What is Speculative Fiction?

An Awesome New Look at Traditional Fiction

by Victoria Pakizer

Speculative fiction contains every awesome genre of entertainment available. It is fantasy, horror, science fiction, different realities, alternative history, superhero fiction, utopias (a wonderful society), dystopias (a terrible society), steampunk (updates of Victorian era), cuberpunk (where virtual reality and true reality are difficult to separate), magical realism, fairy tales, etc. or a mixture of any of the above. The easiest way to summarize speculative fiction is: any story that takes place in a reality that is different from our own.

These movies, shows, and books are examples of speculative fiction: The Matrix, Dawn of the Dead, Dollhouse, Clockwork Angel, Smallville, The Sixth Sense, Brave New World, Shiver, and The Lord of the Rings.

One major component of speculative fiction is science fiction. If you read a story about aliens, alternative universes, advanced technologies, futuristic settings, time travel, or something similar, you’re reading a science fiction novel. Science fiction deals with the more plausible side of make-believe. As the saying goes, science fiction may not be fiction forever. Examples of this are Star Trek, Back to the Future, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Firefly.

Another genre included in speculative fiction is paranormal/horror. This genre is stuffed with creatures you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, such as ghosts, vampires, serial killers, demons, and zombies. When people think of horror, they usually think about a group of teenagers with an IQ below 30 getting lost in the woods, chased by a cannibalistic family, and death scenes that involve blood, guts, and gore. While that certainly counts as horror/paranormal, so do stories that involve werewolves, such as Teen Wolf, or ghosts like Hamlet. Other examples of horror/supernatural are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, and Silent Hill.

Speculative fiction also includes fantasy. Some elements of fantasy are dragons, wizards, elves, King Arthur, and Zeus. Fantasy usually has a “medieval” feel to it and may envelop myths and legends, but “urban fantasy” can take place in a realistic setting like New York City. A Song of Fire and Ice, Merlin, and Enchanted are all examples of fantasy.

So, if we have science fiction, horror, and fantasy as separate genres, why do we need speculative fiction? We need it for TV shows like Supernatural, a story about two brothers who hunt monsters. We assume the show is mostly horror/paranormal, but it features demons who create alternative dimensions, angels who travel through time, and ghosts who cause fairy tales to come to life.

Supernatural has horror creatures comprising both science fiction and fantasy elements, and that’s where speculative fiction enters. Whenever a work involves more than one genre, you can call it speculative fiction.

There’s an unspoken rule in creative writing that states don’t mix genres. For example, if you’re writing a science fiction novel, it’s best to stay away from fantasy elements. It could be jarring if, in the middle of Star Wars, Lancelot showed up riding a dragon to save the day, but we’re finding more and more authors who are smudging the dividing line between genres.

The TV show Angel features a vampire who travels to alternative dimensions on occasion. Thor is a stereotypical superhero movie that relies heavily on Norse mythology. Mixing genres can result in magic.

Authors who don’t understand speculative fiction may find themselves stuck in a box, afraid to let Athena fight zombies, but speculative fiction says – why not?

If you’re a good enough writer, you can write about aliens meeting King Arthur. Writers are trained not to break the rules, but with the genre of speculative fiction, feel free to do so. This genre opens countless creative options! Good luck and have fun breaking the rules.

Have any crazy ideas for Speculative Fiction? Let us know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to go to the www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out more about our creative writing courses!

Writing Fantasy

Fantasy Writing Tips

By Deborah Owen

Have you ever wanted to write fantasy but didn’t know where to begin? Then this is the article for you. By the time you finish reading, you will be able to write your first fantasy story.

Writing fantasy is the art of turning an impractical idea into a reality in the reader’s mind. It’s using your imagination to find its deepest creative power. It’s the ability to visualize things and places you have never seen. What a vast and exciting realm that opens!

Begin by freeing your mind of everything that is real and tangible. Escape this world of gravity and float beyond the ties of places and time. What do you see? Purple beings with six snouts and wings? A planet completely engulfed in water with underworld cities? An atmosphere where the inhabitants breathe gas and explode when they reach maturity? Fantasy is the place of no bounds, no limits – the place where anything is possible.

When you get your first vision of a new world or new life, go to the next step. What characters are in this world? What problems do they encounter? How will they solve these problems?

Remember that your characters must be three-dimensional. You must have a physical description in mind. How do they typically act? What is out of the ordinary for them?

How do they communicate? How do they move from place to place? Do they fly? Slither? Swim? Waddle? Can they function on their own, or are they dependent on something else for life? Are your characters supposed to be royalty? Are they prisoners? Are they heading up a revolution? How intelligent are they? Do you want to involve some kind of magic? Is it a story of good versus evil? You must know all of this and more before you can advance the plot.

Take the time to write down fifty things about each of the main characters and the world they live in. What do the inhabitants eat? What things are unacceptable in their world? What is their vocation?

Now decide what the overall story is about – not just the middle conflict scene. The middle climactic scene is called the plot. The meaning in the overall story is the theme, so what will your theme be? Slithering lizards battling dinosaurs over human prey? Colliding worlds that give birth to a new planet?

When you have answered all of these questions, begin writing the middle conflict scene of the story. Next, write the ending. (You don’t need to connect them yet.) By that time you will know what needs to be in the beginning of the story to complete it. Develop that last. And finally, connect the three parts.

This is called the DeBowen writing system and it’s very easy. If you write your story in this order, everything will fall into place naturally, and that which you have imagined will become a reality.

So, have you come up with any cool fantasy ideas after reading this article? Did this help at all? Let us know in the comments below! Also, if you’d like more great tips and guidance with much greater depth, don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses–they’re priced quite competitively!