How Do Skeptics Feel About "Fantastic" Fiction

I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe in ghosts, psychics, talking to the dead, homeopathy, reincarnation, chakras, or God. But I LOVE fantasy shows and science fiction and all that wackiness in books and movies.

How do other Skeptics feel about stuff like that? Saying “fiction is fiction” is great, but sometimes …

I watch “Medium” all the time, I’ve never missed an episode. But I know that the show is based on the (ahem) true stories of Allison DuBois which bugs me, because I totally think that psychics like Ms. DuBois are … well that’s a debate for another day, but let’s say I think they’re ‘bad’, okay?

Do other psychics have soul-wrenching moral quandaries like this?


P.S. The fact that I’ve always found Patricia Arquette hot has no bearing on this discussion. For that matter, the real life Ms. DuBois is pretty tasty, too … but bad. Very bad. Naughty … no! Bad.

Good question. I have no problem with stories like “Medium” as long as they are presenting themselves as fiction. When they purport to be be true stories, I, as a card-carrying skeptic, get all huffy and upset and cringe.

I think the world would be a much more interesting place if that kind of stuff was real. But, alas, it is not. So I settle for fiction.
You can put “based on a true story” in front of anything (Fargo), but it doesn’t make it so.

You’re a psychic, and a skeptic? How’s that working out for you? You must be a bundle of moral quandaries.

I don’t believe in anything I can’t eat or hit, but I’ve also always loved science fiction and fantasy. There’s no disconnect there. Even James Randi will tell you he’d be thrilled if there really were such a thing as magic, so I’m sure he’s not opposed to stories about it.

I recently read The God Delusion, and in it Richard Dawkins mentioned Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide books favorably, and claims Adams was a good friend, so I imagine Professor Dawkins is a fan as well. Despite his obvious skepticism.

I write fiction like this sometimes, so it’s no problem for me. I don’t think there are ghosts or people with psychic powers, but if anything, that makes the ideas more interesting to write about and read about.

Isaac Asimov never believed in aliens and or UFOs or the more fantastic elements of science fiction. If you pressed him, he’d admit that his positronic robots probably wouldn’t work and that the three laws were just a literary convention. Didn’t stop him.

Martin Gardner of CSICOP has written SF and fantasy stories.

Most SF and fantasy writers I know are skeptics and don’t believe in most of the fantastic things they write about – they just make good stories.

Hey, I have absolutely no problem with fantasy or science fiction. Why? Because they’re fiction. It’s when people like Dubois (dubious) or :mad: Sylvia Browne :mad: claim they’re for real that I start crying “show me the evidence!”

I’ve always been a huge SF/fantasy fiction fan. Actually, my interest in SF is what got me interested in science and eventually made me a skeptic.

I enjoy SF and fantasy, but I drew the line at Medium for this reason. My wife checked out the first season on DVD from the library, and I couldn’t bring myself to watch. I guess that’s a silly line to draw – it’s not like we were enriching DuBois by borrowing the DVD from the library. But I just couldn’t do it.

For a while the bookstore my wife used to work at would keep its Science Fiction/Fantasy and its New Age mixed together. She told me that this would make the science fiction fans extremely pissed off.

Now that she manages her own store, she keeps the two sections far apart, to avoid contaminating the SF.

I don’t like the concept of magical realism, where things actually happen in a symbolic way rather than a scientific one but most other aspects of the world are unchanged. The world simply doesn’t work that way.

I also don’t like fantasy/light sci fi where no one will believe the supernatural-experiencing characters, because not only are they overused, they usually rely on either coincidental “laws” that are only made to further the disbelieving-drama (e.g. “only KIDS can see us!”,) other coincidences that nonbelievers can brush off, or mostly, really thick nonbelievers that, while perhaps still not conceding the supernatural, would at least think something strange is going on.

That said, the novel I am almost done with has the potential to have this situation, and I get around it by having the characters entirely believe, which is if anything more unrealistic, even if they are in a world which is even more likely to believe in the supernatural (because it actually exists.)

N.B. I do not believe in the term “supernatural,” because if something exists it is natural, but in the context of this post it means “stuff which we have no evidence for in this world.”

I’m a skeptic who’s not a huge consumer of speculative fiction, but I do dip into it once in a while. I like good fiction, regardless of genre, but I don’t like lies. Sometimes it’s hard to define the difference, but I feel like I know it when I see it. Tolkien presented “The Lord of the Rings” as if it was translated or adapted from ancient, first-hand records, but he clearly didn’t expect people to believe it was an accurate prehistory of Europe. He enjoyed world-building, and the reader is on the game and may have a richer experience because of it. The creators of shows like “Medium” and books like “The Da Vinci Code” really seem to be out to deceive their readers rather than just entertain them.

Of course, how old the lie is can be a factor. I think “MacBeth” and “Richard III” are great plays, even though they’re incredibly slanderous works of propaganda.

ETA: Having brought up Shakespeare, I have to say the way he mingles (semi)historical figures such as MacBeth, Hamlet, and Caesar with witches, ghosts, and soothsayers bothers me not a bit.

I never realized Medium was supposed to be about a real person. I could watch it and enjoy it with suspension of disbelief firmly in place, except for the fact that Patricia Arquette is just about the most wooden actor ever to appear in anything.

I’m generally fine with ‘fantastic’ fiction as you describe it. One of my favorite books in recent memory was Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

It’s the ghost ‘reality’ shows that I think are profoundly stupid – Ghosthunters, et al.

A lot of good fantasy and science fiction writers have been hard-headed realists, like L. Sprague de Camp, Poul Anderson and Isaac Asimov. There’s no conflict for me – except that a work of fantasy still has to have some kind of logic and consistency.

Harry Dresden (by Jim Butcher) is a fun read. I enjoy them very much even though it has magic, fairies, werewolves, etc.

As an example in the other direction, Arthur Conan Doyle was an believer in Spiritualism, but, thankfully, he kept the supernatural out of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I guess I qualify as a skeptic; yet I heartily enjoy stories of fantasy, space opera, the paranormal, mythological, supernatural, etc.

I admit to being annoyed at such fiction when it presents stereotypical “skeptic” characters who refuse to acknowledge the occult for no good reason, apparently out of sheer stubbornness. I don’t consider that a plausible representation of the way actual skeptics generally approach such problems.

I enjoy impossible stories, but not unbelievable characters.

Another skeptic who loves supernatural and other “wierd” fiction. I think one of the reasons I’m a skeptic is because I’ve spent so much of my life thinking about this stuff, and was forced to the conclusion that as cool as it would be if all this stuff were true, it pretty clearly ain’t.

The same, incidentally, applies to conspiracy theories. I love the idea of a shadowy government conspiracy that blew up the WTC in an impossibly byzantine plot to start a war against another sovereign nation, while at the same time I’m frustrated beyond all endurance by the mooks who actually beleive that’s what happened.

I have no problem with fiction that knows that it is fiction.

I don’t like fiction being portrayed as fact.

I’m a total skeptic, and I love sci-fi and fantasy, including fiction about the paranormal and supernatural.

When I joined I was a little disturbed to find some people with similar tastes in fiction that believe themselves to be spell-casting, ghost-watching psychics. Is my mother-in-law right? Will my “witchy books*” lead me down the path of, if not evil, then looniness?

If *Medium *is based on a real-world supposed psychic I probably wouldn’t like it. I get annoyed when TV shows give credence to a psychic, even when it’s fiction. I was recently watching the old Canadian show Forever Knight, and while the concept of an 800-yr-old crime-fighting vampire was okay with me, the episode where a psychic helped the cops find the killer grated on my nerves.

*Any book that isn’t the bible