You’ve probably heard of science fiction, and fantasy and horror. These are the three main subsets of… Of what? Genre fiction?
No, genre fiction includes westerns, and romance, and mysteries, but these sub-genres are distinctly different from science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They are treated separately, whereas SF/F/H are often grouped together as variations of the same thing, something we at SpecFicNZ like to call Speculative Fiction.
Yes, we are aware that the term Speculative Fiction was originally coined by Robert Heinlein in 1941 as a preferred term for his work, which was certainly primarily science fiction. In fact, his definition distinctly ruled out fantasy as speculative.
We are also aware that Speculative Fiction has been used to give certain genre works a more “literary” nomenclature. Some would argue that to be labeled speculative a work has to say something deep and significant about the human condition. We tend to think that all good stories say something deep and significant about the human condition.
What we are most aware of is that the meaning of the term Speculative Fiction has changed over the years. This is an inherent attribute of language, in fact. Words that once meant one thing, now mean another.
Common consensus of the writing community at the moment seems to lean toward a definition something like this:
SPECULATIVE FICTION is an inclusive, umbrella term meant to span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing writing ranging from hard science fiction, to epic fantasy, to paranormal fiction, to horror, to folk and fairy tales, to slipstream, to magical realism, to modern myth-making — and more. The term eliminates the need for the separation between the “what if” genres because they are, in essence, different forms of one thing. It allows for the blend and cross-over of genres that is becoming increasingly popular among the current generation of writers and readers of non-realistic fiction.
This is our own definition, but you are free to brandish it about and make it The Definition of Speculative Fiction. We think it is that good. Just be sure to give us credit.
Most of all, we like the term Speculative Fiction because it simultaneously encourages diversity and unity in the writing community.