Why Is It Called Non-fiction?

The bulk of what I read is fiction. I suppose that says something about me. Despite my obvious preference to explore imaginary worlds above learning about our own, I have to say it has always bothered me that books are classified as FICTION and NON-FICTION.

How did that happen? I mean, the word fiction means “made-up.” And despite my affinity toward it, the logical processors in my brain can’t resolve why fiction would be the standard by which all the other books are classified. We have animals which are cute and ugly. Not animals which are ugly and non-ugly. We have people who are short and tall. Not people who are short and non-short.

So how did it come to be that the facts of this world, the records of our history and technologies, came to be called what amounts to “not made up?” This is a travesty of nomenclature. It is a failure of language in the very medium where those words are inscribed. Does this bother anybody else?

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3 thoughts on “Why Is It Called Non-fiction?

  1. I think it may have to do with the fact that there were a lot of stories in ancient cultures and so we had “fiction” and we had fiction around as an oral tradition for a lot longer. And with oral traditions we get a lot of the same stories, just tweaked slightly. So we had a lot of stories that could no longer be called factual. Thus we didn’t have the idea of “non-fiction” until written history came along somewhat later and civilizations developed.

  2. Awesome observation. I’d add to it the fact that there is a lot of non-fiction in a fiction book and, from what I’ve observed, a ton of fiction in your average so-called non-fiction book. Perhaps they should instead be catagorized as “creative” and “fact-based”

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