Define:Fiction

As I was taking my lunch break today, I sat my phone up on the table and went over to YouTube. I do that a lot when I’m on lunch break. I’ll tune in to any one of a number of streams, but today’s was an old favorite: Primitive Builders.

You know them, right? They – and the dozens of similar streams – show the ripped and wiry Southeast Asian guys building underground swimming pools by whacking at the ground with what appears to be a cross between a chisel and a paint scraper mounted on the end of a stick. The guys move and speak in Benny Hill / Babe Ruth movie speed (causing their occasional banter to sound like a squeaky toy) and in a half-hour video carve a hut or a swimming pool or a temple out of the jungle floor. It’s quite relaxing to me to watch them; a lovely break in the middle of a workday full of public service.

Today was a little different, though.

Halfway through the list of available videos, there was a string of short ones with bold white or yellow lettering claiming to show that these videos are fake. And I had to stop to wonder: do I care?

I asked myself this because I drew a parallel between that and the research I’ve been doing for a story. The story is heavily based in Toltec and Aztec mythology: things that we moderns consider to be fictitious. I’m in the business of writing fiction. So if I watch something that’s fictitious (but somewhat based in reality?), do I have to care that it’s “fake?”

Put another way, I’m watching these videos for relaxation and entertainment. I’m not looking to do the same in my back yard. I suppose if I was trying to do this in my yard, I’d be miffed that they weren’t “real.” But I don’t go looking for true how-to material or engineering drafts in the middle of an entertainment stream. I’m not writing a historiographic piece on the cult of a particular deity of the Aztecs…I’m writing a Romance (in both the classicist and current bestseller senses). Anyone reading my story isn’t likely to be reading it for actual erudite discussion of the morphing of Toltec society into Aztec society. And I’m not an archaeologist.

That isn’t to say I didn’t dream of a hidden trap door in my parents’ basement when I was little. A trap door that led to an underground wonderland which would, of course, include a pool. But, again, if I want that in my own house, I’ll hopefully remember having an above-ground pool and how much of a pain in the ass it was to not have it turn green after every rainfall then multiply that by about a hundred to get an underground one built.

My point is, okay, so the videos are fake. So what? I still like watching them just like I still like writing and reading fiction even though I’ll never know everything that my characters are supposed to. It’s all entertainment. And if it makes you or me want to go find out more about the subject, then cool. Good on us for being curious.

But I’m not going looking for historical or scientific fact in the middle of a novel. And I don’t recommend you do, either.


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