The goal of my research is not literary analysis for its own sake; it is to understand how fictional representations of new and future genetic and reproductive technologies reflect and affect the lives of real women. That said, one may wonder why, if the experiences of real-world people are my target, I choose to study them through fiction. It is because I believe fiction gives us a rhetorical device step outside our own reality--a necessary skill for anyone writing laws, funding research, or making one-on-one moral decisions.
Bioethicist Sarah Chan writes, "The creation of a fictional backdrop helps readers to address ethical issues by allowing us more easily to envision ourselves in the place of another." She is one of a group of scientists, doctors, ethicists, and scholars calling for more attention to be paid to the way fiction informs real world decisions and beliefs.
Given my argument here, it's not surprising that the following quote caught my eye. It is from Brit Marling, the co-writer and star of the new film Another Earth, in which a woman deals with the consequences of killing two people in a drunk-driving accident, while trying to find a way to get to Earth 2, a duplicate of our Earth, to meet her other self--one who might not have made the same mistakes. Although clearly fiction, it brings the concept of the multiverse, an accepted topic of discussion and research in physics, to an intensely personal level. The article argues that "[w]ithout Earth 2, Rhoda is another character, wishing for a different outcome, rather than a character that can see the other outcome directly in front of her, up in the sky." It ends with this quote from Marling:
"Sometimes in science fiction you can get closer to the truth than if you had followed all the rules."
- Chan, Sarah. "Editorial: More than cautionary tales: the role of fiction in bioethics." Journal of Medical Ethics 35.7 (2009):398-399.
- "Another Earth: Meeting the 'other you'. The Science and Entertainment Exchange 7 Sep. 2011.