I have written at least a half-dozen versions of this post, and they have all ended up in the trash because I’ve never really been able to convey a concept that’s been sitting in my head for the better part of two decades.
That’s not a good thing when you’re a writer, but the concept was important enough to me that “good enough” just wasn’t good enough. If I couldn’t explain the concept in a simple sentence, I didn’t understand it well enough, and as the guiding principle behind what I read and write, I had to understand it. It was too important a part of who I am to do otherwise.
Who Am I?
I am, perhaps obviously, a Humanist. I think we are all equal, not in the eyes of any deity, but in pure-D fact, and I am constantly incensed that our species has never lived up to that ideal.
What that means for fiction is what this post is all about.
So What Is Humanist Fiction?
It’s all of my previous attempts at summarizing it in a simple sentence. It’s fiction that doesn’t merely reflect a better world but tries to create a better world. It’s not necessarily about kings and queens and wizards fighting grand battles over the fate of the world. It’s not about the grandness of the people in the fight, but the epicness of the fight in the people.
Defining something by what it is not is problematic, which is why I’ve been through so many drafts of this post. But I’m writing this in 2020, and recent events have clarified things.
Humanist Fiction is about the doctors and nurses on the front line fighting a global pandemic one patient at a time. Humanist Fiction is about the men and women taking to the streets to demand justice. Humanist Fiction is about a young man who grows into an icon by making “good trouble” in support of equality.
The challenges we face are epic in scale. They will not be solved by a single wizard or a motley crew of heroes. They will be solved by all of us, and the purpose of Humanist Fiction is to convince us all that it’s possible.