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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Speculative Fiction—What is it?

I am Linda Swift, an author of published contemporary and historical romance, women’s fiction, short stories and poetry. As if that isn’t enough to keep my readers in a state of confusion, I have recently added speculative fiction to my publishing credits. Only I didn’t know this was what my short stories were until Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery called them by that name. In fact, I wasn’t aware this genre existed and I was more than a little skeptical to become a part of it.

Since I now have five speculative fiction stories available online, and a just-released anthology of these five stories in print, I thought I really ought to find out a little more about what this means. My first step was to check my faithful Webster’s New World Dictionary. (Yes, I still love to look up words in my hard copy reference which tells you more than I probably want you to know about my age.) None of the definitions of the word “speculative” seemed to fit the situation at all. I finally settled on “uncertain or risky” as a possible meaning. At least, I know it is always uncertain and risky to publish anything one writes.

Next, I Googled “Speculative Fiction” online. And wow! Was I impressed. The term was defined by Wikipedia as “ancient works to cutting-edge, paradigm-changing, and nontraditional intentions of the 21st Century. And the names associated with this genre? They read like a who’s who in literature. There were Greek dramatists to William Shakespeare to J.R.R.Tolkien and many more.
I won’t bore you with the long  explanation that I doggedly plowed my way through in order to become more enlightened on the subject. But I will offer one further quote which I think shows the big picture. “In its broadest sense it (speculative fiction) captures both a conscious and unconscious aspect of human psychology in making sense of the world, reacting to it, and creating imaginary, inventive and artistic expression.”

Armed with this new information I turned my attention to my stories in an effort to see if they would fit the definition. I looked first at Winner Take All, my first-written story of this genre. It is a tale of man against nature and a life-and death struggle between the two. Billy Ray Warren is a good ole southern boy who went up North to make money and comes home to fight the Kudzu that is taking the family farm. Yes, he is trying to make sense of his world and reacting to it in a positive way.   

Nathan, the Buttercups are Blooming is a story about growing old and sick; about the helplessness of losing control of our lives. But Nathan is a fighter, especially when it comes to his beloved wife and his insensitive children. And boy, does he react to the situation he is in. He does not “go gentle into that goodnight” to quote a famous poet.

The disease of epilepsy is at the center of Give It All You’ve Got. This is a tender love story set in a rural mountain school with three main characters who are as mismatched as people can be but their lives become entwined by circumstances beyond their control.  They each react to their narrow world in the only way that makes sense to them. And in so doing, a villain becomes a hero.

Three to Make Ready is a story that deals with the busing issue as it was in the early days of the mandate for US public schools. It takes a look at the situation from both black and white perspectives and further examines it from two social classes of white families. This story looks at the big picture from the author’s point of view based on personal experience and believe me, the story contains reaction in spades.

Last, I examined The Good News. Defining it is difficult even for me as author.  I think it addresses the possibility of a random occurrence that no one can foresee and the way the people involved react to it. There is a large group of characters for a short story, including young and old, male and female, weak and strong, happy and sad. But the focus is on a mother’s worst nightmare and her valiant efforts to prevent it.

Have you noticed that my brief blurbs of each of these stories contain the word “react” in them? I think we can assume that my speculative fiction involves reaction of some sort in all the plots.  But rather than dissect them in this manner, I like to think of them as stories that reflect ordinary people living their lives in the best way they can, given their circumstances. Even though you most likely have not experienced what the characters have, I think you can relate to their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows. And it is this connection that makes a story real to you.  All of them contain a measure of suspense and uncertainty and some unexpected outcomes.  In the past, I have heard this type story referred to as “slice of life” fiction.

Frankly, I don’t care what they are called.  I only care that they are read and that my characters touch the hearts of those who read them. They are available at Amazon and Smashwords for 99cents each.

And if you’d like a complete collection in print, Take Five: Stories of Speculative Fiction was released the last week in September through Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and is now available in ebook and print at the above links. The price is $9.95 for print and $2.99 for ebook at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Take-Five-ebook/dp/B0096R15T8/

This guest post first appeared at BETWEEN THE PAGES, Lynda Coker’s blogspot, .and she graciously agreed for it to be reprinted here. http://betweenthelinesandmore.blogspot.com/

 Rebecca J.Vickery commented on my post there and she has also agreed to have her comments included. She has added so much to the definition of Speculative Fiction that I don’t feel this post would be complete without her words. And here they are:

‘Hi Linda and Lynda,
I really enjoyed this post and it is a very good description of Speculative Fiction. Many famous and infamous writers focused on Speculative Fiction throughout their lives. Without it we would never have had TV series such as Twilight Zone, Inferno, Outer Limits, and even Alfred Hitchcock who was a master of SF. Many of the great plays, operas, and movies are Speculative Fiction, though a large majority often label them dramas or tragedies. MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet, View From the Rear Window, and The Birds are some of my favorites.
Authors take a possible real life situation, and as Linda has pointed out, explore the reactions and ironic results. These stories aren't for everyone as they often do not include a happy ever after ending, but when written well (as Linda Swift does) they are emotional, moving, and riveting.”

Thank you for reading my post today--
Linda Swift


  1. Thank you for giving a clear idea of what speculative fiction is. I have really gotten confused with the term. You have some fantastic books in this genre and some mighty fine covers, too.
    All the best to you.

  2. Hi Sarah, thank you for visiting and commenting. I can always count on your loyal support. And I appreciate your praise of my books. I agree with you that I've got some great covers, thanks to Miss Mae and Laura. I hope you are feeling better. I know you are a fighter and a "coper" (new word I just made up) and you'll come out the winner in your battle with Mr. C. Meanwhile, keep writing those wonderful books.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Linda. I'm hanging on, grappling Mr. C to the ground. LOL Laura and Miss Mae do create some awesome covers. It must feel great to have that ability.
      You're welcome for any little thing I can do. Authors need to support one another. It feels good when we do, too.

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  4. I've always written in the "speculative fiction" genre, since I am a lifelong reader and fan of science fiction and fantasy. My first published stories were hard science fiction. However, I came to realize that all fiction, if well written, is speculative-- just as you point out.

    1. Gerald, thank you for your comments. I guess being called a speculative fiction writer came as such a surprise to me since I've never written science fiction and have read very little of it. I just try to write a good story, about whatever has inspired me and then figure out what label to put on it after the fact. My stories at present tend toward historical. Maybe this is because I'm getting a little historical myself.

  5. It's difficult to define what speculative fiction is. To me, it is an umbrella term mostly covering sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and these genres' many offshoots. But I do see how it can be used to describe virtually any kind of fiction that asks the question, "what if." Interesting post.


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