Why I Don't Like Fiction

Warning! Badly-reasoned navel-gazing ahead!

Okay, so firstly, obviously, i do quite like fiction.

But not as much as you might think. Certainly, i've just realised, not as much as i always thought. The clue that gave this away is the way i use my free time; when i've got an hour to myself, what to i do? Or if i'm avoiding work, what do i do? Do i read fiction? No: i read non-fiction. Yes, often this means surfing the web, but then that's actually a pretty bloody good source of non-fiction reading matter, from the deeply technical to the wildly obscure (and often both at once). Even if it's not the web, if i'm mooching about in my room, i'm more likely to read a few chapters of a one of the millions of books on architecture, philosophy, biology, random cack, etc, i keep buying and never reading properly. I really just prefer non-fiction to fiction.


I think it's because i don't like the idea that someone is telling me a story. Yes, of course, whatever you're reading, it's been filtered through the lens of someone else's mind, and picked up an amount of distortion and aberration along the way (unless, of course, the author has an infinity corrected mind), but with fiction, that's somehow more upfront - the whole point of the work is that it' made up. With non-fiction, you at least have a chance of recognising and compensating for the failings of the author, but in fiction, the author's word is law; if something doesn't make sense, i just have to accept it and move on. I really don't like doing that.

I think another side of it is that i like building a model in my mind based on what i'm reading; i like looking at several different books or websites or whatever, integrating the information to fill holes and reveal errors, and working out what's really going on. There's a sense of satisfaction in figuring out the truth from a set of erroneous sources - a bit like getting a good, tight triangulation when you're navigating at sea (or making a scientific discovery based on falliable data, or solving a crime based on sketchy evidence, or reconstructing a lost gospel based on surviving fragments, or finding out where that ten million pounds went based on incompetently kept records, or whatever it is you do in your field).

So, does that shed any light on why i like the works of fiction that i do? Not sure. I do like stories with a mystery sort of structure, whether textual or metatextual, where you're constantly trying to figure out what's going on. And i like stories that play with the fiction/non-fiction distinction (Borges' book reviews and 'London Orbital' - which isn't fiction but is certainly not simply non-fiction - spring to mind). So maybe it does.

I wonder how significant this analysis is. Are there people who don't like mystery in their stories? Are there any stories that aren't fundamentally based on mystery? Isn't the whole foundation of the story that you don't know what's going to happen next? Am i just being a fucking idiot?