Mon 3 August 2020
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Stranger than science fiction
Realist fiction struggles to grasp a world increasingly ruled by unreality. We need science fiction and the strange inventions of fantasy to help us understand the modern world

It's all too easy to dismiss science fiction and fantasy stories as escapist nonsense. But there's ultimately something despairing about the charge of running away most readers of these genres encounter at some point. It tends to come from an authority figure of some kind – a teacher, a boss, a parent. It is often well intended. But even as they make the accusation, you can hear a part of them whispering quietly, "I want to escape! I want to imagine! I want to dream!" Unfortunately they've forgotten how, and reality is too important to escape from – even for a moment.

But, in our modern mass media age, how real is the reality we feel so compelled to keep close to? In his introduction to the French edition of Crash, JG Ballard pointed to the fictional nature of much of modern reality: "We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind – mass-merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the pre-empting of any original response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel."

For the full article

Guardian Unlimited