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Speculative fiction

 
 
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 07:21 pm
I just came across the term "speculative fiction" and I'm confused.

From what I've been reading it seems as if it's basically a sub-genera of science fiction, but one that doesn't focus too much on the science aspect.

And it's also a sub-genera of historical fiction, one where the author gets to make up reasons for things being the way they were.

But it seems to me that all fiction could rightly be called speculative fiction.

I ran across the term when I was looking for a book for Mo and happened upon "The Age of Miracles". This book takes place during a time that the rotation of the Earth has slowed down and messed things up but (?) the book isn't really about the Earth slowing down and why it slowed down.

Could someone clarify this genera for me? What makes a book speculative fiction? Could you name some famous books in this genera and tell me what it is about them that makes them speculative fiction as opposed to simply fiction?

Thanks!

Thanks!
 
roger
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 07:41 pm
@boomerang,
I guess (speculate) that, current, or at least plausible science applied to a new situation becomes speculative fiction. It is a good medium to use when exploring human nature.

Much of the science fiction I see is so implausible as to become fantasy.
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 07:58 pm
@boomerang,
It's simple to me. It's a historical based novel with an ahistorical twist.

Like: What would the world be like if Hitler won World War II?

I've only read Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. The story's setting is the speculative fiction. The author speculates on the position of what would happen if Israel was not allowed to created in the middle east after WWII. That the United States allowed a colony of Jews to settle in Alaska.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 07:58 pm
@roger,
Maybe so, roger.

If that's the case I think I just haven't read enough sci-fi to differentiate the two.

At first I thought that perhaps it was just a label for young adult fiction that didn't relate to wizards or dragons or vampires but it seems to be a bigger category than that.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 08:08 pm
@boomerang,
Well, wizards, dragons, vampires, and maybe a few alternate universes, and spaceships that make u-turns.

I think I relate the difference to some abstract geometries. You make an assumption, and everything has to fit into the world of that assumption. If something falls to the ceiling instead of the floor, the writer owes us a darn good explanation.

Actually, I don't really know the difference, either. Just tossing up ideas that crossed the mind/brain barrier, which is something I just made up.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 08:35 pm
First, let me point out that the correct term is genre--although one could take the philosophical definition of things having family resemblance, genre is the specific literary term for literature belonging to a specific class.

I've run across the term speculative fiction, too, and have found it not to be a helpful term. I agree with you that it is not specific enough to embrace a recognizable genre, and can be so broadly applied as to be almost meaningless. I have seen it most often in reference to science fiction, but all science fiction is speculative. I don't think that all fiction is necessarily speculative, but damned near all of it. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote a series of stories and novels about a world she called Darkover. According the the forward of one edition of one of the novels, she wrote her first story (it isn't clear, but it may have been a failed attempt at a novel) at the age of 15--The Sword of Aldones. She eventually created a pretty rich literary world--but in another forward, she describes it as science fantasy, not science fiction. I think that was her recognition that science was only an excuse. Much of what is called science fiction is actually what Zimmer Bradley calls science fantasy. Speculative fiction would be a good name for that sort of writing, if it were understood to refer to that particular branch of science fiction.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 10:40 pm
@tsarstepan,
Maybe....

I think the term is applied in a much broader sense, and that is what makes it doubly confusing.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Jan, 2013 10:47 pm
@Setanta,
You're right, of course -- genre, not genera is the right term. Damn spell check being right when the word is actually wrong.

It isn't a helpful term and I really do wish it was. It would help me narrow down books that I think Mo might like if I could eliminate all the magical and unbelievable things he dislikes.

Now I'll have to consider science fantasy v. science fiction into my equation.

Argh!
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 03:54 am
@boomerang,
Sorry . . . do you run across the term speculative fiction quite often? As for science fantasy, i don't think that's a common term, i just think it ought to be. Fantasy literature has sword and sorcery as a major sub-genre, too. This isn't helping, either, is it? If you could describe what he likes, maybe i could come up with some ideas.
spendius
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 04:05 am
@boomerang,
Rider Haggard is speculative fiction on a grand scale and a lot of young lads, and mature men, like that. Not many in between. King Solomon's Mines is pretty good.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 04:51 am
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:

Maybe....

I think the term is applied in a much broader sense, and that is what makes it doubly confusing.

People here are first and foremost forgetting its a goofy publisher's marketing term. That the publisher has some logical and consistent academic reason for having the subgenre altogether.

When it's in fact the opposite. The reason why this subgenre is so bloody vague and overreaching is that the publishing industry is so damn OCD in its need to find a genre/subgenre for EVERY book it publishes. Books that don't neatly fit into any given fiction genre/subgenre get thrown into these untidy subgenres simply to appease the marketing department.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:17 am
@Setanta,
I really just started running across it and had high hopes that it might be a good guide for finding books that he would like.

If I narrow down the common elements of books that he has liked I suppose that they all feel fairly contemporary, and that they're about kids his age or slightly older -- kids who survive by their wits instead of magic or super powers or supernatural powers.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:17 am
@spendius,
I'll check those out, thanks!
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  2  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:22 am
@boomerang,
Quote:
kids who survive by their wits instead of magic or super powers or supernatural powers.


He will love King Solomon's Mines in that case.

I would recommend Frank Harris's My Life and Loves if I knew his age.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:23 am
@boomerang,
Try two classics by Robert Louis Stevenson--Treasure Island and Kidnapped. He might also like The Black Arrow by Stevenson, although if he doesn't know about knights in armor, or doesn't care about them, this might not appeal to him. It's set in the Wars of the Roses (15th century) and the characters of interest are a little older than him. It contains some romance, but no really yucky scenes.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:26 am
@boomerang,
I think that calling things "speculative fiction" has gone out of vogue.

IMO, "speculative fiction" was a) an attempt to "legitimize" science fiction and fantasy and b) a handy term that could bring several genres under the umbrella "SF."
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:32 am
@tsarstepan,
You're right. But I could use a little help from the marketing department.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:39 am
I have tried to get him into the classic adventure stories (he did love "The Red Badge of Courage") but so far they've fallen flat. I think it's just the pacing of the stories -- it takes longer to get to the action.

Maybe I should look for abridged versions....

I can't believe I'm suggesting that. (Sigh.)
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:43 am
@boomerang,
"Juvenile" science fiction novels are quite common. Heinlein wrote a whole slew of them, and Jerry Pournelle has a line of juvenile novels that he's attached his name to (I think).

I wouldn't recommend most of Heinlein's stuff anymore, although I think Space Cadet might hold up well as an adventure yarn.

Jerry Pournelle's Starswarm, Pournelle/Sheffield's Higher Education, Pournell/Niven's The Mote in God's Eye.

The Hornblower series.

Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber.

Most of what Lois McMaster Bujold has written - the Vorkosigan series, the Chalion series, the Sharing Knife series.

Niven's The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring (Looks like fantasy but is actually hard science fiction)

Frank Hebert's Dune

Timothy Zahn - The Blackcollar, the Cobra series, his Star Wars novels

Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, and Anathem

ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2013 08:44 am
@boomerang,
If he doesn't like the fiction part of the books, why not just head off to the e-book library and download biographies and autobiographies?

I'm a fan of the adrenaline anthologies by Clint Willis. I've discovered some authors I really liked through the anthologies and gone on to find full books by those authors. Some fiction, some non-fiction.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518NAQT91PL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SME59WFBL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41TJY5QB8PL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

this one is my personal favorite

http://i43.tower.com/images/mm101891113/high-seas-clint-willis-paperback-cover-art.jpg
 

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