Take for example an episode of “Star Trek Enterprise” titled “Cogenitor”. In it, they meet a race with three genders, and all three are required to conceive a child. However the third, called a cogenitor, is treated more like a pet then a sentient being. Naturally a member of the crew rises to its defense. He teaches it to read, talks about going places it would like to go, even gives it a tour of the ship and a name, which it otherwise does not have. Good things right? Harmless and empowering. Not so fast. The efforts lead the congenitor to ask for asylum. Captain Archer (this series Enterprise Captain), after careful thought, denies the request. It's not his place to interfere in a culture he just met. Thus the cogenitor is sent back with its people.
Soon after, they hear from the other ship. The cogenitor has taken its own life. Captain Archer is beside himself. He's angry at his officer for not thinking. As he puts it, a life is lost, and a child unborn, perhaps for a long time, because of the actions of one crewman trying to do the right thing.
It’s said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Here is a glaring example, as well as an example of the power of fiction.
Just reading the reader's digest version of the episode - which by the way dose not do it justice - is enough to get you thinking. So many of us would be right there with that officer. "Free the oppressed people. Empower them. Show them what they've been denied." Would we be so different? And would those actions have the same results? You notice I always called the cogenitor "it" above. No other pronoun was given. The aliens probably never gave it one. Yet I wonder how many are ready to scold them and me for using such a term. Amazing how one small part of the story is already polarizing the viewers.
Fiction, in all it's forms, holds that power and so much more. Star Trek makes us look within ourselves in ways we rarely consider. So do many books, movies, and other TV shows. It's not just the worlds we visit within them. Fiction warns us of dangers of all kinds. It lifts us up in time of strife. It empowers us to overcome them. It warms the heart. It prepares us for things we never thought we needed to be ready for. It’s magic in a bottle, when crafted correctly.
When I lost a valued pet in high school, it hit me hard. He was my best friend, and the only thing keeping me going (till 9/11 happened, but that's another story). When he died very suddenly, I went searching for a book by Wilson Wrals. Where the Red Fern Grows. I didn’t want the story. I didn’t want the characters. I didn’t want the world. I wanted the emotion. The love, pain, and survival of both that came with it. I needed to remember what it was like to cherish someone so deeply, then lose them so tragically, then find a way to survive without them without losing their memory. This one book held all that. Plus the story, characters, and world weren’t bad either.
A copy of Where the Red Fern Grows now sits on my shelf. A special dedication to that pet written by my mom in the front cover. I may never read it again. I may read it next week. I don’t know. But just having it there, sitting in view, brings it all back. The love shared, the joy of the days spent, the fun had, as well as the loss, the grief, and the journey past it that required so much more than tears.
A book lead me through depression, through grief, back into a world that made sense. Still others have shaped me in ways I probably don't even realize. Show like Star Trek let me see the world in ways I don't normally think. All of a sudden I wonder, if I were Captain Archer, faced with this diplomatic situation dropped in my lap, what would I do? Just the question is enough to keep coming back.
What about you? What stories, shows, or other works of fiction have left their mark on you? What makes them so powerful? Is it like Star Trek, where they face real world situations that don’t always have a happy ending? Is it like Where the Red Fern Grows, where it’s more the emotion than the story? What makes them so cherished, so loved, that you keep them displayed on your bookshelf?