If you’ve followed recent posts at VFA, you’re aware of the ongoing discussion about what distinguishes visionary fiction from other genres listed under the umbrella of speculative fiction, including sci-fi and metaphysical.
Although our internal deliberations and debates have led to some interesting revelations and “ah ha” moments, I figured it was time to invite in an outside source to shine fresh light on the enduring conundrum.
Enter publisher, writer, editor, and lecturer Hal Zina Bennett.
The Puzzle of Visionary Fiction
I contacted Hal Zina Bennett because he contemplated the rise of visionary fiction as a new book category as far back as 2002, and I haven’t yet found anyone who’s come close to addressing the genre with such expertise (though he doesn’t lay claim to that distinction).
As he says in a previous post at VFA, The Puzzle of Visionary Fiction: “I think I have some understanding of spiritual non-fiction, and have written one moderately successful ‘visionary fiction’ novel, but sometimes I’m not sure I really ‘get’ visionary fiction at all.”
That post was written over a year ago, and, since the “puzzle of visionary fiction” is still missing some key pieces, I called upon—or should I say pestered?—Mr. Bennett again, hoping that during the interim he had located a few of those elusive shape-shifting dodgers.
The Lens of Perception
What follows is Mr. Bennett’s response to my “visionary” query:
The too obvious answer to your last post/email may be that visionary fiction like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Folk stories, specifically stories I’m familiar with from the Zuni and Hopi story tellers, easily mix spiritual visions, fantasy, magic, and everyday reality. Is that visionary fiction?
Well, here’s the long explanation: A young Hopi woman, in her 20s or early 30s, I guessed, came up to … Continue reading