Reading fiction is one of the most important things you can do, and science can prove it. Here’s why a good fantasy or sci-fi has the power to make the world a better place.
I truly believe that the problems facing our world stem from a lack of compassion — prejudice, inequality, the treatment of animals and the environment, even nasty comments on social media. If everyone had more concern over others’ suffering, the world would be a better place.
Good news: science shows that reading books makes us more compassionate. Stories make us see the world through someone else’s eyes, to feel what they feel, to understand their dreams, fears, and struggles. Stories teach us empathy. Here’s some science:
Fiction makes us more receptive to different thoughts and beliefs. A 2013 study showed that reading literary fiction (i.e. fiction that focuses on the character’s thoughts and feelings) made participants more likely to understand that someone else’s beliefs can be different from our own.
Fiction makes us less prejudiced. A 2014 study showed that kids who read Harry Potter are more likely to recognize and reject prejudice in real life. It makes sense: look at the way Voldemort and his supporters consider pureblood wizards to be above others. Today, stories are shifting toward more diverse characters, which means we have the best opportunity ever to understand someone of a different age, race, gender, and body.
Fiction makes us understand another person’s suffering. A 2011 study showed that people who read about an experience activate the same neurons as if they’re actually living it. It’s an enlightening experience to go on an epic adventure, even if it is inside your head. When we feel a character’s struggle in a story, it makes us more likely to be empathetic in real life.
Fiction makes us better at social interactions.In 2018, psychologists analyzed a bunch of experiments on this topic and found that after reading just one story, people show better social cognition, i.e. the ability to understand and interact with people.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific articles and studies to support the above points. I also think fiction makes us understand that change is inevitable and good, because in nearly all story arcs, the character undergoes a big change and comes out better for it. We learn a lot about others and ourselves by reading a story. There’s no arguing it: fiction makes us better people.
Movies and TV don’t get into characters’ heads as much as books do. In a film, we’re watching someone—same as in real life. In a book, we get inside the characters’ heads, understanding their motivations, feelings, and secrets. Books empower us to experience the story rather than to simply watch it happen to someone else.
What about nonfiction?
Nonfiction is great for learning things and bettering yourself. I love a good biography or self-help book. But nonfiction is less effective at making people more compassionate, and the above studies provide evidence. Besides, good fiction has real themes. The story might involve fantasy elements, but it’s really about human struggles we can all relate to.
In defense of speculative fiction
A lot of people, including agents, publishers, and film/TV awards, shun fantasy/sci-fi in favor of realistic or literary stories. But how many people have been motivated to be a better person because of a superhero they identify with? How many people have been inspired to become scientists because of a sci-fi? What about the lessons we learn from a war between fantasy races? Fantasy and sci-fi are ideal for teaching empathy because the fictional setting means the reader won’t get defensive about whatever social issues are being addressed. The power of speculative fiction is real and should not be underestimated.
Your challenge: introduce someone to reading
Are there people in your life who don’t read fiction? See if you can get them to read your favorite book. Personally, I’ve found Harry Potter to be the best gateway. Lend them your copy, or better yet, get them the audiobook to listen to on their commute. You’ll help save the world, and plus, you get to watch them experience your favorite book for the first time – and seriously, there’s nothing better.
What do you think? Do you agree that reading fiction can make the world a better place?
Okay, people. ClexaCon. This convention is dedicated to the positive representation of LGBTQ+ women in film, TV, books, comics, and other forms of media. I just got back from ClexaCon 2019 in Las Vegas, and oh my.
If you’re curious about this event and wondering if you should go, the short answer is yes. Here’s a recap of what went down this weekend, and what you can expect at ClexaCon 2020 and onward.
Step 1: Fangirl over celebrities
Wayhaught Q&A panel, live podcast recordings, workshops hosted by Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman… The schedule for this event is crazy cool.
At its heart is a series of panels, photo ops, signings, and many other opportunities to meet top female LGBTQ+ actors/characters from film and TV. ClexaCon 2019 guests included actresses from Wynonna Earp, Carmilla, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Runaways, Glee, One Day At A Time, and loads more. There was no shortage of opportunities to interact with them. I saw them wandering about (Dominique Provost-Chalkley legit strolled past me as I was getting coffee), and there were always several celebs at a time at the meet-and-greet tables.
Step 2: Discover books, comics, art, and more
I spent the weekend among the exhibitor booths with the other vendors, artists, and authors. It was incredible how many creators were there! As a fan, this is an amazing opportunity to meet your favorite creators of LGBTQ+ content and discover new ones.
Step 3: Make friends and network
It’s impossible not to make friends at this event. It happens while walking around, but they also facilitate it with events like Speed Friending. We’re a bunch of fans all here for the same reasons.
If you’re a creator, there are lots of opportunities to chat with other people in the business and exchange info. Reps from Tello Films were present and offered opportunities for pitching and asking questions. I was so excited to chat with other authors in my genre, and I finally got to meet fellow “warrior girl x mermaid” author Julia Ember in person.
Step 4: Party on, because it’s Vegas
Every night had an event going on, and whether you prefer partying or Netflixing, there was something for everyone.
For creators and consumers of stories about queer women, ClexaCon is an unparalleled opportunity
As a queer female author and webcomic creator, I was thrilled with the opportunities this convention offered. By getting a booth in the exhibitor hall, I was able to bring my books and the Ice Massacre webcomic to their intended audience. Definitely a win-win situation.
My favorite part by a landslide was getting to meet readers. It was also exciting to meet people who had heard of Ice Massacre and had been wanting to read it! Honestly, I was blown away to discover people had actually heard of me. This was such an exciting and rewarding experience.
Scroll @ClexaCon on Twitter and check out the hashtag to see tweets from attendees.
Ice Massacre: The Graphic Novel launches today! Two ways to experience the comic:
Read for free on icemassacre.com or on your favourite webcomic platform like Tapas (new page every Monday).
Join our Patreon community to get bonus and behind-the-scenes content plus new pages at an accelerated rate of 2 pages per week (Tues/Thurs). This option is the most fun (yes, I am writing bonus scenes!) and our first wave of Patreon supporters will be entered into a raffle for free swag. We sincerely hope you choose this option, as this will provide the funding we need to keep creating the comic.
Head over to one of the links above to read the first 2 pages (first 4 pages on Patreon) and character bios.
Ice Massacre on Social Media
After we’ve posted all the pages that make up an issue, we’ll bundle them up into ebooks and physical copies (free/discounted to our Patreon community) and make those available online and at conventions.
Thank you for all of your support so far! We’re so excited to be embarking on this journey with you.
Tiana Warner here, author of the upcoming Aries 181. In this book, an aerospace intern discovers her boss is a supervillain who is stealing technology to build his company. The proof copy just arrived in the mail. It launches March 26th, and today I thought I would talk about what inspired the story.
First, science. If you are fascinated by books like The Martian, the technology in this story has a similar feel. The company ‘Aries’ is based on real aerospace companies, like NASA, who create earth imaging satellites. I’ve worked with some of this technology over the last few years, and was geeking out so hard over it that it sparked an idea for a novel. I thought, what if I stumbled on something I wasn’t supposed to see while working with these satellite images?
Second is being a nerd. If you enjoy books like Ready Player One, the geekery will be up your alley. And plus you can dive into what it’s like to work at a tech company.
Third, a huge part of this novel was inspired by partners in crime. So Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise, Joker and Harley. But this supervillain duo is robbing science labs instead of banks.
The book takes place in Vancouver.
And features badass, LGBTQ+ female leads.
And I think that’s all I’ve got to say about it. So that’s what you can expect from Aries 181. Thanks for listening, and get ready for a Chapter 1 preview in a few weeks!
We’re looking to launch the full comic this winter on Patreon. With this platform, we plan to release the comic one page at a time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Patreon is a website where artists can share content as a subscription service. There, you can subscribe to comics, stories, art, podcasts, and more.
After a lot of discussion and pondering, we think this platform could be the best way to launch the comic.
Timeline. With a publishing house, this comic wouldn’t be released for at least a couple of years. With Patreon, you can experience the story as we create it!
Affordability. Above all, we want this story to be read and enjoyed by everyone. With Patreon, you pay what you want for the comic.
Bonus content. We’ll be able to offer rewards to subscribers, like sketch requests and videos.
This means the initial launch will be web-based, but once we’ve released all the pages and the story is complete, we’ll compile them into a print version.
Tell us what Patreon Rewards you want!
Would you subscribe to get advance updates? Would you request a custom sketch of Meela and Lysi? Do you want a video stream, bonus sketches, or something else? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!
On my tenth birthday, my parents bought me a Maltipoo puppy. My sister, who turned eight that year, got a Sheltie. We gave them the most logical names that sisters living in the 90s would give two puppies. We named them Mary-Kate and Ashley. Read More
Halloween is possibly my favourite time of year. First of all, I never miss a chance to dress in costume. Second, pumpkin everything. Third, while I’m a complete wimp when it comes to horror movies, I love a good thriller.
To celebrate this excellent month, here’s a list of 6 creeptastic YA thriller novels I’ve come across recently. Theme: they’re all about serial killers. (Most of them teenagers — because what’s more disturbing than a murderer? A juvenile murderer! Oh what fun!) Read More
This guide to self publishing a book is based on my own experience as a Canadian author. The general process applies everywhere, but I have included steps for those of us living outside the USA. (If you’re American, sorry eh, just skip those parts.) My hope is that this checklist will save other writers time, stress, and needless trial and error.
Inventing fictional worlds! It’s so much fun! Until you get halfway through your novel and realize you’ve forgotten to take into account something vital to society like an education system. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a list to consult before you start writing?
This Worldbuilding Checklist is the combined knowledge of about a dozen panelists at Norwescon 39, plus my own notes for my Mermaids of Eriana Kwai trilogy. I’m endeavouring to make this list as complete as possible. Let’s collaborate on it! If you have suggestions, please add them in the comments.