APPLIED FICTION | Like Applied Mathematics Only Not

The Professor in a authorial pose.
The Professor in a authorial pose.

Two days ago I ran into one of my favorite coffeehouse friends. We’ve been running into each other for years in coffeehouses all over town. I call him The Professor, because that’s what he is — a brainiac ex-academic with a neverending treatise about what makes humans human. Three volumes so far. He’s a man of many spoken words, too, so when I decide to join him, I’m committed for an hour. I never know what profundity, nonsensical or not, will gush out of his mouth. Sometimes I wave my hands in his face to stem the tide. (He doesn’t mind — maybe he’s used to it.)

He sat at his usual table with his Mac, an ACE bandage, a used straw, an onion, and a jar of pickles. He offered me a pickle and got to talking about a friend who needed writers for a super-secret contract writing gig, which, of course, he couldn’t reveal or else he’d have to kill me. But it’s a great idea, he said. Innovative. Proprietary. He showed me the online job ad, which said things like, “Can you write colorful stories with no colors?”

Then he said, “You might call it applied fiction.”

“Applied fiction? You mean to say metafiction?”

No, he meant applied fiction. Like applied mathematics only with storytelling.


I barely know what applied mathematics is except to say “statistics.” Statistics is an example of applied mathematics (I think).

“So,” I said, “applying fictional methods to…?”

He’s got twinkly eyes does The Professor, especially when he’s cracking himself up. “It’s kind of like you telling a story to the rug so that it will vacuum itself.”


Is that kind of like me telling a story to the blank page so that a fiction (or blog) idea will generate itself?

And if applied fiction exists, does theoretical fiction exist also? Oh wait, that’s a no-brainer. I could blog endlessly about theoretical fiction, a.k.a. fabulous stories that I never write because I’m too busy vacuuming the rug.