why fiction matters (even though i don’t read it)

a few days ago my friend erin wrote about why he consumes fiction. reading his post made me realize a few things:

i don’t value reading fiction myself, but i do value it.

i think our lack of collective imagination at the neighborhood, city, and societal scales is part of what’s wrong with our country. some types of fiction, actually support and encourage the stretching of our imaginations. i think that’s the type of fiction he was referring to when he said…

“If a story doesn’t demonstrate how a character evolves through the story in some way, or if doesn’t reflect on society or our own individual hopes, fears and tendencies, then it’s less interesting to me. If the story doesn’t question or explore some aspect of humanity that makes us rethink our own relationships, then I get bored.”

over the past year i’ve been learning how important fiction and specifically futurism is from people like terry marshall and aisha shillingford of intelligent mischief and kate balug of the department of play. the fact that octavia butler predicted down to the slogan donald trump’s rise to power is amazing. and if she had the skill and ability (and intuition) to see it coming, it seems to me like we should be able to imagine the very real pathway out of it. and, since i believe that the people who are the most marginalized have the best actual handle on how the systems we live in work (and don’t work), i think the futures created by them (i know of afro-futurism, but there must be others… trans-futurism maybe?) are the most powerful and compelling.

i’ve recently made friends with a city planning student named grant and he’s writing his master’s thesis as a series of fictional rural stories. that sort of work that speaks to real situations people are in or can sympathize with now, but paints a series of pathways forward seems so important.

i learned from the center for story-based strategy that people won’t go for real where they haven’t gone in their minds. so, like, how else are we going to know what to work towards for unless we’ve imagined first?

now, i’m much more interested in, feel passionate about, and feel tooled for creating and building right now, but i do know that it’s super important for us to be able to imagine our way forward.

ps - i have actually started to read a little fiction (the parable books by octavia butler and ecotopia by ernest callenbach). it feels weird, though. =|