Fact Catching Up With (and Devouring) Fiction

Guest Blogger: David Sakmyster

What keeps me up at night, cowering in fear, is that fact will catch up with my fiction and make what I’m currently writing—or what I’ve already written—irrelevant.

But will it really?

I’m sure this is a scenario many fiction writers, especially those of us who write thrillers and genre fiction, deal with every day. We pick some current or historical mystery because it’s an interesting topic, something we know readers will be entertained by. And we have our characters discover that lost tomb, explore that hidden city or find that elusive terrorist.

But what if, days before publication (or worse, right after), news breaks that ‘they’ve found IT and IT’s not where we predicted IT would be?

What if the Ark of the Covenant was discovered lying dusty in some Egyptian museum a month after Raiders came out? Would it have diminished the movie’s impact? Perhaps not. I mean, it would still be a kick-ass story with Nazis and occult shenanigans and daring action sequences and lovable characters. But… I’ve got to think the film’s brilliance would be dulled just a little.  Such a discovery would snatch the “Could this really happen?” element right from the story. It’s one thing to suspend disbelief when there are enough mysterious legends and beliefs woven into our shared culture about such an enigmatic artifact. But when the enigmatic is reduced to commonplace, something tangible and right there for all to study and see (and presumably to rule out the mystical factor on which the plot relied), then where does that leave us?

In my Morpheus Initiative series, where my protagonists are psychic remote viewers, I struggled to find a logical reason to have them stay away from publicly-valuable objectives. For example, if they were so good at their jobs, it’s a no-brainer that they would have been asked to locate Bin Laden. Focus on him as the objective, locate his cave or house, and blammo—there’s a chapter that should have been in the book. I at least would have had to mention it, but last year while writing Book 3 I held off, dancing around the issue because I knew we were closing in on him in real life, and it was only a matter of time. And I feared the worst scenario: that shortly after I published my wildly imaginative hunt for him, we would find out that he’d been dead for ten years, and I’d look really foolish.

In the first book, THE PHAROS OBJECTIVE, I worried a little about it, but not too much. I was reasonably certain that the ancient Pharos Lighthouse had indeed toppled in Alexandria’s harbor. There had been enough evidence placing it at the promontory—scuba dives, recovered pillars and statues. And I was fairly confident that no one would be tunneling down to the secret legendary chamber under the foundation any time soon.  But now, in the sequel—THE MONGOL OBJECTIVE, I was and am indeed, concerned.

This time my remote-viewers need to track down Genghis Khan’s elusive resting place, one of history’s most perplexing riddles. The elements of the mystery: a massive funeral procession, legends that upwards of 20,000 laborers worked on the project and then were slaughtered to keep the location secret, a tomb supposedly filled with all the spoils of his subjugated cities, a ‘history book’ full of masterful disinformation, a secret clan dedicated to protecting the secret for all time, and on top of all that—a restrictive government that won’t allow outsiders anywhere near the most likely locations. But despite all this, progress is being made. For the past twenty years, dozens of international teams armed with high tech gear (ground-penetrating sonar and satellite imagery for starters) have been combing Mongolian highlands and parts of northern China. It’s only a matter of time.

I’ve done the same research they’ve all done, read all the books, studied the maps, followed the trails. And, this being fiction (and hopefully entertaining fiction at that), I’ve come up with what I think is not only a plausible location—but a compelling one. To quote one of the characters in my book: “The others are looking in the wrong place.” I really hope that’s true, but from the start of researching this book until now, publication, it’s been almost two years. They could have found him in real life, and that has scared me silly because probably he’s not going to be where I put him; and then the whole fanciful and entertaining twist in this book will go out the window. Or at least, the ‘brilliance’ (if I may be so bold to call it that) will be diminished by the resolution of the great mystery, and readers will kind of shrug and say that this could have been cool, but…

In any case, Genghis Khan lays undisturbed as of this writing. And my heroes can get their moment in the sun. Perhaps it will turn out that I will be prophetic. And like Jules Verne who had many of his ‘outlandish’ ideas later turn out spot-on , a century later people will look back and say, “that Sakmyster guy had to be just as psychic as his characters because he guessed it exactly!”

Maybe, and that’s something that makes me smile late at night. Now, on to the next mystery that might get solved by some darned real-life treasure hunters before my make-believe hunters can get all the glory!

David Sakmysteris an award-winning author and screenwriter who makes his home in upstate NY. He has over two dozen short stories and five novels published, including THE PHAROS OBJECTIVE and THE MONGOL OBJECTIVE, the first two novels in a series about psychic archaeologists tackling the greatest historical mysteries; the horror novel CRESCENT LAKE, and the historical fiction epic, SILVER AND GOLD. His screenplay, NIGHTWATCHERS, has just been optioned. You can step into his mind here.


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