Fiction is the term used to describe works of information created from the imagination. This is in contrast to non-fiction, which makes factual claims about reality. Fictional works -- books, pictures, stories, fairy tales, fables, movies, comics, interactive fiction -- may be partly based on factual occurrences but always contain some imaginary content.
Fiction is largely perceived as a form of art or entertainment, although not all fiction is necessarily artistic. Fiction may be created for the purpose of educating, such as fictional examples used in school textbooks. Fiction is also frequently instrumentalized by propaganda and advertising. Fiction may be propagated by parents to their children out of tradition (e.g. Santa Claus) or as a form of control (cf. fairy tales). Frequently fiction is deliberately created with a moral goal in mind; such fables are not necessarily targeted at children.
Fiction may over time blend with factual accounts and develop into mythology; atheists typically perceive religion as no different from any fictional tale, whereas members of religious groups typically explain their beliefs with faith and claim they are fundamentally different from fictional tales (although they may call alternative religious views fictional). The sociological school of constructivism argues that every view of reality is fundamentally a construction of the self and that a safe distinction between fact and fiction is impossible, whereas the philosophy of naturalism holds that reality can be approximated and truth can be demonstrated through usefulness, allowing the distinction from fiction.
Fiction has often been the target of censorship or boycotts, escalating into book burnings or bans. Extremist regimes like the Taliban have been even more prohibitive, restricting all reading to religious texts. There is an ongoing debate regarding sexual content in fiction and whether or not juveniles can be safely exposed to it; opponents of fiction with sexual content typically label it pornography.
The Internet has had a massive impact on the distribution of fiction, calling into question the feasibility of copyright as a means to ensure the income of creators. Together with cheap and powerful home computers, it has also led to new forms of fiction, such as interactive computer games or computer-generated comics. Countless forums for fan fiction can be found online, where loyal followers of specific fictional realms create and distribute derivative stories. Through open writing systems like wikis, collaboratively written fiction is also becoming possible.
Fiction may be perceived as funny, serious, sad, fast, tense, confusing, surprising, twisted, provocative, boring, unrealistic, enlightening, addictive, manipulative, generic, beautiful, life-changing, depressing, or inspiring. Whatever one's view of specific forms of fiction may be, it cannot be denied that fiction is a fundamental part of human culture, and the ability to create fiction, or in fact any art, is frequently cited as one of the defining characteristics of humanity.
- Fictional realm
- Fictional character
- Interactive fiction
- Crime fiction
- Clerical fiction
- Spy fiction
- Science fiction
- Fantasy fiction
- Children's fiction
- Fan fiction