Why Fiction?

Readers regularly ask me why I write fiction. The life I have lived thus far has been filled with dramatic events well worth writing about. For thirteen years, I spent more time on the battlefields of Vietnam than I did in the U.S. and survived the fall of Saigon. After that, until I retired in the 1990s, I did similar work elsewhere—though all that is still classified. I have, in short, plenty of stories to tell.

The answer is that my calling is fiction. Whether I like it or not, I was put on earth to make up stories and write them down. I do write nonfiction. This blog, now in its fourth year of daily posts, is all fact-based. And I have a handful of articles in print—see, for example, my piece on the fall of Saigon (you can read it at http://atticusreview.org/bitter-memories-the -fall-of saigon/) But the great majority of my published writing, six books and 17 short stories, is tales I have invented.

I need to stress that fiction is not falsity. According to Merriam-Webster, fiction is something invented by the imagination or feigned. And in fact, all my stories and novels are drawn from real events. My novel, No-Accounts, is based on the years I cared for men dying of AIDS; Last of the Annamese tells what occurred during the fall of Saigon—every event depicted really did happen; and Secretocracy describes what I faced during my tour as an intelligence budgeteer with the federal government, though the dates and administration involved were changed to protect the guilty.

To me, fiction is a way to tell the truth through stories. I want people to know what happened during the AIDS crisis, the fall of Saigon, and the Trump administration. So I tell my stories are as factually as possible but with fictional characters acting out what actually happened.

I have never questioned critics who have accused me of writing fiction in name only. They caught me in the act.

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