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Read All the Fiction You Want, but This Real World Is Crazy

by Keith Gatling | 14 months ago

My old girlfriend read a lot of Harlequin romance novels.

A lot.

And that's why she's an old girlfriend.

It's not that they were bad as a genre. They were probably nice fluffy entertainment...and very different 40 years ago from what romance novels are now...but she based her ideas of what relationships in the real world should be like on what was in those books. That was the problem, and that's why she's an ex-girlfriend.

It would be like me, an avid comic book reader at the time, basing my ideas of the real world on the adventures of Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Matt Murdoch, and Barry Allen. In fact, by age 16 I was already wondering why it was that while Spiderman was fighting the Green Goblin downtown, the Fantastic Four were lounging around uptown at the Baxter Building, as if nothing was happening.

I see a lot of thrillers go by me as I check out books and DVDs for people. A lot of thrillers that are based on the idea of some nefarious conspiracy that has to be uncovered and dealt with before a great evil is done. I can imagine they're very entertaining...especially if they're well-written.

(You can even check out Vulture.com for a list of one writer's favorite pandemic novels. That's the site where we found the photo that teases this entry.)

But I wonder if, like my old girlfriend's steady diet of Harelquins, they can cause some people to have an unrealistic view of the real world. I wonder if people who consume a lot of this genre are going to wrongly think that everything's a conspiracy...especially in times like these, where everything is confusing, and we're hit with so much new and seemingly conflicting information each day.

The real world is a much more random and complex place than the fictional world is. In the real world, a virus we've never seen before can be spread by something as random as one bad interaction with an animal. We've seen this before with AIDS. In the world of fiction, this new virus would've been the result of an experiment in biological warfare gone wrong. But the world of fiction...the world of conspiracy thriller fiction...is very tightly controlled...by the author. There's not a thing in those books or scripts that they didn't put there for a reason. Not a random item there at all...except maybe to intentionally throw a curve ball at you.

Everything in those stories was written that way because the author wanted it to be that way. It was written that way to give you an exciting story.

But not necessarily one that translates well to the real world.

So if you're one of those people who devours a steady diet of conspiracy thriller materials, I beg you to not be like my old girlfriend.

Not right now.