This terrific July/August 2015 issue of Analog just published my guest editorial, “Conspiracy Theories for Everybody.” In it, I delve into some ideas as to what makes conspiracy theories so appealing not only to the deeply suspicious among us, but to most everyone at one time or another.
Now that the editorial is in print, I’ve been asked several questions that I’ll answer here.
1. How did you come to write this guest editorial? Well, first of all, I must thank Trevor Quachri, Analog’s editor, for suggesting that I try my hand at this form of writing, which is one that I had not done before. At the outset, I had several possible topics in mind that interested both of us and that I thought might interest Analog readers. We decided to go with this one. Next it was a matter of research, drafting, polishing the writing, editing, proofing galleys, etc.
2. How is writing an editorial similar to writing a work of fiction? For me there are a lot of similarities. Everything begins with an idea designed to catch the reader’s interest, followed by the search for specific incidents to propel the piece forward. The two forms of writing are alike in that they both benefit from an opening hook, they both rely on compelling prose to keep the reader turning the pages, and they both need to rely on a central theme that eventually becomes evident to the reader.
3. How does writing an editorial differ from writing a story? The author can be more didactic in an editorial, as readers are expecting to find out what the editor, or guest editor, thinks and why. In contrast, readers will be annoyed by the preachy parts in fiction, and may well skip over them to get to the “good stuff,” that is if they don’t simply stop reading entirely and pick up something more interesting. Also, there is a fairly strict word count for editorials. Hence it can be a challenge to select a topic that can be covered well at that length without stretching or chopping it overly much. In contrast, stories will vary greatly in length, though they should be as long as they need to be without padding or condensing.
4. Does this mean your readers should expect to see more guest editorials instead of stories? I sure hope the answer isn’t either/or, as I have a few stories as well as other editorials in various stages of completion, at the moment.