Sunday, September 9, 2007

What's "Visionary Fiction"?

At the website for Stewards of the Flame I've referred to it as "part science fiction, part what's sometimes called 'visionary fiction,'" in an effort to suggest that it's not typical science fiction and will appeal to other readers who are interested in the "paranormal" powers of the human mind. But most people may not know what "visionary fiction" is -- I myself hadn't heard of it until quite recently.

According to one website I stumbled across, "Visionary fiction is fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot." It states, "Visionary fiction is not science fiction, yet if a skeptic needs “scientific proof” of the reality of the visionary landscape, it can be connected to the new neural sciences--neuro-biology, neuro-psychology, neuro-physics. All visionary fiction is driven by new and uncanny experiences (mystical, spiritual and paranormal) in the neural web. The new sciences have shown us over the last three decades how vast and limitless is the increasing power of the human mind. As in so many eras of human life, where our science goes our literature follows. A new genre is developing, one that parallels the new neural sciences, and helps to chart the vastly uncharted human mind."

This description excited me because I thought I'd at last found a genre into which my novel might fit; certainly it deals with some of the topics listed at the site, such as telepathy and other psi powers. And I've found many other mentions of "visionary fiction" as a genre -- although most of them seem to be a few years old and it seems this new genre hasn't caught on in terms of marketing. I've even seen it referred to as "the kiss of death" as far as sale to publishers is concerned, and it's said that agents who used to handle it now won't touch it. I couldn't find any publishers accepting submissions of books so labeled; the few who issue them are overstocked. Nevertheless, some bookstores, including Amazon, do list quite a lot of novels under that heading.

Unfortunately, however, most novels categorized as visionary fiction seem to be what's more often called "New Age" or "metaphysical" fiction -- that is, they are based on traditional mythologies or other metaphors now popularly associated with the expansion of consciousness and/or unorthodox spirituality. I think that many enthusiasts for New Age ideas will like my book. I certainly want to encourage them to read it. But I myself don't conceive of so-called "paranormal' human abilities in terms of such metaphors. Metaphors are very powerful; I believe they are essential to the expression and dissemination of ideas about topics that we do not yet understand (see my Space Age Mythology series at my website). Yet specific ones are not meaningful -- and are often off-putting -- to readers who neither take them literally nor feel drawn to them as symbols of the unknown. So my approach to the evolution of advanced mind powers is somewhat different. To me, it is something that will occur in the future without any sort of supernatural influence. I don't doubt that some individuals -- now and in the past -- have gained these powers and have sincerely believed them to be derived from sources that I personally consider metaphorical. Yet that's not what my story is about. It remains to be seen whether fans of other visionary fiction will feel it belongs even partly to that genre.

I should say, too, that I've seen the term "visionary fiction" applied in a generic sense to any fiction that reflects a vision -- one that has arisen from the author's expanded consciousness, or even a mere philosophical concept that is considered visionary. That's not what I mean by it, either. I have never had any personal experience with nonordinary states of consciousness. I have only a conviction -- who knows from where it came? -- that the human mind has far greater power than science has hitherto acknowledged.

4 comments:

theAtomicAlien said...

Well said. Great understanding of the future of literature. My novel "Father of Darkness: The Next Project" would fall under the heading Visionary or 'metaphysical' Fiction, but in most listings I place it under Science Fiction genre for marketing purposes. Have a look if you'd like. www.fatherofdarkness.co.nr

Ryan

Peter Piazza said...

I recently released a new volume of short fictional works, essays and poems. It's titled, "I've Nothing To Offer". I sincerely hope those drawn to the visionary fiction genre will be entertained and inspired by this book.
Thanks,
Peter A.Piazza

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Gordon Keirle-Smith said...

Hello,

I am delighted to have found your site, particularly because, over the past two or three years I have been developing a new genre based on an initial work written in the early 1970s. The genre is called "meta-realist allegory" and is presented in a Trinity of books entitled "Zandernatis - Where Legends Were Born". It consists of a compelling alternative to our ancient myths and legends based on documents found under the Antarctic ice in 1962 dating back tens of thousands of years. These are backed by totally credible corroborative evidence consisting of press cuttings, e-mails, web-pages, interview transcriptions and scholarly articles by eminent experts. Taken as a whole, this body of work convinces readers (despite the clearly stated “allegorical” nature of the genre) that the “collection” of elements contained in the books are indeed solidly-researched, irrefutable truths... Some of them with life-changing implications.

Fabulous facts or fabulous fable.
Where do you draw the line?

The genre's roots in visionary art and its metaphysical undertones are described on the blog http://www.zandernatis.com from where a link to the relevant Amazon pages will reveal more...

The review by Penny Kelly, well-known author and spiritual consultant also points towards this field when she states, “…This genre, which is part history, part fantasy and part metaphysical, is a captivating read. Uniquely creative!”

Best regards,
Gordon Keirle-Smith