Archive for Visionary Fiction

Are Fairy Tales Turning Visionary?

Following is a reproduction of an article I have written for the VFA – SK


Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Although much visionary fiction has magical and fantasy elements in common with the fairy tales of old, the two differ in some fundamental respects. The themes of the conventional fairy tale revolve about the triumph of good over evil, where the heroes are princes and princesses, or peasants who marry princes and princesses and gain a kingdom or an endless supply of gold. The villains are always jealous stepparents, or evil older siblings, or tyrannical kings and queens. At other times they are monsters, or trolls, or wolves. The latter in particular are ugly and incomprehensible, external forces, wreaking havoc on the heroes and their people, or they are cunning creatures luring some naive vulnerable character to do their bidding, reminiscent of Satan misleading Adam and Eve.

The characteristics of the heroes are equally clear-cut: the shining knight, or the prince, or the peasant who turns out to be a missing prince. They are almost exclusively male, and their relationship with the heroine is defined as “pure” or “true love”, betraying the psychological influence of mysticism that compares this form of love to Divine union. In some tales this true love is key to breaking some spell that has trapped the damsel, as is the case in our story of interest to be reviewed here shortly.

Visionary differences

Visionary fiction, like the fairy tale, is interested in the good versus evil conflict but like other modern literature, it asks what constitutes “good” and “evil” in the first place, and what might turn a good person bad. Its protagonists are frequently female, and even if they are not the lead, they are rarely damsels in distress. Love may feature as a means of defeating darkness, but it is not narrowly defined within the context of romantic or sexual love. Indeed all these can be said to be part of the modern trend of fiction in general, except that for the most part modern fiction arguably addresses these ideas at a more superficial level.

Few would disagree that visionary fiction is a relatively new (or, as I believe, a recently revived) genre, and that fairy tales remain vastly popular. But as many VF writers will attest, the visionary form is also in demand and gaining ground. And it seems that the old fairy tale might tale up for a revamp to accommodate this change in literary ideal.

Maleficent – a review

Recently I saw Disney’s Maleficent (2014), a live-action adaptation of the fairy tale classicSleeping Beauty and also a rewrite of the 1959 Disney animated movie of the same name in which the evil fairy from the traditional fairy tale was named “Maleficent” for the first time. In the movie trailer, Maleficent is advertised as a fairy tale with a twist – promising to reveal the “truth” behind the “legend” of that spinning wheel curse. The twist is that this is a story told from Maleficent’s point of view, and is an explanation of how this “good fairy” came to place the curse on the newborn princess Aurora.

On the surface this seems to be just another modern Disney movie, but there are some elements that turn the traditional version of the story on its head, and defy the conventions of most other traditional fairy tales in the process. Without going into the details of the story too much, let’s take a look at some intriguing examples.

The villain is the good guy – and vice versa

Unlike in the traditional fairy tale, Maleficent is not merely a bad fairy who resents not being invited to the christening of the princess. In the remake, she starts off as (and essentially remains) a good fairy, but she is betrayed by Stefan, a man whom she had considered her “true love”, and she has taken revenge by cursing his daughter. Unlike in the traditional version, the curse does not entail death, but places the princess into an eternal sleep, and the princess can only be woken by “true love’s kiss”. In the meantime, the Aurora’s father becomes the formal villain, first by cutting off the young Maleficent wings in order to gain the throne, and later by attempting to kill Maleficent and take over her homeland (more on that shortly). We might also note that no character is purely “evil” as such, and instead we are shown that many of the characters’ actions, however wrong, often come from legitimate feelings of anger and hurt. And on that note …

Human monsters, internal demons

In the traditional fairy tale, the threat to human life is always external; it is the giant, the dragon, the ogre and the witch. In Sleeping Beauty it has always been the evil fairy now called Maleficent. But in this movie, human beings themselves are the threat, and they are driven by simple greed. They want to take over the Moors, the magical land where Maleficent lives. Interestingly, the Disney Wiki page for the film mentions that the Moors is “home to magical creatures and fairies, whom had no ruler due to their intensely close friendship and trust in one another”  in contrast to the human kingdom ruled by a “ruthless” king. This is a sure indicator of a visionary theme, using the allegories of the human kingdom and the magical Moors to differentiate between the present survival of the fittest mentality and the ideal of altruism and cooperation respectively.

Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) is the most powerful fairy in the Moors and though she is not the official ruler, she is the most loved by its inhabitants, some of whom would be deemed physically repulsive in human eyes.

Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) is the most powerful fairy in the Moors and though she is not the official ruler, she is the most loved by its inhabitants, some of whom would be deemed physically repulsive in human eyes.

Greed similarly is the inner demon that compels Stefan to betray his “true love” Maleficent and cut off her wings, and this act marks him as the villain from this point. Similarly, Maleficent is clearly defined as the possessor of a good heart early on, when she decides not to doom the princess Aurora to death, and instead creates the key to undoing the spell. She also watches over the growing child from afar, when the pixies assigned to take care of the princess in the forest fail to do so properly. She eventually comes to love the child despite her bitterness over the past. She comes into direct contact with Aurora as a fifteen year old and the two form a mother-daughter type relationship. Soon after realising her feelings for the child, she attempts in vain to revoke the curse.

True love is spirit, not form

In both Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, the sleeping princess can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. In both stories, the prince is supposed to be the one to wake her. But in Maleficent, the prince fails to awaken Aurora (in part because he had not known her for long), and there seems to be no hope. Overcome with grief, Maleficent kisses Aurora on the forehead – and that is when Aurora awakens. This again is a break from an ancient idea, namely that romantic love is the highest form of love, and that it can come instantly, at first sight. Or at the very least, it is challenging the conventional view of an ancient idea.

FrozenSince Disney is ultimately a commercial company, it might be said that this story reflects the modern age, in particular the rise of feminism. But I have reason to suspect it’s more than that. Last year’s release Frozen (inspired loosely by The Snow Queen) has touched upon exactly the same elements. Its villains are human; its monsters are emotional (fear and greed); it alludes to ideal social states, and again, the “true love” needed to break a spell comes not from the romantic lead, but from the love of a sister. And since Disney is also the world’s most famous vehicle for the fairy tale, surely these developments are not without significance?

“Visionary Fiction” Now Officially on Wikipedia

SK: Reproduced from the Visionary Fiction Alliance blog (18 August 2014):

Exciting news for all Visionary Fiction authors, readers and lurkers:

As of August 2014 a entry entitled “Visionary fiction” has been published on Wikipedia at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visionary_fiction

To read the rest of the article at the Visionary Fiction Alliance, click here

Excerpt of Systems at the VFA

What the title says. :)

The first part of Chapter 4 from Systems has appeared over the the Visionary Fiction Alliance. It’s the first scene in which we are introduced to the serial killer Peter Manner, aka the Peace Man, properly.

Click here to read it.

Do pop over and say hi.

Launch series guest post at the Visionary Fiction Alliance

The Visionary Fiction Alliance website is presently running a series of posts to celebrate its launch, written by its founding members. Today is my turn. The article is titled: Visionary: Fiction of the Future, a slightly edited version of a guest post that I originally wrote for the VF web-ring. Head on over and say hello.

Fiction for the future: VFA launched

VFA Launch Banner

Visionary Fiction Alliance launch: 17 August 2012

 

I’m pleased to announce that the Visionary Fiction Alliance – of which I am a founding member – has gone live today.

Its key aims are to promote and increase awareness of visionary fiction, and to help its authors. According to the site, the characteristics of VF include:

  • Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters.
  • Oftentimes uses reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal,  psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices
  • Is universal in its worldview and scope

Founding member Jodine Turner has added this thought-provoking line to its definition:

“Visionary Fiction speaks the language of the soul. It offers a vision of humanity as we dream it could be.” 

I like that line because it sums up Iqbal’s belief that art and literature are like collective dreams, as per a recent post here.

Win 7 novels

As part of the launch celebration, the VFA is giving away seven of its founders’ titles to one lucky winner (and that includes a copy of Systems). Come on over and enter for a chance to win!

(Image is copyrighted -Saleena Karim)

Interview at Michelle Gordon’s blog

Today I’m being interviewed at Michelle Gordon’s blog. Michelle’s interest is in all things spiritual, and she is author of The Earth Angel Training Academy. She is also a founding member of the upcoming Visionary Fiction Alliance.

This explains why the questions she asked me were little different from the norm. I was asked about my ‘spiritual’ beliefs rather than just about my writing. Since this kind of stuff is so very fascinating to me, I got on my soapbox at one point. Briefly. :)

You can read the interview here. Do pop over and say hi.

 

Been a while … New visionary fiction site

This is just a quick post to say that though I’ve not posted for a while (and didn’t anticipate being so slow), I’m still around and hope to start blogging regularly again soon. The reasons for my absence are to do with personal and work distractions, but I have lots of news to share, so watch this space.

In the meantime, anyone coming through from today may notice a new banner in the right-hand column of this page, headed: ‘VFA Founding Member’. It stands for ‘Visionary Fiction Alliance’ (sounds grand, doesn’t it?). The web-ring that Jodine Turner, Shannan Sinclair and I started just a couple of months ago has already attracted 12 authors and we are about to launch a whole site dedicated to the promotion of visionary fiction. More to come later.

 

To be or not to be didactic

The Marghdeen Learning Centre’s latest course on Iqbal is exploring the philosopher’s take on art (with a focus on literature). Though he was born in the period when l’art pour l’art was developing as a new movement, Iqbal didn’t believe in art for art’s sake. In fact, he took a dim view of it. In one of his articles published in July 1917, he wrote:

“[Art for art’s sake] appeals more to imagination than to will, and on the whole acts as a narcotic on the mind of the reader. … the good in art is not necessarily identical with the good in life; it is possible for a poet to write fine poetry, and yet lead his society to Hell. The poet is essentially a seducer; woe to his people, if instead of making the trials of life look beautiful and attractive he embellishes decadence with all the glories of health and power, and seduces his people to extinction.”

(I should add that in this article Iqbal was talking specifically about poets but his views applied to art in general.)

Edgar Allan Poe - public domain image

19th century author Edgar Allan Poe famously called didactic poetry ‘heresy’, but he was also an early pioneer of modern sci-fi

The late sci-fi author and academic Joanna Russ suggested in 1975 that all science fiction is didactic in the vein of medieval fiction. The word ‘didactic’ itself originally meant art with educational or informative content. It was only from the 19th century onwards that it was redefined to mean something ‘burdened’ with this content. It seems that this negative definition of didactic fiction coincides with the onset of modern materialism (as the outcome of the Enlightenment period).

I wonder what Iqbal would have made of visionary fiction. Part of its appeal – for me, at least – is that it isn’t art for the sake of art. And yet funnily enough, over at the Visionary Fiction Goodreads group we all recently agreed that visionary fiction isn’t overtly ‘preachy’. Is this a contradiction? Not really. We can liken it to how non-fiction deals with facts. Whilst non-fiction writers present their facts as they see them and obviously have an opinion of their own, they don’t necessarily claim to having the final word on a subject – at least, not if they’re honest.

Visionary fiction is didactic in the former sense, rather than the latter.  In fact, I’ve always felt that all fiction has something to teach us, whether or not that is the author’s conscious intent. It all has a value. The real question is whether that value is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, that is, constructive or destructive. Iqbal believed the most destructive form of art is pessimistic, nihilistic, and amoral, even if it uses beautiful imagery. It glorifies death. True constructive art, in Iqbal’s view, is optimistic, life-affirming, and encourages us to face life’s challenges – large and small – with courage and dignity.

“The highest art is that which awakens our dormant will-force, and nerves us to face the trials of life manfully.”

In other words, Iqbal believed that art doesn’t just reflect human psychology (collective and individual). It can actually have a hand in shaping our destinies. A huge claim, but it resonates with those who value the power of ‘story’.

The place of visionary fiction in today’s world – introduction

Last week I introduced the Visionary Fiction web-ring. This week, our three founding members – Jodine Turner, Shannan Sinclair and myself – are guest posting at each other’s blogs about the place of Visionary Fiction in Today’s World.

You can find my entry at Jodine’s blog here, and Jodine’s entry at Shannan’s blog here. Shannan’s entry will appear at this blog soon.

Introducing the Visionary Fiction Ring

Recently I wrote a post about the difficulty I was having with defining the genre of Systems. Though I found the elusive ‘metaphysics’ category at Amazon (and no, I haven’t got round to re-classifying Systems there yet), I still felt that it would be good if the novel could be classified in a way that didn’t make it sound like it belonged to a tiny or specialist niche (or conversely placed it in too broad a category such as sci-fi).

Since then I’ve met Jodine Turner and Shannan Sinclair at a Goodreads group dedicated to visionary fiction. We’ve all agreed that since our type of fiction needs a brand awareness campaign, we’re going to make an attempt to do just that ourselves. And so, we’ve started a web-ring for visionary fiction (see the new menu on the right-hand side of this page containing links to Jodine and Shannan’s sites) and we’re brainstorming some other ideas at the moment. I’ve also created a new category at this blog especially for Visionary fiction.

So, what is visionary fiction? In one way it could be described as similar to inspirational fiction; it’s often inspired by a search for a higher truth, but it isn’t always about or aimed at readers of a particular faith. It can be metaphysical, or esoteric, or spiritual in tone. It often involves the paranormal. Of course this means that visionary fiction is most likely to also fall under fantasy, as does Jodine’s Carry on the Flame series. But this is not always the case. Systems (as sci-fi) is a case in point. So is Shannan’s Dream Walker, which she describes as ‘Quantum fiction’ because it explores quantum and string theories.

But what all visionary fiction has in common is that it takes its inspiration from that fascinating creature called humanity and explores its limitless potential. A pioneer of the term ‘visionary’, Michael Gurian, describes it as “fiction in which the expansion of the human mind drives the plot“.

Interested in knowing more? Watch this space for updates. Soon Jodine and Shannan will be dropping in to give us their insights on visionary fiction and its relevance in today’s world.

If you have written a novel and think it might fit into what I’ve described here, say hello here or at Goodreads. We’re looking for more authors to join this ring.