Ron Hubbard based this story on the real-life history of the countless harrowing attempts in the late 19th and early 20th century to link up the two railroads. An experienced civil engineer and surveyor himself, Hubbard had worked in rough and dangerous terrain as part of the West Indies Mineralogical Expedition.
About L Ron Hubbard. All Frontiers Are Jealous L. Ron Hubbard stands alongside an illustrious company of writers. But he also stands alone--as an author who actually lived many of the stories he wrote. Berger was 89 on 5 November, bonfire night. He has been setting borders ablaze for almost 60 years, urging us towards the frontier of the possible. Geoff Dyer received the Windham-Campbell prize for nonfiction. His new book, White Sands , will be published by Canongate in June.
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Each time a writer begins a book they make a contract with the reader. If the book is a work of fiction the contract is pretty vague, essentially saying: In the contract for my novels I promise to try to show my readers a way of seeing the world in a way I hope they have not seen before. A contract for a work of nonfiction is a more precise affair. The writer says, I am telling you, and to the best of my ability, what I believe to be true.
This is a contract that should not be broken lightly and why I have disagreed with writers of memoir in particular who happily alter facts to suit their narrative purposes. Break the contract and readers no longer know who to trust. I write both fiction and nonfiction — to me they serve different purposes. On my noticeboard I have pinned the lines: In the 12 years since its publication I have continued to explore the themes of civil war, though almost exclusively in fiction.
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Fiction allows me to reach for a deeper, less literal kind of truth. However, when a writer comes to a story, whether fiction or nonfiction, they employ many of the same techniques, of narrative, plot, pace, mood and dialogue. This is one reason I think the distinction between fiction and nonfiction prizes is, well, a fiction. These writers have broken the boundaries of nonfiction to reach for the kind of truth that fiction writers covet.
It made no sense. We are entering a post-literate world, where the moving image is king. And more novels than ever before are set in the past. This is largely because the essence of human drama is moral dilemma, an element that our nonjudgmental society today rather lacks. A blend of historical fact and fiction has been used in various forms since narrative began with sagas and epic poems. There is a more market-driven attempt to satisfy the modern desire in a fast-moving world to learn and be entertained at the same time.
In any case, we seem to be experiencing a need for authenticity, even in works of fiction. I have always loved novels set in the past. But however impressive her research and writing, I am left feeling deeply uneasy. Which parts were pure invention, which speculation and which were based on reliable sources?
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She lives inside the consciousness of her characters for whom the future is blank. The problem arises precisely when the novelist imposes their consciousness on a real historical figure. Restorers of paintings and pottery follow a code of conduct in their work to distinguish the genuine and original material from what they are adding later.
Should writers do the same? Should not the reader be told what is fact and what is invented? The novelist Linda Grant argued that this also gives the writer much greater freedom of invention. Keeping real names shackles the imaginative writer perhaps more than they realise.
For a time I even stuck to a pedantic sequence of fiction followed by fact as if it were an unwritten commandment passed down to autodidacts like me. There was also a certain amount of piety involved. Reading should be about learning. Pleasure should be a secondary consideration.
I still recall the very first nonfiction book I ever read: The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead. Even the most devoted film fan must appreciate the occasional documentary. As for my own favourite nonfiction book, it would have to be An Immaculate Mistake , an exquisite memoir of childhood by Paul Bailey. I often tell book festival audiences that I want to write fiction myself, to which the cynics in the audience suggest I write the next manifesto. I like to think myself as anti-genre-labelling.
There is nothing more likely to stunt your creativity than to think of walls between genres. I understand that booksellers, and even readers, need to know if a book is a crime novel or literary or commercial or romantic but for a writer, thinking in those terms is limiting.
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Also, at the risk of sounding like a pretentious sixth-former, the divide between fiction and nonfiction is inherently false according to the multiverse theory, in that all fiction is true in one universe or other, so when you write a novel you are writing reality that belongs to somewhere else. But there is another reason the divide is false, or at least why it creates false ideas. And that is because things categorised as nonfiction can be inauthentic while fiction can contain more truth.
The aim of any writer, even a fantasy writer, is the pursuit of truth. I have written nonfiction and fiction. I wrote a science fiction novel that was very autobiographical about my experience of depression, and then I wrote a nonfiction book about depression. We need both genres, sometimes at the same time, because the moment we trust too much in one fixed idea of reality is the moment we lose it.
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But as a reader, I must admit I read more nonfiction than fiction at the moment, because there is so much good stuff around and because I am writing fiction and my mind likes the counterbalance. It might seem logical that nonfiction, with its rigorous foundation in fact, would be a more persuasive instrument of social change than fiction; but I believe this is not the case. We are feeling creatures, and often it is only our refusal or inability to empathise that allows us to pursue our cruelties.
Fiction gets under the guard.
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With 19 New York Times bestsellers and more than million copies of his works in circulation, L. Ron Hubbard is among the most acclaimed and widely read authors of our time.