Niels Bohr once said "It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature." In a way, we are all writing stories about the world, but some of our stories seem to bear a mysterious relationship to the world that others do not. They use a particular syntax, even a different grammar, and they follow certain rules. These rules give them a resonance with the real, and the stories acquire real usefulness. But just behind them lie stories which bend the rules, do not have an immediate power; these are the fictions that lie behind the more powerful stories that lie closer to fact. All are made of the only real tool our mind has, language.
We observe — and turn light into neural language, storing it away as chemical compounds which will later, perhaps, influence our actions. We try to communicate what we observe, expressing ourselves in another kind of language, written or spoken or through other signs. These texts influence other individuals; they are like the neurotransmitters that convey information and commands between neurons. Some of the texts are especially useful and immediately powerful, others have latent functions that seem to bloom and affect our lives in very different ways.
I once asked Stephen Hawking (who has never, to my knowledge, written fiction) whether his best ideas began as poetic insights. "Yes," he said. "But then I have to make them work." It's not that much different with fiction, though the tools used appear at first sight to be very different. Telling a story is an explanatory