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Thread: Speculative Fiction: A Serious Question

  1. #51
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eqb View Post
    There's a famous quote from Margaret Atwood, where she said SF was all about "talking squids in space."
    Yeah, that's how you can tell 'Oryx and Crake' isn't ​science-fiction - no squid, no space.

  2. #52
    Pie aren't squared, pie are round! Introversion's Avatar
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    Verne’s big mistake in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was failure of the imagination. Should’ve set that giant squid in space. I mean, it’s just lit fic in the ocean, yanno?

  3. #53
    Not Ready to Put the Knife Away Kjbartolotta's Avatar
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    Can we all just agree that literary fiction is fiction featuring water-based, non-talking squids?

  4. #54
    Pie aren't squared, pie are round! Introversion's Avatar
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    All I know is, I don’t want my literary squids philosophizing about the human condition, unless they do it while batter-coated in hot oil.

  5. #55
    Ooh, look! String! Kat M's Avatar
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    Can people philosophize over the human condition over dim sum? It'll be a bit loud but the squid is soooo delicious.

    Or, in attempts to build relationships, humans bring space squid to dim sum and there's a bit of 'splaining to do.

    In attempts to un-derail myself, I stumbled upon Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars in an anthology as a teenager. It's not my genre of choice but I read it in a day and immediately sought a copy for myself. Every so often I reread it and it raises plenty of questions about the human condition—the ones Heinlein intended to raise and others raised by the gender dynamics in the story. That's my only foray into SF, but it's cemented its "seriousness" in my brain.
    I write about angsty banjo players and the fiddlers that have to deal with them.

  6. #56
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kat M View Post
    Or, in attempts to build relationships, humans bring space squid to dim sum and there's a bit of 'splaining to do.
    Or Greek restaurants, unless the humans can find one that doesn't do calamari. Which would be worse - explaining what calamari is up front, or waiting until after the space squid has eaten a piece and said "Yum!"

  7. #57
    shipwrecked in antiquity Coddiwomple's Avatar
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    I think we can all agree that value judgments based on personal preference should not be used to condemn an entire genre. For example, one person’s philosophical squid romance is another person’s tentacle hentai.





    Last edited by Coddiwomple; 06-17-2019 at 02:21 PM.
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  8. #58
    Repped by Bookends Harlequin's Avatar
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    The difference between science fiction and fantasy often comes down to tone and execution. A computer can be magical. Magic can be scientific.

    Speculative fiction technically includes sff but in common discussion is usually understood to mean a particular type of tone, something stronger than magical realism but with that sense of non-fantastical fantasy and/or non-technological technology. It is a broad and elusive genre and that is really quite okay.
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  9. #59
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks to everyone for taking the time to reply to my question. I'm especiall glad someone mentioned space squids. I've hated them ever since they attacked the Splattula System and wiped out the Throgions. Bastards!

    Here's a short list to crush the enemy and their irrational loathing of speculative writing. I mean we're not talking fringe here - these are the greats.

    Fairies, sprites, witches: William Shakespeare
    Ghosts: Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte
    Vampires: Bram Stoker (well, obviously)
    Time Travel: HG Wells & try Audrey Niffenegger for good measure
    Talking animals: George Orwell (CS Lewis won't win the argument. George just might)
    Dystopian "futures": Margaret Atwood, George Orwell again. Aldous Huxley.
    Angels, devils and demons: whoever wrote the Bible, especially the last bit
    Ghosts, monsters, handsome dark men out to destroy us all: Stephen King
    Donald Trump (no wait, that's not fiction - it's just unbelievable)

    I'm ignoring all the brilliant writers who are more usually identified as working in this space. The only books I've ever read twice were the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Dune saga. Both are simply astonishing works of art. But tell someone Shakespeare was a fantasy writer and they'll probably think you're nuts. Proceed with caution!

    I found this quote by Robert Sawyer. “Good literature illuminates the human condition; good science fiction illuminates the human condition by examining it in circumstances that could not occur in our day-to-day lives, therefore providing unique and provocative insights.”

    But as someone on this thread said - the haters gonna hate. I believe this is also a quote.

    Oh well, I'm off to hunt me some space squids. Bastards.
    Last edited by DMakinson; 06-18-2019 at 10:38 AM. Reason: formatting
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  10. #60
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMakinson View Post
    Here's a short list to crush the enemy and their irrational loathing of speculative writing.
    ...
    Won't work. It may be fun to make up replies to the haters, but it's useless. They'll come back with the classic reply:

    "If it's good, it's not SF/F. If it's SF/F, it can't be good."
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 06-23-2019 at 11:48 PM.

  11. #61
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMakinson View Post
    But tell someone Shakespeare was a fantasy writer and they'll probably think you're nuts. Proceed with caution!
    I am a card-carrying English Ph.D. with quals in The Novel, and English lit from Medieval through Romantic.

    My dissertation is about fairies in Medieval English and Celtic literatures; texts which I would argue are Urban Fantasy.

  12. #62
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    I consider myself a “mainstream” reader who has always read both literary and spec fic, and “literary spec fic” is increasingly a thing these days. Station Eleven? Apocalyptic pandemic novel. Zone One, Severance? Zombie plague novels. All authored by acclaimed “literary” writers and embraced by the literary crowd. Whether they’re also embraced by the SFF community is another question, but they are undeniably crossovers and successful as such.

    I originally switched to writing YA because it didn’t seem possible (to me, with my admittedly limited knowledge) to combine futuristic scenarios with literary-style character development in either adult literary or adult SF. I only saw that happening in YA dystopias like Feed and the Uglies series. Nowadays, I see that crossover combination all over adult fiction, which makes me think any remaining prejudices against spec fic are crumbling. (Same with mystery, honestly. Literary readers have been okay with openly reading Dashiell Hammett, P.D. James, and Patricia Highsmith for a long, long time.)

    That doesn’t mean certain readers won’t still look down on certain subgenres, such as space opera. And there are always going to be a few holdouts like John Gardner, whose book on novel writing flat-out says genre writing isn’t literature. (Someone gave me that book as a teen. After I read that passage, I put it down for good, because even in the ‘80s that read as ridiculously reductive and elitist.)

    But phenomena like Game of Thrones suggest that, as a whole, the speculative is now mainstream. My lack of interest in GoT excludes me from a lot of conversations in all kinds of social settings! When I was a kid, SFF was considered a niche interest that could get you branded as a geek. No more.

  13. #63
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    ... phenomena like Game of Thrones suggest that, as a whole, the speculative is now mainstream. My lack of interest in GoT excludes me from a lot of conversations in all kinds of social settings! When I was a kid, SFF was considered a niche interest that could get you branded as a geek. No more.
    Good point. When some TV shows and movies make billions of dollars and engage millions of viewers it becomes obvious that speculative fiction is indeed mainstream. Those who consider themselves the intellectual elite will still argue that it's only the drooling mob who respects it. They'll say that REAL intellectuals know better.

    I'd say that those criticasters are inferior beings who secretly know they are the runts of the human intelligentsia and must use specious arguments to bolster their sagging self esteem. Arguing with them only wastes our time.

  14. #64
    Wherever I go, there I am. indianroads's Avatar
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    I recall that when Star Trek first came out in the 60's a lot of us were embarrassed to admit that we liked the show.

  15. #65
    Pie aren't squared, pie are round! Introversion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I recall that when Star Trek first came out in the 60's a lot of us were embarrassed to admit that we liked the show.
    Pffft. Compared to “Lost In Space”, the original “Thunderbirds Are Go”, or “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “Star Trek” was practically Shakespearian in its grandeur and sophistication.

  16. #66
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMakinson View Post
    Here's a short list to crush the enemy and their irrational loathing of speculative writing.
    Why make thier opinion so important? If you want to write a genre story, write one. If you want to sub/pub, do so. But think of all the energy that you are putting into proving worth to people who don't want to recognize it. You could be putting that into finishing your story
    Last edited by Layla Nahar; 06-24-2019 at 04:35 AM.
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  17. #67
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin g_eke's Avatar
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    So far, the only hint of snobbery I've detected from the literary crowd toward SF was in Harriett Gilbert, presenter of BBC Radio 4's A Good Read. She made a slightly-sniffy (though fairly innocuous), passing remark in the context of reviewing Michel Faber's excellent Under the Skin. I forget what she said exactly, but it revealed her disdain for the genre.

    A parallel attitude could be appreciators of film toward those who like to watch movies.

  18. #68
    practical experience, FTW Sonya Heaney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    Wait until you find out what people think of Romance!
    This 9000% Nobody knows genre snobbery the way romance writers do (and the nastiness towards us comes with a hefty dose of sexism to boot).

  19. #69
    is watching you via her avatar jjdebenedictis's Avatar
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    Snobbery is the public face of insecurity. It's easier on the ego to decide other people are stupid/crass/shallow/etc. than to accept you just don't get it, but they do, and it's therefore your weakness on display, not theirs.

    In other news, I loves me a good space squid.
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  20. #70
    Non sum qualis eram TiPerihelion's Avatar
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    Can we talk about what spec fic IS? Because this thread has thoroughly confused me. As I understand it, spec fic is not interchangeable or synonymous with sci-fi or fantasy. It is the examination of plausible, real-Earth (not alt-Earth) futures and the existential questions they entail. Classic examples are the books you'd read in high school English: Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, On the Beach, The Handmaid's Tale, The Road. On-screen examples (according to me) include the Matrix trilogy, Black Mirror, Westworld.

    Spec fic is to be distinguished from classic/traditional sci-fi (despite the futuristic settings and tech) epitomized by: Contact, Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Doctor Who, etc.

    Obviously, the line between is blurry. I agree with Harlequin that it comes down to tone. Works like Jurassic Park and the Hunger Games--while speculative in concept--behave more like thrillers in execution, where the dominant question becomes, "Will they survive?" That doesn't hold much philosophical or moral import, and its scope is very narrow.

    I've heard people belittle sci-fi, but never spec fic. In fact, I have only ever heard spec fic referred to in positive terms as a subgenre of literary fiction. Perhaps spec fic is to sci-fi what magical realism is to fantasy.

    The one thing I am sure of is that if your story has dragons, it's not "spec fic."

  21. #71
    practical experience, FTW -Riv-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TiPerihelion View Post
    . . . The one thing I am sure of is that if your story has dragons, it's not "spec fic."
    Do you have a source to back up this claim?

    All the best,
    Riv

  22. #72
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    I think if your definition of science fiction excludes The Matrix, your definition is wrong. Or at least, it's showing that there's no meaningful distinction between works that are trashy sci fi and those that are worthy Spec fic.
    Last edited by Albedo; 07-09-2019 at 12:02 PM.
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  23. #73
    Bigger Than A Bread Box Absolute Sage lizmonster's Avatar
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    Interesting. I've only seen "spec fic" used as a superset, to get past the "is Star Wars fantasy or SF" arguments, or to make sure genres like horror and paranormal aren't left out. Never once heard it used to exclude.
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  24. #74
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    Interesting. I've only seen "spec fic" used as a superset, to get past the "is Star Wars fantasy or SF" arguments, or to make sure genres like horror and paranormal aren't left out. Never once heard it used to exclude.
    When speculative fiction first emerged as a marketing category in the 1960s (though the term was first used by Heinlein in the 1940s) it was closely associated with what later was identified as "new wave" SF. Spec fic was, initially, SF that emphasized human issues rather than technology, and Harlan Ellison championed the use of the terms to mean this, especially in his reference to his own work, and in his Dangerous Visions anthologies.

    Speculative fiction has since the 1990s become an umbrella category, and it emphatically includes SF (and various subgenres), Fantasy, Dystopia, Urban fantasy and horror. Here's a good reference regarding the definition of speculative fiction.

  25. #75
    writing in the shadows aspirit's Avatar
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    Linked is my favorite explanation--partly because it supports my view and partly because of a convenient chart.

    Annie Neugebauer's "What Is Speculative Fiction?"

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