What is Speculative Fiction?

Posted June 8, 2017 by Ari in Home, Lit Life / 53 Comments

Defining genres is an ongoing process. With an accumulation of labels, changing tastes, and specific preferences, it’s invaluable to know the basic elements that separate one literary genre from another.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term. It’s like saying “I like sweets” rather than saying “I like donuts and brownies, specifically.” Speculative Fiction encompasses three subgenres of fiction: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror.

Oversimplifications aside, Speculative Fiction is any fictional world where the laws are dissimilar to ours. This results in extensive world-building, which is a staple in all novels that fall under this umbrella.
So, why do you need the term Speculative Fiction? Why can’t you just label your work as one of its subgenres and save yourself the vagueness of the word? Well, the vagueness of the word is helpful to you, especially if your work:

  1. Encompasses elements of more than one of the subgenres.
  2. Does not neatly fit into a single subgenre perfectly.

Using the sweets example, you might have a donut made of brownie batter that doesn’t fit into either category completely. It’s not just a donut nor is it a brownie. Thus, Speculative Fiction.
Instead of saying, “here is my Science fiction novel with elements of Fantasy or Horror,” you can label your manuscript as Speculative Fiction to better describe where it belongs. Plus it takes up less space in your query letter.
Want to explore genres further? Check out Ten Genres Defined

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