Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

World Crises And Fiction Writers ~ Can They Help Humanity?

Here I go again, inching out on that limb I keep bending with the weight of speculation

The title of today’s post could seem useless as a question since folks can point to a multitude of works of fiction that have aided humanity, to varying degrees, in its seemingly never-ending struggle.

To another type of person, the question of writers helping humanity could seem like a ludicrous proposition. Writers of fiction create stories that have characters going through crises but solving the world’s problems is for the philosophers and scientists.

Some may feel that showing various characters facing challenges and reaching successful resolutions is of definite aid to humanity since humanity is a large group of individuals and solutions of world crises begin in each of our hearts.

Other people will feel other sentiments

O.K., since my posts are rarely written to push a certain agenda but to foster thought and creativity, let’s consider a few questions:


* Is humanity just a bunch of individuals?

* Should we count on science and technology to solve world crises?

* Does religion have any role to play?

* Is it necessary to even think about humanity as some kind of “entity” that has requirements that people need to fulfill?

* Is fiction a proper tool for purposely proposing solutions to world crises?

* Does it go against some “law” of creativity to ask writers to make their fiction conform to some response to world conditions?

* What is the role in society of the fiction writer?


The book I’ll be publishing in May does happen to be a work that hopes to spark a sense of “mission” in the reader, to hopefully induce people to take an active interest in discovering ways in which they can contribute to lessening the burden of humanity’s ills, to make a contribution to the possible attainment of world peace and tranquility.

That all said, I certainly don’t feel that writers as a group need to be changing their own ideas about what they want their fiction to accomplish. Even though my book is attempting to facilitate some rather huge goals, I still want to read books that entertain me or divert me from the strains of current culture or make me forget about everything but a fantastic tale that has no bearing on political or humanitarian or scientific or religious agendas…

Still, can writers be more aware of how their work could include elements of plot or character or theme that, even if in a small way, contribute to a saner, healthier, more tranquil world?
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20 responses to “World Crises And Fiction Writers ~ Can They Help Humanity?

  1. Catana March 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Okay, I’ll make this short and not particularly sweet. Thousands of writers, including novelists, have tried to influence human affairs in a positive way. Very few of them have had any influence at all, and those efforts have been swamped, from a historical perspective, by the innate irrationality of the species. But that’s no reason to stop trying, if that’s how your mind works.

    In a way, you’re talking about art as propaganda, a very old argument. Creative people are *not* obligated to be propagandists, and most are better off not trying to fill that slot. If nothing else, obvious propaganda has a very short life-span.


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      You write: “In a way, you’re talking about art as propaganda, a very old argument.”

      I don’t feel I was raising that particular “argument”. I feel it’s possible to raise issues of cultural concern without being propagandistic…

      I do find your comment, about the seemingly “useless” efforts of past writers, being of great importance as humanity faces some of its most severe challenges but, personally, I don’t feel irrationality is “innate” to our species…


      • Catana March 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm

        As a long-time observer of the human species, and with a fairly good background in psychology, and the social sciences in general, I have to disagree. But that isn’t the point of your post, so I won’t argue about it. And what I said about propaganda wasn’t meant to imply that you were opening up the argument, just that any discussion about writing for change is bound to touch on it, even if only tangentially.


  2. Karla Telega March 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I’ve always been impressed with the TV show, Star Trek (the original). Gene Roddenberry challenged the society of that time to consider a world with social and ethnic diversity. It was a very idealistic story, at a time when equal rights was still in its infancy.


  3. cmmarcum March 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    In the past writers propelled humanity with fiction and nonfiction. I am afraid, however, that in its present state the world is a cup that has already tipped over. History can not be undone. We have passed the time of fixing and a crisis is coming.

    But now is not the time for writers to be silent. Oh, no. We must strive ever harder to put our words down in the hopes that it will benefit, comfort, and teach some. At no time in history have so many people been able to read and write. And just because it is true today, does not mean that it will continue to be true. We live in the information age, a golden age, on the cusp of destruction. And the best way to atone for all that we have been given is to write. To shore up all that we can for the Dark Ages.


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      Fascinating points you make, C. M.

      One of the more fascinating: “In the past writers propelled humanity with fiction and nonfiction.”

      When you say, “We have passed the time of fixing and a crisis is coming.”, I’m reminded of a video about education I watched the other day. The speaker said we don’t need any more “reforms” of education because they’re only trying to fix a broken system. He called for an evolution of education…

      Words do endure and, if humanity slides into a dark age, the actual written word, on paper, may be the seed that can grow a new, regenerated form of humanity.

      Just realized my comments are echoing about a dozen works of fiction I’ve read :-)


  4. Simone Benedict March 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Well talk about **syncronicity**…as I write my daily post :-)


  5. Darcia Helle March 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Interesting topic, Alexander. Like you, I try to incorporate a sense of awareness of various issues into my writing. I should rephrase that. I don’t try to. It sort of happens without much (if any) conscious effort. I am the first to admit that I don’t like preachy fiction. If I want to be preached at, I’ll go to church or read a nonfiction self-help book. But I do like fiction that makes me think, forces me to look at an issue from a different angle, or to look at it at all.

    To expect that of all fiction writers would be unfair. Fiction, as with music, is first and foremost entertainment. Forcing all writers to approach their work with the intent of somehow aiding humanity would be taking away creative license. Besides, who is to say which goals are admirable and which are not? Which issues to promote in our writing and which to knock down?

    I don’t know how I’d define humanity, exactly, though I do think it’s much more than a bunch of individuals. How we interrelate is vital. As a group, we can build up or destroy our surroundings and ourselves. Fiction can definitely play a role in awareness. Often, a fiction story has more power than nonfiction. The message seeps in while the reader is engrossed in someone else’s story. What better way to learn than to walk in another’s shoes?


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Such a well-reasoned comment, Darcia!

      I feel that this sentence, “Fiction, as with music, is first and foremost entertainment.”, which some may want to object to, gains a certain modification of meaning and extrapolation of potential from this sentence, “The message seeps in while the reader is engrossed in someone else’s story.”

      I guess I’m trying to say that even if fiction’s main purpose is entertainment, it can entertain in extremely enlightening ways………..


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