A species caught up in stories

Science fiction novelist Becky Chambers described my book topic very well, in her most recent Wayfarers novel, Record of a Spaceborn Few. The characters are humans, many generations after a greatly damaged Earth had been left behind. Here, an archivist of the great Exodus Fleet is explaining her life’s work to a young man:

“Our species doesn’t operate by reality. It operates by stories. Cities are a story. Money is a story. Space was a story, once. A king tells us a story about who we are and why we’re great, and that story is enough to make us go kill people who tell a different story. Or maybe the people kill the king because they don’t like his story and have begun to tell themselves a different one. When our planet started dying, our species was so caught up in stories. We had thousands of stories about ourselves – that’s still true, don’t forget that for a minute – but not enough of us were looking at the reality of things. Once reality caught up with us and we started changing our stories to acknowledge it, it was too late.” (p.315)

That’s what I’m writing about – the psychology of these stories, which have a life of their own, and which can easily lose touch with reality. Thanks, #beckychambers!

About Laura Akers, Ph.D.

I'm a research psychologist at Oregon Research Institute, and I'm writing a book about meta-narratives, the powerful collective stories we share about who we are and where we're headed. My interests include beliefs and worldviews, ethics, motivation, and relationships, both among humans and between humans and the natural world.
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