"WRITING A NOVEL IS A JUGGLING ACT": AN INTERVIEW WITH THE TRUTH AGAINST THE WORLD'S DAVID CORBETT
David Corbett is known for thought provoking books that exist in the fissure between genre and what's termed as "literary." His latest is The Truth Against The World, a dystopian novel for the post Trump era, has a video game take an already fractured America over the edge. Georgie the author of the novel the game is based on and who was plagiarized, travels across this dangerous country to confront the thief. Along for the ride and to have her back is Shane, a friend and formerIrish commando who narrates. David was kind enough to takes some questions about the novel
SCOTT MONTGOMERY: How did you come up with the world that Georgie and Shane travel through? DAVID CORBETT: By reading the news. And suffering the subsequent nightmares.
Seriously, I have been following the white power and militia movement(s) [they are arguably indistinguishable] for some time, and have been dismayed by the increasingly common belief among many Americans that violence will be needed to rescue their version of our republic.
I combined that with my understanding of the Troubles in Ireland, where violence was continuous for almost thirty years but never cataclysmic, as well as with the much more troubling vision of America’s next decade in the Canadian journalist Stephen Marche’s The Next Civil War: Dispatches from America’s Future. S.M. Is there anything you had to keep in mind while writing a book like this? Writing a novel is a juggling act, and what one has to keep in mind is making sure none of the balls hit the ground. Beyond that, continuity of character, consistency of language, coherence and believability of the story world, the usual things. The book went through several edits of considerable intensity, and making sure the ending resolved the most important story questions and yet came as a surprise to the reader was the final thing I had to consider, but I didn’t think about that much as I was writing my way through the story. S.M.: How did making Shane Irish come about? D.C.: The book is very much inspired by the Fenian Cycle of Irish myth, which I find fascinating. For reasons I can’t disclose without providing significant spoilers for readers who’ve not yet started the book, there was simply no way for Shane not to be Irish. S.M.: How did you decide a video game being the cause of it? That actually came a bit late in the writing. I learned from Kim Howe that video games were frequently used to launder money for organized crime and terrorist groups, and that just seemed too juicy a factoid to ignore. As I dove deeper into the world of video games, I discovered they were used to recruit foot soldiers in the white power/militia movement, which also seemed impossible to avoid. The fact video games are far more popular than books also made turning even a wildly popular book into a video game a logical choice, if your purpose is recruitment, let along laundering illicit funds. Finally, when I read game designers describe how QAnon was based on Live Action Role Playing Games (LARPs), I saw how I could use the video game based on Georgie’s book, The Truth Against the World, not merely as a recruiting or money-laundering vehicle but a way to keep the faithful continuously engaged and proceeding with “the plan." S.M.: While this is a very unique story, it feels like it holds echoes of other literature. Did you draw from any books as an influence? D.C.: The Fenian Cycle played a large part, with its casual magic and lovely weirdness. My thriller background kept reminding me to keep things moving and keep the main characters under constant threat. And my fondness for Irish writing made sure I never neglected the power of humor, dark as it might be at times. S.M.: By this look at the future, what did you want to say about our country now?
D.C.: One of the more sobering facts I discovered in my research was that there is no example to be found in history where a religious or ethnic majority surrendered power without violence. The “war against the elites” is as old as Jefferson’s “yeoman farmers” railing against New England plutocrats, and if you’re looking for echoes of the battle cry of the January 6 rioters that it's “1776 again,” look no further than the Populist movement of the late 19th century. (I include sections from William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech with exactly those words to drive the point home.) The post-Vietnam white power/militia movement faded away when the public recoiled from the murder of civilians, especially children, in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. But since then, as veterans have returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — and these movements always resurface in the aftermath of wars — the same anti-government sentiment, historically connected to white supremacy with its sense of betrayal, resentment, and grievance, has once again enjoyed a resurgence, with the “Deep State” standing in for the “New World Order,” and the ever-convenient “elites” representing all that is wrong with the country, just as they did with the Populists (“producers versus parasites” was their formulation), the “Northern Industrial Machine” in the antebellum period, and the Federalists shortly after the nation’s founding. It may be that, once again, we manage to steady the ship of state. If not, we’ll certainly balkanize. How violently that breaking apart proves to be is anybody’s guess.