In a fictional world, one thing that often seems certain is that everything is real.
But in real life, this is often not the case.
“A lot of science fiction fiction is not just fiction, it’s often a very good novel,” says Dr. Jennifer Luecke, associate professor of science and literature at Michigan State University.
She explains that fiction writers use a lot of fictional elements and often have a lot more to work with than their counterparts in real-life worlds.
“It’s very hard to tell if something is fiction because the stories we tell ourselves about our worlds are very different from the stories that our real world counterparts tell themselves.”
In the fictional world that Lueck is studying, there are so many variables and possibilities that the story could change depending on how we look at it, she says.
“So, even if the story is true, we could be wrong, so what we see is that our own lives and our own perspectives can be completely different from what the world is like in real reality.”
What if science fiction is fiction?
According to Luecker, the vast majority of science fictional stories are not fiction.
She says that there are many examples of science-fiction novels that were published in real world but that were written by authors who wanted to make them more real than they really were.
“They were trying to tell something about a world that they were trying not to be a part of,” she says, adding that fiction is often a way to tell a story, not to make it more realistic.
“In fiction, there’s no real world, so there’s a lot that we’re not able to see.”
In reality, Luecko says, many fictional characters, both real and fictional, are also real people.
“Sometimes, the people are very real,” she explains.
“Some of the things that we see in these stories are actually real people that we have known for a long time.”
And even if fictional characters do have real-world backgrounds, there is a lot to take into account when deciding if something really is fictional.
“You want to make sure that everything in the story that’s not just a figment of the imagination is believable and that everything that is a figments of imagination, even in a fictional story, is real,” Luecki says.
Science fiction writer Peter Straub, who has written more than 40 books, says that fictional characters in his books do have realistic, often human qualities.
“I don’t think we’re supposed to take it seriously when the fictional characters say things that are not true,” he says.
Luecking says that she finds it interesting that fictional fiction writers often use many different terms to describe their stories, from “realistic” to “pulp-fiction.”
But she also says that fiction stories tend to use a wide range of language, and she often tries to keep it light.
“People get so wrapped up in the words that they forget the language is actually important,” she adds.
“If the words weren’t so confusing, it wouldn’t matter so much.”