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Words From Wiser – Fiction, Or Is It?


Those who know me well are aware that I am a voracious reader. At 10 years old I was into a daily reading the of the Olean Times Herald newspaper and especially those Sports articles featuring Racing by Gil Stinger. My Mother had joined a book club and I became interested in Fiction reading and ran across an author who would become my early favorite. Shortly after getting married, I discovered my own “Book of the Month” club and became completely enamored with the stories of author Frank Slaughter. Being himself a physician, he wrote various character series featuring a Medical Mystery genre. Not sure if his protege was Robin Cook but their writings are very similar, and both compelling and intriguing. Up until I began teaching at Alfred State College in January, 1984, I was an insatiable reader typically reading 3 to 5 books a week. Fortunately (for my budget) by that time I had discovered the public libraries. From about the first week of my teaching career, my reading of fiction novels for pure enjoyment came to an abrupt, and, 24 year long hiatus. I did not read a single fiction novel for the entire 24 years of my teaching career.

Why? Because my reading habits were overwhelmed by reading Engineering and Manufacturing manuals and textbooks in preparation of my teaching efforts. Very few of the topics I ended up teaching had been included in my collegiate learning career. Come to think of it, many of them had not yet even been invented or developed.  I literally learned it one night and taught it the next day for a good part of the early teaching days. My specialties ended up being Computer Aided Drafting/Design (CADD), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Robotics, Advanced Manufacturing, Automated Manufacturing Systems, Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) and other manufacturing specific machine specialties.

That was a rather long prologue into the main focus of today’s topic. Until the events of the past couple of years I would read “Mystery-Action” novels detailing the exploits and activities of the “James Bond” type characters or the “Bourne” type series, wondering how much was truth, and how much was fiction. I’m pretty sure that falling off a cliff only to be saved by a shirt cuff catching on the random limb was literary license or imagination. However, as often as I snag a pant leg on my toe, or my pocket catches on a drawer pull as I walk by, maybe there is truth there.

More semi recently, I have read the novels of a single “spy like” character invading a foreign country for clandestine activities, or “Delta Teams” crossing borders to partake of semi nefarious policing activities. Of these I wonder…where does fiction start or end or are we really reading more autobiographical accounts than we realize. Recently, I have been reading of the exploits of characters portrayed in the fiction novels by Andy McNab. I had ignored his very first writing, actually an autobiographical accounting, of his own military activity, but finally read “Bravo Two Zero”.This was a very enlightening and compelling actual account of his activities, and what is likely more of the truth component of some recent novels, and less of the fiction.

This puzzlement of the mix of truth and fiction also spreads into recent movies and “Action” TV shows, including those featuring law enforcement, none of which I watch anymore. No TV for me. I read.

If you are interested in joining a discussion group regarding the “enjoyment reading” of similar novels, and are on Face Book, I have formed a group entitled “FAME”, (Fiction. Action, Mystery Enjoyment) wherein we discuss and share various authors, their characters, and their opinions on same. I have been steered toward many interesting, new (to me) authors and their series by my “friends” in that group.

The next half of this discussion is not meant to be, nor motivated by, any political influence or insinuation. It does, however, describe a combination of my feelings of awe, wonder, fear and dread. It delves into the realm of stories or books written in the past like George Orwell’s 1949 novel “1984”, and even more recently that are “predictive” of things that will eventually happen. My fear and dread stems from my concern of what my, and your, generation are leaving in store for your offspring. “1984” has some eerily “close to today” aspects of it. Some other novels that I have recently read, are fiction stories, but they feature events and details which transpired in the 30’s, which was historically a very tumultuous era. They are now, frighteningly, happening or in jeopardy of happening again today. They say (paraphrasing) that “if you don’t learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it”. Is that what is happening now?

“Prescient” is one of those vocabulary words that I quite often use these days. I looked up its meaning, although being pretty sure what it meant just by it’s use, after first coming across it in a book. It likely describes how what was written or recorded decades, or maybe even centuries ago is now reality. Did George Orwell read a book transcribed by the Monks of past and fast forward that from 1949 to 1984. Or, was he “prescient”.

Slightly off track, but how many of us have dreamed of seeing someone, or doing something, and then having it happen the very next day or week? Paranormal happening, or just being prescient?

The Author Robin Cook wrote a novel entitled “Nano” back in 2013. It featured a medical student who had taken a leave from her formal studies to get involved in research involving “nanotechnology”. Nanotechnology is one of the cutting edge technologies that is growing exponentially and has recently been added to many College/University programs. Simply stated nanotechnology is the use of ultra-microscopic molecular or atomic (as in atoms or molecules which are the smallest particles of anything) engineering. With some (or lots of) imagination you might picture electronic controls embedded into the head of a needle that can see and steer it through blood vessels and tissue. That’s a pretty crude and overly simplified example but not a stretch of the imagination.

Things that are now incorporated into our own reading materials are things that we can’t even have dreamt about. But somebody did.

I went astray there a bit, but my point was…how much truth and/or fiction is in what we are reading. And I’m not even considering any of that “Fake News”. That’s a whole “nuther” topic. On which I will not write by the way.

Re-reading to proof this, it does seem to ramble a bit, but that perfectly describes my thoughts as I contemplate what is currently going on and what lies ahead? Truth, or Fiction?

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