Fiction is a way to explore the parts of being human that we would never otherwise experience. All your beliefs can be set aside and you can step inside a new reality. You will meet people who will inspire you and some who will terrify you. You will have experiences you would never have in your own life. Things will happen that you previously couldn’t have even imagined.
Will these fictional characters and experiences have an influence on your self-identity? I think they will. Do they have in role in the narrative of how you see your life story? Again, I think they do. Does fiction have any redeeming value? Will it’s influence raise or lower intelligence? There is plenty of evidence that it raises it.
There are lots of suggestions on how to increase intelligence, but one that is common is to associate with intelligent educated people. The reason for this is that you can talk to them about a broad range of subjects. New ideas can be discussed. Different perspectives can be found. It sounds a lot like opening up a book of fiction.
The first time I read Faulkner’s fictional story, “As I Lay Dying” it took me by surprise. I expected to step into a story line and learn about the people in a part of the country that I had never experienced. That did happen, but it was the language and the tone and sound of the conversations, that was the surprise. The way the characters talked to each other was so very different than anything I would ever have known. I knew I was in a different place, but the way the characters interacted let me see differently.
I read the book, “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, because I wanted to learn more about what it was like to have Alzheimer’s disease. I hoped to never know for myself and saw this story as a way to have an experience with it. The story did much more than I expected. When Alice, a linguistics professor, began to lose words and thoughts I felt how hard it was for her.
Some fiction will just take you to a place you haven’t been with people that are different, like in Faulkner’s story. Some approaches let you feel things that just wouldn’t happen to you.
Einstein suggested, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Neil Gaiman in his book "View from the Cheap Seats" talked about fiction. He is a writer of fiction for young readers and he went to a world-wide meeting for fiction writers held in China. He knew that over the prior years China didn't even allow fairy tales and fiction in their schools, so he was surprised that this event had been invited to China. He asked an official what had happened and was told, off the record, that they had toured all the big companies they did outsourcing work for in the United States and they asked those they met what they read and they all said science fiction. The saw the connection of fiction with creativity.
Even in fiction, fairy tales, and horror stories, good guys win and bad guys are bad. The force in the Star Wars, for some, might be the goodness in the universe, but then what about that goodness? Will it reaffirm our beliefs seeing it in a fictional plot? Hopefully it will.
Dr. Einstein also said that creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist, and that fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality.
Fiction is a literary influence that helps us shape our lives. Of course the really good thing is that it lets us step out of our own world for a while.