Ars Longa, Via Brevis

Russell Bittner

No, the title isn't a typo. It's a pun. A Latin pun. If you look at the cover, it's of a road (via). Very short—like life (vita). And both are feminine and singular; hence, 'brevis.'

One could easily argue that all fiction is, in some sense, creative non-fiction. After all, a writer doesn’t come to the page devoid of experience. And it’s that experience—coupled with a dollop or two of imagination (not to mention a whole arsenal of mechanics)—that turns the writer’s non-fictional event, at least in the writer’s mind, into a story worth telling. If (s)he’s lucky, and has perfected his or her craft, it’s also a story worth reading.

Ah! you may say or think. But what of science or speculative fiction?

I’ll be the first to concede that both of these genres—if I may consider them separate and distinct genres—require an unusual leap of imagination. Or hallucination. Or at least sleep. But come the witching hour, no writer produces a story worth telling (and worth reading!) out of whole cloth. It just doesn’t happen.

If a reader can’t relate to a story—either because the writer’s experience is too alien, or because the writer hasn’t mastered the mechanics of writing and story-telling—the story will die a quick death.

I firmly believe that a writer owes it to his or her reader to master both skills if that writer is to call him- or herself an author. If (s)he has done so effectively—and particularly in creative non-fiction—let the reader play with the mystery and the intrigue of which elements are fictitious, and which, non-fictitious. And then, let the fiction/non-fiction fun begin!