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 included Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Utopian, Christian and Spiritual Fiction. Fantasy, for example, is further broken into sub-genres including High/Epic Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy (vampires and werewolves), Urban Fantasy, Steampunk and the list goes on. We’re even seeing things like “historical paranormal fantasy” as in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Who knew?!

Two other categories have surfaced: Visionary Fiction and Metaphysical Fiction. I claim no expertise as a literary historian, but from what I’ve read and pondered over the past three years (largely in search of understanding my own writing as well as market trends), it seems that both of these new categories have broken out from the fantasy market and public interest in “new age” subjects. My hypothesis considers that both Visionary and Metaphysical fiction have roots in Spiritual Fiction.

The literary hierarchy

Visionary Fiction in the Literary Hierarchy

Visionary Fiction, as defined by the Visionary Fiction Alliance, are stories or novels that portray esoteric wisdom and experiences that awaken or catalyze transformation within the reader by way of character/plot. VFA also asserts that visionary fiction can be woven into any other style of literature, not just speculative works. A thriller, a romance, a western, a young adult book—any of these can be visionary works so long the essence of the storytelling embraces esoteric traditions and evolutionary concepts. Unlike Spiritual or Christian Fiction, true visionary fiction is not preachy and does not focus on specific belief systems. It does focus on teachings and traditions concerning human consciousness and enlightenment. VF may incorporate fantastic elements (e.g., dreams, visions, the occult, psychic abilities) as plot devices (http://visionaryfictionalliance.wordpress.com/what-is-visionary-fiction/), but these aspects are not the focus of the story; at least, not the way they are in a paranormal novel.

Within Speculative Fiction, there is always the potential to cross sub-genres into new breeds of fiction for just the right audience  (Can Spiritual Horror scare you into enlightment?) Even as other genres can be written as a work of visionary fiction, (http://www.karenmrider.com/visionary-fiction-genre-on-the-rise/) I humbly suggest, that visionary fiction is not the same as metaphysical fiction.

Metaphysical Fiction: A Genre Emerges

I believe visionary and metaphysical fiction are different because I’ve written enough stories and read enough literature to see and to feel the difference between these two genres (and to further discern both from the other speculative fiction genres, too). On a personal level, as a writer, “Visionary” suggests to me storytelling that imparts ancient wisdom and the vision of the world it conveys. My short story, The Parade is a visionary story. It is based on messages conveyed in a dream and each message is associated with one of the Seven Chakras, (Eastern Spirituality). The message conveyed to the reader comes through the main character’s “journey into the light and shadow of her mind, heart and soul to discover all that she has been searching for lies within.” It’s a universal theme based in ancient spiritual tradition—that’s visionary fiction. Overall, though, this is not how I see my work nor do I aspire to a body of work that is entirely visionary. But metaphysical fiction… that describes the writing that consumes me. And it’s a genre appearing in other forms of literature, from fantasy to mystery to suspense.

Unlike visionary fiction, a metaphysical novel or story makes the metaphysical/otherworldly element the focus of the story, rather than a just plot device. To me, it suggests speculative fiction and magical realism with a metaphysical basis. (I must go off topic a bit here and point out that I would consider a novel dealing with the more philosophical aspects of metaphysics (the nature of the universe, cosmology, search for truth and meaning) to also be visionary, maybe even literary fiction). The popular notion of metaphysical fiction, however, deals with things like mind over matter, energy medicine, and places that which is beyond physical measurement, beyond the ordinary, into the very ordinary and mundane world we human beings in habit.

Metaphysical Fiction encompasses topics like energy healing, past lives, intuition. Metaphysical (“beyond the physical”) refers to events or experiences that we may be able to subjectively experience or sense but cannot objectively measure or explain. In the narrative, metaphysical phenomenon is part of ordinary human experience in ways that create conflict for the characters, propelling the story forward to find out how will the character deal with these events.

The metaphysical element is the key ingredient within the plot. For example, characters possess talents (or objects) that defy physical laws, which other characters want to possess and control. Suggesting reading: MJ Rose’s series beginning with The Reincarnationist – novels of suspense that are driven by metaphysical phenomenon (mystical tools that can access past lives and potentially alter life events).

Magical Realism is a strong component, but not a requirement, of Metaphysical Fiction. Magical Realism explores the paradox of the union of opposites within the plot/narrative and through characters. Magical realism is characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality. Both Metaphysical Fiction and Magical Realism explore a worldview where the natural, physical laws of the universe are not the only plausible explanation for events in the story (or in real life, for that matter). Supernatural/fantastical elements are weaved into the narrator’s voice and the normal perception of characters within the fictional plot. While the reader realizes that the rational and irrational are conflicting polarities, they are not disconcerted because the author has established the supernatural/metaphysical within the context of the ordinary world. (Also see this definition of metaphysical literature and magical realism).

Literary Examples

  • Visionary Fiction: The Celestine Prophecy by James Redman, What Dreams May Come (book and film)
  • Spiritual Fiction: The series, Left Behind, Rooms by James Rubin, and The Shack
  • Magical Realism: Almost any novel by Alice Hoffman, Garden Spells by Sara Addison Allen
  • Metaphysical Fiction: The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom

Having done this genre-bending exploratory writing exercise, it’s clear to me that visionary fiction has a deeper spiritual aspect than metaphysical fiction. An emerging genre, metaphysical fiction will find a readership among those who enjoy otherworldly tales and magical realism without having to depart from contemporary settings…they, like me, understand that the world is far more mystical than mundane for those who are willing to see with more than their eyes.

Other Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

Dr. Niamh Cune discusses metaphysical fiction

http://tahlianewland.com/2012/11/28/what-is-metaphysical-fiction/ 

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About the author

Karen M Rider

Karen M. Rider has a passion for writing about all things holistic and mystical. With a background in health science, psychology and research, Karen brings a keen mind and sensitive objectivity to writing about subjects that fall into the ether between science and spirit. For articles on health, spirituality and healing Karen has interviewed respected visionary healers including Andrew Weil, Joan Borysenko, Caroline Myss, Stewart Pearce and Judith Orloff. Her articles on success steps for writers have appeared in The Writer and Writer’s Digest.
An emerging fiction author, Karen spins tales that weave myth and metaphysics a contemporary, often suspenseful storyline. Karen’s first published visionary story, The Parade, appeared in Om Times magazine in 2011/12. Rachel’s Garden, a speculative suspense story will be published in the anthology Things You Can Create (January 2013, Stone Thread Publishing). Karen is currently writing The Gathering, a metaphysical story set at Gillette Castle in Connecticut. Another book project, “The Energy Healer Series,” includes three titles: The Entelechist, The Auracle and The Mystic.  Karen presents programs for writers at libraries, conferences, schools and for writing groups. An accomplished writing coach and co-writer, Karen guides healing arts professionals in creation of articles, interviews, book proposals and other writing projects. Ask Karen to Write for You.

www.KarenMRider.com

Twitter: @KarenMRider

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43 Responses to Guest Post: Setting the Stage: Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction

  1. ishowa says:

    Nice article, Karen, and the graphics add a great tool for the left brain when trying to sort the the genre jungle!

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  2. Admin - Eleni says:

    Interesting and thought provoking article, Karen. Your top chart reminds me why I was confused when I was trying to pick a genre for my debut novel. I was toggling between speculative, sci-fi and literary fiction. Discovering visionary fiction was like finding my way home.

    Many of the otherworldly aspects you write about are in my debut novel. I use energy healing, telepathy and time travel. For this reason, I plan on using a metaphysical fiction tag— as well as quantum fiction. There are definitely some crossover elements here!

    You make one very key distinction between metaphysical and visionary fiction, with the latter focusing more in depth on spirituality. I personally resonate strongly with what you're saying here, and it will be interesting to see what others have to say. Great article.

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  3. Great article, Karen. It'll be interesting to see how (or even if) these genres and sub-genres shift over coming decades. One of our Kindle categories is Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction, but we've always struggled with defining a valid second category! 😉

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  4. Eleni, I think at one time the same issues with distinction existed for thriller v action v suspense. Now, that's pretty clear, a thriller has faster pacing than suspense. Action implies more adventuresome storytelling (action/adventure) and does not necessarily involve the intrigue that either suspense or a thriller contain. FIne points to argue, for sure, but when you want to find an audience for your work "nailing it" seems to be a big deal. especially when you hear stories about agents and publishers who 'loved a manuscript but didn't know how to classify it or market it". Author know thyself, know thy work and know thine audience!

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  5. PJ Swanwick says:

    Your article lends so much clarity to this subject, Karen, and the graphics are especially effective. I have dithered over labels for several years trying to figure out how to describe my book review site, Fiction For A New Age. You've convinced me that Metaphysical and Visionary is usually the kind of book I review. But even those labels feel limiting.

    My question to you is this: If you wanted to group spiritual /metaphysical /visionary /new age fiction under a broader descriptive label, what would it be? I think it's not helpful to call it all "speculative" if there is a strong spiritual component. If that's what readers are looking for under Speculative, they could end up with a novel that's more "Twilight" than "Celestine Prophecy." What do you think?

    Thank you again for this insightful article.

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    • Well, PJ your question is soul-stirring to say the least! Insight Fiction comes to mind, but I don't think that does the grouping of Metaphysical/ Visionary/Spiritual any justice. (I don't care for New Age– seems trite, overused). I don't think Spiritual and Christian belong together. Christian Fiction, from what i've read is very denominational and deals with moral issues, dare I say dogmatic themes. Spiritual turns off those who don't see themselves or their interests as spiritual. And some authors don't like visionary because they don't see their work as offering a vision of the world — it's not their intention. So, if I ever come up with something better than INSIGHT, you'll be the first to know.

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      • PJ Swanwick says:

        I think we as writers need to come up with and promote a distinct new genre that encompasses metaphysical, visionary, spiritual, and philosophical fiction–in other words, a novel in which the reader experiences spiritual growth along with the characters.

        Currently we struggle to find the proper categories to post our fiction on Amazon and other distribution venues. Sometimes the path to Metaphysical or Visionary fiction begins with Spiritual, Religious, Occult, Philosophy, Literature, or any number of offbeat categories. Wouldn't it be nice if a reader could look under Genre fiction, scroll past Romance, Mysteries, etc., then click, say, INSIGHT, and select from the sub-genres of Visionary, Metaphysical, Spiritual, Philosophical, or whatever label people prefer?

        I think your suggestion of INSIGHT is a good one – I certainly can't think of any better. I also think promoting such a new genre category would benefit readers and increase sales. How do we make that happen?

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        • Karen M. Rider says:

          Well we could start with sharing these blog posts and comments with a wider audience and go where readers are Fictionaut. Red Room. Tumblr – where I'm thinking of adding a presence. Also connect with someone like Becky Tuch at The Review Review. She has her finger on the pulse of this stuff. Ask bookstore managers for ideas. I'm still writing my book and trying to produce short stories. Maybe we begin by creating a new Journal, one that publishes these genres in discussion. No faeries and zombies. Stories that move people without dogma and preaching and by way of string characters and story arc. Did I just open a can of crazy with this suggestion?

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      • PJ Swanwick says:

        I think your suggestions are right on the money – and are a great way to start. Creating a venue for this kind of fiction has been my passion for the last several years – that's why I created http://FictionForANewAge.com. No faeries or zombies – just quality novels that I think fall under your distinctions of Visionary and Metaphysical fiction, plus a slightly broader category of Spiritual – although i feel the same way as you about the unsuitability of that label.

        Please take a look at Fiction for a New Age. If you feel as strongly as I do about the subject of finding and promoting this (these?) genre, perhaps we can begin the discussion there.I have reviewed and promoted several of this group's Visionary novels, and I intend to do more – and there's lots more out there!

        What do you think? Does anyone else on this thread feel the same way?

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  6. Karen, I second Eleni's comment. I too felt that your distinction that visionary was more 'spiritual' resonated with me. You have also shown me personally that I had been treating 'metaphysical fiction' as being virtually synonymous with the philosophical subject of the same name, and this was why I had felt a lack of real distinction between VF and metaphysical fiction. But after reading your views, I find myself in agreement with you.

    Like probably most VF and metaphysical authors, I too struggled with how to categorise my novel, and found that VF fit the bill, as did metaphysical – in the purely philosophical sense. To me, VF as exploring human potential is another way of saying that it is more deeply spiritual. The word 'spiritual' turns me off slightly, only because I think it gives some people the impression of religion, when VF does not, as you have pointed out, necessarily go in the direction of being focused on a particular faith, even if its characters belong openly to a particular faith in the story.

    Thanks again for an excellent article.

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    • Karen M. Rider says:

      I am truly amazed by the dialog here. What a blessing you all are! Perhaps we can share the link on our social media and Book marketing pages to invite comments from other authors and readers?

      I also have an updated pAge on my website What is Metaphysical Fiction. It is under the fiction tab. More examples are listed there.

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  7. Thanks for this, it's wonderful to see someone make a clear distinction between the genres of metaphysical and visionary fiction. Many people think they are the same, but the words themselves have a very different feel. Even though, my novel Lethal Inheritance has some visionary elements in that it is a metaphorical journey to enlightenment, I would feel uncomfortable calling it visionary, but metaphysical it definitely is. For me, metaphysical fiction means a greater emphasis on story and less on obvious spirituality than visionary fiction.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Hi Tahlia:

      It's always a great feeling when you find a genre that fits with your book. As an author of VF, I feel it's important to clarify that the spiritual aspect of the genre is not alway obvious and is typically represented in the subtext. A story can also be purely philosophical when exploring the evolution of human consciousness. That's the beauty of this genre. It welcomes all viewpoints.

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    • Karen M. Rider says:

      I agree with you Thalia. I think the readers know better than us writers, sometimes. If occult fiction was not carved out from paranormal, thriller from action or suspense, we'd all have a harder time finding books to enjoy reading.

      Peace & Joy in 2013! This message sent from Karen's iPhone

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  8. What a fantastic article, Karen, and a great jumping board to further delineate Visionary Fiction from other similar genres. I agree with much of what you so insight-fully and carefully have laid out as delineations. For example, in VF there is spiritual growth available to readers alongside the novel's characters,. Your artfully described differences of Metaphysical fiction and VF, with VF having a strong non-denominational spiritual flavor makes sense to me.

    I agree with PJ about if there would be a broader descriptive label, what would that be? I am not entirely convinced that 'speculative' is that label that VF falls under. I would like to hear/discuss more about the speculative umbrella label and ask everyone what their definition of 'speculative' is. If one wants to put VF under speculative, I need to see a clearer definition.

    As an aside, I see from our discussion that fairies are put into a category with zombies. Not sure they can be bunched together. If we are speaking of fairies of the Disney type – little Tinkerbell characters- I might be able to understand. But I have a broader definition of Faery as a race closely aligned with humankind, but of a different dimension. Powerful earth energy beings. In this context, like in your own story "Rachel's Garden", Faery are anything but Tinkerbells, and deserve a magical realism, visionary fiction status apart from the paranormal Zombies. …My little soapbox! (Also of interest to me perhaps because my current manuscript has a Faery character)

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    • Karen M. Rider says:

      I wasn't placing faeries and zombies in the same class. But both fall under speculative in their own subgenres. My brain is in meltdown at the moment. Need time to recharge.

      Peace & Joy in 2013! This message sent from Karen's iPhone

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  9. Karen M. Rider says:

    I am starting to wonder why all fiction isn't labeled speculative. Even Kafka began with "what if a man woke to find he had become a roach ?"

    After all doesn't all fiction ask what if?
    Perhaps the main literary genres should be literary and mainstream. literary works are those that follows established ( dare I say specific or stricter) conventions for voice, tone, theme/thesis and style. Mainstream that is fiction that they breaks and bends or blends those conventions and it falls into select groupings i.e. suspense thriller action adventure fantasy science fiction mystery romance, visionary/spiritual, uoung adult, mature young adult, metaphysical, historical, Christian/faith based, horror, etc.

    Trending Fiction should be the name for mainstream fiction that sells well despite lackluster writing and adherence to any established conventions. It's short lived usually. you can then have metaphysical suspense or zombie romance (yep It is out there ) or paranormal historical mystery.

    How about getting a few agents or publishers in on the discussion ?

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  10. Hi Karen. This article brings us one step closer to not only bringing visionary and metaphysical fiction into the limelight, but also distinguishing between the two (though, to me, the distinction is still a fine one). What these genres definitely have in common is the belief that "the world is far more mystical than mundane for those who are willing to see with more than their eyes." Thank you for an article that must have been a tough one to write.

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    • Karen M. Rider says:

      Thank you Margaret. Are you familiar with the new Organization and journal broad universe ? They aim to be the organization for the female voice in speculative fiction in particular in the many types of fantasy science-fiction and other related Genres. I'm planning to join and to see if this article can be brought into their newsletter but it maybe worthwhile for members here to take a look at broad universe and see what they have to offer and perhaps see if they want to contribute To the discussion going on here. I've already share this link on LinkedIn twitter Facebook and sent it directly to people like Becky Tuch over at "the review review" and also to the team at Grub Street. When tweeting be sure to name@people directly or @literary magazines directly such as Lore online, zoetrope, fantasy faction and some bugger name magazines and we'll see if people can really help sort this out because, as the publishing market changes so us rhe way bith aythits and readers bsne and group books. It seems we need some system that embraces what's happening in the market.

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      • Karen M. Rider says:

        Typos up there! " so is the way both authors and readers name, group and classify books"

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      • Organization and journal broad universe? No, I haven't heard of it, but I'll check it out. I'll send out your article to facebook and twitter. I'll also check out "the review review" and Grub Street. Thanks for the tips.

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  11. playsonideas says:

    Wonderful post and comments. I'm going to put a link to it on our blog. http://playsonideas.wordpress.com/

    As some of you know, my husband Wim Coleman and I usually write in collaboration. Wim and I have struggled with categories – or the lack of them – for over 20 years. Karen, your quote about publishers who "didn’t know how to classify it or market it" reminds me of when Bantam cancelled our 2nd book. That's pretty much what they said, but also attaching the comment "your work has too many ideas in it." That's the book we recently rewrote and published as Mayan Interface.

    P.J. Stanwick gave us a wonderful review on her blog, Fiction for a New Age and the book won an award in an Adventure Fiction category. In our experience some years ago with the New Age we encountered a lot of authorities and in competitions that category is usually nonfiction, so I'm really delighted that P.J. is opening it up. Our book is also sometimes categorized as a thriller and sometimes as fantasy.

    We've been relieved to find that there's a visionary fiction group and now attach that genre to Mayan Interface and some of our other books. I don't know if that's a perfect match, but it's the best company we've been in for a long time.

    You write: "true visionary fiction is not preachy and does not focus on specific belief systems." I love that part! You add, "It does focus on teachings and traditions concerning human consciousness and enlightenment." Rather than writing from answers given by a tradition or an experience, Wim and I write from questions. It's our way of going looking for an adventure. At the end of our novels, our characters have discovered some things, but their evolution is clearly ongoing. I guess we have a problem about closure.

    So I particularly appreciate Eleni's comment, "I feel it’s important to clarify that the spiritual aspect of the genre is not always obvious and is typically represented in the subtext. A story can also be purely philosophical when exploring the evolution of human consciousness."

    I'd love to know which genres any of you see as more open to the open-ended.

    Thanks again for everyone's words and efforts.

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    • Karen M. Rider says:

      I really appreciate these comments. I also agree with Elani's thoughts as you mentioned. Most people see that Metaphysical and VF need to be their own category. I think what publishers and booksellers look at is what is the thrust if the story or novel? Is it driven by fantastic creatures or worlds? That's fantasy. Is it driven by ta quest that is more character driven inner evolution — that's visionary to me. The thrust of the story is what classified it, the secondary class helps it find a unique audience. Not too unique less there won't be a market !
      If this is the case then my WIP's are suspense with metaphysical and magical realism.

      Who knows ?

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  12. Lisa Cox says:

    I truly enjoyed your piece on genres,Karen! Mostly I agree with you as I feel visionary and metaphysical are basically offspring of spiritual. And as you mentioned, The Shack is a perfect example of this, combining and utilizing the offspring as subthemes to enrich the primary spiritual theme and to make the unseen both visible and personable to the reader.

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    • Thank you, Lisa. Wonderful dialogue here. I came across the following to discern between genres:
      Faith-based: books that have a clear association with established religion/religious tenets (Christian, Muslim, Pagan/EarthBased etc)

      Spiritual: books that promote a broad worldview based in wisdom traditions not affiliated with an established religion. This is why we see Amazon put the categories Visionary/Spiritual together. Visionary fiction having more to do with ancient and esoteric traditions and a thought provoking message for the reader seeking to learn and evolve from fictional stories (Celestine Prophecy). — EVOLUTIONARY FICTION might even be a good sub-genre under speculative.

      Metaphysical (excluding philosophical/existential themes, which fit better under visionary, I think) includes books like Mitch Albom's The TIme Keeper — there is no specific religion, no direct attempt to move the reader toward personal enlightenment but there is a contemporary story set against magical realism and the metaphysical concept of time– what it is, how it is perceived, how it is used/manipulated.

      More thoughts?

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  13. I am really appreciating these further delineations you are offering Karen. I am learning and refining definitions. I wish the publishing industry could keep up with us at VFA!

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  14. Pingback: Guest Post: Setting the Stage: Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction | Tahlia Newland, author

  15. schillingklaus says:

    Where do the stories of H.P. Lovecraft fall into?

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    • K.M. Rider says:

      Great question. I have not read much by Lovecraft and what I did read was ages ago. His me irks have inspired many a horror flick and us referenced often on the TV series Supernatural. Where do you think his works fit?
      Keep in mind, when he was writing fiction there wasn't all this genre bending going on in the literary marketplace.

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  16. Hi Karen–
    I saw that you recently commented on this thread and thought it an opportunity to invite you to contribute your considerable expertise to the current effort to establish a clearer definition of Visionary Fiction, not only for content but also for marketing purposes. I am currently working on an article for Wikipedia on VF for the VFA and would consider your opinion very valuable in that endeavor.

    I have many I would like to ask you, but just a couple of questions to start:
    1) As you likely know, BISAC has assigned "Visionary & Metaphysical" a single Main Subject Category under Fiction in its code. In light of your distinctions between the two genres above, do you think it helps or hinders the two genres to be placed together like that?
    2) Would you scan through my piece What is NOT Visionary Fiction? and let us know how it sits with your scheme above?

    Thank you so much. Vic

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    • K.M. Rider says:

      Dear Victor,

      You have done a beautiful job discerning and qualifying the sub-genres with the speculative fiction market. I do not feel that I can add, with any greater clarity or intelligence, to what you have written. Bravo! However, you asked questions of me and I will share my thoughts.

      I am not familiar with how BISAC reaches its decisions to categorize fiction. If it in anyway relates to the way the common public consumes media in all its forms, then metaphysical has taken two paths: One, the traditional, philosophical path as you describe. And, second the path of all that is psychical/supernatural but not of the order of the occult, paranormal etc. I have many friends who consider themselves Energy Healers/ Metaphysical teachers and not because they are philosophers or espousing a philosophy. They are dealing with what is beyond physical explanation, for sure, what is extraordinary that lies within the ordinary of human experience. If you will, the discovery, realization and activation of the spiritual in the human; the divine in the human. Perhaps, at one time this was “new age”…. Today, the once “new age” consumer now pursues “metaphysical teachings and wisdom.”

      Let’s look at the new TV drama “Believe” — the premise, I believe is metaphysical by the current usage. The main character is a 12 year old child with incredible psychic abilities. However, psychic isn’t the word they use in the show (or not often). She has special abilities that are related to a gene (enter the science, but the focus is not science fiction) that only few people in the world have activated. These gifts, as they are often referred to, can be dangerous in the wrong hands—and, can be dangerous to her. There are two camps, of course, laying claim to the girl. There is no visionary element — though I sometimes reach a personal realization while watching this program, it is not (at least, not overtly) the intent of it’s writers that the audience awaken in some way. I think this is the most important difference between visionary and metaphysical, today. Visionary authors have an intention beyond entertainment.

      All in all, your scheme extends and improves on mine…and opens up discussion… but, regardless of who sits at the round table at BISAC, bookstores and online booksellers will likely define and group books according to their customer’s needs….

      Best, Karen Rider

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      • Thank you, Karen, for your generous response. Enough there to turn into a post of its own.

        Haven't gotten into the inner working of BISAC other than that it works by committee. Lot on their website. Maybe someday I'll explore.

        Several of your comments above got some wheels turning. "And, second the path of all that is psychical/supernatural but not of the order of the occult, paranormal, etc." Interesting that I tend not to differentiate the "psychical/supernatural" from the "occult, paranormal," viewing all supersensible phenomena as the same energy although at different levels of refinement, some being akin to the crude electricity used to run a motor and others to the subtle stream of electrons flowing through a memory chip. Am thinking now that mine may be an oversimplification. Quite possible that somewhere in there is an actual "state" change (eg, liquid to gas) that hasn't been taken into account. Something to ponder in my spare time.

        Your example of "Believe" (will have to get over my aversion to network TV and check the show out) may have finally cleared a misunderstanding in your differentiation of metaphysical and visionary. In my vocabulary, which is revisable, I would have labeled "Believe" as neither MF (because of the lack of a philosophical element) nor VF (lack of intention to raise consciousness) but simply paranormal, a sub-genre of Fantasy. I realize now that the definition of "metaphysical" has morphed into something more since I studied classical philosophy in a Catholic seminary where New Age was anathema.

        Did a bit of checking around and indeed, I was out of date. For instance, "More recently, Metaphysics has branched in to a much larger and perplexing world. Instead of focusing on nature and purpose [my narrower definition], it is now used to describe the world of spirits, spiritual and faith healing. Not only this but the use of crystals and the many elements of life." So I stand corrected.

        Let me make sure I now have it right: Metaphysical fiction focuses on the paranormal/spiritual phenomena itself with the impact on the mind incidental. Visionary fiction focuses on the mind itself with the impact of the phenomena incidental.

        Thanks again, Karen. An idea: want to do a joint post on this? I could pull it together from your comments so far, run past you and you could add, etc. We could call it something like "Comparing Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction." Would be appreciated by the VFA as we've been chewing this around as a group.

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        • K.M. Rider says:

          I am curious…where do you place works by Mitch Albom? Read and loved by millions, his books transcend spiritual-visionary-metaphysical themes. Keep on with the ideas and discussion!

          My Best, Karen M. Rider Freelance Writer http://karenmrider.com Sent from my iPad

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  17. I think Inspirational Fiction best describes Albom's works. I notice that's how Amazon classifies much of his fiction and it seems to mirror his intent in writing.

    An interesting related question now that certain far-out phenomena like Near Death Experiences have been confirmed as "real," if only in the sense of common to many experiencers (I happen to be a member of the International Assoc of Near Death Studies): would you consider a story based on an NDE metaphysical or occult/paranormal? I lean towards the former.

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    • K.M. Rider says:

      NDE metaphysical. Paranormal to me is the stuff of improbable, not likely to exist….IMHO that includes vampires. I'm open to be proven wrong… Albom is far more than inspirational.

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  18. Pingback: Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction: Wedding Bells? | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  19. Chukwuemeka Ukor says:

    I just need a good publishers agent that will take up my book and place it before an unbelieving world.

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  20. Chukwuemeka Ukor says:

    Send to a publsher's agent thats trustworthy to take up my book.

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