Well, to answer the last part of the question, writers need to care where their books fit on bookstore shelves, and in our case the virtual bookshelf. Gary and I, writing as Phoenix, are genre rebels, writing what we want to write, but when it comes to having people find our stuff, well then we are forced into labeling our work (we hate that).
The key to speculative fiction lies in the root word: speculate. Think of this in terms of “what if” and you’ll see it. So now you might ask, but doesn’t that make all fiction speculative? What if the Wicked Witch really has monkeys that can fly? What if aliens really exist on Earth? What if we could be like Superman and leap tall buildings? And what if there was a separate world for regular folk and witches, where the witches attended an academy to learn their craft?
Does this not mean that fantasy, science fiction, and horror, are Visionary as well as Speculative? Does it exclude romance, science fiction and horror?
Fiction, by definition, is untrue, so all of it involves some degree of speculation. The difference is in what’s being speculated upon. My opinion is that Visionary Fiction is a genre that was created to specify a goal, not a genre. Romance, alternative history, weird tales, dystopian, apocalyptic, time travel, (think of time traveling World War II nurses, moving through time to Medieval Scotland), past lives, superheroes, all sorts of supernatural elements – but with a difference.
The difference is that the goal of the story would be to uplift, illustrate, and demonstrate that we as humans have much more ability than we even suspect.
How much power do we as spiritual beings really have? Are there any boundaries?
No one knows for sure. We can do all sorts of things with the physical universe that no one would have believed possible even just a year ago, much less decades past. I’m sure you can think of hundreds of examples of such amazing technological advances.
But how much do we really know about the spiritual universe? A few years ago, this was explored only in the realm of traditional religious dogma or ghost movies. The spiritual universe vs. the physical universe. Some people think they are just a body, a heart and a brain and two arms that they can pick things up with, but not spiritual beings of immense power. How much do we humans really know about who we are? I say not enough.
Sometimes visionary fiction has themes of a character winning over nature by sheer will, or winning over impossible evil odds, also that uplift and give the reader an expansive feeling about the possibilities for the human race. Other stories can have the characters have sudden unexplainable powers and delve into unexplored spiritual abilities.
So if you suspect that there is more to humans than meets the eye of common awareness, then you will enjoy novels that explore the matter within all sorts of genres, that make use of plots, characters, and setting with imagination and asking the question “What if?” With visionary fiction, an author can weave a tale that immerses us in drama, along with offering a new way of looking at our spiritual selves, what is possible, and give an ode to the indomitable human spirit.
Speaking of odes, here is one that says it all:
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881)