L’imagination créatrice et visionnaireCours

Imagination is at the core of the creative process. It is a tool to cut loose from reality and create extra-ordinary worlds. Artists can invent different worlds, inspired by our own, but with different rules. Imagination helps create dreamlike visions and fantasy worlds. It is also a tool to push back the limits of reality.

imagination créatrice visionnaire chronologie

Imagination: a tool to cut loose from reality

Imagination is central in the creative process. It is a tool to cut loose from reality and create imaginary worlds. Fairy tales are stories that are crucial to the development of the children's imagination. Imagination can create extra-ordinary worlds like Alice in Wonderland or Game of Thrones.


Definition of imagination

Imagination is central to the creative, writing process. To that extent, imagination and creativity complement each other, though they are different. Imagination is a mental process that enables artists to create different worlds and stories.

Imagination is a mental capacity that revives the memory. To do so, it looks back into the past to reinvent it and turn it into something that cuts the readers/authors loose from reality.

The mental process of imagination, as the ability to create pictures in one's mind, revives the memory and is a starting point for looking back into the past, maybe reinventing, thus creating a new form of present (made more acceptable), and constructing hypothetical futures, hence the visionary aspect of it. Various literary genres were born from imagination including Fairy tales, Fantasy (high and low), Magic Realism, Gothic stories, Sci-fi, among others. 

In the end, regardless of the reasons why the authors choose to use their imagination instead of merely retelling past or present events in a factual way, the readers will always be left with their own personal vision and interpretation of the stories they are reading, since they originated from the author's imagination. This is truly what a book is: An open door to one's own imagination as it explores worlds, characters, and times created on purpose to take the readers far from their own lives. 



The power of fairy tales

When young children are told stories and fairy tales, they embark on an adventure that drags them away from their everyday routine. Yet, on the other hand because there are lessons or skills to be learnt and remembered from a fairy tale, when the well-known sentence "And they lived happily ever after" shows up or is read at the end of the tale, children are taught a lesson in life, in real life. 

In an article published by The Telegraph on June 29th, 2018, child psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe explains and justifies the importance of fairy tales. First, what seems to be a mere good guy/bad guy story to most children helps them feel safer and more receptive to accept daily lessons in life. These lessons can be about basic morality in the first place, but they will soon help the children build their capacity to learn from life, to dig deeper into morality and to discern good and evil.

In that perspective, as fairy tales are about imaginary worlds, children feel more comfortable to learn from them due to the fact that the plot is not about real life, events, or about something that is likely to happen to them. Tales are less scary than some novels or real life events they are confronted to in the news, for instance. In other words, imagination helps to accept reality, and this is not only true for children.

On top of that, as life is not always easy, reading about heroes and heroines' hardships and fights against wicked characters also shows, through fantasy and imaginary situations, that sometimes things go wrong, life can be hard, and some people play mischief and don't mean well.

Nevertheless, since most of the time the good guys are rewarded and the ending is a happy one, it reinforces the children's trust in adults and shows how important it is to be nice, courageous and honest.

The Grimm Brothers' fairy tales take children to dark places which open them to a new world and, as Kyra, 12, explains in the blog readbright.com, fairy tales "help [me] think about real life problems and give [her] hope." This shows how powerful imagination is when it comes to accepting the somehow harsh reality of our time.

"These happily-ever-after stories reassure us that somehow, in some way, with time, everything will be alright in the end."

Sally Goddard Blythe

English French
The creative process Le processus de création
To complement one another Se compléter
To revive Ranimer, réanimer
Memories Souvenirs (qui relèvent de la mémoire, non d'objets achetés comme souvenirs)
To cut loose from reality S'échapper de la réalité
A lesson in life Une leçon de vie
A good guy/bad guy story Une histoire de gentils et de méchants
Plot Intrigue
Character Personnage
Wicked Méchant, malfaisant
To show up Apparaître
The hardships Les épreuves (de la vie)
To play mischief Être mal intentionné
To mean well Vouloir du bien
To be rewarded Être récompensé
Harsh Dur, difficile

Imagination to create extra-ordinary worlds

Imagination does not only serve the cause of fairy tales. There are other stories, fantasy books, that are scarier. Artists create extrao-ordinary worlds where the places are darker, and some of the characters show evil instincts. It is the case for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, one of the most important books in English literature. The recent success of Game of Thrones, a book series that became a TV-series, is another example of an extra-ordinary world. 


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Born from the vivid imagination of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's pen name), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a shining example of this literary genre and its absurd, weird, and nonsensical world.

The book was born from the stories Lewis Carroll (whose real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) would tell to the three little girls of Henry Liddell's, the dean at Oxford's Christ Church College. To entertain the little girls, Lewis Carroll turned into a storyteller and narrated the somewhat silly adventures of Alice (after one of the girls' names) to the young ladies.

As the storyteller went further in the narrative, the imagination and improvisation skills developed by Lewis Carroll became keys to enriching the young girls' fantasy world. In order to please Alice, Lewis Carroll ended up writing down on paper the whole story.

Alice in Wonderland Alice au Pays des Merveilles

© Wikipédia

Lewis Carroll's astounding imagination takes the readers, together with his major character Alice, on a journey in a world where Alice attends the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, follows in the footsteps of the White Rabbit, meets with a caterpillar who insults her, (though he helps her use the growth altering Magic Mushroom), the always smiling Cheshire Cat, to name but a few, and the Queen of Hearts, the enraged queen who threatens to cut Alice's head off.

Alice in Wonderland rabbit lapin

© Wikipédia

All these characters are said to be mad by the Cheshire Cat but in fact, madness in this book is an explanation and a word for things that are fantastic and imaginative. As Alice and the readers explore the nonsense world of their imagination, even though she is dreaming the voyage, Alice explores the world itself and challenges the limits of reason. 

When Alice wakes up and, consequently, comes back to the real world, the dreams inside of her are still real and her imagination, stimulated and powerful as it is, becomes real.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  was certainly one of the very first books for children to value entertainment rather than morals. Lewis Carroll obviously favoured and delighted in pun on words, absurd characters, weirdos and fantasy over the Victorian morals and values of his time. What is for certain is that he relied on his imagination to escape the world around him that he found too dark. Literary nonsense was his way of escape.


Game of Thrones 

On a different note, because it is another medium for artists to express and share their imagination, it would be relevant to take a look at what the cinema and TV have to offer. The TV-series Game of Thrones is a good example of how an imaginative world is created from elements of reality: the author was inspired by the Wars of Roses that started in England in 1455, and the settings are typical of British landscapes.

Hollywood author and story writer George R.R. Martin's name doesn't necessarily ring a bell but the acronym GOT most certainly does. Actually, the acronym stands for Game of Thrones, the world-famous TV series that was created from George Martin's books. It is all the more interesting to study the process of imagination in Game of Thrones because coming up with such a complex and multifarious universe as the one in Game of Thrones is the ultimate challenge of the creation process.

Contrary to what most people think, Game of Thrones and the books it is made from were not the fruit of George R.R. Martin's pure imagination, far from the human reality of our world. The author's creativity didn't come out of the blue. In fact, it originated from all time periods in history and it took inspiration from ancient traditions and myths. 

In the same way as Shakespeare is said to have borrowed his plots from other writers and to have reorganised them, adding new plots, subplots, events, and characters, George R.R. Martin explains that he took inspiration from the Wars of the Roses, (fought between 1455 and 1485 between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Initially started for control of the mentally ill king Henry VI, it ended up being a war for the throne), when it came to developing the intrigue and schemes around the Iron Throne in Westeros.

The Wars of the Roses served the series as it shaped the drama, particularly as it applies to the conflicts between the Lannisters (and by extension, Baratheons), Starks, and the War of the Five Kings. Of course, the war between the Lancaster and York Families didn't include any kind of dragons or any other magic tricks as the series does, but still, it implies influence peddling, throne rivalry, weak kings, murdered princes and princesses, and political struggle, in the same way as the conflict in Game of Thrones does.

Moreover, Westeros reminds the readers and viewers of some British landscapes and atmospheres. The name itself is made from Wester Ross, a region of the North West Highlands of Scotland.

landscapes from north west Highlands Scotland
Landscape from North West Highlands of Scotland

© Wikipédia

The Wall is inspired from Hadrian's Wall, or the Dothraki, who are reminiscent of Mongol Empires in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Hadrian's Wall mur d'Hadrien
Hadrian's Wall

© Wikipédia

Clearly, starting from major historical events and characters, and choosing his sources carefully was Martin's first step in view of the story he wanted to write. But then, the capacity to weave all those elements into a coherent, though extremely complex, story required him to resort to his creative and visionary skills as a writer. 

As a matter of fact, it almost looks as if creativity and imagination were not about having the best or most original idea ever, but rather about being able to mingle, interpret, adapt, and transform the already existing so as to turn it into THE story one has in mind.

"Nothing will come of nothing."

William Shakespeare

King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1

English French
Evil instincts Des instincts diaboliques
A shining example of Un superbe exemple de
Dean  Le doyen (à l'université, par exemple)
Skill Don, compétence
To end up doing something Finir par faire quelque chose
Astounding Stupéfiant
To follow in the footsteps of Suivre les traces de
To challenge the limits of reason Remettre en question les limites de la raison
Pun on word Jeu de mots
Weirdo Quelqu'un de bizarre
To rely on Compter sur
Nonsensical Sans queue ni tête, qui n'a pas de sens
To ring a bell Rappeler quelque chose (ou quelqu'un)
Multivarious Très varié
To come out of the blue Tomber du ciel
To originate from Venir de
To borrow Emprunter
Subplot Intrigue secondaire
Schemes Manigances
Influence peddling Traffic d'influence
To be reminiscent of Rappeler quelque chose
To weave Tisser

Imagination to shape dreamlike visions and fantasy

The artists use imagination to create dreamlike visions and fantasy. Shakespeare did so in many of his plays, particularly in A Midsummer's Nigth's Dream. In pictorial art, it is possible to find a lot of examples of artists creating dreamlike visions and fantasy.


Definitions of dream and fantasy

A dream is something that happens in one's mind as one is sleeping. Fantasy is the activity of imagining a situation. There are differences between the two terms.


A dream is a series of events or images that happen in one's minds as one is sleeping.

People can have good or bad dreams. Moreover, a dream is also something that one wants to happen but that is not likely to. Hence the expression "A dream come true" to be thankful when something dreamt of but unexpected happens in the end.


Fantasy can be defined as the activity of imagining a pleasant situation that is unlikely to happen, or as the type of literature describing situations that are completely different from reality and often involve magic.

There are huge differences between dreams and fantasy. Among these differences, the most relevant here are that dreams are based in our world's reality whereas fantasy are imaginary. Also, dreams are not endless, they have a finish line, whereas fantasy can go on forever and don't have an end. Last but not least, fantasy pushes back the limits of people's imagination when dreams push back people's own limits. They increase people's skills, and help them move forward as they make them think about new projects.

Yet, despite those differences, dreams and fantasy work together when it comes to literary and artistic creation.


Dreams and fantasy in literature

A book is an open door to an author and a reader's imagination. It is also a powerful tool to put down in words one's dreams in order to turn them into fantasy and make them endless. Shakespeare uses dreams and fantasy in his play A Midsummer's Nigth's Dream. The leader of the British romantic movement Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes the poet as someone who has the capacity to create new images.


A Midsummer's Nigth's Dream

One of the best illustrations of the combination of dreams and fantasy in a literature, and in drama more specifically, is Shakespeare as in most of his comedies, the Bard of Avon used to weave the themes of reality and fantasy, and dreams and reality.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, published in 1595, Shakespeare stages three different settings: Athens, which is a reference to a world when men have responsibility and obligations. The arranged marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta belongs to this so-called civilized world; then the forest (where all conflicts are resolved with magic), which takes the audience into a world where fairies and magic potions are expected to bring a happy ending to the story, and, last but not least, the city of Babylon, where a story-within-a-story unfolds. As the plot and subplots ensue, and move from one world to another one, the audience is reminded that all in all, this is just how the world of theatrical world goes: it is a world in which illusion, fantasy, dreams are put together stemming from the imagination and desires of the playwright. This implies that whatever the playwright wants to happen can actually happen on stage, and become the audience's reality for an instant. That is exactly what the theatre is about: making dreams, fantasy and illusion a reality for the audience: fantasy belong to the world of the theatre and reality to the real world.

"If we shadows have offended
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While this visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding than a dream.
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to escape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long,
Else the Puck a liar call.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends."

William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, scene 1

In these lines, Puck alludes to the mingling of reality and dreams and it is also a clue given by Shakespeare, as a justification for having created such an out-of-the-ordinary storyline that reveals the magic of his art.

A little bit more than a hundred years later, A Midsummer Night's Dream was adapted by Henry Purcell into a semi-opera and first performed in London in 1692. This Baroque interpretation of the play included extensive musical scenes, or masques, singing, speaking, and dancing roles. Based on Shakespeare's play, Purcell's semi-opera was entitled The Fairy Queen, thus bringing a shift in form and subject. Indeed, Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, a central character in the play, is removed. Also, only three plots remain of the four plots in the initial play. In fact, with this interpretation, the focus is no longer on the dreamlike aspect of the drama but on the fairy play. Titania is the fairy queen and she reigns over nights and nature.

"As the title role, Titania characterizes opera as a fairy play rather than a dream, therefore capable of raising enchantment and pleasure from drama's crudest elements."

Agnès Terrier

The Fairy Queen, (translation: Philippe Sicard), Opéra Comique production, Paris

January 2010

In other words, what made Shakespeare's drama a mixture of reality and imagination was removed from the semi-opera to only keep the magic of the intrigue, thus making it appeal to the audience's imagination and no longer to its reality.


The role of the poet in the British Romantic Movement

The end of the eighteenth century and middle/end of the nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of the Romantic school of poetry. The poet was described by its leader, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as a man who has the capacity to create new images. The imagination of the poet is unlimited, the process of creating is mysterious.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a leader of the British Romantic Movement and was greatly influenced in his verse by William Wordsworth, whom he met in 1795. The two artists soon befriended and this friendship triggered the change in Coleridge's poetry that turned from a celebratory and conventional tone to a more natural style. After a trip in Germany where Coleridge became fluent in German and studied Immanuel Kant, among other philosophers, Coleridge went back to England, started lecturing on literature and philosophy, and writing on religious and political issues. 

In his book Biographia Literaria, he explains that there are two different types of imagination: 

  • the "primary imagination", which allows man to define concepts, make connections, and deal with the information received from the world around; 
  • the "secondary imagination", which is about man's capacity to create new images. The "secondary imagination" is similar to creativity. According to Coleridge, the secondary "dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate". He also wrote that the poet creates "by that synthetic and magical power…of imagination". 


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw;
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Kubla Khan


In his famous poem Kubla Khan, written in 1812, Samuel Coleridge introduces the reader to a Mongol ruler, Kubla Khan, and to parallel the ruler's huge power and capacity to generate fear, the poet creates a palace as a savage place, where nature expresses its violence. In fact, most of the poem stages an untamed nature, prone to violence, with wild scenes and chaotic movement. The palace itself is a metaphor for the poet's creativity, and to that extent, represents how the poet's imagination makes poetry. Images of chaos dominate the poem, and Coleridge describes, "A savage place!…holy and enchanted". As this obviously looks like a metaphor for a poet's creativity, "savage" is a clue to understanding that the "secondary imagination" is untamed, unlimited, just like nature is, and "enchanted" is a hint to the word "magical" that was evoked in Biographia Literaria.

At the end of the poem, Coleridge warns the readers as he is in a state of uncontrollable creativity (helped in this by his drug addiction) and screams "All should cry, Beware! Beware!" (49). Last but not least, some sort of ritual is introduced in the line "Weave a circle round him thrice," (51) and it conveys an image of enchantment, thus reinforcing the mysterious aspect of the creative process.

English French
Endless Sans fin
To push back Repousser
The Bard of Avon Le Barde d'Avon, surnom de Shakespeare
To stage Mettre en scène
Setting Décor, univers, monde
Fairy Fée
A story-within-the-story Une histoire dans l'histoire
Ensue S'ensuivre
To stem from  Découler de
Playwright Auteur dramatique, dramaturge
Subplot/secondary plot Intrigue secondaire
Hence Donc (conséquence)

Imagination at work in pictorial art

In the Victorian era, the Royal Academy defined what the principles of creative art were. Different movements appeared at that time, such as the Romantic movement and the Pre-Raphaelite  Brotherhood. These movements all developed their own aestheticism and artistic form of expression. The artists created new images, dreamlike images or fantasy images.


The Romantic movement

The Romantic movement of painting is best illustrated by William Turner and William Blake.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, a British artist of the nineteenth century belonged to the Romantic movement and, as such, expressed beauty and a reverence to nature in his works. But at the time of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain (from 1780 to 1840), he also focused his work on the impact of this revolution.

Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway

In the painting Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway from 1844, the blurred lines evoke the movement of the train and how fast it is. The forces of nature here are represented by the rain which falls steadily but still makes it possible for the viewer to clearly see what is happening in the painting and also for the sun to light up woods and river on the side of the train.

Romantic Movement William Turner

© Wikimedia Commons

Another famous painter of the 19th century Romantic movement was William Blake, though he had a very personal approach to the movement. As a painter as well as a poet, William Blake deeply believed in the power of imagination and in the capacity of art to convey ideas and emotions.

William Ghost of Flea
Romantic Movement William Blake
William Ghost of Flea, William Blake, 1819−1820

© Wikimedia Commons

This painting is part of a collection of miniatures that a friend of Blake's, an astrologist called John Varley had asked him to paint as he, like Blake, believed in spirits but, contrary to Blake, couldn't see them in visions. So he had asked Blake to paint his visions for him. 
This painting is representative of William Blake's Romantic visions. The inspiration for this painting came to the artist under the form of a spiritual vision. During his life, William Blake's miniatures were said to be the work a mad man. According to Blake, the ghost of the flea would have explained him that fleas were inhabited by the souls of bloodthirsty men. The ghost has human features as well animal ones. His head is too small compared to his body, he has got a bull's large neck, pointed ears; his skin is like a reptile's skin ,and his tongue is poisonous. The creature looks like it is about to lap the blood from the bowl.


The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is a movement created by idealistic men and women. These young people aimed at creating a new form of painting, taking inspiration from the medieval art rather than from the Renaissance art. They painted dream-like images and always used literary references.

The movement was named Pre-Raphaelite as a reference to the great masters of the Italian painting such as Fra Angelico, Il Greco, or Botticelli, before Raphael.

The artists painted from nature, out of doors, and chose to use bright and shiny colours (as opposed to the smoky grey colours of the Industrial Revolution) to express genuine ideas, and added great details to their work.

Their favourite themes were religious, and some of them as they had travelled to Palestine, added touches of Orientalism to their paintings; last nut not least, the literary references were numerous: 

  • Shakespeare for all of them,
  • Dante for Rossetti, 
  • the Greek mythology for Rossetti, 
  • fairy tales for Edward Burne-Jones,
  • Celtic legends and English folklore.
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Edward Burne Jones − The Sleeping Beauty, circa 1890 & John Everett Millais – Ophelia, circa 1850

© Wikimedia Commons

  • The Sleeping Beauty by Edward Burne Jones is inspired by a fairy tale.
  • Ophelia by John Everett Millais is inspired by the character of Ophelia in Hamlet by Shakespeare.
English French
Dreamlike Onirique
To appeal to Plaire, être attirant
Untamed Non dompté, sauvage
Prone to Enclin à
Blurred Flou
A flea Une puce
Bloodthirsty Sanguinaire

Imagination to push back the limits

Imagination is a means to push back the limits of science and shape a brighter future. It is ingrained in the human being to always try and push the limits of knowledge and science, to go beyond what they already know, to try and understand the universe, even though this thirst for knowledge can take them to try and push the boundaries of science, not necessarily for the greater good. Science-fiction is a genre that enables the writers to do so. 

"The first clear indication that it was the people who wrote and read science-fiction who lived in the real world, and everyone else who lived in a fantasy, came on August 6th, 1945, when the world discovered that an atomic bomb had been exploded over Hiroshima."

Isaac Asimov

This quote from Isaac Asimov means that what only existed in scientific discussions or sci-fi literature before (the capacity to kill human beings on such a large and radical scale) had suddenly turned into a reality that men were not necessarily ready to acknowledge. Of course, talks about the atomic bombs had taken place in scientific and sci-fi circles during the war, but the average Americans had not heard of it. After the bomb exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the aftermath of WWII, the Americans, for most of them, realized they had grown up in a world they thought they knew, but in fact they didn't. Indeed, who could have imagined that humans had developed such a fatal weapon that could literally wiped out entire populations, if not in literature only?

As if foreshadowing what would happen, in 1944, a Superman story told its readers of a villain, Lex Luthor, who was building an atomic bomb almost a year before the Hiroshima bomb. But the story was not printed before January 1946 as the Department of Defence asked DC Comics not to publish it then.

The human mind's capacity for imagination is capable of coming up with the worst inventions ever but is this to say that, whenever imagination cuts loose from reality by pushing the boundaries of science, it is always damageable for humankind? 

In fact, where is the limit between reality and imagination when science is resorted to? What is scientific progress about? A capacity on the scientists' side to create and invent new methods, new products, new medecine etc. in order to make life better and our world a better place to live? Or, does science turn into sci-fi the exact moment imagination enters the game for good?

Human beings of all times were, and still today, are bored of predictable things, of events that were written long before they actually happened, and of their ordinary lives. They have always had the tendency to try new experiences to get away from their daily routines, at least in their minds. This is precisely when imagination is resorted to. And because their present time was boring and uneventful, they imagined future worlds, life on other planets, space travel and, a long time ago, stories in which frogs could be changed into handsome princes. It only took a few years between the publication of the Brothers Grimms' Children's and Household Tales and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

"“Reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays.” The best way to take frequent holidays from reality is imagination."

Aldous Huxley wrote in Brave New World


To that purpose, sci-fi is undoubtedly a literary genre to stimulate the authors' curiosity, creativity and imagination, but also to grant the readers with an escape plan from their reality. There are two aspects in reading a sci-fi book: first, the reader is perfectly aware of the nonsensical side of it, and second, the reader has to believe everything that is happening in the time and space of the novel, for the story to make sense. This is true of almost any kind of fiction novel, or any kind of film. But the major difference between sci-fi and other fiction stories is the use of metaphors which derive from the contemporary life, and sciences (physics, biology, economics, politics, anthropology) and technology.


Mary Shelley struggled to write a book until the moment when, one night, she had a nightmare in which a scientist created a monster from the parts of a human body. It triggered her inspiration and she wrote Frankenstein. Creative imagination and Gothic horror had entered the game. Nevertheless, this book is not merely a horror story to entertain the reader and that is precisely what makes it still relevant today. Frankenstein questions the world on a more global scale: what happens when men's desire for scientific progress, innovation and desire of immortality go wrong? Should there be limits to scientific research? What happens when men's activity goes against the ordinary course of nature? All these questions are burning issues today, and the more answers men bring about, the more questions are raised.

Science-fiction is very popular in cinema too.


Christopher Nolan's film, Interstellar, 2014, was said to be an exploration of the imagination in reviews published after it had been released. And the fact is that it stages space travel and exploration of a new planet to save the human beings (as the Earth is no longer fit to live in due to human activity), artificial intelligent robots and physics theories. What is remarkable about this film is that, although it clearly is a sci-fi movie, it is based upon physicist Kip Thorne's theories that look into the possibility to travel into other dimensions it uses wormholes and black holes to travel further, and it makes it almost believable for the audience. Notwithstanding the fact that Interstellar stretches the imagination, the film questions man's capacity to go beyond the limits of the universe, if necessary, but no matter how strong and powerful man's longing for adventure is, what makes life worth living is the love that binds men together.

English French
To shape Donner forme
Boundaries Les limites, les frontières
To wipe out Effacer
Nightmare Un cauchemar
Burning issues Des questions brûlantes
Wormholes Trous de ver (dans l'Univers)
Black holes Trous noires (dans l'Univers)