Going with fiction

No long ago I contacted Population Matters (aka The Population Trust) with a suggestion that they might like to review my novel 'Going with Gabriel'. I wondered why the books reviewed in their magazine all seemed to be non-fiction - learned tomes rehashing the same facts and figures, mostly coming to the same conclusions. Death and destruction unless ... but unless what, exactly?

Of course the number of humans being born, living longer, demanding more etc is a very sensitive subject. But if those who care about this world and the place in it for humanity (I consider myself one of those who does care) merely issue warnings but avoid presenting their ideas of real solutions, however difficult, it's all so much hot air.

My argument was and is that fiction has often in the past produced more righting of wrongs than all the dire warnings put together. Think of Charles Dickens' effect on London life, think of John Steinberg's effect on immigrant maltreatment in the south west of America. Think of Neville Shute's 'On The Beach' in regards to nuclear warfare. I won't get into the effect of William Shakespeare's fiction on the way we all live today, the way we all think and speak, for as dear and near to my heart as it is, this is a massively complex subject. Above all perhaps, think of the Holy Bible with its crossover fiction/nonfiction and its so powerful parables - pure storytelling.

Jonathan Gottchall in The Boston Globe (April 29 2012) writes a quite brilliant article headed; "Why fiction is good for you". With alogolgies to him for I have not sought his permission, I will quote perhaps two percent of it ...

"The research shows that fiction does mould us. The more deeply we are cast under a story's spell , the more potent its influence. In fact fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than non-fiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read non-fiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and sceptical. But when we are absorbed in a story we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.
But perhaps the most impressive finding is just how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better, not for the worse. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political beliefs. More peculiarly, fiction's happy endings seem to warp our sense of reality. They make us believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is. But believing that lie has important effects for society - and it may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place."

Going with Gabriel tells a story; a powerful one and written as well as I can write. There are several interlocking themes but the prime one is that of population growth / consumer expectation. My novel however does not simply present the problem in what I fervently believe is a sympathetic, acceptable, easily digestible way. Perhaps it provides an answer.

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