In light of the recent Presidents Day holiday, we asked all 19 of our talented and diverse THE FAKING OF THE PRESIDENT cabinet members (better known as the authors, perhaps) to answer two presidential questions and give some insight on their unique contributions to THE FAKING OF THE PRESIDENT anthology. We asked:
2) Who is your favorite president?
1. I chose Bill Clinton, warts and all, because he is a character right out of a Jim Thompson novel. A skirt chasing poor boy from Hope who was and remains the only Rhodes Scholar occupant of the White House. He played saxophone wearing shades on The Arsenio Hall Show and somehow when Gennifer Flowers put him on blast about their 12-year extramarital affair, he went on 60 Minutes right after the Super Bowl with Sam L. Jackson swagger to keep his campaign alive. I guess a kind of Black Mirror image of the warped future we have now.
2. My favorite president was Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on the West Wing. He was smart, insightful and self-reflecting. He negotiated a Middle East peace settlement, had a humane approach to crime and punishment, created stimulus for millions of new jobs, appointed the first female Chief Justice and survived an assassination attempt. Too bad he was fictional.
—Gary Phillips, “Y2 Effin’ K”
1. Golly…I wanted to write a Lysistrata-esque version of the Petticoat Affair, where the wives supported Peggy and withheld sex until their husbands came around…but sadly, Andrew Jackson was already taken by another, so it was not a president, but a rival, that I chose and I grew quite fond of Huey Long and his populism.
2. Favorite president? Lincoln. I used to be a country bumpkin lawyer who cared about justice for ordinary people myself. Also, he wrote great speeches.
―Kate Flora “Long Live Long”
1. I’d read about the strange feud Eisenhower had with the squirrels on his putting greens and thought it was ripe material for a story years ago, so when this opportunity showed up, I jumped at the chance to write my take on it.
2. Harrison because the idiot was so sure people wanted to hear him talk for two hours, he died for it.
—Angel Luis Colon, “Is This Tomorrow”
1. I might have picked LBJ because I have always been very curious about the JFK assassination conspiracy and I hope it will be enlightening for readers to see what happens when a president has too much power.
2. The second question is easy. Barack Obama.
—Abby L. Vandiver, “Reckless Disregard”
1. I chose George Bush because he always seemed like a somewhat decent guy whose worldview was colored by his privilege and that privilege made him a terrible president.
2. Well other than Obama I’d have to say FDR. Uncommon courage in uncommon times.
—S.A. Cosby, “999 Points of Light”
My two favorite presidents are Lincoln and Obama. I chose Nixon, though, because I like writing noir and he’s probably our most noir president—very smart, very paranoid, and done in by his own dark urges. Also, I’ve always been fascinated by that famous photo of Nixon and Elvis. To me, those two looked like they could have gotten into some really fascinating trouble together.
—Alison Gaylin, “Burning Love”
1. I’ve always been fascinated by the attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson. It’s one of those “stranger than fiction” stories that, if it had appeared in a movie today, would be criticized as a “plot contrivance.” I wanted to explore those seconds in between the guns misfiring, when Jackson’s life presumably flashed before his eyes. Added to the fact that Andrew Jackson was a fairly despicable person, it gave me the opportunity to highlight his flaws in the weirdest way possible—sending him into the afterlife.
2. George Washington. He was by no means a perfect president, nor a perfect man, but he was the spoke that spun the wheel of a young nation.
—Adam Lance Garcia, “Andrew Jackson Beats Death”
1. I picked Kennedy because I’ve always been obsessed with not only his life, but his tragic death—and that of his brother Robert. I’ve read tons of books on the era and it felt like a no-brainer. I wanted to play with the conceit of someone going back in time to alter the past but perhaps making things worse. I love sci-fi, too, so it let me play in that space a bit.
2. Obama was the first (hopefully not last) great president of my lifetime, so I’ll say him, with JFK and Lincoln following close behind.
—Alex Segura, “The Camelot Complex”
1. Ronald Reagan, former Hollywood actor turned Republican Saint, is my choice because he is the president of my childhood. The one who, when I was a first grader, came to Las Vegas in a black stretch limo. We small and curious children ran to the fence that kept us corralled in the elementary school playground and stared curiously at the vehicle. Then one black-tinted window lowered a few inches and a pale hand slipped out to wave at us. Then the car drove away. The teachers on playground duty had to tell us again who it was. I remember being underwhelmed. Later, during the Culinary strike of 1984, I walked the picket line with my stepfather and listened to the adults use his name as a curse because of what he was trying to do to the unions and ultimately did to the unions. His presidency reshaped Las Vegas in ways we still feel.
2. My favorite president…I want to say Barack Obama because I researched him and watched him closely and his win meant a lot to me but my true favorite is William Jefferson Clinton. I turned eighteen in 1992. I cast my first ballot ever for him. I watched him play a saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show and thought he was the right guy after twelve years of the Republican Party. I learned about real disappointment because of President Clinton. I learned adults screw up and lie. I had such faith in those in power when I was eighteen and by the time he was impeached, I knew how things really were. I still have faith in my elected officials but now I hold back a little so I don’t despair.
—Nikki Dolson, “Services Rendered”
1. James Madison is the only president who got run out of the White House so I figured that’s good mojo for Trump. But really, his and Hamilton’s Federalist Papers are quoted as much as The Bible to justify everything a President does left or right, so why not bite into it?
2. Teddy Roosevelt and Obama (sorry it’s a tie), and weird reasons for both.
—Christopher Chambers, “The Madison Conspiracy: Dolley Madison’s Zinger”
1. My original plan was to write about Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice who was an original by any measure. She had a pet snake named Emily Spinach, and the first draft of my story started with Alice trying to find a lost Emily. Somewhere along the way, the story became significantly darker and more about Teddy, but that was the spark, a White House garter snake.
2. I’ve always been partial to Teddy because of his efforts to protect nature here in the United States. I’ll admit, though, that it was fun to imagine him as a villain.—Erica Wright, “The Great Compromise of 1901”
1. Lincoln’s legend, and thus his complicity in the Civil War, which used enslaved Americans as poker chips, gave rise to some hairbrained political espionage. He was always mired in controversy, which is what made John Wilkes Booth conspire to kidnap him, which few folks know. Abe Lincoln came into power with the stink of a transformational president, which I felt lent a sense of magical realism in “Old Pharoah.”
2. My favorite president of all is Washington because no one will ever do what he had to do, and somehow, that guy was wise enough to know it and strong enough to do it. Goddamn, that’s something, when you think about it.—Danny Gardner, “Old Pharoah”
1. I debated which President to write about and I dithered too long so my first choice was taken, but then I thought about the First Ladies. They are often a divisive presence in the White House. Sometimes they are inspiring and proactive, sometimes they take a more “wifely” role in the background. But then the writer brain kicks and says “what if…” and that’s where Article 77 came about. During the 2000 election when it seemed there we no adults in the room, I handed it over to the ladies to settle things. I think we could use a whole lot more of that in politics.
2. My favorite President is Barack Obama. He had the most positive impact in my lifetime, anyway. The first President I was aware of was Nixon so that’s not a great start. When I was about 5 our house got robbed and I remembered my dad saying Nixon was a crook. I asked dad if Nixon broke into our house. I like having a President I can’t make that assumption about.
—Eric Beetner, “Article 77”
1. The relationship between Eleanor and Franklin fascinates me. Each had great depths, hidden lives; but their love and especially their respect for one another is palpable. Also, in a different era, I really think she’d have been the one who was President.
2. Abraham Lincoln. Not unflawed, but in the end, I think, a truly great man. (I’m also fond of John Adams because of Abigail, and because John put up with his pirate cousin Sam).
—S.J. Rozan, “Mother of Exiles”
1. I chose James Buchanan primarily because that period of American history—the 1850’s—was fraught with sectional divides and bitter battling in Congress—and we also had an entire decade of mediocre, if not downright incompetent, presidents, one right after the other. I’ve always wondered about Buchanan’s southern sympathies and his status as the only unmarried president, and that intrigued me enough to write about him.
2. Without question, FDR. He won the second world war, ended the Great Depression, and basically reshaped and remolded the country into something truly functional for everyone.—Greg Herren, “The Dreadful Scott Decision”
1. I’ve always been fascinated by the secrecy around Woodrow Wilson’s stroke, particularly around his wife Edith’s role in running the government while he was incapacitated. There is substantial disagreement about what she did, ranging from “She just helped him with his paperwork,” to “She was the de facto president.” To prepare to write this story, I read a biography of Wilson and learned that very, very few people were privy to knowledge about his health, including most of his cabinet. I wouldn’t be a mystery writer if I didn’t immediately ask, “What if another woman had been his wife? And what if she’d had mysterious motives?”
2. Oh, wow. History is so tricky. (And this is why alternative history is so fun.) As soon as you say, “I admire this guy for thus-and-such a policy,” you learn that he did or said some truly disturbing things. With that in mind, I’m still going to go out on a limb and pick one. Oh, okay. I’ll pick two. I admire President Obama for his intelligence and his grace under fire, and I admire President Carter for his long and focused post-presidential career of public service.—Mary Anna Evans, “All Big Men are Dreamers
1. When I first heard the concept of the anthology, I knew immediately what my world would be: a near future with the 2024 election in which Trump refuses to leave office. I chose Mike Pence as the Republican candidate because I thought it’d be fun to torture him. Even more fun to tell the story from Karen Pence’s POV. It was one of the most challenging stories to write but I had a blast doing it.
2. I don’t really have a favorite president, but if I had to choose, it would be Obama.
—Sarah M. Chen, “In Mother We Trust”
1. I wrote a “what if” tale about Al Gore becoming president. I’ve always wondered how much different our world would be had he won in Florida. From the environment to the Iraq War to 9/11. A lot of things would have happened differently had there been less corruption in the Sunshine State.
2. Lincoln would definitely be my answer, but I also like that Theodore Roosevelt bucked his party in favor of anti-trust laws and national land conservation. Country over party and profits. We need a lot more of that right now.
—Travis Richardson, “The Event That Didn’t Happen”
1. Somebody had to take on Trump, or Boss Tweet as I call him. The idea was to place him in the most supercilious situation possible and then take advantage of his vulnerability.
2. William Henry Harrison. He only lived 10 days into his presidency thus he didn’t have enough time to stick it to the public.
—Peter Carlaftes, “But One Life to Give”