In the Declaration of Emancipation I’ve recently rewritten the (US/13 Colonies) Declaration of Independence, by simply re-using much of its language, and making it applicable to the Americas as a whole, and changing the title to reflect the emancipation manifestos and legislation freeing the Russian serfs and US slaves.
Because I incorporate so much of the original text, it’s in a sense co-authored with the Declaration of Independence signers, though modified, updated, expanded somewhat.
A big factual text I’ve started on is the “U.S. Military Counterinsurgency Manual, December 2006” which I’ve begun to reconstrue ultimately in novelistic or epic imaginative form as a Field Guide to Revolution for defeating not a counterinsurgency (or COIN, in the military’s acronym) but for defeating counterrevolutionary (CORE) forces like corporations and states and so on, and for carrying out a liberatory revolution (LIBREV) by revolutionaries.
Again, I simply incorporate very much of the actual counterinsurgency manual – minus the violence – including sentences, paragraph structure, ideas and information while modifying wherever necessary to produce a liberatory revolutionary approach, ironically co-written, in a sense, with the military and the outside scholars they involved.
In some ways it starts out sounding like the opening of an epic novel, so I note it as such. This nearly 300 page military manual could be rewritten to incorporate more novelistic features to render it more in depth a novel of ideas or an imaginative epic of some sort.
The broader implications of this are that there is an ever growing number of such state-corporate type documents being produced at local, national and international levels, everything from economic treatises, to sweeping health care legislation and documents, to environmental manifestos, corporate rights law documents and so on. Some NGO documents may be somewhat liberatory, plenty of documents are reactionary, all could be, maybe should be re-imagined, closely to or wholly out of their nonfiction form.
I believe after World War II some German poets undertook as their literary work the lifelong project of regenerating their language which they had seen the Nazis utterly debase in Orwellian, and other, ways. This is always a good project or focus for fiction generally, overcoming Orwellisms and “Orwell’s problem” (accepted ideology that yet varies so plainly from fact). Close and digressive reimagining of existing key documents might be a particularly useful way to go about this, and also perhaps a key way to rejuvenate and expand the gone-limp novel form, by way of such imaginative epics, new novels.
The new US Counterinsurgency manual (updated and written mainly to fight insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan) has drawn so much interest that a literary publisher has published it in book form, with forwards and essays by scholars. Would any publisher with significant resources publish a Field Guide to Revolution that’s both derived from and a satire of the military’s manual? And other such key corporate-state type derived documents, imaginative responses to or plays off them.
There’s plenty of this raw material, very focused prestructured material to refashion. It should be possible to produce engaging imaginative liberatory manifestos/shorts/novels/epics in a wide variety of realms – education, environment, health care, economics, community planning, policies of all sorts, politics, transportation, prisons, psychology, interpersonal relations and so on, anywhere a key nonfiction text can be found. The imaginative renderings might do well to read like barely fictionalized essays, though they certainly don’t have to, and can morph into personal dramas and tales of wide variety with some sort of direct or indirect tie to the nonfiction text. It should be done well as art, otherwise one would do better to write a purely nonfiction response.
This is a traditional literary activity. Swiftian Modest Proposals are a classic variation of this, as are some of the satires currently at Liberation Lit. Shakespeare did something akin to it with his play Hamlet, incorporating and using parts of much earlier versions of plays like it. Prominent early English novelist Daniel Defoe, and many early novelists, published their novels as histories and travel books, some based fairly closely on real autobiographies and on real travel books and exploits (Robinson Crusoe) and using other nonfiction forms (A Journal of the Plague Years). Another early prominent novelist Henry Fielding wrote, Wikipedia notes, The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great – a novel, 1743, which is an ironic treatment of Jonathan Wild, the most notorious underworld figure of the time. So even real life persons in name and deeds have been novelized, in their very names and deeds.
What would be relatively new and different would be to novelize many of the productions (reports, manuals, etc) of the institutions and socio-political systems.
Some years ago Susan George (progressive sociologist and author of How the Other Half Dies) did a rather dry and I think artistically unsuccessful version of this in The Lugano Report: On Preserving Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century. It was a fictive report modeled generally on corporate reports I think though not any particular one. In any event, the art needs to be much more accomplished and lively, it seems to me, than what she achieved.
If I recall correctly, what Susan George did in (the poorly titled, and aesthetically indicative) Lugano Report is in a strong sense the opposite of what is being attempted in Field Guide to Revolution. She wrote a dystopian satire policy report on how to gain corporate totalitarian crushing rule of the world, that often doesn’t stray too far from reality toward satire. Good intent, not badly achieved, and has won praise from progressives and so on. But seems essentially repetitive of dominant socio-political reality. Field Guide to Revolution is something quite different. Within a fictive framework, it’s currently a liberatory revolutionary report that turns on its head military-corporate language, rather than attempting to exaggerate it.
Field Guide to Revolution seems like it could be useful, though there are already certain works that strive for liberatory revolution, to articulate it, and explore ways to engage in it. For the US Military Counterinsurgency Manual, the military and outside scholars, including from non-governmental organizations and so on, put plenty of research into the very sorts of things progressives need to be thinking about too and acting upon. Problem is, the military is constrained by state-corporate ideology from acting logically, let alone comprehensively, upon many of their genuine insights. Meanwhile, for similar reasons, some of counterinsurgency manual’s basic observations and ideas are badly, and tellingly, skewed. Progressives/revolutionaries should operate under no such constraints, and so it is up to us to clarify and spell out basic insights of socio-political struggle and their implications. A strict report (from a fictive council) could be a lively and useful way to do that, as could an imaginative epic or novel evolved from or encompassing such a report.
Generally converting nonfiction texts to fiction is far from an original idea – in fact, it’s something akin to the essence of what fiction is, real-life conversion to some greater fantastic version that is in crucial ways more real and vital – and the productions will be original. The idea, given the plethora of nonfiction resources from which the fictions might begin seems potentially sweeping and powerful, and is an approach many progressives and revolutionaries of every niche and sweep can adapt, in powerful diverse ways, something that could, may not, but really could take off as a wave, rather than as a mere point.
Reading the military report, one sees that it contains a couple dozen “Vignettes” of real life dramatic situations. Field Guide to Revolution, as novel, could include many more such vignettes than the actual report, both fictive and real life, and dramatize a full-bodied narrative (characters, plot, setting, the works) ultimately suffusing any and all report aspects. Some such narrative might come to structure such nonfiction reports rendered fiction rather than merely punctuate and illustrate a fictive essay. Though, again, a more strict fictive report could be engaging and effective, and epic.
I think tying a lengthy new fiction project to a very specific, central, and somewhat well-known nonfiction work like the new US Military Counterinsurgency Manual could give the fictive creation much more solidity and traction, making it a potentially more viable public and cultural project than such a geopolitical fiction might have otherwise. I assume similar potential is there for probably a large number of other such imaginative endeavors that could contribute to progressive and revolutionary efforts, literary and popular culture all.