Commoditizing the Starkian


For those who do not know, Stark Truth podcaster and tireless self-promoter Robert Stark “is an American journalist and political commentator. You can listen to his podcast at Doubleyou Doubleyou Doubleyou Dot Stark Truth Radio Dot Com.” He is also something of a guerrilla litterateur, and the publication of Vaporfornia, Stark’s sequel to 2017’s Journey to Vapor Island, constitutes an underground literary event. His preoccupations in Vaporfornia, which focuses on a different protagonist but elaborates on the world created in Journey (while also overlapping with Matthew Pegas’s Dragon Day), will be familiar to Stark’s audience, with retrofuturism, neon, Jewesses, anuses, incels, and California all zoned for ambitious development in the author’s imagination. Stark’s new novel follows aspiring reporter and social justice warrior Max von Mueller, a troubled young man torn between defeatism and grandiose visions, woke ideology and the eugenic revolutionism of utopia-dreaming billionaire presidential candidate Roger Blackstone, an inspirational Daddy Warbucks figure to spiritually orphaned Max. From the Bay Area to Modesto to Reno and back to Los Angeles, Max is propelled on a neo-picaresque California incel odyssey that will test his social commitment to the uplift of the downtrodden as well as his aesthetic integrity.

Max’s incomplete investment in wokeism provides Stark with some of his fodder for parody, as in this memorable San Francisco scene:

Anyhow, I’m fascinated by the urban grittiness and notice some older vintage neon signs which I quickly snap photos of keeping an eye out for thieves. I see a sign and realize that this is the Tenderloin which my parents have always warned me to avoid but it’s much more urban than your typical ghetto.

The further I walk the sketchier things become. I should really head back right after I get a photo of that hotel blade sign. But wait. Right in front of my eyes is a transgendered houseless person of color, presenting me with the opportunity to provide assistance. I reach into my wallet but all I have is some change. Then I hand her….. I mean them my change. Ze gives me a look of disappointment.

Furnishing the most formidable antagonism is sleazy entertainment industry power player Ari Meschel, a grease-creature based on Harvey Weinstein. Meschel has designs on two young women Max hopes to protect: naïve TV personality Emma the Nature Girl and the elusive Natalie Bloom, a Stark obsession reprised from Journey. Also haunting the hero’s divided psyche is incel mass murderer Noam Metzenbaum, whose eerily parallel experience darkens Max’s self-image and fills him with shame and horror. As in his first book, Stark’s female characters are uninteresting husks – which is to say that he has captured womanhood with a startling realism. In seriousness, the fact that inamorata Natalie Bloom only appears for any duration when Max’s consciousness occupies her body in fulfillment of a blatant latent homosexual fantasy indicates a profound remoteness and alienation from the female sex, as does the recurrence of cunnilingus and, more pungently, analingus as the only forms of physical intimacy with a woman that Stark can countenance. No merely degrading pornographic contrivance, however, the author’s nightmare invention of the “sex coffin” in which a captive social outcast is confined and compelled to orally service affluent women grotesquely visualizes dramatic sex-class stratification according to which, “if one is beneath you, you can harm what is most precious to them. And if they’re above you, you must place your highest orifice upon their lowest.” Moreover:

The sense that their personhood totally consumes your consciousness and senses, yet to them you’re just an accessory. Our relationship with the popular clique, the attractive, high status, and socially successful. Like we’re there just to give them likes on social media, to kiss their ass. They unload their waste, which we ingest, the particles of their superior genes and all the most intimate facets of their life, secreted on us as the focus of our entire consciousness.

“Should have stayed in my lane and not allowed illusions of grandeur to turn me into a psychopath,” Max reflects, alluding to Starksphere character Luke Ford’s ethos in one of his moments of weakness. It is the tension between this Fordian lane-contentment and Blackstonian Prometheism that largely characterizes Max’s struggle. Further, is the achievement of social acceptance or wealth worth the sacrificial pimping of Max’s political and aesthetic ideals? When Meschel blackmails Max into lending himself to a propaganda campaign exploiting his artistic affinities and social views in the promotion of an unworthy and hostile cause, Max must choose between a potentially humiliating and ruinous adherence to principle and an easy descent into nihilism.

Stark lustily fumbles at the novel form like a woman’s body, not exactly sure what to do with it. Like Max, he is a man divided, polarized between the drily wonky housing policy commentary of Substack and the crazed, cartoonish, butthole-licking idiocy exhibited in his fiction. Written in a prose occasionally indicative of the dimming rationality of a masturbator at a keyboard, Vaporfornia is filled with errors that enhance the entertainment value of the text, like Max “stalking [sic] merchandise” at Walmart and ranting about how “capitalism thrives on breading [sic] a lower quality of human”. Even so, the plaintive prolapsed gape of the author’s wounded and huffing megalomania suffuses Stark’s work with essences of real pain and insight that underlie the deliberate and unintentional humor. Vaporfornia will be a treat for seasoned initiates of deep Starkian lore, but will also be of interest to any student of the fringes of dissident discourse.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.


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