At one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.
The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.
Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…
What if, suddenly, you found you could not only read minds but change them? What if the eponymous hero of the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh was real, was two-thirds god, was immortal, and — from sheer boredom — had divided his powers of mind with you just so he could have a really good war between the eastern and western hemispheres?
What if you and your brother, both young students, went along on a wild drunken graduation party that spanned a dozen galaxies and were left behind on some primitive no-account planet as a joke. What if, as extremely long-lived energy beings, it was millions of years before anyone remembered and came back for you? What if — from sheer boredom — you’d illegally tampered with the minds of the primitive indigenous apes?
This Sci-Fi Saturday: two authors, two tales, two books each.
This is the first of a series of articles that discuss something I believe is unique to humans. In fact, I think it’s one of the few things we can point to that does differentiate us from the animal kingdom. And it is something that goes deep into our past. It is our ability to use language to create and tell complex stories.
It is also one of my favorite topics. If you’ve read many of my posts, particularly those about movies and TV, you’ve seen me write about my love of stories.
There is an interesting continuum of storytelling modes. Books lie at one end; movies at the other. Plays and TV lie between. The continuum describes—in part—the experience of the audience. Here’s the deal…
I’m a big fan of books and reading.
I have a rather large library that I’ve been dragging around for almost four decades. It grew by leaps and bounds in my younger days, but the growth rate has slowed in the last decade or so. (Slowed, but not stopped!)
One of the bigger parts of moving has been getting enough boxes to pack the books, packing the books, unpacking the books, and deciding what to do about book shelves.