The first few times I heard the term speculative fiction I was skeptical to say the least. There is some variance in the definition as Marek Oziewicz puts it, “The term ‘speculative fiction’ has three historically located meanings: a subgenre of science fiction that deals with human rather than technological problems, a genre distinct from and opposite to science fiction in its exclusive focus on possible futures, and a super category for all genres that deliberately depart from imitating ‘consensus reality’ of everyday experience.” The definition that I see used the most lately and that I personally prefer is the third.
Speculative fiction breaks the rules whether it be aliens on mars or fighting dragons. It can also be smaller things though that tiny touch of magic or a genetic mutation. Science fiction and fantasy are the easy ones of course. There are genres that straddle this, like horror and historical fiction that are sometimes speculative but sometimes grounded in reality. Of course people will always debate what exactly that Venn diagram looks like. What I really love though is the idea.
Science fantasy is another term that comes up a lot with this, that place where is it science or is it magic comes into question. An often used example is Star Wars (especially when looking at the original trilogy). There is a lot of science and technology and space ships, but there is also the Force.
I like those squishy lines and really I love the term speculative fiction because I love so many things that fall within it. Give me that dash of magical realism. A taste of high fantasy. A dark night with supernatural horror. Let’s travel space for a new home. When people ask my favorite genre I used to say fantasy because that is still the largest common denominator but I think really to say my favorite is speculative fiction is far more accurate.
I can think of specific stories in which realism has truly captured me and it’s not that many. I think especially as my love of stories has expanded so has my realization of how much I want to leave behind that “consensus reality.” When I was young I read novels constantly. As I’ve gotten older I appreciate films, television, and especially comics more than I used to. I even listen to story podcasts. When I think about the stories I love its hard for me to divide them neatly into genres because my mind’s eye sees so many more common threads. So speculative fiction gives me a nice big basket to tuck them comfortably into.
It is interesting though my different mediums do have different trends. I love horror movies some with more realistic, some drifting more fantasy or science fiction. I didn’t think I was a horror person at all when I was younger. My television tends to bear a lot of magical realism. I will give a show 100 chances if it has a magical realism concept that tickles me. In comics I of course have my superheroes but I also end up with quite the mix of the spectrum of speculative fiction but with fantasy being the smallest. In novels I think fantasy will always top my charts. Some of this is definitely supply and demand. I enjoy all the things in all the mediums but I think some hit the spot extra.
I’m also biased towards writing speculative fiction. I want to take the rules of the world and maybe I grab one or maybe I grab twenty but I want to bend it and maybe even break it and say “What happens now?” Exploring that world that I’ve built, seeing how the dominoes fall. I like when what I did surprises me. On that note… I think I might go write.