The Velocipede Races is the first full-length young adult novel that EllyBlue/Microcosm plans to publish. It’s part of the Bikes in Space series that includes three volumes of sci-fi bicycle-themed short stories. Volumes two and three feature stories by me. Check them out here and here. Publishing a young adult novel represents a bit of a departure for Elly Blue/Microcosm, which is known for shorter works, zines, and non-fiction.
This is one reason I’m excited about the Kickstarter project to launch my book. It’s another chance to get people, and especially young people, excited about reading fiction. If you’re already excited, you can visit the page now to pick from the excellent bookish rewards to show your support.
I know plenty of people who eschew fiction in favor of non-fiction, who say they don’t have time for the escapism of fiction and that only non-fiction is really valuable. I can’t say that I agree with this perspective.
I adore the “escapism” of fiction, and I’ve been “escaping” into fictional worlds of many varieties since the day I could crack a book and understand the words. I recall dragging around my heavy copy of Little Women in second grade and having the parents of other students say things like, “You aren’t really reading such a big book, are you?” or “Are you just carrying that around to look smart?”
Clearly they were not fellow readers. They looked at books as signs of status—you carried one around to convey things to others, rather than for the worlds and minds they opened to you. I was carrying that book around so I could keep reading it whenever I had a spare moment, because I was entranced by a view into the past, into a story birthed by a woman I would never meet but could connect with despite a century of time separating us.
So why is fiction important? As a form, fiction allows author-artists to freely explore ideas, to extrapolate, and to weave stories that are unique and meaningful. Fiction crosses eras and space-time, and forces us to consider the universals of human experience independent from the limits of time and place. Through fiction, I can begin to understand the concerns and lives of the readers of The Canturbury Tales, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, The Age of Innocence, or Farenheit 451. Fiction has superpowers; it is the best vehicle for time travel that I know.
Reading fiction develops essential human psychological traits: empathy, abstract thinking, the ability to connect the general to the specific. Speaking of super-powers; not only is fiction time-travel, it’s mind-reading, too. You will interact with another person’s mind in a deep, unrivaled way as you read fictional stories. Fiction is a deep and individual art form that reveals the contours of an author’s mind in veiled and subtle ways. It’s a deep conversation between author and reader.
Fiction also reveals its truths via storytelling techniques that non-fiction cannot use. Fiction uses veils, tropes, archetypes, and devices to provide an experiential virtual reality. The stories may connect to our emotions in ways non-fiction cannot, giving a view into the imagined and private minds of others.
Fictional stories have the ability to show us depth and breadth in the facets of other peoples’ lives. This is where our empathy comes in; by deeply experiencing characters who are different from us, our horizons are expanded. We realize there are ways of living beyond what we know. We see possibilities in what was once a void. As my character Cassius says in the The Velocipede Races, it becomes possible to “make room where there is none.” Fiction opens minds.
Fiction develops the imagination. It makes the mind supple. It encourages the ability to freely associate and make creative, novel connections.
Stories help shape the ethos of a society. The stories we tell not only express our values; they create our values as well. If we want to gradually change a society’s stance towards the role of women, say, one way to make fast and lasting change is to normalize stories that show women taking on more social power and having agency. The ancient practice of story-telling is perfectly designed for mind-shaping at the individual and societal levels.
So here’s reason number two I hope you’ll support The Velocipede Races on Kickstarter: my publisher is going out on limb and reaching for new avenues of fiction. Show your support for fiction and help create a new market for it!