I use Google News Alerts to keep a steady supply of material coming in. Among other things, I have a list of any news stories containing the words “paranormal” or “supernatural” emailed to me every twenty four hours. But I rarely find a topic to write about in them, the reason being that nearly all of them are actually something to do with a TV program featuring a supernatural or paranormal theme, rather than a report on actual alleged activity.
My friends and family who know that I don’t believe in anything supernatural (which is all of them) often ask me what I think about supernatural fiction. This is often when we’re watching something like Lost, and at any mention of say, “psychics”, they look nervously around the room or take a sudden fascination with their fingernails, and edge slowly across the sofa away from me as if waiting for some sort of explosion.
The truth is that it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, I enjoy supernatural fiction. In July, the seventh and final Harry Potter book will be released in the UK, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that I will be in the queue outside the bookshop at midnight on the Friday (although I may not bother with the wizard costume this year), and that I will finish the book before I go into work on the Monday morning (just in case some pillock decides to tell me the ending). Fiction is a medium in which our imaginations should be allowed to run wild and free, and far from having a problem with supernatural stories, I fully support them.
What does bother me, is people getting confused between fiction and reality. Contemporary TV guides are bursting with paranormal phenomena in fiction, and it isn’t hard to see why. As human beings, we all have a penchant for magical thinking. We would all love to think that the impossible could be possible. Personally, I think that fiction is a wonderful outlet for those fantasies, provided that the people who enjoy them have the critical thinking skills to understand that just because it happens in a TV show, doesn’t mean it happens in real life. I do wish the general public would temper their love of the paranormal on TV with a healthy dose of scepticism.
For example, The X Files, in my opinion, did much to fuel the conspiracy theories regarding UFO’s. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the program, as fiction, I just wish that the viewers could have enjoyed it without actually believing that it represented reality. Sadly, the media has no interest in the truth, only in money. As long as people enjoy these programs, they will continue to make them. They wouldn’t dare encourage critical thinking as a side dish, for Satan forbid, people might lose interest then!
I also find it interesting that fundamentalist Christians seem very threatened by supernatural fiction that contradicts it. They, too, seem to have noticed that people can be taken in by magical stories. Notably, in the documentary Jesus Camp, the pastor Becky Fischer took great delight in telling the children in her care that Harry Potter would have been put to death had he lived in Old Testament times. The incredible irony that the Harry Potter books are infinitely more suitable for children than the tales of the Old Testament (and not much less plausible) appeared to be lost on her.
A commenter on one of my first articles, Astrology – the real ones, said this to me:
…the masterful orderliness and logic of nature behind truly well designed astrology…which has an intellectual and mathematical gradeur beyond your wildest dreams, or perhaps, in your case, since you do not truck with dreamers, we should say your most expanded logical theorem…
As is so often the case, I didn’t think of the best reply until it was too late, which would have been, “I have no problem with dreaming, I just prefer to do it when I’m asleep”. I think that is the best way I could sum up my feelings about supernatural fiction.