By Brock Eastman Article first appeared in Family Fiction Edge in August 2014
Speculative fiction doesn’t exist on its own; instead it burrows itself within genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, and horror like a mutant-slime trying to take over the ‘body’ of the story. All that’s required is a single story component levitating right outside of our reality, then you’ll find yourself reading a tale of speculative fiction. It’s often an unexpected twist of the impossible, a creepy troll, a man with multiple lives, a cat transfiguring into a child. If written well the twist seems quite possible. The story might make you check the shifting shadows under your bed for glowing eyes, hesitate taking a dip in a murky lake because of that bumpy log, or search the night sky for an unworldly flash of light. At the same time the story could take you far outside the realm of the possible with elements so spectacular that you can’t imagine it ever happening, legions of axe wielding dwarves or blood sucking interstellar arachnids invading your very neighborhood or a far off realm.
Take my short story, Wasted Wood, rooted in this unique category. The story focuses on a group of friends who go camping and are subsequently dared to trek through an allegedly ‘haunted’ forest. This in itself just makes it a creepy fiction story, not speculative fiction. Camping near a creepy forest and a dare amongst the characters are both conceivable features to the story, living well in the realm of our reality. It’s what the reader encounters at the end of Wasted Wood that makes the novella speculative fiction. In fact my sister (not a speculative fiction fan) read the book and said, “I really loved it until …” Sorry no spoilers here, you’ll have to read it. I chuckled at her statement, because it proved the twist I’d written into the story was indeed unexpected. The boys’ story appears firmly based in our world until the moment when I flip a switch and take the reader, my sister, out of the comfortable world she is used to
Rebecca LuElla Miller an expert on speculative fiction and contributor to SpeculativeFaith.com agrees with my explanation of the genre. She adds a summarization of Orson Scott Card’s perspective, “The genre can be summed up as the category of stories which violate known reality at some point: stories set in the future; set in the historical past that contradict known facts; set in other worlds; set on earth before recorded history and/or contradicting the known archaeological record; that contradict laws of nature.” Rebecca explains the genre’s fruitful growth, “With the increase in the number of independent publishers and the ease of self-publishing, speculative fiction, and Christian speculative fiction in particular, is available in increasing numbers. From what I’ve read in the past ten years, Christian speculative fiction, which has steadily improved in quality, now has titles that can hold their own against general market speculative stories.” That’s encouraging, because I love reading stories that delve just outside of reality. Visit SpeculativeFaith.com and to find articles and book recommendations to satisfy your growing hunger for speculative fiction, because let’s face it, its scrumptious. It’s like eating your favorite milk chocolate covered alien worm, you just can’t get enough--another example of speculative fiction.