Legal, honest, decent and truthful - it's not all bad!
Most of the posts on ABBA are about stories and story-telling. Or they're about school visits or libraries and how important these are for firing children's imaginations and getting them to write their own stories. There are very few posts about non-fiction. Yet more non-fiction books are published than fiction books.
Even the term is negative - books that are about true things we label by what they aren't. It's as if we called children non-adults, or cats non-dogs. There a lot of things that are not dogs and some of them are a lot more interesting than cats (or dogs, in fact). There are a lot of books that are not fiction, and they certainly aren't all the same. An engineering textbook is non-fiction. So is a sticker book about the royal family, or a recipe book, or a picture book about birds, or a political memoir. So is Plato's Republic, Lamb's Essays of Elia, Hooke's Micrographia, de Beauvoir's Second Sex. Some true books are exciting, some are not. Some are well-written, some are not. Just the same as fiction.
Parents (and even teachers) sometimes complain that children - usually boys - 'won't read' when they just don't read stories. It's still reading if the words tell the truth, you know. I'm not dissing stories, or denying their value. I spend half my time writing stories (and the other half telling the truth). Of course, stories tell the truth at a deeper level. Of course they fuel imagination. But the literal truth is worth reading and writing, too. The literal truth fuels imagination.
All the material for stories comes from facts. Stories work because they play with the truth, blending actuality with possibility. Facts are inspiring and wonder-inducing. They spark our imagination. They make us want to share them, or to write stories to explore them. Fact and fiction can play happily together. One isn't better than the other. Here are five facts which I challenge you not to find awe-inspiring, ranging from wonderful to horrific. Children find these awe-inspiring. What have we lost as adults if we don't?
1. Life first evolved 2.3 billion years ago, but eyes didn't even start to evolve until 600 million years ago. All those early organisms went unseen and unseeing. Isn't that creepy?
2. Up to half the population of Europe died in the Black Death. Imagine that - half the people you know, wiped out in weeks, society in ruins around you, starvation following in its wake. Who needs to read a dystopian novel?
3. There are ten times as many non-human cells in the human body as there are human cells. You're home to a LOT of microorganisms. Does it make your skin crawl? You're in the minority in your own body.
4. We don't know what makes up 98% of the mass of the universe - it's not the stuff we can see. What could it be? Parallel universes in the same space? Consciousness? God? Something we can't even conceive of?
5. This is how slaves were moved around the world:
Facts are a toybox for the imagination. You can even make up stories with them, if you like.