Stranger than Fiction

Back in February 2016, Judith K. Dial and I published Conspiracy! (NESFA Press) (https://www.nesfa.org/book/conspiracy/). Thanks to the nature of publishing, the book had been in the works for a couple of years, which means that despite the publication date, we missed the boat.

The Trump boat, that is. The explosion of conspiracy theories about the Deep State and the Russians and Pizzagate and later the Big Lie about who won the 2020 election and who instigated the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and the truth about the origins of Covid-19 and the microchips in vaccines and… You know. The news has been as full of conspiracy theories as a rice pudding is full of raisins.

And if you think that rice pudding shouldn’t have raisins, well, that’s just another conspiracy theory. Yummly (https://www.yummly.com/recipes/rice-pudding-with-cooked-rice-no-raisins) is as bad as QAnon.

Seriously, the book had a golden list of contributors—James Cambias, Allen Steele, Sarah Smith, Cat Rambo and Mike Resnick, Paul DiFilippo, and more—and some marvelous conspiracy theories that no one ever heard of before. And not one even hinted at what we would get so used to over the next few years. Science fiction is often touted as being predictive, but in this case it failed quite thoroughly. It just couldn’t keep up.

Reality does tend to be instructive. If we were to do the anthology over again today, with the same contributors (absent the late Mike Resnick), I am confident that it would be very different. The secret government agency that makes up conspiracy theories (see the book’s introduction) to distract the populace from things that really matter, would be chortling over the last few years of accomplishments and feverishly devising new ones. Successful ones, of course, have to involve things that many want to believe, despite whatever the facts might say.

For instance—

There really is a secret government agency that makes up conspiracy theories. (It would make SO much sense!)

Marjorie Taylor Greene actually used to work for that agency (disinf.gov, but don’t go there unless you want to be on their tracking list). Her charge that requiring masks is as bad as the Holocaust is surely a trial balloon.

The nation’s attorneys general are plotting to indict innocent Republican politicians for corruption, sex-trafficking, and pedophilia using deep-fake videos.

Of course Jeffrey Epstein was murdered. If he had been allowed to talk, he would have proven that so many people are innocent.

The increases in the prices of homes and lumber and other things, as well as the resistance to increasing the minimum wage, are the result of a scheme by Republican plutocrats to drive people into poverty–and then actual slavery.

Environmentalists have a secret plan to wipe out humanity. Starting the Covid-19 pandemic is only the beginning.

Timber companies are driving up lumber prices by setting western wildfires.

That all sounds pretty crazy, but I’ll bet you found yourself nodding at some of the items on the list. I’ll also bet that reality will be even weirder.

I think that, if we could redo the book, we would have to have a piece on recent real-world conspiracy theories. I would ask Don D’Ammassa to write it, for he periodically posts excerpts from those he calls the “wingnuts.” And those excerpts really are “stranger than fiction.”

Unfortunately, they’re not stranger than reality.

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