Virginia Festival of the Book 1999

Virginia Festival of the Book, 1999, questions and answers from a panel appearance on the subject of Visionary Fiction

Q:  There is a new genre of novels now being recognized formally by sectional signage in bookstores.  Since three of your novels have been called Visionary Fiction, can you provide a definition?  What exactly is Visionary Fiction?

MJ:  For me, the Visionary Fiction genre includes novels which 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.

Q:  But what about the craft of writing Visionary Fiction?

MJ:  Sure, all this being said, a good novel is still 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 forebears 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.

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

MJ:  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 which actually occurred to the reader in his or her physical domain.

Q:  What do you hope to accomplish with your Visionary Fiction work?

MJ:  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 that 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?  I hope that my literature changes lives by providing an altered awareness.

Q:  Aren’t you afraid that your books might be branded as “message” books?

MJ:  Who needs more messages in this 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 become the reader’s as well.  And in that process, we share a vision which leads to future visions of our common humanity.