Visionary: Fiction of the Future – Saleena Karim

(Note: This is a  slightly edited version of a blog post originally written for the VF web-ring under the title, The Place of Visionary Fiction in Today’s World and published March 2012)

Saleena Karim

According to one online dictionary, the meanings of the word ‘visionary’ include something characterised by foresight; fantasy and imagination; prophecy or revelation; and idealism.

Ancient roots

True to its name, visionary fiction contains all of these elements as well. Although the genre of visionary fiction is relatively new, it actually has its roots in ancient mythology, and in the parables and legends we find in religious scripture across the world. It openly harks back to the original function of ‘story’ itself, to ask questions about human potential: What we are, where we are going, and what we would like to become. So in a way, visionary fiction isn’t new at all. But we might ask why this ‘new’ type of novel has appeared just as we have crossed into the new millennium.

It’s a mad world

The future is undoubtedly both exciting and uncertain. It’s exciting because of the pace of technology; faster communications such as the internet and mobile devices and TV; the leaps in our understanding of the physical universe; our advances in medicine, genetics and much more. Yet it’s also uncertain, because it seems to lack direction. Many of us fear that our combined knowledge is not being put to the best possible use; we remain painfully irresponsible when it comes to the environment; the vast majority of scientific research is funded by, and carried out for, the military; and we still can’t seem to feed the world, even though it is already technically possible. Many people express concerns about ‘progress for the sake of progress’. Some even fear that we are losing sight of our very humanity and are gradually becoming machines.

Whilst ancient religious cultures emphasised the importance of the ‘spiritual’, in the modern age we seem to have fostered a culture of pure materialism. It might be said that at one time humanity was so focused on the spiritual, and on religion, that we neglected the material world and progressed very slowly. In recent centuries, we have reacted to this one-sided worldview by embracing science. But in our enthusiasm for material progress, we have also rejected the ‘spiritual’, and are out of touch with our inner selves. To put it another way, whilst we are technologically advanced, psychologically we remain quite primitive.

Rediscovery

Visionary fiction comes from a human psychological need – a desire to rediscover the ‘spiritual’. It is also a totally new incarnation of the stories of old. It may contain (fictional or otherwise) references to Moses, or Buddha, or Celtic or Roman deities, or reincarnation, psychics, and the rest, inviting us to suspend our disbelief to make way for the fantastic. Yet it also seeks to find the spiritual through the regular, worldly gateways of genetic engineering, computer technology, environmentalism and dreams (insofar as dreams are a natural psychological phenomenon). In short, it uses the seemingly ordinary to explore the extraordinary.

At present visionary fiction is still new and virtually unheard of in the mainstream. But with time it could become an important part of our literary heritage and provide a valuable commentary on our present collective state of mind. Visionary fiction gives equal space to spirit and matter, and bridges the gap by suggesting that the difference between the two is perceived rather than real. And unlike some forms of speculative fiction, it looks to the future with hope.

Saleena Karim is the author of Systems, a science fiction and VF novel exploring the possibility of an ideal society.

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About Saleena Karim

Saleena is a writer and publisher, best known for authoring the political biography "Secular Jinnah & Pakistan". As well as being the co-brainchild of the Visionary Fiction Alliance, she is the author of the award-winning visionary fiction novel "Systems", which is also part of the curricular reading material and the Marghdeen Learning Center, Karachi.
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22 Responses to Visionary: Fiction of the Future – Saleena Karim

  1. Pingback: Systems » Launch Series Guest Post at the Visionary Fiction Alliance

  2. Hi Saleena. It is helpful and inspiring to find visionary fiction explained from varying angles and points of view at one site. I particularly like how you point out that VF: uses the seemingly ordinary to explain the extraordinary; is a valuable commentary on our present collective state of mind; and looks to the future with hope." Visionary fiction's future is now.

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  3. Robert says:

    Saleena,

    Thank you for this post.

    Your words certainly ignite, for me, an enthusiasm for the potential of visionary fiction to be powerful conduit through which humanity can express what is needful. I see VF as a potential change-agent for all.

    All good wishes,

    robert

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  4. elenistoryteller says:

    Very nice post Saleena. It's so true how we've become so materialistic that our spiritual endeavors have taken a back seat. I think this is why this genre has a great chance of finding an audience which will come out of psychological need, as you mentioned. I know I write in this genre for a similar reason.

    Love and light,
    Eleni

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  5. visionaryfictionauth says:

    Saleena,

    I particularly liked your comments about the "original function of story itself, to ask questions about human potential:…" and how that relates uniquely to today's' VF.

    And I align with your perspective of how VF "gives equal space to spirit and matter,…". I see the spiritual present in both, simply expressed differently. In my novels, as many VF novels, that is part of the evolution in consciousness expressed through VF.

    thank you for your insightful article!

    ~Jodine

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  6. elenistoryteller says:

    I had to come back here because I also appreciate how you mentioned the polarity of the ages and how at one time we held back on science to focus on the spiritual, and now we are doing exactly the opposite now! What we've evolved into is a result of the past. Now since we learned from the past, we'll have two models to reflect upon in the future and it's highly conceivable we'll get it right next time through.

    I don't think I can mention this enough times. I'm so glad I found this group.

    Love and light,
    Eleni

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  7. Me too, Eleni! I concur with with you say, that humanity is in a better position to get its perspective right this time.

    Jodine, it really spooks me how often you sound like the philosopher Iqbal! 🙂 What you say about the spiritual present in both, but just expressed differently is very similar to his viewpoint.

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    • visionaryfictionauth says:

      Saleena,
      Iqbal – I remember that among other things, you had a blog post about him a few months ago. I'll have to go reread that!
      ~Jodine

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  8. Thanks Saleena for this insight on VF, I also believe that visionary fiction peeps into the psychological and spiritual stretches of a man and we are in the most exciting times to witness the unfolding of spiritual and physical dichotomy that was just an evolutionary veil.

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  9. mvreiyas says:

    The picture of the golden bridge you placed at the end of your article is so inspiring and a perfect summary for your vision of change and future hope!

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  10. davyf says:

    Saleena, this is an excellent commentary on visionary fiction, and the images are perfect! –Daveda

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  12. NadineMay says:

    Thanks Saleena for your great article and insight on VF. I love it when you wrote: A desire to rediscover the ‘spiritual, and I would like to add: without being religious.

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  13. Pingback: Are Fairy Tales Turning Visionary? | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  14. "Visionary fiction gives equal space to spirit and matter…"

    Which, to me, makes it closer to Reality; rather than being merely "realistic" or "fantastic"…

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