Conspiracy Theories. What would the world be without them? While some ring hollow and others are petty or cruel, many have made our world a better place. Some of the best conspiracies out there were originally constructed for the sake of great literature. Since researching how to create a top notch conspiracy theory for the sake of my next novel, I’ve developed my top 5 list of most impactful literary conspiracies (created first within literature rather than the other way around) that have changed our world for the better–or have they?
Most Impactful Conspiracy Novels
Dreadful Sanctuary by Eric Frank Russell
While not popular by any means, Dreadful Sanctuary blazed the path of the alien conspiracy. Blending science fiction and political thriller, this mostly forgotten novel laid the groundwork for many of our favorite contemporary conspiracy theories. The moon landing? Area 51? Alien invasion of popular figures?
The Da Vinci Code: A Novel (Robert Langdon) by Dan Brown
On the opposite end of popularity, Dan Brown’s religious conspiracy thriller has spurred countless other publications debating the “truthiness” of his fictional novel. This is of course the true test of the effectiveness of a literary conspiracy. When an author can write a fictional novel (which by the way means it’s not factual) and generate scads of argument, then he/she has done the job well!
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
This creepy conspiracy thriller inspired at least a half-dozen modern political cover-ups! While typically literature and film follow after a conspiracy develops a head of steam, this novel put the cart before the horse. Before his time, Condon made a generation believe that military experimentation and brainwashed snipers were rampant. Of course, in the 21st century we know they are! Thanks a lot, Condon!
1984 By George Orwell
Okay, this isn’t technically a conspiracy novel. But can you think of a book that has done more to make the current earthly populous more paranoid? Big Brother has bewitched us ever since Orwell created him. For decades we have used the terminology of Nineteen Eighty Four as the foundation for political conspiracy lingo. Maybe all this is a bit of personal “doublethink,” but where would the New World Order by without Orwell?
The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, Leviathan by Shea and Wilson
Lastly, Dan Brown’s primer. While Brown (and others) are making gobs of money by blurring reality for hordes of paranoid readers, Shea and Wilson deserve some credit for getting the snowball rolling. As Maniac Muslim has recently made breath-mint clear, all conspiracies must eventually point to the Illuminati. Why? Because of this book. *Warning: if you take this novel seriously it can kill you. (People do it all the time. Just read the reviews.)
All of this just goes to show you, while fact might sometimes be stranger than fiction, fiction is almost always more entertaining. So Write it! Read it! Review it! and Share it! Now it is time for you to share your favorite conspiracy theory books!