“Why do we read fiction? What is it that attracts us to stories about lands that that don’t exist, and people who don’t exist? What’s the appeal of fiction? To my mind, it’s vicarious experience – I think we live through fiction. I look back on the books that I read when I was young, like Lord of the Rings, you know I remember the Council of Elrond. I remember Sam and Froto making their way across the the plains of Moria. I remember these events almost as if they happened to me. I remember the fog on the barrowdowns.
These things have become part of my memory now, I read these when I was like 12 and 13 years old. I don’t remember what I had for dinner the night that I read about the Council of Elrond. I don’t remember who sat behind me in my junior high school class or who sat in front of me. I even have to think back to try to figure out who hell the teacher was and I probably wouldn’t be successful. So which of these is really part of my life?
Not to get all existential, but I think it’s the things that we incorporate as the things that we remember. We, all of us, as human beings are sums of our memories and our lives. When we when we live our lives and we reflect on our lives, vicarious experience can be just as important as real experience and that’s why I’ve been known to say that, ‘a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies while the the man it does not read lives only one’.
And I think that’s true, you know, as a reader I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve visited other planets, I’ve dove to the bottom of the sea, I’ve o
sailed the Spanish Main, and fought Pirates. I loved a thousand beautiful women, I’ve died, I’ve had children. I’ve had all these experiences that I’ve never had in real life but yet these their apart of me and they’ve made my life immensely richer. So that’s what I want to do for my reader – when you’re finished with my books I want you to feel that you live those books not that you simply read some words on a page. I want to immerse you in the world.”
– George R.R. Martin