How can fiction possibly help to shape reality? It’s a fair question, and one that hasn’t managed to gain a lot of notice in the past. After all fiction is something to entertain an audience, right? It’s used to distract people from their normal, run of the mill lives and grant them a bit of an escape from the world they know so that they can enjoy themselves for a certain period of time before they have to go back and integrate with the real world yet again. But thinking that those same people take nothing back with them after the story is over or the book is read is more than just folly, it’s a denial that fiction has any more worth than what we see, read, or hear.
Fiction has shaped our world since the beginning. The earliest human tribes told stories, tales, and gave accounts of the world as they knew it in ways that made sense to them and felt as real as anything else. A great example is how people fictionalized the many different natural phenomena that occurred in the world around them before the scientific method became the norm. People would tell stories of the gods were responsible for everything from the weather patterns to how the world they trod upon worked. Our very existence was built upon fiction in fact, and in some cases still is.
Fiction is how we rationalize our world.
While the scientific method and all it entails has indeed closed a great many gaps that were opened and maintained by fictitious beliefs, there are still many that remain largely because they are far more comforting to so many than the stark truth that this world makes little if any real sense. Fiction is a way to reason with an existence that continually exists to offer a wide array of ways to succeed and to fail. To some this world makes sense but to others it is a madhouse that has to be navigated carefully lest they fall through the cracks or an unseen trap door that can lead to who-knows-where. Fiction is how we get through our day more often than not, as it is the guide that helps us to believe that things might be different tomorrow.
It is how society was built.
Fiction doesn’t have to mean fantasy or science fiction, it is a word that is used to describe any falsehood, be it benign or malevolent, that is told in order to make others believe in the veracity of one’s beliefs. Society has been lifted on a structure built from many falsehoods, both good and bad, and they have all contributed to the chaotic mess that we live with to this day. For good or ill fiction has been used to create a world in which humanity seeks to reaffirm that we are in control and that the legacy created is built upon a solid and unyielding foundation of truth that is beyond question.
Fiction is the reason why humanity moves forward.
Debate this if you want, I’m actually looking forward to it, but then think about how humanity has managed to do all it’s done thus far. The fiction that we tell ourselves is possible is fueled by the imagination that we exhibit in trying to make sense of a world that takes as much as it gives. By telling ourselves “this is possible” when knowing in our minds that, in some cases, it should not be possible in any conceivable way, we utilize fiction as a motivator as well as an end goal in order to achieve the impossible. In other words, we push ourselves forward by creating a fictitious achievement in our minds that in turn inspires us to reach that same goal.
As human beings we create the fiction to make sense of the real world, and in doing so recreate that world in the process.