Once upon a time, just about eighteen years ago, a child was born, the first and only of close friends, and while I am in fact neither his aunt nor godmother, I have been referred to as both. In the boy’s fourth grade year I was referred to as Mrs. Avery as I was his teacher in a class I remember well, a class that loved to learn and that delighted in the fairy tales read to them.
Now the boy is a young man in his last year of high school. Writing the essay that I share here (in italics) was a part of his preparations for going out into the world.
Everyone has topics that they can completely immerse themselves in. For some it’s sports; for others, acting and singing.
I used the timeless-placeless introduction that I did because I feel like this young man’s essay might connect to recurring ideas and themes that have been part of an unfinished conversation around here, repeated in patches but not concluded, like a familiar tale at the edge of recall.
The topics of most interest to me are sciences, video games, and different types of fiction, whether it be a book, anime, movie, or show. For each of these topics, there are many reasons why I can become lost in them.
I skipped the middle part of the story, the part where the boy somehow went from being the newest baby I’ve ever seen or held to a walking talking young adult with opinions and knowledge. In the eighteen years in which he managed to grow up I somehow managed to avoid video games, watch few movies, and I am not real clear on what anime is. It was a bit of a ‘yeah duh’ moment for me to see a broader definition of fiction.
In both video games and the different forms of fiction, there are often times where the reality of a make-believe world seems brighter than the reality of our current world. This can be because the world created is either in a better position than the real world, or the main character(s) have actual power to change the world for the better. This attracts me to be lost in them as most individuals in real life don’t seem to have the power to change the world, and those that do seem powerful have no real interest in changing it for the better.
What is this real world our young hero is going out into? Many people read to escape but this explanation is… sad. And perhaps it is of interest to writers. Is the conversation I am trying to link his thoughts to the one about genre and audience— why we read and write, who we write for? This young man reads a lot. Will he take a literary path? No, Auntie D. already knows, his interests are in science and engineering.
The major reason why science interests me is because I believe it is the bridge to achieving things that were once thought only to be possible in fiction; it can also give people the power and opportunity they need to make a change.
Our hero goes on to discuss the “iconic movies of the 1970’s”, “composed of visions of greater space travel and adventures” and how the fictions preceded the “great advancements… in the last few decades”. This has been true of science fiction since before Jules Verne, but, in the words of our hero, “Accomplishments such as these fascinate me.” He is using fiction not just as escape from the real world, but as a possible solution to its problems. His scientific adventures will be informed by his reading, by the stories that fuel imagination.
There is also the possibility that in the future when there is a larger pool of scientific knowledge, video games and fictional sources may be wells for many great inventions. The extreme number of science fiction forms could be an inspiration to people to attempt and create something from one of these sources.
Our young hero’s ideas are not unlike those of Antonio Muñoz Molina when he says,
“Memoirs and books of history teach us everything about the roads taken; only through sheer imagination can we explore the roads not taken and therefore understand that fate is not inevitable and that almost anything in our lives and in history might have turned out otherwise, can be different from now on.” (“On The Experience of Fiction”, The Hudson Review.)
Beyond possible uses that video games may present in the future, the main reason I enjoy them is the variety of things I can do and experience in them. I can challenge myself, build things, and let my creative side take over, be a character that is based on my own self and do things I never could, take part in an amazing story, or work together with others to accomplish a shared goal. In “The Witcher III” I get to experience a rich story, take part in whatever role I choose, and play through the game with the many different styles of fighting. They also allow me to have the chance to lead my team to victory or accept responsibility for my team’s defeat.
Ah, ha! The recurring conversation was regarding plotting and story structure, from MFA student Charli Mill’s posts at Carrot Ranch. Our hero is back to explaining fiction and its appeal, and it seems it is stories and the story structure itself that provides some escape and comfort even as it provides potential solutions to real world problems. And while there’s more than one way to plot a story, and different terms given the different elements, a basic and recognizable structure is the “story spine” of the fairy tale. The magic or power available through video games is also available to children through fairy tales. They put themselves into the story and despite witches and wolves, and other encounters, survive unscathed. They might have even learned something, which is good because they are growing up and will soon go out into the world, to encounter real life.
As for works of fiction, some of the most interesting to me are those that mirror the complexity of real life, in which there is no clear hero and villain, no clear good and evil. In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, for example, there are many characters that all exist in the same moral gray area, yet each are shaped differently by their experiences.
“Fiction gives us models of understanding, patterns for gaining insight into the confusion of reality. In order to understand our environment, we require not only reliable knowledge of how things are, of what has actually happened, but also to figure out how things might be and even how they might have been.” (Antonio Muñoz Molina)
Characters in great works of fiction, regardless of the medium, possess the power to make a difference. This inspires me, not because they live in an ideal world, but that they attempt to make the world as ideal as they can.
And so the boy grew to be a fine young man who would pursue the sciences, seeking truth through fiction, armed with stories that provide empathy, inspiration, and hope, a hero on a journey who will use his powers for good and will do his village proud as he makes his way in the world and makes the world a better place.