Monday, October 22, 2018

Quickies: Conspiracies And Fiction

     There’s a lot of fun to be had in writing about conspiracies. Many Liberty’s Torch readers will be familiar with the Illuminatus! trilogy by Shea and Wilson. Umberto Eco produced a dazzling turn on the subgenre in Foucault’s Pendulum. I dabbled shallowly in conspiracy in Which Art In Hope. And more recently we have Hans G. Schantz’s conspiratorial techno-thriller series that begins with The Hidden Truth.

     Except for my book, the above efforts make use of the motif of multiple, competing conspiracies. And why not? Why limit oneself to a single shadowy player, when the laws of economics (such as they are) almost compel the emergence of competition into a field, once its viability has been established by an outrider?

     But note that they who ostensibly write non-fiction about conspiracies nearly always do so under the contrary assumption. The Gary Allen / Larry Abraham books on the subject are only the examples that first come to mind. They could be right that there’s only one conspiracy – Allen once told Michael Emerling after a lecture on his thesis that “We only need one conspiracy to explain the facts” – but as I’ve written several times lately, the simplest explanation isn’t the one that’s most likely to be correct; it’s only the one that’s most easily tested.

     This strikes me as a failure of imagination among the non-fiction writers. Conspiracy arises from a strong motive shared among a group of actors who resolve to operate in secret. When you’re dealing with a strong motive, it’s more reasonable to imagine that many persons would share it, but without necessarily being friendly toward one another. That would automatically give rise to competing conspiracies, including some that would be friendly toward one another’s aims without being friendly toward one another’s personnel, or their personal ambitions.

     Hans Schantz’s books are particularly elegant treatments of this idea. He incorporates conspiracies for both good and evil ends into his narrative – but in a fashion that makes it plain that the good guys don’t trust one another all that much. Indeed, in his upcoming third volume The Brave and the Bold, one of those seemingly benign conspiracies threatens the life and work of his young protagonist for “acting too rashly,” even though the action brought about a major advance toward their shared objective.

     For motives are seldom unalloyed. Indeed, they’re nearly always entangled with personal considerations. The highest of motives – i.e., the ones that attach to abstractions such as justice — are normally far weaker than one’s desire for self-preservation, to say nothing of the desire for self-exaltation. And a conspiracy will always be made up of people: ornery, self-interested people to whom their hangnails are of far greater import than a famine in China (Adam Smith).

     Which is mostly prefatory to this announcement: Hans’s two books The Hidden Truth and A Rambling Wreck will go on sale Thursday, October 25, for only $0.99 each. Get ‘em while they’re cheap!

1 comment:

ÆtherCzar said...

Thanks for the signal boost, Fran.

On the subject of non-fiction treatments of conspiracies, I recommend Jesse Walker's The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. It's a fascinating treatment of conspiracies in U.S. history.