For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Fiction In A Post-Truth World: Now we are all creators of fiction, whether on Fox News or on Facebook or in our blogs or elsewhere. Some claim the fake news to be the truth; and some of the biggest creators of fake news are the ones who claim that it is the liberal elite press who are lying. I don’t really want to get into politics here, as my very left of centre politics would no doubt offend a lot of people. No, instead, I wonder what the challenges are for authors in a world where there are fake news and alternative facts.
Does this make being a writer of fiction easier or harder, when you can no longer even trust sites which claim to carry the news? We have competition. Some of the things which have been claimed to be true are ones which I would never put in a story, because I know that people would not be able to suspend their disbelief.
I could not have written a short story where an American President was responsible for the rise of Al Qaeda or ISIS. It would not have been believable. I would not have expected my readers to suspend their disbelief. Yet Barack Obama was accused of doing just that.
Perhaps I should try writing something even more unbelievable than what I have written in the past. Maybe I will – after I have finished some of the many incomplete short stories I have on the go at the moment. I must try and finish that which I have started.
It is odd when truth becomes stranger than fiction. It is not just the election of a demagogue. Occasionally some very strange things occur. I don’t mean urban legends here, but the sort of things which can be proved. Some of them are by accident, some are by design.
Chance, itself, is stranger than most people think, unless you have a grounding in mathematics. I like mathematics, but I never went beyond an O Level grade. But I think that I am correct in saying that if you have at least thirty people in a pub it will be odds on that two of them will share a birthday. You might think that the chance would be around one in twelve. But such things are not doled out randomly. True random distribution can cause clusters to arise. If you don’t understand the strangeness of reality, and chance, you can get confused, and put those clusters down to things where a causal link has not been proved: cancer clusters and phone masts, suicide clusters and Facebook posts, and so on. those things do occur, even though they can look non-random.
Chance, though, generally only occasionally impinges on the fake news items. Some of the fakes are by design, to lead us astray politically. It was reported, in years back, that the EU were banning some bananas for being too bendy. That was nothing but a bit of an anti-TU propaganda by the then journalist, Boris Johnson. It was not in any way true. All that the EU did was to grade bananas on size and quality. At no stage was there ever any suggestion that any bananas should be banned. It was nothing but a lie, designed to sell newspapers, and appeal to some people’s innate dislike of the EU.
It is pretty easy to represent such lies in a story. Invent something ridiculous and have some self-aggrandizing fool repeat it, such as saying that the British government has a secret prison for terrorists on the top of Rockall, or that George ‘Dubya’ Bush really did choke to death on a pretzel, and the rest of his presidency was under a look-alike. Or that Donald Trump is a Manchurian Candidate (Or, in this case, Muscovian).
A large minority of American voters did vote for Donald Trump. Sorry to keep going back to this, but I found the American election fascinating. Did people vote for Trump because they believed what he said? Was it an anti-Clinton vote? Or did they vote purely on party lines, and simply because he was the official Republican candidate? Would they have voted for anyone?
Bernie Sanders has called Donald Trump a pathological liar. My fear is that a lot of Trump supporters will end up being disappointed; and that, because of the checks and balances of the American system, that a lot of what trump claimed was going to happen simply will not come about. I fear that those in the Rust Belt who either do not have a job, or have a very well-paid one, will not see their living conditions increase.
Trump did not have the greatest sized crowd turn out for his ‘coronation’. Fake news. the crowds for Obama were bigger. Jus compare the pictures if you don’t believe me. It was a cold day in January. What does it matter who had the biggest numbers? But, I guess, for Trump, such things do matter. He doesn’t like the idea of not being all that popular. He is the sort of person who needs to feel loved. He accuses the Press of telling lies when, in truth, it is the other way around.
I don’t like Trump. But I understand why so many Americans voted for him, and I was not the least bit surprised when he defeated Hillary Clinton.
So how do you write fiction in a world where you cannot be certain what is true or not? Well, you can make your novels even more fantastical. They are not just a series of unfortunate events. Invent the most fantastical thing which you can imagine before breakfast. Then stick it in your novel.
If you want some politician who is a serial killer then have a politician who is a serial killer. First, research the psychology of such characters, so that your literary treatment of the character is believable. Then imagine where combining politics and psychopathy will take your story, and go there. You may find that your character ends up behaving like quite a few politicians (both American and English). I won’t say who they are because I have no desire to be sued for libel.
This may sound odd, but make sure that you fully research such fantastical things. Plan it all out. Lies are more easily accepted if they stick to their own internal logic. Sometimes people are willing to accept simple lies rather than complex truths (see the debates against global warming, for example). People are also far more willing to accept things which are untrue if they are wrapped up in a conspiracy (man did not walk on the moon, Kennedy was killed by the man on the grassy knoll, our burning of massive amounts of fossil fuel is not heating up the atmosphere, and so on). We like the idea of the truth being kept from us by the government, even if, in the back of our minds, we know that most governments are too inept to keep much secret.
Remember, that however fantastical you make your tales, truth can often be stranger than fiction.
The next post will be on how to avoid writing a novel.