- Integral to human understanding and invention, fiction plays an essential role in imagining alternatives to reality, in shaping reality, in disguising reality, and in providing avenues of escape from reality.
- Fictional narratives are more than entertaining stories; they are simulations of worlds, not unlike scientific experiments, algorithms, and AIs.
- Realizing that they are trapped in an artificial world invented to serve commercial interests, writers and readers of fictional texts can escape together into an alternative world of their own invention.
Fiction has been rendered impotent. Political leaders dismiss controversial scientific findings and intelligence leaks as fictions while at the same time crafting and promoting their own fictional accounts of how things really are. Entertaining stories function as anodynes, distracting readers/viewers from the staged unrealities of the real world and from their own inability to change it. Fiction publishing is itself an invented reality, relegated to a relatively minor segment of the entertainment industry. Recognizing the fictionality of the publishing status quo, imagining alternatives, building and running simulations of these alternate realities, re-imagining fiction as a potent force: fiction writers and readers are well equipped for the task.
Challenges and Opportunities
Reforming Habits. People adapt to environments, even artificial ones. Adaptations become habits, hard to break even when moving into an alternative environment where those habits are no longer adaptive. Freed from the constraints of the traditional publishing world, would readers and writers of fictions remain locked into their habitual ways of reading and writing? Or would the alternate reality of writers’ syndicates and readers’ duplicating libraries establish a different ecology, calling for different adaptations from which different habits take shape?
Revaluing Fictions. The criteria by which fictions are judged are themselves fictional, derived from invention and reified by convention. Is it necessary to renounce contemporary genre and middlebrow commercial standards only to champion a nostalgic return to a fantasized golden age of elitist literary artistry? Or are the fictions generated in the post-capitalistic precarity to be judged by unprecedented standards of value?