Fictionology on the Radio

I know a few people are anxious to see a transcript of my Sunday morning interview on Victorian Community Radio, 3-VCR. I hope to get permission to post a recording of the interview on my website, but until then, a transcript will have to suffice. Matthew Collins made me feel right at home during the interview. I'd given him drafts of a number of chapters from my forthcoming book. You'll see from the interview that he'd obviously taken some time to understand them.

Matthew: This morning we welcome Virgil Keys to Religion, Respect and Ridicule. He regards himself as a lifelong student of Fictionology. Virgil, not too many people are familiar with Fictionology. Tell us a little about it.

Virgil: Thanks for inviting me, Matthew. Fictionology is a religion that embraces and transcends almost every other known religion. A true Fictionologist chooses which Fictions to believe and holds to them, drawing meaning, instruction, moral guidance, entertainment and comfort from them. It taps into the essence of what makes us human: stories. It's the foundation of human society, making sense of our existence and giving purpose to these collections of organic molecules that we call bodies. Fictionology is the single unifying concept that gives meaning to life.

Matthew: Those are extraordinary claims, Virgil. Does it worry you that other religions have made similar unifying claims?

Virgil: No. In fact Fictionology accepts those claims without reservation, and yet still embraces its own broader claim. Fictionology is a meta-religion, but at the same time is itself a religion. In that sense, it even encompasses itself, but let's avoid the more abstract concepts for the moment.

Matthew: Definitely. I think my brain just turned inside-out. What does Fictionology mean to the average person?

Virgil: It means peace of mind, understanding who you are in this chaotic universe, and making sense of how people behave. It means having access to role-models, mentors and companions in your journey. It broadens your outlook, makes you think outside the box, exposes you to new paradigms, and frees you from artificially constrained thought patterns.

Matthew: So far, you haven't said a lot about what Fictionologists actually believe. Is there some secrecy?

Virgil: Far from it, Matthew. The problem with trying to say what Fictionologists believe is there are too many widely varying beliefs. Adherents of Fictionology are free to choose their Fictions. The most important parts of Fictionology lie not in what you believe, but how you believe. It's a difficult topic and one that I don't think we can do justice to in the space of one interview.

I'd love to be able to give you and your listeners a five minute "fix" that could transform your lives, but it can't be done. That's why I'm putting so much time and effort into my book.

Matthew: Let's talk about your book for a couple of minutes. I hear it's been generating a lot of interest.

Virgil: Indeed it has, Matthew. Since I published that brief Fictionology FAQ on my journal, I've been stunned by the flood of emails. I'm not sure that I'll be able to answer them all personally. I figure the best thing I can do is complete the book.

Matthew: Yes. Thanks for the draft chapters you sent me last week. In chapter 4, I found your descriptions of the way Fictionology was changing people's lives very moving. It's been a running theme here on Religion, Respect and Ridicule that many forms of religion can have an extremely negative impact on individuals. Your examples present Fictionology in a very positive light. Is this realistic?

Virgil: It's true, most of the stories I've included are of positive life experiences. I've tried to present a cross section of Fictionological life without bias. My experience in studying Fictionology shows that the stories are, on the whole, good news stories. People aren't perfect and they can hurt one another very easily, but Fictionology minimizes the effects of these imperfections. Life is a storm of harsh uncaring physical reality with tiny shelters of communication and support. Sharing a Fiction opens up a channel of communication between people, allowing them to be really human. For most people, this is a positive rewarding experience.

Matthew: But you acknowledge that some people try Fictionology and then give it up?

Virgil: Fictionology is not for everyone. It requires imagination, and sadly, there are people who show a staggering lack of imagination. There are people who just can't get much out of reading a book.

Even imaginative people can have difficulties with Fictionology. In chapter 7, one I'm currently working on, I tell of my encounter with a lapsed Fictionologist named Barry. Barry had some bad experiences in a Sailor Moon Fiction group which left him bitter and dejected. Interestingly, he still regards his time in the group as the most connecting and fulfilling experience in his life, but he blames himself for lacking imagination: he couldn't imagine himself not actually being Sailor Mercury. It caused friction within the group and also ruined his promotional prospects as a taxation auditor. The only way he could cope was to cut himself off from Fictionology altogether.

Matthew: You make a point in chapter 2 about problems that arise when people try to live out the lives of their chosen Fictional characters.

Virgil: Yes, Matthew. It's a common mistake made by people who haven't understood Fictionology. Being in a role-playing group doesn't make you a Fictionologist. It's of paramount importance that you understand your own identity. You are one person. You cannot be anyone else whether you believe they exist or not. Role playing does have its uses in Fictionology as an aid to understanding your chosen Fiction, but at the end of the day, you are yourself.

We see this exhibited even in Naive Fictionology. Take, for example, the WWJD meme in Christianity. Its adherents try to base their decisions on the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" This is role-playing without any hint of a suggestion that the devotee could think of themselves as Jesus.

Matthew: So you'd conclude that Barry's problem with Fictionology amounts to a lack of understanding.

Virgil: That, and some unresolved identity issues. Yes.

Matthew: You said that Fictionology is not for everyone. Is there any hope for these people?

Virgil: There will always be those who are condemned to misunderstand life, just as there are people who can never detect sarcasm. I dream of a world of understanding, where everyone embraces their own Fictions while allowing others to have theirs. Most people are intelligent and imaginative enough to be a part of this world. Some will never be.

Matthew: I'm afraid that's all we have time for this morning. Thanks for coming in, Virgil.

Virgil: My pleasure, Matthew.

Matthew: Don't forget to look for Virgil's book, Fictionology: A Panacea for the Information Age (Part 1) when it's released later this year. Until then, I'll keep struggling to untangle my own Fictions.


Congrats man!

Oh, bravo! That's brilliant - your Fictionology stuff never fails to put a smile on my face!

Incidentally, as an evidently rather gifted satirist would you be interested in participating in this project? It's not quite your focus of interest, I guess, but you've a wicked touch which might segue quite nicely with the scheme...

Thanks outeast. I afraid I'm going to have to give this one a miss. At the moment, apart from a full-time job and a family, I have the OEDILF ( site to support, and a couple of other interests that are getting less than the attention they deserve.

Best of luck with the modest proposal.