Monday, November 9, 2015

The Oughts Have It

Had a rather rough and eventful weekend.  I'm only now catching back up on writing.


To continue my thought from the earlier post, there is certainly some very valuable info that can be gleaned from fiction.  Consider popular fiction written in the early 20th century - the zeitgeist of the time was spectacularly different, so even though people weren't quite cognizant of it, there's a lot of underlying assumptions about... well, reality as a whole.

It can be hard to read current fiction and see the same assumptions, particularly if you're already swallowed up in the mode of thinking of the time.  If the world's sky has always been green in your lifetime, you're not going to think about stories where the sky is assumed to be green.  It's an unconscious assumption that makes sense.

Following that same pattern of thought, if some form of democracy is the only system you've known, having fantasy kings abdicate of their own will so the citizens can elect their own leader in a democratic fashion makes perfect sense.

Except this makes absolutely zero sense in a historical sense.  If people have been used to a direct, effective monarchy, they aren't clamoring for a democracy, they're going to clamor for a better king.  The exceptions where that hasn't happened are just that: exceptions.

It also pops up constantly where just being a sensitive, caring man will somehow mystically win the girl's heart, mystically because women are incomprehensible mysteries don't you know.  This also flies in the face of history, but if you don't know any better this is what romance ought to be.  It's a sort of ought/is disparity that what ought to be is completely divorced from reality and what is.

Fiction and nonfiction are in a constant tug-of-war between "ought" and "is".  While fiction has to maintain enough "is" in order to keep a suspension of disbelief, nonfiction needs to be firmly grounded in what *is*, else it becomes simply fantasy if it spends its majority of time in what ought to be.

The more "is", the more realistic.  The more "ought", the more of a caricature people and systems wind up becoming.

NB, I believe it's entirely possible to have a piece of fantastic fiction be completely "is".  This is also not to say that caricatures are inherently bad, or that "realism" is inherently good in fiction.  Nor does it mean that moderation is the key here.

Instead, what needs to occur, the "ought" if we're being tongue-in-cheek, is that the "ought" ought to be more like "is" is.  Or to put it in another way, don't have what-ifs and what-could-be completely divorced from reality.  Not a balance between "is" and "ought", but instead a change of the quality of "ought" so that it's not the polar opposite of "is".

Next time, we'll delve more into what current fiction is telling us about the current zeitgeist.

No comments:

Post a Comment