Fact vs. Fiction: The Ultimate Smackdown

Living in a cold, hard world devoid of imagination, or running away with the fairies: which would you prefer?

This house believes fact is better than fiction

Proposing the motion: Ruth Darca

Opposing the motion: Tom McLaughlin

For the proposition:

Facts are not simply cold, logical instruments of truth. In fact, facts play a vital part in all aspects of our culture, including literature, cuisine, and music.

Examining music first, it is immediately clear that many seminal eighties ballads are entirely dependent on fact. The chorus of ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ (Poison, 1983) is simply a catalogue of fact. Similarly, Toto’s ‘Africa’ contains many indisputable facts: ‘As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti / I seek to cure what’s inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become’. (Kilimanjaro does, indeed, rise over the Serengeti.) Even Bon Jovi, in ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, is unable to avoid the lure of this enduring musical device: ‘Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days’, he sings hazily, and in the absence of any evidence to suggest otherwise we are obliged to take this, too, as fact. As this last example demonstrates, no song lyric can totally deviate from real life and the listener relates best to warbles of heartbreak we can weep with, relating these emotions to our own experiences. Thus, this list is potentially endless.

Literature is often referred to, lazily, as ‘fiction’. Perhaps a better name would be FACTion! Writers as diverse as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were, in actuality, entirely dependent on facts. Read as an allegory, the so-called ‘fictions’ at the heart of Lord of the Rings resolve themselves into fact in its purest form. The Orcs are analogous to the Nazis, Merry Brandybuck stands in for Winston Churchill and Smaug the dragon represents the threat of nuclear war. Meanwhile, for C. S. Lewis the Dawn Treader represents the USS Lexington, destroyed in the battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944.

Cuisine without fact would be a culinary disaster too obvious to spell out. Need I point out that without facts, recipes would be unimaginable, and weighing scales mere kitchen decoration? Fact is, in very real terms, the ‘meat and drink’ of the entire catering profession: a business sector which employs over 7% of the UK workforce. Especially in these times of austerity, anything which would put these jobs at risk – and my opponent’s dangerous suggestion that we should abandon fact and retreat into a world of fiction certainly does that! – should be opposed vehemently. Believing that we live our lives entirely in the world of fiction induced by our thirst for the parallel universes of literature, films and video games could result in mass hysteria, not least in the kitchen.

For the opposition:

As Berryman says ‘Life, friends, is boring…”Ever to confess you’re bored/ means you have no/Inner Resources.”’ (Dream Songs, 14). I’m suggesting that for most people both of these things are true. And the perfect escape from the factuality that life is boring and most people are incapable to do anything about it is a book, a film or a porno with a poorly-constructed storyline i.e. fiction.

‘There’s nothing better than a (good) book.’ Let us take a minute to examine this common phrase. Is it the industry-standard binding or the obvious pictorial representation of the book’s title on the front cover? No, it’s the glorious stories contained within. These tales of heartbreak, dystopia or a hungry caterpillar offer whole other lives to be shared and fiction to be experienced and learnt from.

Furthermore fiction is the panacea to the post-modern condition of everyone knowing the facts of their place in the universe yet still having to go about their tedious lives without magical powers or coming into contact with a radioactive spider. The popularity of fiction in this vein can be attested to by the rise and rise of Skyrim. This role playing game sold 3.5 million copies within the first 48 hours of release. Whether you desire to defeat the Dragon god or just settle down in the forest, this is a new world to be explored, a life full of quest and adventure, which is much better than working in Argos. On January 2nd, 2012 there were over 5 million players logged in. If this is only for one, albeit very successful, game how many of us are living a virtual life? The technology is improving every year, as well as the detail and complexity of the new worlds that can be created. This is undoubtedly paving way for a purely virtual existence.

I have surely shown that we are coming closer to dissolving into a world of pure fiction. And who would refuse the chance to be the king of their own domain when our conscious reality is simply electrical impulses in the brain telling us what to feel, taste or smell? Slaying the Dragon god gives more satisfaction than data input and designing your own physical appearance has to be better than visiting the gym. Fact: Fiction is whatever we want it to be, so don’t just settle for boring reality.

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