My new novel, Fences of The Light, could have been a collaboration between Arthur C. Clarke and Dan Brown
There are elements of “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the story, but also mysterious secret societies, seekers of illumination, hidden clues, and the foreboding influence of religion. It is a Tug-of-war between science and religion, and they collide and fuse at the end into something unlike either of them.
We used to have mythologies and sagas with numerous gods and heroes. Later in history, we tried to replace them with a single, omniscient, and almighty God. That hasn’t worked so well. You can see it in Christianity, with the rise of antagonistic demons and an arch-villainous Devil. In the Argentina of my youth, you also had a constellation of revered saints—one to honor each day and be prayed for a different thing—and the Virgin Mary, who, at least in Hispanic countries, has increasingly become a goddess in her own right.
In our current socialized and increasingly secular world, the old power of religion and myth has shifted to countless, faceless groups of people who control the world. This invisible governance fakes news and hides knowledge from us—knowledge of all kinds, from aliens to Bigfoot. We can’t possibly find the aliens they hide or the things about the world they are keeping from us. A world that might be flat, where we never went to the Moon, and that hides fantastic animals from our view. It is mythology without heroes or gods, akin to the dark spy movies from the 60’s—or the later seasons of “The X Files.”
These days, whenever we talk about ancient powers, aliens, or both together, we end up with one or another form of conspiracy theory. In Argentina, perhaps ahead of us on this value shift, the word “mito” (myth) and what people usually mean by conspiracy have become interchangeable.
Some of the secondary stories of Fences of The Light take this myth-generating form. A few are real ones; others I made up just for fun. There’s always the tired professor who can’t convince his peers about the strange things he has witnessed in a forgotten jungle. Someone who, without an entourage of Internet crazies—my story takes place too early for that—is always looking for a long-lost artifact that would prove his theory about the true origin of civilization.
I have met some of those carriers of an oral tradition that creates new myths on its path. For them, everything had been caused—or was under the control of—secret councils of the powerful. They had filtered any surprising event in the world, so we only see a selected part of reality. My Argentine leftist friends would blame it on the United States, while the right-wing people I met years ago believed that the culprit was some international Jewish Mafia (it was Argentina, after all.)
Perhaps because I grew up within immigrant families, I have heard many legends of the Old Country morphed into unverified tales about mythical powers and unknown places just a little out of the illuminated (or so we hope) path of reality. The magical realism that shadows my stories grew from that deep well. I did, however, experience some strange things in my own life—a couple of them while visiting the town of Mar del Sur, a place that I describe in Fences of The Light—and thus, I cannot say that there might not be some of these places (or powers) out there.
I have never been offered any evidence about who controls the upper echelons of world domination—for the tellers of these stories, none was necessary. But we were also living under a real reign of terror, with recurrent military dictatorships and real danger awaiting on every corner at night. Fear could have—it always does—feed those fantasies.
Of course, sometimes, the hidden conspiracies were true. Tenths of thousands of Argentines were kidnapped and killed by the military Juntas of the seventies; many would be sent to hundreds of detention centers few Argentines knew about, and the Nazis would have loved to operate. This evil political persecution wasn’t limited to Argentina. Latin Americans were also captured in other countries, by their intelligence services, and sent back to their countries to be tortured and killed. We did it here, in the United States (one time in Washington DC’s downtown), and the CIA carefully hid it from the public. That one was a real international conspiracy—known as “Operación Cóndor.”
To make my story more powerful and worrisome—and deeply Argentine—I purposely mixed factual events with fantastic speculations and conspiracies. I don’t tell the reader which ones aren’t true; you should figure out that on your own. But if you can’t, you would have at least experienced the distinct nagging feeling you can’t shake when confronted with a good conspiracy.
What if it is true?
 Dinges, John (2004) The Condor Years. How Pinochet and his allies brought terrorism to three continents. The New Press, New York.