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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Fife

What is Visionary Fiction and Why Hadn't I (and Possibly You) Heard of it?

I love a wide variety of books from a wide variety of genres. But the books that stick with me are those that have been life changing in some way. Something that inspired me, or moved me more than just another story. Storytelling that shifts the way you think. I have loved books like this as long as I've been reading. So why had I not heard the term “Visionary Fiction” until late 2019? We all love categorizing things for some reason, and so many of the stories I've loved have already been sorted & placed on their proverbial shelf as it were. I have my Classics that I love, Sci-fi, Fantasy, and the occasional inspirational novel that someone talked me into reading that didn't quite fit in any of those genres. Then I started narrating professionally & I've begun to notice a pattern in some of the books that I audition for & in particular, those I REALLY WANT to narrate.

They're the stories that make you think beyond where you have before. As such, Mark Twain's probably not my guy. A story that is 'just a story' isn't my ideal 'story.' Give me Charles Dickens and C.S. Lewis. Give me To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Miserables, and The Little Prince (if you want to see & hear an AMAZING interperetation of it that is remarkably true to the spirit of the book, the BBC did an opera production of it by Rachel Portman - one of my family's favorites).

In the last few months, I've been approached twice by authors who describe their books as Visionary Fiction. When Brad Swift, author of The Fringe Candidate, first used the term on the phone with me, there was part of me that wondered if he had made up the term. But then he described his project, the kind of narrator he was looking for, and knew he was describing me. As I've been thinking about “What is visionary fiction?” it becomes a little all-encompassing. Sci-fi can be. Fantasy can be. Historical fiction, speculative, classics, you name it.

For me Visionary Fiction is about imparting a message and uplifting the reader. Moving the conversation a notch higher. Some books have visionary elements, and in a sense, whatever I read/listen to/watch, that is what I'm looking for. That is what keeps me coming back for more. I've reflected on the titles I've narrated & some of them definitely fit the bill. Any fiction that Cameron Taylor has written has a visionary fiction element to it. Walls of Glass by my cousin J.W. Elliot is definitely written with the intent of elevating the reader's consciousness about racism, especially how they are themselves. C.D. Tavenor's Chronicles of Theren deal with issues of personhood, identity and consciousness. Even Mari Collier's Children of the Maca series deals with issues of class and assumptions that we carry within ourselves, along with how one copes with trauma. Maria Grace's Jane Austen's Dragons series amplifies the one of the original intents of Jane Austen – pointing out how seldom anyone really has the full picture & her characters illustrate just how much we need to strive to understand one another.

I finished my initial read-through of Call to Purpose by Ken Brown & was blown away. He is the second author who approached me about narrating a piece of Visionary Fiction. Both his & Brad Swift's have the added element that it is the specific genre they are writing for. As I've read them both & am currently recording The Fringe Candidate, I can tell you they have both changed me.

So what is Visionary Fiction? What is Vision? It is the ability to see. Visionary Fiction is a story that enables us to see in new ways. Thank you both Ken & Brad, and all the other authors I have worked with who have helped me to see in vibrant new colors. By reading your books, I have become more than I was. As a narrator, I get to experience a book no less than 3 times in a relatively short period of time. Prior to meeting my wife, I had never read a book twice. She introduced me to the joy of reading books again and again and again. (She read Count of Monte Cristo 6 times before she was 18). The very best visionary fiction you MUST read again and again. It will change you again and again. If you've never heard of this genre, check out the Visionary Fiction Alliance. If you're an aspiring (or active) author it's a great resource. If you're a reader who's curious, its also a great place to start.

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