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.
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