By Press Room contributor Ashley Kalagian Blunt
Friday – 5pm – 6pm, Elderly Citizen’s Centre
Does ‘the truth’ really exist or is it just a construction? In front of a crowd of dozens gathered at the Elderly Citizens Centre, comedian Claire Sullivan declares that fact and fiction are going to fight to the death. ‘I hope we can all keep the bloodshed at bay for a little while,’ she adds.
Author Patrick Lenton takes the coin toss as an opportunity to demonstrate his ninja-like pun skills: ‘A “tail” is a story, which is fiction.’ Lenton wins.
Team Fact kicks off with non-fiction author Liam Pieper, who admits that he has recently defected to the fiction camp himself by writing a novel. But he also points out, ‘The fact is that we are going to win this debate because we are correct’. He strengthens his case with a comparison: ‘Non-fiction is really easy to get off the ground. Fiction is hard and therefore a stupid thing to argue for’.
Poet, writer and editor Emma Marie Jones says that while objective facts do exist (provided example: ‘Emma looks really great today’), facts are basically a type of fiction because most facts are interpreted through a subjective lens. Writers are ‘remembering, misremembering and making shit up’. Everything is told through the lens of subjectivity, Emma insists, but concludes that any version of fact is better than the made-up fantasy of fiction.
Stepping up for Team Fiction, comedian Dave Warneke declares, ‘the truth is you are all sheep cowering in our accepted reality’. There is no objective truth, he insists. ‘The world existed long before our truths of “kilometres” and “seconds”’. Then Warneke raises the stakes: ‘We cannot trust the collective unconscious. Pitbull has sold 50 million records, but that doesn’t make him good. Radiohead tells us 2 +2 = 5, and they’re pretty cool dudes. If you believe the truth exists, you’re more Pitbull than Radiohead.’ According to Warneke, the world keeps on spinning regardless of the truth.
Lenton focuses on the utility of fiction. ‘Lies get a bad rap’, he tells us. They can be very hurtful – but they can also be very useful. I posit that everyone in the audience has lied out of their big lie holes.’ Lies grease the gears of society by allowing us to say ‘good morning’ when it isn’t and by preventing us from telling our friends, colleagues and lovers what we actually think of them. ‘If it weren’t for lies, I would make a lot of enemies’, Lenton says.
More importantly, ‘Without lies, the lizard people who run the government would be exposed and blow up the earth in retaliation’. Without fiction, there is no Harry Potter, Lenton concludes, no Santa Claus.
Team Fact’s rebuttal makes two haunting points: ‘Think about the horrifying idea of mermaids’ and ‘a vote for fiction is a vote for Trump’. Team Fiction’s rebuttal features a lot of pandering to the judge, including a shot of whiskey poured from Lenton’s pocket flask. ‘It’s so warm!’ Sullivan blurts after her first sip. Despite this, she declares fiction the winner, citing their skilled use of bribery and Lenton’s reference to a ham shop. Handing them their miniature golden trophies, she suggest that with enough glue, they could secure the trophies to their nipples.
As Lenton pointed out, fiction has its own truth, and at the National Young Writers’ Festival, that fictional truth trumps fact.