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Break glass in case of satire emergency

A couple years ago, I wrote about 75% of the first draft of a book I was calling "Bill Roman Is Being Oppressed" for NaNoWriMo.  I hit the requisite 50,000 word mark and called it quits because I was participating in the program only to prove that I could still do it while I had a kid.  Turns out I could.

NaNoWriMo is a neat challenge, but it's kinda crap at producing quality first drafts.  I previously agonized about the extensive rewrites I needed to put in to turn Bitter People Without Souls into a publishable state, and that experience left me with a sour taste.  So, I summarily dumped "Bill Roman" into my digital wastebasket and left it there.

Fast forward to about a week ago when I opened the file on a lark.  I hesitate to say anything positive about my own work, although I really ought to since I'm supposed to be self-marketing and all that.  (By the way, have you bought a copy of the greatest book ever written yet?  Go do that now.)  But the point is, "Bill Roman" was a lot better than I remembered it being.

I intended for it to be a character comedy about the titular Bill Roman, a spoiled, self-centered asshole from a rich family who thinks the entire world has slighted him and owes him reparations.  He goes on a quest to get closure from the small town where his family's business empire is based, and which he calls his home town even though he didn't actually live there; he spent most of his formative years at private boarding schools.

My goal initially was to make a big joke about white people in general and how folks like me can get so caught up in our petty complaints that we ignore real problems.  The town Bill sorta-kinda came from is North Haven, a destitute ex-mining town plagued with drug problems and homelessness.  Its residents are clinging desperately to their last threads of hope in the form of Bill's mother's whistle factory.  Much of the book involves Bill haranguing poor people and demanding apologies for dumb shit that happened to him when he was ten, and in the background there are several very serious interconnected stories unfolding that include a hostile takeover of Bill's family's business, which might be the final knife wound to drive North Haven into total destitution.

The story as it currently stands doesn't work.  There are too many characters and side stories.  I had envisioned it as Bill's story first and foremost, but it's much more of an ensemble piece at present.  And because I didn't expect for it to blow up as much as it did, I never planned to connect the different story threads - so it meanders and wanders and doesn't come together in a tightly-knit braid.

But here's the thing.  It's funny.  Some of the funniest stuff I've ever written is in this manuscript.  Again, I hate to toot my own horn, but I hardly ever find my own stuff funny two years on - and this was making me grin from ear to ear.

And here's the other thing: I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever imagined in my wildest dreams when I was writing it that we'd ever have to use the phrase "President Trump" outside of a comic strip.  I never once thought about Li'l Donny when I was creating Bill Roman.  Yet he is the same piece of shit, entitled, paranoid bigot with misplaced rage issues.  Bill is a little more eloquent than Donny, probably smarter, and maybe a little less egotistical - but they're cut from the same cloth, no doubt about it.

Which leads me to the choice I have in front of me.  Do I resurrect "Bill Roman" and turn it into a quasi-parody of President Sex Offender, or do I leave this one in the wastebasket and go back to the projects I initially planned to write this year?

There's an outside chance I might be able to do both, but I definitely don't want to plan on it.  And there is something of a time limit on this choice.  A satire like this won't be relevant for very long, and if I don't have it ready to publish by 2018, then I might as well not bother.

As irritating and painful and punchable and awful as Li'l Donny might be - and boy, you can't overstate how much of a piece of shit he is and how serious a problem his presidency is going to be for us over the next few years - the fact of the matter is that he will go away some day.  Four years from now (at least, it better only be four goddamn years or I'll never respect another Republican in my life) we'll start to forget the terror he struck into our hearts.  Fourteen years from now, he'll just be a punchline.  Forty years from now, he'll be a footnote.  A hundred years from now, he won't even be that.  He'll be trivia that future hipsters bring up to sound smart at future parties, a little bon mot dropped in between future martinis.

I try to write stories that I think will have staying power.  When I close my eyes and dream of how my writing will fit into the world, I picture folks reading it in school centuries later and saying, "It captures a specific time, but you can still relate to it."  I want timelessness.  I don't want to settle for a cheap jab with an expiration date.

...but man, what a good jab it could be.  That's a tough call.