The “Flyby” in Visionary Fiction, Part One

god-particle 2What’s a Flyby?

Where do the ideas and visions that eventually become complex cities and timeless books come from? I don’t know actually—how to blunt a piece from the get-go! However, I do know that they first show up as blip of light barely large and lasting enough to evoke a “What the heck was that?” It gets a smidge of our attention before it flicks on by. After a while, it comes back, this time a bit brighter, lingering only long enough to make us think: where have I seen that before? It’s got a bit more of our attention. It keeps up this appearing and disappearing act until it gets under our skin, be it as annoyance or curiosity. We just have to find out what it is. It now has our full attention, and off we go to chase it, exactly as it intended that we do.

Years back, I coined the word flyby to name this elusive phenomenon for myself. It’s more commonly called an inkling, a term meaningful to folks who remember the fountain pen. (I’m old enough to have used one, but those dastardly things left more ink on my fingers than on paper, so for me flyby has a more pleasant ring.)

By whatever name, these mini-UFOs of mind space are crafty critters. By seeming to avoid detection, they coyly aim to attract attention, which happens to be their fuel and food. They have to be chased down and taken in before they can morph into manifestation. Quite human in behavior, we might say. Without attention, recognition, curiosity, and capture, they remain fussy potential no-things buzzing about in an ethereal soup, alien vessels without a place to moor.

In quantum terms, the flyby is the first glimmer of specificity in a wave, like a splash of moonlight on undulating water that an observer notices and forms into an image, particularizing it as a photograph or phrase, and thus giving it a unique existence that marks it an entity separate from the other unobserved reflections of light in the ether.

The Flyby in Visionary Fiction

The visionary writer aims to fosters growth in consciousness—alertness, awareness—in the manner of an astronomer setting out to explore a distant star or a biologist searching for a curative compound. Imagination is his telescope-microscope through which he magnifies his perception so it will penetrate into the microcosms and macrocosms of infinite potentiality. And flybys are the intimations he looks for, signals that something barely visible but worthwhile is in the available vicinity.

Like the heavens with its myriad stars, flybys are likely to appear wherever one cares to look. But human consciousness seems burdened with an entropy that shrinks our field of vision as soon as we let down our guard. Why perhaps that, despite billions of humans passing through earthly life and speaking or writing a billion100 words on that experience, the bulk of the current population is still picking through Wal-Mart looking for that one bargain that will reveal the purpose of life.

Flybys, despite their ubiquity, are, by nature, Flibbertigibbets (How long I have waited to use that word!). Like our fleeting New Year’s resolutions, they have to be corralled, cornered, and pounded into the ground before they take root and grow into something good, beautiful and true. The visionary fiction writer, who largely works in the realm between the abstract or spiritual and the concrete or material, might best style himself a professional wrangler with electric eels of potential, whose nature, like dreams, is to tease, only then to blithely slip out of our mental fingers.

The Flyby as Self-Accumulator

Cathedral of Saint Cecilia Albi, France (Photo by V. Smith)

Cathedral of Saint Cecilia Albi, France (Photo by V. Smith)

Without belaboring the necessary and sometimes tedious stages through which a flyby must pass from intuition to notes to outline and then on to completed story—a sequence paralleled in every creative act—let’s examine its primary, seemingly magical, internal characteristic: its self-generative nature. This is the process, not matter that it surpasses our understanding, that turns inspiration, with a due amount of perspiration, into a finished creation, from which we, all godlike, can step back and pronounce as good, and on occasion, really damn good.

The flyby, the seed of it all, is a self-accumulator. At first it is a very lonely monad (think about—but not too hard—the concept of the alleged Higgs boson or God Particle in physics) that flits or flirts about with the sole purpose of attracting attention from a target. It wants a suitable partner. In absorbing that first particle of attention, the twosome forms a dyad, a couple, and from there the dating game is off to the races. The more attention the writer or artist gives to the inspiration, the more the inspiration takes form as a creation.

god-particleTo ask which came first is to pose the impossible “chicken-or-egg” riddle. After the initial coupling, to attempt to separate the insight from the in-sighted is to doom the creation to a stillbirth. And if, by the way, our discussion here smacks with the language of reproduction (flyby easily equates with pollen in the plant kingdom and semen in the animal realm), it is not coincidental. The process of creation, proceeding from the humble flyby unto the most magnificent cathedral, is, as even physicists now accept, a single sequence that takes the simplest building block and from it fashions all that is.

Click the link for The Flyby in Visionary Fiction, Part 2.



About Victor Smith

Victor E. Smith, a lifelong generalist with a diverse resume, sees himself as a scribe of the realm “in-between.” Writing largely visionary and historical fiction, he seeks to observe, absorb, and express those close encounters between the spiritual and material universes that form the unique adventure called human life. Vic is the author of The Anathemas: A Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution (2010) and Channel of the Grail (May 2016). He is a core team member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance. For further information, visit his website,
Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The “Flyby” in Visionary Fiction, Part One

  1. I love this description of those flitting visions that grow in detail as we watch them. I've often thought of these as in my peripheral vision. Is "self-accumulator" a physics term?

    I also love this is called "inklings." Worth pondering if this idea was one of the reasons Tolkien, Lewis and the gang adopted that name.


    • Thanks, Teresa. Heading north to your country, Colorado, for holidays tomorrow. Like going home.

      "Self-accumulator" is not a physics term that I know of. Another of my coinings although I drew the concept from diverse sources. Will have to take a look at the use of inklings by other authors as you mention. May be able to squeeze into Part Two.


  2. reanolanmartin says:

    This is just lovely, Victor, thanks for grabbing this flyby by its tail!


  3. Your opening question is a question I ask myself often. "Where do the ideas and visions that eventually become complex cities and timeless books come from?"

    I just finished reading INVISIBLE RIVER by Helena McEwen about a talented women in a London art school trying to answer the same question.

    Her repeated attempts to access and express her unique art turn out dismal failures, which are criticized harshly by her instructors. But near the end of the story after a traumatic experience in a peace march gone terribly wrong, her thoughts become loud and echo off the buildings, the air throbs, and sounds have pictures in them. Her world passes through a still point, and later, in her art studio, she experiences a breakthrough: "I lose sense of time as I draw into the ink, one after the other, the images pouring out of me like dreams. And as I print I see the paintings I will paint emerging from them, of someone in despair who remembers hope, and know that now I've found my own way of working."

    She'd caught her "flyby."

    As the novel and your post so successfully show, catching the "flyby" is tricky. In fact, it often catches the artist, rather than the other way around.


  4. Tui Allen says:

    I was delighted of course by your rippling watery images as they so fitted my own Ripple. "In quantum terms, the flyby is the first glimmer of specificity in a wave, like a splash of moonlight on undulating water"
    An excellent post.


  5. Love your analogies, Vic. You have articulately captured the phenomena of what inspires writers, specifically VF authors. I think we, as VF authors, are the inspired who aim to be the inspiration.


  6. Tui Allen says:

    I remember how the first flyby was the dolphins I saw swimming in the oceans. I wanted to capture their spirit in story as Bach had done with seagulls and flight. The first partner flyby was the idea of music – using dolphins' vast capacity for processing sound. We collected two more fly-bys to add to the mix – the power of love, and the workings of abstract intellect. Threw it all into the impossibly distant past and watched it take effect on the future of humanity. What a thrill it was!


    • Amazing how that first single blip, if captured, accumulates the whole story around itself. Makes me wonder how many stories or other forms of art are just waiting out there for manifestation. Mind boggling and truly a blessed vocation we have.


  7. libredux says:

    Vic, thanks for this post on a topic that many writers and other creative-types, including myself, often experience, but rarely talk about. I don't have my own word for this but like yours very much. I also enjoyed reading your article for its use of vivid language. "Electric eels of potential" was brilliant!


  8. Admin - Eleni says:

    Thanks for this post. It's so rarely discussed, yet it's probably something common to those of us writing VF. In addition to inspiring fresh stories, I love it when flybys "fly by" during the editing process. They help add depth…and a little more weirdness to my stories. They somehow show up when I need them most and play out in full color. Flybys truly are gifts, which might lead to the question, "A gift from whom?" I prefer not to speculate about the giver and be grateful that I have become sensitive enough to accept it.


  9. Jim Murdoch says:

    Yes that discribes it perfectly, that moment, series of moments, when the inspiration and the inspired meet, become one and evolve into something only this duo can create together. Good article. I am looking forward to part two.


  10. drstephenw says:

    I love the preponderance of metaphors and analogies in your article, Vic. A testament to your flybybian imagination (can't tell you how long it took auto-correct to accept that word). Also to the elusive nature of capturing a flyby, in reality or in words.
    I always find it curious when a wonderful flyby comes along, and it feels FAMILIAR. How can a fresh insight feel new and old at the same time? Makes me believe in Collective Unconscious or Repetitive time cycles.


    • From Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Be it the CU, repetitive time cycles, or parallel universes, exploring these alternatives are what make visionary writing challenging and fun.


  11. True creativity, be it for visionary or any other kind of fiction or art form can only come from a mind that is calm, clear and spacious – the kind of state achieved through meditation and slipped into at will by the experienced artist/author. Anything created by a conceptual mind will always be limited, and visionary fiction should take the reader beyond limitations. For visionary fiction, the author needs a solid background of spiritual experience to draw from. Call the spark of ideas what you want, but without the deep spiritual experience that informs a story and opens the creative channels wide, a work of visionary fiction will only be make believe at best.


    • True, Tahlia, although it can work the other way around, I have found, Spirit can move in both directions. From an already existing spiritual foundation to the visionary work, and from imagination to spiritual experience. Not saying it's what you're advocating, but let's not limit VF to those who already possess a specific set of "spiritual credentials."


  12. Pingback: The “Flyby” in Visionary Fiction, Part Two | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  13. Pingback: 5 Ways to Shape Your Success as a Writer | Visionary Fiction Alliance

Leave a Reply