J. Manfred Weichsel has written another brutally funny satire, Planet of the Wage Slaves. It has a totally awesome 1970s style cover, which is a bit of a departure from Weichel’s typical lurid naked women cover. This brief 13,800 word book would serve as an excellent introductory piece if you were curious about Weichsel’s signature style. It retains a disturbing likeness with the world we all know, but is utterly outlandish and outré. Unlike much of his previous work, the sexual provocations are kept to a minimum [although not absent!}, which is why I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see what a modern take on Menippean satire looks like.
Perhaps here I should define satire, as I have learned, through the course of promoting myself as a satirist, that a lot of people don’t know what satire is, and confuse it with parody. The primary difference between the two is that parody makes fun of fiction, while satire makes fun of reality.
But beneath the surface-level definition of the two words, each carries with it its own connotation. Parody is usually in good fun. It’s often considered homage. You parody things you love, not things you hate. Classic Simpsons episodes reference Citizen Kane so often because the creators loved the movie, not because they hated it.
Satire, on the other hand, can be mean-spirited and even misanthropic. You don’t make fun of real-life things you love. You make fun of the things you hate. Satire employs ridicule, mockery, and derision to attack human stupidity, weakness, and vice, as well as social convention and the hypocrisy at the root of propriety and decorum.
-J. Manfred Weichsel
If you are curious what kind of satire was written by Menippus of Gadara, Weichsel did an interview with DMR Books in September of 2022 where he offers us a view into his methods. There is a deep resonance between the fantastical settings of satires in the Menippean style and the genre-breaking experimentation that is currently going on amongst the pulp-inspired authors that I mostly read at the moment.
Weichsel’s targets in Planet of the Wage Slaves include prison, homelessness, soulless corporate jobs, and the universities that are co-dependent upon them. That is a lot to pack in, but the poetical and allusive nature of this brand of satire makes it possible.
That nature also makes it possible for Weichsel to play with patterns and structure, He can make comparisons between prison and college that would seem trite in another context have real bite here.
Weichsel can also make a joke about how college finally prepared a character for the real world that is utterly absurd, but makes a perverse kind of sense. The kind of realism and minute exacting detail that is a hallmark of much of mid-twentieth century science fiction would just hold Weichsel back here, but by untethering himself from it deliberately, Weichsel can tell a story with far more impact.
For the price, I found this story well worth it. Why not try it out? It will make you laugh, it will make you exclaim that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. It will give you a sense of disturbing familiarity. If you like this one, Weichsel has a whole bunch of other books to check out too.
Other books by J. Manfred Weichsel
Tales to Make You Vomit