A Case for Visionary Fiction, Part 3: Action Plan

Editor’s note: The following guest post by Victor Smith is the last of a three-part series on Visionary Fiction aimed at increasing awareness of the genre and helping readers discover, explore, and enjoy Visionary Fiction.

visionary eyeAround the turn of the millennium, several of us authors-without-a-genre developed a vision on the then-Yahoo Visionary Literature Forum to “ . . . advance the dream of a thriving body of visionary literature that contributed significantly to humanity, making the leap to that next level of spiritual and practical evolution without which our future prospects as a race seem bleak indeed.”

This article, the third in the series A Case for Visionary Fiction, expands on that initial vision to popularize Visionary Fiction.

The Genre for This Age

Regarding the primary characteristic of Visionary Fiction given in Part TwoExpansion of the mind or growth in consciousness is the hallmarkof Visionary Fiction—we can rightly claim that expansion of the mind is on the mind of everyone in their right minds today. And such expansion posits elements beyond the bounds of the average TV-conditioned consumer, thus making VF quite indispensable.

The Visionary Fiction Alliance Home Page states: “As the world evolves away from the Newtonian model of the five senses to the more evolved quantum model that includes the sense of spirit so resurgent today, Visionary Fiction is rapidly becoming the genre of choice to express that evolution and predict the breathtaking future that might follow the anticipated leaps. Under its broader umbrella are now gathering works previously classified as spiritual, metaphysical, or science fiction.”

In 1967 the arch-philosopher of communication theory, Marshall McLuhan, put out a provocative little picture book entitled The Medium is the Message, which illustrates how new media forms stimulate the human ability to sense in radically different ways.  Think what a field day McLuhan, who died in 1980, would have had with the digital world of the 21st Century. We have only just begun, and yet we can leap from continent to continent with a single click, access information about anything by typing a few letters, and communicate with a speed and volume that was science fiction in his day. Modern technology offers the visionary writer opportunities, if only by eliminating the tedium of research and composition, to explore human consciousness in ways previously unimaginable.

Also in Part Two is this  point: Visionary Fiction renders the reading experience interactive. Digital media enables and enhances interactivity. To the visionary mind, this is electrifying stuff, and electrifying stuff is what fuels us to sit for hours composing our works. Even marketing, a bête noir for most writers, can be more opportunity than challenge to the VF author advertising in the digital arena. So far, eBook publication and online promotion have largely been an electronic imitation of the printed publication process with the addition of niceties such as hyperlinks and instant dictionaries. Full implementation remains wide open for experimentation. Following the visionary paradigm that encourages cooperation, we can imagine a form of electronic marketing that is more about sharing graciously than shouting louder than the rest of the crowd.

Establishing Visionary Fiction’s Pedigree

Rather than the narrow sub-genre to which it is often relegated, Visionary Fiction is, according to the eminent psychologist Carl Jung, a super-genre that forms a major slice of the literary pie.  In the lecture, “Psychology and Literature,” in Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung divides all works of art into two distinct forms, psychological and visionary. “The psychological work of art always takes its materials from the vast real of conscious human experience—from the vivid foreground of life, we might say.” This is generally called realism. “The latter [visionary] reverses all the conditions of the former [psychological]. The experience that furnishes the material for artistic expression is no longer familiar. It is a strange something that derives its existence from the hinterlands of man’s mind—that suggests the abyss of time separating us from pre-human ages, or evokes a superhuman world of contrasting light and darkness.”

In Jung’s paradigm, the bulk of classical literature (the poems of Homer and Virgil, Beowulf and even the Bible) is Visionary Fiction. A few scholars besides Jung have made specific studies of the visionary form (Edward Ahearn, Flo Keyes); fragments exploring the concept are scattered through much literary criticism. But, to my knowledge, Visionary Fiction has been an elephant in the room with blind scholars examining its appendages, mistaking the part for the whole. Jung explains this myopia with an observation that explains why Visionary Fiction has been slow to catch on:

“The reading public for the most part repudiates this kind of [visionary] writing—unless indeed it is coarsely sensational—and even the literary critic seems embarrassed by it.”

One would think, given the importance Jung attributes to the Visionary mode, that scholars would stampede—and it is the intent of this series to stir up such activity—to expound on this vital cultural phenomenon. And yet even Wikipedia still relegates VF to a sub-category of Inspirational Fiction, an oversight the Visionary Fiction Alliance is now scheduled to correct.

Proper study, recognition, and development of VF might require the emergence of a competent field general, someone akin to John W. Campbell who in the 1940s promoted Science Fiction into the robust genre it has been ever since, and a few deep-pocketed patrons to stimulate the proper surge of interest. Many pioneers, whose efforts deserve to be documented in an appropriate history, have already plotted out the rough trail; it remains to lay down some smooth tracks to carry the product to the public in volume.

Baby Steps

However much time it takes before VF conventions draw thousands and glitzy award ceremonies are held for the VF Book of the Year, we can take practical steps, some already initiated and others suggested here, to increase VF’s hold in the public consciousness—Visionary Fiction is, after all, the art form designed to raise consciousness.

Once again, it is the internet that provides an inexpensive avenue for education and promotion, but its effectiveness requires a sustained effort and dedicated repetition (often on a shoestring) by those who aim to see VF go viral.

  • Insert #VisionaryFiction in every tweet possible.
  • Visit VF sites (some are listed by the Visionary Fiction Alliance) and generously contribute posts and comments.
  • Read other VF authors and review their works on Amazon, GoodReads, IndieReader, Smashwords and other venues where numbers count.
  • On your own website, cross-post with other favorite VF sites or list them in your blogroll.
  • Like/share worthy VF material on Facebook and Twitter. Volume activity raises search engine ratings and may eventually attract the attention of traditional agents and publishers.
  • Support the current effort to encourage the various online book vendors to properly and prominently categorize VF works (having VF properly defined in Wikipedia will facilitate this).

The Cooperative Model

The cooperative model is introduced here, not because it has been tried (it hasn’t) and is true (I, an optimist, believe it is), but because it is ideally suited to VF writers (also optimists by definition) who are producing works pertinent to society’s most urgent needs and demands at a time when the ideal delivery system (the internet) is in place. It is a radical opportunity because the old system, which assumes the 99% are born to contribute to the top 1% and individual celebrity trumps communal well being, is still the way to do things, fancy rhetoric invoking “the people” aside.

Even the most prolific writer acknowledges that readers consume books faster than he/she can write them. Thus, Author Paul promoting Author Peter does not rob Paul. John W. Campbell, with only the primitive pulp magazine model to work with, promoted a constellation of SF writers (van Vogt, Asimov, Heinlein, Sturgeon, to name a few), most of whom benefited from the others’ popularity.

The Visionary Fiction Alliance is building on the blueprint set forth nearly 15 years ago by the Yahoo Visionary Literature Forum:

“The Visionary Literature Forum was to be the launch pad for an electronic gathering place for writers, publishers, agents, booksellers and supporters of the emerging Visionary genre. Its purpose was to hold enlightened and mutually beneficial discussions on the definition of the visionary genre, its history and authors, effective writing practices, marketing methods, and industry trends. From such discussions we projected to create a structure (permanent website, more sophisticated discussion groups, professional association, annual awards, conference representation, even a marketing/publishing collective) that would advance the dream of a thriving body of visionary literature that contributed significantly to humanity making the leap to that next level of spiritual and practical evolution without which our future prospects as a race seem bleak indeed.”

While the Visionary Fiction Alliance site is not the only game in town or yet an optimum model, it is a working installation operated by active VF writers, regularly updated with new posts and pages exclusive to Visionary Fiction. Its members acknowledge that it is just the beginning for what is intended to be a “home base and central clearing house for readers, writers, and researchers dedicated to or interested in the emerging Visionary Fiction genre.” While formed originally as a safe haven for VF writers exhausted by the excruciating going-solo stage, the Visionary Fiction Alliance is rapidly becoming a laboratory for the cooperative model, an experiment in best methods to effectively pool knowledge, effort, and even funds to move Visionary Fiction forward.

This article and the earlier two in this series are intended as seed material rather than complete treatments. Please jump in below with comments, suggestions and critiques that will further this important conversation.

Related Posts

  • In Part One: The Bucket, we argued to establish a single brand name, perfect or not: Visionary Fiction.
  • Part Two aims to initiate a vigorous buzz around the characteristics of Visionary Fiction.
  • In Part Three, “Action Plan,” we examine practical ways the VF community can position the Visionary Fiction bucket, now chock full of goodies in high demand, so that authors can make frequent deposits with confidence in a vibrant marketplace, and readers can make regular withdrawals with a transforming experience guaranteed.
Victor Smith, The Anathemas Visionary Fiction

Victor E. Smith

Anathemas by Victor E Smith Visionary Fiction

A lifelong proponent of human spiritual evolution, Victor E. Smith has focused on paranormal phenomena and their manifestations.  THE ANATHEMAS, A Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution, is widely available. A prequel and a sequel are well underway.

 

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Contest: Comment on My Cover Pages, Win a Dalai Lama Novel

I am gearing up to publish my first novel, FINDER OF LOST THINGS, and I’m predictably nervous. I’d like to recruit you wonderful readers to comment on the back cover blurb and cover image for the chance to win a brand-new hard copy of  The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring, the second book in David Michie’s series (check out my review of the first novel, The Dalai Lama’s Cat). To enter, write at least a 25-word comment below by Dec. 27, 2013, and I’ll enter you into the drawing.

Here’s the front cover and the back cover text. I’m most interested in getting your take on the back cover blurb, since it’s arguably the most important element in selling a book:

FINDER OF LOST THINGSFinder of Lost Things by PJ Swanwick metaphysical novel

WHAT IF A PERSON COULD REMEMBER LIFE BETWEEN LIVES–THE LIFE OF THE SOUL?

Lila Chance must find a missing child who has a secret gift . . . a gift so profound and powerful it could change the course of history. Unfortunately for the missing boy, Lila is not the only one looking for him.

Lila lives a quiet life in Boulder, Colorado, ghost-writing amazingly accurate and engaging eulogies. Then an astonishing message from the missing child blows away everything she believes in, tumbling her down the rabbit hole of metaphysical discovery.

When she finds out the missing boy may hold the key to finding her own kidnapped son, Lila will stop at nothing to uncover the truth.

Part old-fashioned mystery, part new age exploration, FINDER OF LOST THINGS is an entertaining and intriguing look at the mysteries of relationships, the meaning of existence, and the most enigmatic question of all: What is life between lives?

Award-winning author P.J. Swanwick lives with her family near Boulder, Colorado. She writes on a wide variety of topics that interest her, such as where neuroscience and psychology intersect with metaphysics, spirituality, and creativity. In addition to writing, she manages Fiction for a New Age, which reviews metaphysical, spiritual, and visionary novels.

Visit the author at http://FictionForANewAge.com or http://pjswanwick.com.

Well? What do you think? Add your 25 words’ worth in the Comments section and perhaps win a hard copy of The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring. And while you’re at it, check out my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Age-Fiction.

Thank you, dear readers! I’ll announce the winner on Dec. 30, 2013.

Scientific Proof That You Can Choose Happiness

Happiness Joy 

One theory in psychology research suggests that we all have a happiness “set-point”that largely determines our overall well-being. We oscillate around this set point, becoming happier when something positive happens or the opposite, afterwards returning to equilibrium.

But this set-point, to a certain extent, can be reset. Although our general mood levels and well-being are partially determined by factors like genetics and upbringing, roughly 40 percent of our happiness is within our control, according to some experts, and a large body of research in the field of positive psychology has shown that happiness is a choice that anyone can make. As psychologist William James put it, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”

Here are eight ways you can take control of your own happiness.

Simply try.

happiness

A little effort can go a long way in increasing happiness. Two small experimental studies, published this year in the Journal of Positive Psychology, found that simplytrying to be happier could actually elevate mood and well-being. In one study, two groups of students listened to “happy” music — one group was instructed to make a concerted effort to feel happier, while the other group was instructed not to actively try to lift their mood. The group that tried to feel happy experienced the most elevated moods after listening to the music.

Make happiness your number-one goal.

People who are happy choose to make happiness among their top goals in life, according to psychologist Tom G. Stevens, Ph.D., author of You Can Choose to Be Happy.

“Choose to take advantage of opportunities to learn how to be happy,” Stevens told WebMD. “For example, reprogram your beliefs and values. Learn good self-management skills, good interpersonal skills, and good career-related skills. Choose to be in environments and around people that increase your probability of happiness. The persons who become the happiest and grow the most are those who also make truth and their own personal growth primary values.”

Linger on those little, positive moments.

coffee

According to Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, our brains are wired to scout for all that’s bad — as he puts it, the brain is like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive ones. This “negativity bias” causes the brain to react intensely to bad news, compared to how it responds to good news. But we can counter the brain’s negativity bias — which triggers us to form stronger bad memories than good ones — by appreciating and lingering on those tiny, positive moments.

“People don’t recognize the hidden power of everyday experiences,” Hanson told The Huffington Post. “We’re surrounded by opportunities — 10 seconds here or 20 seconds there — to just register useful experiences and learn from them. People don’t do that when they could.”

Choose mindfulness.

meditation

The secret to happiness could be as simple (and difficult) as becoming more mindful. Meditation — a practice that anyone can do, anywhere, so long as they’re willing to sit and try to silence the mind — is thought to be a happiness-booster.

University of Wisconsin psychology professor Richard Davidson found in his research that a meditation practice might help to shift brain activity from the right frontal area of the brain (associated with depression, anxiety and worry) to the left, which has been found to correlate with feelings of happiness, excitement, joy and alertness.

Smile your way to happiness.

success and motivation

The secret to boosting your mood could be as simple as making yourself smile. A2011 Michigan State University study found that workers who smiled as a result of cultivating positive thoughts exhibited improved mood and less withdrawal. Fake smiling, on the other hand, resulted in worse moods and withdrawal from work.

Practice gratitude.

gratitude

Cultivating thankfulness and gratitude is a scientifically-backed way to increase happiness, and it’s firmly within your control to choose to be more grateful.

Grateful people tend to appreciate simple pleasures, defined as “those pleasures in life that are available to most people,” according to a report in the journal of Social Behavior and Personality.

Pursue happiness, find happiness — and success.

success

Conventional thinking has it that pursuing success will lead to happiness, but research has shown that it may be just the opposite. Pursuing happiness leads not only to happiness itself, but also to success, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.

In his 12 years researching happiness at Harvard, Achor found that cultivating apositive mindset could boost well-being and improve workers’ performance on many levels, from productivity to creativity and engagement.

“People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge,”he wrote in Harvard Business Review in 2012. “I call this the ‘happiness advantage’ — every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.”

Let yourself be happy.

happiness and dancing

Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who spent years working with elderly people on their deathbeds, noticed a common theme that came up repeatedly among her patients at the end of their lives: They regretted not “letting” themselves be happy.

Ware, the author of The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying, wrote in a Huffington Post blog:

Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again … Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Practice compassion.

restoring balance

Want to increase your brain’s capacity for happiness? Try meditating on compassion. Brain-scanning studies on French monk Matthieu Ricard found that when he was practicing loving-kindness meditation, his brain produced gamma waves “never reported before in the neuroscience literature.” Ricard has the largest capacity for happiness ever recorded, thanks to neuroplasticity.

“Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” Ricard told the New York Daily News.

Reblogged from HuffPost

Beyond Words: We Don’t Need More Successful People

zen quote metaphysical fiction

Book review: Dark Night of the Soul

A real gem of metaphysical fiction

Dark Night of the Soul by E.M. Havens metaphysical fiction sci fi-fantasy novel

Tahlia Newland, guest reviewer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Dark Night of the Soul is a real gem. E.M Havens has used magical realism in this YA novel to examine suicide and the issues that surround it, and like all the very best indies, it’s a completely unique voice that explores its theme in a brave new way.

Seventeen-year-old Jayden commits suicide and finds herself in a kind of purgatory where teams of people who have committed suicide protect other suicidal souls from the demons that whisper in their ears and incite them to suicide. Life in this purgatory is a series of battles. If they defeat the demons, the person lives; if they lose, the person succeeds in their quest for death and their soul joins the team. When a new member arrives, the Judgement–a kind of sparkly storm cloud–comes for another. If it’s you it comes for, you’ll meet a statue of yourself and you can either submit to the judgment or fight to keep the demons off your statue/soul. If the judgment takes you, you’ll either move on to the next realm, or you’ll go back to your life. It’s a second chance. It’s difficult to explain and it’s bizarre, but it works.

Havens takes us through a series of events in which Jayden grows as a person.This isn’t a story you can say much about without blowing the intricacies, surprises and beautiful ending. What I can say, though, is that I didn’t want to put it down.

The author skilfully revealed the details of the world and the character’s lives as the story progressed, so that there was always something new to learn and a different angle to take on what we’d already seen. A romance blossoms as well, one with a bitter-sweet flavour because it apparently has little chance of long-term success. The environment is surreal, taking the group of demon slayers through various terrain and a wide variety of accommodations provided by “Him.” Is it God? No one knows. One powerful image is of a Walmart in the middle of a desert where the manager uses televisions to show Jayden the options the suicides don’t see due to their tunnel vision. That’s when she learns why they fight to keep the demons from luring people to their death.

Though the subject is suicide, this is not a sad or depressing book; it’s a great tale with layers of meaning. Though it appears as a fantasy, everything is a vehicle for insight making it more precisely metaphysical fiction and magical realism.

It’s simply but effectively written and warrants 5 stars once an issue of formatting has been corrected.

Favourite quote:

“Is it Heaven.”
“No.” He looked down at me in awe, a smile gracing his burnt and peeling lips. “Better. It’s Walmart.”

Details:
Dark Night of the Soul, by E.M. Havens
E.M. Havens, 2013
Kindle, 166 printed pages
Buy at Amazon

tahlia newland visionary fiction author

Tahlia Newland

Tahlia Newland writes heart-warming and inspiring contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and visionary fiction at tahlianewland.com, and she also writes reviews for AwesomeIndies.com

What’s the purpose of living?

Quora recently posed a question: If we all end up dying, what’s the purpose of living? Here’s the top answer, picked by more than 3,500 users. The winning answer is from James Adams, who describes himself as a biology student, tutor, and transhumanist.

If we all end up dying, what’s the purpose of living? 

Indulge me the privilege of rephrasing the question.

“If you’re going to run out of cake to eat, what’s the purpose of eating cake?”

The purpose is to enjoy it. Having been served the above cake (or a flavor more to your liking, as you please), would you rebuff, “No thank you. There’s not enough of this cake to eat forever, so there’s no purpose to eating it.” Of course not! Scarcity doesn’t make it any less pleasurable.

Doesn’t that cake look delicious? So it is with life.

Book review: Vingede

An excellent and eerie metaphysical mystery

Tahlia Newland, guest reviewer

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Vingede (The Friar Tobe Fairy Tale Files, #2) metaphysical mystery

The second of Krisi Keley’s Friar Tobias mysteries is even better than the first. Once again the author’s background in linguistics and theology provides the unique material for this superb supernatural mystery.

A man seeks Tobias’s help for his foster son. He thinks the child may have witnessed a crime, but the boy has a speech problem due to either autism or schizophrenia, so no one can understand him. Like Ms Keley, Tobias has a degree in linguistics which is why the man seeks him out. Paolo speaks in poetry and makes obscure references to what Tobias eventually figures out is an old fairy tale about a girl and her eleven brothers that are turned into swans by a wicked witch. He senses that someone is in trouble, but who?

Tobias’s friend, the psychiatrist priest, wants him to meet a mute and apparently traumatised girl who has turned up in a hospital and, in what appears to be sheer coincidence, her sketches indicate that she fills the role of the girl in the fairy tale. But where are her eleven brothers? And how does Paolo know all this? This description is a gross simplification of a story with many subtleties, but as with all good mysteries, our suspicions are aroused and the pieces come together at the end.

Ms Keley manages to imbue her mystery with more than just the supernatural. As with all her books, questions of spirituality are at the core of the story. Tobias is a staunch Catholic. He believes in leaving sex until marriage, so his girlfriend, Samantha, who he met in his last case, must wait with him, and this provides some interesting topics of conversation. The nature of the crime and how it reflects present day morals is also a matter of thought-provoking reflection on Tobias’s part, but both these issues sit quite naturally in the story simply because of who Tobias is.

Ms Keley is a master of the English language. Her prose flows beautifully (though I did find the first sentence rather a mouthful) and she expresses subtle ideas succinctly and elegantly. The characters are charming with a delightful intelligent banter between Tobias and Samantha. The plot is interesting, the pacing never languishes and the editing is sleek.

Overall the book is an excellent and eerie mystery about a sick crime that needs a little supernatural intervention to bring the perpetrator to justice. This is a wonderful example of the kind of gems you’ll only find in independent fiction. It’s an entertaining, skilfully executed mystery, but it’s also different, deep and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for those who like private investigator stories with supernatural and metaphysical elements.

Details:
Vingede (The Friar Tobe Fairy Tale Files), by Krisi Keley
Krisi Keley, 2013
Kindle, 183 printed pages
Buy at Amazon

tahlia newland visionary fiction author

Tahlia Newland

Tahlia Newland writes heart-warming and inspiring contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and visionary fiction at tahlianewland.com, and she also writes reviews for AwesomeIndies.com