What is the Difference between Visionary Fiction and Speculative Fiction and Why Should I Care? – guest post by Lee Jordan

Lee Jordan imageWell, to answer the last part of the question, writers need to care where their books fit on bookstore shelves, and in our case the virtual bookshelf. Gary and I, writing together as Phoenix, are genre rebels, writing what we want to write, but when it comes to having people find our stuff, well then we are forced into labeling our work (we hate that).

The key to speculative fiction lies in the root word: speculate. Think of this in terms of “what if” and you’ll see it. So now you might ask, but doesn’t that make all fiction speculative? What if the Wicked Witch really has monkeys that can fly? What if aliens really exist on Earth? What if we could be like Superman and leap tall buildings? And what if there was a separate world for regular folk and witches, where the witches attended an academy to learn their craft?

Does this not mean that fantasy, science fiction, and horror, are Visionary as well as Speculative? Does it exclude romance, science fiction and horror?

Fiction, by definition, is untrue, so all of it involves some degree of speculation. The difference is in what’s being speculated upon. My opinion is that Visionary Fiction is a genre that was created to specify a goal, not a genre. Romance, alternative history, weird tales, dystopian, apocalyptic, time travel, (think of time traveling World War II nurses, moving through time to Medieval Scotland), past lives, superheroes, all sorts of supernatural elements – but with a difference.

The difference is that the goal of the story would be to uplift, illustrate, and demonstrate that we as humans have much more ability than we even suspect.

How much power do we as spiritual beings really have? Are there any boundaries?

No one knows for sure. We can do all sorts of things with the physical universe that no one would have believed possible even just a year ago, much less decades past. I’m sure you can think of hundreds of examples of such amazing technological advances.

But how much do we really know about the spiritual universe? A few years ago, this was explored only in the realm of traditional religious dogma or ghost movies. The spiritual universe vs. the physical universe. Some people think they are just a body, a heart and a brain and two arms that they can pick things up with, but not spiritual beings of immense power. How much do we humans really know about who we are? I say not enough.

Sometimes Visionary Fiction has themes of a character winning over nature by sheer will, or winning over impossible evil odds, also that uplift and give the reader an expansive feeling about the possibilities for the human race. Other stories can have the characters have sudden unexplainable powers and delve into unexplored spiritual abilities.

So if you suspect that there is more to humans than meets the eye of common awareness, then you will enjoy novels that explore the matter within all sorts of genres, that make use of plots, characters, and setting with imagination and asking the question “What if?” With Visionary Fiction, an author can weave a tale that immerses us in drama, along with offering a new way of looking at our spiritual selves, what is possible, and give an ode to the indomitable human spirit.

Speaking of odes, here is one that says it all:

ODE

We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams;

World-losers and world-forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world forever it seems.

 

With wonderful deathless ditties

We build up the world’s great cities,

And out of a fabulous story

We fashion an empire’s glory:

One man with a dream at pleasure,

Shall go forth and conquer a crown;

And three with a new song’s measure

Can trample an empire down.

 

We, in the ages lying

In the buried past of the earth,

Built Nineveh with our sighing,

And Babel itself with our mirth;

And o’erthrew them with prophesying

To the old of the new world’s worth;

For each age is a dream that is dying,

Or one that is coming to birth.

~Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881)

 

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe are Lee and Gary Jordan, the co-writing team, Phoenix. As Phoenix we write spiritually uplifting novels with many themes under the umbrella genre of Contemporary Fantasy. We wrote A Whisper from Eden, Historical Fantasy: a visionary saga spanning time and space, an American Indian tribe being influenced by two ancient societies from another galaxy, and Leon’s Lair, an continental adventure with a paranormal twist.

We are currently working on our It’s a Matter of Time series: Just in Time, The Last of Her Kind, a Neanderthal girl who survives to present day in southwestern France, and Take Me With You, My Love, with a heroine who falls in love with a fictional hero from 1277 and becomes obsessed with time travel.

We live in Hollywood with our ornery tomcat, Snickers, but we don’t spend much time in the wonderful California sunshine. Instead we are maniacs who sit in front of our computer screens, weaving tales we hope readers will enjoy. You can visit us at our website here.

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14 Responses to What is the Difference between Visionary Fiction and Speculative Fiction and Why Should I Care? – guest post by Lee Jordan

  1. esdragon2 says:

    How interesting to find this Ode by A,W.E. O'Shaughnessy. I had it at the beginning of my Chapter Four in the first book I ever wrote, 'Pathway Into Sunrise.' I didn't regard this as Visionary Fiction at the time, but a friend who read it thought it might fall into that category. This was in 1998; until he mentioned it I'd never heard of V.F.

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  2. Peggy Payne says:

    Very helpful and interesting distinction!

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  3. You make a good point that the goal of Visionary Fiction is to uplift and explore human consciousness and the spiritual universe. Looking forward to checking out your books.

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  4. Thank you, Lee and Gary. Excellent material for further grokking on the nature of our genre, which–fun!–eludes easy categorization.
    A minor bone to pick with you on: "Fiction, by definition, is untrue, so all of it involves some degree of speculation." "Untrue," for me smacks of intentional falsehood; something can be "true" (on the mark) without being literally so. The message underlying a parable or fairy tale can be very true . I see this as especially important in VF; no matter the fabrication involved, there has to be truth in what is presented or the desired growth in consciousness will not happen.

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  5. Thank you for reminding me the speculative aspect of Visionary Fiction. "What if" and individual or a group undergoes a particular shift in consciousness? It would seem the VF story is not "simply" about the evolution of consciousness, but also its ramifications and consequences. I also was a genre rebel for my first three novels, and now I also am very concerned with finding a shelf for my forth novel, and all those that will follow. VF as the story about evolving consciousness, and Speculative Fiction considering the consequences of that evolution appear to merge into one stronger story.

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  6. I will proofread more carefully in the future.

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  7. Lee, It's always good to get perspectives on how to describe VF. It refines and grows the genre! It always catalyzes new ideas for me, as well, about this wonderful genre we write.

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  8. Admin - Eleni says:

    “My opinion is that Visionary Fiction is a genre that was created to specify a goal, not a genre.”

    I agree with what you are saying here with the goal being the evolution of consciousness, either through the character, storyline, or both. Thanks for a wonderful post!

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    • libredux says:

      I second Eleni's comment. Indeed, VF specifies a goal not a genre. Great post – and I love your pen name (and awesome Phoenix pic)!

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      • In my opinion, which is not always humble, I believe saying "VF specifies a goal not a genre" muddies the waters some, especially in the marketing effort. As I tried to cover in my recent "Bucket" series, there are many characteristics that make VF a specific genre even if it is driven by the more general goal of "growth in consciousness," which can be said to be the province of all positive human endeavors, not just VF. VF is a specific literary (fictional) approach to the goal of growth in consciousness–or so it seems we are trying to define it. Would like to hear how others view this. So jump in.

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  9. "With Visionary Fiction, an author can weave a tale that immerses us in drama, along with offering a new way of looking at our spiritual selves, what is possible, and give an ode to the indomitable human spirit." Well said, Lee.

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  10. libredux says:

    Vic, fair point, though speaking just for myself I was drawn to the line mainly because I took it to mean that the function of VF is more important than the pigeon hole (which most VF authors get frustrated with at some point, as is frequently mentioned at this site and elsewhere). Most fiction is just that – fiction. VF is the perhaps only genre that is defined primarily by its function. And the function of VF is to introduce the idea that the opening of human potential, or the evolution of human consciousness, is a very real idea and not just fiction.

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  11. amoyaan says:

    Nice post! I'd heard of 'spec fiction' but didn't really know what it was.

    It's wonderful to know that such a thing as visionary fiction does exist and that it is becoming recognised as a genre. Really, if you look at ancient mythology and the earliest tales told by humankind, they all had elements of visionary fiction to them. Rich with symbolic meaning, they were tales told to educate, illuminate and guide people through life.

    Somewhere along the line fiction has become words for the sake of words, stories for the sake of stories, without much depth or meaning. I feel it's time storytellers remembered why stories are necessary and how to write words with meaning.

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