September 25, 2019

The Power of Fiction

By Dan Walsh

If it would fit, I’d title this column: “The Power of Fiction to Influence the Way People Think.” That’s what I want to talk about.

What’s got me thinking this way?

It came out a few months ago, that after traveling 7 months through space (a 300-million-mile-journey) at a whopping speed of over 12,000 mph, NASA’s InSight Mars Lander finally reached its destination and landed safely on the red planet.

In the science world, this was big news. HUGE news.

But in the world of science fiction, such an achievement would have to be considered, at best, a boring disappointment. At worst, a total embarrassment (that anyone would celebrate such a pitiful accomplishment).

Here’s how a Star Trek fan might react: “It took you 7 months to travel from Earth to Mars (a planet in our own solar system), in an unmanned spaceship?” See, we all know that Captain Kirk would merely have to give the command, “Scotty, give me Warp Factor 8,” and the Enterprise could cover that distance in a matter of seconds. In fact, for a few seconds more, Scotty could get the Enterprise to far-away galaxies, allowing Captain Kirk and his crew (of hundreds) to “explore new worlds…to bravely go where no man has gone before.”

Of course, in the Star Wars universe, in his Millennium Falcon, Hans Solo could easily cover the same distance in half the time as the Enterprise using Hyperdrive. After all, Hans holds the unique distinction of having “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Herein proves my premise, about the Power of Fiction to Influence the Way People Think. Tens of Millions of people (maybe hundreds of millions) have watched the Star Trek and Star Wars movies and TV shows in the last several decades. And because we have, we readily accept the idea that in the not-too-distant future people like us will be able to cover trillions of miles of space in seconds. How? Easy. We’ll just use the Warp Drive (of Star Trek) or the Hyperdrive (Star Wars). No big deal.

But in the real world, it takes us 7 months to reach a planet that’s, well, not that far away. And we can’t send a man on such a trip (let alone hundreds in a Star Fleet spaceship), because all our experiments on the International Space Station (orbiting our own earth) have shown, when we spend that much time in space our muscles atrophy, our bones shrink up, we experience balance and eye disorders, our immune systems weaken, and we even experience a significant increase in flatulence (pardon me, farting).

But seriously…who wants to see a movie showing all that?

Clearly, we prefer to believe in the fiction world the creators of Star Trek and Star Wars have provided. Not only do we readily accept what they say about traveling vast distances throughout the universe, we’re totally comfortable with the idea of hanging out with dozens of alien races, even those who look like huge insects (I’m always surprised at how all these alien insect-like races have advanced so far beyond us in technology when they don’t have opposable thumbs and can’t even hold a wrench).

But what’s the reality? Well, since the UFO craze began back in 1947 (over 70 years ago), no one has ever produced a single alien being, dead or alive. Or an actual alien spacecraft. But hey, they’ve got to be out there, right? The government has them hidden in underground bunkers in Area 51.

Well, maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter. We don’t need to see an alien to believe they exist. And we don’t need to be discouraged at how long it takes us to reach Mars right now (or how much everyone in our spaceship will be farting the whole time). We know it’s all true. We believe it.

Such is the Power of Fiction to Influence the Way People Think.

So in conclusion, my fellow fiction writers. Don’t look down on your profession, simply because “we make stuff up all the time.” In our pens (or on our laptops), we wield enormous power. If we learn our craft well, we can literally make people believe in things like warp drive, superior alien races (who can’t even hold a wrench), and huge theme parks filled with dinosaurs previously extinct for millions of years.
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 21 novels (all available on Amazon), including The Unfinished Gift, Rescuing Finley, When Night Comes and The Reunion (now being made into a feature film). Over 750,000 of his books are in print or downloaded. He's won both the Carol and Selah Awards multiple times, 4 of his novels have been finalists for RT Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year. Reviewers often remark about Dan's rich, character-driven storylines and page-turning suspense (even with his more inspirational books). He's been writing full-time since 2010. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years, have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren. They live in the Daytona Beach area, where Dan grew up. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, read his blog, or preview all his books by visiting his website at Dan’s books: If These Walls Could Talk - DAN'S NEWEST NOVEL, When Night Comes, Remembering Dresden, Unintended Consequences,  Perilous Treasure,  Rescuing Finley, Finding Riley,  Saving Parker and  The Deepest Waters (2nd Ed)

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