Won't Somebody Think of the Literature?


In her book on writing, The Art of Fiction, Ayn Rand said no fiction writer should ever use real people or contemporary events. She said her original draft of The Fountainhead included Hitler, but she later cut him out because she wasn't sure anyone would know who he was in 10 years. While she was obviously wrong, the principle stands, and today we're seeing why.

In today's media-outlet scramble to find some sort of Bin Laden angle, one thing has still been overlooked: the impact on the volumes of literature that used him as the go-to villain or with plots centered on the hunt for a man whose legend was based as much on his ghostlike ability to evade capture as it was severity of his crimes.

Unlike other seemingly mythic targets like D.B. Cooper or famous war criminals, Bin Laden has now been exposed as every bit as mortal and non-supernatural as a mugger, even though he was a way bigger douche.

That certainly takes some of the zazz out of him as a character in "literature."

For example, a book recently sent to BW for review called The President's Vampire by Idaho author Christopher Farnsworth, opened with Bin Laden's assassination—by a vampire who stuffed a grenade in his mouth and then threw him over a cliff so he exploded in midair. Also, Bin Laden was actually a giant lizard, genetically modified by a vast international conspiracy of reptillian humanoids.

I gotta say, that sort of grabs you right out of the gate.

But now ... well, it just doesn't seem as plausible.

And if you lose people on the intro, then it's hard for them to really go in for the reptillians' use of Sudanese child soldiers to spread a virus that causes humans to mutate into lizards as part of a shadow government conspiracy to do vaguely conquest-oriented evil things from a secret lab underneath a mall. Which is sad, because while far from being the sort of important literature discussed by people with beards and corduroy jackets with patches on the elbows, it was a decent read.

So, authors, when the next face of evil is revealed to a public eager for a hot new Emmanuel Goldstein, perhaps it would be better to pass on writing them into your book and do it old-skool: just make someone up.