//”It’s just fiction.”

This phrase has troubled me greatly since I was old enough to grasp the lie of it. I recall vividly the first time someone said this – my youth group leader, calling books ‘amoral’ and comparing them to a table.

AMORAL

  • lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something

“You could throw it at someone’s head and that would be bad, but a book is just a book.”

This, said by the same woman who was attempting to teach me that ideas and thoughts could change us and then the world. Without even realizing it, she had stripped herself of all credit in my eyes. She was teaching us from a ‘book,’ but she failed to realize the irony in what she said. I had been frustrated with her before, but I was now incensed. I was only fourteen, and I had only been seriously writing for a little more than a year. Writing – the belief and knowledge that words could plant ideas, could promote hope, could condemn evil, could make people better – that was important to me. It still is. In fact, rather than deterring me from my desire to write, my youth leader fueled that desire.

Books changed my life and continue to do so. Books shaped who I am. There was nothing amoral about the way Middle-Earth taught me about bravery and honor. There was nothing amoral about the way Narnia taught me courage and faith. There was nothing amoral about the way fairy tales and fables and myths taught me to stick to my beliefs, carry on when afraid, and fight back against evil with wit and valor. Books forged my soul, and you cannot tell me ‘it’s just fiction,’ as if fiction were a quick breeze here and gone. “As amoral as a table?” Tell that to Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, Augustine, Plato. Tell it to any philosopher.

“It’s just fiction” is an excuse. It’s an excuse made by parents so they don’t feel the need to oversee what their children are embracing. It’s an excuse made by readers who want to read literary trash without guilt, and – worst of all, in my belief – it’s an excuse made by authors to justify their own lack of conviction. Why? Because ‘it’s just fiction’ removes any and all responsibility from the author. If it’s ‘just fiction,’ then there’s no point, nothing to teach or uphold, and they have free reign to write whatever they please, consequences be hanged.

I’m not saying I never feel the urge to write something simply because I want to write it. But I’ve been guilty of many things in twenty-two years, and I’ll be guilty of many more, but may it never be said that I, as a reader but especially as an author, took the easy way out under the banner of ‘it’s just fiction.’

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10 thoughts on “//”It’s just fiction.”

  1. I don’t understand the youth leader saying “books are amoral”. Books take the reader to places where they may never see in a life time. Books open a world to a book reader.

    Marion

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  2. This is interesting because how often did Jesus (or Paul even) use stories/parables to help teach? I would call that using ‘fiction’ to assist with influencing people’s beliefs, especially about religion/God.

    I’m so grateful for this post because while I’ve never had anybody specifically say this to me, I’ve heard enough comments about how ‘fantasy’ isn’t literature or worth reading or worth writing, and I have to highly disagree. So thanks. Also, I’m grateful my youth pastor loved to read, so he would never say something like this. May future leaders understand that stories can definitely change everything.

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  3. I honestly cannot believe someone actually said that to you and thought it was a good idea! I totally agree with you. Books are incredible influences and can really change the way you see things in life, for better or worse. In fact, I wrote a bit of a ranty post myself on this subject upon reading something similarly incensing in a magazine, although it was more about children’s fiction and literacy than anything else.

    Anyway, good post :)

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  4. Can I just say YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES to this post? Fiction (particularly, in my experience, fantasy fiction) is some of the most influential stuff going on, so let’s have GOOD things in there, please and thank you. I don’t know how your posts are so consistently brilliant but keep it up! ^_^

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  5. I just want to hold this post up on the rooftops and scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS!!!!!!” Because, well, THIS!

    YES. I would be a drastically different person if not for books. They’ve shaped me into the person I am today, helped me get through so many hard times, brought me so very, very many wonderful memories, taught me amazing truths. Stories are one of the most powerful things on this planet.

    “It’s just fiction” is an insult to my very existence.

    THANK YOU again for another amazing post. <333

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  6. Thank you for this post. I’ve heard the “it’s just fiction” phrase so many times. When I say why that is such a harmful concept, some reconsider, but others act like I’m overanalyzing.

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  7. Yes! It’s always fascinated me how *real* fiction is. And I just can’t understand people who don’t get lost in it. How sad for them. It’s like Dumbledore said: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

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