Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What is Speculative Fiction?

Okay, so this might be a bit of an easy post for me to write...but it's NaNo time!

Seeing as this blog is devoted to Christian Speculative Fiction, it might be useful to define what speculative fiction is.

Speculative fiction is a genre of literature that is based on the idea of creating an imaginary world in which the main story takes place.

You might argue that all fiction uses the concept of an imaginary world, but speculative fiction goes above and beyond by creating a setting for the novel that doesn’t exist. Regardless, it’s still a broad genre.

It’s a broad genre that doesn’t have hard edges, but we’ll try to nail it down a bit here.

The most commonly named speculative fiction “sub-genres” are Fantasy and Science Fiction. These two sub-genres are frequently lumped together, but they are broad in scope, containing everything from the space/time travel A Wrinkle in Time to epic fantasies such as The Lord of the Rings to science fiction classics such as Ender’s Game and the space opera series Star Wars. Each of these worlds has a different feeling, but they encompass just a small sampling of the speculative fiction field.

A speculative fiction author doesn’t always have to start from scratch to create his or her world. Alternate histories are an example of speculative fiction that uses a place (and even a “time”) that does/did exist. Many science fiction novels are set on a future earth that has different technology. While the place (Earth) is familiar, other parts of the setting are unfamiliar (such as alien species or intergalactic travel) and are products of the author’s imagination.

Another characteristic of speculative fiction is that a significant part of the work is devoted to world building. A Victorian Romance may include characters and places unique to that story, but the plot is more likely to revolve around original characters and their conflicts than the type of horse and carriage used by the characters in their quest to save the world.

In contrast, many speculative fiction authors focus on the technology, history, and even geography of their worlds to transport us to another realm that is almost entirely fictional. These stories tend to have a plot that is less personal and more grandiose—“let’s save the world!”, though there are certainly exceptions on both sides.

This presents challenges to spec-fic writers—how can we build a convincing story world that has high stakes without sacrificing character development? In a world that is strange, alien, and foreign, how can readers relate to the characters?

To any spec-fic writers out there, how do you focus on character development while building realistic worlds?

To any spec-fic readers, what books do you think did a great job world-building without sacrificing their characters? 

Also, thank you to all my readers! Over the weekend, I hit a total of 1,000 page views in the history of the blog, which is pretty exciting!

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