Some of the satisfaction I get from reading speculative fiction, the reason I put on a favorite book when I am feeling low, is practice.
Think of it. We read stories so that we can practice the consequences of our thoughts and feelings through the characters, without risk. In speculative fiction we get to practice getting through the murk, the barely nameable ilk and irk of our day. That energy-sucking co-worker. The weight of an upcoming storm. The creep of clutter.
Mainstream writing doesn't help me much. It doesn't help me name the ick. Not the way Jim Butcher does when Harry is being poisoned by vampire spit. Not the way Kristine Kathryn Rusch lets me identify with the pervasive dust of the moon, the constant threat of the bubble being breached, letting the breathlessness of living on a strange planet overwhelm. How does it feel living among aliens, trying to make sense of their rules?
None of this is obvious when I am reading or listening. Only when I ask the question, recall that this is what we want stories for, do I recognize the connections. This is also what our favorites are for. They take us into a world that some part of us recognizes, that encourages our hearts to listen more closely. This next year, 2014, I look forward to discovering more landscapes that feed my spirit, hold my heart, give me comfort when the world around me becomes just a bit more weird and whelming.
What are you go-to stories, novels? Do you have a world that you would like a passport to? OK, just for a day, maybe. One that is more than just an escape?