Fuccboi: a load of modern toss

A failed American Psycho for the PornHub generation

Artillery Row Books

“Extra”, “flex”, “shook”, “simp”, “gaslit” — since the early 2010s, and possibly the result of smartphone related brain damage, a very particular kind of “netspeak” has infected the vernacular of youth culture. And now it has infected fiction. 

Despite initial praise, Sean Thor Conroe’s debut novel Fuccboi is gaining a reputation as an endurance test in unconventional writing styles.

Fuccboi is riddled with jargon: the title itself is a variant of “fuckboy” — the Tumblr term for a young man unwilling to commit to a relationship, despite his ostensibly feminist and progressive credentials.

We’ve all been stuck speaking to a “Sean” at a party, as he dribbles out his views on Joe Rogan

Conroe’s self-insert character “Sean” is an aspiring young male author who he spends his time with a cast of pseudonymous “baes” — “ex bae”, “side bae”, “autonomous bae” and “editor bae”, respectively.

Fuccboi has garnered controversy, not merely for its gruelling Gen Z waffle, but also the protagonist’s distinct blaccent.  Conroe, who is half-Japanese but white passing, has an African American inspired style of speech — likely the result of his love of hip hop — which adds a cringe-worthy component to his writing:

I was like Aite, fasho, putting my hands up. Like I’ll hold it down. Man the reg’
When she came back and said No du’, they ain’t on sale, I snapped.

Whether this counts as “appropriation” is debatable, but it certainly makes for a challenging read — particularly if you’re new to both netspeak and the intricacies of African-American Vernacular English. 

The novel itself is plotless autofiction, describing interpersonal dramas, drug use and occasional bouts of eczema but is really designed to platform “Sean’s” deep views on everything from Nietzsche to cancel culture to Lil B. 

Conroe seems to be aiming for a generational critique, a kind of American Psycho for the PornHub generation, but his cultural insights are painful, reflecting an internet addled brain shaped by the overeducated alt lit scene:

Maybe I’m a sus hetero bro who’s been subtly abusive and deserves to be blocked out entirely. To be cancelled. For my basic ways…

We’ve all been stuck speaking to a “Sean” at a party, as he dribbles out his views on Joe Rogan and shares samples of his Soundcloud rap, whilst taking intermittent puffs of his vape pen. 

Whilst I’d like to believe Fuccboi’s protagonist is excellent satire, interviews with Conroe indicate a frightening level of earnestness. Speaking to Vulture he called the novel “a self-help book” noting that he was trying to “toxic-masc his way through” an “examination of masculinity under late capitalism”.  

For the most part, our fuccboi doesn’t fuck

I spent much of the novel having absolutely no idea what our titular fuccboi was on about, with character descriptions like “she was light-skinned but in a way that made me think college transplant versus intergenerational local” either being too culturally niche or just pseudointellectual filler.

Some critics have apologetically framed Fuccboi as a critique of male chauvinism, but Conroe’s descriptions of men are just bizarre. In one vignette, two male friends are having a conversation, which Conroe describes as “both of us flexing, leaning on our baes, jerking each other off for how woke we were”. 

Conroe may name drop Karl Ove Knausgård and Michel Houellebecq in Fuccboi, but he lacks the courage (and the depth) to speak honestly and intelligently about masculine thoughts and desires. 

Fuccboi, by Sean Thor Conroe. Wildfire, (£16.99)

Whilst our Fuccboi certainly has a lot of “baes” the novel is strangely absent of sex. There’s only one, suitably awful, sexual encounter in the whole book, but for the most part, our fuccboi doesn’t fuck.  

There is one glimmer of potential mid-way through, when our protagonist Sean speaks to his “editor bae” about his debut novel, which she requests be re-editted to remove the “rape-y” parts: 

I cut – nixed, snipped – every savage, ugly, testosterone-fueled, shameful thing it had been the most difficult to write.

One suspects this could be pure fabrication, designed so that Conroe can claim the image of a tortured, censored artist – but it also hints that a real novel, one that was genuinely transgressive and insightful, existed in earlier drafts. 

Although Fuccboi is a slog in content, one silver lining of Conroe’s use of single sentence paragraphs and penchant for black slang is that it provides for an uncluttered page, making the band-aid rather easy to rip off. 

Ultimately, you can’t blame an author for an idiomatic style, but you can fault a fuccboi for failing to perform.

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