Paul E. Hardisty is the author of ‘The Abrupt Physics of Dying’ (which I review here) and ‘The Evolution of Fear’ (which I review here). I am delighted to be hosting this considered and insightful guest post from such a talented thriller writer. He brings troublespots to life and reminds the reader of the human cost of conflict whilst never stinting on the page turning quality of his prose.
As a professional environmental scientist and engineer, I have been lucky enough over the course of my career to work pretty much all over the world. Unfortunately, I have also been unlucky enough to have witnessed during that time a catalogue of what can only be called crimes against nature and humanity that still gives me nightmares. Over the course of over three decades I have seen, photographed, studied, sampled, interviewed and reported on environmental and social disasters large and small. And I can honestly say that the one common factor in all of them was greed. The other was that this kind of destruction is usually a driver for human conflict – from community protests all the way to full blown civil war.
And during all of this, I have written. For clients, reports. For scientists, peer reviewed journal papers. For students, textbooks on how to clean up toxic waste spills. For decision-makers, books on how to make better more sustainable decisions that allow greed (profit) to be balanced against better social and environmental outcomes. For the public, newspaper and magazine articles and blog posts that bring to light what is going on out there: whole villages drowned by toxic sludge; elephants and rhinos now facing extinction in Africa within 30 years if poaching cannot be controlled; oceans so overfished that more than one third of all commercial fish stocks have completely collapsed; native communities displaced and marginalised to make way for resource extraction; a climate changing so quickly that it will disrupt our future in ways we cannot even imagine if we don’t put the brakes down hard on fossil fuel burning and deforestation, soon. A list that overwhelms people, turns them off. It’s just too much.
All of this time, I have been writing about facts.
And I have discovered along the way that facts are not truth. Truth can only be seen through the eyes of people, and people need to experience those facts for them to become truth. And so, I write fiction. By putting the reader into the story, by having them share the experiences of the characters, they can make up their own minds what they think and feel about it. And this, then, becomes, their own truth. Science actually backs this up. There has been a huge amount of research done on why people believe certain things, and disbelieve others, when presented with the same set of facts. People make decisions based on more than just knowledge. Rules and values play an equally important role. The rules that society sets for them and they set for themselves, and the values they hold dear. Together, these could be called ‘worldview.’ And it has been shown again and again that facts alone can’t change world view. But experience can.
And so, I have turned to fiction. I write about things that I care about, like the plight of the oceans and the disappearance of species and landscapes, and how those things affect the poorest and most vulnerable people, in all parts of the world. I try to put those places and those people into the stories, and bring them to life so the reader can feel as if they are there, and experience the things that the characters are living through. I try to make the stories as realistic as possible – real places, real events, real science. But I don’t preach. I invite the reader to live the story and decide for themselves. Because there are always so many perspectives, so many sides to these stories. And invariably, there are no absolutes. Just shades of all of us struggling with our own hopes and desires and fears, and trying to do the best we can as ultimately imperfect beings.
This post is a stop on the Evolution of Fear blog tour. Do check out the other posts, detailed below.
The Evolution of Fear is published by Orenda Books and is available to buy now.