I have the best job in the world. I can make up fantastic constructions: frothy lies, that amuse me and respond to the rule of cool. And the best part is that I don’t have to REALLY lie. I mean people know I’m making this up.
Believe it or not, novels used to get frowned on because of that. They were an affront to the Almighty, since they described things that never happened.
Years ago, in my conference in the Baen bar, I found someone who had even more strict ideas of how evil my work is. You see, he only read science fiction. He refused to read fantasy (at the time all I had with Baen was the Shifter’s series) because it talked about things that couldn’t exist in the world as created, and so was eeeeeeevil. Even though those who’ve read the shifter series know there isn’t even any magic or witchcraft in that series. Heck, it doesn’t even have vampires.
OTOH it DOES say “fantasy” on the spine.
I’ll confess I’m a peeve — in other words, still myself — because I giggled at that. Oh, sure, FTL? Cool. Antigrav? Groovie. Gateways to teleport you to another planet? Very good. Aliens? Fine. Shape shifters? Die, you evil witch.
Me, I have — obviously — a different view of fiction: all fiction, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, historical, even those occasional “literary” pieces that aren’t deadly dull. (There are a few.)
I believe fantasy stretches the mind. They have recently found out that people who have imagined getting say in a plane crash and escaping are more likely to survive if their plane actually crashes.
Right, we don’t write only about plane crashes, but we write about all kinds of situations, some of them supremely weird. What it does, I think, is create what I call “flexible minds” so that even if the world goes completely bizarre on you (these days it often does) you can roll with the punches. In a society that is changing very fast in unanticipated ways, it makes it easier to function.
I remember years ago when all of Dan’s workgroup read SF/F and their boss remarked how adaptable they were, and capable of “thinking outside the box.” That is because it was where they lived.
Yesterday I shared my pet peeves when I’m researching possibilities on worldbuilding for a new series. Some of you went all literal on me, which annoys the crap out of me, particularly since what I was sharing was stuff that makes even me run away (like pyramids) and it’s not even because it’s wrong (most of what I was looking at was at best unconventional) but because it’s trite. It’s become a cliche. It no longer fits the rule of cool. (Also the moment pyramids or Templar knights come in, you know things are going into astral bodies and enlightened aliens, which is even more annoying, since that’s not what I want.)
When you go all literal and go “No, this is absolutely impossible” though there is really no evidence it is (highly unlikely? SURE.) you’re doing the opposite of “flexible minds” which means when something falls out of place, you’ll hold on to the old ideas and refuse to move on or worse, starting trying to find “begs” as to why the new find is flawed, the new way of doing things is wrong, shaking your cane and screaming “get off my lawn.” Which is bad for you and bad for society.
All you have to do to see the result of encouraging your mind to be the opposite of flexible is to look at the left side of the isle right now.
They knew Hillary was going to win the election; they knew their “progressive” (forward to the nineteen thirties!) future was inevitable; they knew their ideas are all on the right side of history. And then it turned out… it wasn’t PRECISELY so.
Younger son tells me that their teachers assured them (multiple times) no Republican would win ever again, because the left was CORRECT. (Which explains why people his age have so much trouble listening to other opinions. It’s like questioning their faith.)
Turned out all those polls that showed no support for Trump could be summed up by “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
And they can’t cope. If I hear one more call for impeachment I’m going to blow a gasket. You might hate what Trump is doing (meh. By and large better than I expected) but if anything he did was liable to impeachment, Obama would have been impeached a dozen times or more. Worse, they don’t seem to understand “impeachment” doesn’t mean removal. (If it did Billy Jeff would have been out’a’there too.) WORSE they don’t seem to understand that even if they managed to remove Trump, they’d just get Pence. And if they removed HIM they’d get (I THINK) Ryan.
Instead, because this is not rational, because this is their minds trying to retreat to the reality they KNEW was true, to the theories and beliefs that comfort them, they have this movie running in their heads that goes: impeach Trump. Automagically, Hillary is president. Or maybe Obama comes back.
It makes absolutely no sense, and even someone with a rudimentary knowledge of the constitution or our form of government KNOWS that’s not just impossible. That’s “Thetans gave us the pyramids to sharpen our razors” crazy.
And yet otherwise sane colleagues of mine post this sh*t all the time, and expect it to happen “any minute now.”
This is cult-level faith. It’s the sign of inflexible minds. They convinced themselves that paradise was just around the corner, and now they’re locked in a long scream, unable to cope, unable to function, unable to see what they want is impossible.
They’re the toddler standing in the middle of the grocery isle, screaming at the top of his lungs “but I wanna.”
Because they can’t budge, this might very well come to blows. Worse, it makes our enemies think we’re on the verge of civil war (I don’t think we are) and therefore makes us look vulnerable, in a very violent and scary world (the result of Obama’s “diplomacy.” That man thought apologies and shows of weakness would bring peace. Because he doesn’t get the difference between the real world and kindergarten is that there is no benevolent teacher to keep the wimps safe.)
What’s even worse, if they had won, because they KNEW how things were supposed to go, they’d never have seen what a disaster Hillary was. (You know this, because they’re still lockjawed in “Obama had a scandal free administration.” Sure thing. Fast and Furious. Benghazi. The pay for play Hillary conducted as secretary of state, etc, etc, but sure. No scandals here.) And if she turned out to be really, really bad, they’d still be trying to interpret it all as hunky-dory and going to the wall saying “If only Hillary knew.”
Inflexible minds are enablers of tyranny.
No one asks you to believe in lies, of course. (Before the more literal of you go crazy. Hey, I said pyramids come in I run out.) But we do ask you to be able to put your mind in the “What if” of a story. Yeah, sure, you could pick the imaginary world to pieces. EVEN IN CONTEMPORARY non-fantastic literature, it’s really easy to find holes, if you go in to find them. It’s much harder than you think creating a wholly coherent lie. Particularly one of 100k words or more.
HOWEVER if you let yourself go and try to play in the story (this is why our worldbuilding comes up with lots of stuff to support it. “Sure, magic has always existed, why do you think all the books talk about it. It’s just that this Magical legion has been playing keep away with it, and covering it up.” Yeah, you can see the holes, but just go along with it) you’ll get two benefits: it’s like a gym for your mind, playing out “what ifs” and making it easier to go with the flow when things change; and it helps you identify the signs of lies being constructed. If you read a lot, you know what gets said and what gets left out to build an entire world that couldn’t exist in ours, but that can kind of function for the space of an enjoyable story.
Flexible minds. For the times, they are achanging.