on Counter Craft: Substack:
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the fictionness of fiction and the ways in which our culture seems to recoil at fiction’s essential nature. A lot of people out there seem to want to believe all stories should be in some sense nonfiction. A lot of factors contribute to this. There’s the popularity of autofiction, which many readers (mistakenly) believe means everything “really happened.” There’s a tendency to also assume all fiction is a thinly veiled autobiography, which leads to moments like the viral “Cat Person” short story being discussed as a “personal essay” and “article” by even professional journalists. Even when readers understand a work is fiction, many believe it is still a kind of essay in which everything the characters say or do is a reflection of the author’s personal beliefs.
Less perniciously, we’re in a literary moment in which “realism” in vogue whether it’s the aforementioned autofiction or SFF works that emphasize “logical” magic systems and naturalistic worldbuilding. If you’ve read this newsletter before, you know that I love all kinds of fiction. I love plenty of autofiction books and plenty of hard science fiction. But because the pendulum of literary tastes has swung so heavily in the realism direction I find myself really missing literature that has no pretense to being “true.”