A BOOKISH LIBRARIA WELCOMES MS NATHAN WITH THIS GUEST POST :
WHAT MAKES VISIONARY FICTION VISIONARY?
Sandy Nathan © 8/28/2012
I write visionary fiction. A while back, I was surprised when one of my books was reviewed as science fiction. And then it happened again, and again. Earlier, my book Numenonwas reviewed as fantasy. I was shocked. To me, it was a write up of my meditation experience.
Now, I don’t really care. You can read my books as whatever you want, be it sci-fi, fantasy, or visionary. Even so, I’d like you to know how I define visionary fiction and what about my books puts them in that category.
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”?
Some visionary fiction fits that mold and has been very well received by readers. This includes some of the best-known examples of the genre. That “happy ever after” quality fits the needs 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 in your life?
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 their lives go up and down and all over the place?”
The monk answered with something like, “Different people 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, he said, “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. These experiences fit the personalities of the people having them. Their lives are often tumultuous. They may have had abusive or traumatic experiences to overcome.
“The various types of spiritual experience 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 or loss. 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. That isn’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 critics of my work 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 my emotional debris. It’s not always bright and shiny. It may not show humanity pointing in an upward direction––right then.
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 for those lovely, blissful souls who have the smooth path, but like a thrill now and then. 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.
About Sandy Nathan:
Sandy Nathan writes to amaze and delight, uplift and inspire, as well as thrill and occasionally terrify. She is known for creating unforgettable characters and putting them in do or die situations. She writes in genres ranging from science fiction, fantasy, and visionary fiction to juvenile nonfiction to spirituality and memoir.
“I write for people who like challenging, original work. My reader isn’t satisfied by a worn-out story or predictable plot. I do my best to give my readers what they want.”
Mrs. Nathan’s books have won twenty-two national awards, including multiple awards from oldest, largest, and most prestigious contests for independent publishers. Her books have earned rave critical reviews and customer reviews of close to five-star averages on Amazon. Most are Amazon bestsellers.
Sandy was born in San Francisco, California. She grew up in the hard-driving, achievement orientated corporate culture of Silicon Valley. Sandy holds Master’s Degrees in Economics and Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. She was a doctoral student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and has been an economic analyst, businesswoman, and negotiation coach, as well as author.
Mrs. Nathan lives with her husband on their California ranch. They bred Peruvian Paso horses for almost twenty years. She has three grown children and two grandchildren.
Her latest books are The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy, Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love and Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground, which are all part of the Tales from Earth’s End series.
You can visit her website at www.sandynathan.com.
Visit her blogs: http://sandranathan.net and http://yourshelflife.com (blog for writers) http://talesfromearthsend.com (series blog)
Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sandyonathan
Friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sandy.nathan.author
To purchase a paperback copy of Sandy Nathan’s The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Brown-eyed-Boy-Sandy-Nathan/dp/0976280906
Purchase at Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-angel-the-brown-eyed-boy-sandy-nathan/1028502802?ean=9780976280903
"The Angel and the Brown-Eyed Boy" is~
Winner of Four National Awards:
● 2011 IPPY (Independent Press) Award Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction.
● 2011 Indie Excellence Award in Visionary Fiction (Winner of Catergory)
● Best Books of 2011, USA Book News:
- Winner, New Age Fiction
- Finalist Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Book Excerpt:When the girl appeared on the sidewalk, the edges of her body and clothing were fuzzy, as though all of her hadn’t arrived. She looked up and down the street, the way a person would if she’d forgotten an address or lost her way.
Her hair was frizzed and matted, sticking out akimbo. She was thin, had a dirty face, and wore a scratchy coat that was far too big. Its sleeves were rounded little capes; her arms stuck out of them like chopsticks protruding from a napkin. The coat slipped off her shoulders, first to one side, then the other. She hitched it up and kept walking. When she walked, the coat opened to reveal her feet and lower legs.
Her thin socks, trimmed with grayed lace, were pulled up to make a ruffle below her knees. Pink satin laces held up the socks, their Xs snaking up her shins from her shoes. She looked pretty much like everyone she saw, except for her shoes. Long pink ballet slippers stuck out from beneath her coat, as improbable as roses sprouting from the cement.
Eliana made her way along the sidewalk, knowing that she was dirty, feeling the grit in her hair and on her skin. When she had reached the planet’s atmosphere, clothes and all sorts of things had rushed at her with great force, tossing her over and over. Dirt had come, too. She had found the clothes she needed and put them on the way her teachers had shown her. Then her people had put her where she was.
Humans passed, but no one stopped or said anything to her. A paper blew against her leg. More dirty papers blew and piled up everywhere. Streaked and grimy buildings rose near her. Writing in different colors covered their walls. She looked carefully, but couldn’t make out the words. She’d learned to read and write English, but those words mystified her.
“Hey, you!” a person said loudly.
“Yes?” She spoke to a human for the first time, politely bowing. The human was dirty like Eliana, with torn clothes and matted hair. She couldn’t tell if it was a he or a she.
“Get out of here!” the ragged person shouted. “You don’t belong here.” Eliana cowered, but the stranger rushed past her, clawing at something Eliana couldn’t see. “Stay away,” the human said, and then stood with feet braced, shouting, “Get out of here, all of you. Stay away!” The human hadn’t seen Eliana at all.
The girl realized that her people were right; they had put her where no one would notice her. Now she needed to tell them that she had arrived. She raised one foot, turning it gracefully and resting it easily on the other knee. She flicked the shoe with her finger, listening. A trill of clear notes deep within her brought the hint of a smile. She held the coat closed and stood still. She was where she was supposed to be. It had begun.
She fingered the piece of paper in her pocket. Her map. Beneath it, in the pocket’s depths, was the notebook. What was written on it would get her where she needed to go. She had all she needed.
She walked a long way along the hard path. More humans passed her. To her left, gray, inert structures rose high in the sky, blocking the sun. She touched the see-through parts of their lower levels, looking at the humans inside. They looked at each other with darting eyes, speaking rapidly. Everyone outside rushed frantically, noticing nothing. They didn’t see her, just as her people had said.
Eliana choked when a very large carrier passed, spewing a foul odor. The carrier floated above the hard surface where the vehicles moved. Her teachers had told her about the floating. Though she couldn’t see it, a force lived under the machines that made them go. It would kill her if it touched her. She didn’t know what kill meant; kill did not exist in her world. Her mother had explained that she would be like a dead pet. She had seen dead pets before they whisked them away. Motionless husks. She moved away quickly. Better get on with her purpose. She didn’t have much time.
A man with a round stomach and a gray hat walked out of an opening in the ground with many others. He walked like he had a mission. His coat was the same scratchy stuff as hers, but it was buttoned up and looked new. He looked new; his face was ruddy and clean. His shoes reflected the pale sunlight. The trill of notes resounded in her mind once again.
He was the one! She stood in front of him to make him stop. She hoped he could comprehend her speech.
“Will you help me?” she said, working to form the strange words.
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Good Luck to my readers!!!