Please welcome fellow writer Ian Isaro to the blog today. Ian is another fellow Speculative Fiction Group member who agreed to share why he loves speculative fiction with us. You can find Ian through his blog or his Smashwords profile. Be sure to check them both out and get to know him better. Thanks, Ian, for sharing your perspective with us.
Magic! Lasers! Battles!
...are three things that are unrelated to why I love speculative fiction. The quality that drew me to these genres and that keeps me there as a writer is a little more theoretical than that. Bear with me.
The strength of speculative fiction is abstraction. Nonfiction is free to directly address the real world; speculative fiction is free to indirectly address it. Free from the need to conform to exact facts, it can say something meaningful about those facts that could not have been said by nonfiction.
As a child, I had an implicit understanding of the great truth behind fantasy: that the world can be different. You're probably thinking that's obvious, but not everyone does. There are people who live in a static world where everyone looks the same, acts the same, and believes the same. In that context differences are to be hated and feared, whereas speculative fiction celebrates the unfamiliar.
Everyone has blind spots, assumptions that we never think to question. At the most basic level, speculative fiction invites us to consider that which is different, to consider that anything can be different.
In reading speculative fiction, we look beyond ourselves. We break out of a static world where we understand everything. In doing so, we become better able to accept the real things in life that are outside our worlds of understanding.
The other half of the coin is that we end up looking back at ourselves through the lens of fiction. Not all concepts are alien to us, after all, but through fiction we see them abstracted from the world as we know it. The best fiction forces us to set aside our prejuidices and established thinking patterns because we are looking at something new. We realize what the author is trying to do (hopefully not heavy-handed) but we still exercise our capacity to think anew instead of react as usual.
Condemning speculative fiction as escapist had the potential to hinder our capacity to relate to the unknown. Certainly, it is no substitute for encountering ideas and cultures in the real world (for those of us fortunate enough to have easy access to that information.) But in my experience, an interest in speculative fiction is linked to an interest in the broader world.
If you'll forgive an extended metaphor, speculative fiction is a window, not a magic door. We don't go through into another world, we look out into the world that exists. The window is stained glass, giving us a different perspective of the basic truth on the other side. We look outside to remind us that there is more to the world than the walls we have built, and when we use the door to go out into the real world we see it better for having seen it through the window of fiction.
Everyone uses that door. But while we're inside, I'd rather we look through windows than stare at walls.