This is a fantastic story. It’s also a bit of a scary one, with the desertification of Las Vegas and an unbiased news organization’s shady dealings in the foreground. I feel that “An Inflexible Truth” tells a tale of discovery and what we do with that discovery once we have it. What were some of the inspirations behind it?
Thank you! “An Inflexible Truth” grew out of my love for the conspiracy thriller genre—especially those classics from the 1970s, with an intrepid hero who gets wind of systemic corruption and undertakes to expose it. There’s an implicit, compelling momentum to that kind of tale, as the protagonist’s knowledge of the world’s hidden evil grows. But I also find it psychologically interesting, because the protagonist is usually so isolated and outnumbered by a hidden reality he doesn’t quite grasp. So I wanted to write a conspiracy thriller story in a near-future setting, but it struck me that it’s a difficult kind of story to pull off in the post-truth era. If the corruption is right out there in the open, what good will it do to expose it? If the nature of reality is in doubt, how can facts effect change? This got me thinking about our toxic political climate, and twenty-first-century concepts like reality-based camps and Internet bubbles. The story emerged from that stew of ideas.
What was your writing process like for this piece?
Initially, all I had was the image of the reporter, Roland, flying to the ruins of a city that had been reclaimed by the desert. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for, or why, just that he was on a mission. The worldbuilding and plot grew messily out of the first few exploratory paragraphs. The original draft was longer. I jettisoned several flashback scenes, a character, and a subplot. It was kind of a sprawly first draft that I massaged into better shape.
It’s both horrifying and, oddly enough, funny that people turn a city that has been drastically changed by the climate and made uninhabitable into a tourist attraction/spelunking adventure. As you were writing this, was this inspired by actual real-world practices? Or do you feel that things might go this way if and when the climate does make places once habitable uninhabitable?
Hmm, well, I wouldn’t put it past us! But I didn’t base it on anything specific. The source of the notion came from living in Los Angeles for several years during the drought, and feeling like the place was on borrowed time for human habitability. Every now and then I would look at the paved, developed landscape and imagine what it would look life if it were abandoned in a mass climate-change migration.
I do think if there were a collapse, there would certainly be historical interest in these abandoned places. And people like to rubberneck, to voyeuristically re-live times of great peril and tragedy in their art. We turn our most devastating wars into video games. The citywreck tour was an exploration of those dark turns of thought.
In this day and age, how important is an inflexible truth?
One could argue that there is nothing more important. There’s a reason climate change figures into this story. Seeing reality clearly and implementing a rational course of action to handle a problem this vast requires a trust in expertise and data and science. If that trust is undermined by self-interested, “subjective reality,” we risk sending ourselves down a tragic path.
Thank you for writing this! What are you working on that readers can look out for next?
Right now I’m getting ready to shop an episodic science fiction spy novel about a Cold War on another planet. I also have a near-future mystery novel percolating, set in the world of “An Inflexible Truth.” That said, my writing career tends to make wild left turns when I think it’s going straight; the next thing you see from me could be something completely different.
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