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Science Fiction > Speculative vs Science fiction?

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message 1: by Saleena (new)

Saleena Karim | 30 comments Hi all,
What's the difference between sci-fi and speculative fiction? I was under the impression they're basically the same thing. But there are two separate folders here. I'd love to know if there's a major difference, in case I need to re-think the category of my novel!


message 2: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments No idea. I was of the opinion that 'speculative fiction' is used by certain publishers too pretentious to admit they deal in sci-fi or fantasy (she said jokingly!), but I'm sure there's someone out there ready to educate me otherwise...!


message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (CerebralWriterL) | 3 comments I've always been under the impression that speculative fiction is sci-fi with a literary slant, taking a critical look at various aspects of society by speculating very real possibilities through the sci-fi lens.


message 4: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments As I understand it Speculative fiction is a more encompassing term embracing all literature of the fantastic. Thus Spec fic embraces Fantasy, Modern fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, and all the high breads of these that can come about. On the other hand Science Fiction only embraces those books where the fantastic element is the result of science and technology even if that science or technology is so advanced it is indistinguishable from magic.

That’s just my understanding of it and I hope it’s rite since I write across the speck fic genera.


message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 113 comments I'd always assumed it was a pretentious name for Science Fiction, although I suppose it would more easily encompass stuff which doesn't involve much science/technology.


message 6: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 70 comments Here's the answer, according to Wiki, for what it's worth:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculat...


message 7: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments At present I think it is being taken as the more embracing term by fandome since there has been such an influx of paranormal fans at the SF cons. There was some concern that the Science Fiction audiance was aging and the fan conventions would die but by widening the net as it were the risk of that seems remote.


message 8: by Barry (new)

Barry James (mondragoran) | 18 comments Well, I read the Wikipedia entry and I must say I still don't have a clear understanding of the term. I had an agent tell me I should call my book "speculative fiction" instead of "urban fantasy/horror", but she didn't explain her reasoning, so the suggestion wasn't as helpful as it might have been.


message 9: by Saleena (new)

Saleena Karim | 30 comments Thanks to all! So, broadly speaking it encompasses various shades of fantasy and sci-fi. But I agree with those of you who feel it isn't clearly defined, even on Wiki. So, which would most of you choose, if could choose between speculative and sci-fi?


message 10: by Paul (last edited Mar 04, 2012 01:56AM) (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 113 comments So if "speculative fiction" is a kind of umbrella term to include science fiction, horror, fantasy, religious fiction and other paranormal stuff, that makes sense to me. However I really can't see me using it. I think I'm too used to using the old "Science Fiction and Fantasy" moniker.
On top of that, my last three books are clearly Science Fiction, and I think that term fits them perfectly.


message 11: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments I think Spec Fic has gained popularity because of cross over books and movies like Star Wars, note I am one of those who only acknolages the original three movies not the prequills, shudder! Star Wars blended high tech and magic thus the need for an umbrella term.


message 12: by Chris (new)

Chris Ward (chriswardfictionwriter) It is any fiction that asks, "What if?"


message 13: by Chris (new)

Chris Ward (chriswardfictionwriter) Stephen wrote: "I think Spec Fic has gained popularity because of cross over books and movies like Star Wars, note I am one of those who only acknolages the original three movies not the prequills, shudder! Star W..."

Yeah, totally! Although I thought there were some good bits in the second two movies. Phantom Menace is just junk. I don't know why it's being released in 3D - it'll still suck, it'll just suck a little closer to your face.


message 14: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments Chris wrote: "It is any fiction that asks, "What if?""

Interesting... But if so, what is the 'what if?' question posed by (for example) Star Wars? I like the films, but in the end the six films are no more than a straightforward good-versus-evil fantasy epic against a science-fiction background. At the beginning of Phantom Menace, we have the idea that the Republic is good, the threat of Empire is bad. At the end of The Return of the Jedi, we see that the Empire was bad and the dawning new Republic is good. I can't quite see what is speculative about that.


message 15: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 70 comments Steph wrote: "Chris wrote: "It is any fiction that asks, "What if?""

Interesting... But if so, what is the 'what if?' question posed by (for example) Star Wars? I like the films, but in the end the six films ar..."


What if... long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were princesses and spaceships and knights with light sabers and a special power called The Force? What if there was a Dark side of the Force much more powerful than the good side? Which one would people choose? Which one would win? See... all speculative:)


message 16: by Paul (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 113 comments Chris wrote: "Phantom Menace is just junk. I don't know why it's being released in 3D - it'll still suck, it'll just suck a little closer to your face..."
I haven't seen that many 3D movies, but I have yet to see ANYTHING in simulated 3D (ie movies, Nintendo 3DS, holograms etc.) which appears to project outside of the source surface. I see amazing depth into the screen, very convincing depth perception, but nothing appears to be closer to me than the screen. I thought the adverts showing 2D representations of stuff protruding towards the audience were just hype?


message 17: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 70 comments 3D is just a ploy for the movie studios to make more money on crappy material. If they spent more on screenplay writers instead of CGI, we'd have better movies. Then again, lack of good movies is what keeps people want to read instead, so as a reader I should be happy.

Back on topic, "speculative" to me has always meant concentrating more on universal themes and social issues instead of being centered on a particular scientific invention or magic. Dystopias are commonly grouped with sci-fi, but they are really not, they are just speculative.


message 18: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments I've actually seen some 3D that the objects did appear to project towards you. It was a short film in a museum theatre that was specially designed for the 3D effect. The film was shot specifically to maximise the 3D effect and it was about the northern wilderness through the seasons. Beautiful piece of cinematography. That was the only time I have seen a 3D film that I didn't think a well shot 2D would have been better. Most of the 3D used in theatres just makes me kind a nauseous.

Regarding Spec Fic a science fiction background is in and of itself speculative because you speculate about what science will be able to do. In Tinker's Plague, my first novel, the Plague is speculative because we don't have the tech to make it yet. (Sadly I'm told we're close) The World is also speculative because it asks what would happen if the fossil fuel resource became too scarce to be viable. In Nukekubi, My paranormal detective novel, the speculation is what if there is a spiritual foundation to the creatures and things in myth and legend.

It can be argued that all fiction is speculative but I think when referring to speculative fiction it is a question of a matter of degree. Would most people read the work and say, “that could happen in the here and now.” If they would then it isn’t speculative fiction.

Note: I am more familiar with my work than anyone else’s. As such I use it as an example pertinent to the discussion at hand. Please accept this in the spirit in which it is intended. Thank you.


message 19: by Saleena (last edited Mar 04, 2012 08:05AM) (new)

Saleena Karim | 30 comments Masha wrote: "Back on topic, "speculative" to me has always meant concentrating more on universal themes and social issues instead of being centered on a particular scientific invention or magic. Dystopias are commonly grouped with sci-fi, but they are really not, they are just speculative. "

You know Masha, that helps me a lot. My fiction falls under that exact description - dystopia, social commentary. So, given the choice I'll might go for speculative now. Thanks! (And yeah, I agree the word speculative sounds pretentious, but never mind).

Stephen, you've implied that speculative might also be more geared to fiction that is futuristic in some way. That's probably the reason that it's mostly just grouped with sci-fi, which itself is often based in the future.


message 20: by Paul (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 113 comments So would a book set in an alternative now count as speculative fiction? I mean in the sense of books like Fatherland which is set in a world where the Nazis won World War II. It's clearly not science fiction, more of a detective thriller.

If that is the case, then the term seems to cover some things that scifi, fantasy etc. don't.


message 21: by Saleena (new)

Saleena Karim | 30 comments Good point, Paul.


message 22: by Barry (new)

Barry James (mondragoran) | 18 comments Paul wrote: "So would a book set in an alternative now count as speculative fiction? I mean in the sense of books like Fatherland which is set in a world where the Nazis won World War II. It's clearly not scien..."

Yes, I think that would count. I like the "what if" test, but then it seems that the category is so broad it isn't really useful.


message 23: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments Masha wrote: "What if... long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were princesses and spaceships and knights with light sabers and a special power called The Force? [etc] See... all speculative:)"

But that sort of argument covers all fiction!


message 24: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 182 comments Paul wrote: "So would a book set in an alternative now count as speculative fiction? I mean in the sense of books like Fatherland which is set in a world where the Nazis won World War II..."

Barry wrote: "Yes, I think that would count. I like the "what if" test, but then it seems that the category is so broad it isn't really useful..."


But this also describes The Man in the High Castle, which as I recall is published as science fiction. I think any alternate history stories would have to be sci-fi, as they depend upon the multiverse theories of physics to work. The odd ones are steampunk novels that re-use characters from other fictional works (e.g. The Bookman) - with no attempt to examine alternate historical timelines - yet these are still often classified as sci-fi. It's all very strange.

I remain convinced that 'speculative fiction' as a genre is no more than a marketing ploy!


message 25: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 70 comments Steph wrote: "Masha wrote: "What if... long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were princesses and spaceships and knights with light sabers and a special power called The Force? [etc] See... all speculative:)..."

It doesn't cover stories set in our world, subject to restraints of our physical reality. Sure good and evil exist in our world. So does temptation of power. But it's one thing to be tempted by some extra money or political pull; it's another to be offered something as great as The Dark Side of the Force. The biggest draw of speculative fiction IMO is not necessarily some extra original sci-fi invention or magic (although those are fun). It's being able to explore universal truths and issues in a more dramatic way, without real-world constraints. That's why the speculative genre as a whole has been so successful.


message 26: by Paul (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 113 comments The nearest national chain bookshop to me puts all of Terry Pratchett's work in the Scifi section. Had I been looking for his books I would never have found them. I could see how his stuff might count as "Speculative Fiction", although I'd file them under "Fantasy", but I could never describe them as "Science Fiction"!


message 27: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments I have to agree with you Paul, Terry Pratchett's work is fantasy and satire, Brillant in my opinion but it is what it is. Thus the Speculitive Fiction unbrella can encompous some things the other wise would really have a clear home.


message 28: by Leigh (new)

Leigh Lane (leighmlane) | 152 comments Jaq wrote: "Masha wrote: "Here's the answer, according to Wiki, for what it's worth:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculat..."

That's it. From now on I go pretentious and describe myself as Author of speculative fiction ..."


I'm right there with you. Moreover, "sci-fi" feels more limited, like child's play as it were; "speculative fiction" encompasses so much more (at least in my mind).


message 29: by Marina (new)

Marina Fontaine (marina_fontaine) | 70 comments Now...here's a real question I have NO clue about:

Sci-fi vs. Syfy. I always thought it was a modification for the texting generation, but I've heard there's a real difference.


message 30: by Paul (new)

Paul Vincent (astronomicon) | 113 comments I thought Sci-fi was a genre and Syfy was a television channel?


message 31: by Saleena (new)

Saleena Karim | 30 comments Paul wrote: "I thought Sci-fi was a genre and Syfy was a television channel?"

That's what I thought too.


message 32: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments The Sci-fy SyFy thing comes from fandom. In effect a few years ago the majority of fandom who have real lives and treat it as a hobby wanted to distinguish themselves from the minority who are fanatics instead of fans so they created the distinction. One of them is still considered a derogatory term in fandom though it is seldom used anymore and I'm not quite sure which is which. Note: when a person dressed up as a character from a video game who just stepped out of a D and D tournament to go to a filking competition tells you you need to get a life you really should consider it.


message 33: by David P (last edited Mar 08, 2012 07:56PM) (new)

David P Forsyth (daidpforsyth) | 111 comments The books I wrote (one published on Kindle two months ago and the other to be released at the end of this month) revolve around the zombie apocalypse. However, I consider them to be more sci-fi than horror. They have elements of I am Legend, Dawn of the Dead, and Battlestar Galactica but are set in the present. In fact, Z-Day is April 1, 2012 in my universe (enjoy the ride!). So is that speculative or sci-fi?
David P. Forsyth


message 34: by Stephen (last edited Mar 09, 2012 10:17AM) (new)

Stephen Pearl (stephenp11) | 272 comments Hi Daved, as one is a sub set of the other they could be both. The question is what is your rational for people becoming zombies. If it is supernatural you need to stay with the spec fic definition if however it is something like a virus, 28 days for example, you may be science fiction. However if it is science fiction you need to set and stay withing logical paramiters. At least that's how I see it.


message 35: by David P (new)

David P Forsyth (daidpforsyth) | 111 comments Thanks for the reply Stephen. I agree with that definition and it would make my book(s) sci fi. In my plot it is a virus and everything that transpires is rational and plausible following that one assumption -- that a virus can turn normal people into rabid and cannibalistic zombies.

There is no supernatural intervention, as in The Stand or later books in the Dies the Fire series. While I loved both of those, I felt the device of supernatural intervention detracted from the purity of otherwise well devised and rational plot lines.

That is one reason that I listed Voyage of the Dead in Science Fiction Adventure as well as horror, even though other writers were telling me that "zombies are ALWAYS considered horror." I guess I'll let the readers judge...


message 36: by Ian (new)

Ian Loome (lhthomson) | 101 comments One of my books is speculative science fiction -- a lot of it is where I'd see the logical progression of humanity headed, but it's all purely theoretical.


message 37: by Chaeya (new)

Chaeya | 22 comments Hmm, I think it would work as a tag better, but like someone said above, I'm too used to using sci-fi/fantasy to describe my upcoming book. I guess it depends on where you plan to market your story. I think Speculative Fiction is too broad a subject in most arenas; however, if you get around a snobby bunch, you can say very hautily: "I write speculative fiction," and they won't choke on their tea. I like that.

Chaeya


message 38: by Ian (new)

Ian Loome (lhthomson) | 101 comments Chaeya wrote: "Hmm, I think it would work as a tag better, but like someone said above, I'm too used to using sci-fi/fantasy to describe my upcoming book. I guess it depends on where you plan to market your story..."

Maybe it's literally just the science basis. Speculative fiction, to be, connotes sociological progression, whereas science fiction would encompass a broader spectrum, including technological and biological changes.


message 39: by Chaeya (new)

Chaeya | 22 comments L.H. wrote: .Maybe it's literally just the science basis. Speculative fiction, to be, connotes sociological progression, whereas science fiction would encompass a broader spectrum, including technological and biological changes.
."


Yeah, I get what you're saying, but I can just see people still asking "but what's it about?" I'm interested to see this more in action. From what I've Googled, it seems people have their own expectations from the label. However, I feel safe enough to use it with my own story, given the world-building and the sociological issues brought to fore, moreso than technological.


message 40: by David P (new)

David P Forsyth (daidpforsyth) | 111 comments I think I will stick with "Science Fiction". The Kindle Book Review wrote about Voyage of the Dead "The story makes enough sense that it could be possible."

Their review today of the second book, Flotilla of the Dead, was even more encouraging:

#2 in the series and without a doubt will read #3 when available., April 15, 2012
By
The Kindle Book Review - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)
This review is from: Flotilla of the Dead (Sovereign Spirit Saga) (Kindle Edition)
Is book #2 as good as #1 in the series? Yes.

Book #2 is a very different storyline than #1. Which is good.

Book #2 ends like a good series book should. Reaching some significant conclusion, leaving a couple in the air, and briefly laying the groundwork and giving a couple of hints for the next book.

The plot and storyline lends itself easily to being a long and enjoyable series. A second author could easily create a series within a series. An example of this would be all of Star Wars books that were created out of the original storyline.

This reviewer rates this book 4.2 stars (rounded down to 4 stars). Remember, a 4 star rating means a fan of this genre will enjoy the book.

Anthony Wessel reviewsbooks for The Kindle Book Review and is the founder of DigitalBookToday.com - Helping Readers Find Authors in a Digital World.


message 41: by David (new)

David Logan (davidlogan) | 4 comments Saleena wrote: "Hi all,
What's the difference between sci-fi and speculative fiction? I was under the impression they're basically the same thing. But there are two separate folders here. I'd love to know if ther..."


Good Question, Saleen. My novel, Half Sick of Shadows, was joint winner of the Terry Pratchett prize. I think of it as speculative fiction. It's easier to say what it's not. It's not hard science fiction. It's not swords, wizards and elves. It has been described as fantasy and Sci Fi, but I still prefer "speculative". In more direct reply to your question, I think of speculative as something of an umbrella term that catches books falling outside a specific this or that.


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