Regarding Henry Pratt
First, here’s an animated Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise cover by Morgan Wright:
The one thing missing from the original cover was the mist hanging over the sea—and for good reason. You can show mist or you can show everything else. Using animation, Morgan Wright was able to put some of the mist back into the scene.
Definitely cooler, or at least colder.
It’s hard to avoid thinking about politics these days. More and more, I think the least realistic aspect of Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise is the character of Henry Pratt, a moderately competent Republican who has the misfortune to be president during the Northern Monsoon disaster. His response is inadequate, but it is the response of a man who admits there is a real problem (not merely a PR disaster) and is willing to invest some effort in coping with it.
I’m not sure someone like that could be elected as a Republican. Something has gone terribly wrong with the GOP, and it happened much earlier than 2016.
In fact, I think the George W. Bush administration bears this out better than Donald Trump. The thing about Trump is, he’s a vain old man long past his prime, and even in his prime his main skills were talking people into giving him money and maintaining an atmosphere of tasteless opulence. On his best days, he sounds like a fifth-grader BSing his way through an oral report on a book he’s never read, and the rest of the time he sounds like Captain Queeg on Valium. The fact that his makeup makes him look like he fell face-first into a bowl of turmeric is the least embarrassing thing about him.
The media, far from unfairly attacking Trump, keeps trying to pretend that he’s a fully functional adult and a normal president. Sometimes they fail to maintain this illusion. That’s why, every few months for the past four years, you’ve been seeing a story about Trump having a “meltdown.” No, that’s his normal operating temperature. More importantly, he has surrounded himself in government with a Count Olaf entourage of weirdos whose sole qualification is family connection or personal loyalty to him and who have no idea what they’re doing or how to do it. From these people, you would expect nothing less than the corruption and failure that’s been on display every day since Trump took office.
On the other hand, while George W. Bush himself was a mediocrity, his Cabinet and White House staff were full of the GOP’s top experts. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice—these weren’t toadies and sycophants. These were people with serious resumes, some of them boasting decades of experience in government. In them, the Republican Party was giving the country the best it had.
And what did this dream team do? They ignored warnings about an imminent terrorist attack. They let Osama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora. They redirected America’s efforts toward a war of choice—and not very wise choice—with Iraq. They correctly anticipated an easy victory, but failed to plan for the occupation that would inevitably follow and allowed billions of dollars in reconstruction money to be openly stolen. They were caught flat-footed by disaster so often—the breach of the levees during Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of the housing market—that the phrases “no one could have anticipated” or “nobody could have predicted” became a bitter running joke. I wonder how much the GOP’s distrust of expertise is the result of seeing its own bench of experts collapse under the flabby weight of their own incompetence.
Those who've been documenting this since it was happening should get the credit. Liberal podcasters Driftglass and Blue Gal put it this way: “The Right has always kept two sets of books. And one is the bullshit conspiracy ‘liberals are tyrants, they’re coming for your guns, they’ll make your kids gay’ shit that they feed the base to keep them stupid and angry and voting to cut their own throats. And the other set of books is like, ‘Yeah, we understand how international relations work and how defense treaties work and how NATO works and how the economy works, and we just want our tax cuts. And we understand that we have to tell a bunch of mouthbreathing racists a bunch of scare stories about Brown People Comin’ For Ya to get them to vote for our tax cuts. We understand that. We know it’s all bullshit. But we tolerate it because it gets us what we want.’ And then, under the Bush administration, they burned that second set of books.” (Episode 551, 10:35-11:20)
So why did I write Henry Pratt the way I did? Because, for story reasons, I needed him to be that way. I needed a Republican so Carrie Camberg could run against him in a general rather than a primary election, but a president as bad as George W. Bush, let alone Donald Trump, during a crisis the size of the Northern Monsoon would leave nothing to rebuild on.
Science fiction doesn’t always have to be realistic.