It started with my friend Claire’s latest post – which you can find here.
Go read it.
Contrary to what Claire seems to think, science fiction and fantasy writers get asked quite often why they write what they do.
It’s even worse for horror writers.
Adventure writers tend to get a lot of blank stares.
In general, should you ever reveal to your friends and acquaintances that you are a writer1 and write imaginative fiction, you’ll get asked, basically
The answer, of course, is usually that we write what we like to read.
So we write stories about the future, about strange far away lands and creepy monsters, filled with pirates, swordsmen and lost cities because…
Well, because that’s what we like to read.
Because we spent a lot of time reading that kind of stuff.
What is important, of course, is that genre fiction is not inherently “less significant” than, ehm, “serious fiction”.
So, to follow Claire’s lead, why do I read imaginative fiction, thrilling adventure stories and old pulps?
And why should you read ’em too?
Because it’s fun.
Now, fun is getting a lot of bad press, recently, but there’s really nothing wrong with having fun as long as the fun is not sterile and a form of sedation.
Remember, music has been called “when the mind has fun counting” – as long as the fun sets the gears in motion, it’s all right.
Because it’s where we come from.
We are here because of imagination – our culture was built by the discoveries and experiences of those that used their imagination.
What it would be like to fly?
What lies beyond the horizon?
What if we tried something different?
I was once told by a colleague in university that science has nothing to do with imagination.
He was an idiot, and he still is – and I pity the high-schoolers that have to suffer him as their science teacher right now.
Imaginative fiction trains us to use our imagination when dealing with everyday life – not by imagining that there will be a magical formula to pay our mortgage2, but by imagining new ways to use our skills and abilities to face what life throws at us.
Because it teaches us to keep pushing on.
You can’t spend most of your life reading about heroes and not get a smattering of heroism – which does not mean go chasing dragons or donning a mask to avenge crime.
Maybe it just means acknowledging that things are bad, and then hold your chin up and don’t let go.
I do live in a strange world – one in which pop songs taught me about love and grief and how to handle those, and pulp stories taught me how to face adversity.
It was not a bad schooling.
And then yes, we do read those stories for all the reasons that Claire lists in her post – because her genre is imaginative fiction too, even if some might find this embarrassing.
We read these stories because they expand our world in different directions, turn around our perception of what’s going on, teach us to seek alternatives, offer us a way to keep our brains going, keep the dull at bay.
We write them because we like the way it feels, and we want others to feel the same way.
So there, these are my reasons.
Anything I forgot?
Are there other reasons for you?
The comments are open…
- but really, why should you? Your friends won’t read your books anyway, even if they expect you to give them a free copy. Better pretend you have a “real job” such as, for instance, flipping burgers. ↩
- contrary to what those that read “serious literature” seem to think, reading fantasy does not equal believing we live in a fantasy world. ↩