Is All Social Commentary Visionary Fiction?

By Saleena Karim

Science fiction has long been the genre of choice for social commentary. By breaking away from the everyday real world and presenting alternative realities, it offers a safe haven for making statements on controversial or otherwise sensitive topics. Unsurprisingly, as a speculative fiction type, sci-fi is also a favourite genre choice for the visionary fiction writer, myself included. But just as not all visionary fiction is sci-fi, not all sci-fi is VF. Even so, with both being used for social commentary, the line that distinguishes the two can occasionally seem blurred. This is exactly what happened recently when the VFA came across a writer who was promoting a kind of fiction for which she had chosen the term “visionary fiction”.

Walidah Imarisha

Writer and activist Walidah Imarisha has mainly written poetry and non-fiction, but she has co-edited the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements named after sci-fi writer Octavia E. Butler. The book is described at its website as “visionary science fiction and speculative fiction written by organizers and activists,” and elsewhere co-editor Adrienne Maree Brown describes the book as offering “a way to uncover the truths buried in the fantastical – and to inject a healthy dose of the fantastical into our search for truth”. Imarisha has also said about what she means by visionary: “If its weird and it helps us build new just worlds, that’s us.”

Parallels

When in January 2015, VFA editor Margaret Duarte first sent the VFA editorial board a link to an interview of Imarisha I was especially interested, since I spotted some key words that corresponded to my own VF, in particular justice, and systemic. (My novel Systems is about a quest to create an … Continue reading

Interview with Dean Koontz: “Metaphysics are the ink in my pen.”

Genre is a subjective marketing category that often misleads rather than informs.

Some books defy classification, especially books by Dean Koontz.

How do you pin down stories that fit at least a dozen marketing labels, including: Action, Adventure, Crime, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Philosophical, Science Fiction, Speculative, Thriller, Urban, and, yes, Visionary Fiction?

Dean KoontzNo one could have been more surprised than I was at finding principles of quantum mechanics and elements of visionary fiction in the work of mega-popular author Dean Koontz.

On reading my first Koontz novel, titled Watchers, I was prepared for the kind of “rip-roaring, rattling-good story” that “keeps you so far out on the edge of your chair that you have butt bruises from repeatedly falling to the floor” (Dean’s words, not mine). However, it delivered much more. I found myself repeating “Wow!” over and over in reaction to the depth and meaning interwoven almost subliminally throughout the book.

In the afterword to Watchers, Dean Koontz said, “We have within us the ability to change for the better and to find dignity as individuals rather than as drones in one mass movement or another. We have the ability to love, the need to be loved, and the willingness to put our own lives on the line to protect those we love, and it is in these aspects of ourselves that we can glimpse the face of God; and through the exercise of these qualities, we come closest to a Godlike state.”

Yet, no matter how much I’d like to claim Watchers as a prime example of visionary fiction, it does NOT contain all the elements of VF. … Continue reading

Visionary Fiction on the Genre Shelf

Visionary FictionVisionary fiction is not metaphysical fiction.

Visionary fiction is not magical realism.

Visionary fiction is not religious fiction or sci-fi or fantasy.

What will it take for traditional publishers to make room on the shelf for fiction that “speaks the language of the soul and offers a vision of humanity as we dream it could be?”

In other words, what will it take for visionary fiction to be recognized as a genre?

Mystic Tea Finds a Genre

Though I don’t have a cup of mystic tea to help me see through time, I can come up with a simple – if not easy to accomplish – answer to the above question.

For visionary fiction to be recognized as a genre, it will take:

  • Visionary writers, such as Rea Nolan Martin, with the talent, perseverance, and willingness to write stories from the heart rather than cave to the dictates of what is currently selling.
  • Contests, such as the Independent Publisher Book Awards, that recognize visionary fiction as a category and award talented VF authors like Rea Nolan Martin awards for their superior work.
  • Reviewers, such as the impressive number that gave Rea Nolan Martin’s visionary novel Mystic Tea a five-star review.

Mystic Tea on Goodreads

I was first drawn to Rea Nolan Martin’s novel by the following blurb at Goodreads:

A community of quirky, mismatched, and endearing women struggle to find meaning and purpose on a ramshackle monastery in upstate New York. Having spent their lives in service to a church that seems to no longer serve them, they are confused about their own futures and … Continue reading