i Pony (Transcript)

Matt: Zombie Kong declared his conquest over the city. He had won. He once again had dominion over all that he could see. The beast towered over the man he thought was his long lost love. Kong had a huge erection. Chuck looked up at the giant monkey silhouetted against the sky. He couldn’t help but stare at the giant erection.

He’d never been so far from the earth. Chuck had never been so [00:01:00] scared. Zombie Kong and his massive erection blotted out the sun. Then, out of nowhere, three Hellfire Sidewinder Pony drones ripped through Kong’s midsection, effectively cutting him in half.

intro music: Yeah.

RS: Welcome to Rite Gud, the only podcast that helps you write good. We’re back from our brief sabbatical with an all new episode to discuss the most important work of [00:02:00] utopian, or dystopian, depending on your interpretation, fiction of the past decade.

i Pony: Blueprint for a New America, by libertarian presidential candidate and boot model Vermin Supreme. Joining me to talk about this is Kitty Sneezes producer and former Newsweek editor, Mr. Matt Keeley. Matt, thank you for coming on.

Matt: No problem. Thank you for having me. It’s very good to talk about such an important work of fiction.

RS: Yeah, and, and I think in this we’re going to have a very, very fertile discussion in that you and I have very different perspectives on this work. To me, I think this is a work of utopia. of subtle political allegory and satire and utopian fiction that belongs alongside works like Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Her Land.

But you, on the other hand, I think are, are, [00:03:00] would shelve it more in the dystopian section alongside works like George Orwell’s 1984, Ursula Le Guin’s famous, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Right,

Matt: the, I, I see it more as a cautionary tale as, as something, uh, a, a warning from perhaps the future or the past.

RS: right, right.

And that’s why this work is so interesting and such a great work of literature. I, I think because it opens itself to interpretation. It allows for the negative space for us to draw our own conclusions, like Vermin Supreme wants us to play it fast and loose, and he gives us the freedom to come to our own ideas about it.

And part of the reason is that this book’s structure, it’s told in a very slipstream, very abstract way. He gives us two epilogues and two prologues. One of which [00:04:00] is a shockingly long erotic Planet of the Apes fanfiction, only with ponies instead of apes.

And this is of course lavishly illustrated.

So let’s get down to it and talk about the overall book. This book is called Blueprint for a New America. And, just as promised, it does deliver a blueprint for a new America.

This story does use the, the Heston family as our focal characters, but I wouldn’t really call them the protagonists. They’re more like our guides, the sort of Beatrice through Paradisio as in Dante that give us They’re really more our tour guides through this glorious new world and this noble utopian society that Mr.

Supreme proposes. And one of the primary tenets of this society is the idea of ponies. There’s a reason it is called iPony. And that is because Vermin Supreme’s vision [00:05:00] for America is to give everybody a pony. Every living American must get a pony. And this, this serves several reasons. One is that ponies are good.

Two is that ponies are a method of transportation that does not require fossil fuel, and that produces much lower greenhouse gas emissions. Another is that ponies are, are, uh, You know, they’re very good for you. They’re, they’re good for you psychologically, that riding a pony requires a certain level of, of physical exercise, unlike riding in a car.

So it’s really making sure we get a lot more fresh air, making sure we’re a lot healthier. And humans and ponies have a sort of a spiritual connection. And I think that it’s really exciting and bold of Vermin Supreme to take this because, I mean, whenever anyone critiques the Left’s demand for things like universal health care or social justice or something like that.

The centrist [00:06:00] dismissive response is usually, “Oh, and I suppose you want to give everyone a pony too.” Well, I salute Emperor Supreme for saying, “Yes, yes, I do. I do in fact want to give everyone a pony. And here’s how I’m going to do it.” But I think you have a different take on this.

Matt: Well, I definitely agree with the idea of giving everyone a pony because who doesn’t love ponies? Or not just for all the reasons you mentioned, but also because they can provide us as well outstanding fertilizer or methane, which comes in, comes in handy later in the novel as we both know.

But the, the thing for me is that, yes, the humans lives are all buoyed by being given ponies, but I have to worry about the ponies themselves. Because the ponies, like, are, the ponies are the Omelet, Omelan, [00:07:00] Omelan?, Omelan?.

RS: Omelasian? I don’t know.

Matt: The ponies are the Omelassian child. They suffer terribly. Even in the beginning of the book, the Butterscotch is forced to bite the hand accidentally of the inspector and gets punished for it, as well as, you know, his rider, of course, uh, Asher Lee.

But. Even, even beyond that, as the story picks up the, the zombies, they, they decimate, well, not just decimate, they wipe out the ponies. I demand justice for Butterscotch, and Butterfly. And of course, Tony the Pony and Jonie the pony. They were eaten. They were devoured just like mere baloney. The [00:08:00] ponies shouldn’t have been stuck in the paddocks, but given some way to defend themselves with their god given hooves.

Look at the hooves! Look at the hooves! They were sitting ducks. They weren’t even ducks, they were ponies! Ponies!

RS: I do think that is a salient critique, but I think within this book, within this novel, there is the suggestion of a potential for blurring the line between human and pony. For me, there’s Chuck Heston’s subconscious attraction to, to our equine brothers and sisters, which includes his very, very detailed dream about making out with a pony female scientist with big sexy anime eyes.

There is a really heroic, uh, cavalry of centaurs, of, [00:09:00] of, uh, equine humans who fight valiantly against the undead menace. I think within this, within this society, there was a movement toward a much more equal, a much more egalitarian human pony relationship that unfortunately was not able to flourish because of the zombie apocalypse.

But Without that, without that, I do think this, this vision would have led to that. And I think that by not giving it to us in this fictional form, by not offering it, us that catharsis, by merely giving us a hint of what could have been, what should have been, it makes us want it more. And it makes us more motivated to move toward that vision in the real material world.

I mean, I can [00:10:00] see that as an example of what not to do, because as you mentioned, there’s like the, um, the equine forces that try to help, but those are centaurs that have been built with surgery. And what about the ponies that were decapitated and stuff like that? Yeah. Yeah. for their bodies to be, have the tops halves of people surgically grafted on.

Matt: I mean, call me what you will, but I somehow doubt that the pony heads were then sewn onto the human legs.

RS: I see no reason, I see no reason to doubt that. I mean, there are illustrations within this book of pony headed women. So I suspect that that’s what’s going on. It’s not explored very much in the text, but While, while we’ve created, uh, surgically created a, a squadron of, uh, a new branch of the United States, well, the remaining [00:11:00] United States of, the United States of America, uh, military branch, in the meantime, we’ve also created a new, really exciting Civilian class, a new segment of society of horse headed people.

Matt: I suppose but think about the ponies themselves. I mean, even in this, they’re just as tools there. They create the fertilizer and methane. They’re used to be cyborgs. They’re even used as, you know, for for sexual fantasy, but they’re given no agency. They are just the ponies and I, I, I look for a more true. Equinitarian, I suppose, like, uh, portmanteau there of equine and egalitarian society, where, yes, uh, humans may ride ponies because riding ponies is fun, [00:12:00] but I, I want to make sure the ponies themselves enjoy being ridden and can make the decisions for themselves as to whether or not, uh, They are, they are a rode.

RS: Okay. Well, I think we’re going to have to disagree. I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one. Because this is a rich text and there’s a lot to explore in it. So let’s move on. Uh, the next agenda in the Supreme vision for America is the notion of generating electricity. Uh, iPony presents a society that is post fossil fuel.

We’ve exceeded peak oil and we’ve, we’ve run out of it. We just, we got nothing left. So how do we generate electricity? Well, no matter what kind of advanced technology we generate, uh, Whether, whether we’re using nuclear or gas or solar, really, all of our [00:13:00] electricity generating technology is designed to make a thing spin.

You use nuclear energy to heat up water and the water makes a turbine go around. You use solar energy to heat up water and the water makes a turbine go around. You use wind energy to make a

Matt: Turbine, go

RS: thingy. Yeah, you make a turbine go around. So, in this one, the way to make the turbine go around is that, um, This is a post zombie apocalypse society that, and instead of wiping all of them out, uh, the Supreme Administration integrates

the living impaired into society by, by literally harnessing them on treadmills. It is an endlessly renewable resource. It’s organic. It produces very little in the way of greenhouse gas emissions, except for the natural gases generated by decaying human bodies. And [00:14:00] so we have simultaneously, uh, a solution to the quote unquote zombie epidemic, as well as our, uh, solving our reliance on, on oil, which, I mean, that, that frees us from a lot of undesirable political alliances that, that solves a lot of environmental problems for us.

And I, and I think it’s very, uh, bold and, and beautiful for, for Vermin Supreme to articulate this vision for us. Mm

Matt: I, I, while I agree that the zombie power electricity is so much more efficient than what we’ve got now, I do have to ask, where are the brains that they’re chasing after? Because we all know that zombies are driven primarily by their love of brain.

RS: Mm hmm.

Matt: that’s, in fact, how they get the zombies to run on the giant treadmills is they have a sluice [00:15:00] of brain material that wafts their, that brainy scent over the crowd and causes them to go.

So, but where are those brains coming from? I don’t know if I have an answer for that.

RS: I don’t either. I mean, I would assume that it is coming from, uh, maybe people donating their body to science, or, or, or something like that. I mean, it is kind of a way waste the way we simply bury pre existing dead bodies with all their remains. Perfectly delicious organs intact. It’s really quite a waste.

Um, maybe this is a society that gets over that that squeamish idea that the human body is inherently sacred and You know waste not want not

Matt: Okay, I, I, I, I suppose I’ll, I’ll, I’ll grant you that at least in, you know, until we have the opportunity to ask, uh, Mr. Supreme himself

or Emperor

RS: next next time he comes to town for for [00:16:00] stopping his campaign tour. I’ll I’ll do my journalistic duty and ask him. And last time I saw him he gave me this, A copy of this book in a raffle autographed and demanded that I review it. Uh, so, so Vermin Supreme, if you are listening, I am fulfilling my duties, sir.

Matt: To still, uh, talk about the zombies though, you know, I’m just speaking more broadly, like in, in a lot of American fiction, zombies are a stand for the mindless hordes. George Romero’s, uh, uh, trilogy of zombie films where they just sort of go through the motions of American life, and it’s kind of an other, their zombies are seen as an other and they’re kind of an, an acceptable target for let’s say, because they’re not real.

In this, is, is, uh, the world [00:17:00] basically working towards slavery? Or, is it meant, like, like in, uh, Spinrad’s, uh, Spinrad’s classic novel, The Iron Dream, is this meant to be more of a critique of the dehumanizing elements in zombie fiction? That can make us justify our own slavery. I mean, after all, like the zombies very clearly show some signs of intelligence and planning and free will by the way that they escape.

RS: I mean, do they though? It, there is a section at the end where it is revealed that this was Dr. Von Flash’s evil plan to take down Vermin Supreme all along. That, that they’re really just, once again, they’re, they’re tools. They’re not really capable of agency.

Matt: Yes. But I mean, there is that coordination. I mean, are, are we expecting to believe that Dr. Von flash is so brilliant that he can organize a [00:18:00] million or a billion, horde at, to, to that level,

RS: I mean, I believe it.

Matt: well then I, I guess this is where we’ll have to agree to disagree then, because I, I don’t know if I, if I can justify that.

RS: Okay. So, so let’s move on and talk about another one of the, uh, campaign promises that Vermin Supreme has, has made to the United States, which is declaring war against Narnia. In this book, uh, the war against Narnia did happen, and, and victory was declared against Narnia, but something really, really interesting happens here, which is that, uh, The war against Narnia is revealed to be false.

They just put a sign that says Mission Accomplished across a random closet door. So it’s a bit like the eternal war against Eurasia or Eurafrica in George Orwell’s 1984. However, the fact that this [00:19:00] war simply is not real, that Supreme declares a war against a literal imaginary land, I think it’s actually a really brilliant way to critique the false ideology of war.

As we know, there is no war but class war. So in this case, declaring war against any real geographical part of the world is about as absurd as declaring war against the fictional land of Narnia. Only, in Supreme’s vision, he is declaring war in a way that causes no real material harm. Against any living being.

I guess the idea is that if we must have an enemy, if we, if we need an enemy, if we need some sort of war in order to make ourselves feel like we have meaning, at the very least, he’s, he’s providing us this [00:20:00] catharsis in a way that does not shed any blood.

Matt: And, and I think I, and this is one where we do, we both agree. I, I co sign everything you said. I also would like to point out too that by telling people that the the veil between fiction and nonfiction has been lifted. That means that anything is possible, at least in the realms of people’s minds. And it doesn’t really matter if there is or is not a Narnia that we, we’ve, uh, we went over.

Does it matter that our victories may not be actually real. I, I don’t know. I,

RS: Right.

Matt: I, I think it opens up a lot for potential, raises the potential of society to be [00:21:00] whatever it can be.

RS: Yeah. And honestly, even if Narnia were real, I would support a war against it. Because, like, Tumnus? I I don’t trust that guy.

Matt: Yeah. And the thing about, uh, where, “oh no, a girl likes makeup. Now she can’t go to Narnia.” Fuck that. fuck those patriarchal lions and shit.

RS: Yeah, fuck them. Yeah,

Matt: Oh,

RS: are in agreement.

Matt: Aslan, more like ass lan.

RS: Oh, yeah. Alright, so fuck Narnia. We’re in agreement there. Um, let’s talk about the book’s sense of dental hygiene. Dental hygiene. Toothbrushes are also a really important part of Supreme’s vision for America.

Matt: Yeah, as a staunch libertarian and believer in bodily autonomy, how does Vermin Supreme support military staff dental hygiene checkpoints? Isn’t it, isn’t it our right to have filthy brown teeth, much like our beloved ponies.

RS: Well, here’s my take. [00:22:00] Our contemporary society severely neglects dental health. Most employee health care plans do not include dental care. And, uh, very often the dental insurance that is available, which costs extra, offers terrible coverage. So I salute future Emperor Vermin Supreme for taking a stand on this neglected part of the human body. so let’s move ahead to the Council of Internet Memes. In this novel, the Remaining United States of Upper America is run by a council of internet memes, like the Charlie Bit My Finger Kid and Grumpy Cat and the The Rent Is Too Damn High Guy. Uh, and unfortunately, in this novel, the Council of Internet Memes is eaten by zombies, or crushed to death by a giant, uh, escaped King Kong with, with his erection.

Even before that, this, this council had very little genuine power. The true seat of power is the cryogenically frozen head of Emperor Vermin Supreme. Now, uh, [00:23:00] I think this is a, actually a really subtle bit of allegory to me, the concept of a council of memes, and I am using the original meaning of the word from Richard Dawkins, where he created this idea of, of a meme is like a cultural belief or idea or practice that reproduces and spreads itself from one host to the other, kind of like a gene.

RS: It’s like a gene, but immaterial. Instead of being genetic, it’s like mental or cultural. So, that is what a meme originally meant. It didn’t always mean like a reaction image on the internet. So, going by that, meaning of the word meme. I think this is Vermin Supreme’s very subtle critique of the Left’s obsession with soft power, with cultural power, while we’re neglecting hard power.

Like we focus on posting and art and hashtags and symbolic [00:24:00] protests and, and really don’t do enough of engaging with material change. It’s saying like, yeah, you can, you can create these sort of memes and do whatever, but if you just gorilla punch it, that’s probably a lot more effective way to, to move forward.

Kind of like how we, how society defeated Richard Spencer. It wasn’t by arguing with him on, on Twitter so much as it was by that one anonymous person in the hoodie just running up to him and, and cold cocking him on the side of the head and then running away and, and never being identified,

Matt: Yeah. I mean,

RS: enough.

Matt: yeah. Uh, uh, Richard Spencer at that moment himself was made into a meme. Like he was flattened. A meme doesn’t really have context it’s or nuance or any of that. It’s just. Here’s the, you know, here’s the core idea and in, in Vermin Supreme’s [00:25:00] novel, all information has been reduced to memes, like instead of like news stories, it’s image macros and whatnot.

And it’s, uh, it, it gives the reader much more, as we were, as you were saying, more of a drive. And Sometimes we don’t need any of that context. I mean, we just need to know, like, you know, we don’t need to know Richard Spencer’s life history. We just need to know he’s that dumbass who got cold clocked.

RS: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Matt: it’s awesome.

I mean, that’s like the best thing he ever did. So, you know.

RS: Yeah.

Matt: and millions of words he’s inevitably, he’s obviously written about whatever dumb shit he believes. It’s all out the window. He’s just the dude who got punched. And that’s what he should be.

RS: Yeah, yeah. [00:26:00] Yeah. All right. So, uh, one aspect of this book that I found very interesting was the, was the gender politics. This novel focuses on a little nuclear family, a very traditional patriarchal structure in the United States where we have a husband, Chuck, wife, Jane, children, uh, Asher Lee and Charon or Karen, uh, Now, in most narratives, especially of the kind of apocalyptic fiction and speculative adventure fiction, we would see Chuck, the traditional macho He Man, as the hero, right?

He’d be the one sort of leading things and protecting the women and children.

In this book, Chuck is rendered helpless and sexually objectified throughout much of the narrative. Meanwhile, his wife, Jane, and his children, Charon and Asher Lee, show significant agency and capability throughout the story.

Just mowing down hordes of the [00:27:00] undead with their guns, uh, stealing, a forklift and creating a, creating some sort of flamethrower out of, out of it. We realize that Jane Heston is in fact forklift certified, which we really respect her for. Uh, so, so this I think really makes this an important work of feminist utopian literature alongside Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, uh, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Her Land.

In the bold future of iPony, women and children will no longer be helpless victims sidelined by the patriarchy in this grander social narrative.

Matt: Yeah, I mean, Chuck is clearly named after, you know, Charlton Heston, one of the biggest he men in American pop culture in the 50s and 60s, and yet he is more directly tied not to Charlton Heston, but to Fay Wray in this [00:28:00] novel. Oh. And it’s his, know, I mean, he’s canonically related to Fay Wray, but also he looks like her.

And that’s what sets, er, one of the things that sets Zombie Kong off. I mean, there’s a whole lot behind Zombie Kong that just, you know, horniness, let’s say. But,

RS: Yeah.

Matt: It’s definitely a part two, and he sees Chuck as his Fay Wray, and he wants to fuck the hell out of Chuck.

RS: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, and, and, and I think that’s also beautiful in that it rejects our contemporary society’s narrative as the male, of the male body as something repugnant and, and, and undesirable, something functional. And when really this presents that the male body is, is desirable and beautiful and so beautiful that it can turn a giant undead gorilla, like,

that it can turn on [00:29:00] a giant dead gorilla, and I think that’s wonderful. It’s a really beautiful antidote to our culture’s sense of misandry.

Matt: Indeed, it’s, it’s, it’s, honestly, there’s so many masterful strokes in this novel, and that’s just one of them, it’s, yes.

RS: Masterful strokes is a very good choice of words, I think.

Matt: yes.

RS: Alright.

Matt: Though,

RS: However, I mean, it sounds like this is winning you over, but, but, uh, so would that mean that you’re saying, like, Yeah, yeah, iPony actually is a, a, a really positive vision for the future.

Matt: no, you’re, you, like, I can see that something is a good book without necessarily agreeing with Everything in it. I mean,

RS: hmm.

Matt: you know, it’s not just a simple binary. Obviously, you know, a few things are because I mean, after all, even in this own [00:30:00] narrative, the society is not sustainable. It’s all the book is about the entire this you know, so called utopia. It’s like, I’m not even sure that it’s intended to be an, into a utopia. It’s honestly, as I stated earlier, it really is a dystopia, especially with the way the ponies are treated. And I just can’t get beyond the mistreatment of the ponies and the treatment of them is just tools and not having their own thoughts and hopes and desires and dreams and all of those things that make us real.

RS: Mm. I mean, I, I do think that is valid, but I think the author’s doing something a lot more bold and a lot more subtle, which is, I think what we’re doing is I think that Supreme is presenting the blueprint within this [00:31:00] book as merely one step toward a true utopian society. Any good revolutionary realizes that he should be overthrown for the sake of progress, or, or, or, one of our greatest goals as progressives is the hope that we create a future in which we ourselves today are considered by our descendants as cruel, as, as a Awful.

I want the generations to look back on the way that I lived and say, “that’s terrible. I’m glad we don’t live that way anymore.” So what I think is happening is that Supreme is, he’s like Leon Trotsky, he has this vision of a permanent revolution. And this is between revolutions, the society, you know, this is post fossil fuel, this is post zombie apocalypse.

And here is the next revolution toward an even greater, even more wonderful [00:32:00] society.

Like, Star Trek really skips the hard stuff. You know, Star Trek shows us this, this beautiful, wonderful future, but it never really shows us how we got there. This is Vermin Supreme showing us how we can get where we need to go. And we can get there riding on a pony. So, in conclusion, my belief is that this novel is a brilliant nuanced work of speculative fiction that deserves a space on your bookshelf along with other compelling visions of the future.

Matt: and while I agree that it definitely deserves a space on your bookshelf, I urge you all to make sure to save a bit of space next to it, because I’m personally working on a story that solves iPony, where the Hestons learn to recognize the ponies bodily autonomy and work out their differences with the zombies peacefully.

And I’m sure. Just as you’re [00:33:00] clearing off your shelf for my future work, I’m clearing off my shelf for a future Hugo. Um,

RS: Yeah, because this will definitely win a Hugo Award.

Matt: ex

RS: It’ll, it’ll get a Hugo award alongside every single, uh, Omelas sequel where they rescue the kid or, or every like response to the Cold Equations where they solve the cold equations or no doubt what we’ll see very soon is when they, when they remember about Flowers for Algernon, every, every Flowers for Algernon remix where Algernon’s fine actually, turns out fine.

The guy stays real smart and it’s okay.

Matt: Exactly, I, you know, it’s We we’ve gotta like If I were there, no ponies would have been eaten. That’s all I’ll say. Heh.

RS: that and, uh, I’d like to say thank you very much for coming on to discuss the ins and outs of this, uh, iPony Blueprint for a [00:34:00] New America. In exchange for, uh, my thoughtful review, Vermin Supreme, please give me a space in your presidential cabinet.

That’s all for this episode. Until next time, keep writing good.