual chauvinistic bravado of the action film genre.

The novel makes a curious detour into "arthouse" fiction with the introduction of a lucid dreaming sequence where Hankson meets a kind of muse named Shaniqua, an African-American crack addict welfare mother who rides around in a state-funded golden Mercedes. Shaniqua functions partially as Hankson's conscience, but also as an ideological seductress attempting to reverse or soften Hankson's view of "economic realism." Although Hankson remains committed to his fallacious notions, there is a strange and perhaps unconscious erotic tension between the two characters. It is never made clear whether Shaniqua is the spiritual head of the zombies, but there are indications throughout the novel that Shaniqua is Hankson's villain in some ways reminiscent of the problematic relationship between Heracles and Hera. Hankson attempts to refute Shaniqua's point of view, but in a way that he spends a little too much time trying to convince her as if he was trying to win her over.

The zombies tend to be portrayed as ethnic, aged, or filthy adherents to non-neoliberal politics. The blatant moral messages the readers are to draw include a fetishization of possessive individualism, pro-corporate interests enfolded within the American "frontier" mythos, and the essentialization of technological instruments that facilitate auto-regulation of hyper-mobilized capital. Despite the author's credentials as an economist, all economic theory threaded throughout this novel lacks depth or accuracy, relying instead on an obstinate belief system that grants an auratic status to the word economy, thus transforming it to a kind of scholastic mysticism that justifies every policy in its name (which also involves the free revision of history).

The deeper and perhaps unconscious elements of the novel are perhaps more worthy of remark. There are prolonged scenes of repetition where the reader must slog through countless bodies, and this function of annihilation infects the dreams of the protagonist. From the Freudian perspective, this alludes to the repetition compulsion usually manifest among those with severe personality disorders. From a more casual reader's perspective, these repetitions make for a dull and episodic read as the plot generally follows Hankson's ghetto-clearing violence punctuated by jejune action hero commentary.

What is also of particular note would be how Strauss has chosen the US as the setting for the novel rather than his native Canada. However, extreme nationalism appears when Strauss ends the novel with a long personal harangue in the epilogue, presumably from Strauss' own point of view. He tells us:

"We require a distinctly Canadian mathematics, a Canadian physics and chemistry and engineering, built on strong, economic values. We must purge the schools of the radical environmental extremists who are as impure of thought as they are poor in wallet. It is they who would deny our National Destiny, who oppose our eminent domain in the Arctic, who sabotage the pipelines and pervert the great Will of our People! Without a distinctly Canadian branch of education that preaches the blood and soil of our great Nation, our children are at the mercy of deviants, perverts, and every persuasion of degenerate internationalist!"

© Kane X Faucher 2012