by Colin Varney
It was 2015. Obama was in the Whitehouse, Ted Cruz was a credible Presidential hopeful and The Handmaid’s Tale was merely a book. Taylor Swift was shaking it off, while I was earning a comfortable living as a satirist, with a weekly column in a broadsheet. But I was in the grip of early on-set mid-life crisis. As an adopted child, I was undergoing a trauma of identity. I doted on my parents, but was feeling an increasing urge to investigate my biological heritage.
I wrote a hilariously scathing parody in which a blunt and uncouth reality TV star becomes President of the United States. Soon after the piece was published to great acclaim, I discovered my birth mother was a fortune teller.
I delved further into my background. While writing a scenario in which Britain decides to exit the European Union, only to be ensnared in a Kafkaesque nightmare, I found out that my biological father was a celebrated astrologer. While concocting a sketch in which Boris Johnson becomes Britain’s Prime Minister, it was revealed that my sister was an unerringly accurate meteorologist. My brother was in banking futures and my grandfather was distantly related to Nostradamus.
In the week that I created a female Presidential candidate who labelled her opponent’s supporters with a derogatory appellation they could appropriate as identification of their proud outsider status, I unearthed that my uncle scried by sifting through animal entrails. A fantasy depicting a country governed via Twitter coincided with the revelation that my nephew was heavily involved in mapping out the Marvel Universe.
I became paranoid, convinced that my lampoons and spoofs were generating the geopolitical chaos surrounding me. My editor grew impatient, accusing me of abandoning comedy for what he referred to as pre-emptive fact. He issued an ultimatum: revert to fiction or face redundancy.
If The Twilight Zone was still on TV, I thought, there could be an episode about me. Then they revived The Twilight Zone.
After a dark period of fevered guilt, I vowed to turn things to my advantage. I wrote an outlandish piece in which a rank outsider wins the Kentucky Derby by coming second. To disguise it as satire, I wove in allusions to Hilary Clinton losing the Presidency with almost two million more votes than her opponent. When Country House was declared the winner of the Derby after the disqualification of front-runner Maximum Security, I had a grand on it.
This prescient reportage was the last straw for my editor. I was fired, but I didn’t care. In July, I wrote a banal piece for a community news-sheet that predicted the outcome of October’s World Series. I placed my entire savings on the outcome – and lost. Too late, I realised the piece had lacked satirical sass. The events depicted were not farcical enough. Only the illogical could become reality. Like, for example, a perfect storm in which the most influential nations are controlled by self-seeking narcissists at the very same time as the advent of a once-in-a-lifetime international crisis.
I am now unemployed and penniless. I’m about to default on my mortgage and my marriage has disintegrated. But I know who I am. If satire can engender the future, I’m ready. I am working on a bitingly trenchant novel in which alien bodysnatchers impersonate Fox News presenters and urge viewers to vote Democrat. An infestation of dinosaurs in Florida results in low voter turn-out. And a virulent narcolepsy causes white people to sleep through Tuesday 3rd November 2020.
And Putin – please stop ringing. I’m not going to answer.