The Puzzle Of Visionary Fiction – Part Two

Harold_Bennett_9222_Nathanael_BennettBy Margaret Duarte

For part one of the article, click here.

Hal Zina Bennett points to ebooks as a significant piece of the puzzle when it comes to proving to the mainstream that visionary fiction has something valuable to offer.

 “Maybe successful visionary fiction is a little like the legendary Hindu rope trick,” Bennett says, “where the fakir throws a rope into the air. Instead of it falling to the ground the rope stays firmly in the air like a solid post. Then the magician orders his assistant, usually a young boy, to climb the rope. The boy obeys but when he gets to the top he refuses to come down. The angry fakir throws a knife, which swirls viciously toward the sky. Soon, severed arms, legs and body parts of the boy come hurtling down. The magician’s assistants collect the pieces, toss them in a basket and cover the basket with a cloth. The magician passes his wand over the basket, sweeps away the cloth, reaches in and helps the restored and whole child step out.  Thousands of people have sworn that they know somebody who has seen this trick done.  But of course, the first hand witnesses never seem to be found. Perhaps visionary fiction is a little like that. We know the trick. Sometimes as we’re even convinced we’ve accomplished it. And maybe we have. But where are the spectators, the witnesses, when we need them?”

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The Future of Visionary Fiction

 When asked to share his thoughts about the future of visionary fiction, Hal said:

“You know, I love what’s happening in the digital production of books. First and foremost, it’s important for writers to take in what the advent of ebooks really means. It’s much more than just another way to read books. This technology democratizes publishing as never before in human history. That’s not hyperbole. It is the most significant thing that has happened socially and culturally with the written word since the invention of moveable type or the Gutenberg Bible. Regardless of how we might love the feel of a paper book in our hands, there are bigger issues here.

“For one thing, ebooks globalize whatever we write. The internet and ebook readers make the written word available to people who live even in tiny, isolated villages in Africa. I recently saw a photo of a Tibetan monk holding an ebook reader. It was a real photo, not a photoshopped one. The internet reaches nearly everywhere and solar cells keep the ebook readers and iPhones charged wherever the sun reaches. I think by now all of my own books are ebooked; as a result I’ve gotten email messages from readers in Saudi Arabia, India, Africa, mainland China and even…New York City!

“Because it’s relatively inexpensive to publish an ebook, it’s possible for an author to be more like a painter or sculptor or musician, bypassing the gatekeepers of the big publishing houses whose primary purpose in life is to keep an eye on the bottom line. Digitalization makes it possible for us to share our work with a half-dozen friends or with a million readers we’ll never meet. Hopefully, because this publishing venue is so accessible, it could give us visionary fiction authors a better chance of proving to the mainstream that we really do have something to say and readers out there who want to read what we offer. Having proven we have a legitimate readership, mainstream publishers may start to get interested. Just remember their halos are powered by dollars, not spiritual enlightenment.

“Lastly, what’s upcoming is interactive digital readers where we can have the reader really become part of the story, radically changing the outcome or taking us into the Mystery, complete with orchestral choirs, one presumes. All this electronic stuff can be intimidating and seductive, and there really is a kind of romance we have with traditional paper books that we may have to let go of. But I think when a new technology (remember, printing mass books on paper was once a revolutionary technology) presents itself, we’ve got to explore the possibilities it opens up to us. Clearly we need books, music, art, science and technology to ignite the spiritual. The sharing part—being able to exchange our experience of spiritual life with others—is really the part that’s most important. New technologies are always…always…a significant piece of the puzzle and exploring what that means in anything and everything we do is essential. Visionary fiction fits the new technologies pretty nicely. Those of you who already have had success with ebooks know the truth.”

Where Magic Occurs

I’ll leave you with a final thought Hal Zina Bennett shared with me:

“The concept of “Sophia” applies in all genres, of course, except maybe in academic writing; it is the space between knowing and not knowing where magic occurs, and where change is found. That’s where writers have to go, regardless of genre or the delivery system.”

With these words, I recognize that Hal Zina Bennet knows of what he speaks, not only about story, but also about visionary fiction, and I thank him for sharing his thoughts with us at VFA.


Hal’s highly acclaimed work includes countless articles and more than 30 successful books, including three works of fiction:Backland Graces: Four Novellas, Spirit Circle and White Mountain Blues.

In addition to being a prolific author, Hal has helped over 200 authors develop their own work, several of them bestsellers. Look on the acknowledgment pages of your favorite books and you just might find him prominently mentioned there. His seminars on writing and spirituality are legendary.

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About Margaret Duarte

Although warned by agents and publishers that labeling her work Visionary Fiction was the “kiss of death,” Margaret Duarte refused to concede. “In a world riddled with fear, misunderstanding, and lost hope,” she says, “I believe there are people prepared to transcend the boundaries of their five senses and open to new thoughts and ideas. The audience is ready for fiction that heals, empowers, and bridges differences.” Margaret joined forces with other visionary fiction writers to create the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a website dedicated to bringing visionary fiction into the mainstream and providing visionary fiction writers with a place to call home. In December 2015, Margaret launched BETWEEN WILL AND SURRENDER, book one of her "Enter the Between" visionary fiction series. Through her novels, which synthesize heart and mind, science and spirituality, Margaret encourages readers to activate their gifts, retire their excuses, and stand in their own authority. Margaret is a former middle school teacher and lives on a California dairy farm with her family and a herd of "happy cows," a constant reminder that the greenest pastures are closest to home.
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14 Responses to The Puzzle Of Visionary Fiction – Part Two

  1. Victor Smith says:

    “The concept of “Sophia” applies in all genres, of course, except maybe in academic writing; it is the space between knowing and not knowing where magic occurs, and where change is found. That’s where writers have to go, regardless of genre or the delivery system.”

    Brilliant, Hal, and worth a week's meditation. "The space between" comes into my novel The Anathemas, a Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution but I never equate it with Sophia–and Sophia is in my book also, as represented by the cathedral, Sancta Sophia in Istanbul, built by the Emperor Justinian, the novel's protagonist.

    A practical point, perhaps more germane to Part 1 of this article: I recently published my book through Smashwords to take advantage of the their multiple formats and distribution channels. When I defined its genre, the best I could do was "Fiction/Literature/Visionary and Metaphysical." And that's what it shows when you go to the book itself. However, I checked the Home page Category listing (what most people would use to browse) and under Fiction, they have a "Literary" (but no "Literature") and there is no listing for "Visionary/Metaphysical" anywhere on the initial listing. In other words, my book as categorized will never be found from Home and neither will any visionary/metaphysical work of fiction. Rather than allow this oversight make me mad (O-o-om), I'm going to put myself through the exercise of trying to fix it and promoting the concept of Visionary Fiction to Mark Coker, Smashword's owner, at the same time. A lab experiment. Will keep you all posted on results. As is often noted here: we have a lot of work to do!

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    • Hi Victor. Love that you're going to try and promote the concept of visionary fiction with Mark Coker. I have met him and find him approachable and open to suggestions, at least for now. Yes, we have a lot of work to do.

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  2. Admin - Eleni says:

    Hal, I strongly agree with your comments on ebooks. It really has opened the door for us and also has given us creative control of our work by eliminating the need for a middleman. That was something that was important to me, which is why I opted to self publish. I wrote the kind of book I wanted to write rather than for an unseen agent. As a result, I wrote the best material of my life, and it evolved into a series seemingly on its own. It did feel like magic to me, and this is how I always imagined writing to be, but I had never felt that way before. Maybe I'm a romantic, but I grew up appreciating visionaries like Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling. Their style of storytelling was magical, compelling, and it captivated me. I wanted to be part of that profound and visionary level of storytelling, blending sci-fi with a spiritual theme.

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    • Being a member of a large family with only one television between us, I watched very little TV growing up (thank goodness for libraries), yet I became a devoted fan of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. Each story was not only fascinating, but carried a message. Who knows, maybe Rod Serling set me up to became a vf writer.

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      • Admin - Eleni says:

        Margaret: Most definitely everything you absorb as a child shapes you. I know for me, it most definitely has. So there's probably a little Serling in you:)

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    • Victor Smith says:

      Speaking of influences from the sci-fi genre, how about Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, considered by some to be the best sci-fi novel ever? I am not a sci-fi buff, but when I read it years ago, I came away impressed with its very strong spiritual (while satirizing religion) message told in a story I will never forget. To this day I "grok the fullness" of things regularly, and that mode of deep pondering has saved my mind, if not my life, on occasion.

      I would have to read it again to determine if Heinlein ever felt "preachy, but I remember no such impression. I do remember a very good read that radically changed my outlook and casually slipped me a valuable tool to navigate this revised mindset. And, yes, it generated a desire to have my own VF novels prove life-changing for readers. I cherish those calls and emails that say "Wow, what you wrote there blew my mind." Makes it all worth it.

      When we eventually come up with a list of classics to be placed in the VF Hall of Fame, I nominate Stranger in a Strange Land. SF folks may howl but, hey, we can share.

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      • At this rate, my reading list is growing so fast I may never catch up, but thanks for the tip, Victor. Looks like Stranger in a Strange Land will be another one of my future reads. I love how you describe it as "a very good read that radically changed my outlook and casually slipped me a valuable tool to navigate this revised mindset." What a compliment to Heinlein and encouragement for us vf writers to continue doing what we do.

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      • Admin - Eleni says:

        I tried to read Methuselah's Children from Heinlein, and I just couldn't get into it. It's a shame as some of the characters are fun, particularly Lazarus who pops into a few more of his novels.

        I've heard a lot of great things about Stranger In A Strange Land and will probably read it eventually. So many people have left reviews that stated the book had a profound effect on them as it had on you. Incidentally, Heinlein is considered a writer of Libertarian Science fiction, which is how I'm also going to market my current series. I'm now working on an article for my own site about how spirituality and Libertarian philosophy compliment one another. I'm going to try to post it this week and then link back to these two posts with Hal as they offer up a lot of food for thought.

        On a side note, some people do view Heinlein as preachy, particularly by those who don't connect with his Libertarian viewpoints. I've seen his work attacked and labelled as elitist, although I never gathered that from him at all.

        I'd love to compile a list of VF fiction. That would be an effective way to educate people as to the diversity of the genre.

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  3. It's true that ebooks have revolutionised publishing. Like Eleni, I too chose the self-publication route, and went for both print and ebook. And yes, I think the interactive ebook is actually an ideal concept for VF. Takes out the 'preachy' feeling by letting the reader choose his/her own destiny. 😉

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    • Funny. I haven't found anything "preachy" in Eleni, Saleena, Sandy Nathan, or Hal's fiction. And I doubt I'll find any in Tui's and Jodine's. Is this group an exception or has vf been judged prematurely, based on too few writers?

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      • Admin - Eleni says:

        Margaret: I don’t think we’re the exception; however, I do think there is a premature judgement to some degree as to what kind of stories the genre represents. Perhaps it’s because books like The Alchemist seem to be looked upon as the poster child of VF. I’m not criticizing the book as I haven’t read it. All I’m saying is that people aren’t aware of the variety of storytelling within the genre. It doesn’t help that books, like The Stand and movies like Star Wars aren’t listed under the genre. It they were, people would start to take notice. You even mentioned Dean Koontz as being a visionary author, yet none of his books are listed under that genre. And he was happy that you saw him beyond a horror writer.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      That's a clever way of describing it, Saleena. A reader can choose to either read VF for the sole purpose of entertainment or to also take in the underlying spiritual message. I'm certain not everyone who admires Star Wars digs deep into Lucas's use of Eastern spiritualism. But VF sci-fi nerds like me do:)

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  4. Victor, I am interested in Mark Coker's response to your suggesting a VF category. If you need support in that endeavor, the VFA can certainly put its two cents in as a collection of authors writing in this genre. Keep us posted!
    Saleena, – I agree there are some very preachy VF novels out there – thinly veiled stories. And Margaret, I agree with you also – I have not experienced any of the authors' novels in our VFA as falling into that trap.

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