The Big Idea: Oliver K. Langmead
Posted on May 19, 2022 Posted by John Scalzi 2 Comments
Punching billionaires: Can it be done? Should it be done? In this Big Idea for Glitterati, author Oliver K. Langmead offers a mechanism for it that is (probably) unlikely to get one landed in jail for it.
OLIVER K. LANGMEAD:
Capitalism isn’t working too well right now, and one of the most grotesque symptoms of the failing system is the rise of the billionaire class. We are, in many ways, subject to their whims – helplessly watching as they launch themselves into space and get themselves elected into offices they are in no way suited for. I, for one, am weary of them.
Drag culture has an absolutely gorgeous way of satirising wealth. It glorifies the opulence and glamour, while punching up at the power structures that make for gross inequality. When I sat down to write Glitterati, I wanted to use that same kind of satire to express my weariness with billionaires. So, I wrote a book about stupid, weird rich people and why they shouldn’t exist.
There is a prevailing myth that rich people are somehow smarter than everyone else, but the truth is that the vast majority have just been born into wealth; very few of them have ever known poverty, leaving them so divorced from the everyday reality of human life that they become weird and eccentric. Worse, some of them absolutely believe the myth that they are wealthy because they are better than everyone else, making for a class of people who possess such breathtaking narcissism that it makes them difficult to satirise.
Difficult, but not impossible.
I took all the traits we see in billionaires – the smugness, the narcissism, the eccentricity, the opulence – and turned them up, to create a dystopia where everyone believes they are living in a utopia. The lower classes are looked down upon as horrible, seething masses, classified as “uglies” and “unfashionables”, while the billionaire class – the Glitterati – spend their days living in absolute luxury, their every whim catered for. They are avatars of entitlement, and they are buffoons.
At the heart of the story – the heart of Glitterati – is Simone; himself a buffoon, navigating a world he barely understands. Only… something happens to Simone that leads him to question his reality; an event so bizarre that it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens the very foundations of his opulent utopia. And maybe, just maybe, he will realise that there is more to life than being really really really ridiculously good looking.
We can’t seem to get rid of billionaires, so we might as well laugh at them.
Glitterati: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s
Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.
In the catalogue of Futures That Weren’t, possibly Keynes’ Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren is the most poignant.
The future that Keynes saw 90 years ago is no closer now than it was then, maybe because, for the people who own things, the desperation of everybody else is part of the good life.
It’s worth noticing that Iain Banks had to take running the Culture out of human hands, to make it plausible.
Oliver, you are singing my song. Going off to buy right now. Thanks for writing it!
Also, for those interested, here is the column by the “apostate” Abigail Disney, talking about how rich kids are programmed from birth to believe that they are deserving and no one else is, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/06/abigail-disney-rich-protect-dynastic-wealth-propublica-tax/619212/