Animal Farm to 1984: Fiction in Public Discourse
Every high schooler in America has heard of the books so boldly written by George Orwell that shone a light on elements of society that had been thought, at the time, to be beyond question. Orwell wrote in England, about England, yet his works resonate with readers today. In my opinion, it's not only Orwell's artful writing style but the magic of fiction that's due credit.
I'm Andy Lazris, and as a practicing doctor and author of many fiction and nonfiction books, I believe that when literature stems from make-believe but is inevitably inspired by real life, it carries weight. Many believe the opposite because, after all, how can detaching from reality be an effective way to influence it?
Check out my blog post that discussed Biden's COVID scare. As you'll be able to tell, the whole thing is fiction. Smart Tony, the main character, is of my invention, but the ideas he presents and the situations he comments on are as real as can be.
Just like this, if you were to find a fictional civil war book online, the fiction elements wouldn't necessarily take away from its relevance to the actual war. In fact, as a student of history, I recommend that my readers make an effort to find historical fiction books online.
Is It Only Books?
If you think fiction is largely contained in books, try purchasing 3D fictional books online. These books are designed to be a multimedia experience, using many platforms to feed into a single narrative. My 3D books each come with a soundtrack, and although the songs aren't exactly literature, they illustrate a fictional narrative.
See, in its broadest definition, literature is written text. A poem, a blog, or even a comic strip could be nudged into this category if you look at it a certain way. However, what matters is not whether or not it's literature, for it's not necessarily impactful literature. When you shop for health care system-related books, it might not occur to you that medical fiction is just as informative. Or perhaps more.
The same goes for fictionalized blogs, articles, or movies. You could watch a Civil War-related movie, and you'd learn a whole lot. If you need further convincing, then let me present the beloved Mickey Mouse. Mr. Mouse was a household name, and America's darling had his own comic books.
In 1939, the depression era, Mickey Mouse Magazine portrayed the character as noble and wholesome, determined to save Minnie, the princess. Fast forward to 1972, and it seems Mr. Mouse had partied like it was 1969. The cultural evolution did away with the sweet mouse and brought us Mickey Rat, who debuted in a story titled "The King of Rotten Stuff".
Yes, neither of these tales documented the state of society, but they still map out the change in values.
How the Narrative Affects the Reader
It's not just the material that's a dead giveaway, either. It's the reception. Mr. Mouse and Mr. Rat may have been products of society, but the reason we remember them today is that society welcomed them with open arms. See, the attention of humans is fickle, and it always has been. For material to garner attention and hold it, it has to appeal to many over time.
Passing ideologies don't stand a chance of turning into one of these much-acclaimed works. To sweep the nation, art must be intertwined with the feelings that are sweeping the nation. Think of music. TLC's Waterfalls has been well-known since its 1995 release.
Originally written to raise awareness about the spread of HIV, it played on the heartstrings of many. The lyrics paint a picture of a young man who ventured too far too quickly and paid the price. There's no mention of contracting diseases, but there wasn't a need at the time.
By humanizing the experience of contracting a highly stigmatized and deadly virus, the band reminded everyone how easily it could happen to a loved one or us. With books, what we find in online fiction bookstores tends to have already passed the test of resonating with society. That's our sign that the feelings encapsulated in this piece of fiction are widely shared.
What about Nonfiction?
Back to the example of healthcare, there's only so much you can gain from reading descriptions. It's no secret that the system is flawed, and it's no secret how we got here.
What's odd is that despite how freely available that information is, and for the most part always has, the average American still reacts to healthcare reforms as though they sprung up out of nowhere. Frankly, if the average American decided to buy a healthcare reform book, I believe we'd still be in this positive because nonfiction just doesn't resonate.
For instance, my online COVID-19 bookstore houses fiction and nonfiction. All are important healthcare system-related books, but I bet people enjoyed The Great Stupidity far more than Utilizing Effective Risk Communication in COVID-19.
See, fiction invites the reader into a story, whereas nonfiction, however well-constructed, presents facts. The latter is important; a nonfiction bookstore would be brimming with facts and records of important events. When you purchase nonfiction books, author bias becomes more relevant.
My medical fiction and nonfiction works are informed by my own experiences as a physician. However, Civil War-related books are more divisive. They may be a telling of events that occurred but through a lens that is invariably biased. Then again, if they're made-up stories that use the war as a setting, then the reader wouldn't see them as information.
Instead, they'd pick up a more personal understanding of that life and the experiences it brought.
How Does One Create Important Fiction?
One cannot endeavor to create important stories. One can only create stories and hope that they find importance amongst readers. Most look to buy affordable fiction books, not for literature that seeks to enlighten them.
The best you can do is to create an idea that reflects your feelings and let the readers do the rest. When I wrote The Geriatrics Vengeance Club, I had no intention other than to air my personal feelings about the lackluster reaction of the medical community. Still, society took to it.
Why? Because—the hilarity of the book aside—similar feelings of horror and confusion were exactly what the country's, nay, the world felt at the time. What separates entertaining fiction from important fiction is that the latter gives tangibility to feelings that most struggle to express.
If you do that successfully, then your readers will do the rest. As an author, you have to learn to trust your readers. Know when to say more and when to say less and let the readers reach certain conclusions on their own. Give them your take without trying to control theirs.
Instead of presenting them with the facts that are often so discombobulated no one can make sense of them, show them how you see the facts playing out.
Tracing the History
Art and fiction have influenced humanity for longer than you or I could imagine, but the platforms have developed. Fashioning a plot and characters is as old as time, but putting it to paper or screen is new.
Before the invention of the printing press, written stories were reserved for the upper echelons of society, while the rest would spread stories by word of mouth. Whether or not this was picked up is beside the question, but it certainly drew people in and inspired them to ask questions.
Since then, the same has been done by standup comedians, singers, and even sculptors. The printing press and then the internet increased accessibility tenfold. This is exactly why we, as citizens of the earth, must peruse fiction bookshops for Jewish history books, African American history books, and more.
If you buy The Geriatrics Vengeance Club online, you'll realize just how heavy the iron fist of healthcare regulations is. Doctors can no longer do right by their patients unless the tangle of rules permits them to do so. Following the pandemic, our people were told that to be injected with untested medication was fully our decision but added on a list of things we wouldn't be able to do should we choose to preserve our health.
In my books, I only speak the truth. As a historian, a geriatric doctor, and an overall fact enthusiast, I believe in the power of fiction. If you do, too, I highly recommend you check out my fiction and nonfiction book websites.
The Adventures of Yadel the Dreidel and Three Brothers from Virginia are favorably reviewed, and Curing Medicare contains my analysis of modern-day medicine. If you'd like to hear more from me, click here for my podcast, Straight Talking Doc Unhinged, where I, Andy Lazris, can help non-medical persons understand the shortfalls of modern medicine.