As someone who writes and reads fiction, I find the sensational news items in the latest Wikileaks fallout to be an interesting narrative in itself. Here is a tightly controlled operation, which releases shocking and entertaining pieces of information, in regular instalments. It’s gripping stuff and reminds me, in a strange way, of serialised fiction, except that the real world is now providing these cliffhanger endings each day. They provoke wild emotions and debate: it’s what 24-hour news was made for. It is 24-hour entertainment.
In more reflective moments, I do consider the reasons that make me write fiction. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to use entertainment as my sole motivation (not that there’s anything wrong with that); I just get my kicks out of using other things: social commentary, for one. But the problem is, how can someone who wants to create gripping fiction compete with the quality of sensationalism provided by such a real narrative? The Wikileaks sensation contains more depth than I could dream of writing; there is a rapidly changing political landscape; we have the narrative strand of Assange, the whistleblower, and his run from capture, the rape charges, and so on.
The real world seems quite unreal in such a thrilling context. Even escapism is no longer a sound concept against such radical news items, which, through regular bombshells, numb our senses. Perhaps a more antiquated setting would offer a kind of solace – a recovery from all this constant buzzing. But in terms of writing: how can I get excited about secondary worlds when the real one has suddenly become so weird? This isn’t to say I don’t, but that it is an interesting challenge for someone in the business of creating fiction.
It was Ballard who said the future would be boring. I’d argue against that if we’re viewing it from behind a screen with regular news updates.