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?”
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.
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.