Conspiracy theories lost their place in fiction as the 21st century approached, says Alan Glynn in his Vulture article last week. First, it no longer seemed “shocking that those in power might be bad actors.” Second, Internet-fueled “information overload led to a sort of heat death of what we know and understand, a point of entropy at which, if a conspiracy theorist believed one theory — chemtrails, say — they would most likely believe all of them: the moon landings, fluoridation, Waco, Lady Diana, the New World Order, WT7, take your pick.” This excess meant that “conspiracy theory itself had become a devalued currency.”
Conspiracy theories today, he says, are “customized to achieve desired political outcomes and then injected into the news stream via social media,” thus being “weaponized in the most cynical and partisan way.” So: “The new challenge is to catch them at it — to identify the truth of any given situation, to back it up with evidence, and to inoculate that evidence against the twin viruses of perception management and narrative bias.”
Powerful people always lie — there’s no problem with that premise for a novel. But, in such a fictional world, we should ask whether there’s any drama in watching ordinary people try to speak truth to power. Put another way: Does the novel hold out any hope that truth-tellers can win?