Our Warren Stories series turns the spotlight on writers, readers, and artists within our community. Here, we’ll share their work, artistry, and personal stories in our effort to uplift every member of our community and make their voices heard. Have a story you’d like to tell? Contact us today!
Today, we’re going to hand the mic to Amelia Brown, a writer and academic living in the UK. Amelia is currently shopping her first novel for publication.
I write stories.
I read that somewhere. An author was talking about what, at a fundamental level, he does, and it comes down to that: stories. I started writing in my single digits, mostly poetry and songs. I was quite young when I began my first novel. But then I became an academic. Stories got lost in a whirlwind of papers and research and political philosophy.
This is supposed to be the story of why I write stories. But I realized to do that I have to tell the story of why I became a political philosopher. It’s a simple tale that begins and ends with social justice. I was, am, will be (most likely) motivated by the need to contribute positively to the world. And so, I became an applied ethicist, and then I went to law school, and found that the world of ethics and law are more fairy tale than fact. And, unlike real fairy tales, their roots are so expressly human, in the worst sense. At least for me. Perhaps it is that, in a perfect world, people wouldn’t need lawyers or ethicists laying the foundation for making things fair. But even in that ideal world, people would still need stories.
Philip Pullman famously said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” For me, this speaks to what all stories have in common: a kind of desperate seeking of truth. I believe in that truth. Smaller ‘t’ truth that leads to a big ‘T’. All kinds of subjective-esque truths that lead to an objective picture. I think people need truth, in both senses. I think too that somehow, somewhere deep in every human being is the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Often, that looks very different for each of us, though I think the overall Truth is much the same. And here is where stories come into play.
A story is life, set with boundaries, often perfected—in any genre; you could write the perfect horror, the perfect adventure, the perfect murder, etc.—designed as a microcosm of exploring what it means to be human. There’s something about a microcosm that lends itself to observation. And when we have observed, then we step back. In philosophy, there is often a discussion about the nature of reflection or contemplation as a kind of deliberative period that is separate (or, in some cases, ought to be separate) from action. So, after observation and reflection, then we act.
To me, stories are the deliberation. I read them as contemplation with a distinct desire to learn as much as I can about how I might act differently, or choose not to act, and so on. And then, I act. I think that many of us experience story this way. Stories change the way we see the world, and thus the way we act in the world. Ethics does this by paving a path of guilt or subjective truths that vie for placement. Law does this by restriction. But stories do this by encouraging us to learn.
And, of course, fairy tales, of all the stories, encourage us to learn perhaps the most blatantly. That is their purpose. To gently, and sometimes not so gently, shake us from our reality, and encourage us to live differently. To tell us the inner-workings of the human mind, the horror of it, the beauty of it, the complexity of it, the courage of it.
This is why I created the blog Fairy Stories and Other Tales. It arose from stories flowing out of my pen that I thought might offer something; a bit of joy, some hope, a laugh here and there, and, when dark, whimsy and beauty as a contrast to a world that seems to be growing increasingly dismal. It’s become my social justice. If you get the chance to read some of my stories, ‘[m]ay it be a light to you in dark places, when […] other lights go out’ (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring).
Because that should be the point of story, I think.
Amelia Brown started writing officially as a humor columnist for her university's newspaper. In September of 2016, she won an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest for her short story “A Womb at the Edge of Space”. She will be published in the 81words anthology that will come out sometime in the next two years. And she is the author behind the blog Fairy Stories & Other Tales. She has just semi-retired at great risk and at far too young an age from academic life in Cambridge, UK, in order to become a writer, and is currently looking for representation for her first novel.