January 6 Speculative Fiction... For Now

By | Monday, January 08, 2024 Leave a Comment
January 6 was over this past weekend, and it marked the anniversary of Donald Trump goaded thousands of his followers to storm the US Capitol and kill any members of Congress they found in order to overthrow the US government. So far, around 1200 people have been formally charged with federal crimes associated with the attempted coup with about 60% of them having been sentenced with an averag sentence of a little over three years in prison. (Far too lenient, if you asked me.) But rather than go over what did happen, I'm looking today at what could have happened by way of two comics: Rogue State by Matteo Pizzolo and Carlos Granda, and 1/6 by Alan Jenkins and Gan Golan. Both comics start from the premise of "what if Trump got his way?"

Both books approach the idea a bit differently. 1/6 is more direct and literal -- the insurrection happens exactly as Trump wanted, the election results are over-turned, and Trump stays in the White House. Rogue State doesn't have the coup as successful but the Supreme Court reinterprets the 2nd Ammendment, effectively making any armed group of citizens a de facto militia, fully deputized as law enforcement but unbeholden to actual laws. While the corrupt President is technically out of office, he (who is not actually Trump, but a thinly disguised surrogate) still holds the sway of the military and the police, including most of these right-wing militias. In both cases, though, martial law is enacted and anyone who doesn't pledge fealty to Trump is either "disappeared" or simply killed on the spot and, not surprisingly both titles follow a few characters in whatever loose network of a resistance has been building.

Rogue State runs closer to my most extreme fears of where Trump is trying to get to: armed soldiers literally marching down the street and shooting at basically anyone that don't like the look of. I do recognize that this is an extreme that isn't likely to happen, certainly not out in the suburbs where I live. Even if things do go that far south, armed groups of soldiers patrolling my street on foot is just not something I'm going to see out my window. It's a horrifying visual and it might make sense in more urban environments like we see in Rogue State, but at worst we'll get three or four fucknuts driving around in their oversized pick-up truck. Still frightening, but at a ever-so-slightly diminished capacity.

1/6 is less extreme, I suspect, because it's a deliberate attempt to hew closer to what could/would in fact happen. Martial law is imposed here as well, but it's only the official military and police, and much of their monitoring is through flying drone cameras, and tracking people's digital behavior. It's still very much dystopian but there are fewer open demonstrations of violence in the streets, primarily because it's made clear the military/police will face no repercussions for using deadly force. While that is also the case in Rogue State, it seems early enough after things go to sh*t that many citizens are still incredulous that police and their deputies can murder people pretty indiscriminately.

I'm intrigued by both stories, mainly because both focus on the journey of one person and how they become an active part of the rebellion. They both do a good job of setting up the particulars of their worlds; 1/6 rolls the plot along at a quicker pace while Rogue State spends more time setting up the protagonist's background. One isn't necessarily better than the other in this case; they just have different modes of storytelling and they both work reasonably well here. Personally, I did prefer 1/6 a little more, but that has more to do with my personal tastes in storytelling than the craft on display.

Both titles are still ongoing and I have no idea how/where they might go with these bleak tales. Do the protagonists win and Trump gets what's coming to him, or do they take a more 1984 direction and showcase just how bad these types of dystopias can get? The second issue of 1/6 was just released last week and the collected edition of the first three issues of Rogue State comes out in early February. I think they're both worth picking up because most people do not seem to understand just how close the US got to these types of outcomes in 2021. Yes, these are works of speculative fiction but if you consider either as too wildly impossible to happen, then you're part of why all those asshats thought they could storm the Capitol and get away with it in the first place.
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