This is a continuation of my musing on a free-software-type ideology for fiction.
Read Part I
The primary argument against the ideology of free software seeping into fiction may be that they too-different spheres whose ideas are simply non-transferrable.
I disagree. Of course.
But it’s a valid point. Fiction is not software. Books are not computers.
Fiction is art and art can be proprietary without crippling a society which relies on it. Not to suggest that technologists don’t work out of a creative spirit, or that our every day lives would collapse without Angry Birds, but software is by it’s nature, utilitarian. It does things. It does a lot of things. Many of which affect how we socialize, how we work, how we learn, how we communicate, how we move from one place to another…
And when something goes wrong it can go really wrong. When a malicious piece of software gets out, it hurts people. Free software can act as a protection against that. People don’t need to be passive users of their computers, trusting big companies to create things only in their customers’ best interests. They can use software that allows them to know exactly what is happening on their hard drives.
The opposite is true as well: when something goes right, it can go really right. A helpful program can uplift people’s lives and improve society. And if some force for good can be spread and improved upon and spread some more, then it’s more harmful not to do so.
Fiction has the luxury of not carrying the burden of modern society on its shoulders.
Fiction has the privilege of being proprietary without causing undue harm. Artists can put artistic purity over utility and artistic freedom over customers’ freedom. Making art, after all, is an inherently selfish act. And because it doesn’t feed anyone but the artist, so it can be selfish.
Fiction doesn’t need to sacrifice ownership, so why should it?
Because it can be more.
Permit me to speak highly, for a moment, of my own career choice: fiction can be important, and if something can be allowed to maximize it’s impact and usefulness then that should be allowed. I’m not suggesting that Harry Potter is on the same level as, say, the ability to communicate instantly to anyone almost anywhere on the planet. But art is an integral part of the human existence. Storytelling goes way further back than writing and, being important, they persist. Stories can move people, they can inspire people, they can get a person through a tough time, they can open windows onto different cultures, and share experiences across the globe. Stories may not provide the network on which we communicate, but they provide much of the material that makes communication worth it.
So even if we can sit in our ivory towers, working on our art and keeping our creations pure from the touch of the masses, should we?
I think not.
I think we can be more.
The mechanisms of free software may not translate to fiction but isn’t the goal worth adapting?