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Conspiracies and Worldbuilding is a book that is more than it seems, both in content and in origin. It would seem simple to write a book on “here’s how to put conspiracies in your fictional” world – and that’s the problem.
Conspiracies aren’t simple to write.
I love a good conspiracy in a book, from political intrigue to a murder mystery (which is just a tiny conspiracy). It’s fun to figure out what’s going on, and who doesn’t love a puzzle? The problem is that most people’s ideas of conspiracies come from Conspiracy Theories, and that’s dangerous.
Conspiracy Theories are everywhere because humans try to make sense of the world. In turn, they work our way into our popular culture because they are recognizable and often fascinating. A quick perusal of fiction will find multiple Illuminatis, a heavy dose of Lizard People, and a decent sprinkling of alien technology.
But this isn’t just fun. Conspiracy Theories and taking them seriously (in the wrong way) promotes several alarming trends, and this book was to address that in part.
First, many Conspiracy Theories are just window dressing on biases, old or new. When we recycle them into our fiction, we promote those biases and even give voice to promoters who have ulterior motives. A cursory examination of many a conspiratorial belief quickly uncovers racism, sexism, bigotry, and more. I wanted people to avoid spreading these ideas as if they were innocent.
Secondly, many Conspiracy Theories lead to bad story ideas because they’re so unlikely and impossible. Most Conspiracy Theories suppose impossible organizations, dubious motivations, and terrible resource management. I wanted people to write more likely conspiracies – as those are more fun to read or watch!
Third and finally, fiction too often ignores that Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracies go hand in hand. If you have nefarious plans, the easiest way to get away with it is to turn people against someone else. They’re busy attacking phantoms and innocent people so you can get away with your own dark goals. I wanted more fictional conspiracies that were good at evil machinations and wanted to cover this.
In the internet age, I saw more spread of biased conspiracy theories, more foolish leaps of logic, and more muddling of Conspiracy Theory and Conspiracies. So I wanted to do a book on how to handle these subjects in fiction better. From avoiding spreading bigotry to creating more believable (and thus thought-provoking) settings, I figured it was a win-win.
So far, it seems the book has sold pretty well, and I hope I’m reaching people. Let’s make good stories, good conspiracies, and spend less time promoting bigotry and the unlikely. Please give me a conspiracy that chills me as it seems so real and a story that helps me see how prejudices are puppet strings.