Five Reasons to Try Speculative Fiction
By R. David Fulcher
Lovers of mainstream fiction steer away from books labelled as speculative fiction – typically science fiction, fantasy and horror – like the plague. To many, these books are considered extreme, graphic and downright weird. However, these people are missing out on some great fiction, just as if you limited yourself to steak and potatoes every night while missing out on some great international cuisine.
Here are five reasons to consider trying Speculative Fiction:
- Speculative Fiction is just fiction in an exotic wrapper – First and foremost, speculative fiction is literature, and like all literature conveys universal human themes such as good, evil, love and loss. Many great American literary figures experimented with stories that would today be labeled as speculative fiction, including Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne. What sets speculative fiction apart is that the characters may belong to a mythical species, and the story may be set in another world. This doesn’t make the narrative any less powerful. Consider the story behind the movie Titanic – would the tragedy be any less if the Titanic were a huge starship full of passengers?
- Weird can be Wonderful – I used to dread going to seafood restaurants. That was of course until I discovered the joys of coconut shrimp. With or without dipping sauce, coconut shrimp is truly one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In the same vein, you won’t really know if you like speculative fiction until you try it. You may suddenly find yourself captivated by a city under the sea, daily life on Mars or the friendship between a swordsman and his wizard companion.
- Your Kids will Think It's Cool – Children and young adults have always been more welcoming of speculative fiction than adults. Fairy tales are speculative by nature, as are stories of super heroes. Teenagers especially seem to have an endless diet for speculative fiction as well. Consider the success of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games. Not only could you swap books with your kids, you could also connect with them over a common interest. And yes, they will think you are the coolest parents ever!
- You will Rock your Book Club – Designed to generate stimulating conversation about great books, many book clubs have become predictable followers of the latest bestsellers. This is not to say that speculative fiction does not appear on the bestseller list. Indeed, Stephen King and Dean Koontz have made a habit of it. However, too often it is the latest Nora Roberts or James Patterson thriller that becomes the focus of discussion. Bringing in the latest Zombie Apocalypse novel from an unknown indie author will definitely help shake things up if your book club is in a rut.
- Reading Speculative Fiction will make you a better reader – Expanding your literary boundaries will make you a more well-rounded reader. Even if a casual foray into speculative fiction proves unsatisfying to you, you will soon learn to identify the speculative fiction elements in your everyday reading. As mentioned previously, literary masters such as Henry James have taken elements from speculative (in this case, Gothic) fiction and applied them tastefully for dramatic effect in works otherwise known to be non-speculative. Identifying speculative fiction devices in popular fiction will deepen your appreciation for the author and his or her work.
So there you have it. Much like that old Halloween decoration that keeps climbing up the stairs every year, speculative fiction is here and not going away. So give it a whirl. You never know – you may just like it!
A Note About the Author: R. David Fulcher is an author of horror, science fiction, fantasy and poetry. His major literary influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allen Poe, Fritz Lieber, and Stephen King.
His first novel, a historical drama set in World War II entitled Trains to Nowhere, and his second novel, a collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories, Blood Spiders and Dark Moon, are both available from www.authorhouse.com and www.amazon.com. His work has appeared in numerous small press publications including Lovecraft’s Mystery Magazine, Black Satellite, The Martian Wave, Burning Sky, Shadowlands, Twilight Showcase, Heliocentric Net, Gateways, Weird Times, Freaky Frights and the anthologies Dimensions and Silken Ropes. His passion for the written word has also inspired him to edit and publish the literary magazine Samsara, located online at www.samsaramagazine.net, which has showcased the work of writers and poets for over a decade.