Why Speculative Fiction?

I’ve seen a few posts around the place asking that very question.

‘What’s wrong with Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror? Why do we need this new term?’

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term speculative fiction, there are a few definitions around, but the common theme is that it is any of the above. What it means to me is not only those three genres, but everything that falls in between as well – all the stories that don’t fit into tidy little genre boxes, all the stories that cross genres and push the boundaries one way or another. Quite often ideas for these kinds of stories start with two simple words. What if….

When you say science fiction, or fantasy, or horror, there is a certain expectation. These expectations are held in place not only by fans, but also by the critics – for better or worse, people either love or hate sf/f/h. There is snobbery attached to many who refuse to read them, and geek/nerd/freak labels attached to some of the people who love them.

Further more, there are now so many sub genres that one can get awfully confused about what something is. Half the time, I’m not sure I’ve got the right label for any given story. When is something urban fantasy, and when is it contemporary fantasy, or magical realism for that matter? They all appear to have magical elements to them set in modern times to me, but for some the difference is huge.

I see speculative fiction as a way to escape that. I’ll use one of my own stories as an example of why the term really works for me.

The Feud began with the question: What if a community believed that another community had found a way to make sure they had only stillbirths?

There are no elves, wizards, magic, castles, trolls, orcs, hobbits, swords or battles. It’s not set in space, or on another planet or world. There are no robots or advanced technologies. There are no zombies, werewolves, vampires, killers or other variety of psychopath. So you can see, I might have a hard time putting it into a genre box.

It does have a little bit of science. It has two groups of individuals who live in a world that is not our own, but could be. In a time that isn’t our own, but isn’t any other specific time. It’s disturbing, but hardly horrific. If I HAD to say it was one of the three I might lean towards fantasy, but I’d still be questioning if I got it right.

Speculative fiction solves that problem for me. I don’t have to be boxed in – I can explore whatever I want to without struggling to make sure the story fits a specific genre. What’s more, I don’t have to feel like I MUST choose between them. I can blend them, or jump from one to another – I feel like it’s given me the freedom to write anything and that is liberating indeed.

Speculative fiction, as an umbrella term, brings writers together. It unifies us and I love that. I think that by doing so we can generate a wider range of ideas, and explore things we might never have thought of before. And let’s face it. New Zealand isn’t that big – isn’t it better that we all come together and embrace our weirdness?

This is my 3rd post for New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week (Sep 13-19).


7 thoughts on “Why Speculative Fiction?”

  1. “Half the time, I’m not sure I’ve got the right label for any given story. ”

    Exactly where I’m at most of the time. I started using speculative fiction and occasionally add a qualifier when it applies, like dystopian, utilitarian, or Apocalyptic. Most of the time I cross genres. So Speculative is the catch-all that fits.

    Excellent post, again!

    1. Thank you 🙂 Glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with her genre definitions. Crossing genres seems to be increasingly popular I think, when once it was something you were told to avoid. Fun times 🙂

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