Zanjan Cover

Here is the cover for Zanjan, illustrated by Aaron Kreader.  After years of research, writing, penciling, and inking, the book is slated for release this year.

I spent a year on research before starting the script, because both of us wanted to make sure we got it right.  (Zanjan is an historical fiction graphic novel set in nineteenth century Persia.)  My philosophy on this is pretty much the polar opposite of what Core director Jon Amiel reportedly said last month to the American Geophysical Union:

“After showing us some very funny clips from The Core, Amiel went on to discuss the question of whether Hollywood should try to represent science and scientists in an accurate way. Unsurprisingly, he believes that the success of a film comes from its ability to stir the emotions, and the aim of staying faithful to the science always comes second.”

I think fiction is just as good at getting at truth than nonfiction, and often better.  That’s why I write it.  It’s also clear that our understanding of truth is relative and changes over time.  But here are two reasons I think the approach described above is wrong:

  1. It’s easier to suspend belief, and get emotionally involved, when what you’re seeing feels authentic.  Something which just doesn’t make sense can jar the viewer (or reader) out of the story.  That’s just as true for superhero and ghost stories as it is for Westerns, which is why the best fantasies, like Tolkien’s, are internally consistent.
  2. What is true is often just as interesting and powerful as anything we can make up.  That’s why the most compelling fiction (such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series) is usually inspired by something real (in that case, the fall of the Roman Empire).

There’s also a third reason I want to get the facts right, although it’s not about how to stir people’s emotions, it’s about what happens after you’ve done so.  If I’ve just gotten someone excited about something that I cared enough to write about, I want them to be more informed about it than before, not less.  Particularly if they’re inspired to go out and do something about it.

By the way, Amiel shared the panel with Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the screenplay for Deep Impact.  “I really worked hard trying to make this film scientifically accurate,” Rubin said.

Update, January 7: NASA makes a list of the most absurd sci-fi films (The Core is #2); it also names the most plausible sci-fi films.

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