Saturday, June 8, 2013

Why We Read Fiction

E. M. Forster
Fiction has a way of teaching us about the world that is simply not possible through non-fiction.  Science fiction, in particular, can offer alternate perspectives on technologies and cultural trends that would be impossible in any other way, due to the fact that the very technologies being explored might not yet have been developed.

Take E. M. Forster's The Machine Stops (1909) for example.  Written in Victorian England, it explores a world in which people fear first-hand experience, preferring instead to live through their connection to The Machine.  They live underground, not because the Earth is damaged, but because they no longer have the ability to live outside the machine.  It takes care of them in every way, attending to all their needs from physical to mental, emotional and even spiritual.

The protagonist is one who questions the validity of this kind of life, and seeks something more, something different.  I'll not tell you more, as you can easily learn it on Wikipedia or elsewhere.  I do recommend, however, that you forgo the spoiler and instead choose to either read the story in its entirety HERE, or have it read to you in its entirety HERE, or watch the BBC television adaptation HERE.

A still from the BBC Television adaptation of The Machine Stops
Once you have experienced the story, make some comments.  Then let the story percolate.  Watch the world around you.  Think about what you see in reference to the story.  I am confident you will have new insights as time passes, and I encourage you to share them here.  As with any bit of fiction, the true power of the teaching isn't always immediately apparent.

HERE is a link to a short biography of Forster.  Other well known works include  A Room With A View (1908), Where Angels Fear To Tread (1905),  and A Passage to India (1924).

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