So I wanted to take a break and ask people what they thought the value of fiction was (if any) and what it can do to improve a person's life. I'm asking because I wonder if people who write, or read, get the same reactions I do, such as why do I write fiction (being of a technocratic family, I hear this a lot). Or the general view in the at large world that fiction is make believe so why read it? Why bother? Better off reading about the world. No full on answers from me for now (that will be later). I will say that this can be looked in many ways, and none would be entirely wrong.
A few definitions:
I am, of course, mainly talking about modern fiction. The type being written and read today. For clarity's sake we can say fiction from the past hundred years, with a focus on today's fiction (therefore traditions arising from myths and other stories, will not be included. If this seems like a gross oversight then explain; I will always give way to good arguments).
And we can keep it to serious fiction and its value.
Also, the question is merely what reading fiction's place is in today's world (not that a certain degree is better than another kind of reading) not that one should read at least something (so why fiction and not only non-fiction).
More notes: I understand the limitation to serious fiction can be stifling. The definition of serious is up to you. I mean a book that shifted your perspective on life (I usually intend this for adults, as it's easier as a child to have one's perspective shifted). And the value of fiction as merely another outlet of entertainment (and as several friends told me, this is important, especially for people who have done much during the work day and simply want to relax with a good book) is not being derided here. That too is a goal. But is it the only goal? Should fiction merely be there for entertainment (I dare say no)? I understand that some people think this is useless, if there's something to be said, then it should be said without any make believe.
And more arguments are that it's a way to live other people's lives (then why not memoirs instead?) or that it creates a better human with more empathy (not sure this has been proven), or that it forces one to use more parts of the brain (especially serious fiction, and this has been proven, to some extent with fMRIs). Could be that you merely think it's there like art, something to make sure we're not alone, something to make sure that we know we are part of something else (the history the stories all point to this); this is, of course, harder to prove. And there is the cynical counterargument that all art is propaganda and fiction is no different, and thus no case can be made for it.
Any of these are good reasons for fiction to be around, what are yours? For defenders of fiction what do you say to people who only read non-fiction (there is a weakness here, right? Few people will ever argue non-fiction is not needed, as I would never, but the other argument is made every day)?
So what are your thoughts?