Speculative fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing fiction with certain elements that do not exist in the real world, often in the context of supernatural, futuristic or other imaginative themes.This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, horror, utopian and dystopian fiction, fairytale fantasy, supernatural fiction as well as combinations thereof (e.g. science fantasy).
Genre is any form or type of communication in any mode with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. Genre is most popularly known as a category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical, communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions. Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while others may show great flexibility.
Fiction broadly refers to any narrative that is derived from the imagination—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact. It can also refer, more narrowly, to narratives written only in prose, and is often used as a synonym for the novel. In cinema it corresponds to narrative film in opposition to documentary as far as novel to feature film and short story to short film.
Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. It often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.
Speculative fiction differs from other types of fiction such as slice of life and from non-fiction.
Slice of life is the depiction of mundane experiences in art and entertainment. In theater it refers to naturalism, while in literary parlance it is a narrative technique in which a seemingly arbitrary sequence of events in a character's life is presented, often lacking plot development, conflict and exposition, and often having an open ending.
Non-fiction or nonfiction is content whose creator, in good faith, assumes responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the events, people, or information presented. In contrast, a story whose creator explicitly leaves open if and how the work refers to reality is usually classified as fiction. Nonfiction, which may be presented either objectively or subjectively, is traditionally one of the two main divisions of narratives, the other traditional division being fiction, which contrasts with nonfiction by dealing in information, events, and characters expected to be partly or largely imaginary.
Speculative fiction as a category ranges from ancient works to both paradigm-changing and neotraditional works of the 21st century.Speculative fiction can be recognized in works whose authors' intentions or the social contexts of the versions of stories they portrayed are now known, since ancient Greek dramatists such as Euripides (ca. 480–406 BCE) whose play Medea seems to have offended Athenian audiences when he fictionally speculated that shamaness Medea killed her own children instead of their being killed by other Corinthians after her departure, and whose play Hippolytus , narratively introduced by Aphrodite, Goddess of Love in person, is suspected to have displeased his contemporary audiences because he portrayed Phaedra as too lusty.
An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existence to anything" and whose authorship determines responsibility for what was created.
In literary theory and aesthetics, authorial intent refers to an author's intent as it is encoded in their work. Authorial intentionalism is the view, according to which an author's intentions should constrain the ways in which it is properly interpreted.
Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.
In historiography, what is now called speculative fiction has previously been termed "historical invention","historical fiction", and similar names. It is extensively noted in literary criticism of the works of William Shakespeare as when he co-locates Athenian Duke Theseus and Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, English fairy Puck, and Roman god Cupid across time and space in the Fairyland of its Merovingian Germanic sovereign Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic—such as the historiography of the United Kingdom, that of WWII, the British Empire, early Islam, and China—and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the development of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—remains a debated question.
Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Although the term is commonly used as a synonym for the historical novel, it can also be applied to other types of narrative, including theatre, opera, cinema and television, as well as video games and graphic novels.
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
In mythography the concept of speculative fiction has been termed "mythopoesis" or mythopoeia, "fictional speculation", the creative design and generation of lore, regarding such works as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings .Such supernatural, alternate history and sexuality themes continue in works produced within the modern speculative fiction genre.
Mythopoeia is a narrative genre in modern literature and film where a fictional or artificial mythology is created by the writer of prose or other fiction. This meaning of the word mythopoeia follows its use by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 1930s. The authors in this genre integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, who is best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.
The creation of speculative fiction in its general sense of hypothetical history, explanation, or ahistorical storytelling has also been attributed to authors in ostensibly non-fiction mode since as early as Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fl. 5th century BCE), in his Histories ,and was already both practiced and edited out by early encyclopaedic writers like Sima Qian (ca. 145 or 135 BCE–86 BCE), author of Shiji.
History is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.
An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts. This description of the facts et cetera may establish rules or laws, and may clarify the existing rules or laws in relation to any objects, or phenomena examined. The components of an explanation can be implicit, and interwoven with one another.
Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and narrative point of view.
These examples highlight the caveat that many works now regarded as intentional or unintentional speculative fiction long predate the coining of the genre term; its concept in its broadest sense captures both a conscious and unconscious aspect of human psychology in making sense of the world, and responding to it by creating imaginative, inventive, and artistic expressions. Such expressions can contribute to practical progress through interpersonal influences, social and cultural movements, scientific research and advances, and philosophy of science.
In its English-language usage in arts and literature since the mid 20th century, "speculative fiction" as a genre term is often attributed to Robert A. Heinlein. He first used the term in an editorial in The Saturday Evening Post, February 8, 1947. In the article, Heinlein used "Speculative Fiction" as a synonym for "science fiction"; in a later piece, he explicitly stated that his use of the term did not include fantasy. However, though Heinlein may have come up with the term on his own, there are earlier citations: a piece in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1889 used the term in reference to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000–1887 and other works; and one in the May 1900 issue of The Bookman said that John Uri Lloyd's Etidorhpa, The End of the Earth had "created a great deal of discussion among people interested in speculative fiction". A variation on this term is "speculative literature".
The use of "speculative fiction" in the sense of expressing dissatisfaction with traditional or establishment science fiction was popularized in the 1960s and early 1970s by Judith Merril and other writers and editors, in connection with the New Wave movement. It fell into disuse around the mid-1970s.
The Internet Speculative Fiction Database contains a broad list of different subtypes.
In the 2000s, the term came into wider use as a convenient collective term for a set of genres. However, some writers, such as Margaret Atwood, continue to distinguish "speculative fiction" specifically as a "no Martians" type of science fiction, "about things that really could happen."
Academic journals which publish essays on speculative fiction include Extrapolation , and Foundation .
According to publisher statistics, men outnumber women about two to one among English-language speculative fiction writers aiming for professional publication. However, the percentages vary considerably by genre, with women outnumbering men in the fields of urban fantasy, paranormal romance and young adult fiction.
"Speculative fiction" is sometimes abbreviated "spec-fic", "specfic","S-F", "SF" or "sf". However, the last three abbreviations are ambiguous as they have long been used to refer to science fiction (which lies within this general range of literature ) and in several other contexts.
The term has been used by some critics and writers dissatisfied with, what they consider, the limitations of science fiction: i.e., a need for the story to hold to strict scientific principles. They feel the term "Speculative Fiction" better defines an expanded, open, imaginative fiction, stories typically dismissed as "genre fiction", such as "Fantasy," "Mystery," "Horror," "Science Fiction," etc.Harlan Ellison used the term to avoid being pigeonholed as a writer. Ellison, a fervent proponent of writers embracing more literary and modernist directions, broke out of genre conventions to push the boundaries of "Speculative Fiction."
The term "suppositional fiction" is sometimes used as a sub-category designating fiction in which characters and stories are constrained by an internally consistent world, but not necessarily one defined by any particular genre.
Speculative fiction may include elements of one or more of the following genres:
|Fantasy||Includes elements and beings originating from or inspired by traditional stories, such as mythical creatures (dragons, elves, dwarves and fairies, for example), magic, witchcraft, potions, etc.||The Lord of the Rings , The Chronicles of Narnia , Harry Potter , A Song of Ice and Fire|
|Science fiction (sci-fi)||Features technologies and other elements that do not exist in real life but may be supposed to be created or discovered in the future through scientific advancement, such as advanced robots, interstellar travel, aliens, time travel, mutants and cyborgs. Many sci-fi stories are set in the future.||The Time Machine , Dune , Star Trek , 2001: A Space Odyssey , Planet of the Apes , The Left Hand of Darkness , Star Wars , Blade Runner , Jurassic Park|
|Horror||Focuses on terrifying stories that incite fear. Villains may be either supernatural, such as monsters, vampires, ghosts and demons, or mundane people, such as psychopathic and cruel murderers. Often features violence and death.||The Exorcist , A Nightmare on Elm Street , Books of Blood , The Hellbound Heart|
|Utopian||Takes place in a highly desirable society, often presented as advanced, happy, intelligent or even perfect or problem-free.||Island , Ecotopia , 17776|
|Dystopian||Takes place in a highly undesirable society, often plagued with strict control, violence, chaos, brainwashing or other negative elements.||Brave New World , 1984 , Brazil , The Handmaid's Tale , The Hunger Games|
|Alternate history||Focusing on historical events as if they happened in a different way, and their implications in the present.||The Man In The High Castle , The Last Starship from Earth , The Tales of Alvin Maker , The Guns of the South , Fatherland|
|Apocalyptic||Takes place before and during a massive, worldwide catastrophe, typically a climatic or pandemic natural disaster of extremely large scale or a nuclear holocaust.||On The Beach , Threads , The Day After Tomorrow , 2012|
|Post-apocalyptic||Focuses on groups of survivors after similar massive, worldwide disasters.||The Stand , Mad Max , Waterworld , Fallout , Metro 2033|
|Superhero||Centers on superheroes (i.e., heroes with extraordinary abilities or powers) and their fight against evil forces such as supervillains. Typically incorporates elements of science fiction or fantasy, and may be a subgenre of them.||DC , Marvel , Kamen Rider , Super Sentai , Metal Heroes , Power Rangers|
|Supernatural||Similar to horror, it exploits or requires as plot devices or themes some contradictions of the commonplace natural world and materialist assumptions about it.||The Castle of Otranto , Weaveworld , Imajica , Paranormal Activity , Fallen|
Feminist science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction focused on theories that include feminist themes including but not limited to gender inequality, sexuality, race, economics, and reproduction. Feminist SF is political because of its tendency to critique the dominant culture. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.
Science fiction and fantasy serve as important vehicles for feminist thought, particularly as bridges between theory and practice. No other genres so actively invite representations of the ultimate goals of feminism: worlds free of sexism, worlds in which women's contributions are recognized and valued, worlds that explore the diversity of women's desire and sexuality, and worlds that move beyond gender.
Lester del Rey was an American science fiction author and editor. He was the author of many books in the juvenile Winston Science Fiction series, and the editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey.
Science fantasy is a mixed genre within the umbrella of speculative fiction which simultaneously draws upon or combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy. In a science-fiction story, the world is scientifically possible, while a science-fantasy world contains elements which violate the scientific laws of the real world. Nevertheless the world of science fantasy is logical and often is supplied with science-like explanations of these violations.
LGBT themes in speculative fiction include lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) themes in science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction and related genres. Such elements may include an LGBT character as the protagonist or a major character, or explorations of sexuality or gender that deviate from the hetero-normative.
The Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction is an annual literary award for Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. Only Australians are eligible for the award.
Karen Anderson was the wife and sometime co-author of Poul Anderson and mother-in-law of writer Greg Bear. She also saw published fiction she wrote by herself, and essays solo and in collaboration with her husband and others.
Social science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction, usually soft science fiction, concerned less with technology/space opera and more with speculation about society. In other words, it "absorbs and discusses anthropology" and speculates about human behavior and interactions.
Speculative poetry is a genre of poetry that focusses on fantastic, science fictional and mythological themes. It is also known as science fiction poetry or fantastic poetry. It is distinguished from other poetic genres by being categorized by its subject matter, rather than by the poetry's form. Suzette Haden Elgin defined the genre as "about a reality that is in some way different from the existing reality."
Fantasy television is a genre of television programming featuring elements of the fantastic, often including magic, supernatural forces, or exotic fantasy worlds. Fantasy television programs are often based on tales from mythology and folklore, or are adapted from fantasy stories in other media. The boundaries of fantasy television often overlap with science fiction and horror.
Phyllis Eisenstein is an American author of science fiction and fantasy short stories and novels whose work has been nominated for both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award.
Everett Franklin Bleiler was an American editor, bibliographer, and scholar of science fiction, detective fiction, and fantasy literature. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he co-edited the first "year's best" series of science fiction anthologies, and his Checklist of Fantastic Literature has been called "the foundation of modern SF bibliography". Among his other scholarly works are two Hugo Award–nominated volumes concerning early science fiction—Science-Fiction: The Early Years and Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years—and the massive Guide to Supernatural Fiction.
There have been many attempts at defining science fiction. This is a list of definitions that have been offered by authors, editors, critics and fans over the years since science fiction became a genre. Definitions of related terms such as "science fantasy", "speculative fiction", and "fabulation" are included where they are intended as definitions of aspects of science fiction or because they illuminate related definitions—see e.g. Robert Scholes's definitions of "fabulation" and "structural fabulation" below. Some definitions of sub-types of science fiction are included, too; for example see David Ketterer's definition of "philosophically-oriented science fiction". In addition, some definitions are included that define, for example, a science fiction story, rather than science fiction itself, since these also illuminate an underlying definition of science fiction.
Gender has been an important theme explored in speculative fiction. The genres that make up speculative fiction (SF), science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction horror, superhero fiction, science fantasy and related genres, have always offered the opportunity for writers to explore social conventions, including gender, gender roles, and beliefs about gender. Like all literary forms, the science fiction genre reflects the popular perceptions of the eras in which individual creators were writing; and those creators' responses to gender stereotypes and gender roles.
Black science fiction or black speculative fiction is an umbrella term that covers a variety of activities within the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres where people of the African diaspora take part or are depicted. Some of its defining characteristics include a critique of the social structures leading to black oppression paired with an investment in social change. Black science fiction is "fed by technology but not led by it." This means that black science fiction often explores with human engagement with technology instead of technology as an innate good.
Speculative fiction is defined as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Within those categories exists many other subcategories, for example cyberpunk, magical realism, and psychological horror.
The Aurealis Awards are presented annually by the Australia-based Chimaera Publications and WASFF to published works in order to "recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy, horror writers". To qualify, a work must have been first published by an Australian citizen or permanent resident between 1 January and 31 December of the corresponding year; the presentation ceremony is held the following year. It has grown from a small function of around 20 people to a two-day event attended by over 200 people.
In 1948, 10–15% of science fiction writers were female. Women's role in speculative fiction has grown since then, and in 1999, women comprised 36% of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's professional members. Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley has been called the first science fiction novel, although women wrote utopian novels even before that, with Margaret Cavendish publishing the first in the seventeenth century. Early published fantasy was written by and for both genders. However, speculative fiction, with science fiction in particular, has traditionally been viewed as a male-oriented genre.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to science fiction:
Tokyo Sogensha Co., Ltd. is a Japanese publisher of mystery fiction, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction and social science, based in Tokyo.
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