Wednesday, September 3, 2008


More than once, I’ve considered writing a book on The Truth. Of course, it would have to be non-fiction—or would it? After all, does anyone know really what “the truth” is? (For that matter, “Does anybody really know what time it is?”) So, does “truth” exist, or is it a perception of whatever one believes the truth to be? Hold that thought.

In nature, there are few absolutes. Physics and math come to mind as two that may qualify, but even “death” leaves room for interpretation. While death in our dimension is permanent, death in other dimensions leaves many unanswered questions. This is an interesting concept that I may explore in a later blog, but for now, let’s get back to the original topic.

During my last visit to Venice Beach, California, I saw a young man with “TRUTH” tattooed the full length of his lower legs. I have no idea why he did that, or what “truth” he was referring to, but I do know that his tattoos are permanent fixtures—at least until he has them removed. You see, even with tattoos, there are no absolutes.

The great thing about writing fiction is I can deny everything by claiming, “I made it all up.” So, even when I write about real events using real settings, my disclaimer frees me of liability. Whether writing about the actions of a past president, or a real in-flight fire on a cargo plane, any and all similarities can be denied—and “that’s the truth.”

When I write non-fiction, it is critical that my facts are accurate. If they weren’t, my writing career would quickly end. But I also recognize that when I write something the least bit controversial, each reader can have a different perception about what I wrote and challenge my version of “the truth.” In such cases, the magazine’s editor usually allows me to respond, and if it’s warranted, I do. However, I usually accept the other person’s view, realizing there is more than one way to view it.

Even the Beijing Olympics had controversy over “the truth”, as was the case of the Chinese gymnasts’ ages. Were these young women really sixteen, or fourteen, as some claimed? Some of the gymnasts’ documents submitted to the IOC showed these teens were legally sixteen, but there were other papers that suggested otherwise. And then there’s the question about their physical development, so what is “the truth?” This controversy will continue for years with no probable resolution.

More than once, I’ve thought about writing documentaries, but I’ve found it far more fascinating incorporating real events and settings into my novels. Fiction lets me tell stories within stories, and whether the reader picks up on the truth behind my fiction is irrelevant.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Excellent article, Mark. Our truths are becoming more precious with time as freedoms are lost without most of us aware of it. I was jarred this morning to learn through the alternative media that protesters were tear gassed at the GOP convention and that delegates were warned not to tell. An author whose name I can't recall recently said that fiction is now the only safe way to convey the truth. How could we have allowed this to happen?

Mark W. Danielson said...

Political correctness, personal liability, and our inability to laugh at ourselves are all responsible for the shift in what is safe to convey. It's sad, but that's the truth.