I feel that fiction is criminally undervalued in today’s society. Maybe that is just because of the work that I’ve done over the past few years or the people that I’ve been interacting with, but it just feels like there is less and less of an emphasis on how important fiction can be. Television and movies are still interests of a lot of people, but to really get someone to want to sit down with a work of fiction seems like a struggle sometimes.
A lot of what I hear is, “well, nonfiction is real, not made up,” or, “I just prefer reading about things that have really happened.” There’s always this sort of latent understanding that fiction is frivolous and silly, or that reading fiction makes you some sort of nerd. It kind of baffles me and drives me mad.
The world needs fiction, it just isn’t always aware of it.
Looking around at headlines over the past few weeks it is clearer to me than ever that the world needs more fiction and that more people need to be ingesting this fiction. Good fiction is able to intertwine serious social issues in with a narrative and sometimes even do so without it being overt. It’s able to get the reader thinking about these issues or feeling a certain way, looking at the world in a way that they might not have before.
This is a key part of my job as a writer; to not just write about characters and their struggles, but to make the reader stop and think.
The recent cases of blatant abuse of police power against citizens is almost impossible to ignore right now, especially in the cases where they seem racially-motivated. These kinds of cases are nothing new, but now in our digitally-driven age we are having more and more information fed to us and we are allowed to do our own research and come to our own conclusions, outside of just the justice system having its own and that being the final say.
Sometimes these forms of “social justice” can do more harm than good if ill-informed, but they still evoke passion in people and bring to the spotlight the underlying tensions that exist in our society and how we need to address them.
In my upcoming novel the future that I built was based around the idea of these issues never being properly addressed. When they were addressed it led to violence and for governments turn towards a harsher, more strict style of governing. In science fiction especially, it is a tradition to weave stories by building off of the fears as to what might happen if our society keeps moving in a direction that the writer sees as the wrong direction.
So I built off of my own fears, hopes, dreams and opinions in building the Earth of the future that is embroiled in turmoil and struggling for survival. It is a world where the Michael Browns and Eric Garners of the world never see their justice, their families never get their closure and the world simply shrugs its shoulders and says, “at least it wasn’t anyone I knew.” I truly believe that ignorance and ambivalence could lead humanity down a dark path someday and I applaud all of the people who are unafraid to show compassion to their fellow humans and question if what has happened is really fair.
Issues like these are why I write fiction and why I’ve always loved fiction. I think back to the writers who have most influenced me over the years, the Philip K. Dicks, the Kurt Vonneguts, the Thomas Pynchons and Cormac McCarthys and somewhere in each of their books there are messages to the reader that go beyond personal struggles and has to do with the environment and how it affects their characters and the whole world that they reside in.
This is why I love fiction and this is why I want YOU to love fiction as well. I’m doing my best to present something to the world that I’m not only proud of, but that I hope readers will enjoy and make them stop to reflect, even if it is just a little bit.