Irregardless Magazine

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The Value of Fiction

Recently one of my intelligent (yet imaginatively-challenged) friends asked me something to the effect of, “What’s the point of reading made-up stories? Nonfiction has value because it teaches you something factual, but what is the value of fiction?”

For me, fiction is like a sandbox for building theories and philosophies without worrying about them collapsing on top of anyone.

Just as the speculative fiction of Philip K Dick helps us to develop ideas on the boundaries of humanity and consciousness—or how many children’s stories explore morality and maturity—fiction offers a practice arena for ideas.

It’s like role-playing in a therapy session: we get to pretend to be someone else in a unique situation, and we learn by testing out how our ideas hold up in the new environment.

Which is why I have such a problem with art that is too didactic or too obvious. It forgets the artist’s lever—a balance of entertainment and rhetoric—and just crams its message down your throat. It ceases to be a playground for ideas and turns into a lecture. And I’m not interested in being lectured.