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Accepted Fictional Knowledge

Some writers are just a bunch of deceitful, lying, manipulative tricksters who enjoy toying with our minds. I love that. Please teach me how to do that well.

I was reading one of Steve’s books. ‘On Writing’. Since then we’ve become good friends, so he lets me call him Steve now, so I figured I should probably read one of his novels. I have a copy of The Stand sitting on my shelf. Been there for years. I like having a bookshelf with a lot of books I haven’t read. Many I have, but there is always an opportunity to grab something new, or in this case, old. Anyway, I’m reading The Stand. Don’t know if you read that, everybody else has, but anyway, it’s about some virus apparently wiping everybody out. By page 35, I started getting a sore throat and sneezed. Coincidence? I think not. It is a dusty old paperback, so I’m not panicking quite yet. At 1,100 pages though, I may never live long enough to find out. Kill your darlings? Perhaps that means something else to him than me.

Sorry, but my point is that around page 59 or 80, not sure, there is this man in a government protective facility and he doesn’t have the virus, so the doctors really want to know why? Everybody else has the virus, what’s wrong with this guy? No virus? How come?

They keep him locked in one of those vacuum chambers where no virus can penetrate. A guinea pig breathes the same air he does. A nurse wants to take his blood pressure, but he won’t let her cause he’s a bastard, and pissed, and no one will tell him what’s up, and all his friends are dead. The nurse puts on one of those HAZMAT suits and gets sprayed with what ever they spray you with. I mean, we all know how it works. That’s what the government does when a devastating man made killer viral outbreak happens. They have the room, and the suit, and the spray. Right? Well the nurse in the sprayed HAZMAT vacuumed guinea pig room sneezes. WHAT? Every reader knows exactly what that sneeze means. One frickin sneeze. Nice, Steve.

My point is, my buddy Steve took a reader’s accepted fictional knowledge and knew so. In truth, none of us really know, but we have this built upon knowledge that writers seem to feed off one and other. Sci-Fi is a great example. The fact that Steve could just build up casually, without me suspecting I was falling into a fictional knowledge trap, only to flick his writing pinky, and thus make me write an absurdly long piece about it, just shows how subtle and fantastic a trickster he is.

We all read Ender’s Game. That guy, what’s his name, I forget? Anyway, great book, but what a liar he is. First he tells you that the first hero of the Bug Wars is dead. That would be Mazur Rothman, I believe. Something like that. I have to work, so I can’t look stuff up. Mazur is dead. Everybody knows he’s dead cause that was like 100 years ago. Then on page 165, Ender asks his new, old man mentor, what his name is? Oh, “Mazur Rothman,” he says. No way! Mind blown. You’re supposed to be dead.

Now, I have a complaint here because the writer, Card, now I remember, Card uses made up physics, falsely claiming that Mazur traveled at light speed and didn’t really age. That’s not how it works, but you still buy into the fictionally accepted knowledge. Then Card lies to us a second time, and so convincingly. What? Ender wasn’t playing a game? But the book is called Ender’s Game? Now you are saying it wasn’t training, it was real? As a reader you know you are getting to the end, but still expect him to leave the planet and go fight bugs. Maybe since you are so wrapped up with feeling, like Ender, you buy into the game. In the end though, Card was just a convincing manipulative liar.

I love that.

Enjoy your life.

LD-NYC

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9 Comments

  1. Nice piece, LD! Suspension of disbelief, or even scepticism, is key in enjoying fiction of almost any kind. I learned this watching “B” horror films on TV, from age 10 on. Just turn off the lights, get a snack and a soft drink, and you don’t have to pretend to be cool and lucid, for the next 90 minutes! As an aside, I prefer to think of a lot of those films as “suspense”, rather than “horror”. And that the film makers were able, with little more that lighting and makeup, to create such an edge-of-your-seat environment is a testament to their trade-craft, and perhaps an indictment if many of today’s effects-reliant thrillers… Or perhaps not…. Lots of good film out there nowadays, as well…

    • Thank you very much, Unky D! 😉 – It’s all good, but my favorite part is when someone brings a new move to an old dance. Keeps things interesting, and so, I try and trace the roots of these steps. So come, come on, come on , do the locomotion with me.

      • Hilarious! I just listed to “Caught In The Act” in the car, on Saturday!

  2. “Remember, there is no such thing as monsters, and I’m pretty sure, though not positive, that people don’t change into werewolves, ”

    You’ll change your mind if you ever have the misfortune to bump into my ex and her broom.

    • Hahaha!!! Excellent. I had a feeling I was deserving of such an observation. Thanks. 🙂

  3. I really did like Ender’s Game and the other one too. Been reading Coontz and Cussler and seems the accepted fictional knowledge seems not to much a stretch at all but the way the main characters get out of one impossible to get out of situation after another really is a stretch and I’d toss them but the story weave keeps me turning the pages. John Carter movie was really panned but I absolutely loved it. Probably because I read all 11 Burroughs novels 50 years ago and it was a thrill to see my mind’s pictures up on the screen decades later and any stretch fiction science stuff was irrelevant. It’s like if you like John Wayne movies nothing is imperfect or impossible in the movie. The way Scottie and Sulu came up with quick fix for anything in Star Trek was implausible, however, and cheapened the episode effort for viewer enjoyment. But with adventure who cares really? I saw Mickey Mantle hit over 2 million home runs , for instance.

    On the other hand I have a different take on reader’s fictional knowledge when reading some historical fiction like Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles series on post Roman Britain as seems the only fiction is the dialogue of the characters woven in a history in fictional daily events. Seems he needs not lie at all. I mean he does his research so well that everything is accurate from the way people cooked, what they wore, biulding structure and making tools and how they saw things in those eras about life and death in a finite and scary world without our modern conveniences. Seems I don’t need to stretch imagination for that kind of fiction. I also felt a connection to his characters in that even many centuries ago the people are so much like us today in their hopes and dreams, sadness and disappointments but flavored by such a different environment. Thanks visit my blog.

    • Wow, great comment Carl, and thank you for taking the time. I love all these books and agree with you. Movies too. Absolutely.

      A big achievement I appreciate is when a writer can take what we have all accepted in the world of Fictional Knowledge and put a new spin on it. Surprise the reader, so to say. Then I’m very pleased. Examples of fictional knowledge , phasers, traveling faster than light, beaming people from one place to another, vampires and all their habits, a zombie attack,- we all know the fictional rules. Once the audience knows them , one has to use that, and then erase all that was built up in the reader’s or viewer’s mind. A subtle but important twist. That’s a great achievement. That, or use that fictional knowledge to tell a great story. Have to know all the nomenclature and such. It takes time.

      Remember, there is no such thing as monsters, and I’m pretty sure, though not positive, that people don’t change into werewolves, but we know they can be killed with a silver bullet. Let’s not even get into an alien invasion. 😉 We have rules for ghosts and rules for being possessed by the devil. That said, in a book you know exactly what to do if any of these circumstances should arise. That is , unless the writer wants to play with your supposed fictional knowledge. That’s when things get interesting. These are things I want to learn how to do, and do well.

      Thanks so much again. I started reading your cartoons yesterday. You have talent, though I’m sure you have been told before. I love that for you. I will continue to watch everyday.

      Enjoy.

      LD

  4. L. DeSimone, thank you for ‘liking’ and following my blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed your post and shall look forward to more!
    Barbara


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