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Book Notes: The Obama Inheritance

Notes on The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, edited by Gary Phillips

Date finished: 3/25/19

A wild ride with a really clever premise, and featuring some amazing tales.

It's kind of all there in the title--this is a book in which writers of mystery, suspense, science fiction, and thrillers take, as a given, all of the conspiracies that were drummed up about President Obama, and turn them into a narrative. Given how feverish and bizarre many of these ideas were, it's a rich mine to plumb. The pulp tradition looms large here, with spy thrillers, space-monsters, and action heroes making regular appearances.

As with all anthologies, the results are variable. Some of these stories were thrill-rides, others reveled in the horrific implications of their inspiration, and others used the opportunity to contemplate America as an idea and a lived experience, particularly around issues of race (perhaps not surprisingly, as most of the contributors are people of color). The stories that I liked the best took the feverish, almost psychedelic weirdness of the far-right's swamp of Obama-hate and ran with it. Eric Beetner's "True Skin" and L. Scott Jose's "Give me Your Free, Your Brave, Your Proud Masses Yearning to Conquer" take on the idea of Obama as a lizard-person, with equal parts funny and disgusting results. Nisi Shawl's "Evens" plays with the idea of clones and their implications for succession and term limits.  Other stories draw on other mythologies and fold them into our current political situation--Star Trek for Adam Lance Garcia's "The continuing Mission" and The Scarlet Pimpernel in Gary Phillips "Thus Strikes the Black Pimpernel". Still others are action-filled thrillers like "Michelle in Hot Water" by Kate Flora and "Forked Tongue" by Lise McLendon.

My favorite story is perhaps the strangest--"The Psalm of Bo" by Christopher Chambers, framed as a gospel according to the Obama's beloved water Spaniel, and recounting the story of how dogs inherit the Earth. It's almost quiet and meditative, even as the story it depicts is absolutely bonkers and delightful.

It's hard to escape the world we're in, dangerous and spiteful as it is. But this anthology does the great work of confronting that world head-on. Maybe that's the best approach--certainly it made for an entertaining read.

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