What is speculative fiction? Most people are familiar with genres like fantasy and sci-fi, but fewer people know what speculative fiction means. I wasn’t familiar with the term myself until a few years ago. The truth is, if you’ve read fantasy or sci-fi, you’ve read speculative fiction.
Here’s the basic definition: Speculative fiction is a broad genre that involves supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. That includes fantasy, sci-fi, and everything in between: dystopian literature, medieval fantasy, retellings of Arthurian legend, space operas, paranormal romance, supernatural thrillers… You name it.
Speculative fiction has gotten a lot of attention from the movie-making industry in recent years, with films based on popular speculative fiction stories: The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Divergent series by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, Eragon by Christopher Paolini, the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis…and so on and so forth.
“Speculative fiction” is a useful term to summarize those difficult-to-categorize tales. I’ve wrangled over classifying some of my own stories. Is Reflections supernatural horror? Fantasy? Soft sci-fi? I can clearly say that it is speculative fiction, and my reader can determine if Reflections falls into his favorite brand of speculative fiction, based on the description.
For those who are speculative fiction fans like me, here are a few places to find new speculative fiction (sometimes with great deals on Kindle versions!):
I’ve been following this publisher for a while now, and have read a few books from Enclave. (Namely, John Otte’s Failstate, a collection of short stories called Ether Ore, and I’m currently working through Jill William’s By Darkness Hid. Let’s just say that I have several more on my “to read” list.) So far, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read.
Although the quality and the depth of the themes vary from author to author, I like the fact that I can count on the books to be clean and fast-paced. Now, when I say “clean,” that doesn’t mean that the authors don’t touch on some gritty subjects. It just means that, when exposed to sexual/romantic themes, you won’t be treated to any titillating details; you’ll find nary a swear word (though you might encounter some made-up expostulations); and although suspense may be intense, the violence will not be graphic. I don’t believe that being grown-up means having the license to wallow in violence, sex, and filthy language, so this higher standard gets two thumbs up from me!
Galaxy Press is the publishing arm of the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest, a quarterly contest open to new authors of speculative fiction. The quality of talent varies, in my opinion, but the yearly anthologies of 12 speculative fiction novelettes are fascinating.
I waited a long time to get my first anthology—obviously not because of expense, since they are quite fairly priced. I’m sorry I waited so long, since the stories are so various and so imaginative that they have inspired some of my own stories, entertained me for hours, and gotten me through many monotonous winter afternoons on the treadmill.
Although the contest prohibits excessive violence, swearing, or sexual content, I would say that the Writers of the Future anthologies are middle-of-the-road as far as cleanliness. Some stories have no potentially offensive content, while others toe the line. The content is meant for adults, and I would definitely recommend the books only to an adult readership.
The whole idea of Wattpad is free books. Yes, that’s right: FREE BOOKS. The experience was designed for the bookworm who only has time to read in short bursts, perhaps while on a commuter bus, or in between classes, or when the baby goes down for a quick nap. From short stories to novels, all are available in easily-consumable episodes or chapters. If a book is new enough, you may have to wait until the author posts the next chapter, but I would say that that's a good problem to have. If you're not waiting hungrily at the edge of your seat for the next episode, find another book.
Wattpad has grown to be one of the places for new authors to begin gathering a readership, and to get noticed by potential publishers. You can search by genre, and begin reading right away. With the Wattpad app, you can have an entire e-library right at your fingertips.
If you haven’t signed up for Wattpad, I’d highly suggest that you do so. Consider it your electronic library.
*Snicker* Just had to put that in here. Joking aside, I do review speculative fiction books often (you can see my reviews here and also on my Goodreads profile). I will continue to post information on resources within the speculative fiction genre, as I find them. And, of course, I also periodically share new speculative fiction works of my own, from my “five minute fiction” series to full novels (available as soon as they are worthy of public consumption). You can find out about my fiction here.
If you know of any speculative fiction resources, or have just recently read a fantastic speculative fiction book, let me know in the comments below!