Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unpacking Creative Speculative Non-Fiction

When I plan a vacation, my first thought is the box of books.  Which can I finish?  Which will inspire me?  Which will propel me forward in life?  I stare at the piles of books and the corrugated box.  I want to include everything and nothing.  I want the selected few, but I don’t know which fall into that category.  Should I take the books waiting to be reviewed or the ones I didn’t finish last year or the year before or the year before that?   

This year, I became wise.  I took one fiction book

Valley of Bones (Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy)



one book of creative non-fiction 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America


an academic book I have been reading 

On the Reliability of the Old Testament

and my Kindle which contains my Bible and other books.


So how did I do with the reading?  I never picked up Valley of Bones.  I never picked up On the Reliability of the Old Testament.  I completely finished The Devil in the White City.  And I read a few out of print short stories on my Kindle.

The Devil in the White City is a work of creative non-fiction.  I am not completely convinced that this genre should even exist.  Creative non-fiction is factual writing mixed with “what could have happened.”  Now, if you take this to its extreme, it is historical fiction.  Historical fiction is a fictional story set in a historical period.  Could it have happened?  Maybe. 

The Devil in the White City is a true story set in a historical period with what may or may not be fictional elements.  I am writing a series of novels about the Prophet Elijah.  What we know about him would not fill a single book.  However I have set his story in its historical time and included elements of modern thought, technology, clothing, etc.  How would I have to modify my novel to make it creative non-fiction?  I could take out the modern elements, thought, and place names.  What then?  The characters I invented could have existed.  There is no evidence for or against their existence.  The action I wrote could have taken place.  There is no evidence for or against it. 

Others have told me that my fiction is speculative fiction.  How about creative speculative non-fiction?  If I include footnotes will that make my novel non-fiction? 

And what is true?  If we add what might have been and call it “creative” is it still true?  And if it is not true, can it be called “non-fiction.”  I have always believed that the untrue was fiction.  Have we so blurred the lines of demarcation that we no longer call what is true, non-fiction?

There is a writers conference in the spring on narrative non-fiction.  If I attend will they answer my questions?

What do you think about all of this?

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