This week’s photo challenge is to photograph a single subject from multiple angles. The subject I selected is a glass dragon sculpture that belongs to my daughter, who loves all things dragon-related. I had fun getting different views of this beautiful object, and also ruminating about dragons, fantasy, and truth, and how they apply in my writing and my reading. First, though, click the image to see the dragon from different angles.
I’m a scientist. The science I study is cognitive psychology, which involves using the tools of observation, experimentation, and analysis to study the biggest mystery I know: how our brains process the torrent of data available to us every second to make sense of the world and make decisions about how to act. I am a skeptic with regard to pseudo-science and quackery in all its guises, from astrology to homeopathy. I agree with astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson who describes science as “an inoculation against charlatans.”
So why write fantasy?
Fantasy, like all fiction, is essentially a lie. It is telling a story that did not actually happen. But the purpose of fiction is to reveal the truth hiding behind the lie. Stories, good stories, the ones we sink into and emerge, reluctantly, when the demands of life require it, are the ones that hide the most meaningful truths. The essence of story is, as Lisa Cron describes in her book Wired for Story, is this: “Story is what enabled us to imagine what might happen in the future, and so prepare for it.” Stories help us think through how relationships work, various ways people can respond to various events, what makes someone a good person or a bad person.
I chose fantasy because it was the best vehicle for me to express the particular truth at the heart of my story. Kay, my protagonist, typically deals with life by avoiding it. Her automatic response to any stressful situation is to run away, often literally. So I put her into one situation after another, with increasingly dire stakes, where the thought longingly about running but concluded that, just this once, she was forced to stay and fight for what’s right. Kay doesn’t face any actual dragons (no giant lizards with wings), but she faces her own internal dragons while coping with Menaces from Another Dimension. By the end of the story she’s discovered that she has more courage than she ever realized and that standing her ground may be her first choice in future situations. That’s the truth hiding behind the lie of my story: you, too, may have more courage than you think, and you might consider facing your dragons instead of running away.
My future books may or may not be fantasy. It all depends on what world, what story, emerges from the murky depths of my mind while I try to clothe the deep truth I want to tell.
This post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “From Every Angle.”