Visionary Fiction as Thought Experiment – William Fietzer

We’re familiar with hypothetical, “What If?” conjectures. What if I have to declare bankruptcy? What if North Korea attacks the United States (or vice versa)? And what if the President is impeached—what happens then?

All of these speculations, some personal, some apocalyptic, suggest a story will follow—an answer, explanation, or procedure that addresses the initial set-up in some way that results in a narrative of some kind. Science, too, has its “What If?” speculations. Albert Einstein’s famous thought experiments about the nature of light led to his general and special theories of relativity which upended previous conceptions of the physical universe.

Visionary fiction also has its “What If?” speculations. Some are narrow in scope, such as “What if I could reach my full potential as a human being?” or “What if I could see into the future?” Others have more cosmic implications, like “What if I could access higher planes of spiritual existence?” and “What if I gained the power to manipulate good and evil?”

All of these questions open themselves to “What happens next?” consequences. Unlike Science, however, visionary fiction has been dismissed as unrealistic, trivial, or simply unimportant because it (supposedly) doesn’t deal with lives as they are led in the physical, sense-oriented universe with which we’re familiar. Though magical realists such as Jorge Luis Borges and Salmon Rushdie are cut some slack in this regard, many writers who explore the realms of the mystical and the occult find their works ridiculed and/or shunted to the distant back shelves of speculative and fantasy fiction sections in book stores and web sites.

Brain neuron activityBut recent developments in … Continue reading