Hope in Fiction

Note: This is a companion article to Cynical Fiction.

Why do people read or watch fiction?  Entertainment is the short and easy answer, but there is undoubtedly more.  After all, we can be entertained by non-fiction as well.  Fiction, particularly speculative fiction is a window into the possible.

Fiction shows us what happens if we allow evil to take control, it also offers shows the potential of the human spirit and hope.  Hope for what we can be, what our would and culture can become is the importance of fiction.  Ideally, fiction and stories will show us what we need to learn so that we do not fall into tragedy and oppression ourselves.  However, that is not always how it works.  For it is no secret that humanity has a great capacity for evil.  That doesn’t mean that some people do not pay attention.  After all, how many fictional stories written in the past are becoming increasingly plausible every day?

Through stories we teach and learn, ponder what it means to be good, evil, and human.  This is the point of fiction.  Therefore, hope is necessary in stories, even those that lack a particularly “good” ending, there must be meaning.  Otherwise, what is the point? Anything can accomplish the simple task of “entertaining” an audience, but meaning, hope, and truth is where true art is found in stories.  That is my goal as an author.  That is the sort of fiction that becomes timeless, yet these are the stories that are becoming less common and less popular.  We shouldn’t let cynicism and hopeless fiction become the new normal.

Evil’s Perspective

The Tolkien era of Fantasy had brought us villains who were evil for the sake of evil.  Their motives were pretty much they wanted to destroy the world because they were evil and nothing more was really known about these antagonists.  That was the point, they represented the force of evil more than being individual characters with motives.  In a few stories this works, but now there is a call for more depth to the villains of the stories.  Generally, now there are antagonists with motives and backstories, and just like reality these people tend to not see themselves as evil but as saviors.

History is rife with horrible rulers of both nations and organizations.  Some of these people were like Sauron who simply wanted to dominate others without sympathy or empathy for anyone else.  Others though were more like Darth Vader, horrible people who saw themselves as protectors or necessary such as Valad The Impaler.

How often do we do things that are wrong and justify it in our minds?  Taking that line of thought further, how often do we glorify our ideological positions while demonizing the “other” side?  Sure we may not be killing anyone or desiring to, but isn’t that a similar train of thought that these evil people in history and fiction acted on?  I’m not saying everyone who dug in their heels and stood up for their convictions is akin to a villain, but just that it is easy to continue down the rabbit trail and become so blinded by ideology empathy no longer remains.  This is especially common in political spheres from 2015 to present in America.

Certainly, there are things we all disagree with.  That is okay, in fact it is necessary for anyone who has a spec of critical thinking and morality.  With the advent of the internet it is becoming easier to live in an echo chamber and grow angrier at those who are outside of your thought circle.  Hope is only found in those who agree with you and me, while despair and the end of the world comes in the form of those that dare think differently.  To me, it looks like there is less nuance in our culture than there was even ten years ago.  People are ready to sever ties with friends and even family because of differing viewpoints because their beliefs are “dangerous.”  With this mentality, called Tribalism, which I addressed in previous blogs, it is only opening the door for a real evil to rise to power.  As freedoms erode the people will cheer that person on because “their” person was in power, not the “other” side.  Of course, the opposite group will do everything they can to oppose the person in power, but perhaps it won’t be enough.  This is hypothetical, and not a subtle dig at the current president or any before him.  I know that some already view him in this light, but that isn’t what I am referencing.  In an environment where people are looking to be offended or read into their own bias, I feel that is necessary to state.

Fiction is meant to teach us.  To help us ponder our own actions as well as the happenings within our own culture.  Let us actually implement the lessons from history and fiction, lest we create a monstrous world we cannot undo.