Thinking

Taking Fiction Seriously

I was wrapping up a rave on 12 Monkeys (the circular fate of James Cole just flat out kills me) and launching into an ode to Weeds (I maintain that Nancy Botwin is the most stereotype defying woman on television).

That’s when my dinner companion started chuckling. “You take fiction more seriously than most people take reality.”

Translation: I am a total geek.

This non-revelation will surprise no one who has ever skimmed my personal collection of self-annotated Chuck Palahniuk novels or endured my semi-annual George Cukor marathons. But for those who haven’t had the dubious pleasure, allow me to introduce myself:

I’m a graduated literature major, incapable of reading without both pen and highlighter in hand; former lawyer with an obnoxious tendancy to pause, rewind, and analyze the life out of any remotely compelling movie; unrepentant theater nerd, capable of reciting every lyric from The Last Five Years and every monologue from The Glass Menagerie.

Full disclosure, I’m also a card carrying fan girl, embarrassingly well versed in the intricacies of terms like shipper, AU, and OOC.

Confession: If I had a bucket list, attending Comic Con would be near the top.

You get the picture.

Bottom line, I don’t dip my toe in the shallow end of a good story. I dive in head first – partly because I’m a geek who can’t help getting swept up in the fun of it, but mostly because I happen to believe that fiction is a serious thing.

After-all, why do prophets tell parables? Why do parents appeal to fairy tales? Because some concepts are too big to fit whole in our minds. Some truths are too close to be seen. Under the microscope of logic, they disappear entirely. I submit that these things are most clearly revealed at a blurry distance – the same way a 3D image is revealed inside one of those “Magic Eye” auto-stereograms. Not by studying closer or squinting harder, but by taking a step back.

Fiction pushes us that step.

Logic aims to distill facts into finite certainties and so finite certainties are the most it can find. Stories aim to expand facts into infinite possibilities and so they create room for the infinite – all things truer than logic.

Of course, you don’t have to buy any of this to enjoy a good story.

You can approach fiction from any direction, looking for anything – from a few hours of mindless diversion to a trip through the looking glass.

Chances are, you’ll find it.

But if something with that kind of power isn’t something to take seriously, I don’t know what is.

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