The Hoax Principle …

“… that fictional ideas, like placebos,
can attain an astounding level of reality
through sheer persuasive force.”

Who would have believed that fictional characters would simply refuse to be remaindered along with physical books? After The Jamais Vu Papers was published by Harmony Books in 1991, it sold a few thousand copies and then seemed doomed to disappear as books did when major publishers lost interest in them. Two decades later, after we got complaints that the book wasn’t available anywhere, we republished it ourselves. A small audience continues to follow our erratic story, and a modest number of copies sell every year. That seemed to be the end of the story.

We did take note that our character Llixgrijb succeeded in walking off the pages and taking on a life of his own, turning up in a variety of guises and languages. Those connections seemed amusing, probably harmless, and again we thought that was the end of it.

But the words of another fictional character from our book have taken on new life today. Imogene Savonarola, a renowned neuroscientist at the Institute of Neuroreality, “determined that the brain possesses receptors for paradox” and hypothesized the existence of a neurotransmitter which she called the “oxymorphin.” Explaining that “The oxymorphin is almost wholly dormant in modern man, except when it is occasionally sparked by direct encounter with a common metaphor,” Savonarola set about producing a chemical equivalent, creating chaotic adventures that make up much of our tale.

In another of her publications, Savonarola discusses a very timely concept: how fantasy can become empirical reality through “The Hoax Principle.”

“Flat-out lies can come true if they appeal
eloquently enough to the credulity
of both sides of the mind/brain.”

She describes false ideas as placebos, those sugar pills or meaningless procedures that can seem to cure disease if the consumer believes they are real medicine. (See Harvard report) Whatever we might think of Savonarola’s scholarship, it does seem that in our own time, an extraordinary consumption of placebos has activated the dark side the process she describes.