What! I know, right?
But it got me thinking...
The Electric Didact is primarily a blog about creative writing, but since I write speculative fiction myself, I will usually be looking through the lens of spec fic to write about it. Therefore, it would be useful to introduce speculative fiction to those who may not be as familiar with the terms.
So put on your space suits and your dwarven mithril--it's about to get all quantum-physicsy in here because we're leaping into the black hole of genre definitions on board the Electric Didact!
Ewh, What Is That?
What's in a name? In this case, quite a lot actually. Speculative fiction is, broadly speaking, a conglomeration of several smaller and more familiar genres of fiction, including science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Stories of this sort usually contain elements of the fantastic, the impossible, the magical--in short, they speculate.
<facepalm> Yes, we gathered that, Jedd...
Over the years, as in all entertainment genres, things have gotten far more complicated, and the truth is that no one definition is really enough to satisfy everyone. Speculative fiction comes in all shapes and sizes, deals with all subjects, and slips in-between our narrow ideas of "genre" all the time.
Let's look at what some other people have to say about it (taken from "What Is Speculative Fiction?" by N.E. Lilly):
Speculative fiction is a world that writers create, where anything can happen. It is a place beyond reality, a place that could have been, or might have been, if only the rules of the universe were altered just a bit.
[Speculative fiction] opens our minds to the greatness that is the human race. Even with all our flaws. Even in spite of our flaws. Because of our flaws. It asks the questions that need to be asked: What is it to be human? Why does that even matter? Showing our weaknesses and our strengths at the same time. The reader is left to balance all comments within their own world view. What is good? What is bad and why is this so?
Speculative fiction is preparation for all futures. One of the purposes of science fiction, particularly hard SF, is to extrapolate from today and try to anticipate where we all will be one day, both as people and as societies.
- Andy McCann, Ed., Planet Magazine
"Speculative fiction" is just that--an umbrella term that encompasses a myriad of subgenre of which there are too many to recount here. Even science fiction ranges from "hard sci-fi" (depending upon actual science to propel the basis of the story) to "soft" (closer to space-fantasy). Fantasy stories range from "high fantasy" (think Lord of the Rings or D&D) to "urban fantasy" to "magical realism" (a genre emergent from Central/South America).
Beyond and between sci-fi and fantasy are genres like "slipstream," "bizarre," and "new weird" (among others) that subvert the normal genre definitions and resemble the writing of authors like Franz Kafka and Paul Auster.
The proof is in the pudding, however, and as most publications suggest to us aspiring writers, one should actually read examples to comprehend the scope of the various genres.
Here are a few of the bigger publications that feature stories that you can read (or listen to) for free:
As we've seen, speculative fiction is a nebulous word that catches a lot of types of fiction under its umbrella. But the examples I've shown you above are just a drop in the bucket--there are TONS of publications out there that put out all sorts of fiction like this (and not like this).
But the thing is, we're surrounded by speculative fiction. Seen any movies lately? Of 53 blockbuster movies in 2013, I counted 34 (64%) that fall into the speculative fiction category (the list of movies is here)!!! Star Wars, Superman, The Avengers, Monsters Inc., Ice Age, World War Z, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games--we engage with speculative fiction all the time!
Of 53 blockbuster movies in 2013, I counted 34 (64%) that fall into the speculative fiction category!!!
Jedd Cole is a professional writer and author of short speculative fiction. He resides in Ohio where he is completing a degree in Rhetoric & Professional Writing, crafting short stories in every time-nook he can find, all while frequenting the pages of imaginary worlds with his wonderful wife, Heather, and no pets. None.