Humans are storytellers. We understand the world through symbols and, even before societies developed complex forms of organization and thought, such as science and politics, they had already built narratives that would explain the world around them: stories that we now call “mythology.” Myths are, essentially, stories that reflect the meaning and importance of the things around us, that set the stones for the reality we live in and prepare us to face the complexity of life and human relationships. This goes for everything from Greek tragedies, to the Bible, to even the narrative of the French Revolution — and it’s important to add here that I’m not questioning whether these stories are real or not. What matters is that, at some degree, they teach us how to deal with ourselves and with each other. They are tales of kindness and tales of horror, that show us how far human beings can go, that make us face situations of almost impossible choices, that help us understand where our world has come from and, in the end, in which direction our world should go.
Very few stories we have today allow us to understand the reality that surrounds us, which grows only more and more complex, and the ones that do so end up forgotten or ignored. Our civilization, then, is adrift, despite its immense technological and scientific knowledge, because it doesn’t know how to deal with what is human. When progress detaches itself from humanity, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. It’s not rare to see people commenting on how it feels like we’re living in a dystopian world. Manipulation and surveillance remind us of George Orwell’s 1984; the rising anti-intellectualism takes us back to the world Ray Bradbury imagined in Fahrenheit 451; and exploration, oppression, and the dynamics of power make Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild feel strangely close to home, for example. What all of these have in common is the denial of the inherent characteristics of life: diversity, community, complexity, love. And this allows all kinds of tragedies to happen — in fiction as much as in reality.
In what is one of the most beautiful texts I’ve ever read, Gabriel García Márquez’s Nobel Prize lecture, he says “On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, ‘I decline to accept the end of man’. I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”
We’re in a delicate moment of change: we’re standing at the threshold of a different
world, be it better or worse than the one we have right now. As readers and writers who believe in all kinds of fantastic situations, we should begin to realize that the reality we live in
is, itself, more fantastic than fiction. I still insist in believing in a possible future in which all voices are heard and in which no one gets left behind, in which life and justice will, at last, prevail. We should, as Márquez and many before and after him did, decline to accept the end of man, and through our stories and narratives, analyze where we’re standing at the same time that we allow ourselves to imagine what kind of reality we’d like to move toward. Creating the founding myths and ideals of this new and sweeping utopia of life is up to us.