Liar’s Apocalypse: The Liar
The Backstory (and Final Words)
It's the last war America will ever fight, and the enemy is us.
I think was a bit of an odd kid. But then again, maybe all of us were odd in our own way.
My parents and I never communicated much. At least not in that “Leave it Beaver” way I saw on the little black & white TV in our living room. What my parents did say, the few times I had an interest in listening to them, made it clear they thought I existed outside their definition of normal. Even that didn’t seem unusual to me at the time. After all, every fish hatched in an aquarium thinks glass walls are part of everyone’s world.
One of the oddities that seemed perfectly fine to me at the time, but seems unusual in retrospect, was my affinity for non-fiction. I loved to read, but I thought fiction was a waste of time. It was an unfounded arrogance that lasted until I was in junior high and a cute library aide I had a crush on urged me to read an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel—A Princess of Mars. I was instantly hooked. For a reason I can’t recall now, the next fiction book I picked up was Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Talk about a tale to make in impression on a young mind.
I finally got around Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984, ten or so years ago, and subsequently developed a deep appreciation for Orwell’s insight and his ability to wrap an interesting story around profound social insights.
While making zero claim that The Liar is in the same league or even in the same sport as 1984, that novel was nevertheless an inspiration to me as I embarked on imagining The Liar. 1984 showed me what a novel could be when an author wants to do more than just tell an interesting story.
After mulling the underlying themes of The Liar for a year or two, my ideas finally gelled into a premise about a year ago. One of the things I like to do with ideas is take them for a test drive by writing out a few chapters to see if I like how they turn out. I did this for The Liar, and I ran those chapters and the idea by my good friend Shawn Inmon. At the time he and I were talking about collaborating on a project. Those chapters didn’t make it in The Liar. And neither did the next ones, or the next. About the only enduring parts of my effort were the city council bombing scene and the intro with Tommy on the train.
And so began a long struggle with the idea and the story, looking for the right way to tell it. This book comes in at 91,000 words, and since starting work on it last year, I’ve probably written another 40,000-50,000 words pursuing different ways to bring these ideas to life. In the end, I think it was my inability to write up to my aspirations that was my stumbling block.
Through the process, however, I did a ton of research. I read book after book after book on genocide, civil war, and revolution. I watched historical documentaries and researched current events outside the US. I wanted to develop an in-depth understanding of how and why countries and cultures fall apart. I wanted to find an answer to what I think is a foundational question that’s haunted humanity going all the way back to the beginning—what causes a brother to kill a brother, why do people who are neighbors one day take up arms against one another the next? A disturbing follow-on question is whether there is any bottom to the well of horror and imagination humans are capable of applying to the problem of ridding themselves of those they’ve decided are too offensive to live with?
Unfortunately, depressingly, the answer to that second question grew clearer and clearer with every story I read that ended in a pile of bodies in the bottom of a hole or a mound of the dead burning to ash. There is no bottom to the well. Humans driven by hatred can do anything. Literally anything. History is overflowing with example after example after example. You can read about them in dusty history books found on the back shelves of old libraries, or you can read about them in yesterday’s news feed. And you can find them everywhere in between.
As disconcerting as that reality was, it was the answers to that first question that broke my heart, killed the last of my optimism for the future, and kept me up at night, worrying about a tomorrow I think is inevitable.
To me, The Liar isn’t apocalyptic fiction, it’s as close to tinfoil-hat Nostradamus prediction as I’m capable of writing. This story takes place in what I fear might be America’s future.
Will we Americans take up arms against one another tomorrow, next year, or five years down the road? That question I can’t answer. I believe with certainty that if we don’t find some way to get off the path we’re on, it’s only a matter of time before we find a fate none of us will like.
Again, I don’t base my assertion on the whimsy of current politics. I’ve done my research. What I see in American society are the hallmarks of self-destruction that lived in the zeitgeist of other nations before their fall. And I’m not talking about what Americans might see as backward cultures living with little education in primitive houses in Third World countries. This shit happens to people in modern nations to people who are just as modern, cultured, and educated as we are.
There’s a Mr. Hyde that lives in all of us. Every single one. Honestly, everyone. You, me, our loved ones, our parents, pastors, and preachers. Our teachers, classmates, and coworkers. We as a people create the culture that can open our souls to let our Mr. Hyde out to play. And we all have the ability to make sure he stays in the closet of our souls, and never steps out to reap his horror on the world.
The problem is that there is no obvious on-off switch that we consciously choose. Because one of the truths I learned through my research was that nobody picks up a gun or chainsaw or flamethrower with the intention to murder the family across the street that they go to school with and sit in PTA meetings with and sing Christmas Carols with. By slow degrees, we come to see the residents across the street not as people, but as animals or abstractions, as criminals or things that need to be feared.
Killing other humans is hard. Killing monsters that threaten harm to our children is easy.
Despite what our political leaders and social media feeds would have us believe, the choice of which is which is almost always in our own hands.
Bobby Adair - 2018