What is Speculative Fiction?

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By

Fiona Staples

Fiona Staples

So you know that Juggernaut is looking for speculative fiction submissions, right. But what exactly do we mean by that?
‘Speculative fiction’ is an umbrella term for stories that are in some way fantastical, or speculate on the future or worlds other than our own. They can be set in our world or other worlds and planets; in the present day, or in the past, or in the future. They can read like literary fiction or commercial fiction.

The term itself isn’t important. Speculative fiction is not one ‘genre.’ It’s a couple of words someone put together to distinguish realist fiction (fiction that imitates the real world) from non-realist fiction (fiction that doesn’t necessarily remain faithful to the real world, however one may define ‘real’).

Warren Ellis/Darick Robertson

Warren Ellis/Darick Robertson

 

What matters are the stories themselves. What we’re looking for, when we say speculative fiction, is beautifully written, deeply imaginative, character-based fiction that doesn’t necessarily stick to the known rules of the ‘real’ world or the present day. Good fiction: the genre is irrelevant, in the end.
Following are a few examples of the excellent South Asian speculative writing that already exists out there—gorgeous, well-written stories rooted in the culture of the subcontinent, doing things realist fiction can’t. This is the kind of writing we’re looking for:

  • This Sullied Earth, Our Home by Monidipa Mondal. A historical fantasy that features a travelling circus, mandragores, jinn, and magical battles without ever losing sight of its own mud-splattered realism in evoking a turn-of-the-century Indian village and its characters.
  • Documentary by Vajra Chandrasekera. A lyrical science-fiction story that defies description—a woman cursed to shapeshift into a combat helicopter under the full moon comes to realize her burden is to carry the pain of war itself.
  • Six Things We Found During the Autopsy by Kuzhali Manickavel. A surreal prose poem of sorts, alive in its own language and imagery. The reader becomes a medium, channeling the dream-life of a dead woman.
  • Ishq by Usman Tanveer Malik. A love story that’s also a horror story, conveying the terror of bodily attraction and decay through the wistful lens of familial memories passed down.

You’ll notice that all the above stories are completely different with just two things in common: they’re great stories, and they’re all ‘speculative fiction.’

2 Comments

  1. Chelsea McGill / February 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm /Reply

    Not to mention The Devourers by Indrapramit Das. 😉 thanks for the list; will check these out.

  2. Abha Iyengar / February 24, 2016 at 10:58 am /Reply

    I enjoyed the story ‘Ishq’. Thanks for the introduction to a new writer of speculative fiction, I did not know of his work. I write speculative fiction as well, and have some stories published on sites like Bewildering Stories. I have “Devourers” with me, it is on my reading list.

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