On writing: what good comes from fiction?

Since the early 1990s, I have occasionally stumbled across the notion that reading fiction is a waste of time. I remember seeing a hair metal rocker in an MTV interview back then proclaiming this frivolous statement. You would think this concept was profound by the attention it was given during the “news” segment. I can’t even recall who the musician was, guess it wasn’t all that big a deal.

More recently, however, Noel Gallagher of Oasis echoed a similar time-wasting sentiment in an interview for GQ’s Icon of the Year. You can see an article about this in The Guardian here. Is it trendy for some celebrities to make this unnecessarily stupid statement? I have yet to see a legitimate reason to defend this point. At best, it promotes his pompous arrogance. It begs the question why GQ deemed Gallagher worthy of such a prestigious title; he’s certainly on track to become a Nobel Laureate.

I understand some people prefer reading nonfiction over fiction just as others prefer the inverse – I get that. I don’t argue personal preference and I don’t pass judgment either way. I enjoy reading both and writing both. So be it. But the public proclamation of fiction as a waste of time sucks the marrow from my bones as a giant mosquito would if given the opportunity. It’s far more than just stating a personal preference when delivered to a mass media outlet.

For those who don’t see the point of fiction, I offer you these groundbreaking thoughts. And yes, they are opinions, rooted in observations, professional experience, and most importantly, common knowledge. Only a narcissist would be oblivious.

Fiction provides escape. 

For some it’s a journey into another world. For others, it’s the opportunity to live out a fantasy while ignoring the day’s real life stress. There’s no magic here, it should be obvious even to the most cynical bastard.

Fiction is ubiquitous.

I wonder if the people claiming fiction is a waste enjoy TV dramas, art galleries, blockbuster movies, or even stand-up comedy. Even when based on facts there are elements of fiction throughout these media. How many Civil War documentaries feature audio clips of Abraham Lincoln’s words of wisdom? Voiced by actors, of course. As for the gaps between recorded events, writers have to surmise what probably had occurred to connect the dots – fiction based on fact.

 Fiction excites the mind. 

An amazing side affect of reading fiction is that it inspires. It can invoke creativity. Especially for children. Concepts in science fiction haves opened the way to real life inventiveness, bringing to the world submarines and helicopters. Check out this Smithsonian.com article if you don’t believe me. Star Trek fans relish in this fact considering the number of inventions the original TV show inspired.

Fiction is the livelihood for many people.

Whether we are talking about novelists, publishers, or filmmakers, fiction is at the root of many Americans’ livelihood. It’s an industry no less legitimate than music.

Fiction is this or that….

Anyone can spend a few minutes on this topic and come up with a list. My point is this: don’t berate fiction because it’s not your cup of tea, even if your cup of tea contains sulfuric acid and bleach. No one enjoys hearing of their life’s passion proclaimed a waste of time. Not even formerly celebrated musicians.


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