Judgment Day & Other White Lies
ISBN: 978-1-948692-76-2 paperback
ISBN: 978-1-948692-77-9 ebook
Cover by Crowcrumbs, a designer, illustrator, and artist based in Houston, Texas. She studied design and studio arts at the University of Houston.
Judgment Day & Other White Lies is a short fiction collection that deconstructs whiteness by retelling versions of Greek, Roman, and Christian myths, concepts, and characters through a contemporary lens that reads whiteness into history as a force of destruction for white characters (in addition to those they oppress). From an alternative biblical Genesis about apes having orgies while on magic mushrooms to create western civilization (as told by the kinds of philosophers who have to be stoned themselves), to a retelling of the Oresteia where the white heavy metal musician Orestes is helping his aging mother Dawn commit suicide, to a white graffiti writer, magician, and cultural mis-appropriator named Per-C who fundamentally alters reality by painting fantastical ‘Dusa portraits all over the city of Houston, to the eponymous story Judgment Day that primarily concerns the mind-altering-collapsing effects of a hallucinogenic on a Christlike white man who has two sets of memories stuck in his head, these stories show the tragicomic consequences of what happens when white people identify with the white lie of an identity that lives a fiction to maintain power.
“It’ll seem trite to compare Mike Hilbig to David Foster Wallace, but there it is. I’ve said it. But the correlations are more than nuanced. They’re profoundly new and updated, mixed with a smidge of dystopia and angsty, raw awareness of something far more taboo. While Wallace indicted himself, Hilbig indicts all of us, human, animal, poorly evolved, demented, and unavoidably damaged. But it’s the funnest romp into social critique you’ll ever take. There are so many brilliant moments, especially in the novella, “Judgment Day.” Hilbig’s skill with description is never more potent than in this final long story, when he describes a man who has peeled off all his clothes during a public outdoor performance: “After a long pseudo-religious rant while stripping down, the naked man put his arms akimbo and went silent–a veneration to his own disruption.” Honestly that phrase may describe this naked, brazen, hilarious, cranky, wise, and needed book. This book of short stories is a veneration to Hilbig’s own disruption. It’s a performance the likes of which you have never experienced, and you just gotta. You just can’t take your eyes off the page! Double-dog dare you!!!”–Susan O’Dell Underwood, author of Genesis Road
“[Judgment Day & Other White Lies] is a collection of short stories. It is about a lot of things—race, religion, relationships, but at the core, it examines the human condition in which we find ourselves in. It attempts to have us consider beyond the way things have been.
In this book, characters contradict themselves, some are aware of it but accept as the way it is, which is the point of this story. It is the way we understand ourselves, reducing everything in simple terms.
[Hilbig]’s message is not subtle and his writing is at times humorous (there are quite a few delicious metaphors) but it’s a serious, studied book.
I recommend that you delve into this book and think about what your views are and where they come from. You won’t forget the stories you have read in this book. Pretty impressive.”–Wondra Chang, author of Sonju
“The shock of reading the alternative histories in Judgment Day hits hard at a time when the American public school system is encouraged by right-wing spokesmen to ban teaching critical race theory and books on Black, queer, indigenous, and otherwise marginalized versions of American history that are omitted from standardized textbooks. Hard facts are hard to find in Judgment Day, but Hilbig suggests that may be the whole point. What can we do when we no longer know what the truth looks like?
For fans of the outrageously honest 2022 film Don’t Look Up, Hilbig’s Judgment Day is an exercise to American readers—and white folk in particular—to challenge the truth told by each and every narrator, from one lived reality to the next.”–Nicole-Anne Keyton, Reviewer at Reedsy Discovery
“The stories in Judgment Day & Other White Lies are quintessentially Mike Hilbig, his deft artistic imagination at work (and play). What we see in this collection is a Cubist unfolding of narrative: the human impulse toward story—the mythic in its many forms—whether creation myth, or Greek classics, or historical accounts, or religious doctrines, or literary texts, or the academic discourse of scholars (such as the fictional Dr. Angela Ames we find here). Each such narrative is informed by the sardonic wit of a superbly honed surrealistic imagination. The stories themselves engage in a kind of Romantic revolution. But Hilbig’s is a post-Romantic strategy designed both to turn the natural into the supernatural and the supernatural into the natural, and to deconstruct, destabilize that Romantic experiment—a postmodern impulse I believe Coleridge himself would find deeply compelling. Hilbig knows full well the irony of his situation as author: Narrative, language itself, codifies personal and social experience (and historical memory), yet language is the writer’s artistic medium, the one he must rely on, grapple with, in the making of a socially relevant literature. Like Orestes in ‘Fury, or a Matricide in Sound,’ a writer too must find his way into the pulse of the reader’s consciousness, ‘he knew [the crowd] could feel it somehow, the emotional arc like…a call to action. A freedom to act housed inside his calloused fingertips.’ This is the author’s ars poetica. These are stories underpinned by wisdom and humor, which are simultaneously a powerful cultural critique—the call for a reckoning.”—Robin Davidson, author of Luminous Other and Poet Laureate of Houston, TX from 2015-2017.
“A thoroughly enjoyable work by Mike Hilbig on the interconnectedness of race, gender, religion, and spirituality…and Houston! A writing style that’s at once Milan Kundera like, and original, with a voice that speaks for and to our tumultuous times.”—Amit Verma, author of A Quiver in the Purlieu
“Judgment Day & Other White Lies is a kaleidoscopic collection—sharply intellectual, at times hallucinatory, but always grounded in deeply felt and richly imagined human drama. In these stories, the mythic and the mundane collide and remix in startling ways, feeling both timeless and contemporary. The transfigurations that Hilbig’s characters undergo are rendered with such precision and empathy that the reader can’t help but feel transformed as well.”—Nick Lantz, author of You, Beast