Creative Scientific Memoir, Nonfictional Thriller Journalism

The Hot Zone presents itself as a scientific, non-fiction thriller. I felt this claim, along with multiple aspects of its prose/published format, were some of the major clashing points of our discussion on Monday. As augmenter, I hope to amplify this debate.

According to Wikipedia (“reliable source” haha),

“Fiction is the form of any work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not real, but rather, imaginary and theoretical—that is, invented by the author.”

“Non-fiction is a narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are believed by the author to be factual. These assertions and descriptions may or may not be accurate, and can give either a true or a false account of the subject in question; however, it is generally assumed that authors of such accounts believe them to be truthful at the time of their composition or, at least, pose them to their audience as historically or empirically true.”

The entire summary on non-fiction is sounds eerily similar to the “I try to see through people’s faces into their minds” claim made by Preston in the author’s note discussed during class. By definition, the non-fiction genre provides itself with much more wiggle room, crossing the boundaries between fact and imagination.

As mentioned during discussion, there are multiple instances of fictional literature that incorporate closely researched, accurate facts. The Hot Zone is roughly the opposite: a work based on non-fictional, actual events but obviously incorporating dramatic and sensationalist sentiments. Apparently, there is an emerging genre classified as “creative nonfiction”:

“Creative nonfiction (also known as literary nonfiction or narrative nonfiction) is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as technical writing or journalism, which is also rooted in accurate fact, but is not primarily written in service to its craft.”

According to “the godfather of creative fiction” Lee Gutkind, “The primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction”. Gutkind is the founder of Creative Fiction, the first magazine to publish solely works of its titular genre.

Do you think this is a legitimate genre? Or is it just another factually accurate way of writing fiction? Are there any requirements Preston should have fulfilled in order to make The Hot Zone more acceptable as “scientific nonfictional thriller”? What does that even mean?

I hope you find these questions interesting.

PS: Our best/worst dreams have come true: The Hot Zone is being developed into a TV series by Fox. 

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