Protesters in Iran facing down the terrifying and brutal Revolutionary Guard are putting on Guy Fawkes masks. One more sign of how writing – and stories – infect minds, change them and through that change the world.
When Alan Moore wrote V For Vendetta and used the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol of resistance to oppression, he had no concept of it beyond his story. But now it’s been used all over the world by brave people trying to overthrow tyrants.
The three-fingered salute as a similar symbol has been used by separatist groups for a while, but it gained traction as a symbol of resistance after The Hunger Games. Since then it’s been used in Hong Kong, Myanmar, the Philipines, Cambodia, Thailand and the US.
Stories change the world around us. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes huge and powerful. This is currently known as the Sideways Effect, which is widely studied by academics.
The novel Sideways – and the subsequent film featuring Paul Giamatti – included a tirade against Merlot. It changed the wine industry forever, reducing Merlot’s market share from 20% to just 6% while boosting Pinot Noir and creating an entire tourist industry in the valley where the book was set.
Small: there was never an NYPD choir until a Christmas song had them singing Galway Bay. Now there is.
Storytelling is a meme generator. A creator’s dreaming seeps into the mind of a reader or viewer and changes the way they think as if they’d been infected by a virus. And when their thoughts change, their actions in the world change, and that changes the world itself.
Storytelling is hugely powerful. It shouldn’t be treated lightly.