I’ve always been suspicious about reality. Is what we believe merely a reflection of how we’ve been raised and what we’ve been taught. Anyone who has traveled knows other cultures see the world differently. And anyone who has spent extended time in a hospital or war zone has learned the hard way that one’s sense of reality can be easily fragmented. We conveniently construct a world view that suits us—at least until something challenges it. That’s the writer’s job. What better way to challenge our view of reality—and therefore enable the potential for change—than to invent new worlds and show how characters cope within them.
There’s a poem I heard long ago by Wallace Stevens:
Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill . . .
And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt . . .
And what we said of it became
A part of what it is . . .
Our sense of reality in many ways defines how we live, but it’s constantly evolving. The job of the artist is to be the catalyst for changes in the way we view our world. By telling what we saw and how we felt, we can change the perception of reality and therefore how people perceive themselves. Ultimately, that will change how they behave.
What better way to do that than to write speculative fiction about alternate worlds?