Author Neil Gaiman recently wrote a nice letter for the guardian, stressing the importance of reading in our society, especially within childhood development. Declaring his bias early and often, Gaiman still manages to lay out a well thought out argument as to why reading should be part of our lives and why fiction should not dismissed as useless escapism.
I’m really glad that Gaiman, who is certainly one of the more notable and publicly recognized figures in contemporary literature, is such a thoughtful and articulate defender of the written word. I always enjoy hearing his thoughts on fiction and was lucky enough to hear him speak when he came to Chicago as his novel Neverwhere was honored with the city’s ‘One City, One Book’ selection. And his letter to the Guardian is just further evidence on why I always jump at the chance to hear his thoughts.
I especially like this passage where Gaiman explains why China finally allowed a party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in 2007.
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
Check out the full letter over at the guardian. It is a great read.