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.
By Brock Eastman Article first appeared on Speculative Faith website in January 2012
The quick and purest answer is God — the Master and Creator of the whole world, the universe for that matter. We know from the very beginning of the Bible that God created a wonderful place for His beloved creation (us) to live within. He thought of everything and as John Hammond in the movie Jurassic Park said of his genetically engineered animal park, “I spared no expenses.” Neither did God.
God created man in His own image, and gave us control over all creatures on land, in the sea, and in the sky. He handcrafted a world with soaring mountains, seemingly bottomless sea trenches, puffy white clouds, rolling liquid rock (lava), animals that run, birds that fly, fish that swim, water as ice, fog, or rain. He gave us emotions that gave our life depth and made it real. God crafted a beating heart tot work within our body; providing life blood to our systems, each of which is also handcrafted — from kidneys that clean, a stomach to digest, a tongue to taste, ears to hear, and eyes to see, to a brain to take it all in and make it all work together. All the above to say, we are His creation, His greatest creation, and He made us in His image. By doing so He made us gifted to be creative like He was. And then He surrounded us with things to inspire our creativity. Wow, what didn’t He think of? The answer nothing.
So what inspiration do you draw from? I’m blessed to live in Colorado where mountains abound and our weather varies hourly. In the winter we get snow in the morning and it melts by the afternoon with wonderful warm sunshine. We might have a sunny morning where light rainstorms pass over in the afternoon cooling us off in the summer. The mountains are just a fifteen minute drive away, and I can be lost in pine forests and soaring peaks after pulling off the asphalt and walking a short ways into the wilderness. Animals abound, and while I hope to see a bear someday (at a distance of course), I’ve seen elk, antelopes, fox, eagles, owls, mountain goats, deer, and a lot of other wildlife. God surrounds us with beauty, and it’s easy to draw inspiration from something so majestically created. Some might say, “Well that’s Colorado! I live in ___(Fill in the blank)___.”
Well, I grew up in Illinois, where my writing all started. Illinois — flat cornfields, muggy summers, frigid winters — but God laid His beautiful handiwork there as well. There is nothing like the spring rain that drizzles for hours against your window and the ominous thunder and lightning that accompany each storm. The summer, while humid, brings along warmth to swim in wooded lakes and evenings where I can roast marshmallows over campfires at night. The autumn harvest and the orange, red, and yellow leaves that cloak the trees make fall in Illinois my favorite season. Seeing the bright orange pumpkins lying in wait amongst the black earthy fields or running through huge corn mazes with friends is all part of the fall. And although the winters are cold, cold, oh so cold, those first snows are wonderful and glistening as I would walk at night with large fluffy snowflakes flittering down, while holding my wife’s hand.
Those are some of the scenes and memories that float through my mind as I write, but inspiration comes from more than just the nature around us. God has gifted others with a talent I do not possess. Music! I like to listen to soundtracks while I write. Some of my favorites are from movies like, The Village, How to Train Your Dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Patriot, Jurassic Park, and Last of the Mohicans. While I’m in no way musically inclined, I did win a blue ribbon for a church talent competition singing a duet of “Awesome God.” (Okay, I admit, as I recall everyone won blue ribbons.) The talent to create imagery and invoke emotion through sound is clearly a gift from God. These composers create the music that sets the mood for my writing while not distracting me with lyrics.
Often I’ll be pecking away on my keyboard and find myself flying down a path I don’t expect my characters to take, then I reflect on what tracks I’ve just listened to, and lo and behold, the tempo or theme of the scene matches the music. Sometimes it’s comedic or dark, fast paced, or a relaxing conversation. But it seems the stories always fit together well, and for that I must thank God. So again, where do you draw your inspiration from? Ultimately you’re drawing it from God, but what medium has He used to get it to you? The whole Earth is His canvas. It’s wonderful to serve such an awesome and inspiring God. He so often is there when we don’t take the time to notice.
By Brock Eastman Article first appeared in Family Fiction Edge Magazine in January 2014
I hated reading. I really didn’t enjoy writing, and my grades reflected it. I wasn’t exactly the prospect for becoming an author. Why did I need to read when I had Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis? There was always a new Sonic game and a more enhanced Dr. Robotnik to beat. I’d sit for hours in my blue video rocker chair glued to that black controller, connected to my character through a five foot black cord.
Occasionally I’d venture outside with my friends, but that addictive little blue hedgehog always called me back. I remember one of my friends trying to get me to read Louis Lamoure, I think I made it halfway through a chapter. I’d skim the required reading books, and the grades on my book reports would prove it. In High School, my streak of ‘not reading’ continued and my writing reflected the minimum page or word count required to get a B or C.
It wasn’t until college that I read a book because I wanted to. The series I chose is the oft hated, but mostly beloved Harry Potter series. Now some of you reading this are already averting your eyes, and that’s okay; that’s your choice, like reading the books was mine. But let me tell you something the series did for me and many other kids like me; it got me excited about reading. We could debate the magic of the Harry Potter world as good, bad, etc. but the real magic about the books was the creative world that drew young readers in. My imagination was opened and the characters felt like friends. In fact, it inspired me to become a writer, which I now am. Before I talk about the writing thing, let’s take a bit of a tangent first.
Now why did I decide to pick this series up? Well I met this beautiful girl, and we challenged each other to see who could finish the entire book series first. The only title not out was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The only reason I was able to catch up to her was because we both had to wait for the release of the final book. So when it finally came out, we sat in a Borders bookstore (sadly they went the way of the dodo bird) and waited for the midnight release.
The next few days were devoted to reading as much as possible and I am proud to say I won. Now it is debated if my winning was completely above board or not and here is why. Early on in our competition, we went to a friend’s house for a nice home cooked Italian dinner. As we ate, I excused myself from the dinner table to use the restroom. As I passed my girlfriend’s purse I slipped out her copy of The Half Blood Prince and took it with me. Then I proceeded to read it for the next half hour, needless to say my absence in the restroom for so long, was causing everyone else some concern, but no one checked and I made quite a bit of ground on my reading. Now with that confession over, you can judge if I won or not. But I did indeed win in the long run, because the girl married me!
So Harry Potter inspired me to read and it also inspired me to write, but the writing thing is twofold. One I thought how cool would it be to create my very own world, or at least my very own characters. And two I want to write a book series that is a bit more ethical than Harry Potter. You see my real beef with the Harry Potter series is not the magic, because, sorry to burst your bubble, but magic isn’t real. My opposition to the series is the lack of an honorable hero. You see, though Harry appears to be a great hero, he sort of got there through a whole lot of lying, disobedience, and arrogance at times. To tell kids that Harry is a hero, when he overcame evil by committing many wrongs of his own, seems wrong. Sure little Billy, steal that candy bar as long as in the end you overcome a great trial. NO! WRONG!
I wanted to give readers characters they could really look up to, characters they could learn from and trust. Something else I wanted to do, specifically for The Quest for Truth, was provide a story without unnecessary death. This wasn’t in reflection of Harry Potter, but of many series for kids and young adults, and not just in the secular marketplace. How often do our kids read of a sword slicing through someone, or a gun fight? We probably wouldn’t let them watch it on TV, so why would we let them read it in a book? So with the desire to provide authentic moralistic heroes and a storyline without unnecessary death, I began writing The Quest for Truth. And though this kid who hated reading and writing, hadn’t read anything until he was in college, and hadn’t written anything larger than a few thousand word research paper, wrote a 100,000 word manuscript with no prospect of getting it published. After all I was a college student in the middle of the cornfields of Illinois getting a degree in Marketing. It wasn’t until later that God opened up some pretty amazing doors.
The fact is God has His plans for us. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) says; ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’
So what are you waiting for? You just read this nearly 1000 word article; go read some books. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to write a story of your own!