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My Thoughts

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In My Thoughts you will find articles about various things that either are of interest to me, or that bother me. You'll find issues related to writing, movies, TV, Music or science fact/fiction. What you won't find is discussions on politics or religion. I don't like it when people try to convert me on either of these beliefs, and I will do you the courtesy of not imposing my views on you. If you'd like to send me any comments on issues I discuss, or suggest ideas for things I could write about, use the link at the bottom to send me an e-mail.
Latest Post (August, 2014)

Destination Fiction

Why People Like to Visit the Worlds of Fiction

A new person showed up to join my local writers' group in June.  He surprised me when he posed the question on why anyone would even be interested in reading fiction.  It wasn't real, after all.  As he told us more about himself and what he wanted to write, it became apparent why he felt this way.  The new writer grew up in an abusive home, forced to work extremely long and hard hours from a very young age.  In essence, he had no real childhood.  Hard work was all he ever knew.

His question about why people wanted to, as he put it, 'escape reality' to read fiction stayed with me.  It actually reminded me a little of my father.  While my dad does enjoy fiction on the TV and movie screen, he seems to only read non-fiction.  Also, he hates anything in the science fiction or fantasy realm because he seems to have an inability to accept things that are not real at the present time.  I'm sure, at the time he was a single young man, he would have hated the movie Apollo 13 since man hadn't actually been to the moon back then.

Between my father's attitudes, and the new writer, the question of why most of us enjoy fiction really stuck in my mind.  At the time, I was rereading the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel.  The over-all story arc of the main character in these novels seemed to scream out an answer to the question.  For those who don't know these books, they take place during Earth's ice age.  The first novel, Clan of the Cave Bear, followed Ayla, a young Cro-Magnon (early human) girl who lost her family and tribe during an earthquake.  She is found by a group of Neanderthal, or the Clan as they call themselves, and is raised by them. Ayla is forced to adapt to the sometimes harsh alien culture of the Clan in order to survive as one of them.  The second book in the series and the rest that followed, continued Ayla's story as she is forced out of the Clan, must survive on her own while she seeks out her own people, the Cro-Magnon.  The author, Jean M. Auel, spent years of her life heavily researching these novels and did an excellent job bring both species to life. 

How the question about enjoying fiction ties in to these novels is answered through the differences in the Clan and early humans.  The Neanderthal way of thinking was based on instinctual memories.  From birth, their brains stored large sums of knowledge they needed to survive.  They had evolved past learning new things, only having to be reminded of things learned long ago by ancient ancestors.  The Cro-Magnon, on the other hand, had a completely different brain structure.  They lacked the instinctual memories, but made up for it in their remarkable ability to learn new things, and to have the creative abilities to apply knowledge gained in new ways.

The Clan, day in and day out, spent all their time in activities required to survive.  Early humans, on the other hand, developed tools and methods that left extra time for them to pursue artistic endeavors.   And here lies the root of why people immerse themselves in fiction.  The desire that caused ancient man to paint on cave walls and to carve wood and bone into figures is the same desire that enabled early humans to move from hunting with spears to creating spear throwers.  Human creativity.  The ability to ask the ever important question, What if? is the fundamental key to our survival in the past, present and future.

Now, it is impossible for all humans to be creative.  A larger percentage of people, however, still take great pleasure in the results of those who do create.  Music, art, drama, all inspire many, many people, to varying degrees.  Even technological, scientific and mathematical creativity is appreciated by many.  It is in our very nature to enjoy and crave creativity because it really is an important survival trait.

The new writer I mentioned above, who had his childhood ripped from him, also had his youthful imagination stomped away at the same time.  He was forced to live a life similar to the Neanderthal, a day to day struggle for mere survival.  Because of this, and other issues not discussed, he finds it incomprehensible that anyone could enjoy immersing themselves in stories that have never happened.  He has lost his ability to revel at the shear question of 'What if?'  However, he has not completely lost his appreciation for creativity.  He finds it in his desire to write his own story, as well as in the way he applies himself to the construction work he has done.

As for me, I've always embraced my creative side.  If I'm not writing, I'm working on computer animation modeling or web page design.  I'm also enjoying the creative endeavors of others in music, art, and drama.  And I can't help but notice we live in a society that severely undervalues the work of the creative.  Despite this, their work is all around us, waiting to be enjoyed.  Reading fiction, in any form, is not escaping reality, but opening ones mind to limitless possibilities.

Tom A. Wright
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