Last weekend on “The Non-Prophets,” Matt read part of a a right wing Christian screed entitled “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.” At the time, I remember being much more interested in picking apart the literary shortcomings of the letter than worrying about the specific paranoid delusions of the author.
For instance, the entire first page of the letter is an introduction explaining what he is trying to do. Writing no-no number one. Show, don’t tell. If you have to explain what your writing MEANS, you’ve already failed as an author. Shilling pointed out that he was writing for a fairly dumb target audience who might not get the conceit. Even so, you have to be fairly dense to read a letter from 2012 and not understand that it is fiction.
Reading it again, there is another thing I wish I had said as well. Who the hell is the person supposed to be writing to? Is it another person in 2012? If so, why is he rattling off a bullet list of things which would presumably be common knowledge to everyone living there? Is it a person from another country? It seems to contain so much sappy patriotism that anybody receiving it would probably dismiss it. Unless they’re an American overseas, which again raises the question of why they didn’t know this stuff already.
Or is the author a time traveler, who somehow knowingly sent the message back in time to warn our ignorant past selves? That makes more sense, but I skipped to the end to read the sign-off. It says: “I still believe God is sovereign over all history, and though I don’t know why he has allowed these events, it is still his purpose that will ultimately be accomplished.” That doesn’t sound at all like your usual sign-off for a supposed ghost of Christmas future visitation. Not “You can still change all this! Vote for McCain!” but “I don’t understand how this happened.” If he doesn’t think he can change history, why did he write the letter?
Is it too much to ask that the author think about a genre and a writing style, and then write something that makes some small amount of sense within that genre? Sigh.