January 27, 2017

OPERATOR 5 Purple Invasion: Reading Pulp in The Age of Trump

Timing is everything, especially when you're reading pulp novels.

When I first began reading the Operator 5 Purple Invasion Saga three years ago, it seemed...quaint. A kind of alternate history in which totalitarian European forces (aka, "a very veiled Germany with a Geller-ese name") took over the United States in the height of the Great Depression....and one man - Jimmy Christopher, espionage agent - led resistance efforts to free our country.

(Think of it as the 24 of the 1930s, only in written form and much less Kiefer Sutherland).

After two books, I placed it down awhile - issues with my tablet meant moving my ebooks to an older, slower model, and then....

Donald Trump got elected.

One of my challenges for 2017 is reading more books, and working through my existing pile. Reading Operator 5 in the past few weeks has been a bit of a revelation. Much of my reaction relates to not just the protests right after the Inauguration, but Trump's actions afterwards.

The Trump Administration has acted swiftly to not only gut the progress of the past few years, but when Trump's main strategist states that the media should "keep its mouth shut"...well, that reeks of moving away from democracy and into authoritarianism.

And it's easy to see that "we-gotta-take-charge" spirit coursing throughout the Operator 5 Purple Invasion saga. Recovering from the Great Depression, many people looked overseas and saw trouble brewing. Many other people didn't want to get involved (and if you want more details, check out Lynne Olson's Those Angry Days), yet there was an undercurrent of rebellion, of the belief that if somebody didn't do something, we were next.

It's one of the more heartening things I've seen as people are marching against this administration - that it's not just about protesting, it's about making voices heard, especially in an administration more willing to strip away rights than build up the American people.

(And before you say, "Oh, quit your whining, you lost, get over it"....Trump lost the popular vote by three million votes. Investigation is ongoing not just about Russian interference in our election, but in some of Mr. Trump's business practices. Three times more people protested his administration than showed up to see him being sworn into office. Finally, you do know that once he's done destroying other people's rights, he'll turn on yours, right? Enough of my ranting).

Reading the Operator 5 Purple Invasion saga (I'm three novels away from finishing) provides great insight into how people use their writing to rebel against the system...and how pulp fiction allows those fantasies to run rampant without any true consequences. (In fact, I'm going to reread The Spider Vs. The Empire State, a collection of novels from around the same time and is a more direct what-if-criminals-were-elected-into-office premise).

Let's also be clear - many of the Operator 5 Purple Invasion books (available in e-book form via Radio Archives) contain some very problematic elements (including racism and high levels of xenophobia). However, there's something that's revealing about the American psyche's tendency to drift towards rebellion and defiance...and novels which really seem (for me, anyway) to have a strong resonance in current times.

Looks like my assignment for 2027 is to reread these books to see if I'm right.

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