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SF Subgenre Guides
What is Speculative Fiction?
Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term that incorporates Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Speculative Fiction is also a friendly term that gives a home to works that don't fall into these categories, but still have a weird or amazing feel to them.
As a term Speculative Fiction was developed to distinguish some writers and their works from the less literary "flying saucer" Sci Fi or to overcome the limits of Sci Fi. Speculative Fiction is an immensely useful term where a growing number of writers produce works that draw from multiple sub-genres.
In a very general sense, the goal
of Speculative Fiction is to open up the mind of the reader and engage with ideas and meaning. It offers the reader a story composed of a world with familiar things, but also something unfamiliar. It is an imaginative world, linked to reality but beyond reality, that might have been if something were altered just a bit. This something can be just about anything from scientific principles to gender identity.
You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Speculative Fiction Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.
Other Features of Speculative Fiction
- Level of Real Science
Variable. Hard Sci Fi writers can write Speculative Fiction and so can Fantasy writers, so scientific realness in Speculative Fiction spans the whole spectrum.
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
High. Speculative Fiction is a kind of "What if?" story and has a tendency to engage with grand questions about the universe, humanity, and society.
- Level of Characterization
Moderate-High. Speculative Fiction is full of unfamiliar settings so characterization is important to grounding readers in the story and allowing readers to fully experience whatever may be strange, weird, or unfamiliar about the world. While developed characters are necessary, characters are not frequently a story's driving force.
- Level of Plot Complexity
Moderate-High. Compelling and intriguing plots are ubiquitous in Speculative Fiction. Indeed, the sense of being on the edge is common in order to keep readers engaged and pondering possibilities not just about events, but ideas.
- Level of Violence
Variable. There is a whole spectrum of violence from apocalyptic events that wipe out most of the population to blissful utopian cities where violence has been eliminated--all of which are included in Speculative Fiction.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction. A speculation on what the world and human society be like should a cataclysmic event end life as we know it.
Steampunk. A retro-version of Speculative Fiction where steam technology is the jumping off point.
Alternate History. Alternate History is a speculation on what if, insert a historical event, happened differently or not at all.
Slipstream. Slipstream takes the weird/strange/amazing feeling of Speculative Fiction to new heights. All of them. Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term and a Speculative Fiction story may borrow characteristics from any sub-genre Sci Fi or not.
Speculative Fiction isn't for you if...
If you don't like to read fiction. The body of Speculative Fiction work is expansive so chances are, you will be able to find something to enjoy.
- 1 Dune
By Frank Herbert. A famous series that takes place in a sprawling universe. The story explores the interactions of politics, religion, technology, and ecology.
- 2 Wool
By Hugh Howey. A five-book series set in a post-apocalyptic world. A world where optimism and dreams are punished. 3. Felix Gilman The Half-Made World. A Steampunk novel set in a world similar to the Wild American West.
- 3 The Half-Made World
By Felix Gilman. A Steampunk novel set in a world similar to the Wild American West.
- 4 The Windup Girl
By Paolo Bacigalupi. Hard Sci Fi and environmental apocalypse make up this weird, future world.
- 5 Surface Detail
By Iain M. Banks. The story of what happens to Hell in a galaxy where humans live without physical form eternally.
- 6 How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
By Charles Yu. A challenging and funny novel written by a Sci Fi geek that uses pop culture to make the reader reflect on the nature of consciousness.
- 7 The Left Hand of Darkness
By Ursula K. Le Guin Le Guin's novel is thought-provoking and explores culture, gender, and psychology on an alien world where gender is a choice.
- 8 1984
By George Orwell. A classic novel that is definitively a dystopia.
- 9 Fahrenhheit 451
By Ray Bradbury. A classic "What if?" story about book banning, happiness, and knowledge.
- 10 Stranger in a Strange Land
By Robert Heinlein. A Martian visits Earth and teaches humanity a few things--some believe it to be a guide to social change.
- 1984 (George Orwell)
- Dune (Frank Herbert)
- Mind (Carol Dweck)
- Kraken (China Mieville)
- Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)