Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What is Speculative Fiction, Exactly?

As some of you may already know, I’m a moderator at Agent Query Connect and I primarily host and run the Speculative Fiction Group. We were formerly the Fantasy, Science-Fiction, YA Resource Networking Group (quite a mouthful) and the dreadful name had to be changed. Since the change I’ve noted some confusion in members of my group and for others who aren’t sure AQC even has a group representing their genres.

It might surprise some to learn that the term speculative fiction is more widely used than you know. In essence, speculative fiction is a blanket term for all genres containing speculative and amazing elements.

For one of the best descriptions I’ve found, take a moment to read this article by N.E. Lilly at GreenTentacles.com.

Speculative fiction isn't degrading since it spans comic books to literary gems with magic realism elements. Most fictional books written fall under the bracket of speculative fiction for humans love to use their imaginations and speculate on "what if?" The next time someone asks you what you write, instead of cringing, admit you're a speculative fiction writer. You're part of a large group of writers who not only entertain and enlighten but who examine the human condition in ways other genres can't or won't.

I don't recommend using speculative fiction as a genre designation in a query letter or store bookshelf since industry professionals like us to be more specific as to which branch of speculative fiction we are writing. (It would be nice in reverse if agents listed speculative fiction in their looking-for guidelines.)

So if you are a member of AQC, you write a speculative genre, and you've wondered where you belong, be sure to check out my group. If you have run across the term speculative fiction on the internet and have wondered if it applies to you, hopefully this post has helped.

For more clarification on speculative genres, I'll do another post soon to break down some of the subgenres. If you've got a question regarding your subgenre you'd like me to touch upon, please let me know in the comments or e-mail me.


  1. I wish I'd read this a couple years ago when I was flailing to nail down the genre of my novel, as I wish I'd found the Spec Fic group on AQC earlier. I knew that my novel was speculative in nature, but not how or where that fit into the "listed" genres. No dragons, wizards, or elves. No werewolves or vamps. Just some (possible) alien possession and weapons/tools from some other dimension. Oh, and a spirit guide. So I'd (wrongly) settled on paranormal thriller, which never felt right. Probably queried the wrong agents in the wrong way. Thanks to you and the Spec Fic group, if I can get myself back to it, I feel that just by seeing it differently, I have a clearer focus on what it is I channeled. Anyhow, a post breaking down the subgenres will be great, but this is a good intro. I hope others in the realm will find their home, too.

  2. Rick, it took me awhile to nail down my exact subgenre too. I think we tend to think of the bigger genres and subgenres first and then try to justify our stories to fit them. It's always a delight to find a story that defines itself within the umbrella of speculative fiction.

  3. "So if I weigh the same as a duck... I'm made of wood.."
    "And therefore?"
    "A speculative fiction writer?"

    Seriously, do you think my MS is spec fic? It did all start many years ago with a "what if..." moment.

  4. It's a fantasy, so yes, it falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction. =)