The idea for None of This Is Serious did not come to me all at once. It was a slow building process around a central theme: uncertainty. I decided I wanted to write a book that conveyed the general anxiety someone of my age feels at any given time, and how interconnected it all is. I wanted to use fiction to explain it because every time I tried to describe the feeling, I’d get caught up in how large and unwieldy it is. As an example, take the anxiety around climate change, which causes anxiety around plane travel and meat eating, which in turn causes anxiety around missing out and food in general, which leads to anxiety around your relationships and your body. I was fascinated by how something so global could very quickly become personal, and vice versa, and how quickly these anxieties could spiral out of control.
My background is in fantasy literature. I love how fantasy can make you look at the world in a new way. It takes somethings familiar and inverts it, making you see parts of it you never knew about before. Importantly, this means you can examine and critique aspects of the real world without having to weigh your own complacency within them. Sometimes, concepts are hard to explain to people if they already have some experience with what you’re talking about. Sometimes, they reject them if it doesn’t line up exactly with their lived experience. (Think: sexism can’t be real, I’m a nice guy.) It’s difficult to be taken seriously as a young person, and even harder to explain how it feels like doors that were open to generations before us are being closed in our face. I knew using elements of fantasy would help me convey this feeling.
The other thing that fantasy can help you do is describe things that are difficult to comprehend directly. There are some ideas and concepts so large that we can’t comprehend them in their entirety, we can only glimpse their effects. They are what Timothy Morton calls Hyperobjects. They’re things like the economy, the expansion of the universe, climate change, or the fashion industry. They impact us constantly, every day, but we almost never think about them. Hyperobjects are things that remind us we are small. This feeling of smallness in the face of a giant other was something I knew I wanted to draw on, so the idea for the crack in the sky was born. It doesn’t represent any one particular thing in the novel, but rather that feeling of smallness in the face in forces beyond our control.
None of This Is Serious is not, however, a story about a crack in the sky. It is a story about how social media mediates our relationship with everything. It’s the primary driving force behind our relationships, it’s the way we search for jobs and houses, and it’s the way we learn about giant shifts in the world. Ultimately, it is the way our understanding of reality is created, and the way that understanding is upheld. It is very easy to read exactly what you want online; we are all in our own algorithmically designed echo chambers. It’s even easier to take something and read it the way you want to online. Meaning isn’t fixed online, and tone is difficult to convey. Through social media, we enter into a realm that is both ambiguous and fixed to our own personal viewpoint.
Social media is something I knew from the start I wanted to include in my book. It’s something that has been slow to make its way into fiction and onto TV, which I’ve always found strange; social media is an essential aspect of modern life. When it is present in a narrative, sometimes it functions exactly as regular conversation does, or it becomes the entire turning point of the plot. I wanted to write something that included social media, and all its various benefits and drawbacks, that wasn’t solely about social media.
At first it was difficult to decide exactly how I wanted to format the messages in None of This Is Serious, but once I found the voice it came very naturally. I think it’s because engaging in social media is already an act of writing. In fact, it’s the largest informal writing project in human history. It would be impossible to claim that writing for social media isn’t already influencing how novels are written, so I found the merging of the two forms came easily.
All of these ideas led to me a very important character decision, which was to not give my protagonist any spoken lines of dialogue. I did this to trap the reader in Sophie’s head, and give them only the impression of what she might have said. This echoes that feeling of anxiety and smallness. It was also to showcase how differently she communicates in person versus online, and to give a lot of power to her social media presence. As I was writing, I was also thinking about the things women do not speak about, and the things women aren’t listened to about. That was another reason I took away her voice, but in doing so I allowed her thoughts to infect the entire narrative, which to me felt like the ultimate act of speech.
All these ideas developed together over time, building off of each other, which I think helped to strengthen them all. None of This Is Serious is a book that is about many things, but it also just a book about a girl trying to get by in an uncertain world. I’m hoping that each reader has a unique experience, or some part of the book that resonated with them particularly. And I’m also hoping people will find the ideas I’ve presented interesting, and maybe come away from the book understanding that feeling of uncertainty a little bit better.
(c) Catherine Prasifka
About None of This Is Serious:
Dublin student life is ending for Sophie and her friends. They’ve got everything figured out, and Sophie feels left behind as they all start to go their separate ways. She’s overshadowed by her best friend Grace. She’s been in love with Finn for as long as she’s known him. And she’s about to meet Rory, who’s suddenly available to her online.
At a party, what was already unstable completely falls apart and Sophie finds herself obsessively scrolling social media, waiting for something (anything) to happen.
None of This Is Serious is about the uncertainty and absurdity of being alive today. It’s about balancing the real world with the online, and the vulnerabilities in yourself, your relationships, your body. At its heart, this is a novel about the friendships strong enough to withstand anything.
Order your copy online here.