Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fiction is Dead

Fiction is dead.

For the longest time it had been holding on to tenuous life, a shadow of its former self. I went on with the hope that through some miracle it might recover. This week, I finally had to admit it was really and truly dead.

Fiction died in that bomb blasts that struck the Boston Marathon, the same bombs that killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy. Bombs are designed to kill, but these ones' aim were foremost to maim, and that they did. Runners crossing that finish line one moment; the next, under surgeons' instruments for amputation of their legs.

These aren't the first bombs to go off, and these unfortunately won't be the last. Compared to the destruction of the diabolical imagination that spawned 9/11, a piddling pittance. No match either for the bombs that rained down in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or from the suicide vests in the crowded marketplaces there.

But Boston's were without peer for malice of intent. The bombs were meant not to destroy the body but the spirit. They were meant not to deal mortal blows but moral blows.

Fiction is the outlet for our insanity. Fiction is supposed to show us what might happen so that we can be thankful that they do not. Fiction strikes a kind of moral blow but only by means of feints. Fiction is vaccination. shows us what evil man might conceive so that we might be ready and on guard.

Fiction failed in Boston. All the writers had us looking in the way of dirty nukes, airborne viruses, poisoned water supplies, and antimatter supercolliders. Reality stepped in with a modified household appliance, ball bearings, and nails. Reality, so banal, yet so cruel, and so deadly.

Fiction would have us picture a grizzled hero, working against the system and against time to stop such a tragedy. Our hero would have taken a few spills only to rise up each time. Near the climax, he would come so close to failing, the bad guy just out of reach, until, at the very last moment, he manages to snatch victory by a hair's breadth.

No such heroes here. And when they capture the perpetrators of the Boston bombings, they won't find criminal masterminds. They'll find, instead, some loser with a cause, who just happened to find the recipe for destruction from the Internet.

Fiction is dead because reality has encroached and intruded, has shown our outrageous imagined evils to be so inadequate. Can we ever really read thrillers the same way again?

In this same week: a woman was charged with prostituting her nine-year-old daughter, an doctor is on trial for killing seven babies who survived his abortions, New Zealand has legalized same-sex marriage, and a Texas fertilizer plant explosion levelled the entire town.

And Justin Bieber muses that Anne Frank would have been a belieber.