Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Le Problème avec la Fiction

            There are times when I write stories that are filled with massive destruction and chaos. I create worlds of utter devastation and ruin where society has broken down to its most base elements. I usually have one or two survivors trying to climb their way through the broken landscape in a vain search for the remnants of humanity. Most of those stories don’t end very well for the characters and they usually wind up in a continual limbo of morbid ruination.

            When real life causes epic destruction I can’t help but feel like a fool. I feel a little shame for so casually discarding so much of my imagined worlds in hellfire or tragedy. The real world is far crueler than my imagination could ever be, but at least in my imagination no one actually has to suffer. I still get a tinge of shame when I carelessly drop a building on a fictional character that was just looking for their dog amid the broken spires of the old town church. It is curious how I can so easily imagine it but when the real thing happens, I’m at a loss to really grasp the true echo of the destruction.

            I’m in my cubicle, casually sipping an ever cooling cup of coffee, feeling a slight chill from the overworking air conditioner vent positioned right above me, wondering about lunch in the back of my mind, and only slightly concerned with the real world devastation occurring all the time. It’s natural to have some disconnected feelings from events so far away and without any real personal interaction. I’ve never been to Oklahoma. I’ve never been involved with a Tornado. I live in the Mid-West and tornadoes are a possibility, but in Chicago, it’s an extremely rare possibility It’s unlikely one would ever touch the ground in the city.

            I feel for the lives lost, the utter loss of everything ever had in this life, swept away in a freight train of wind. I sympathize with the families, however I cannot empathize. I’ve never been through it. I’ve never had everything precious to me in the world taken away in the blink of an eye. It must be a purely singular hell. I could imagine it however. I could write a character, standing on the stoop of what used to be his house. I could imagine his heart beating wildly in his chest at the realization of his life’s work is now a pile of rubble. I could imagine the tears stinging his eyes and streaking down his dirty cheeks, creating a clean line down his face making him look like a the photo negative of a mime. I can imagine the ripped tee-shirt he wore to bed. I can imagine his thoughts swimming as he searches for an explanation from somewhere, from God, from anything and finding nothing. I imagine him sitting down on the concrete stoop and burying his head in his hands.

            I can imagine it all. I just can’t imagine it being real for someone. That’s the problem with fiction. I can create and mold without any regard for reality and no one gets hurt. Nature, however, is not a good writer and lacks any imagination. Albeit nature is creative in its fury, it is without imagination. That’s not to say that nature has any particular personification, like a grumpy old giant man, swinging his cane across the Great Plains, complaining that the music is too loud. Nature does what it does because that’s simply what it does. It creates and destroys, in a never ending cycle.

            I’ll stick to fiction but try to remember that somewhere, someone might have had to go through it and they may not have come out the other side. So I’ll pray and I’ll hope for the best. But I’ll go back to writing about the aliens attacking and hell bubbling up from the depths of the Earth and riding the train mourning for love. 

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