What is Speculative Fiction?

by Ari Augustine Posted June 8, 2017 in #Writing, Home / 53 Comments

Defining genres is an ongoing process. With an accumulation of labels, changing tastes, and specific preferences, it’s invaluable to know the basic elements that separate one literary genre from another.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term. It’s like saying “I like sweets” rather than saying “I like donuts and brownies, specifically.” Speculative Fiction encompasses three subgenres of fiction: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror.

Oversimplifications aside, Speculative Fiction is any fictional world where the laws are dissimilar to ours. This results in extensive world-building, which is a staple in all novels that fall under this umbrella.
So, why do you need the term Speculative Fiction? Why can’t you just label your work as one of its subgenres and save yourself the vagueness of the word? Well, the vagueness of the word is helpful to you, especially if your work:

  1. Encompasses elements of more than one of the subgenres.
  2. Does not neatly fit into a single subgenre perfectly.

Using the sweets example, you might have a donut made of brownie batter that doesn’t fit into either category completely. It’s not just a donut nor is it a brownie. Thus, Speculative Fiction.
Instead of saying, “here is my Science fiction novel with elements of Fantasy or Horror,” you can label your manuscript as Speculative Fiction to better describe where it belongs. Plus it takes up less space in your query letter.
Want to explore genres further? Check out Ten Genres Defined

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53 responses to “What is Speculative Fiction?

  1. Armando Rincon

    So many things I do not know about literature , this is one of them. It’s a good term to define a novel that has a mix of different genres

  2. Joseph Javier

    thank you for clearing that up…
    I was speculating on what is the umbrella term for those fiction genres… =)

  3. Salman Saheb

    In my opinion Two Geners should be in Mix like Sci-Fic + Horror. Sometime more geners give pain during reading as senseless.

  4. Shawna

    Great post! I just learned what Speculative Fiction is and it makes a lot of sense to me. So Lord of the Rings, The Time Traveler’s Wife and Hunger Games are all books I love that would fit under the Speculative Fiction genres. Thanks!

  5. Ronald Gagnon

    I greatly dislike the idea of “Speculative Fiction” as an attempt at a genre….like you say..a book should classify itself as one of the three classes and make it more definitive to anyone seeking such a read

  6. Charity Moore

    Thanks for sharing. Apparently, my favorite genre is Speculative Fiction! Now, I am curious would the Fallen series fall into this category? I am almost certain it would, but figured I would ask!

  7. Ronald Gagnon

    I still think that if you do not have sufficient pride or confidence in your work, you classify it as “speculative fiction”

    • I wouldn’t, confident or not, query with it. Speculative Fiction is too broad a term when it comes to finding an agent. Most have their preferences listed as Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror. Sometimes, though, they don’t accept all three. So saying Speculative Fiction could potentially work against you. If a writer is not sure which genre their book belongs, it’s definitely not a good idea to settle on calling it Speculative. It could belong under a whole other umbrella. This is why it’s important for a writer to know their genre and be as familiar with it as possible.