Reality versus fiction is at the heart of the current literary debate. We live in a world of docu-drama, the ‘real life’ story. Works of art, novels, films, are frequently bolstered by reference to the autobiography of the creator, or to underlying ‘fact.’ Where does that leave the imagination? And who gets to define the parameters of ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’ anyway? Five writers debate the limits of materialism and realism, in art and literature – and offer a passionate defence of the alchemical imagination in a fact-based world. Iain Sinclair writes in his luminous introduction, they try to explain their impulse to write ‘by way of personal anecdote, revelation, or hopeful punt in the dark’.