Once Upon a Time – A Visionary Fiction Perspective

I first started watching Once Upon a Time with my daughters this year.  The visionary fantasy story was created for television by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. It focuses on a young boy, Henry, who believes that his book of fairytales is based on real-life events.
The setting is Storybrooke, Maine where Henry’s foster mother, Regina, is the town’s mayor. In actuality, she is the Evil Queen.  She spends most of her time plotting revenge against Snow White, who inadvertently blurted out a secret that led to her lover’s death.  Unable to kill Snow White, Regina casts a spell that transports all the fairytale characters from the Enchanted Forest to Storybrooke, each without memories of their previous lives. The story takes off when Henry’s birth mother, Emma, arrives in Storybrooke.  Henry reveals to Emma that she is the long awaited Savior who must help the residents remember who they are and  liberate them from Regina’s control. He also discloses that Snow White and Prince Charming are her parents.

Villains and Heroes

What makes OUAT stand out as visionary fiction is the character arcs.  As there are many characters in this story, the focus of this article will be on the three leads that personify the symbolic archetypes of darkness and light.  The two main villains, Rumpelstiltskin and Regina are three-dimensional, which helps make them sympathetic to the viewer. Through their backstories, we are shown that evil isn’t born but rather created out of circumstances along with the choices that stem from those circumstances.  Regina turns to the dark side after the murder of her lover.  Rumpelstiltskin’s weakness and inability to care for his son leads him to enter the world … Continue reading

Dark Characters in Visionary Fiction Can Reveal the Light

By Eleni Papanou

Visionary fiction’s theme is the evolution of human consciousness. But what does that mean? What is consciousness? Psychologist, William James, coined the phrase stream of consciousness. He identified consciousness as something that is shaped by experience and how the experience is processed in our minds. So it’s our life experience that defines who we are, and we play out that definition in reality. If we have many dark experiences, then it might lead us to passing similar experiences on to others. Why are some people able to overcome darkness?

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The great sages of history paved the way to free us from our dark nature. Socrates taught us the limitations of knowledge by asking us to question our assumptions. The Buddha taught us that our attachments lead to suffering. Attachment to possessions, to people, to social status, and destructive personal and outer beliefs can overcome our sense of self, and we instead become products of culture. In other words, without taking the time to reflect upon our experience, we’re instead  shaped and molded by culture. When that happens, we lose a sense of who we truly are. We go through life performing a role that we believe we’re expected to play.

The Jungian term of enlightenment is moving beyond the archetypal roles that we’ve perpetuated since the dawn of civilization. Once we can look from the outside in, we become what Jung described as modern man. He explained that modern humans (noun adjusted for modern usage) are lonely because they have detached from their historically assigned roles. They also may be viewed as crazy as a result of their unwillingness to continue being fellow … Continue reading

Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Application – Part 5

This is the final installment of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series.  In part 1, we discussed recognition, when a reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading. In part 2, visionary fiction authors expressed their feelings of recognition while they were writing their stories. In part 3, various authors discussed how they reacted to issues in books they read. Part 4 dealt with juxtaposition, e.g, insight gleaned from the text.  Today we will discuss self-application, how readers adapt the insight they developed from the  books they have read into their lives.

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Saleena Karim

From childhood, as soon as I learned to read, I wanted to write. My life-long desire was “to be an author”. As a young adult, that desire had changed slightly to “write a story with meaning”. For me it was practically a given that story should contribute something positive to humanity. The only problem had always been to identify what that “something” should be in my own fledgling novel. I had started writing it in my early twenties (now published as Systems). It had characters and a skeleton of a plot. It involved a quest, but details were lacking. In the end, my ongoing study of the Quran via Parwez’s work (and also some non-fiction work I was doing elsewhere, Secular Jinnah) finally gave me that special “something”. Parwez had essentially argued from the Quran that creating an “ideal” society is not only possible, but is imperative in unlocking human potential. It became a simple matter of integrating these ideas … Continue reading

“Visionary Fiction” Now Officially on Wikipedia

Exciting news for all Visionary Fiction authors, readers and lurkers:
As of August 2014 a entry entitled “Visionary fiction” has been published on Wikipedia at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visionary_fiction Continue reading

Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Examination – Part 3

This is part 3 of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series, which was inspired after I learned about bibliotherapy in my psychology classes.  It led me to discover an article by Debbie McCullis in the February, 2014 issue of the Journal of Poetry Therapy.  McGullis listed  a four step process used in bibliotherapy, which strongly resonated with me as the process sounds similar to why I write visionary fiction.  In part one, we discussed the first step, recognition, which is the moment when a reader gets a sense of familiarity while reading. In part two, we examined recognition through the lens of a writer’s perspective.  In this week’s installment, we will discuss what happens after recognition strikes. We want to understand why we had such a strong reaction to the text we had just read, which brings us into the second step, examination.

Saleena Karim

planet-6-1442966-mParwez wrote much of his work in Urdu but his exposition translation of the Quran was available in English. What struck me from day one was how this exposition seemed so much more scientific, and culturally neutral, than commentaries I had read in other translations – which to me was conducive to a book containing a universal message. It, along with his other writings, also brought into sharp focus this emphasis on Islam as not religion. He wrote on controversial topics firmly but with refreshing honesty, constantly asking his readers to check with the Quran for themselves to verify his claims. While gradually accessing his work and studying the Quran for myself, I reacted to this bombardment of new information … Continue reading

Harold Ramis: A Comedic Visionary Crosses Over

By Eleni Papanou

March 3, 2014

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“When I was twelve, I read the line, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ I took it seriously to heart. And literally. Like it was a requirement in life, akin to the Buddha’s suggestion that we maintain ‘sufficiently inquiring minds.’” Harold Ramis interview in Shambhala Sun

When Harold Ramis passed away February 24, 2014, the world lost a visionary actor, director, and writer. “Was honored to have gotten to work with Harold Ramis, the Buddha of Comedy, Brilliant, humble, radiant. We’ve lost an icon,” actor Rainn Wilson tweeted.

As a child, I laughed when I watched him in Ghostbusters, never thinking that he was more than a funny guy playing a nerd. But now I view him as much more. Although he wasn’t a Buddhist, Ramis’s movie, Groundhog Day, of which he directed and co-wrote, became an “underground Buddhist classic” (Shambhala Sun, 2009). The plot is simple: Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connor, cycles through the same day until he sees the errors of his ways and evolves.

Harold Ramis intended for the movie to be non-denominational and was taken aback by the reaction given to the film. “It always seemed ironic to me that it [Groundhog Day] didn’t lead people to recognize the commonality of all their points of view, but rather, ‘This must be about us and only us.’” He said in response to observing various religious sects’ views toward the movie.

I think Ramis was being a little too critical. As Visionary fiction authors, we seek commonality by writing dogma-free … Continue reading

How Jessie’s Song Awakened the Music Within Me

Those of us who write visionary fiction oftentimes transcend alongside our characters. I’d like to share with you the most recent evolution within my life that I owe to Jessie’s Song. Little did I know that the protagonist’s journey to find himself in jazz would lead me on my own journey to rediscover my love for singing after a long hiatus.

I’d given up singing jazz right after college, convincing myself it wasn’t really what I wanted. The details behind it are enough for a full length book. Perhaps I’ll write it one day. Suffice it to say, several other musical projects followed but nothing captured my heart and soul until I started to chant. As much as I enjoyed doing it, I eventually gave that up as well. I tried to find inspiration again and returned to writing. Jessie’s Song was born during a high concept screenwriting class I took back in 2007. When I first set out to write the story, it had a very dark theme. Markos Adams, the protagonist, began as Remus Caruso, a hit man. He evolved into a police officer in my second draft. It still didn’t work for me as there was a child molestation backstory that I thought would turn people off. I’m not the type to change a story around for the sake of getting readers, but my instincts told me I needed to change it. Not having the will or energy to continue, I laid it aside and moved on to other projects, then stopped writing all together as I’d lost my inspiration.

SINGING AGAIN

In 2009, music re-entered my life when I sang barbershop with the Greater Auckland Chorus in New Zealand under the wonderful director, Melody Lowe. Sandy Marron, director of the … Continue reading

Jessie’s Song Awarded Bronze Medal

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August has been a rewarding month for Visionary Fiction, first with Jodine Turner winning  Honorable Mention in the Global eBook Awards and now with my book, Jessie’s Song,  taking home the  bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards.  May more VF authors win awards and bring recognition to this uplifting and thought provoking genre.

Getting this award happened at the right time  as I’ve had a difficult writing month. Following is the latest post  from my personal site.  I think it’s a perfect match as it demonstrates how visionary fiction authors grow alongside their characters.

It’s been a tough month for me as a writer.  I don’t need to get into the details here, but what I will say is that my psychological resolve has been tested, and I’ve come out of it stronger. As usual, mindful awareness meditation saved me.

I’m currently plotting my new novel, The True Vanessa and editing The Sixth, the second book of The Spheral Series. I’ll also be re-releasing Unison sometime in September. It’s going through another edit. There’s nothing wrong with the book. There aren’t any typos, structural problems or anything that would come back and embarrass me. I felt it needed a formal edit to make it the best it could be. And since I’m working on the second book, I see the potential for this series to turn into something big.

I’ve been asked which of my books is my favorite. After two published books, five first drafts and two screenplays that I’ll be turning into novels, I view Unison as my Magnus Opus. It’s the most involved story I’ve ever written, and I still can’t believe I’m its author. I didn’t … Continue reading

Jessie’s Song Excerpt – Eleni Papanou

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Charcoal smoke surged over me in a thick stream obscuring the stars, along with the events that forced me down onto this cold, hard sidewalk. I stared into the flames streaking out of the second-story window until my senses were hypnotized, and the searing pain from the bullet that pierced my abdomen disappeared. “Stardust” began to play in my radio brain and transmitted the memory of my first meeting with Stella. I was at the Jazz Room with my band-mates, Donnie and Snaps. Most of our conversations were pointless, but I recalled them with startling clarity on this starless night.

The pain from my injury forced me back to reality, a reality I had no desire to return to. As blood surged out of my wound unrestrained, I thought this was it. I’d die alone and without my last dream realized. Just as I had given up hope, it came true.

“Daddy!” My daughter, Jessie, ran over to me wearing the pink pajamas I got her for her ninth birthday. She looked off to the side, hypnotized by the flames.
My sister, Leda, arrived next and knelt beside me. “Hang on little brother. An ambulance is on its way.” She gently assisted Jessie down to her knees.

As I gazed at my daughter’s face, an emotional storm struck me. Is this real? Are you here? I couldn’t trust my own senses. I wanted this moment so badly. It sustained me all the way up to now.

“Why are you bleeding?” she asked.

“I’ll be okay.”

“That’s a lot of blood.”

“They’ll fix … Continue reading

Villains of Visionary Fiction

By Eleni Papanou

Visionary Fiction villains are my favorite of all villains because they have a chance to evolve beyond their fiendish personalities. What sets apart visionary fiction from other genres is  good and evil are seen as acts rather than the core of a person’s existence. In other words, even villains can evolve.

Since Star Wars is so popular, it’s the perfect story example to use in this post. It also allows readers not familiar with the genre to better understand what sets apart visionary fiction from other genres.

One of the most well-known villains of visionary fiction is Darth Vader. We hated him when he destroyed Princess Leia’s home world and forgave him when he turned his lightsaber against the emperor to save his son. Why did we overlook Darth Vader’s sins?

 He  evolved…

We watched Darth Vader defeat his dark nature and embrace the light. It’s a very common archetypal theme in mythology that Lucas drew upon using Joseph Campbell’s template of the hero’s journey.

 I create my own villains using a similar template, although they don’t always end up embracing the light. I love to explore the interior struggle of a villain. There’s a reason why they do what they do, and I flesh out my antagonists as intensely as I do my protagonists.

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In Unison,  my first book in the Spheral Series, Master Kai is  seduced by ambition; however, there’s an obvious ambivalence he demonstrates throughout the book. I indicate this by how he relates to Damon, the protagonist.

 “We can’t escape history, anymore … Continue reading