When it comes to storytelling that promotes ecological awareness, maybe you like the label eco-fiction. Maybe you prefer the genre-trendy term cli-fi, for “climate fiction” (unless that just sounds like a term conservative politicians use to describe any theory claiming the seas are getting bigger).
Either way, if you’re motivated to write (or read) about the environment, it must be because — at least in part — you think that doing so can make a difference… right? That makes this Question of the Day especially pertinent:
There’s a long debate about whether artistic works can influence people’s thinking on a subject—or even work on an activist level. Can literature truly change the way others see the world?
Christina Klarenbeek: I think all forms of art can and should influence people’s perspectives. The impact of story is perhaps not as instant or visceral as visual forms of art, but it can be equally profound.
Daniel Ausema: Yes. Tempted to end my answer there… I’m leery of works that step too far into didacticism, but I have to believe that writing and Story can affect people, else why do it?
Matthew Hughes: Of course. Charles Dickens’s works changed the Victorian view of workhouses. I think Catch 22 put a lot of young Americans off the Vietnam War. And On the Road sent me and a lot of others to travelling by thumb. There must be scores of other examples.
Rebecca Schwarz: Yes. In fact, I believe there have been some recent studies that seem to confirm this. It has to do with stories being able to help us become more empathetic. I think this is the essential work of story making – to create a safe place where a reader can experience a world through the eyes of the other. A story that accomplishes this leaves us forever changed. Literature enlarges us in the best way.
Andrew Leon Hudson: One book of non-fiction came to define my understanding of what it means to be a thinking being. One book of fiction ends on nine imperative words that I (sometimes) try to live by. And any number of books have tricked me into impersonating a tree—just standing there, rustling the leaves. So I guess I’d have to say, Yes.
Stephen Palmer: Definitely. Barack Obama recently said a lot of his ideas about life came from reading novels. Novels allow you to experience the world from a different viewpoint, which, it could be argued, is the most important skill you need in order to grow up.
Igor Ljubuncic: Yes and no. Books won’t start revolutions, most of the time, but they might inspire someone do something meaningful, different, maybe even useful and beneficial to the mankind.
Kurt Hunt: Good literature is empathetic and thought-provoking. It’s all about providing the readers something new — a new point of view, a new situation, a new idea. Exploration is the only way to change how you see the world, and literature is a very convenient form of exploration.
P. J. Richards: I’m inclined to think that the world would be a better place if fewer people were influenced by literature, and instead were instilled with the confidence to looked within themselves for guidance.
Victor Espinosa: Absolutely. It is one of the only ways to change the world, in my opinion. Not just literature, but the action that the literature instils in us to perform.
Jonathan Laidlow: I don’t think polemical pieces, essays, and op-eds will necessarily change the minds of most people. We seem naturally drawn, as digital citizens, to the opinions and mindsets we already hold. Then again, stories are all-powerful. We know this from marketing and advertising, which use stories at every moment to sell things to us. Artists should remember this too.
One thing’s for sure: whatever changes the cause, they all mean well!
Check back tomorrow for another round of Question-and-Answers, and if you haven’t already why not take a look at our Kickstarter campaign? We’re past the 60% mark and heading for the finish line, and we’ve some great stories to share when we get there!