Friday, May 22, 2009

True Fiction

July 7, 1947, something happened near Roswell, New Mexico. Aliens? Flying Disc? Weather balloon? Cover-up for something else? It hardly matters. Whatever happened out there, the story of aliens being recovered from a crash captured the imaginations of people around the world. We tend to think that science uses facts and logic to draw conclusions, but more often then not scientists are captivated by a story and that is the basis for their research. How else can we explain SETI?

Stories captivate the mind and incite people to action. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been accused of starting the Civil War and there is some truth to that. It’s high praise to say that a novel helped to end legal slavery in America, but what if they incite the wrong action? When CBS aired the radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds on October 30, 1938, many listeners panicked, thinking the news bulletins were real. Fiction has just as much power to motivate wrong action as it does right action.

As storytellers, we have a responsibility to tell truthful fiction. By that I mean that while the events and characters may be fictional, the message should be based in fact as well as our portrayal of real people and events. We should not lead people to a belief in a principle that cannot be supported with facts.