Ruth, on Ward’s books:
We’ve always been about demons and zombies, ghost-boys and ghost-girls, all in a (mostly) light-hearted way. None of our villains are ever really evil, most are simply misunderstood, and some, although not all, aren’t even villains, once you got to know them. Now, though, Ward, with his two short novels (but not novellas) has taken us into scary territory, speculation regarding the future of America. We begged him not to take us there. America is dysfunctional, too divisive and too, well, scary. But Ward wasn’t to be talked out of it, and here we are with two dystopian political novels (and a third coming,) and we helped him with brainstorming, editing, proofreading, whatever. We couldn’t refuse, he’s always been there for us, and we’re all one big happy family.
These are somber works and, we hope, not prescient. America is in troubled waters and the novels are about an America that failed to self-correct. Still, the books aren’t entirely without hope. We’re all of us Americans, after all. The books, grim as they are, Ward doesn’t sugarcoat, are not without our usual nostalgia for how things used to be. There’s a wistfulness and even some romance, but following Book 3, due out at the end of 2017, it’ll be back to safer, familiar territory, 1960s teenage ghosts.
My Black Jesus
Welcome to the Joseph R. McCarthy Memorial Prison Camp
Domestically, America is a nation of sheep and for any who resist ─ atheists, Muslims, occupiers, libertarians, and the rest, the final solution, the solution urged by patriotic Americans, is extermination. But twenty-first century corporate America, feigning adherence to its original constitution of 1787, and dedicated to capitalist profit above all else, has instead instituted a network of lucrative penal camps.
The recalcitrant will spend the rest of their lives in the camps, work camps for those who can afford the corporate-imposed monthly stipend, less-comfortable accommodations for the indigent, including those whose money has run out and who can no longer afford the stipend.
The system is unchallenged, until a chubby black man arrives saying he’s Jesus Christ come down to establish his kingdom. Right-wing America, this Jesus says, is the prophesied world of the Antichrist, and is this Jesus really who he says he is or is he the Antichrist, or is he nothing more than a whack-job? And how will America respond to his assertions of divinity and his promise of redemption?
The Hawthorne Group
The Jesus-fronted, right-wing revolution that successfully toppled American democracy didn’t get started as a vast,right-wing conspiracy, and had only morphed into it, once the demagogues grasped the possibilities inherent in harnessing and directing the wrath of a disgruntled American populace. The demagogues insinuated themselves into all the different levels of government and society, and once ensconced, they watched for the most propitious moment, and struck ruthlessly when the moment arrived.
The result is a new America of Christian fascism where all dissent is ruthlessly suppressed, the ruthlessness symbolized by an iconic video gone viral – Christian hymns blasting out of speakers as mounted American police charge like Cossacks into a crowd of left-wing protestors, a scene of shrieking panic and bloody mayhem.
Most of America remains oblivious.
The only serious opposition to the original coup had come from the Hawthorne Group, a cadre of prescient young leftists-techies. The group had fought a valiant, clandestine battle against the surging right wingers, and despite their limited resources and the strength of the opposition, the Hawthorne Group came astonishingly close to derailing the revolution. The group ultimately failed, spectacularly, its members executed on TV or fleeing into exile.
A decade later, and the glorious revolution has floundered. POG, the Party of God, the old Republican Party, finds itself stifled by its own successes. Having risen to dominance on contradictory promises ─ to eviscerate the federal government while restoring America to its position of world dominance, POG’s dedication to states-rights and to decentralization has stifled its international ambitions. The American president, a closet pragmatist frustrated by the contradictions inherent in the promises, is intent on taking America from faux democracy into a brazen dictatorship that will sweep aside the myriad centers of power and unleash America’s military and economic strength to conquer the world. Another POG faction, the Zealots, is pushing for a nuclear holocaust, to prompt the Lord Jesus to come back. The success of one side or the other seems assured, until two members of the long-defunct Hawthorne Group step up, one because he’s being manipulated by an old POG nemesis who still has a need for revenge, the other because he’s egomaniacal enough to believe he can, against all odds, save America and restore the original republic.