Literary Agent Hypothesis

One of my favorite fan fiction thought experiments is what the TV Tropes website refers to as the "Literary Agent Hypothesis". Basically, it's when fan theories propose the possibility that the fiction being presented is actually based on real people and/or events. The person or people publicly acknowledged as responsible for the fiction are really acting as a "literary agent" but beyond the usual agent's tasks of manage and plan they help keep the real life characters that were involved anonymous. This shouldn't be confused with "based on true events". The retelling (or dramatization) is purposely presented as "pure fiction" even though it is not.

Reasons why a real life story would be presented as fictional include:

  • Preemptively discrediting witnesses who might disclose the true facts and events. See the Stargate SG-1 example below.

  • Getting around something sacred such as an oath of secrecy or legal reasons such as a non-disclosure agreement. An example would be the fan theory that J.K. Rowling is Rita Skeeter in real life exposing the true existence of the magic world.

  • The profit from labeling real events as "fiction" helps to finance further real adventures. Jake Speed and his sidekick are an example of this reason.

  • Hiding the truth in plain sight for only select people to pick up on. For example, the fan theory that Matt Groening is a time traveler.

Probably the best example of lampshading this idea can be found in Stargate: SG-1. In the Stargate universe there is an in-universe show titled Wormhole X-Treme! that violated national security but the U.S. Air Force embraced the idea after the fact as a way to discredit future leaks about the Stargate program.

The later episodes "Prometheus" and "Citizen Joe" demonstrates the plan didn't quite work out as hoped.

Or maybe it worked out perfectly if the Canadian government really has an alien technology transportation device. Nobody would suspect the Canadians. Stargate SG-1 is filmed in Vancouver about an American secret program in Colorado. Classic misdirection.