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.
Around 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 Two— Expansion 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.
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.
- 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.
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.