I’m doing this all out of order.
This is an examination that should have happened either before I wrote my stories, or after when I had — or could still have — more of them. It is fairly clear that this entry is not a story in itself, at least not a fictional one, in my Alternative Facts series: whatever else it is. After all, where is the epigraph, right?
I started making epigraphs for some of my stories, in general, far before this point. You can blame Frank Herbert’s Dune series for my occasional, but fierce, love of putting quotes from other sources before my prose in addition to my love of classical science-fiction. In a way, while Dune has little to do with what I’ve been writing on my Mythic Bios Blog lately and before the New Year, it did teach me to look at the current world and what it could be in different ways, and I would be lying if I said that I had the idea behind Alternative Facts only recently.
It’s quite presumptuous of me, really. All of this is. Here I am writing, retrospectively, about a writing experiment as though it’s some kind of legitimate, published literature: as if it’s all finished, polished, and done. As if I may even continue it.
I’ve always known this world was imperfect. Even while, publicly and for the most part, staying out of politics I knew that human nature and what it builds is flawed on a fundamental, foundation of being. That’s why I always appreciated dystopian literature. George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm come to mind, but also Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in High Castle, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. When you also add Russell Hoban’s and Alan Moore’s post-apocalyptic language play in Riddley Walker and Crossed +100 respectively, you can see all of these influences on a very basic and hardly comparable level with the series that I chose to share publicly.
It almost didn’t happen.
A little while ago, Neil Gaiman wrote a short story “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.” In this story, you see this protagonist’s view of the world change dramatically, even degenerate, but ultimately becoming defined by the absences of where Ray Bradbury’s work, knowledge, and presence used to be within their mind. I found it utterly fascinating, this mnemonic shift, and I tried to replicate it in a poor attempt at a story about someone forgetting Neil Gaiman and looking at the world through their eyes. I wasn’t ready then. I almost understood what I was trying to do, as much as I can still even attempt to put it into words, but reason wasn’t enough. I had to intuit it, and pass that spark into some writing.
Fast forward this a few years. The politics of the Western world, of North America, shifted: or at least what already existed became clearer to me. The Internet doesn’t allow you to ignore the rest of the world as readily as other media anymore, or at least for now. I realized, far later than many other people more qualified than myself, that this was something I couldn’t afford to ignore. Then, at one point, the term “alternative facts” was introduced into the world conversation. It’s true that you can refer back to Orwell or even 1930s Germany when you think about those words, but they stuck with me. At one point, on my social media, I wrote something along the lines of taking “Alternative Facts” and making some kind of dark science-fiction or speculative series based off that title.
Even then, I knew I was only half-joking.
But I didn’t do this for a while. It was a nice, snarky thought as the world seemed to be proving itself to be more stupid and self-destructive than even I originally thought. I thought about the American elections, and how in my mind it should have gone: that forces utilizing hate and hate speech should have failed — utterly — then turned on each other, and become utterly forgotten: an embarrassment to society and civilization, polite or other wise. I started off this post by saying I was doing this all out of order. And I remembered what ancient civilizations used to do with dynasties and regimes that caused them chaos before they finally fell. They would go out of their way to erase every monument, every artifact, every word, and every mention of those former ruling groups: for good or ill.
Then I remembered something else. I had a friend I used to talk with from Germany. Among many other things, we would discuss history. Of course, the Nazi Party came up. This was before a lot of the turmoil that became prominent during 2016 and now onward, which is reminiscent of parts of history. My friend, when we talked about Nazis, never called them Nazis. They called them National Socialists. And that was exactly what their name was, the National Socialist Party. But then it was abbreviated, and from then on and over time, they have been called Nazis. It doesn’t matter what they styled themselves, or what their original aims were in other forms, or even their influences. That is how they are known now.
Just like my Repos, the former Repo Party, mentioned in my first story and elsewhere.
At first, I just talked about the Repos. And then, one day during August of 2017 when so many people were talking about politics and fascism, when I was wondering if I would ever see my girlfriend or any of my other loved ones in the United States again, I decided to try my hand at uniting these concepts into a story. What would happen if something so bad occurred that even as civilization in one area reconstructed itself, it either lost much information, or actually went as far as banning it — erasing words — to make sure they would become lost?
The first draft of “Lost Words” wasn’t really good. It got clunky and you could tell that I was still exploring a lot. The protagonist talked with a teacher and it all felt like very scripted excitement, very “Gee Willikers.” And the ending was choppy and rather flat as well. I sent it to my girlfriend, but even before she said anything else, I knew I could have done better. So I abandoned it.
Four months passed. It was probably in the back of my mind, just as our conversations and my rudimentary notes sat in fragments on a draft email. Science, and laws are being changed and challenged. Political horror as a genre is rising again, or people are paying more attention to it. I had time to think about the power of words and ideas existing, and being erased. Certainly, even before this working on Sequart articles focusing on Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence, along with the “Agents of HYDRA” arc for SHIELD really helped me examine some concepts that, for me, still needed a creative outlet. I also thought about some of the work I did researching and looking at Lawrence Gullo, Fyodor Pavlov, and Kelsey Hercs’ LGBTQ+ Bash Back comic.
I honestly can’t remember why I resurrected and rewrote “Lost Words,” not when I left it for dead. Not when I almost let it no longer exist. I know I reconnected with a friend of mine and wanted to show it to them: thinking it right up their alley. But I had been working on it even before that. At least I think I did. As I say in “The Spectrum” story, it’s hard to say when something was born, or destroyed, or made when it seems as though it always exists on some level.
All I know is that I wanted people to see it: even the shoddy draft that I could just put on my Facebook and be done with it. But I didn’t leave it at that. I honed it down. I made the narrator more definite. And I added a layer of metaphor to it, something to mirror the main story and give it that resonance I needed. It was only later, after I wrote “Freedom” — from the perspective of the Repos of all people — that I added an epigraph retroactively into that story, based on the fact that I made one for “Freedom.” And the trend began, if such a thing can be said what with there being only four stories so far.
It is funny what you can tell about a world, like Amarak, by what isn’t said. I realized that writing each story from a different perspective, with epigraphs that complemented and contrasted with the narrative content, was effective for me. They are like dispatches from another place, another possible time. The word play is incredibly reminiscent of classic science-fiction to the point of it being very pretentious and derivative of classic science fiction of the twentieth century. I take fragments of Latin, I mess around with English and abbreviate words, attempting at times to make sure they have multiple meanings. It isn’t anything special. I am no Russell Hoban, or Alan Moore. And in terms of the stories and their conceits, as a friend of mine once said to put me in my place long ago, I am no Neil Gaiman. And in the wake of the twenty-first century, with its far more sleek and genre-savvy science-fiction and speculative literature I know there are many voices looking at these issues that are far more diverse than my own.
But I did it regardless. And I found it funny how Lost Words, which I thought was the most clever, was a story some readers just didn’t understand. I thought it was clever. But I suppose that is the problem: cleverness does not always a good story make if you don’t make it relatable. Weirdly enough, Freedom with its mythic and almost religious quality seemed more accessible, and The Spectrum in particular seemed to really hit a chord in people, or punched some subject matter rather unsubtly in the face. By We Are the Grass, though, I basically went “full circle” and wrote about what I thought: take it, or leave it.
I don’t really know, at this point, where to go from here. I just came back from a visit to the States and I am tired. But even before that, I wasn’t sure where Alternative Facts was going. I originally thought of it as something of a dark speculative anthology series, with tongue and cheek political tones, but a world — the land of Amarak — grew out of it instead. It is still a possibility of course that I will continue with my original plan if Amarak becomes too exhausted.
And I have some ideas. The fact is, I require more inspiration. I hit my stride with this, and another series I’m working on at the moment — a private one I was focusing on before this one attempted to supplant it like the usurper that it is — so I need to keep that fire going. I believe watching films like Get Out, as well as Netflix’s Black Mirror, along with reading Pornsak Pichetshote and Jose Villarrubia’s upcoming Infidel comics series in a few months could help recharge my batteries of pure dark fire towards the world. Or, you know, continuing to watch and read the news: that works too.
When it comes down to it, though, I feel as though every story I write, every story I’ve ever written is filled with “alternative facts”: is in fact an “alternative fact” in and of themselves. I don’t mean that they are lies, though some stories are lies and, as a great writer once said, all writers are liars. But they are all still stories and they do say something about the storytellers, and the place from which they come. And sometimes, some things just speak for themselves. And sometimes it is better that they do instead of remaining silent. Silence is the ultimate death though … sometimes what isn’t said can speak incredible volumes.
I think these are my thoughts for now. Feel free to read my stories if and when you have the time. It is good to place something on this site. It has been reposted on, and neglected for some time now. It feels good to put something on here again, especially something that feels worth while. Everything still is out of order. I should have ended this post with the previous paragraph. But, somehow, I feel as though whatever this is is just beginning. Or it is always here and I am just one more person speaking it: one more letting it speak through me. Take care everyone.