So it’s been a while. And there’s a good reason. I had nothing new to say. No ideas. I could have posted a bunch of links to stuff but I didn’t feel that was going to do much of anything substantial. Nevertheless, here I am again and time has led me to some new thoughts about fiction and what we can do with it or rather what we should be doing with it. Partially I was inspired by the movie My Dinner with Andre and partially the ideas came about as a result of looking at the world and looking at fiction, both what others are writing and what I’m writing. Then there were some words from the always great Terence McKenna. The net result was that I came away feeling that, regardless of whether or not fiction still has the power to reach people, we should be trying to create a fiction that frees people in a way. It doesn’t matter what genre you prefer since I think this is something that can be done in any genre. I think the important thing to realize is that fiction is stuck in a sort of rut and that now is as good a time as any to break out of it. What do I mean by a rut though?
I think that there are two sides to the rut we find ourselves in, two channels if you will. One side is pessimism. You see this very clearly in sci-fi though some are calling for a change. There are tons of post-apocalyptic stories in which there is nothing left; no hope, nothing to live for. Just nothing. However on the other side is fiction that doesn’t say much or do much of anything at all. It’s just there to make you feel kind of good then disappear. Now maybe you’ll say “Why does fiction have to do something? Can’t it just be fun or sentimental or something?” I’d ask this in return: “If fiction has any capacity to lead to positive change, if it can do some good in the world, then shouldn’t it?” Yes I agree that sometimes a fun story is just a fun story and that sometimes we can’t avoid dealing with unpleasantness and ideas that make us uncomfortable. However, when I see so much of fiction dealing with these things then I can’t help but feel we are indeed in a rut. So how do we get out of it? Even if we could all agree that we are in a rut, where do we go? What should we make?
It’s time to create a fiction of potential, both personal and external. If a good chunk of fiction is saying nothing and the other half is telling us how bad everything is, what do you think the result is going to be? It’s going to just be an exacerbation of something that I think many are already half aware of and that is that things are not as they ought to be or could be. We are more wired but less connected to each other. We barely have any awareness of ourselves or who we are. The constant streaming of data into our heads is leading to a perpetual dream state. If anything our constant connection to the internet or some form of media is the outcome of our desire to live in a never ending dream. The internet is certainly just the externalization of mental space so that now we dream another person’s dreams. Then what of our own? Do we even dream anymore for ourselves? And if this is the case then how or do we even connect to each other? Is there anything left to connect to? This is why I think more than ever, we need a fiction that can re-introduce readers to the idea of being human, of being a self and knowing what that self is. So in effect, this new fiction would hopefully show the reader that there is something better, that even if it involves a tiny corner of his or her world, there is a way that leads to a reintroduction of the miraculous or at least the sublime into life. The point of this fiction would be to reactivate the parts of the person that modern life has anesthetized or at least remind the reader these parts exist.
That being said, do I think that this new fiction will change the world, make gardens bloom in deserts and end all wars? If only. No, I’d be happy to see even just one life made better. Because that’s the point. If one life can be changed, then that one life can maybe make one other person’s life better. I suppose this is a call to responsibility, to wakefulness, and to reach out. I’ll leave you with some Timothy Leary.