Humans are odd creatures, and we sometimes do not accept the apparent situation. There are many reasons behind this conceptual blockage, including bias, paranoia, and lack of knowledge. A big reason for not buying the obvious is that the simple answer cannot be correct because we insist that our world must contain complex solutions. To fill in the gaps, we believe that an unseen group of people manipulate the situation. We call this activity a conspiracy, and the unlikely result is a conspiracy theory.
A good example is the fake moon landing conspiracy theory. Since ‘69, die-hard people have uncovered some deception evidence to back the theory up. This evidence includes inconsistent photographs and missing records. However, if this conspiracy took place, thousands of people would have to be involved, and ‘60s technology could not create a widespread deception.
Another conspiracy theory is that the government takes every child’s DNA sample during vaccinations. (Side note, this conspiracy theory further fuels the anti-vaccination trend.) For this conspiracy theory to be correct, over a million hospital personnel would be involved. Despite this hyper-unlikely possibility, the conspiracy theory is prevalent.
There are also silly conspiracy theories. I read that the contra virus was intentionally released to keep people inside so they could not see UFO’s. People believe the earth is flat, hollow, or a computer program. Elvis is alive! The Iranian government killed Michael Jackson. Could Prince Charles be a vampire?
Some people take deep dives into conspiracy theories, and others ignore them entirely. I put little faith in the far-out ideas, but I am aware of a few. Recently, I read about an exciting conspiracy theory concerning the last election. I believe a coordinated manipulation effort could have occurred, and this would explain some strange evidence, but I choose not to discuss or investigate this matter. If asked, I would say the concept is intriguing but not proven.
What do conspiracy theories have to do with writing? In fictional books, conspiracy theories are a tough sell.
Let’s pretend the year is 1950, and I write a future moon landing story. Our adventure begins with a space organization called NASA. They develop a rocket and send astronauts to the moon. Yet, the public is skeptical. Did they go to the moon, or did they fake everything? It turns out the astronauts were used car salespersons, and they gambled away their rocket development funds.
1950s readers would hate that plot. Why? In real life, a conspiracy theory takes time and many people’s involvement to mature. Books only last for a few hours, and readers would not believe the core concept.
The book's goal is to build the reader's interest and get them involved in the story. Sometimes, that requires a leap of faith. For example, in Star Wars, an intelligent robot (C3PO) spoke. Believing a robot could be intelligent was a small leap of faith. However, if we did not have visual or audible evidence, it would be difficult to convince viewers that an intelligent speaking robot existed. That leap effort would require an unseen element without direct explanation. The result would confuse and anger viewers.
What if the plot involved a NASA director who planned a fake moon landing from page one? Similar to a bank heist plot. This concept might be acceptable, but it would still be a tough sell. Readers would quickly lose interest because they want an engaging story and not backroom sabotage. How about a rocket failure? That plot sounds exciting.
What if there was a subcontractor that intentionally sabotaged the mission? Now, we are getting off course because the point of a rocket journey is to be successful. (Going to the moon is a good thing.) Now, if we wrote a book today about an actual 1950s rocket failure and suggested it was a subcontractor issue, then we might have something. However, that would be a conspiracy theory and not a fictional story.
I have never encountered a fictional book with a proper conspiracy theory. I find it interesting that conspiracy theories are quite popular yet impossible to incorporate into a fictional story. Of course, there are hundreds of nonfiction conspiracy theory books. It makes me wonder why our minds swallow conspiracy theories. Or is that another conspiracy theory?
You’re the best -Bill
March 10, 2021
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