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“The world we live in right now is someone else’s imagination that told us white is superior, men are superior, able-body is superior, being straight is superior.”
-adrienne maree brown, Octavia’s Brood

What Is It?

Visionary fiction is a form of creative writing that enables us to imagine new worlds. In the words of Walidah Imarisha, who coined the term, visionary fiction “is fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures.” It is different from mainstream science fiction, which tends to uphold existing power inequalities in future and alternative worlds. Visionary fiction has roots in Afro-futurism, which is a cultural and existential movement that connects those of the Black diaspora to ancestral African roots for the purpose of envisioning and enacting Black-centered futures. Below are some characteristics of Visionary Fiction, as written in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements:

“Visionary Fiction

  • explores current social/eco issues through the lens of fiction

  • is conscious of identity and intersecting identities

  • centers those who have been marginalized; 

  • is aware of power inequalities;

  • shows change from the bottom up rather than the top down; 

  • highlights that change is collective; and is not neutral – its purpose is social change and societal transformation.”

How Is It Used?

There are many ways that visionary fiction could be used in the context of public sector innovation. It can help to reframe complex challenges from perspectives that have been marginalized, as well as enable innovators to imagine possible futures that guide the “why” of their work. Experimenting with writing visionary fiction at the onset of a learning journey can help to clarify a person or team’s North Star or purpose and to encourage creative divergent thinking. Here is a general process of how we have used visionary fiction in our transformative work:

  • Plan your visionary fiction session. How much time do you have? How many people are there? If happening virtually, determine which platforms will work best based on the group’s familiarity and comfort levels.

  • Get the creative juices flowing. It can be difficult for people to just drop into a creative state, especially if most of their day is spent analyzing and problem-solving. At the beginning of the session, it’s helpful to engage in some sort of activity to tap into the creative mind. Some ideas include embodiment, fast-writing in response to an opening prompt, or rapid sketching.

  • World-building. Each participant will map out the world they are trying to build. This includes:


Setting Time, Environment, Science and Technology, Magic/super powers, Power, Other creatures and beings, Transportation, Dystopia, Utopia, Colonized new world, Sexual Reproduction, Outer space, Earth, Other planet.

Societal Backdrop What is the background/framework for this society? What are the assumptions we can make for this society - the history, social structures, how life and death is viewed, etc.

Characters From whose point of view is the story? Who seeks change? Who seeks to prevent that change? Who is your character?: name, age, religion, ability, gender, language, human/robot/animal/other, singular or multiple, etc.

Conflict This will help place future characters in your setting, and bring the backdrop and setting to life as you address your issue. Remember that in visionary fiction, change is from the bottom up not the top down; it is decentralized, collective and focuses on building new just worlds.

  • Get writing! Invite guests to get cozy and start writing in whatever way feels right to them. Some people are able to just dive right in, and others could use some guidance. It can be helpful to choose one of the world-building components to start with (e.g. begin by describing the setting or one of the characters). It can also be helpful to provide a set of prompts to get people going. Here are some prompts below: 

    • It was just before dawn when…

    • I never thought I’d see ____ again, but when I did…

    • It hadn’t rained in ____ days. 

    • This wasn’t the change that everyone was hoping for, but…

Writing Tips: 

  • Start with whichever feels easiest

  • When writing, try to be as detailed as possible - awaken all senses!

  • Embrace being unfinished!


More Info

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