I don’t recall learning to read. Nor do I remember ever not reading. With two parents who read and wrote as regularly as they breathed, it was natural to follow suit. I grew up on an isolated farm without a radio or TV, so books were it for information and entertainment. But I was a lively kid, which induced me to act out what I was reading, often bribing or coercing my younger brothers to participate in my skits as the supporting cast.
Two formative factors emerge here: the reading habit, of course, and the sense of direct involvement with what is read. I didn’t read just Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I knew Tom and Huck personally; I talked to them about their adventures, and they let me in on things they never told Mark Twain. Reading fired my imagination, then prompted me to visualize scenes that embroidered what I had read, and finally led me to verbalize, if only to myself, those spontaneous mental dramas.
Fast forward to a college class in Shakespeare. I became so enthralled with Calvin Hoffman’s The Murder of the Man who was Shakespeare (1955), an alternative Shakespearean authorship theory, that I spent the semester on a paper that I imagined would topple established scholarship by proving that Christopher Marlowe was the actual bard of Avon. I obviously did not succeed—I don’t even remember my argument—but this experience taught me discernment in studying what the anointed experts wrote. My fascination with challenging mysteries, something I seemed born with, morphed into an intellectual rebelliousness. “Question authority” became my mantra, and authoritarian history became its first target.
Destiny, that dreadful beast, had me born and raised in an uber-religious environment. The college mentioned above was a Catholic seminary into which my parents and a slick sales pitch convinced me to enroll. But my undergrad years, the late ‘60’s, were a period of chafing against the 2000-year-old traditions of the Roman Church. Vatican II, de Chardin, and the protesting Berrigan brothers were all the rage. Dire warnings from the conservative clergy against such innovations only roused my curiosity. I devoured all the anti-establishment literature I could get hold of and realigned to the liberal viewpoint. Convinced that my prior religious education was barely half the truth, I again applied the “question authority” mantra (effectively ending my seminary career), and authoritarian religion became my second target.
Draining away the doctrinaire bathwater from the intellectual and religious tubs did not permit me to return comfortably to materialism, although, goodness knows, I tried that route. After disinterring so many “truths” to find them less true than touted and ruling out naked nihilism, I needed to find a better way, so I began to walk the “road less traveled.”
During that critical transition period from serene cloisters to raucous New York City streets, serendipity graciously handed me books by several alternative authors on psychology and spirituality: the mystic Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, Marshall McLuhan (I was headed to Fordham where he chaired the Communication Arts Department), Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and, a bit later, Colin Wilson (especially The Outsider) and George Leonard (The Ultimate Athlete). I knew I had to write, but such writers helped me discover what I wanted to write about. I gathered that human communication was both the problem and the solution and envisioned my writing as a catalyst for transforming it from the former to the latter—a daunting task that I saw as requiring a quantum leap in human awareness and ability.
While I was trying my hand at various modes of writing (poetry, short stories, stage drama, film scripts) and life disciplines (parapsychology, counseling, spiritual practices, getting married, raising kids, getting divorced, etc.), in the back of my mind an intricate novel was spinning itself into an expression of the deepest influences and insights of the life I was living and the work I was doing. Over the period of decades The Anathemas, a Novel of Reincarnation and Restitution evolved.
When I reluctantly accepted that the book was as good as it was going to get, there came that onerous task of publishing it. Since I had blended elements of traditional history, alternative history, orthodox religion, New Age spirituality, the paranormal (dreams, extrasensory perception), and the metaphysical (reincarnation), spicing the concoction with mystery and suspense techniques—something for everyone—I was quite proud that it defied categorization Thus, I was thrown for a loop when the first question out of the first interviewing agent’s mouth was: “What’s its genre?”
I had to search for a label appropriate to my opus. This being the early 2000’s, I came across Michael Gurian’s website, visionaryfiction.org, which stated: “Visionary fiction is fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot.” He then prefaced a list of recommended ingredients with: “In visionary fiction, the following sorts of things not only happen, but drive the plot and its characters (i.e., without these experiences, there would be no plot or character).” The Anathemas, I observed with glee, had enough of his list’s suggested elements to be a Visionary Fiction fruitcake: mystical experiences, visions, clusters of eerie coincidence, and past life realization, to name a few.
Appropriately, what began, literally, as a recurring image in my early twenties (see The Parapet page on my website for that story) developed over decades into a facet of the Visionary Fiction genre, currently emerging as the predominant literary form for expressing the dramatic evolutionary leap that the human race is now taking. I am awed and humbled to have been chosen for a role, however small, in this vital transformation, for which Intelligence appears to have been preparing from the beginning of time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victor E. Smith (Vic) is a writer specializing in Visionary Fiction, a semi-retired computer trainer to the publishing industry (15 years as a consultant to The Wall Street Journal), and a spiritual/paranormal researcher currently residing in Tucson, Arizona. He is a member of the Editorial Team of the Visionary Fiction Alliance and author of The Anathemas, a Novel about Reincarnation and Restitution. His website and blog can be found at victoresmith.com.