The Altered State of Visionary Fiction

What exactly is Visionary Fiction?  Since four of my novels in the Booker Series have been “pigeon-holed” within the category, I thought I should attempt a definition for myself so that I could respond to the obvious question.

For me, the Visionary Fiction genre includes novels that 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.

All this being said, a good novel is a construct requiring writing talent and an apprenticeship to the craft of writing.  One must learn and practice the trade to be able to employ the visionary material in a meaningful way.  Visions alone do not spontaneously turn non-practicing writers into novelists.  The novel, by definition, is a form.  It has literary precedence and craft standards.

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.

But why the novel?  Why not non-fiction testaments to visionary viewpoints?  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.

If you allow yourself the reflection, has there not been a book in your life that altered your awareness—a reading that you mark as a turning point in your own life?  What facts in the book were responsible for your feelings about it?  Is it not the intuitive qualities that resonated within you from the reading that prompts you now to cite its importance in your personal life?  Can you enumerate the altered chain of choices that you made thereafter?

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.

20 Comments

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20 responses to “The Altered State of Visionary Fiction

  1. Monty, me very dear friend, your wrting does exactly what you describe, and if you truly read, as an example, the entire Booker series, it is impossible to be less than changed. Kind of like a visit here at the sanctuary. If you are not changed….. I simply don’t know what to say. Knowledge, wisdon, understanding of what is truly real and important, not information without purpose.

    • Booker found a place to practice his enlightened awareness in the Southwest among Pueblo Indians. If I had walked among the burros at Hacienda de la Milagros while researching any of the Booker novels, I would have made him walk there too. For the uninitiated, I tried to share the experience in my “Walk with the Burros” blog posting of July 19th. I hoped that the piece would shower the sanctuary corral with carrots. You know well how burros love carrots.

  2. Liz

    Monty,

    I have enjoyed reading your books. I finished (out of order because I did not know any better), Lost in Las Vegas and Naked into the Night. As someone who would proclaim herself NOT a reader, because of time, focus and my reading challenges which go way back to grade school before they clinically “typed” childrens with learning disabilities, I just have what I call is “an alter visual perspective”, I found them both intriguing, real, and easy to follow story line and spiritual. Thank you for sharing your stories with the world, no matter how they “cast-type” them (whoever “they” are!) ;))

    • Booker’s further experiences continued with Save The Good Seed, and Dead Water Rites, and they were the last published books in the series, but not the last one written. I wrote The Psalm Maker: The Journal of Booker Jones from Booker’s first person perspective. I wanted Booker’s insight on his experiences in the first four novels, and I wanted him to evolve to a place of even higher consciousness. I also wanted to see how he might include a female companion on his journey. There were readers of the series who had personal contact with me who read the 5th book in manuscript. They reported that it was their favorite, but alas, because my editor and publisher had left Hampton Roads, there was no interest in another underperforming Booker novel.
      You mention a learning disability, and I have one too. Dyslexia. You, I know, have a special gift with animals and rendering them in fine art. Maybe what is termed a learning disability is nature’s way of redirecting our focus onto needs and realizations that others miss because of their normal perspective. Perhaps we are altered for the role that creation intended us to play.

  3. Bob Friedman

    As one of the creators of the term “visionary fiction,” while at Hampton Roads, I appreciate your perceptive and lucid definition of the genre. We tried mightily to get the retailing powers to start a visionary fiction shelf. We came close with Walden, but the suits at B&N alas took the position of “no one is coming into the store asking for visionary fiction.” How short-sighted. If you build it, we said, they will come. Amazon agreed, and if you type “visionary fiction” in the search box, no less than 3,836 results will appear. All the works of Richard Bach, James Redfield, Hermann Hesse, Paulo Cuelho,Anne Rice, Richard Matheson, and tons of other notable authors are in the list. Even my humble entry with Eckhart Tolle, Milton’s Secret, is listed, as well your very own Booker series.
    Thanks for the insights. Maybe some merchandise manager somewhere will read your blog and put up a shelf-talker so that people can find the books in the genre they may prefer.

    • To be fair to our blog readers, Bob Friedman and I have been friends since we were in George Garrett’s first creative writing class at U.Va. in 1962. Bob and I published New Writing from Virginia, an anthology that included our classmates and faculty members, before we booked one-way passage on a freighter bound for Europe. We had visions of Hemingway and Henry Miller. Bob, by the way, is a wonderful prose writer and poet. He could have starved like the rest of his artist peers, but he was smarter. He chose to publish us. And even when our books did not return profits, his support was vital to our continuation. I am among many authors who consider Bob Friedman a brother, a family member. There is no higher praise for someone who has earned the title “publisher.”

  4. As I have shared with you and Pat, Sir Monty, and also with the readers of our HDLM newsletter, the Booker series should be mandatory reading in the middle schools, ands also in high school. Lots of auto biography in them, my good friend, intentional or not. These bring awareness to me better than anything I have ever read.

  5. Hello Monty,
    You have been an inspiration to me through the years as I wrote my visionary fiction novels. Sometimes I felt like a lonely voice, but you helped concretize and make credible this wonderful genre. I wrote an article in June 2009 Writers Journal about the genre, quoting you. Visionary fiction may not be a well known genre to some but it is here to stay and to grow.
    With respect,
    Jodine Turner

    • Sorry for the delay. My excuse: I was completing a new novel. The Booker Series publisher is going to offer the four novels in e-book formats this summer. Maybe they will reach a wider audience. There is a 5th unpublished Booker novel, Psalm Maker: The Journal of Booker Jones, that continues the spiritual adventure from Booker’s 1st person point of view. A few intense Booker fans have read this book in manuscript and report that it is their favorite in the series. Thank you Jodine for your comments. Keep writing!

  6. That is really incredible. If someone invest themselves in reading a novel, it sounds like a great thing that the reader would have a transcendent experience.

  7. Hello, Monty–
    Jumping in just now on your excellent 2011 piece on Visionary Fiction. I came across it during a recent search to consolidate what is on the web re VF. As a VF novelist (with reincarnation, alternative history and psychic phenomena as my niches) and an avid reader of both visionary fiction and non-fiction, I’ve been involved in the attempt to promote the genre to its “rightful” position in the literary pantheon since the early 2000’s (Michael Gurian when visionaryfiction.org was up and running). Bob Friedman’s and your own efforts at Hampton Roads predate us by a couple of decades–would that you had succeeded!
    To be transparent, have not read any of your books yet but have put them on my lengthy reading list.
    To the point of this post: I’d like to know that you are alive and well and still pumping out VF (last post here is July 2012). Also to determine your current level of enthusiasm for the VF “movement” now that we’ve removed it largely from the hands of the traditional publishers and taken charge ourselves via the web.
    Even though I continue to feature the promotion of the genre on my own site (victoresmith.com), I’ve recently refocused to joining forces with other sites, like the Visionary Fiction Alliance, to get some lasting momentum going. I see so many ways that this genre could be launched into the stratosphere, as John W. Campbell did for science fiction; but I, like most of us, barely scrape up the time to write my own books. Networking, where each of us does a little, in conjunction with dozens, hundreds, of like-minded authors, seems to be offering a golden opportunity.
    Just wondering if you are still interested. Thanks much. Vic

  8. I want to share with you some longer “visionary fiction” experiences. After seeing your blog and web site, I see that you deal directly with paranormal subjects. My subjects i.e. characters are generated by personal paranormal experiences, but they behave in a non-mystical environment. My first paranormal writing experience happened in 1978 when I was writing a combat medical triage scene. When the scene turned unexpectedly real and I was “recording” it, I was shocked. I had been a pre-med student trained in the scientific method, so I did not expect paranormal “stuff” to happen to me. That first piece of visionary fiction was published last year after nearly 35 years on the shelf and won a national veteran writing competition. Bob Friedman, who published the Booker Series, accused me of channeling the wisdom in my novels, and he asked me to write a book about those circumstances and the content of the “messages.” That book, Confessions of a Channeler, will be published next month. At age 71, I am still dependent on the visionary aspects of being a creative artist. And I believe that the visionary experiences that amaze us are available to anybody who can surrender their conditioned minds to silence.

    I’m still posting on a regular basis. http://www.writingasaprofession.wordpress.com

  9. Pingback: Visionary Fiction: The Booker Series Restoration | writingasaprofession

  10. Pingback: A Case for Visionary Fiction, Part 2: What Goes into the Bucket? | Fiction for a New Age

  11. Pingback: Celebrating Visionary Fiction Pioneer Monty Joynes | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  12. Today I’ll make a second hour-long appearance on Robert Sharpe’s radio show. The subject is Visionary Fiction. I hope that you will join us. If you miss it, the same link will provide the archived show.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/biteradiome/2014/08/01/the-booker-series-american-indian-social-issuesmetaphysics

  13. Pingback: Visionary Fiction Part One: The Bucket | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  14. Pingback: Visionary Fiction Part Two: What Goes into the Bucket? | Visionary Fiction Alliance

  15. Pingback: Visionary Fiction Part Two: What Goes into the Bucket? – Visionary Fiction Alliance

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