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

The Importance of Vision in Fiction

Visionary fiction is a category of fiction that brings a strong vision of the world, points a way forward through tough times. When fiction is billed as visionary it seems to elicit excitement or groans. Bestsellers or flops. And this is usually because it is so easy for visionary fiction to stray into preachiness and soapboxing. But most fiction that catches on to become a hit actually is visionary in some way, such as the way dystopic YA lit helps people explore a destroyed world, fulfilling an important function in our troubled society. I would go so far as to say that all good fiction is visionary.

Vision of a Fictional World

Visionary FictionMy fiction is shelved as speculative supernatural or high-concept fantasy, and has been compared to fantasy sci-fi authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Bradbury. But it has a distinctly spiritual flavor because of its cosmological speculative elements about how the world might be knit together—portals between worlds, visions of what kinds of fantastic beings might be out there, that kind of thing. Even though I never aim to tell people what to think with my fiction, I did realize after a lot of reading and writing that I don’t like stories that don’t have some kind of depth to them, emotionally, spiritually, even intellectually. I now believe that the vision of a fictional world, or of its author, is one of the most important components in a great novel, though it often works best when it is behind the scenes, woven into the story where you can’t see the threads.

How can writers impart vision to their fiction? I think you do it by following your heart. Whatever is deep inside you, whatever is really important to … Continue reading

The Visionary Perspective

The Visionary Perspective

I suspect many of you, like me, struggle to define visionary fiction, not to mention how it differs from magical realism.

In today’s post, The Visionary Perspective, and next week’s post, Revealing the Magical, I will make an attempt to distinguish between the two genres—how they differ and where they may overlap.

An Accurate Place to Land

For me, an integration of visionary metaphysical and magical realism seems to be the most accurate place to land—a combination of the embrace of esoteric wisdom emphasizing the human transformative capacity and the hidden mystery of the magical elements breaking through into ordinary “real” life.

This type of fiction, according to Italian writer, Massimo Bontempelli, attempts to change the collective consciousness by “opening new mythical and magical perspectives on reality”.

The Unseen Within the Visible

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Writing Visionary Fiction Within an Historical Setting

Guest Post by author Leonide Martin

Authors of Visionary Fiction encounter a special challenge when their stories take place in historical settings.  Each historic period shapes its cultures through a combination of forces, from evolution to technology and climate.  Within cultures, the unique chronicle of events, resources, worldview, and spirituality become defining forces. When cultures interact, these forces are even more complex.  Those of us who engage with historical fiction are usually driven by a passion for the culture and time period, and we want to keep our stories authentic.  We often have characters who are actual historic persons, and must learn what we can about their personalities, goals, and actions.  Inferring their underlying motives and passions may be difficult, depending on how much written information is available.

How does an author enter the world of ancient cultures?  We can use imagination to recreate how life might have been in historic Greece, Egypt or Britain drawing from research and literature.  While documents are essential, often there are information gaps.  Authors face missing links about events or cultural practices, especially personal facts about historical people and the others who surrounded them.  It can be a real challenge to gather information about an historical person’s emotions and intentions.  We can draw inferences from documentation in historical sources about what they did – but is that enough to craft a story and flesh out a personality?

To me, historical documents and records, and the inferences authors can draw from them, are not sufficient.  This is where the visionary process comes in.  We can use our psychic abilities to envision and enter distant worlds and unfamiliar societies.  Some call this time traveling, or undertaking a shamanic journey.  In the author’s inner experience, she or he actually visits a far-away time and place.

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Guest Post: Setting the Stage: Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction

Karen M. Rider

Genres

Setting the Literary Stage for Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction

Rapid-fire change is ongoing in the publishing industry—and it’s not just in the way books are produced, marketed and distributed. Perhaps like no other period in literary history, writers are experimenting with voice, style and format. Such literary exploration arises from both a writer’s creative urge and in response to market trends. This has led to the emergence of new genres and a shift in the way books are marketed and categorized. On physical and digital bookstore shelves,  we find books grouped as  “alternate historical fiction”, “slipstream” and “paranormal romance.” These categories may arise from official sources (e.g., the Library of Congress), publishers and sometimes from authors and readers. Rarely is there agreement and many books can be placed in more than one category. For example, novelist Alice Hoffman’s book The Story Sisters has Library of Congress designations as Fiction/Psychological fiction/Loss/Mothers & Daughters. The same book has been described as a literary magical realism (for which Hoffman is most widely known) and mystical fiction. (It even popped up under fantasy on my Goodreads profile—and this book is definitely not Fantasy.) M.J. Rose’s series of novels dealing with the quest for tools that can reveal past life memories (The Reincarnationist, The Book of Lost Fragrances) are categorized as suspense right on the cover. On Amazon, these books were once listed under both suspense and occult; now you can find them under metaphysical.

Within a major genre, the waters in which we swim get even murkier. The sub-genres of the speculative fiction market have always … Continue reading

Story vs Message: Striking the Balance

Guest post by Randy Davila

Visionary fiction authors have one of the hardest jobs as writers—to both entertain their readers and to introduce them to new metaphysical topics, which the readers may have never been exposed to before. The most successful authors, of any type of fiction, understand that the first purpose of their book must always be to entertain.

Unfortunately, many times we see visionary fiction authors who feel so powerfully about their message that they let it become the central focus of the story, and drown the reader in metaphors, exercises, theories and unnatural dialogue all in the name of conveying their message. They have forgotten that their readers came to the fiction section of the bookstore to be entertained first and foremost. This is where the fiction author can run into the most difficulty in trying to reconcile their love of the story for the love of the message.

We, as fiction authors, have been told time and time again to “show, don’t tell”—and your metaphysical or spiritual message is no exception to this rule. To keep the reader engaged, you must show them how your character’s negative thinking is drawing negative circumstances into his life; or leave room for the reader to intuit how the character’s dreams about the Divine Feminine correlate to her real life experiences. Showing the reader how these theories work instead of simply telling them that will help them to learn your message gracefully through the story that you are conveying. Remember, the art of great fiction is in what the author doesn’t say rather than what … Continue reading