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TIE LATEST ON TEXAS POLITICS, NEWS, AND CULTURE A new phenomenon on the writing horizon was gender-neutral fiction, which enjoyed a growing constituency and was one of the last things spawned by the old University of Texas. A gender-bender graduate student with the unlikely name of “Jack” Dalton \(nee in the early part of the century that persuaded English professors, through the use of tried-and-true terrorist methods, to replace their centuries-old sexist allegiance to the grammar of male and female with a set of neutered pronouns: ze instead of he and she, hir for her and his, zem for them, and so forth. For example, the opening sentence of a Texas classic, Zane Grey’s West of the Pecos, became: “When Templeton Lambeth’s marital partner informed hir that if ze was good ze might in due time expect the heir ze had so passionately longed for, ze grasped at this with the joy of an unneutered male whose fortunes were failing, and who believed that an unneutered male person might revive hir once cherished dream of a new and adventurous life on the wild Tejas ranges west of the Rio Pecos.” All the classics were being reprogrammed with the new gender pronouns. Law required all new publications to follow the gender-neutral guidelines passed by the administration of the U.S. president, Chelsea Clinton. \(All the presidents from 1988 to 2043 were named either Bush or Clinton, and Another worrisome trend was the growth of PETA’s power over Lone Starians. The seminal moment in PETA.s rise was the attempted lynching of well-known liberal journalist Gary Cartwright over a nostalgic piece he had written about the joy of eating a good hamburger. The near-fatal rope party occurred early in the new century, and Cartwright was saved at the last minute only by renouncing meat in favor of granola gruel for the rest of his life. Even unto 2043, he was under a strict gruel watch by a PETA posse that held a round-the-clock vigil inside his domicile in Old Austin. Though it had no literary bearing, Lance Armstrong turned the capital city into a carbon-free zone famous the world over. Lance recycled himself through improved techniques of cloning so that every fourth bicyclist in Austin’s cyclist army not only looked like Lance Armstrong, but was Lance Armstrong. As everybody now knew, it had never been about the bike; it had always been about Lance. His marriage to the Olsen twins only added to his legend. Austin’s main arterial thoroughfare, Mo-Pac, had long been closed to automobiles. The only automobiles permitted in the city were for political dignitaries and those wealthy enough to participate in Nostalgia Day, when they drove vintage automobiles around and burned up lots of ethanol, running over a cyclist or two to get in touch with their old feelings. \(Meantime, former Gov. Rick Perry, who had served a record 22 terms, had defected to the state of Tamaulipas in Old Mexico, where he served for many There was a new senator, too. Bill Bradley, the old New York Knicks star who had migrated to Texas for the love of an iconic woman, had been elected to the U.S. Senate in his 90s. From Washington, Bradley and his bride, Betty Sue Flowers, the poet lariat of the U.S., presided over an immensely popular new program aimed at Texas: “Everybody’s-an-Icon.” After three months’ residence and a fee of $5,000, Texicans, as they were now called, could achieve Icon status. First they had to pass a literacy test, which kept the program just elitist enough to satisfy the highly educated governor and his followers. Texas Icons received special license plates for their bicycles. The state, which had long existed on the residual fumes of all the horse dung that composed its self-mythologized history, looked well positioned to pedal into the second half of the 21st century. The construction of a gigantic simulacrum factory had been announced. Its purpose, borrowed from the ideas of French philosopher Roland Barthes, was to make a simulacrum of everything that had once been authentically Texan. Real mythology was to replace mythology, as real margarine had replaced butter, and so on. Chinese investors seemed eager to fund the Simulacrum Project and were seen in major cities wearing 10-gallon hats and boots, and little Chinese spurs. Meanwhile, John Graves, Elmer Kelton, and all the other good ol’ literary boys continued as they had for nearly a century. The state stole the idea of painted-pony statues from New Mexico and erected statues of painted authors in all 254 county seats. Every county had a statue whether it needed one or not, and the Lone Star State gave off a steady glow of self-approbation, and everybody was happy almost all the time. Don Graham’s most recent book is Literary Austin he edited. State Fare: An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies appear in May, 2008. FEBRUARY 8, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31