I have always written visionary fiction. It wasn’t as much a choice as how I perceived the world. Dreams, visions, alternate realities that peek from behind the veil, reincarnation, ghosts, messengers from other worlds—all the stories that dropped into my mind included these elements. When I sat down to write, I wondered how to incorporate them. What was I writing? Science fiction? Fantasy? Magical realism? As it turned out, all of the above.
As old as recorded literature, visionary and metaphysical fiction is now considered a sub-genre of speculative fiction, along with science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
In the Iliad and Odyssey, spirits spoke freely and generally interfered in the lives of mortals. In The Divine Comedy, we learn how one visionary experienced the afterlife. H.P. Lovecraft made us feel the dread of cosmic horror. And Paulo Coehlo enchanted us with the story of a boy pursuing his dream as he learned about magic and alchemy in The Alchemist.
So what makes a story visionary?
The purpose, for one thing. All stories must engage and entertain, but not all stories encourage readers to expand their view of what’s possible. Visionary fiction tells us about places, times, and beings we cannot perceive with our five senses. A leap of faith is needed. It encourages readers to expand themselves, to explore their own depths and engage their imagination. Visionary stories tease our creative brains as they challenge us to seek for the line between real and unreal.
But how does that help us now? In today’s world of pandemic disease, racism, uncertainty, and polarization, what value could an imagined journey to a made-up world have?
A lot, actually. The best fantasies, myths, and fairytales speak from the unconscious. The language of the soul, they offer the wisdom of the twilight world couched in symbol and archetype. They speak of the emotional, the intuitive, and the underlying connectedness of all life. Our frazzled minds may not understand, but our hearts do.
To solve personal and societal problems, we need new perspectives. The old ways are crumbling and traditional solutions have driven us farther apart. So why not look to visionary literature for clues?
To expand individual consciousness, a person turns inward. This is shadow work, the search for what was denied. Jealousy, anger, blame, fear, competition, dishonesty—all the emotions and impulses we prefer to ignore—end up in the shadow. If not attended to, they re-appear at the worst possible moment, causing us to say and do things we regret. Think of all the acts of violence perpetrated by people described as “quiet, polite, never caused any trouble.”
Only as we accept our “negative” emotions can we attain deeper levels of insight. Only then can our creativity blossom.
To face the shadow standing at the cusp of light and dark requires commitment and intention. We must be brave. Admit we’re not perfect. And make the journey down into ourselves. Into our bodies. Our past.
In my meditations, the entrance to the underground appears as a cave, sometimes a crack between two rocks in the desert. Like the shamans of old, to notice the door is to be invited to enter. Anyone can do it, even though most walk on by.
If we choose not to enter, we can hang on to our established beliefs. The trick is that what we don’t recognize within will be met outside. To heal the shadow in ourselves and society, we need to acknowledge what is uncomfortable. Climb down off that mountain of certainty. Which is exactly what the best visionary shows us how to do.
If we want to participate in healing the global changes causing so much fear and confusion now, being aware of our personal shadow is a good first step.
Another step is to notice what in us is similar to what we judge on the outside. For most people, this is a tough one. I have struggled with it. It means the end of blame and judgement. A tough one.
Which is why the journey to fantasyland, the underground, or the next star system is replete with struggle. Trials and tribulations. Dead ends. Attacks of the zombies or lizard people. It’s hard. Not everyone makes it. That’s why we read about it. We wonder, if we find the courage to go, will we make it?
For the journey to be complete, the hero must return with the treasure. Which may not be a gold ring, but something better. Knowledge. Perspective. Creativity. And eventually, the ability to look back with satisfaction. As Bilbo the hobbit said, “There and back again.”
We go into the darkness to bring back the light.
To read one of my visionary short stories, originally published in ABQinPrint, go here.
Vein of Gold, metaphorically the hidden treasure of our lives, is the title of a Julia Cameron book on journaling our way to creativity and spirituality. Her books are for people seeking to uncover their art, who may be stuck, or lack confidence in their ability to bring forth their ideas.
Since I perceive little difference between creative and spiritual endeavors, her work appeals to me. Also, the book is subtitled “A Journey to the Creative Heart,” which has been my journey.
When her first book, The Artist’s Way, came out, I assembled a group of women to do the work, a recovery process for blocked creatives. Every person in the group (I was the only would-be writer) made significant changes in her life. The process worked.
When the chance arose to work on The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart, I spontaneously said, sure, why not. Let’s get a group together. Afterward, I wondered at my motivation. After slaying the dragons that had stopped me from writing fiction, I wrote and published short stories, essays, and three novels. So I asked myself, what do I expect to get out of Vein of Gold other than interesting interaction with like-minded people (not a small thing!)
Part of my practice is to follow my impulses, so I started working with the book. Whipped through the first few chapters. Yes, regular writing. Yes, walking is meditation. Yes, play invites the creative spirit. Then I got to the part about writing about my earlier life. There, lightning struck.
For several years, I’ve been toying with how to write a book about healing. Much of my life has been devoted to healing–physical, emotional, and psychological. After a recent difficult period, I broke through another veil. I understood what I wanted to say and how to do in, in broad strokes.
Broad strokes are the easy one. The work is in the details, and I found myself sitting in fear and trepidation about reviewing earlier parts of my life. Considering past experiences is not always pleasant. Remembering can be painful. Putting them into perspective is daunting.
Illumination comes from unlikely sources. This morning on the radio I caught a discussion about how memory, rather than being fixed and immutable, is a creative process. According to neuroscientists, when we remember, we re-create the experience. The more often we remember, for example, our disappointing sixth birthday party, the farther the memory gets from the original experience, and the more different it is. Emotion, judgment, and later experiences all influence it. The influence can be positive or negative.
This explains why one of my therapists helped me re-envision difficult early experiences mentally, through imaginative journeying. It explains why energy healers can go back in time and heal physical and psychological patterns active in a family for generations.
MEMORIES CAN BE CHANGED!
Of course! I knew that! But it’s fascinating when science discovers the mechanism by which mystics, healers, shamans, and psychics (and some psychologists) assist us in changing our lives.
Now I know why I’m working on Vein of Gold. As I review the phases of my life, I can change the experiences I choose so my present can be more creative and fulfilling.
Today, the book seems a lot less daunting.
If anyone is interested in joining the Vein of Gold group that is still forming, please contact me.
If you’d like to listen to the radio lab broadcast, here’s the link
When I started writing short stories, I was struggling with my novel, which refused to bend to my will. I wanted to write a fantasy about the characters who lived in my head and the alternate worlds they inhabited, but they kept wanting to tell me about their re-incarnational experiences on earth.
So I put the book aside, used my dreams as a starting point, and wrote shorter fiction. More manageable, I thought. Again, the characters kept bumping up against the veil that separates ordinary reality from what lies beyond.
I shouldn’t have been surprised since that happened frequently in my everyday life. It seemed more natural, so why shouldn’t my fiction reflect what visions as well as actions, flights of fancy as well as plans and goals?
I had to study meditation and then metaphysics before I realized that my reality was normal even though it included phenomena most people didn’t recognize. Just lucky, I guess.
Now that I have learned more and written a lot more, I find my work falls into the category of Visionary Fiction, a subset of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, horror) that uses ancient teachings to inform the present day.
According to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a growth in consciousness is the motivation for protagonists in this type of fiction. It explores human potential and celebrates the possibility for evolution and co-creation. The plot elements of dreams, visions, reincarnation, and psychic abilities figure prominently. Finally, a place where I fit in!
My book of short stories, The Way Home, explores the journeys of characters who are trying to get home and keeping bumping up against an invisible wall.
The Dreamwalkers of Larreta is a fantasy trilogy, published by Ellysian Press. Two spirits have furthered their education through the trials of earth incarnations so they can return to Larreta and find each other again. Difficulties abound.
If you enjoy fiction with a twist, characters who are more than even they know, and some (slightly skewed) insight into the human condition, you might enjoy reading visionary fiction. You could start with the visionary fiction reading group on Goodreads.
My new novel, The Tyro, is now available in paperback on Amazon. Book One of the fantasy trilogy, The Dreamwalkers of Larreta, it has already been well received by reviewers for which I am very grateful.
We are having a Facebook Celebration for Tryo on October 2, 4-6 PM PDT. Join us for games, contests, and the chance to win free books. I’ll be there to answer any questions you might have.
I am thrilled to announce the publication of The Tyro, Book One of the fantasy trilogy, The Dreamwalkers of Larreta. Pubished by Ellysian Press, The Tyro is now available on Amazon!
This story has been rattling around in my mind and haunting my dreams for a long time, so it is gratifying to finally be able to share it with you. The electronic version is out now, and the paperback will be available soon for those of you who prefer to hold your books.
It means a lot to to an author to be read. On Amazon, a book’s success is often defined by its sales in the first months of its release, so if contemporary fantasy, metaphysics, adventures across worlds and a romance that spans centuries interests you, please consider The Tyro.
Help! I’ve Run Out of Time!
When I teach classes on creativity and writing, the number one problem students mention is they don’t have time for the writing, painting, or designing they long to do.
Believe me, I know. I suffered for years from the twin syndromes: “I’m too busy” and “I’m too tired when I get home from work.”
Of course you’re busy. Of course I was tired. Even on vacation, our lives are hectic.
The question to ask is, how can I figure out how to allow myself to invite more happiness into my life?
I say that because people who participate in creative work, paid or unpaid, public or private, are happier, healthier and more satisfied with their lives. This is true regardless of income, education, and socio-economic status.
If you have urge to create something, even if you don’t know what, it makes sense to figure out how to get less busy.
The busyness syndrome is real and it is deadly. Modern society supports it. Busy is good, right? If you’re busily creative, sure. If you’re busy with busywork, not so much. Being overly preoccupied with details is a sure sign that your busyness might not be productive.
The busyness syndrome is manageable if your inner critic is only moderately strong.
Time management tomes advise us to declutter, set goals, re-arrange our schedules, dispose of or delegate less urgent tasks, and set up organizational systems. All are useful and important,
But what if your inner critic is heavily muscled and overbearing? It might not even let you start. It might tell you that other people’s needs are more important than your desire to create.
It might say that you’re bad, wrong, deluded or stupid to consider spending time on what you love.
It might entice you with movies, gaming, shopping, cleaning, television, even volunteering. After all, it’s more important to help others than yourself, right.
If you are blocked and unable to start, move past a certain point in your work, or allow yourself to work regularly, there are things you can do to convince your critic to back down.
- Recognize that the negative messages you are getting are not coming from you, but from the critic. Acknowledge the critic. It is part of your conscious mind. Its goal is to keep you safe, which it interprets as not taking risks.
- Form a clear intention to do your work. Write your intention in present tense and post it where you can see it every day.
- Set specific times to work. Try to choose the same time for every session. At the appointed time, be there. Beforehand, do what you need to do to get ready. Some people light a candle, say a prayer, meditate, close the door, turn off the phone.
- Gather any resources you need and have them at hand. Don’t leave your space to find anything. If the internet tempts you, find a program to block it during your work time.
- Stay in your appointed spot for the designated time. Even if you don’t work, stay there. When the time is up, leave. This will help develop a habit, and you’ll find before long, you’re becoming productive.
- Notice that your intention to do creative work is part of the universal field. You can connect to it any time. Notice that the critic is part of the ego mind. When you connect to the universal intention, it is much easier to say no to the critic.
- Find a way to reward yourself for learning a new habit that will increase your happiness. At minimum, tell yourself “I am creative. I spend time regularly on my creative work.”
- Remember to forgive yourself for any judgements you make against yourself. Forgiveness opens you to the universal intention. If you do it enough, it becomes a habit, and before long, your critic will turn into a positive ally.