Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guest Blogger Peter Burton on Why Adult Speculative Fiction Isn't Dead

Joyce has invited me to do a guest post here in Yesternight’s Voyage. I jumped at the opportunity. It is always a great vote of confidence when a fellow writer offers you a chance to guest on their blog.

Joyce had several options for the post; why adult speculative fiction is not dead, and who some of the great authors of speculative fiction are, to name a couple. To be honest, I can’t separate those two subjects, so this is going to be something of a hybrid.

Since the genre of speculative fiction could be pretty much perceived to cover all fiction ever written, it can get a bit confusing. Technically, Mark Twain’s Huck Finn is just as much speculative fiction as Frank Herbert’s Dune. So, for the sake of this post I’ll just stick to the basics of the genre; Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. I realize that even those genres have been sliced and diced to death, but let’s keep it simple, shall we?

Why is speculative fiction not dead? Because it is the genre that covers some of the most basic needs in humanity. Our need to romanticize the past, Fantasy; our need to speculate on the future, Science Fiction; and our need to be scared, Horror.

That last bit may seem a bit silly to a few people, but it is the truth. We love to be scared and will go to great lengths to feed that fix. Just look at the lines for the rollercoasters, and all the scary rides at any amusement park. I’m not even going to mention base jumping, white water rafting, or bungee jumping. We like getting the bejesus scared out of us from time to time.

That would partially explain why adult speculative fiction is still alive and well, but I don’t think it’s the entire reason. No genre can continue without great stories, and great stories come from great authors. Even if their status happens to be a one hit wonder. Both Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker fall into that category, as far as the general public goes, yet Dracula and Frankenstein are still read, and the fodder of pop culture media to this very day. Steven King is the long term superstar of the horror brand of speculative fiction.

How many people do you know who don’t know King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or Merlin? There is some speculation that those people might have come from actual historic persons, but the truth is, the story as we know it is Fantasy. How does that fit into today, you may ask? Look at the number of adults who devoured J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Although not of the Sword and Sorcery brand, it is undeniably Fantasy.

Science Fiction is, and has pretty much always been something of a juggernaut under the speculative fiction umbrella. The ongoing popularity of Jules Verne’s works, such as The Time Machine and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, right up to The afore mentioned Dune is proof enough of that. If that isn’t enough, we didn’t even mention the works of Isaac Asimov, or the recently departed great Ray Bradbury. These two giants of the genre have achieved legendary status, and I’ve no doubt their work will live on for millennia to come.

So far we have only touch the big three in speculative fiction, and I think we’ve made a pretty good case that the genre as a whole is still alive and kicking. If not then consider the popularity New York Times bestselling authors under the new sub-genres of SF such as Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (Paranormal Urban Fantasy), and Lisa Myers’s Twilight series (Paranormal Romance). Both of which are clearly adult in nature.

Yes. I would say it is more than safe to say Speculative Fiction is alive as a viable market, and will be for many years to come… if not indefinitely.

Thanks for giving me a chance to mouth off on your blog, Joyce. I am more than grateful for the opportunity. And as usual;

Later Gang.


  1. Great post, Peter.

    Joyce, I have a blog award for you. :)

  2. Awesome post! I feel like the success of the Game of Thrones series proves more than anything else that adult SpecFic is alive and thriving. :) Here's to ALL genres finding a strong hold on their target market.

  3. Great post! I am always interested in learning more about genres that I'm not as familiar with and this is one of them.