Speculative--what's that mean?

Different people seem to be using this word in different ways. For some, it's essentially a way to encompass the entire field of fantastic (or non-mimetic as I've seen some call it) literature. Any story that posits a world that is not compatible with today's world, whether that's fantasy or sci-fi, horror or surreal, slipstream, interstitial or cross-genre. I'd say that most often this is how I use it.

Other times, I see it used for the more literary stories within the genre, and I do admit that one reason I choose the word is because of this association. It's not limited to the cross-genre (etc.) stories that push against genre boundaries, though that's included, but also those that reside firmly within genre conventions...and yet don't settle for poor writing or stereotypical characters or plotlines. Deep genre, I've seen one group of writers try to call this--I'm not convinced that the phrase is entirely useful, but I check their blog now and then, and I like at least that they're examining this.

But other times, it seems like people mean something more explicit, something where the speculation is foregrounded in some way. My initial feeling is that many of those using it this way are the Hard SF fans who want another way to separate their favorite types of stories from others in the field, but that may not explain them all. I had a (clearly fantasy though not stereotypical by any means) story rejected from one magazine because the editor felt it wasn't speculative enough. He liked the story, had some nice praise for the characters, but the ending didn't seem speculative to him. This baffled me. I found the story as a whole very speculative, not just a story that could happen in our world transplanted, but genuinely a part of the speculative setting. And the speculation was woven throughout, but always subtly, never foregrounded to take away from the story itself.

The first issue of that magazine is now out (it wasn't at the time I submitted), and the two stories are more sci-fi than fantasy, so maybe that's his preference. I think it is more common in some SF to foreground the speculation more, and in fantasy it tends to be more metaphorical and incorporated at a deeper level. So maybe that's this editor's preference. But that's not the direction I want the use of the word to go, because that will just build up the walls within the genre once again.


Mirtika said…
Contact me. You get STRANGE TRAVELERS. :)

Mirathon atsy aol dotsy com.

Need the snail mail (and whatever mailing name I should use) for the USPS.

Mirtika said…
Oh, and please enter your scifaiku at the DKAmagazine.com poetry contest. Cash prizes. No entry fee. :)

Daniel Ausema said…
Great! I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in it. And I'll take a look at that contest. Thanks!
Celina Summers said…
LMAO ! Now that's networking, Dan!