By Victor E. Smith
It occurs to me that much of the literature of the industrial age to the present has been a medium defining the chaos of the “modern” human condition. I hope that visionary fiction breaks from the angst of the past and shows its authors and its readers a more enlightened passage into the future. In this regard, visionary fiction may be truly visionary.
Monty Joynes, The Altered State of Visionary Fiction 8/24/11
I am the fortunate owner of a set, each inscribed with a personal message, of all four volumes of the original Booker series by Monty Joynes, adventurer, Vietnam “era” vet, magazine editor, travel writer, diplomat, and author of more than twenty published books, among other accomplishments. Noteworthy here, especially to VFA members, is that all these books, published between 1997 and 2000 by Hampton Roads Publishing Company, has Visionary Fiction prominently printed on their back covers as the genre. In other words, what we in the VFA have been striving to make happen in the two years of this website’s existence, had already been accomplished by at least one popular author with an established publishing house some fifteen years ago.
Who is this enigmatic Monty Joynes, who, according to his bio, resides in the relative seclusion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina with his wife and creative partner, Pat? And how did he happen upon the concept and write books that embody the major characteristics of visionary fiction so many years before this group was formed to define and promote VF as a genre? To date, Monty Joynes has been part of the hidden history of visionary fiction; the purpose of this post is to make him hidden no more. Monty’s achievements are too many and his writings, VF and otherwise, too numerous and varied to cover in the space allotted to a single post. Here I can just hope to put enough, garnished with links leading deeper, to arouse VF authors to curiosity about the life and work of a writer who deserves to be studied and emulated as a stellar model of both the spirit and substance, the art and the craft, of visionary fiction.
Confessions of a Channeler
Counter-intuitively, I will start with a title of Monty’s that is not part of the Booker series, or even fiction. In his most recent book (Feb. 2014), Confessions of a Channeler: a Reluctant Man’s Journey into Mysticism, Monty combines a forthright but modest autobiography with over 125 inspirations received in a mode that he eventually agreed to call channeling, although in a sense quite different from that word’s usual woo-woo meaning. Of the text and method of these messages, he posits: “With its mysticism removed, there is a way for anyone to access the universal source of unlimited wisdom through channeling.”
The “visionary” calling is evidently issued to all, but few choose to dedicate their lives to its pursuit, as Monty has done. Even fewer dare to take it a step further: recording their journey’s process, which does not lend itself easily to words in non-fiction or fiction, in order to share their crucial adventure with others. Such visionary scribes are focused explorers of the land “in between,” who are sufficiently disciplined to remain grounded enough in that heady space to keep up the paperwork. Confessions is a skilled author’s unique story of a life spent developing the extraordinary “senses” that allow a visionary to perceive what most do not have the eyes to see. An account not to be missed.
The Booker Series as Visionary Fiction
The four volumes of the Booker Series (Naked Into the Night, Lost in Las Vegas, Save the Good Seed, and Dead Water Rites), summarized and reviewed individually on Monty’s Novels website page, are best read in sequence. But each has a unique theme, and the prior storyline is recapped sufficiently in the later volumes so that one can be read on its own. The protagonist throughout is the eponymous Booker Jones; and the series the saga of his personal growth in consciousness from affluent Anglo (WASP) businessman with all the appropriate prejudices to a brilliantly integrated human being with a universal worldview. This transformation is catalyzed by Booker’s immersion into the Native American traditions into which he is initiated by the few remaining practicing priests of a Pueblo tribe near Santa Fe in New Mexico. Applying himself to their strenuous methods (silence, dance, drumming, sweat lodges, etc.), Booker enters the realm of dreams and visions, superbly described, where he finds the deep wisdom to reshape his life and to improve the outlook and fortune of just about everyone around him. Coupled with a believable story and mastery in telling it, all the characteristics of Visionary Fiction, as agreed upon by the VFA, are present in the Booker Series.
Unique to Monty’s work is that the events, although viewed through the lens of timeless traditions, are grounded so well in modern times, addressing modern problems of the individual (alienation, ego, insecurity, lack of purpose) and the society (pure food and water, community, group prejudice), that I often felt like I was reading non-fiction. Even when a young Fancy Dancer resolved a threatening crop failure by means of practical insights received during an almost fatal Vision Quest, my credulity remained intact. Actually, my faith in certain forms of awareness, which I too have to tap into to write visionary fiction, was validated and enhanced. Good strong inner eye medicine.
Monty Joynes on Visionary Fiction
The best I can do to summarize Monty’s thinking and practice around the art and craft of VF in the short space of a post is to pose some of the key questions we have been kicking around among ourselves on this site and quote Monty’s answers to them as found in his various writings. So, for your contemplation and enjoyment—have your “aha” ready—here goes:
Q: What exactly is Visionary Fiction?
Monty Joynes: For me, the Visionary Fiction genre includes novels which deal with shifts in awareness that result in metaphysical understanding by the central characters. The plot of the novel is generally more concerned with internal experiences than with external.
The work is also “visionary” in the aspect that the authors sometimes (or often) employ non-rational means such as dreams, or extrasensory perceptions to develop the content of the book.
In my own experience, I explore the cultural separation of the rational and intuitive approaches to reality. Much of what the characters do and say come from an intuitive perspective. Since I am a cultural man of the Indo-European tradition with its system of logic and reason, I must depend on visionary experiences to give me insights into the intuitive. The experiences are not intellectual. They cannot be professionally researched, or forced by will into expression. The altered reality comes through surrender, not aggressiveness. It is always beyond the mental resources of the author. It is a humbling experience which, in its appearance on the page, can only be acknowledged as a gift.
Interview Virginia Festival of the Book, 1999
Q: But why the Novel? Why not non-fiction testaments to visionary viewpoints?
Monty Joynes: The good novel has penetrating power to individual awareness because it involves the reader in the deep process of human character. The good novel is more than information, more than entertainment. It is a pathway to the reader’s subconscious mind. Hawthorne called this achievement “the single effect,” that indescribable feeling one experiences on reading the last page of an important novel. If the reader has immersed himself or herself in the process of the character, the experience is more than vicarious. It is profoundly real; and within the subconscious mind, the reality is not separate from feelings that actually occurred to the reader in his or her physical domain.
Q: Aren’t you afraid that your books might be branded as “message” books?
Monty Joynes: Visionary Fiction could be in danger of being branded as “message books.” Who needs more messages in the sensory bombardment of the information age? I hope that Visionary Fiction becomes the medium for metaphysical experiences on a deeply personal level and that the content transcends momentary emotionalism and initiation to the occult, to lead the reader to his own visionary experiences. I set out in a series of novels to explore the possibility that an individual caught up in a western material environment could, in fact, remake himself as a human being. His exploration, and mine, hopefully becomes the reader’s as well. And in that process, we share a vision that leads to future awareness of our common humanity.
Monty’s thoughts on VF’s spiritual and psychological components
Monty Joynes: I think why others do not understand Visionary Fiction and visionary literature in general is because they identify it too much with a religious advocacy. They think that the writer is trying to convert the reader to some religious thought system. We are more about human psychology than anything else, however, in our portraits of how the fragmented mind works to corrupt us from true awareness and meaningful relationships. We, as writers, attempt to expose the conditioned errors of how most people think, regardless of race, creed, or social status, via the literature of character and plot. We are not theological so much as we are practical! We are vehicles of “self help” by virtue of example.
Visionary Fiction should be viewed as essential reading for those who have careers in Psychology because most of the cases that they will treat result from faulty thinking. The characters in Visionary Fiction confront life’s primary dilemmas and then find their way to the source of all relationship problems. The remarkable changes in their lives seem magical to observers so the enlightenment is termed “spiritual”, when in truth it is a radical change in the way that the mind is used: a radical change in the individual’s psychology.
Monty in a personal email to Vic Smith 7/9/14
Links and Titles for further study
Monty’s website: http://www.montyjoynes.com/ Monty’s Blog: http://writingasaprofession.wordpress.com/ Synopsis of Booker Series: http://www.montyjoynes.com/novels.html The Booker Series and Monty’s other works on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Monty-Joynes/e/B000APRNWS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1405222535&sr=1-2-ent Hampton Roads Publishers: http://redwheelweiser.com/index.php
Forthcoming Interview with Monty
Monty Joynes has agreed to a personal interview with me, as a representative of the VFA, in the near future. I would like this to be a collective conversation including as many VFA authors and readers as possible. You can participate by putting your questions to Monty in the Comments section below. I will consolidate and address them to him. Our interview will be posted to this site in the near future.