Warning! Dangerous Fiction Ahead
There’s danger in them there books!
I’m sure if you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you’re familiar with the idea of books being dangerous by their very existence. There’s something about these word drenched packets of communication and information that worries people. And they’re not entirely wrong in that worry. If you don’t believe me, check out what Neil Gaiman has to say on the subject.
You can catch a recap of the speech and a video of the entire talk plus Q&A here at Tor.com :This Doesn’t Have to Be the World You Live In. Neil Gaiman on “Why Fiction is Dangerous”
I’ve also quoted the following excerpt from the Shelf Awareness article:
“He pointed out that he had not yet explained the title of his talk. “Fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other people’s heads,” Gaiman said. “It shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in.” At the first nationally recognized science fiction convention in China in 2007, Gaiman took a party official aside and said, “While not actually illegal, science fiction is regarded as dangerous and subversive in China. Why did you say yes to a science-fiction convention?”
The party official answered, “In China, we’re really good at making things people bring to us, but we don’t invent, we don’t innovate.” When Chinese party officials visited Google, Apple and Microsoft, they asked what the executives read as children. The official continued: “They all said, ‘We read science fiction. The world doesn’t have to be the way it is right now. We can change it.’ ” “That,” said Gaiman, “is the big dangerous thing.””
Yes! Yes! Yes! I agree with Gaiman about fiction, but it’s his example about science fiction that particularly resonates. I’ve pointed out before that science fiction is the genre that can help inspire a new generation of scientists, inventors and engineers. It looks like the Chinese official in this example recognized that fact. Kids who grow up reading science fiction might just be inspired to become tomorrow’s inventors, engineers and scientists. The very thing that can be labelled as “dangerous” and “subversive” in a tightly controlled society/culture/country is the very thing that can also keep it from stagnating. In order to be innovative, a mind has to be open to possibility, to be able to dream. Fiction helps to inspire that.
So go out there and read something dangerous today!