I think there is a problem with a certain problem when it comes to fiction. The problem is that of the autobiographical novel. Fiction is being diluted with fact. Now, don’t take up arms against me quite yet. Let me make my case–what I’m positing is that fiction is seldom times fiction these days. Instead they are embellishments on the factual truths. Much fiction has become a halfway house for the authors story, a place where memoir has dipped slightly more into the fabricated side of things.
Using fiction in order to commemorate people and events in the author’s life is frustrating at best. The reason for this is that it feels as though the author hasn’t had the guts to come out and tell readers, “this happened. These people meant something to me. I was hurt, have hurt, and will continue to hurt and be hurt.” I find the fictionalization of such stories problematic because it decreases the authenticity, or gives the writer a way out–a mean to which unown experiences. When I suspect this is happening within a novel I simply lose interest. If you wish to write a memoir write a memoir, don’t disguise it with fabrication.
While much of fiction has become autobiographical much of genre fiction has not. While sci-fi and fantasy is commonly looked down upon for formulaic plots and archetypal characters, these genres are pure fiction–they can’t be anything more or less. From premise to characters these genres are still a pure form of fiction. This may sound like a plug for these genres but you should understand I’m no lover of fantasy and sci-fi. Contemporary fiction is, in my opinion, much more desirable an art form. Fiction based in realism is important to show readers the connections within the world they would not typically see or make. But this is not always possible because of the autobiographical novel. This is what the world still needs stories within genre. Obviously if it did not they would not sell. It is easy to discount genre as being escapist, but if fiction is to be fiction, isn’t it all of it escapism? Isn’t reading the adventurous memoir of a sailor escapism? Not from the real world, but certainly from your own life.
So, what has happened to fiction and what can we do to bring fiction back to a fundamentally fictitious standard? Lets face it. The old standard of “Write what you know,” is totally bunk. Instead what fiction has done in the past, and should do in the future, is serve as an existential inquiry into what we, as writers, as people, cannot understand that first spark of thought touches us. It is that, “What would that be like?” question. it is, “How could someone do that?” It is, “How could someone survive something like this?” These are real questions and the only way in which we can answer them in order to understand is through fiction. This is what fiction should be doing. This is what fiction is for.