Fictional Non-Fiction

One of the more frequent questions we get here at the library is: What is the difference between fiction and non-fiction? The question is usually grounded in the very real need to know where a book is located in the stacks. The practical answer is that both are shelved in separate sections: fiction by the author’s last name and non-fiction by the Dewey number. If you are of a philosophical bent and want to know why something is considered fiction or non-fiction, well that is where it gets complicated. It seems obvious that non-fiction is ‘real’ and fiction is ‘made up,’ but in fact there is more crossover than you might think.

Case in point is the weird and entertaining world of fictional non-fiction. These books have avoided the fiction label and are housed in the usually serious and reality based non-fiction stacks. They are unexpected gems of fancy, shelved alongside their more serious brethren. Listed below are a few topics that house a lot of this fictional nonfiction.

User manuals for technically non-existent, but really, really cool vehicles:

deathstarThere are a surprising number of workshop manuals, many put out by Haynes no less, for fantastic vehicles in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes. Whether you want to figure out how to kick start the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive, fix the cloaking device on a Klingon Bird of Prey, or find out where the holodeck is located on a Galaxy-class starship, we have got you covered. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the Imperial Death Star: DS-1 Orbital Battle Station manual. Sure death is in the title, but you have to admit that the Death Star was a marvel of engineering. If nothing else, this book will give you an appreciation for all the hardworking men and women, most of them just trying to collect a paycheck, whom the Rebel Alliance thoughtlessly murdered. Twice no less. Just saying.

Not self-help:

zonetheoryWhile it is true that actual self-help books can seem a bit odd, there is a small subset that are clearly not intended to be helpful, one hopes, and are played for laughs. One example is Tim & Eric’s Zone Theory: 7 Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life. From the creepy images throughout the book and advice such as ‘friends are replaceable, money is not,’ this book is funny and disturbing which is to be expected from the creators of several Adult Swim TV shows.

7secretsIf you’ve ever seen the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you know that none of the characters should be giving out life advice. But that is exactly what has happened in the book 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today. If you are still tempted to apply their maxims, take heed of the warning on the back cover: ‘Following the advice contained herein could get you arrested, maimed or killed.’

Alternative histories taken seriously:

federationSadly we don’t even have a moon base yet, let alone the wherewithal to set aside our differences and unify the people of earth, but if you want to read a future history where there is an actual Federation of Planets, definitely check out Federation: The First 150 Years. You also might want to brush up on The Klingon Art of War and read The Autobiography of James T. Kirk to prepare yourself for the brave new world to come.

timelordlettersWhile the library has lots of great books about Doctor Who, they tend to treat it as a television show that continues to be produced. True believers know that the Doctor must surely exist on some plane of Space/Time. For this select group we have The Time Lord Letters, a detailed collection of the Doctor’s correspondence including his application for the post of Caretaker at Coal Hill School to his telepathic messages to the High Council of Gallifrey.

Practical guides to fictional places:

portlandiaWhile Portland is an actual place, Portlandia is, well, a place unto itself. But don’t take my word for it. Instead check out Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors and learn about a city where Kyle MacLachlan is mayor, knots have their own store, and cars are not allowed. If you are feeling more hands on, definitely take a look at the Portlandia Activity Book to learn how to ‘Build Your Own Chore Wheel’ and ‘How to Crowdfund Your Baby.’

zombiesurvivalZombies may not actually exist at this point, but bad things have been known to happen. If you want to be safe rather than sorry and prepare for the coming undead hordes, the now classic Zombie Survival Guide is the book for you. Chock full of useful information (including ideal weapon selection, home preparation, and useful zombie weaknesses) this book will guide you safely, for the most part, through a fictional disaster. The one gap in this very thorough tome is nutrition. Luckily we also have The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse which contains recipes as well as advice on how to get the calories you need to fend off the living dead.

The Fastest Hunk of Junk in the Galaxy

Nothing is more practical, necessary, and – let’s be honest – downright boring than a repair manual. I don’t mean to belittle the format. The last thing you want is witty dialog or a stunning use of metaphor when you are trying to change a spark plug. But the tedium of trying to always be clear and concise, manual after manual, must weigh on the writers.

Clearly this burden has gotten to the folks who produce the Haynes Repair Manual series. Tucked away amid the usual Ford Escort and Chevrolet Nova guides, are some truly odd and fantastical Haynes repair manuals that have come out recently.

Haynes Boeing 747Take, for instance, the Boeing 747 : 1970 Onwards (All Marks) Owner’s Workshop Manual. If you just happen to own a Boeing 747, a 350 million dollar investment (and that’s without the engines), this is the manual for you. Actually since the book is only 168 pages I’m guessing you might need a little more information, not to mention a grounds crew, to fly and maintain the aircraft. Still it is a fun read and packed with useful facts: who would have guessed that an oil change is rarely, if ever, needed?

Haynes U.S.S. EnterpriseThe jump from the improbable to the impossible begins with the U.S.S. Enterprise NX-01, NCC-1701, NCC-1701-A to NCC-1701-E : Owner’s Workshop Manual. Starting in the model year 2151 this manual examines (in a level of detail only the lovingly obsessed possess) the history, major technologies and functions of every starship with the name of Enterprise. If you are curious about warp propulsion, holodecks, photon torpedoes, and deflector shields, this manual will not disappoint. The section on How Transporters Work, complete with a second by second operational timeline, is not to be missed.

I must admit, it was a kick to see how the authors put together all of the various television series and movies into one cohesive narrative based on a fictional ship. The manual shows no evidence of the internecine conflict that can happen between the different series’ admirers. It just depicts a united Federation going where no man/one has gone before. If all this goodwill isn’t to your liking, then definitely check out the Klingon Bird-of-Prey : I.K.S. Rotarran (b’rel-class), Owner’s Workshop Manual.

Haynes Millennium FalconSpeaking of rivals, that other great science fiction universe has a manual as well. Yes it’s the Millennium Falcon Modified YT-1300 Corellian Freighter: Owner’s Workshop Manual. As I’m sure you know from your Star Wars viewing, the Millennium Falcon is in constant need of repair so a manual makes perfect sense. Learning how to fix, temporarily, that pesky hyperdirve and how to successfully navigate an asteroid field (the odds of which are approximately 3,720 to 1) are just a few of the helpful skills you will learn. You will also find out about the famous pilots of the Falcon including Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and of course Han, I shot first, Solo.

Being of a more Imperial nature, I hope the rumors are true that an Owner’s Workshop Manual for the Death Star is in the works. Until then I will have to content myself with the current petition to the United States government to build a Death Star by 2016. Having achieved 25,000 signatures it meets the rules for an official Presidential response. I’m hoping that James Earl Jones will deliver the decision.