Editorial – January 2017: Is imagination just for people who need a substitute for reality?

January 1, 2017 | By | Reply More

Is imagination just for people who need a substitute for reality?

Hello everyone

Do we learn lessons of morality and kindness, amongst other things, from the books we read? When you consider that most writers have to have introvert tendencies to stay focused on writing than being particularly sociable, it makes for an interesting contradictory role model. From my own experience, the characters in my own stories are far more social than me. That alone makes this a subject to discuss. After all, it tells us something about the workings of our inner mind and how easily we can accept people of the imagination as people of reality.

For those of you who know, some of my background comes from General Semantics and one of its nominal edicts, ‘The map is only a representation of reality and not the real thing’ and you should not confuse the two. You do have to wonder when it comes to story writing, how the map or the fictional character can represent a real person that people can relate to and why doesn’t the introverted writer’s life reflect more in the characters? Then again, as a comparison, my characters don’t so maybe that isn’t what is picked up and this is something that is picked up. After all, it’s words on paper brought to life by your own imagination and no writer has full control of that. It’s well-known that people make of things what they will, including interpretation. You see good this in everything, then that’s what you see. If you see everything, bad, well, you see that instead. You have to wonder what connection that makes inside your brain and do you make similar connections with little information about the people you encounter. Then again, look at how we see animals and such in clouds. Maybe our imaginations do get carried away from reality.

I tend to look at real people as blank slates and slowly build up what they are really like than pre-judge. I don’t tend to make flash judgements without evidence or some serious thought. Even so, you have to wonder how the brain develops images of people, especially when prejudices and biases click in as well. Are our templates built up from the imaginary or our fears? Does that make it easier to bring characters to life in your head?

Of course, the introvert writer could be just a good observer, conveying by writing and relates that in the story and being separate ensures a more objective view that might make the connection. Whether writers who see good things outnumber those writers who see the bad things, I’ll let you decide. Certainly, horror writers in real life are nice people should speak for itself and are probably letting their demons out on paper. It isn’t like for like. Macabre doesn’t faze us although it can unsettle some people. This becomes complicated by the limitations of plot variants within a genre and often repeating what has gone before making some forms or fiction bigger safety blankets than others. The romance genre basically works out from one plot but its fans don’t seem to mind.

Our own genre is a little more complicated because it borrows plot elements from all of the other genres before adding a futuristic or similar element that should ensure that it shouldn’t be repeated elsewhere. I agree that is not always true but that’s what differentiates between good and bad SF. Even the most inept science person can sometimes tell the difference between plausible and believable against inaccurate science if given enough evidence. Well, mostly, if they think about it. Within any particular reality, we accept the rules it plays by.

Even so, the connection is still a puzzle. Very few people stray from their favourite genres although I’ve noticed some of my reviewing team do for a little time-out. It just adds a complication that we might be seeing our favourite genre as our escapism of choice. As indeed other people with their own genres.

It also feels a little like which came first: the chicken or the egg? Where was the influence in how you perceived people before there were storytellers were there to influence you? The question is a bit of a misnomer because there was an absence of education and nomadic activity that restricted the number of people you met. As I’ve pointed out before, people with storytelling imaginations are very few in number so you would have been lucky to have one in any particular village. Well, that is if the number of good writers out there is anything to go by today per million population.

In the past and with stories only told verbally, the god pantheon legends were passed through the ages with little change which shows how the strong imagery stayed in people’s heads. Saying that, it does make you wonder if all the stories survived or were there really very few original storytellers. Would we have discriminated and ignored the bad and unrealistic stories. But then, the pantheon stories are just as fantastic, often linking weather events to the gods behaviour. So strong was this imagery that people hooked into it than develop scientific curiosity. A demonstration, if you will, of how we prefer the imagined than reality. Look at the struggles and deaths of scientists who couldn’t change the established ideas had they known what they were really facing. It might have been easier to treat science as the new god to get it inside people’s heads than make pronouncements that the man or woman in the street couldn’t make sense of.

The imagined scenario is still happening today. You only have to look at the people who believe in creationism, despite all the contrary evidence that supports evolution. Even in politics, people are susceptible to believing lies than evidence but as politicians are prone to lie, the truth never gets a fair turn. Is that indoctrination and that lies aren’t carried out? With that, we’re going to have to hope that’s true and that any alternatives are safer.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. What we need to consider is how much we can be manipulated by our imaginations and is it a mental flaw or a safety blanket for people who don’t like reality for a little while? Are people like me who can create or manipulate your imaginations dangerous and need to be careful what we suggest? Even more scary, how are people affected when they face cold reality? It’s an odd time for such an experiment and I’m not sure if I’d want to be licensed. Even so, there does need to be a balance of imagination with reality and there are definitely times when they shouldn’t be mixed. You can close the book on the imagination but it can be a lot harder with reality.


Thank you, take care, good night and imagine the power of two words, ‘I believe’ when all you want are honest facts.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk


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Observation: Has anyone ever given any thought as to why in the original 1963 ITV TV series ‘Stingray’ why, before the discovery of the threat from deadly marine sentients would Marineville be built with the rebuild facility to go underground? What marine menace was it hiding from when until the discovery of Titan, there was no real proof of undersea weapon-bearing species. Even the one that attacked a young Sam Shore in ‘The Ghost Of The Sea’ was dismissed as a dream.


Feeling Stressed: Did I say last month that eating raspberries regularly will also reduce the number of times you might get leg muscle cramps during the night? I’ve only had a touch of that in six months now and it went as soon as I moved.


Category: Culture, World getting weirder

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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