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The election of Arnold Schwartzenegger to governor of California seems too broad for satire, and it's now lost to us forever as a throwaway joke in a short story. The Infinite Matrix asked a few SF writers, editors, and physicians for pithy comments, and this is what we got. Some are pithy, some not.

New, 10.13.03: I've added a couple of new comments, from Ursula Le Guin and Len Wein, and Rudy Rucker has sent a heartfelt retraction.


Ellen Datlow

Ugh! Is that pithy enough?


William Gibson

I forget whether, in the Virtual Light books, Arnold is president of the US or merely Governor of SoCal, but, hey, it looks like I've gone and been prescient again. I hate it when that happens.


Harlan Ellison

To all the other 49 states — with the exception of Minnesota, whose election of a mountebank transcends even ours — the coronation of Ahnuld seems phantasmagoric. But not to us. We've done it at least twice before: George Murphy to the Senate, and Reagan to the White House. So, been there, seen that, done that. I thought, early on, that it was a great slate with Gary Coleman and Schwarzenegger both running: remember in MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, the behemoth called "Master Blaster" — this seven-foot-tall brain-damaged, muscle-bound giant, with the midget strapped to his shoulders? Wow, what a terrific Governor we'd have if we just cranked Gary Coleman down onto Ahnuld's shoulders!! As long as nobody blew a high-pitched dog whistle, we'd be in sweet milk an' honey. So what do I actually think about all this foofaraw? To quote Thomas Jefferson, who was rewording le Comte de Maistre: "People get pretty much the kind of government they deserve."


Karen Joy Fowler

Once again we writers learn that realism is an inadequate tool for any depiction of the real world.


Carter Scholz

Wait for the Arnold 2008 Presidential campaign.


Jack Womack

Oh, let's extrapolate:

(AP) Spokespeople for Madonna said today that while the President could apologize to the families of the five small girls crushed by the state limousine at last week's "Next Stop Mecca" celebration, it would be wrong for her to do so.


Cory Doctorow

The American future is not only increasingly weird, it's also increasingly parochial. The idea of a non-American tomorrow is growing so inconceivable to the inward-looking country that it is only a matter of time until this country's tomorrow fractures off into its own parallel universe.


Michael Blumlein

Dear Eileen,

Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion. As it happens, I met AS many years ago. I had devised a radical diet at the time, of sardines, ground sirloin and powdered veal, to build up muscle mass in the hopes of combatting the dreaded wasting disease we were seeing in such alarming numbers, and he, from an entirely different perspective, was interested. He jotted down some of our recipes (he was particularly keen on trying the braised sardine loaf) and in passing asked if I was in favor of gun control. It was a joke — the gun that he was referring to was hard and rock solid in his very tight jeans. The real purpose of his visit came out a few minutes later, when he asked if I had any information about a particular steroid in use back then made of homogenized manatee, elk, and baboon testes. As it happened, I was not only acquainted with the preparation, I had a closet full of vials. We made a deal: I would provide the medicine, and in return, he would train me in the arts of body-building and public relations. If you know me, and I think you do, then you know who got the better deal. As for AS, I believe he still stacks up his injectibles. As proof, I call to your attention recent photos of his neck, upper arms and torso. Also his curious need to own six Hummers. And of course his desire to govern, I mean rule, our troublesome little state. Who but a real man, a man's man, an enhanced man, would have such virile ambitions, such courage?

Always great to hear from you. Let's talk again soon.

All the best,

Nisi Shawl

What will we do next, elect a cartoon character?


Ellen Klages

He's still smarter than the President.


Rudy Rucker

I liked "Terminator" (1) so much that I can't really feel too bad about this development. I love the scene when he's in a cheap motel and his flesh covering is rotting off, and the clerk starts banging on his door, saying, "Smells like you got a dead cat in there!" and we get an Arnold's-eye view of the situation, complete with a dialog box containing possible answers, and he selects, "Fuck you, asshole." That's the guy I want talking to Enron next time they try and take us down for umpty billion. Not that I voted for him, mind you, but since he's in, I'm ready to enjoy the entertainment and hope for the best. I love that part in "Pumping Iron" where he's smoking pot — so weird how actors are utterly exempt from the rules for other candidates. Or maybe that's just Republican actors? Too bad Clint didn't run. And what about Maria Shriver? Talk about an android, but biotech, not titanium-frame, with all those Buckey-tube tendons around her face.

Added 10/11/03: Oops! As soon as Eileen Gunn posted my remarks, I got a link to Arnold's Enron Secret, pointing out Schwarzenegger's links to OH NO Ken Lay of Enron. And then the front page story of the S. F. Chronicle yesterday seemed to confirm this: New push to deregulate energy: Schwarzenegger electricity plan fuels fears of another debacle.

I now recall that the Terminator was on a mission to extinguish the last possible hopes of suffering humanity. And to think that for a few innocent optimistic minutes there I'd believed his election night speech about being for the regular folks. Sigh... fooled again.

The astounding thing is that the U. S. electorate so consistently votes against their own best interests. If Arnold lets Enron get out of paying California the $8 billion they presently seem to owe us, I hope there's street demonstrations like never before. With enough solidarity and consciousness-raising, the people can, nay must, defeat the Republikkkan robots.


Rudy Rucker, Jr.

The last time California had an uberactor, some kick-ass punk rock came out of San Francisco! Yeah Haw!


Len Wein

Arnold is in office.

The Cubs and the Red Sox are both in the playoffs.

Exactly how many signs of the Apocolypse does that count as?


Richard Kadrey

In an era of circuses, the one with the most clowns wins.


John Shirley

A spokesman for the administration today announced that while it is true that the government has made an agreement to allow the BRAIN EATERS FROM THE PLANET ANTARES to slowly, slowly, eat the living brains of many residents of the United States, they point out that there is an upside to this too:

1) The brain eaters will only eat the living brains of about forty per cent of the population. At first.

2) While they will be consuming brains slowly, slowly, over a period of months, inducing unspeakable agony, the "consumees" will still be able to function well enough to pay taxes, until convulsion and death set in.

3) The Brain Eaters will only be eating the brains of people in the lower income brackets (at first). This arrangement has been made so that people in higher income brackets will be able to continue to keep the economy running. They are needed for economic oversight and cannot be spared. Therefore, some people, for a time that has not been specified by the Brain Eaters of Antares, will not be harmed.

4) A by product of Antarean Brain Eating is Antarean manure which has valuable pharmaceutical properties: it is a heretofore unknown form of narcotic.

5) Television and movie actors and producers will not be harmed as they have an insufficiency of brain matter for what the Antareans term "initial grazing priorities."

6) The winnowing effect on the population will make more jobs available and this benefit will be continuous over time, since the new employees will in time themselves become Antarean Brain Eater fodder.


Terry Bisson

Where's that tiger when we need him?


Leslie What

I sorta did predict something like this in "How I Got Away," in which a woman starts a new religion she calls The Church of Arnold and uses an Arnold beach towel as her altar. She tries to drive away from her troubled past while protecting her ass from her car seat by sitting on Arnold's terry-cloth face. Needless to say, her plan doesn't work out like she hoped.

I found out they need nurses in Canada. Maybe I can get in on that.


Gardner Dozois

I notice that while there was (by sheer coincidence, of course) an Arnold Schwartzennger film festival running on the Sci-Fi Channel on election day, there was no Gray Davis film festival running there, or on any other channel.


Pat Cadigan

To tell you the truth, I'm flabbergasted X 2. I.e., I'm flabbergasted, and I'm flabbergasted that I'm flabbergasted. I mean, Philip K. Dick knew it all along. I've read just about everything PKD ever wrote and I believe every word of it. So why am I surprised?

It's SFnal, all right, but it's SFnal in a Philip K. Dick kind of SFnal way. And, as you might remember — or totally recall, if you will — Schwarzenegger did star in a movie based on "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by none other than our Prophet himself.

Well-read faithful such as myself will recognize this seeming coincidence for what it really is: a message from God revealing the true nature of the universe.

Which is, for the benefit of the not-so-well-read and the heathen: the universe is in fact a movie and we are all in it. God is the director. It's a production that has been plagued by problems from the beginning and, in fact, has already had a number of directors prior to the one now at the helm.

In an effort to rescue this production from a fate worse than the fiery pit — i.e., becoming the Heaven's Gate of its time — the current director, or God, has dispensed with dogma and embraced dogme. It's one of the few techniques nobody's tried yet and in a situation this desperate, there isn't a whole lot to lose.

Thus, the lousy lighting, muddled sound, all those badly-framed shots with things off-centre (not to mention camera-shake!), and the improvised sequences that go on and on and on and don't end until some of the characters end up painting themselves into a corner with their tongues (so to speak).

But there is a script. It's based on things taken from many different books and stories, all of them by Philip K. Dick. And as you probably understand by now, Dick is also the director.

Therefore, PKD = GOD. QED.

I realize the foregoing isn't exactly what anyone would call pithy. But then, scripture never is.

If you give long and careful consideration to everything I've just told you, you'll see I'm right. That's not all there is to it, of course, but that pretty much covers the most important points. I would tell you more, except Chris says that I have to take my medication now. Actually, he says I should have taken it an hour ago, but I really fail to see what difference 60 minutes one way or another could make.


Vonda McIntyre

Here's more of a general comment on the state of American politics and my distress: Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.


Jay Kinney

Clearly, if science fiction had never existed, Arnold would never have been elected. He achieved his greatest success portraying a cyborg from the future, and starred in a PKD-based movie, Total Recall, whose title prefigured the recall election. Maybe science fiction's next task should be to imagine a future without science fiction.


John Cranshaw

Just keep in mind that our governor can beat up your governor....


Ursula K. Le Guin

I have to confess that I am way too sad and scared by what happened in California to be pithy or pissy or cute or anything useful. Satire is great stuff, but how do you satirize something like this, a man who is a caricature to begin with?

This doesn't make me think of science fiction. It makes me think of history — those Roman emperors who were very popular to begin with and were self-centered idiot monsters, like Caligula. The cynicism of the voters, that scares me a lot. Cynicism gets you Hitlers, big ones and little ones. We're halfway to a capitalist-corporate nazism right now, and I don't see the opposition building anywhere near fast enough to reassure me that we can overturn the coup d'etat that Bush-Cheney & Co pulled off three years ago.

It really is rather hard to be funny about this, isn't it? — as the mastodon said to the saber-toothed tiger in the La Brea Tar Pit....



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Eileen Gunn is the editor and publisher of The Infinite Matrix, and Chairman of the Board of the Clarion West Writer's Workshop. She also writes short stories, two of which have been nominated for the Hugo award. Her cryptic and hard-to-navigate personal site, Imaginary Friends, was a Cool Site of the Day way back in 1997.

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