Have You Heard of It?
We are all familiar with the popular reading genres such as romance, mystery, thriller, science fiction, and horror. Those are further divided into subgenres such as paranormal romance and historical romance, cozy mysteries, YA, etc. While fantasy has become popularly accepted as a major genre, it is still considered a subgenre of science fiction.
Have you heard of “Speculative Fiction”? Most readers have not. In fact, if you were to look in Amazon’s categories, as wide-ranging as they are, you will not find speculative fiction anywhere. However, it is a type of fiction which encompasses genres such as futuristic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and many others.
In its simplest elements, it is any fiction that “speculates” as to possibilities. These possibilities may be future, present, or past. For example, The Man in the High Castle is speculative fiction because it speculates on what may have happened if the Nazis had won WWII. Jurassic Park also is speculative fiction because it explores the possible results of bringing creatures that nature chose for extinction into the present.
Anytime a work of fiction “speculates,” when it explores the “what if,” it can be considered speculative fiction. Some writers, such as Margaret Atwood, have gone a bit further into their definition of what constitutes speculative fiction. She held that speculative fiction must be plausible. She felt it was fiction that “could happen.”
In this view, science fiction that deals with Martians is not speculative because it could not happen as we now know for sure that Mars has no inhabitants. Fiction that speculates on humanity settling Mars and terraforming the planet would be speculative.
You might be tempted to ask: why is this type of genre necessary or important? It is necessary because some works of fiction do not fall into any other simple genre. Case in point is my Future-Past (Daniel’s Fork) series, in which I constructed a society ruled by lords as Europe was centuries back. The people of Daniel’s Fork (a village) speak in simple, formal English. They live with technology that dates back to the colonial times.
Many of my readers have asked why I chose to do that. A good friend, when she first read the Hunter’s Snare (previously Daniel’s Fork), was very angry and insulted. She argued that Americans, with such a history and fierce love of democracy, would revert back to being ruled by lords in the future.
Of course, 2020 was still seven years in the future, when the danger of losing our democracy became too real. In the future, possibility is the key word! It is understandable that my friend was doubtful of the possibilities. However, if you read the book I wrote after, Fire Dance, you begin to see the very real possibilities in Hunter’s Snare.
I have been working, (between other projects) on the first novel, time-line wise, of the series. It is called Lords, and it takes place three years after the pandemic. Needless to say, I have a great deal of rewriting to do after lessons learned in the present-day Covid pandemic.
In Lords, the following questions are answered: Why did I choose stilted, formal language? Why are there bathrooms and not aqueducts? Why are there lords and not presidents? Why use blades, bows, and shotguns too?
Some readers have observed that Hunter’s Snare reads like historical fiction. Others feel it reads like fantasy. While I made a creative decision to use simplified, formal English, the novels are not historical fiction. In fact, they are futuristic!
They depict a future society that has inherited knowledge of our present, a history of technology, but an inability to maintain or create the technology anew. In many ways, I was influenced by the world that Anne McCaffrey created in her Pern novels.
Anyone who has read Hunter’s Snare can see that while it takes place in the future, eighty years after a pandemic, it does not fit well into science fiction. It might be called dystopian by some, but it lacks the elements of the dystopian genre in that the society works rather well and is not disaffected.
The biggest hurdle in classifying Hunter’s Snare is that it is, at heart, a mystery! It is the tale of the new alpha male in town, arriving to replace the beloved, dead lord. His first task is to catch a serial killer who has run amok for years. Still, selling the novel as a mystery would target readers who expect cozy mysteries or police detective stories. They would not be happy.
Finally, there is the erotic side to Hunter’s Snare. There are strong sex scenes, one that includes two males having sex. This causes some promo sites to categorize the novel as “erotica,” and many sites refuse to promote it because of those few scenes. You can now understand the problem of genre categorization for some works of fiction.
In fact, my Future Past series can only be categorized properly as “Speculative Fiction.” It is totally possible if in a few years from now, a pandemic decimated our world, and a few survivors opted to re-form society by keeping that which was tried and true.