Fictional Countries

This is the first post that I’m cross posting between my blogs. This blog will remain my personal blog, but I’ve created a professional blog to connect to my writing and art work under the November Thirteen banner. You can find that blog at Some posts will be cross posted and some will only exist on one of the blogs.

Earlier, I read an article from Vice UK regarding Britain and Brexit entitled: If Britain Is Going to Disintegrate We Might As Well Do It Properly. There are two quotes that I pulled away from the piece (written by Sam Kriss).

The first:

“Every country is just a fiction, an imagined community, and countries fail when those fictions can no longer adequately explain what’s actually going on.”

The second:

“People are English, but they don’t have to be. There’s been something calling itself China for some 4,000 years; there’s only been something calling itself England for a quarter of that time.”

In this case, we are talking about national identity based on a shared story that we tell. The United States of America exists, in a sense, because some British colonists decided that their story was better told as a spin off more than 250 years ago. They drafted an outline of what this spinoff would entail and then once it was established began writing the ongoing story of this new country. We keep referring back to that initial outline, amending it on occasion to address lapses in our initial storytelling (hey, maybe black people should be citizens/ main characters in this story too. Also, women) but for the time being, we’re all still invested in the community that this grand story gives us (although there was that time that half of us thought they didn’t like the direction the story was going and thought they might like to go tell a different story … and then we had a Civil War). Our nation still exists because we’re all still interested in the shared narrative, but currently there are people that are trying to co-opt the story and write people out and we have renewed conflict. We are Americans in a Democratic society, but we don’t have to be.

When crafting fiction (in a prose sense now, not a national identity sense) we create a world to share with the reader. We start with characters, and we craft a plot/ story within which those characters will exist until the determined conclusion. We create, within the context of that a plot/ story, a world in which those characters exist; often times, we borrow directly from our “real world” the cities and countries and places that already exist. Sometimes we alter or change those to fit the story we are telling. Sometimes it’s small changes to benefit the drama we’re constructing (a well known landmark blows up, a fictional business is created on a street corner from a real city borrowed from our real world), sometimes the changes are slightly larger (we invent a city and place it within a “real” country), sometimes the changes are world changing (we invent an alternate history based on changes in pivotal points in our “real” world, such as the Confederacy winning the Civil War, Germany winning World War 2, contemporary technology entering the world at a much earlier point in time) and sometimes things are not so much changed as invented completely (new planets, new societies, new worlds with their own governmental structures, etc).

Within all of these contexts, we still need to have an internal accordance for the reality of the story to become cohesive. That cohesion breaks down when the developed structures and rules no longer explain the world that’s being created. It can be developing a world that is strictly grounded in scientific facts and then at a pivotal point in storytelling saying that magic is suddenly a thing that exists (unless, of course your story is about the sudden appearance of magic in a scientific society, but I digress). It can also be a governing body trying to force a version of reality that they want to exist through lies and denial, despite the objective reality surrounding them. Decreeing that the blue sky is green, the sum of 2+2 is 5, that things that are happening are not and that things they have been recorded saying were not said. The tools and pitfalls of both creating the fictional world in prose or film and creating a fictional world in reality are the same, the only thing that changes is who is effected by it.

This will be a topic that, I’m sure, will continue to be in the back of my brain both as work on my writing projects and as I watch the news feeds each day.

More later …


Published by: Thomas Rohde

Artist // Writer // Theatre Professional // Nerd // Night Owl Inspired by a steady and lifelong infusion of pop culture, comic books, and a vast assortment of films and books, our friendly neighborhood blogger has doomed himself to a life of creative pursuits. There's not enough time for everything, but we all do what we can. Artist: of watercolor, ink, comic illustration, horror/ sci-fi/ fantasy art. Writer: of fictions, tweets, captions & blogs. Lover: coffee, whiskey, wine & beer. Instagram and Twitter as @demipho

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