Visionary Fiction ––What Is It & What Makes It Visionary?

The Visionary Fiction Alliance

I’m so excited! I’m part of a new writers’/readers’/fans’ group, the Visionary Fiction Alliance. I’m linked to the Alliance through the badge to the right. Large badge, you can’t miss it. Our web site is under development, but I needed to write about visionary fiction today.

One of things that excites me about the Alliance is that the members are so smart  and articulate,  as well as being interested in subjects dear to my heart. We’re going to be discussing our individual and collective views of visionary fiction very soon on our official blog.

But I got a question about one of my books today that moved me to write this brief personal examination of the genre.

To me, visionary fiction rests on a core of moral principle. St. Thomas Aquinas’ famous maxim, “Do good and avoid evil,” spells it out about as clearly as it gets. Visionary fiction contains a moral core and a belief in the ability of individuals and society to evolve in a positive fashion, overcoming evil and generally setting the world right.

Does this mean that visionary fiction is by nature a Polly-Anna-ish or The Secret-ish exercise in “Keep up a cheery front and everything will be groovy in the sweet bye and bye, if not sooner”?

Some visionary fiction fits that mold and has been very well received by readers (if not critics). This includes some of the best-known examples of the genre and I think it probably fits the experience and expectations of many readers.

But! What if you aren’t the typical reader? What if you want a message with a wallop? A message with teeth, that addresses the hard issues you face?

I’m like that. I hate anything easy, simpering, obvious, trite, and watered-down. My writing reflects my preferences. It contains violence, sexual situations, strong language, and doesn’t give away its ending until it ends. Happy endings are not guaranteed in my work. I’d give my novels an R rating if they were movies. (Though they’re way, way less violent than stuff I’ve seen on TV and in the movies. Like the TV series 24 and the smash hit book and movie, The Hunger Games.)

So what about this? Is my work visionary fiction? Should I make it sweeter or tone it down? Call it something else?

I’d like to share a story with you. I was at a meditation retreat a few years back. Some of us participants had corralled one of the monks in a hallway between meditation sessions and bombarded him with questions.

Someone asked, “Why do some people have very calm and undramatic spiritual paths, whereas other people have huge spiritual experiences and go up and down and all over the place?”

The monk answered with something like, “They’re different people and have different lives and spiritual needs. Some people live very quiet lives. They have spiritual realizations that are subtle and deep. Their spiritual experiences reflect this. They may be very profound, but they’re not showy. These people are absolutely on a spiritual path. They get what they need in quiet ways.”

On the other hand, “Some people’s spiritual experiences are huge––dramatic lights, visions, voices, feeling like the hand of God has reached down to re-orientate their lives. And more. These experiences fit the lives and personalities of the people having them. Their lives are often tumultuous. They may have had abusive or traumatic experiences to overcome.

“These are different types of spiritual experience which fit the people who have them. One isn’t better than the other.  If you have subtle experiences, you don’t have to long for a whopper. Whatever experience you have is fine. The important thing is that you live in such a way that you have the experiences.”

That was one of the most useful teachings I’ve ever gotten. I am a person who has very large spiritual experiences, usually in connection with trauma. I’ve always wanted to be one of those contained, tranquil, angelic babes that you see floating around in spiritual circles.

But it just isn’t me. Ain’t how my soul operates or my artistic vision, either. Years ago, I produced sculpture. Dynamic, emotion-filled pieces that won prizes in art shows. I longed to produce something gentle. I did, too! One piece. That was it.

When I began writing, my work was illuminated by spirit and filled with light. Also some of the nastiest bad guys and most hideous situations you’ll ever see. Jungians call that working on the dark side, and prize it. Some of my critics haven’t been so kind.

The thing is, we write what we’re given. I have lived through some situations so horrifying that I will never talk about them. Directly. My fiction is a way of working through their emotional detritus. It’s not always bright and shiny. It doesn’t seem to show humanity pointing in an upward direction.

But the moral core is there, and so is my abiding belief that at least some of us are on the good road. The road of spirit and light.

Some people need the grittier type of material I write. My work is for people who have been impacted by alcoholism, drug abuse, or mental illness. This could be their own illness, addiction, or disease or what they’ve had to face due to evil perpetrated upon them by others. My writing is not just for those lovely, blissful souls who have the smooth path, it’s also for those of us who know the other side.

It’s for those who know what can happen, and also know that the scars can be erased and the trauma overcome if you’re willing to work.

So that’s the source of my stories.

Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love is FREE as a Kindle AUGUST 5 & 6, 2012

If you read this in time, my Lady Grace will be free as an Amazon Kindle on August 5th & 6th, 2012. That’s this Saturday & Sunday. Lady Grace has been called “A Modern Sci-fi Masterpiece” by Amazon top 50 reviewer J. Chambers. (If you can’t relate to my stuff as visionary, call it sci-fi!)

Glad to get to know you,

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-two national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback & Kindle available)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback & Kindle available)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

2 Responses to “Visionary Fiction ––What Is It & What Makes It Visionary?”

  1. Well said, Sandy! I’m looking forward to August 5 and 6 (Sunday and Monday?) for your Lady Grace promotion. Best of luck.

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much, Margaret! I’m using the last few minutes before the thing starts . . . well, OK, it starts tomorrow, but I’m working late . . . to get a newsletter out. Thanks so much for your support. Yes, it’s Sunday and Monday, August 5th & 6th. The 6th is the day before my birthday. Downloading a book would be a great birthday present! Thanks for writing.

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