A New Genre?

A group of folks have been blogging about a new genre called visionary fiction. Many books that fit into the mystery, thriller, fantasy, or literary category also fit into this one. Hampton Roads published my first novel, Under the Stone Paw, in their visionary fiction category. I thought I’d written a contemporary fantasy, but Borders put it in the mystery section. Denver’s independent bookstore, Tattered Cover, had shelf space labeled Visionary Fiction, so the book found its true home there.

What is visionary fiction? The Visionary Fiction Alliance defines it this way:

“Visionary Fiction embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom, often from ancient sources, and makes it relevant for our modern life. Gems of this spiritual wisdom are brought forth in story form so that readers can experience the wisdom from within themselves. Visionary fiction emphasizes the future and envisions humanity’s transition into evolved consciousness. While there is a strong theme, it in no way proselytizes or preaches.”

This will appeal to some people and not others, but that’s what genre is all about. McKee claims genre reflects world view. How we see the world will often be the underpinnings of our writing, and McKee suggests basic genres reflect our basic assumptions about how the world works.

What are some examples of visionary fiction? People have suggested many books, including Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dion Fortune’s The Sea Priestess, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Kathleen McGowan’s The Expected One, Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, Jodine Turner’s The Awakening: Rebirth of Atlantis, and Rea Nolan Martin’s Mystic Tea. One person even suggested the film Maleficent is another example.

You’ve probably thought of other books that might fit into this genre. Or do you think it is a genre?


Author: Theresa Crater

Award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Other novels include School of Hard Knocks and God in a Box, both exploring women in historical context. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches meditation, as well as creative writing and British lit.

18 thoughts on “A New Genre?”

  1. Very informative! I love even the sound of the title :”visionary” is so poetic. Thanks for this lovely overview.

    And now that you mention it, with UNDER THE STONE PAW, I did feel that I was learning all sorts of wise things but in a narrative-enjoyment kind of way. Great reading experience.


  2. I think genre is what people come up with to help group and describe books. So “visionary fiction” could very well be a genre. Having read a few of your examples, thought, I don’t know if it ever occurred to me. I mean, I credited Chronicles of Narnia with wisdom, but not evolved consciousness. Interesting.


  3. Cynthia, Thanks, sweetie, but I can’t take credit for any wisdom that might be in that one. Wisdom traditions is a sort of new term for spiritual and mythic traditions, I think.

    Mary, yes, in this new internet era, we may see new groupings to help readers pick their way through the thicket of books. I’d just say “evolving” consciousness, since aren’t we all growing?


  4. Thanks for the insight into visionary fiction! I think genre remains invisible to most readers unless the writer breaks its expectations.


  5. I agree with Sue in that genre remains invisible to most readers. I was talking to someone the other day and referred to my books as cozy mysteries, and he thought that was a very funny moniker. “Is that really what they’re called?”

    I do like the sound of Visionary Fiction. Could one file THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH there? (a favorite of mine!)


  6. Sue & Diane, I agree. I find my literature colleagues don’t really even “get” genre in the same way that writers do who have to pay attention to it in order to find their publishing niche. I vote yes on THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH.


  7. I actually think there are quite a few examples of this in movies and t.v., too, which also makes me wonder if the book/fiction market still has a lot of room for growth when it comes to this genre. For example, for some reason there’s a pretty cynical cast to much of the SF/F genre (for books) right now. But there seems to be more acceptance of these themes in SF/F movies and even television shows. Off the top of my head, The Matrix would definitely fall into this camp…the first movie, at least. So would Star Wars to some degree…as well as Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, Pan’s Labyrinth, etc. Some of the old school SF/F has a lot more of those themes (like JRR Tolkien, for example), but it’s pretty much lost in the current crop of books, from what I can tell. But I doubt the audience isn’t there…they just haven’t figured out where to find books like this that also use science fiction or fantasy elements.


    1. I think you’re right about visionary or mystical fiction not having a legitimate place yet, with agents, publishers and booksellers. Isn’t it exciting to be a part of pioneering one? And, isn’t it wonderful that readers are proving to be hungry for it! Thank you, Julie.


      1. Julie, I think you’re right. I noticed a dark turn in student writing about a decade ago, much more cynical and violent, and wondered about why. I think of that old school fantasy, what some call high fantasy, as closest to visionary fiction. Those movies all do seem to fit this new genre idea. Perhaps the tastes are turning again.

        Robin, Thanks, and I hope you’re right.


  8. The problem in my bookshop is that I simmply can’t have too many genres or I just end up with a shelf with only three books. In real life on the shop floor or in the bookstacks you would have to be put in Crime, Fiction or Science Fiction/Fantasy. I don’t have space for Horror much less the legion of genres that are springing up all over the place.


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