FOUR YEARS AGO MY SECOND BOOK OF FICTION,'THIS STRANGE AND PRECIOUS THING' WAS PUBLISHED. I WAS ASKED BY BOOKSHOP MANAGERS TO CATEGORISE IT; WHICH SHELF IN THEIR STORE TO PUT IT ON. WAS IT NEW AGE, FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION? I WASNT SURE. THE 'NEW AGE' TAG DIDNT SUIT; NEW AGE AS FAS AS I WAS CONCERNED HAD MOVE ON, AND ME WITH IT. I WASN'T COMFORTABLE WITH 'FANTASY' EITHER. A LOT OF RESEARCH HAD GONE INTO IT AND QUITE SOME EXPERIENTIAL EXPLORATION OF CUTTING-EDGE SCIENCE.
TO MY MIND IT WAS PARTLY SCI-FI, YET MOST WRITERS IN THAT GENRE WOULD PROBABLY HAVE FELT UNEASY HAVING MY BOOK INCLUDED ALONG-SIDE THEIR OWN WORK.
One male friend at my launch, picking up the book and inspecting the cover, turned to me with a wry look, and said 'I guess This Strange and Precious Thing is love.' Is he wary of taking home a Romance? I wondered. I assured him the strange and precious thing which found its way into my title didn't refer to Love, nice as that though might be; it was in fact a nick-name given to Finn, one of the main characters in his childhood - a childhood, in this case, set two hundred and fifty years in the future.
Eventually I came up with a category suggested to me some years ago, Visionary Fiction, but wasn't sure. What exactly is the definition of this new genre? There has been some discussion in the last few days on writer's groups I subscribe to of that very question. On writer Eleni Papanou's website I found a great definition that says it well: -----
Visionary Fiction embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom, often from ancient sources, and makes it relevant for our modern life. These gems of wisdom are brought forth in story form and in a way that readers can experience the wisdom from within themselves. It emphasizes the future and envisions humanity’s transition into evolved consciousness. While there is a strong theme, it in no way proselytizes or preaches.
Visionary is a tone as well as a genre. The ‘visionary’ element can be present in any genre and set in any time. The emphasis is on our limitless human potential, where transformation and evolution are entirely possible.
This is a definition I can aspire to - one, I hope, that I come close to reaching within the pages ofThis Strange and Precious Thing. By the time I dotted my final chapter with its final full stop, and agreed with my editor that I was happy - or happy enough - to send it off to the printer for publication, I felt it embodied, as near as possible, most of the elements present in Eleni's definition above. In 2008 when the book was first published, I hadn't read a definition of Visionary Fiction. However, this preliminary review below, (from which I've removed sections where the reviewer points out places where I need to rewrite and make changes,) seems to me to come close to the same conclusions. I regard this book, not only as an entertaining read, not only as a vehicle for teaching, both of which I hope it includes, but as something more. Transformational, certainly. But something else, perhaps indefinable. As my celestial friend and ascended master Kuthumi told me; in the new genre we call New Writing, New Consciousness, New Energy, this kind of creation carries an energy which goes beyond the words on the page, an energy of transformation that is absorbed, breathed in, and which goes on expanding within the consciousness of your readers long after they've put down the book. Although, at the time I was writing Strange and Precious, I had not yet met Kuthumi, and the later book I wrote, Dreaming Worlds Awake, and which to some extent was co-written with him, had not been consciously envisioned, I think that his observations were never-the-less coming to birth. This below, is the review by Crysse Morrison; Writer, Dramatist, Performance Poet and Novel Mentor, from which I have removed several lines where she made invaluable suggestions for improvement. Having followed her good advice and implemented them, I feel it OK to show the main body of her review. This is an invitation for comments on the discussion or on how you see this review as Visionary Fiction. The comments button is at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, please comment on Writers who believe in supporting Writers, Writers doing what they do best, Twitter, Goodreads, or any other venue.
THIS STRANGE AND PRECIOUS THING
by Esme Ellis
AimPublication - commercial or individual
Length95,000 words (est.)
Central charactersAnnya, Manfred, Finn, Mandlebrot - alternating viewpoints
ThemePossibilities of resolution in human and environmental relationships, through supernatural and elemental energies of which we are currently unaware.
As I'm more familiar with the genre of psychological realism in fiction I was unsure whether I'd find aspects of this difficult, but the contemporary setting and character portrayal ensured enjoyable reading. I found the descriptions of setting superb - visually graphic and hauntingly evocative. Dialogue is, for the most part, credible and effective to move the story forward. The underlying messages are subtly clarified, and I liked the mood shifts and the lightness of touch, so profound points are made without overt moralising.
Initially I was wary of a novel without a clear protagonist, but as the story progressed I felt the balance between Annya and Finn is important, and has been well maintained. The love story at the heart of the book is beautifully expressed and moving in its inference of hope for us all, gods and humans alike.
The narrative pace is very good, varied and with great cliff-hanger endings to most chapters. .... sections describing Finn's experience do benefit from slow(ish) assimilation, as this is unfamiliar territory to the reader,..... in those chapters describing Annya's responses .... we can readily empathise with her - very human - reactions.
My final reservation is regarding the viewpoint itself. While in a book of this length, where several perceptions and timescales are involved, it is quite acceptable to use different points of view in narrating, it is better practice to maintain one for as long a section as is possible. Towards the end of the book there are lots of short edit cuts as Simon is rescued by Finn and Mandlebrot through the intervention of Jamil, Khaled, and Ahmed, while Annya worries at a distance; here I think the constant viewpoint shifts work well, creating a pattern almost like that of the carpet as the loose threads are gathered up. (Refers to key scene in carpet weaver Ahmed's workshop. E.E.)
I really liked the opening -- very filmic and sensual also, visual and kinaesthetic and with a sense of the pulsing of the ocean. This sets the scene at a profound level, as elemental energies will become as important as characters in the unfolding tale.
Finn is well introduced, but there is an inevitable difficulty in leaving Annya's drama on pause while his backstory is unfolded, which means that the main interest lies in beautiful writing and the power of the theories articulated and implied. These are both strengths, but tightening the early sections would enhance the narrative energy too. (DId do. E.E.)
Much of the dialogue - especially in later section - is great: interesting, imaginative, informative and often humourous. I really like the sensuous moments between Annya and both her lovers - especially Finn. I did wonder whether as a love story this would work even better if Simon was Annya's brother rather than lover, but by the end was convinced; the second, more human act of love is important.
In conclusion: The complex layering is carried successfully by a strong and simple plot: Finn recalled to earth to help humanity - and ironically bring about the train of events that will lead to his own conception - combined with a 'Chekhov's gun' sub-plot - a dramatic hook (Simon's mission) which comes into significant focus towards the end of the story. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have an early look, and I hope you find these comments helpful and encouraging.