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 into my novel: A government-sponsored computer simulation proves the possibility of an ideal society, and then elite forces, who see this development as a threat to their power, shut it down. But the data survives and becomes the quest item thirty years later. I got what I wanted: A story with meaning; and at the same time, the process of developing the novel gave me further opportunities to review my thought processes in ways that only creative writing can provide.  (Website)

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Eleni Papanou

As a reader, I can feel the shift of all the four points we’ve discussed in this series, especially when I’m  reading something from a masterful visionary author. Oftentimes the search is mystical as was the case with Philip K. Dick. He wrote about his own spiritual questions in his literary works. Valis came from his trying to understand a spiritual experience. He penned The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch  after seeing a giant metallic face in the sky. In the documentary, Philip K. Dick – The Penultimate Truth, his third wife, Anne Williams Rubenstein said, “I think that he was trying to work out in that book [Philip K. Dick] an enormous conflict he had in his own life.”

In Valis, the protagonist, (who represented PDK) sought to define something that was undefinable, and the journey to discover it almost made him lose his mind. When reading Valis, I gathered that PDK had stopped trying to figure out what had happened to him. I mentioned, in my last post, that I ended my quest for definitive answers and that it liberated me and made me happier. How I apply it to my life is that by not seeking absolutes, I accept things I cannot know and gain a deeper appreciation of that which I do know and experience. The thing about absolutes is they come with judgment statements. I think that is why my higher conscience delivered the following message, “It’s not about being right or wrong; it’s all about the experience.”  By living for the experience as opposed to all the judgements I made in the past, I’m free to experience the richness of life that can only be experienced by living in the moment.  (Website)

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Stephen Weinstock

When playwright Martin Epstein was in elementary school, the teacher had the students create a journal. When it came time for the class to read aloud from their work, one kid started his entry: “Today I am a cowboy!” and continued with a detailed fantasy of his life on the range. Shocked with delight, the young Martin thought, “You’re allowed to do that?” and his life and worldview were never the same.

If one definition of insight in reading is to receive inner visions, in-sights, as we read, then a very powerful insight is the opening up of new worlds. I don’t necessarily mean Narnia or Middle Earth, though for a young reader these worlds will do; I mean when a book inspires a writer, artist, or any human for that matter, by a fresh act of imagination, to see a new vision of the world, and to apply that vision through a personal act of creation.

One such book for me is Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. Each story begins with a statement of a scientific theory, such as The Big Bang, followed by an anthropomorphic rendering of the theory, as a human drama or an inner psychological soliloquy. The concept of investing atomic particles or prehistoric mollusks with deep philosophical musings was revelatory to me. Calvino’s writing not only inspired me to create 1001 conscious beings for my series The Reincarnation Chronicles, but to look at every entity in the world, be it animate, inanimate, or abstract, as containing energy and consciousness.


Eleni Papanou is an award-winning author and perpetual student of life.  Visit her website for news and updates

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16 Responses to Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction – Application – Part 5

  1. I love seeing into the minds of some of my favorite VF authors (the three of you who contributed to this post!) Such rich thoughts, inspirations, and evocative questioning, provided the fertile ground for your visionary works, I can tell! Thank you.

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  2. Great conclusion to a comprehensive series. Written by some insightful authors, I must add. Thanks!

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  3. Eleni. In your series, VF as Personal Therapy, you've done a thorough and interesting job of breaking down ways fiction and nonfiction can touch and influence the reader/writer – from recognition and reaction to juxtaposition and application. As Jodine said above, I enjoyed seeing into the minds of three very talented VF authors as they shared today how they applied the insights they developed from books into their own lives and the creative process.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      It was indeed a great exchange, and I'm thankful for all the great authors who took time out of their busy schedules to tell us about how reading influenced them. Hopefully some more insights will come out of this series.

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  4. Thank you, Eleni, for this enlightening series. It has the seeds for a more detailed work–when you have time!

    Insight, as derived from words and reading, can deliver powerful spiritual/mental shifts that can influence the course of a life. Reading your piece, I thought of an experience the other night while reading a passage from Emily Cady's God a Present Help (a standard text of the Unity movement). In the chapter "The Will of God," a concept I have had considerable difficulty with, she goes along saying pious stuff like: "His will is done. This is the attitude of mind we must take"

    And I'm going: "Yeah, right. Where have I heard that before?"

    She then says: "How are we to deal with our Father's will? Exactly as with any other will."

    And I thought: "Huh, never thought of 'will' in that expression to mean what is granted to us legally as an inheritance." Cady goes on: "What should we do if some friend left a will giving something very desirable to us?"

    The point: the author got me to see an alternate meaning in an expression that really bugged me. God's will sounds pretty good in this sense, and one doesn't have to twist his head around a lot of personal distaste and thorny metaphysical issues to get it.

    Perhaps an example a bit from left field, but I can see VF as way to strike such sparks of such insight that the fire started will burn away a lot of human misunderstanding and misery. A rather simple way to make big changes.

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  5. libredux says:

    Eleni, I second Vic's comment in saying you have written a series here from which there is much more to explore. Thanks very much for giving us so much to think about from the VF angle, and for also giving us (myself included) to opportunity to share our experiences as well.

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  6. Admin - Eleni says:

    Thanks Saleena. I also appreciate your participation.

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  7. drstephenw says:

    Thank you so much, Eleni, for putting together this diverse group of ideas from so many interesting writers. The series was expansive, fascinating, and very supportive of the VFA mission.

    Saleena, I love your post, and am glad to read someone taking inspiration from Islamic material for visionary fiction. Dune is an indirect example of this, and more recently, G Willow Wilson's wonderful Alif the Unseen. I'll be contributing a post next month about the evolution of Arabic fiction and how it relates to visionary fiction.

    Eleni, just wanted to let you know there's an opera based on VALIS that's quite remarkable as a visionary, innovative modern opera. It's by Tod Machover, who works out of MIT in interactive software for composition and instruments. The main component of the opera is that the singers and orchestra are wired so that even though they perform a set, written score, if they make certain choices in dynamics, articulation etc, it sends signals to a computer, which in turn 'tweaks' the music, adding harmonics or rhythms etc. Pretty cool stuff, but the basic opera itself, even without the futuristic gizmos, is worthy of Dick's book.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Thanks Stephen.I'm looking forward to reading your post. It sounds fascinating. And, oh my! I'm listening to the finale of Valis on YouTube. Has it been performed? I'm only seeing the music.

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      • drstephenw says:

        Sorry, Eleni, just saw this. I know VALIS was performed when it premiered, but given its peculiar requirements, I don't know if it's had subsequent productions. I don't know of a video. Tod Machover, the composer, is very active on FB, so you might find something there.

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    • libredux says:

      Stephen, thanks for your comments. Your upcoming post sounds most interesting and I'm looking forward to reading it!

      – Saleena 🙂

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