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Conspiracy Theories in Fiction to Inspire Your Page-Turner

by Laura Peters

When it comes to a page-turner, we like the idea of something that is in-between reality and fiction. When we consider the enduring appeal of Kafka or Thomas Pynchon, the notion of the conspiracy theory is one of those devices that straddles the balance. Conspiracy theories can be real or they can be fictional, and this becomes part of the reason why people love a good conspiracy novel. Let’s highlight some of the most interesting conspiracy theories for you to incorporate into your work.

The Illuminati

Arguably, this is one of the most interesting theories that truly divide opinion. Whatever your thoughts are on the thirteen bloodlines of the Illuminati and whether our world is controlled by a secret totalitarian government, it makes for an incredibly gripping device. The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson combines a wide range of conspiracies in a playful manner.

World War Two

While books like The Man In The High Castle and the subsequent TV series have almost bled the topic dry, there are numerous offshoots like SS-GB to The Plot Against America, showing many notions of this alternative history can be explored. While many post-World War II literature focuses on if the other side won the war, when we start to dig deep into the wide-ranging impacts of what would happen, the possibilities are endless.

JFK’s Assassination

Arguably, the biggest well to draw conspiracy theories from in all of history. For the last 30 years, there have been so many pieces of popular culture that have attempted to dissect the assassination of John F Kennedy, but in literature, Libra by Don Delillo is the densest exploration of the event in recent memory. While this book asks more questions than it answers, surely this is the most interesting aspect of conspiracy theories. We like to ask questions, we like to pontificate on the possibilities, and this makes for a good quality page-turner.

Historical Mythologies

Whether you like Dan Brown or not, the mythologies about the Ark of the Covenant can make for a gripping page-turner. But if you’re looking for something a bit more sophisticated to cite, Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum provides a wide range of conspiracies in a fiendishly complex manner. While this is a novel that focuses on a spoof conspiracy theory, its treatment of the subject matter of conspiracy theories is reason alone to read. That highlights the fact just how conspiracy theories can seduce almost anyone.

A great conspiracy theory goes between reality and fiction. It touches on the idea that something could actually happen. And whether you have been burning to write a short story about alien abduction or something closer to home, the worry that your protagonist touches upon something that impacts everybody that does not want to believe it is an incredibly psychologically taxing plot device. Like Winston Smith in 1984, who wished that ignorance was bliss, his actions came to an incredibly sad ending where he loved Big Brother. Conspiracy theories are not just about the exploration of uncovering the truth, but the worry if the public is able to handle news beyond its comprehension. And this, arguably, is something that’s not discussed as widely in fiction.

Guest post contributed by Laura Peters.

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