An offhand Galaxy Quest quote in another thread got me to thinking about this. How universal is the drive to create fictional stories? As far as I know, every human culture on Earth has some form of fiction. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) From mythology to Hollywood movies, humans seem to be adept at making up fake situations to describe universal truths. But how universal is this drive? Do apes have any form of fiction?
And for that matter, would aliens necessarily have fiction or even be able to understand it? There have been a few examples of science fictional races which do not have fiction (the aforementioned Galaxy Quest and I think the Martians in Stranger in a Strange Land didn’t have it either). Can you conceive of an intelligent culture where they don’t make up things?
I’ve always took it for granted that fiction would be an innate part of the culture of any sentient species, but yet, when you think about the concept it just seems so strange. You go to the bookstore and half the books are about people who never lived and things that never happened. If we had perfect logic, would we still buy and read these books? What about perfect memories? There are enough true stories that are interesting that if we could remember all of them, they would spread like memes and perhaps take away the need for fiction. And if that’s true, that there are enough real stories to satisfy people but we create fiction because we can’t learn of them all, then why didn’t fiction die out with the invention of the printing press and the advent of mass communication?
So, to summarize:
- Why do we make fiction?
- Is it really as weird as I think it is?
(I actually read almost all fiction and don’t like documentaries so you don’t need to say “well, you just don’t get it” because I do get it for me, personally.)