Last week, I read a blogpost by author Brad Meltzer about if fiction matters. The Saturday Evening Post had asked him to address the issue for an article in their recent edition.
At first glance, it seemed like an odd question to me. For me, it is a no-brainer. Of course fiction matters, and not just because I am a writer. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved immersing myself in a wide range of fictional worlds – in books, movies, comic books, TV shows, my own imagination. I think most people would agree that fiction matters. Otherwise, how do you explain the billions of dollars spent every year on movie tickets, DVDs, books, Broadway musicals, video games and other forms of fictional entertainment.
That’s not to say that fiction is important in the same way that life and death issues are important. Obviously health care, poverty, domestic violence, war, famine, sexual abuse and other real life issues deserve much more attention than Batman or Darth Vader or Sherlock Holmes. So, if you put escaping into fiction up against fixing real world problems, then of course, fiction pales in comparison. However, you certainly can’t just dismiss fiction as a waste of time simply because it is “make believe” or “not real.”
Why does fiction matter? Well, Meltzer puts it very well when he writes, “Fiction is how we share – and not just how we share our dreams – it’s how we share ourselves. And perhaps more important, how we connect.”
Fiction makes you think. For as long as men could communicate, we have told fables and morality tales and parables to show the danger of greed or gluttony or some other vice. Stories allow us to make a point in a way that simple factual statements or arguments can’t. No one wants to be preached to or harped at. But if you wrap your point in the auspices of an entertaining story, you might just get the attention of millions of people.
Just think of all the different books that have been used to touch on a sensitive subject like slavery or government control of the masses or terrorism or genetic manipulation. Anytime an issue arises in our society, you can be sure some clever, ingenious author is going to craft a story that makes us think about the subject in a different way, sometimes without us even realizing we were thinking about it.
That is why fiction matters – fiction writers have power. The power to effect change. The power to make people think. The power to explore new ideas. The power to pass on knowledge. And knowledge can be dangerous. How else do you explain all the banned books?
What do you think? Does fiction matter? Do you agree with my reasoning? Let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably are a writer or an avid reader, so I expect most of you will agree that fiction matters. But I’d still love to hear from you.
And while we’re talking about fiction, I’ll give a plug to Brad Meltzer’s new novel “Inner Circle” that released last week. I can’t wait to read it. The excerpts definitely got my attention.