I've mentioned before about how when we talk about imagination, we're not just talking about the ability to make things up — worldbuilding, or what-if scenarios, or what have you. Imagination is also about being able to see more of what's actually there than others might, to not approach the material in question wearing blinders. Nobody ever really knows all the ways they do not see things (I think now of James Tiptree, Jr.'s story "The Women Men Don't See"), and so when they have their blind spots pointed out to them, it's not a huge surprise when they respond by either blowing it all off, or getting indignant, or constructing elaborate refutations that have nothing to do with what's being pointed out, etc.
My current take with how this relates to fiction in general and SF&F in particular is how some of the folks I've met who want to write the latter always surprise me with how they can be ... I guess incurious would be the word. They're pretty great at dreaming up wild, Byzantine plots about who did what to whom and why and what the kids did to each other in revenge afterwards, but when it comes to being curious about people themselves, they don't seem all that interested
I always thought that was a mistake, because if you can't write about the guy next to you on the bus and what makes him so fascinating — that is, if you are attuned to what is fascinating about him in the first place — then everything else is going to get short shrift in some form, too. (I think back constantly to Andy Warhol's line, "People are amazing. You can't take a bad picture [of them]." As long as your eyes are open, that is.)
The impression I get is that such folks don't think those things are important to them. They might be important to someone writing something more, well, literary, but not them. Maybe someone is going to read about, or care about, what they might be able to see in someone as nondescript as the guy who mows their lawns, but it won't have any bearing on what they think is important in their work, so why bother investigating that stuff to begin with? People read because they want to get away from their lives, not be reminded of them. Right?
My take is this. The whole reason storytelling works in the first place, especially storytelling of the fantastic, is because it deals with things we have at least some provisional connection to. Even the wildest flights of fantasies has a connection with the moment we're in; it would have to be in order to be a flight of fantasy from that moment in the first place. Those who want to traffic in the fantastic at the cost of everything else forget that they have to start with the way life actually is to some degree — not in the sense that it is Hobbesian-terrible and that we must rub this unforgiving fact in their faces (sigh, Game of Thrones), but that all the profoundest excitements we get out of a work of the fantastic come from the shock of recognizing something familiar in a way and in a place we would never have thought to find it.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind