Linking the idea of professing oneself to be a writer to a Judeo-Christian tradition in which naming it makes it so, Erdman commented: Like the act of fiction there’s always this sense that the faithful can remake reality based on their imaginative vision of what it could or ought to be.
The reality of fiction interests me. An imagined reality need not be an actual reality. I can remember the past even though the past is no longer actual. I can plan for the future even though the future isn’t actual yet. My own understanding or description of the actual present world is different from that world: it’s an understanding, a description, a work of the imagination. There’s always a gap between what I imagine the actual world to be and what the world actually is.
If I can acknowledge the gap between actual and imaginary, I can try to narrow the gap. I can gather evidence about the past: descriptions written when the past was still present; objects existing in the present that originated in the past; forces that traverse temporal boundaries, with the present actual state of things being regarded as but an isolated moment in a continuum stretching from past into future. In making a plan for the future I can investigate and enact the processes and intermediate states that must occur if the actual present is to be transformed into the imagined desired future. I can compare my own understanding of the actually existing world with others’ understandings and with evidence, using my findings to make my understanding conform more closely to the parameters of actuality.
In a complementary fashion, if I recognize the gap between actual and imaginary realities I can try to widen the gap. I can imagine that I was born on another planet and was secretly transported here in my infancy. I can imagine myself conducting an ongoing reconnaissance mission here on earth, periodically transmitting my findings to my home planet via alien brain waves undetectable by any human technologies. I can imagine a series of future intragalactic apocalypses precipitated by the arrival on earth of a landing party from my home planet.
I’ve imagined an alternative postcapitalistic fictional reality, a reality that isn’t actual in the present but that might become actual in the future. I’ve described this imaginary fictional reality at some length in a series of texts posted on this website. The gap is fairly wide between the proposed postcapitalistic scheme and the capitalistic actualities; at the same time, a series of bridges have been sketched out for spanning the gap from the present to the imagined future. So far those bridges too remain imaginary; the gap, unspanned.
Perhaps the easiest course would be to blow the imaginary bridges sky high. Instead of narrowing the gap, widen it — push the alternative reality further away from the actual, beyond the far fringes of the unlikely into the impossible. I recently posted an excerpt from a novel about a man “designing out of thin air the most complete and complex urban plan history had ever known”:
…while the city now stood, after fifteen years’ solid work but with no end in sight, as by far the biggest and most complex urban plan ever conceived by man or committee and which I could not help thinking, as I sipped my beer and watched, would, if he stuck at it long enough, eclipse the whole fucking world, this map of a kingdom that existed nowhere on this earth but in his head, this masterpiece with its clueless overlord, a mad king who knew nothing of the real world but was nevertheless on such intimate terms with the infinite intricacies of his own mind that he needed nothing more than a rule and pencil to draw them forth and lay them on the paper, this city as a kind of neural maze, a cognitive map which would reach out, street by street, to cover the whole world…
I could carry out a program like this, imagine a complete and complex postcapitalist fictional reality, extend its ambit infinitely and its level of detail infinitesimally, enthrone myself as its clueless overlord, document it in fifteen years’ worth of text that nobody but I would ever see. Hell, I’ve already written a book’s worth of content — plenty more where that came from. It would be a pure act of fiction, a work of mystic autistic artistry fully unhinged from actuality.