Any Resemblance to the Truth Is Purely Coincidental

From the copyright page of Tim Powers, The Bible Repairman and Other Stories (Tachyon Publications 2011):

This is a collected work of fiction. All events portrayed in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

From the introduction:

Edward John Trelawny, whom I used as a character in my story “A Time to Cast Away Stones,” was a real historical person …

From the author’s note to “A Time to Cast Away Stones” (edited to minimize spoilers):

Trelawny was certainly a liar who eventually came to believe his own melodramatic fabulations … but his adventures on Mount Parnassus did happen. He really was the barbaric right-hand man of the mountain warlord Odysseus Androutses, really did marry the thirteen-year-old Tersitza, [etc]. His injuries were exactly as I describe them … .

I understand that these disclaimers are boilerplate, but it bothers me when they are such transparent lies. Lawyers and publishers are supposed to have more regard for the truth than this. If I had my way, a publisher that regularly inserted such disclaimers where they were so clearly false would be barred from relying on them in closer cases. Those who are careless with words are careless with their credibility.

I’d like to respectfully point out that it’s probably not the publishers, or even their lawyers, who are mandating such language as appearing in every work of fiction.

Neither is it the plaintiffs’ bar, or any of the other Sources of EvilTM proclaimed by tort reformers.

It is media-perils insurers, who do two very bad things:

(1) They direct publishers to put such language in the works as a condition of coverage; and

(2) They influence the scope and wording of the authors’ (usually egregious and excessive) warranties and indemnities as a condition of coverage.

If you want to make an in-house attorney actually sit down and draft a document right now, just tell him/her that doing so is a condition of insurance coverage. Note, though, that I didn’t say to draft it well

Point taken. I wonder whether requiring the utterance of false statements as a condition of coverage might someday come back to haunt insurer in a coverage dispute. And perhaps the same argument might be raised against the publisher by an author accused of a breach of warranty …

Isn’t the real question which statement to believe? Perhaps the disclaimer on the copyright page is indeed correct.

Perhaps the disclaimer on the copyright page is indeed correct.
Possibly so with regard to what is attributed to Trelawny (but unlikely, given the information available about the actual historical figure), but obviously false with regard to what the author claims he himself did (using Trelawny as a character). I suppose the author himself could possibly be an invented fiction, especially in this day and age.

I suppose all this eventually leads us to the philosophical question: Is our reality actually a fiction being enjoyed by greater beings?

How about: “events and persons portrayed in this book represent a reality whose wave function amplitude has not been measurred by the author, and any attempt to measure such amplitude may affect other non-orthogonal truths.”?

Could opening the book, kill the cat?

The entire “author’s forward” to David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King (which is about ten chapters into the book) is about this issue. The narrative voice comes in and says this is the real David Foster Wallace, not a character, and despite what the copyright disclaimer page says, this book is based on true events. Then he goes back and forth quite a bit about the negotiations between his lawyer and the publisher’s lawyer. It’s not clear, however, whether this is actually a fictitious character speaking, pretending to be the true David Foster Wallace, or actually the true author.