Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Agenda 21: Stupid Writing Tricks

Today's update is going to be a little different. Before advancing to the drab horrors of Chapter Fifteen, I'd like to share a hypothesis I've formulated as I read this book. The evidence I have is merely suggestive, and I really have no way of proving this outside of Harriet Parke just admitting it. However, if my hypothesis is true, it would explain everything in the previous update, as well as any number of holes and oddities that we've seen and have yet to see.

I believe that the novel Agenda 21 was not originally about Agenda 21. Or anything of Glenn Beck's other bugaboos, for that matter.

First, here's the official history of the novel, as relayed by Beck in the afterword:

The reason that this novel exists is because of a woman named Harriet Parke. Harriet paid attention to the radio and television segments that I, and others, did on Agenda 21 and could not believe what she was hearing. Alarmed, she started to do her own homework, her own research. When it became clear to her that Agenda 21 was as evil as she'd feared, she knew she had to do something about it.

So she started to write a novel.

Beck started ranting about Agenda 21 in June 2011, shortly before losing his spot on the Fox News Channel. He followed that in Spring 2012 with a big expose that made Agenda 21-related conspiracy theories vogue among the fringier members of the Republican party. The novel was released in November of 2012. That's a very tight timeline to write and publish a novel, but not impossible. Parke did have Beck to grease the skids, meaning she didn't have to spend time sending query letters or waiting for an agent to sell the manuscript.

But there are other things in the novel that never made much sense to me. The words "Agenda 21" are rare in the text, appearing only a few times in the expository sections and never referring to anything too specific. The references to Agenda 21 always seemed rather awkward, like they weren't originally there. I can't recall the U.N. being mentioned at all, even though it's rather important to this conspiracy theory. And as I've pointed out in previous updates, this thing doesn't always perfectly sync with Beck's own stated views. Aside from the more specific points, the neo-Luddite nature of the bad guys seems to clash with Beck, who's made his fair share of technophobic diatribes.

Dystopian novels tend to be based on one of a few political boogeyman, and in this case it's the eco-fascists. The oldest ebook I've ever seen was a eco-fascist dystopian thriller. How old is "old"? Old enough that it predates e-readers - to get this woman's book, you would mail her cash or a check along with your email address, at which point she would email you the PDF. It's been around a while, is what I'm saying.

So I have a hypothesis. Harriet Parke actually wrote this manuscript years ago. Perhaps she tried to shop it around with no luck, or maybe it just sat untouched on her hard drive for years. Then came Glenn Beck, pitching his Agenda 21 paranoia, and she saw her chance. She hastily rewrote the manuscript to cram in enough references to Agenda 21 to make it attractive to Beck and then showed it to him. Boom - published.

I can't prove this, and there is a high possibility that I'm dead wrong. On the other hand, wouldn't it explain so much? If this book were written in...let's say 2006, then the presence of Kodachrome wouldn't be quite as anachronistic. Her failure to mention computers or the internet wouldn't stand out in a time before Facebook turned ordinary people into digital junkies. The future would be hazier, and thus the timeline - while still oddly rushed - would have some internal logic to it.

If this is what happened (and emphasis on IF - I still can't prove any of this), I don't blame Parke. Oh, the book is still lousy, but that's irrelevant. Regardless of quality, this is the kind of manipulation you have to perform these days if you want to get published and you're not famous for something. Hell, I've at least considered doing this. After one of my adult fiction manuscripts was rejected over 90 times, I considered rewriting it as a young adult novel, which is a larger market these days. When I say "rewrite," I mean cramming a few words into the descriptions of the main characters to turn the twentysomethings into kids in their late teens and then changing or removing two or three scenes that would no longer make sense. 95%+ of the narrative would be totally untouched, but this would give me a chance to pitch to a new group of agents.

I never did this, but it wasn't because of shame - I'm fresh out of that. I sat down one afternoon to doctor my work when I hit a snag. The opening scene contained a number of children, and it was important that the kids be a certain number of years younger than the protagonist - and there was no way to make that work having shaved a decade off his age. Let me make this very clear: If I ever find a way to write around those kids, I'll do it, and I will only feel ashamed if my scheme fails.

So I wouldn't blame Parke for doing this. In fact, having read more about the background behind this novel, I'd actually feel a little bad for Parke if she did this. One of the editors who worked on Agenda 21 claims that it was originally sent to S&S as Parke's novel, but before it was published Beck sent his lawyers to bully Parke into giving up the rights. That's why Parke's name is in such tiny type on the cover even though Beck, by his own admission, had no direct role in writing this thing. That's amazingly shitty.

So there you have it. Expounding on theories without any definitive proof to back them up? Very appropriate for a project involving Glenn Beck.

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