Behind the Book: Ed Kurtz

On Racist Aliens the Power of Satire

Earlier this year, I put out a little social satire book called The Wypipo, released under the pseudonym Kaspar Totmann. The novella posits that all white people on Earth are descended from an ancient alien species—an evil and racist alien species—and they’re beginning to remember and, ahem, change. It generated enough interest and positive response that a sequel is due out this December: The Wypipo 2—Becky Strikes Back. Next summer, I’ll wrap up the trilogy with a third and final volume. It’s damn fun to write and it’s been a thrill to see how well the story has been received so far. Of course, not everyone gets it right off the bat, so I have to do a little explaining along the way. What the hell does Wypipo mean, anyway? And why am I—ostensibly a dead serious author of horror and crime fiction with precious little humor in my work—doing this in the first place?

Simply put, because I’m just a little bit racist.

But please, let me explain.

First of all, the title. Wypipo is a bit of slang that operates as a mostly phonetic spelling of the words “white people,” though in the lingo of the internet and social media it’s generally used to discuss a particular stripe of white folks, which might be described as the conspicuously racist. For example: 

And indeed they are! Or should I say “we”? I mean, I’m white—or to borrow a phrase from the redoubtable Ta-Nehisi Coates, I am among a demographic of “people who believe that they are white”—but does that make me Wypipo? Or are only racist white people in fact Wypipo?

Well, a little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. See, it took me a lot longer than it should have to figure this out, but while I was spending much of my adult life content and oh-so-proud in the knowledge that as a well-traveled, over-educated dude, I was so “woke” to the intricacies of things like racism and misogyny that all I needed to do was teach, not learn. Like millions of other left-leaning white folks, I knew for a fact that I was not racist. And the best way to come to a conclusion like that is to stop listening to other people, or never have really listened at all. Microaggressions? From me? No, you’re just being too sensitive. I’m much too woke to have done or said anything that could be construed as racist!

Except I’m not! Good intentions, I eventually discovered, do not erase generations upon generations of the toxic cultural miasma that has plagued all of us since time immemorial. My parents went out of their way to teach their children that racism was bad, but I still learned 1,001 aggressive behaviors and viewpoints, macro and micro, that the culture imbued me with to my own blissful ignorance. And it’s certainly not just me—that’s how it is across the board, and patting ourselves on the back with the smug satisfaction that we have it all figured out because we’re just too damned smart to have been poisoned by the culture? Hate to tell you, fellow people who believe that they are white, but that’s bullshit. You have been poisoned. We all have. And the sad reality of it is this means we are all of us, at the very least, just a little bit racist (but a lot of us are a lot racist).

Oh, the Caucasity!

Which brings me back to The Wypipo. Like everyone else, I’ve been watching a great deal of the ugliness in our culture come bubbling up to the surface, and I wanted to do something beyond just hitting the like button and yelling into the social media void. I thought satire might be my best weapon in this particular fight, because laughing at the horrors of real life has been such a necessary defense mechanism for me and for many others. And while I’ve asked a few of my friends and family who are people of color to look over what I’m doing with this project to keep me on the straight and narrow, the truth of the matter is that I hope white folks read these stories and take something away from them, because it’s really them for whom I’ve written the Wypipo saga. I didn’t just want to create another echo chamber for all of us to congratulate ourselves on how much we get it—rather, I hope to hold up a mirror for us, myself included, to see some truth in the satire about ourselves and how far we still have to go.

So, call it an introspective piece on a grand cultural scale if you will. I hope it’s darkly funny. I think it’s pretty damn sad. And in some heavy ways, it’s a bit of a confession, too: for all my good intentions, I’m just a little bit racist, and there is never going to be a time when I don’t have to keep working on that. I suppose that’s one of the main, underlying messages in the trilogy when you get right down to it. That there’s a little Wypipo in all of us wypipo. And so long as we’re willing to take some hard looks at ourselves, I think it’s okay to laugh about it, as well.