Nine months after I posted it, that undying Trump tweet is back again, no doubt exhumed by some well-meaning celebrity and spread around by thousands of well-meaning resisters. There is no stopping it at this point, no use in deleting the original tweet—it's spread far beyond Twitter now. For reasons I can't comprehend, a screenshot of an author no one's ever heard of clapping back at the president about a book hardly anyone has read has become the stuff of meme aggregators and viral sharing, and no amount of debunking can slow it down.
Nevertheless, it's time once again to do my duty as the accidental creator of this monster and post my little explanation and semi-apology. Most people will never see this post and half the ones who do will ignore all this tedious text about how THE TWEET IS NOT REAL and immediately start commenting as if the tweet is real. Well, so be it. At least I'll have somewhere to send all the people flooding my inbox with congratulations and curses.
SO LET'S RECAP:
In early January, as I was deep into promoting my new book, THE BURNING WORLD, I thought of a way to talk about the book that seemed more fun than just endlessly tooting my own horn. Trump’s petty Twitter feuds with public figures were a running gag that was still funny back in January, before 9 months of relentless absurdity sucked all the humor out of the world. How funny would it be, I thought, to imagine him starting a feud with ME, an obscure author of zombie fiction, because he thought the grotesque and insane corporate warlord who's exploiting the apocalypse is supposed to be HIM?
So I photoshopped a series of tweets in which Trump attacks my writing, makes fun of my hair, says I have a small penis, and predicts that my book will flop and I’ll end up living on the streets. (Which came true, by the way.) Then I posted my “responses” to all these tweets in which I start out strong and sassy, then gradually break down under his relentless assault.
It was a little piece of Twitter theater. Performance art, if you will. To anyone who knew who I was, it was obviously a joke. THE BURNING WORLD was getting zero media attention and had only sold a few hundred copies. I was walking around town stapling up posters by hand and asking friends to hand out flyers. There was no imaginable universe in which Donald Trump knew about my book and found it threatening. Hence: COMEDY!
Not "lies." Not "fraud." Not "fake news" or ANY "NEWS" AT ALL. Just a guy with a few thousand followers posting silly pranks on Twitter.
But then somehow…the tweet blew up. Not the whole increasingly absurd sequence with the ending that underlines the joke. Just the first one. The most plausible one.
Very quickly, my silly prank was plucked out of its natural context and dumped onto THE WORLD STAGE, spotlighted by celebrities and spread around the internet by earnest activists and professional Trump haters. In that context it looked a lot less silly and a lot more real. And as the REAL Donald Trump continued to out-silly himself, the line between parody and reality continued to erode.
Now it’s October, nine months later, and we’re so inundated with political satire that the very concept rings hollow. None of this is funny anymore. Making a Trump joke feels like joy-buzzing a corpse, watching it lurch slightly and go still again. It’s gross and dare I say it, SAD. So people see this tweet and they take it dead seriously. Or they find out that it’s fake and can’t comprehend it as comedy. All they see is an author’s pathetic attempt to sell books by making himself a victim, a martyr, a CAUSE.
No no NO NO NO.
PLEASE look at the context. The context of its TIME—a simpler, more innocent time, nine months ago. The context of its PLACE—the generally ignored Twitter feed of a small-time fiction writer who’s been posting absurd, trollish nonsense for years. Nothing on that feed should be subjected to the intellectual rigor this tweet is getting. You don’t have to find it funny, but you do have to acknowledge what it was. Not an editorial in The New Yorker. Not an article on CNN. A joke on Twitter.
If you thought it was funny, laugh. If you thought it was real, don’t be mad or embarrassed. It’s not your fault—or mine—that Trump has made something so silly seem so plausible.
Ok, now that you’ve ignored all the above text, go ahead and read the tweets below and comment very sincerely about them because you still think they’re real. Enjoy!