Stranger Than Fiction

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Amanda “The Bellman” Marlowe


“Some people are heroes. And some people jot down notes.” —Terry Pratchett, The Truth

To writers, everything is material. Random images, overheard comments, tangled webs of relationships. We pull ideas from everywhere. And one ever-flowing river of ideas flows from the strange news stories that pique our imagination and curiosity.

Sometimes it’s the puzzle that draws us. Take, for example, The Mysterious Affair of the Severed Feet. It started out innocently enough. I shared an odd news story with Beaver. Two severed feet were found on a street near Chicago. Odd. Wonder what’s behind that? But then… very odd. She’d just had her own severed foot story—a right foot in a sneaker washed up on a beach in British Columbia. This was the second right foot found there that summer. We speculate, hunting out connections and puzzling it out. The Chicago mystery is solved fairly quickly. It was a hit-and-run accident. No connection to the two feet in British Columbia. But then another severed foot, also a right foot in a sneaker, washed ashore in New Zealand. Then a third right foot shows up on a beach in British Columbia. And, just recently, they found a fourth right foot in British Columbia. They’ve since confirmed this is, like all the others, a right foot in a sneaker.

It’s only human, and particularly writerly, to speculate like mad at this point. Canada is investigating the possibility the feet all came from a plane crash. (Mystery writers, take note: apparently right shoes and left shoes are different enough the two will drift in different directions.) There’s also some speculation the foot thing is a punishment meted out by a drug cartel. Or is it some foot severing cult? The writer in me has taken over, and I’m mentally crafting the motivations and character sketches for the sort of people who might start up a foot-severing cult. Why right feet? Why toss it in the ocean? Is it some sort of punishment? An initiation rite? Are there dead bodies that go with the feet, or are there a group of people out there who now have a prosthetic right foot? If I can’t know what the real story is, I will make up several stories of my own.

Then there’s the story of the woman who sat on her boyfriend’s toilet for two years. The toilet seat had to be removed surgically because her skin grew around it. What compels someone to sit in a bathroom for two years? Why didn’t the boyfriend do anything to get her out of there? The little information we’re given aren’t very satisfactory. Again, questions flow, and potential stories come from the attempts to answer them and explain the unexplainable.

The world is an odd place, and and a lot of stories stem from our attempts to understand things that don’t make sense to us. The old saw that “truth is stranger than fiction” holds true because, at the end of the day, a work of fiction needs to make sense. Truth and reality, on the other hand, are under no obligation to make sense at all.
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E-mail: bellman[at]toasted-cheese.com

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