Why Speculative Fiction?
Why Speculative Fiction?
In my last post, I made mention of the fact that I want to write “speculative fiction.” I feel like I should come clean about it – after all, isn’t sci-fi/fantasy really just a para-literature (that oh-so-dreaded epithet)?
While both genres do have a lot of baggage, there has been a push for the last couple of decades to raise the quality, with limited results. To my knowledge, Ursula K. Le Guin has been a vocal member of this, and it shows in her work. While I doubt that either genre will ever be fully free of their pulp origins, speculative fiction also possesses some particular strengths that need to be exploited, especially now. There was recently an article over on the North Star (which can be found here, for the curious: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=11735) detailing the way in which sci fi can contribute to envisioning a better tomorrow, one not constrained by our neo-liberal present, which I would recommend. It also has a short list of quality reads, if you’re interested.
Furthermore, speculative fiction will allow me a modicum of freedom that I wouldn’t necessarily have if I were to write straight, “non-genre” fiction. While I am interested in telling Truth, it doesn’t necessarily mean I need tell truths, if you follow. World-building is fun! If I’m going to be doing this, I might as well enjoy it while I’m at it.
Thus, of course, we come to the elephant in the room. Isn’t sci-fi a bit, you know, immature? The reserve of the spotty young man, socially awkward, bordering on inept? Why willingly associate oneself with that? Truth be told, I still am an awkward young man, fortunately enough having left my spots behind. I feel a bit uncomfortable at the idea of writing some wide-ranging social critique, steeped in factuality, as the High Modernists were wont to do. I simply haven’t experienced enough. My same callowness prevents me from writing about some great trauma and its fall-out. Certainly, I’ve had some un-fun periods in my life, but I wouldn’t be so conceited as to think myself as hard-done-by as someone below the poverty line, or someone who has lived in a war zone. Until I have a proper story, I’ll stay away those forms of fiction better suited to it. Speculative fiction allows me to tell stories that I do have legitimate access to – those that deal in universal human truths.
Furthermore, I suspect it’s high-time that speculative fiction be rehabilitated. Now that it’s seemingly hip to be square (way-back play-back!), a lot of the old walls are becoming undermined – it’s more recognised that women like similar forms of literature, despite the various assumptions regarding suitably gendered audiences; more authors are looking to include lgbt/coloured protagonists and viewpoints; etc. So, at least in that sense, the timing is right. Also, if the success of television series like Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, or The Wire are any sort of barometer, larger audiences seem to be desiring better-written, more intelligent media (I’ve picked prominent TV shows in order to underline the mass appeal – there have been quality literary efforts in the previous century, but they had a more niche success). I’m not so audacious as to come out and say “I’m the man for the job!” or anything – I’m not claiming that I’m a better writer than Le Guin – I’m not, at least at the moment – but I think that it’s appropriate that more people should start making the effort. I’ve spent a great many years being frustrated by the obvious short-comings and missed opportunities within particular works and the genre as a whole, and so, rather than simply complain anymore about it, I figure it’s about time I try to fix it myself.