Even before he accepted the 2008 Democratic nomination, Barack Hussein Obama attracted more than his fair share of crazy conspiracy theories: He was born in Kenya; he had his grandmother killed; he consorted with lizard men. The nutty litany went on and on.

The conspiracy-mongering continues unabated in the Age of Trump. So perhaps it is past time for an anthology of tales that take the most looney-tunes ideas about Obama seriously, or at least seriously enough to serve as a springboard for a series of whacked-out pulp fiction adventures.

Editor Gary Phillips writes in his foreword, “Indeed, if anything in this current political climate of a president – the birther-in-chief if you will – who tweets out mind-numbing pronouncements derived from alt-fact sources and people in charge of federal agencies who are the antithesis of what those agencies are supposed to do, our humble anthology seems almost tame in such a surreal time.”

“The Obama Inheritance” is far from tame, living up to its Robert Ludlum-esque title, delivering noir-ish thrills along with grin-inducing satire. The roster of contributors includes Nisi Shawl, Walter Mosley, Robert Silverberg and Maine crime writer Kate Flora.

The collection opens strong with “Michelle in Hot Water,” a contribution from Flora. She imagines the former first lady as a member of the Tall Girls Book Club – not a literary endeavor but a team of undercover operatives with a “Mission Impossible” flair. The Girls waylay representatives of Big Pharma and inject them with a drug that renders the men impotent, incontinent and bald. An antidote is offered only after cancer drug prices ratchet down to reasonable rates. The story is fast and funny, and reflects some of Ms. Obama’s charisma under absurd situations.

Time travel is a staple of pulp science fiction, and “… The Continuing Mission” by Adam Lance Garcia uses the concept to propel two members of Galactic Command into their past and our present. Chief science officer Bah’rack and physician Dr. Biden arrive in time to thwart a Klingun plan to alter the future by tampering with the past. It’s an amusing conceit, peppered with some clever, offhand jokes, but the story, like some of this collection’s other selections, might have benefited from pruning.

Walter Mosley, acclaimed author of the Easy Rawlins detective series and dozens of other novels, makes every word count in his entry, “A Different Frame of Reference.” A die-hard member of a white supremacist organization, bent on unearthing evidence of Obama’s perfidy, discovers nothing more incriminating than the fact that the President fibs about sneaking a smoke every now and then. The kicker is that the narrator’s family harbors its own earth-shaking secrets, and Mosley explicates the ironies of the situation with his usual wit and precision.

The fun of the collection derives from the authors’ willingness to go to extremes. “The Psalm of Bo,” by Christopher Chambers, for example, is narrated by a weaponized mutant canine who leads troops of pugs into battle. “Evens,” by Nisi Shawl reveals the surprising secret of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s longevity. L. Scott Jose ends his story, “Give Me Your Free, Your Brave, Your Proud Masses Yearning to Conquer” with a physical clinch likely to repulse anyone anywhere on the political spectrum.

It can be quite a stretch to connect a given story to the legacy of the 44th president. Science fiction legend Robert Silverberg’s reprint, “At the Conglomeroid Cocktail Party,” dates from 1982 and contains little on the subject of politics, in the 21st century or otherwise. It imagines a future when the notions of sex, gender and even species are inherently fluid, allowing party guests to redesign their bodies at will through genetic manipulation. It’s a celebration of diversity, to be sure, but it does not feel particularly apt in this context.

President of the Private Eye Writers of America and the author of “3 the Hard Way” and “Warlord of Willow Ridge,” Phillips has concocted an anthology that provides plenty of suspense and outlandish humor. Fans of Philip K. Dick’s short stories and Grant Morrison’s classic conspiracy comic series “The Invisibles” should especially take note.

For all its goofiness, “The Obama Inheritance,” has plenty of anger and sorrow to go around. Many of the stories make delicious fun of Trump and his allies, and Obama himself appears in only a few of them, but nearly all acknowledge that we’re living in a time of great uncertainty, anxiety and danger. Just as the original pulps reflected the concerns of their eras – escapism from the hardship of the Great Depression in the Thirties and Cold War paranoia in the Fifties – so too do these selections have something pointed to say about America as it supposedly makes itself great again.

Surreal, silly and sometimes shocking, the stories in “The Obama Inheritance” succeed in delivering a heady mix of thoughtful satire.

Berkeley writer Michael Berry is a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, native who has contributed to Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, New Hampshire Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books and many other publications. He can be contacted at:

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