A Visionary Influence – Eleni Papanou

Visionary fiction has always been my favorite genre, even before I knew it existed as a genre. This post is about who influenced me to write visionary fiction. It’s bound to cause some controversy.

The drumroll please…

 ayn-randThe author whom I most identify with is Ayn Rand.

“The secrets of this earth are not for all men to see, but only for those who will seek them.” Ayn Rand, Anthem 

I’m going to focus on the visionary fiction angle of Rand’s writing, which was what had influenced me. I view her politics as a minor aspect of her stories. It was the themes that strongly resonated with me and still do. I read Athem in my teens—when I knew little about politics. Today, I know a lot about politics, which is why I’m not a capitalist, socialist or anythingist. Nevertheless, like Rand, I do champion a society that respects the rights of the individual. That’s a consistent theme in all my writing.

While only Anthem is filed under visionary fiction, I connect all of Ayn Rand’s fiction to the genre.

“The creator requires independence. He neither serves, nor rules. He deals with men by free exchange and voluntary choice.” Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Only a tyrant would disagree with the above statement. For those not familiar with The Fountainhead, the creator relates to anyone who contributes to society.

Because Rand defined herself by her politics and philosophy, the themes of her books are easy to overlook. In The Fountainhead, the protagonist, Howard Roark, is an architect who must compromise on his vision in order to appease his bosses and the heads of state. They shun his unique designs because they want every building constructed not to stand out. As the story continues, Roark becomes more humble, focusing more on his vision. It’s more important for him to see his building constructed than the recognition he would receive as the architect who designed it. He permits Peter Keating, another architect, to take credit for his work. When Keating acquiesces under the pressure of the state and ruins Roark’s design, Roark blows up the building. Quite an extreme reaction, but I recall feeling the power in the scene. Roark took a stand, not just for his own right to express himself freely as an individual, but for everyone’s right to do so. It’s through the freedom of self-expression that we thrive and continue to evolve.

How many of us would do what Roark had done? How many of us would sit in the background while another person takes credit for our work? Ayn Rand publicly espoused the virtue of selfishness, but her stories reveal the complete opposite. Did she ever see this contradiction? If so, did it confuse her? She had admitted to being an atheist, but the subtext of her work comes across as deeply spiritual.

“What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.

In analyzing Rand’s books at this level of my spiritual journey, I can clearly see that she was evolving through her own writing. Was she aware of it? Her personal life might have been less than ideal, but her words ring true even though she couldn’t live up to them. I feel the same about my own work. Damon, the protagonist from Unison, challenged me and continues to do so. I see him as an ideal—of something I can evolve into. Perhaps Rand viewed Howard Roark similarly.

Some people might argue as to whether The Fountainhead would be considered visionary fiction, but if Roark’s courtroom speech were understood and followed, the world would be at peace. That is the evolution of consciousness on a profound level!

“It’s the things that we admire or want that enslave us.” Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

The Rand Influence

Ayn Rand stories inspired me to grow and live my dreams without compromise. However, it took me a while to get here. It wasn’t until I had started writing visionary fiction that I connected to the meaning of what Rand was saying through her fiction. In hindsight, I used to compromise with my writing, but I stopped when I wrote Unison. After I had typed my last word, I felt the power behind Howard Roark’s conviction. I had intellectualized it many years ago but had never felt it from within. Now I produce what comes from my heart and mind, and I’ll continue to evolve with each book that I write. Like Howard Roark, I won’t compromise on my vision, which is why I chose to self-publish.

“An inventor is a man who asks ‘Why?’ of the universe and lets nothing stand between the answer and his mind.” Ayn Rand, from Atlas Shrugged

The Connection in My Writing

One important lesson I have learned on my spiritual journey is that I can only evolve as an individual. In all my books, my protagonists typically come to a similar understanding, either consciously or subconsciously. Perhaps after we die, we enter a collective reality, but we humans don’t do collective well. Collectivism has always led to less freedom. Ayn Rand used this theme, and I do so as well in Unison. The main difference is I don’t directly involve politics in my work. It may be the by-product but never the main focus as I don’t view any political system as an ideal. Nevertheless, if I’m ever referred to a spiritual Ayn Rand, I wouldn’t take offense to it!

If you’re interested to read more about how I connect Ayn Rand’s philosophy with spirituality, please click here to read my five-part series on spiritual objectivism.


Eleni Papanou is the author of two novels. Read more about them at her website.

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6 Responses to A Visionary Influence – Eleni Papanou

  1. "Howard Roark, is an architect who must compromise on his vision in order to appease his bosses and the heads of state." Wow, Eleni, this sounds like what authors must to do to fit into the confines of a prescribed genre. "They shun his unique designs because they want every building constructed not to stand out." If you replace the word "they" to agents and publishers, the comparison continues! "Roark becomes more humble, focusing more on his vision. It’s more important for him to see his building constructed than the recognition he would receive as the architect who designed it." And there you have it: self-publishing and freedom of self-expression! "A spiritual Ayn Rand," now there's a thought.

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  2. Admin - Eleni says:

    Hi Margaret:

    I appreciate how you connected my post with the state of traditional publishing. Self-publishing is giving the Howard Roarks and Dagny Taggarts of the world the freedom to fully express and realize their visions, their way. It's a great time to be a creator!

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  3. vicsmith0123 says:

    Since it’s been decades since I read her and I don’t even recall the mindset that led me to do so, I’d wondered about your fascination, Eleni, with Ayn Rand and how it jelled with your expressed spiritual inclinations and your goals as a visionary fiction author. Unfortunately, my hazy lingering impressions of her resulted from a few egotistical “objectivists” I encountered whose qualities I didn’t want to emulate. After reading your piece and recognizing my almost total ignorance, I googled Ayn Rand and read a short bio on aynrand.org . I didn’t know that she had been raised in Russia during the Communist revolution and only came to the US in 1925, which explains the vehemence of opposition to “collectivism.” A revelation that casts a kinder light on her works.

    But this is not a discussion, really, about Ayn Rand, but her influence in your choice to become a visionary fiction writer and the themes you choose to write about. That she inspired you to “champion a society that respects the rights of the individual” is beyond laudable. That, further, it took you beyond the pugnacious individualism of the “Stand Your Ground” law variety to the more nuanced, sometimes self-effacing, self-reliance that has a deep spiritual foundation is ground-breaking.

    Deeply thematic in my own first novel, The Anathemas, is the perennial conflict between “authority” and “personal insight,” with the religious arena the battleground. Being a natural-born rugged individualist, and usually willing to pay the price for it, I often wondered why so many chose to believe the unbelievable just because some authority said it was so rather than think it out for themselves and accept their own conclusions. I’ve lived long enough on planet Earth now to understand this mystery better: it takes grit and guts to work it through for yourself and then to stand that ground when “everybody else” had been convinced by the authorities that your position is wrong. Sadly, grit and guts are in short supply, simply because they are “so hard” to acquire.

    But the next level of evolution will not be achieved without those two G’s, and I believe it is largely the task of VF writers to entice human beings, through the vision of what lies beyond, to get off their mental and spiritual duffs, to experiment with their innate abilities, and discover for themselves what marvelous creations and creators they truly are. If I’m not mistaken, this is what Ayn Rand and you too, Eleni, are trying to bring about through your writing.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Vic:

      Rand's communist upbringing certainly explains her mistrust of a centralized government, and I think she'd be up in arms had she been alive today. I think her fear of the U.S. following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union was why she came across so strongly for capitalism and angered those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Many people attach to their politics as though it's a religion. Disagree with them and risk getting attacked or ostracized for daring to disagree. And as you've mentioned, some of Rand's followers are equally fierce in their support of her philosophy.

      "Being a natural-born rugged individualist, and usually willing to pay the price for it, I often wondered why so many chose to believe the unbelievable just because some authority said it was so rather than think it out for themselves and accept their own conclusions."

      Even the Buddha branched out on his own, shunning authority. It takes a lot of "grit and guts," as you've mentioned, to go at it alone. It seems everyone has the answer on what we should or shouldn't believe in. The pressure to conform is powerful and only a person with a strong will can resist. And I agree, that it will take the two Gs to move to the next stage of evolution.

      I write exactly for the reason you've mentioned. With each book, I rediscover the gift of writing that I've been given. A beautiful attribute of visionary fiction is that it can inspire both the writer and reader on a deeply spiritual and profound level.

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  4. Vic Smith says:

    Ah, great to find a kindred soul, Eleni. That we both love to write is a bonus.

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  5. Pingback: Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Recognition – Part 1 | Visionary Fiction Alliance

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