Speculative Fiction: What’s In a Name

jupiterRecently I was with some of my writing buddies and we were discussing, no surprise here, books.  Specifically, we were mulling over what to call Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Since it focuses on technology and feels a bit grungy, I tend to want to call it futuristic steam punk because science fiction just doesn’t feel precise enough.  Of course, then we found ourselves discussing books that are futuristic and involve both magic and tech.

I thought of this today when I came across a column on speculative fiction.  Speculative fiction is fiction that . . . you’re gonna love this . . . speculates.  Otherwise, speculative fiction is all fiction that isn’t realistic.  That includes:

Science fiction:  Futuristic fiction based on science.  See Cinder and the other Lunar Chronicles books.

Fantasy:  Based on magic.  Wing and Claw by Linda Sue Park.

Science Fantasy:  Is it science or is it magic?  Has elements of both but you may be deep into the story before you know which is which.  Think The Golden Compass as well as McCaffrey’s Pern books.  Also Sharon Shinn’s Archangel series.

Horror:  Things that go bump in the night.  Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood.

Alternative History:  Things that didn’t quite happen.  May include magic as well as changes in the historic timeline.  See Ysabeau Wilce’s Flora Segunda Series.

Magical Realism: Life as we know it with a magical twist.  My favorites are by written for adults by Sarah Addison Allen.  For young adults see The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman.

Read a few of these books and you’ll catch yourself wondering if I’ve put them in the correct category.  Shouldn’t it be there?  Or maybe it fits better here?  And that, my friends, is why the term speculative fiction comes in handy.  You might be done with a book before you decide where it goes and you may change your mind five or six times while reading it.

When that happens, it probably isn’t as important to nail down what to call it as it is to recommend it to another lucky reader.


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