Monthly Archives: March 2007

Speculative Fiction

Science fiction, horror, fantasy, alternative history and dystopia all share common characteristics. The most common characteristic is that all of these genres present a ‘what if’ premise. In other words, they all ask their readers to speculate. Speculative fiction is a term that encompasses all literature that is speculative in nature.

Speculative fiction is very wide in scope.

It doesn’t fit neatly into any specific genre. Instead, it blends and mixes elements of different genres in order to create stories that challenge reality. Writer Orson Scott Card defines speculative fiction as “stories that take place in a setting contrary to reality. ” Speculative fiction seeks to provoke thought about human existence by basing stories about alternative realities.

Speculative fiction doesn’t fall neatly into the category of science fiction because it is not always based on science. Many writers find the science fiction genre too limiting, and speculative fiction allows writers to work with elements found outside the arena of science fiction. For example, the speculative genre can include stories that present an alternative reality that may reverse traditional scientific laws.

Speculative fiction can be about dystopic futures such as Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This story is about a future in which Christan Fundamentalists take control of the government. The group then creates a caste system for women in which some women are designated to be wives and others serve as handmaids, or surrogate mothers.

Speculative fiction also includes stories about alternative versions of historical events or fantasy worlds. The genre also contains stories that contradict historical or scientific evidence, and social conventions. In order to enjoy reading stories that fall under the speculative genre, a reader must be willing to suspend any feelings of disbelief and open themselves up to possibility.

Many writers and stories may be labeled under speculative fiction. Some popular examples include Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game,” Ray Bradybury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” J.R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia,” Stephen King’s “The Stand,” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” All of these stories contradict reality and challenge the audiences’ ideas about human existence.

A great resource for finding a large collection of speculative fiction online is the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Currently, the database contains 38,858 authors and 196,368 titles. The most searched for story is Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.” The novel is about a future in which Earth is under threat of attack from an alien nation. In order to prepare itself, the leaders of the Earth have resorted to testing and selecting child prodigies and enrolling them in battle schools. The story centers around one particular prodigy, Ender, and his experiences in battle school.

Speculative fiction is popular because it contain the best elements from a wide range of genres. Writers enjoy the label because it doesn’t limit their creativity. Instead, the speculative genre allows writers to break outside of the mold of science fiction and create stories that speculate on whatever subject they imagine. Speculative fiction is the ultimate escape from reality.

Sources:
Shade, D.D. What is Speculative Fiction? Lost Book Archives. 2007. Hatrack River Enterprises, Inc. 16 Mar. 2007. http://www.lostbooks.org/speculative-fiction.html< br />Speculative FAQ. Speculative.ca. 2005. 16 Mar. 2007. http://speculative.ca/modules/xoopsfaq/index.php?c at_id=1#q2
Category: Speculative Ficiton.Wikipedia. 2 Feb. 2007. 16 Mar. 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Speculative_ fiction.
The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Al von Ruff. 1995-2007. 16 Mar. 2007. http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/index.cgi

Short Stories

The short story is basically a miniature novel. It relies on the same literary devices that are used in the novel such as character, plot, theme and language. However, due to its length, the short story must use these devices more effectively. Although the length of a short story is not restricted, most are between 1,000 to 20,000 words long.

The general rule of thumb is a person should be able to read an entire short story in one sitting.

A short story revolves around a single plot consisting of a small amount of characters. The plot occurs over a short period of time and little exposition is given. In addition, a short story begins almost instantaneously and the only information that is relevant to the story is revealed. The action moves rapidly and literary devices are arranged to achieve a single lasting impression in a short amount of time.

The origins of the short story, can be traced to some of the first forms of written poetry. One well known example is Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” However, most historians agree that the progenitor of the short story was Boccaccio’s “Decameron” in 1351 along with the French translation of “The Thousand and One Nights” in 1704.

The short story as a literary form really began to flourish during late 19th century. This was mainly due to the growth of print magazines and journals. Their wide circulation enabled authors to reach a wider audience, which created a strong market demand for short fiction.
Short story masterpieces include “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and “The Tell-Tale Heart “by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is recognized by many writers and critics as the master of the short story.

Perhaps the short story that came the closest to achieving a Poe like effect is “The Lottery ” by Shirley Jackson. The story is about a small community that gets together for a lottery drawing. Jackson creates the perfect amount of suspense as readers are led to believe the lottery is something that every person is the community is hoping to win. It is only within the last few paragraphs that readers learn the grim truth that the lottery is really about a community sacrifice.

Presently, there isn’t as much demand by magazines and journals to publish short stories. However, this shouldn’t suggest that short stories are no longer being written or published. Many magazines including the The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker still publish short stories. Quite a few writers also submit their short stories to be published in anthologies such as The Best American Short Stories series.

In short, short stories are an entertaining form of literature to read, especially for those pressed for time. This particular literary format is ideal for amateur writers that may not be experienced enough to complete a full length novel. Short stories are also a great format for experienced writers to test their creative skills. Investing in a collection of short stories is an ideal way to fill small pockets of time.

Sources:
“The Lottery.” Wikipedia. 7 Mar. 2007. 14 Mar. 2007 .
Short Story. Wikipedia. 28 July 2006. 28 July 2006 .
Charcteristics of the Short Story. Higher Results Consultancy. 28 July 2006 .