Imagining people to life

Posted: December 9, 2014 in reading, writing
Tags: , , , , , ,
Picture by J E Theriot via Flickr creative commons

Picture by J E Theriot via Flickr creative commons

The Writing Excuses podcast recently had an excellent episode with Cory Doctorow about why we care about imaginary characters. Doctorow sets out a fascinating theory grounded in psychology and evolution, and it’s well worth a listen.

It’s easy to be struck by wonder at how we can bring people to life in our minds, whether it’s imagining fictional characters or retaining the memories of lost loved ones. And as with so many things, explaining it doesn’t take away the wonder for me. Rather, it creates a breathtaking moment of looking at the universe and going ‘damn, that’s clever, and it’s still wonderful too’.

I’ve been thinking for a while I should read some of Doctorow’s work, beyond the occasional blog post. This has shifted him up my to-read list, so if anyone has recommendations for particular books of his then please let me know. And if you have any thoughts on Doctorow’s theory, or on other theories of why fictional characters mean so much to us, then please share them in the comments – I’m always keen for more of this sort of thing.

  1. I listened to the podcast version of When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth. The recording isn’t fantastic quality, but the writing is very good.

  2. That podcast was so smart, I felt too stupid to listen to it.
    As for Doctorow’s books, me and my son have read “Little Brother”. It’s YA in a good way and it is just a hair width ahead of our current time to be almost not science fiction if you know what I mean.

    • It is a frighteningly smart episode, isn’t it? But then I’ve felt the same reading some of Doctorow’s other articles – he has a very incisive mind. I’d been considering ‘Little Brother’ already as I spotted it in a local library – will give it a go, and thanks for the recommendation.

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