What is the Difference between Visionary Fiction and Speculative Fiction and Why Should I Care? – guest post by Lee Jordan

Lee Jordan imageWell, to answer the last part of the question, writers need to care where their books fit on bookstore shelves, and in our case the virtual bookshelf. Gary and I, writing together as Phoenix, are genre rebels, writing what we want to write, but when it comes to having people find our stuff, well then we are forced into labeling our work (we hate that).

The key to speculative fiction lies in the root word: speculate. Think of this in terms of “what if” and you’ll see it. So now you might ask, but doesn’t that make all fiction speculative? What if the Wicked Witch really has monkeys that can fly? What if aliens really exist on Earth? What if we could be like Superman and leap tall buildings? And what if there was a separate world for regular folk and witches, where the witches attended an academy to learn their craft?

Does this not mean that fantasy, science fiction, and horror, are Visionary as well as Speculative? Does it exclude romance, science fiction and horror?

Fiction, by definition, is untrue, so all of it involves some degree of speculation. The difference is in what’s being speculated upon. My opinion is that Visionary Fiction is a genre that was created to specify a goal, not a genre. Romance, alternative history, weird tales, dystopian, apocalyptic, time travel, (think of time traveling World War II nurses, moving through time to Medieval Scotland), past lives, superheroes, all sorts of supernatural elements – but with a difference.

The difference is that the goal of the story would be to uplift, illustrate, and … Continue reading

Golden Mean in Story/Visionary Approach to Story Structure

I’ve been fascinated with the archetypal patterns behind stories for a long time, but it was only after I delved deeper into the mysticism of Numerology and Sacred Geometry that I began to notice some fascinating correlations between those mystical teachings and the classical tools of story telling.

This brought about the idea of a visionary approach to story structure based on these sacred teachings. I’ve been doing elaborate research since; however, its essence could be summed up in the mystery of the Golden Mean.

Mystery of the Golden Mean

Golden Mean in StoryThe Golden Mean, also known as the Golden Ratio, has been well known to the ancient cultures in Egypt and Greece due to its frequent appearance in nature and its wide use in art, philosophy and science. The principle was later encapsulated in the famous 15th century text The Divine Proportion written by Luka Pacioli and illustrated by Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Golden Mean embodies the process of division and expansion of oneness or the initial center. The best way to introduce this enigma would be by sharing Plato’s legendary riddle. The Greek philosopher once asked his students to divide a line segment into two unequal parts and ponder about its meaning.

Had he asked them to divide the line into two identical parts, the ratios would be the same and would hold no possibility of further separation. By dividing the line into unequal parts where the larger one encompasses the two smaller ones, they found a basis for further division. This made them realize that if a ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum, the quantities … Continue reading

The Lesser Known Novels of Dion Fortune, Part 3 – by Theresa Crater

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Theresa Crater’s review of Dion Fortune’s Visionary Fiction novels.

Qabalah

The Mystical Qabalah gives the theory, but the novels give the practice . . .

[T]hose who study The Mystical Qabalah with the help of the novels

get the keys of the Temple put into their hands.”

~ from Moon Magic, by Dion Fortune

I was browsing in the Theosophical bookstore tucked in a small street off Broadway in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood, just a block away from an apartment I inhabited in my twenties. Feeling nostalgic, I remembered the times I’d dropped into this very same bookstore years ago, on my way back and forth to work or to taste the free samples on the counter at Dilettante Chocolates, dashing in dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt amongst the more elegant diners. On this visit, over in the corner, I found the Dion Fortune section. I held up the two novels and her short story collection I knew already and showed them to my companion, recommending them to him. Reshelving them, I discovered, much to my delight, more novels! I never knew Fortune had written more fiction, but there they were: The Demon Lover, The Winged Bull, and The Goat Foot God. With delicious anticipation, I pulled them from the shelf, took them to the counter, and handed over my credit card. What a wonderful find.

demon loverI’m … Continue reading

Drugs, Meditation, and Creativity

This week, William T. Hathaway shares his story on how he was inspired to write visionary fiction. Read how he steered his pain toward a creative path:

meditate-1038838-mAt the age of 15 I decided I was going to be a writer. I loved books, and writing them seemed to be the greatest thing in the world to do. Now after eight books it still does.

But at first I had a terrible time writing. My thoughts were jumbled, and I couldn’t concentrate. I did poorly in school because I couldn’t hold my mind on the assignments. I was too caught up in my psychological stress and subconscious conflicts to be able to really write or study.

I started smoking marijuana, thinking I could blast my way through all my blocks with that. But it made them worse. When I was high I thought I was being very creative, but the next day when I read what I’d written, it was drivel. Eventually I flunked out of the University of Colorado, but I figured who needs college — I want to be a bohemian artist. So I moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and wrote, painted, and played drums, but mostly got high. New York had many more different kinds of dope than Boulder, and I tried them all, hoping for that creative breakthrough. But finally I realized I needed to get out of that whole scene if I ever wanted to do any good writing.

The war on Vietnam was just beginning, and the military draft was after me. I’d been reading a lot of writers whose first books were war novels, so I … Continue reading

Sex and Spirituality Find a Home in Visionary Fiction – by Peggy Payne

Where sex and spirituality meet is in the experience of dropping boundaries, of feeling expansion, dissolution, limitlessness. In both, we can have the experience of dissolving into a larger existence, joining a great ocean of being.

Where sex-and-spirituality fits well is in the world of Visionary Fiction, which allows the reader to feel the experience vicariously and recognize a connection between these two areas of life so often kept severely separate.

That’s important, because where these two subjects are brought together there is often squirming discomfort, controversy and hot anger. People are so often offended—incensed, even —that the two could even be mentioned together. Many take the stance that something so animalistic and messy as bodily functions should not be allowed to sully the beautiful purity of religious/spiritual experience.

This dichotomy should not be. The two are inevitably intertwined; bodies and souls are, at least for the moment, joined. Sex is central to human life. And we can use stories —Visionary Fiction — to allow a reader to sense this or feel it more strongly.

 A Calling I Didn’t Request

 I seem to be making a career of focusing on this intersection, though I never meant to. I never intended to write about spiritual experience or about sex. In fact, I didn’t even plan to write fiction. I was for years a happy travel writer and freelance writer on other nonfiction subjects.

But then one day I returned to my office to write a news story about a government committee that, in my view, had done all the wrong things. I said to myself, “If I were going to write a novel, what would it be about?” Making up a story felt like taking charge, which I couldn’t do with North Carolina government (though I still wish I could.) Then … Continue reading

The Delicate Balance in Visionary Fiction – by Rea Nolan Martin

VFA bannerblue

Editor’s note: One of our Visionary Fiction Alliance founding members, Margaret Duarte, wrote a review of Rea Martin Nolan’s latest book, Mystic Tea. You can read the review here. We were so pleased with how Rea represented Visionary Fiction that we asked her to share her perspective on what is important in writing Visionary Fiction, and how she goes about writing it. Here is Rea’s insightful response.

Visionary fiction is a delicate matter requiring a mastery of creative and technical balance. Unlike Fantasy, which generally takes place entirely in realms of the authors invention, Visionary Fiction is best told in the firmament of human physical and emotional experience. For me, at least, the goal is not to write exclusively for mystics, but for readers in the process of awakening. This requires an accessible entry point with opening scenes steeped in familiar culture, grounded in temporal human experience.

Since Visionary Fiction bears witness and insight into expanded awareness, the question then is how to balance the story structure. I have been writing what is now known as Visionary Fiction for twenty years. In my short stories, first two novels, and the third novel, The Anesthesia Gamewhich will debut this year, I maintain a similar ratio of concrete to mystical of about 2:1. Of course (being visionary) I didn’t craft this ratio consciously. However, looking back, I see what I’ve done time and again. This ratio has been so successful for me because it grounds the reader firmly in the third dimension before introducing any significant mystical or esoteric scenes. By the time the story launches into the mystical, the reader … Continue reading

Dion Fortune: Spiritual Teacher and Visionary Fiction Writer, Part 1 – by Theresa Crater

Many people are familiar with Dion Fortune as a spiritual teacher in the Western Metaphysical Tradition, the founder of Fraternity of the Inner Light (later re-named the Society of the Inner Light). She was born Violet Mary Firth in Wales in December of 1890.

Dion Fortune showed psychic abilities as a child, and later reported a life in Atlantis as a priestess. She became interested in the occult when studying with a Freudian lay analyst. She pursued both esoteric and psychiatric study in her life, joining the Golden Dawn when she moved to London, then beginning her own group at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in 1924. Before leaving the Golden Dawn, Fortune studied psychiatry with Dr. Moriarty (it looks like Arthur Conan Doyle may have known him, too). She wrote many nonfiction titles on magic and occultism; many have become standard references in the serious study of esotericism. She wrote under the pseudonym Dion Fortune, most likely taken from her family moto Deo Non Fortuna, ‘God not luck’. She is buried in Glastonbury, England.

sea priestessTwo of Fortune’s novels focus on tantric ritual or sacred sexuality, The Sea Priestess (1935) and Moon Magic (1956). Some claim that Fortune included spiritual principles in her novels that were too secret to be published in her nonfiction, and perhaps it was this sexual content that the time period could not handle being discussed more openly.

However, the head of her branch of the Golden Dawn, Moina Mathers, objected strenuously to Fortune’s writing at first, fearing she was sharing secrets not meant for the general public. In her fiction, it seems Fortune wanted to … Continue reading

Fiction’s Battle for Acceptance in Islam, as Metaphor for Visionary Fiction: Part Two

Part Two

You can view Part One of this intriguing exploration by guest author Stephen Weinstock here.

In Part One, I outlined the parallels between Arabic fiction’s uphill battle for acceptance in the first centuries of Islam. I believe the criticism and slow acceptance of Visionary Fiction goes back to the same kind of interdiction against fiction that occurred at the start of Islam. To state a truth that is spiritual, religious, or transcendent in non-fiction is relatively acceptable, but when you attempt to express that truth using fictional characters, imaginative worlds, and intricate story lines, you risk cheapening or corrupting the statement. I worry about this impurity in my series 1001: The Reincarnation Chronicles, because I use humor, the banality of suburban life, and the characters’ foibles to make past life experiences more palatable. But does lightening the message water it down?

Inversely, infusing an accepted genre like science fiction, fantasy, or romance with a strong spiritual statement has been frowned upon for corrupting the intrinsic experience of those forms. Yet this was key to greater acceptance of both Arabic and Visionary fiction. The fantastical or ribald elements of the stories in Kalila wa Dimna or the maqamat derived from the popular culture of street storytellers. The Thousand and One Nights also had its origins in popular bedtime or ‘Night tales’ from ancient India and Persia, and it came out of the oral transmission of the marketplace as much as the literary manuscripts of the court. On top of this popular culture foundation, the court added an Islamic layer, where Scheherazade tells her stories to redeem the King’s monstrous behavior, to use stories as ethical and religious examples. Still, to this day, some Arabic scholars repudiate the Nights as literature because of its popular … Continue reading

Fiction’s Battle for Acceptance in Islam, as Metaphor for Visionary Fiction

Part One

In researching Book Three of my series 1001: The Reincarnation Chronicles, I read a great deal about the history of Arabic Literature. I am no Arabic scholar, but I had to learn about medieval Persian and Arabic culture. My characters, in their past lives in 10th century Baghdad, collaborate on a special version of The Thousand and One Nights, which is multi-cultural, subversive, and highly symbolic. I became enthralled by the development of fiction in the early Islamic world, and how difficult it was for a story collection like the Nights to gain acceptance.

When I learned about the gradual acceptance of Visionary Fiction in literary culture, I thought there were some interesting parallels with Arabic fiction. The phrase uphill battle comes to mind. But also, Visionary and Arabic Fiction each have strong ties to spirituality and religion, which both promote and hinder their acceptance. But let’s travel back in time to see more detailed parallels.

Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs and Bedouins had a rich literary tradition, weighted toward poetry, recitation, and storytelling in the desert night. One way to think about Muhammad’s receiving and delivery of the Qur’an is in continuity with this tradition of oral transmission through recitation. Only later were The Prophet’s words written down. Of course The Qur’an was visionary: sacred and divine Truth.

The early Islamic community outlawed fiction for many reasons. First, fiction was considered lies, in stark contrast to the truth of the Qur’an. Second, there were reports of Muhammad’s wise utterances, known as hadiths, by his followers. But there were many who would sermonize or pontificate without authenticity, and these utterances were considered fictional lies. Third, to legitimize spoken or written words as being authentically derived from The Prophet, and thus from Allah, every speaker and … Continue reading

Fantasy, Spiritual, or Visionary Fiction

Editor’s Note: We are happy to offer popular and respected Visionary Fiction author Peggy Payne’s latest thoughts on Visionary Fiction and the novels she writes.

Peggy Payne speaking

Last night, as guest speaker at a book club in Holly Springs, North Carolina, I talked my way to a new understanding of what kind of novel I’m in the midst of writing.

My two-thirds-written story is one that many readers would consider a fantasy, because a couple of the characters are spirits from what is known as the astral plane.

However, I’ve never thought of myself as a fantasy writer. I like to write and read realistic plausible fiction about the supernatural: spiritual/religious experience as the leading example. My three published novels, all on spiritual matters, likely fall into this category that I am learning to call Visionary Fiction.

My first, Revelation, is about a liberal intellectual minister who began hearing God talking out loud in English, though he had never believed in that sort of thing. This story is not fantasy. It’s spiritual experience. It could happen. It does happen.

Sister India is about an American innkeeper in a Hindu holy city, with scenes that, as in my other novels, focus on the intersection of sex and spirituality. There are moments that are other-worldly, extra-sensory, but not impossible.

Most recently Cobalt Blue is about a woman who has a spontaneous and disruptive spiritual experience, the rising of life force energy in her that some religions call kundalini. The story also involves a respectful treatment of voodoo. This book travels in the realm of belief — beliefs … Continue reading