Speculative Fiction comes in many forms. Coined by Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein in the middle of the 20th century, the term has taken on a much broader definition than originally intended.
For some people, speculative fiction is synonymous with science fiction, but we at Garden Gnome Publications don’t consider them interchangeable. While science fiction can be said to be a genre within the overarching umbrella of speculative fiction, speculative fiction need not fall into the realm of science fiction.
Fantasy and horror are two other genres often associated with speculative fiction. As is the case with science fiction, they can be considered genres within the broader category of speculative fiction.
That’s not to say that all science fiction, fantasy, and horror should be considered speculative fiction, though it would be difficult for me to imagine any fantasy story as something other than speculative. A horror story, if it is a mere retelling of a true event, wouldn’t be speculative at all. Likewise, a fiction story based entirely on verifiable hard science wouldn’t be speculative either. So in the case of horror and science fiction, a story may well fall into the category of those genres without falling into the category of speculative fiction.
In essence, speculative fiction is any fiction where a primary element within the story is based on a real world or fantasy world speculation. Some of the best speculative fiction consists of a blending (or bending) of this triad of genres (science fiction, fantasy, and horror).
If that’s not sufficiently broad enough, let’s see if we can expand the boundaries.
How Speculative Need Speculative Fiction Be?
Speculative fiction is, at its heart and soul, fantastic in its storytelling elements. In that regard, almost any mainstream genre story could meld over into the speculative fiction category if told in the right manner or spirit. Therefore, speculative fiction isn’t so much a genre as it is an approach to telling stories.
Rightly considered, speculative fiction is an atmospheric condition to a genre element. Pick a genre and you can make it speculative.
A List of Story Genres/Subgenres That Gnomes Find Speculative
The garden gnomes love all kinds of fiction. Speculative fiction genres, or genres that might contain a speculative fiction atmosphere, include (but don’t consider this exhaustive):
- Science fiction, horror, and fantasy (let’s get those out of the way, shall we?
- Pulp fiction, including neo-pulp
- Noir and neo-noir
- Weird fiction
- Magical realism
- Supernatural fiction
- Superhero fiction
- Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction
- Utopian/dystopian tales
- Alternate history
- Paranormal romance, horror, fantasy, etc.
- The various punk genres (splatter, cyber, steam, etc.)
Speculative fiction need not be but often is transgressive, which makes it more difficult to define the term, but let’s keep trying.
Some of the Gnomes’ Favorite Speculative Fiction Authors
Speculative fiction is much older than most fans today are willing to admit. Quite frankly, we like work that leans to the weirder side of the house, satirical even, but we also like dark horror. Some of our favorite authors go well back into time and include:
- Jonathan Swift
- Mary Shelley
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Franz Kafka
- Lord Dunsany
- J.R.R. Tolkien
- Kurt Vonnegut
- Robert Heinlein
- Ray Bradbury
- Ursula K. LeGuin
- William Gibson
- Philip K. Dick
- Anne McCaffrey
- Stephen King
- Anne Rice
- Michael Moorcock
- Mike Resnick
- Margaret Atwood
- C.S. Lewis
- Neil Gaiman
And there are more. This is not an exhaustive list. Some new writers rising up in newfangled genres such as Bizarro and New Wave Fabulism have also caught our eye.
The speculative fiction needle is always moving. The gnomes can’t pin it down, but we do our best to point it out when we see it swinging in our direction.
What The Garden Gnomes Have To Offer Speculative Literature
Our offerings are growing. Currently, we publish flash fiction on our Flim-Flam Bush every Wednesday. If interested in seeing your work among the growing list of amazing authors filling up our bush, check out the rules for our monthly Flim-Flam Game.
We also publish an ongoing anthology of speculative fiction based on Bible stories. Learn more about these opportunities available to writers of all persuasions on our Biblical Legends Anthology Series submissions guidelines page.
We’ve recently added a nonfiction imprint to our Flim-Flam Bush publishing platform. We call it Gaslight.
The gnomes are also big fans of myth. We’re seeking novella-length stories that retell the myths of old or create new ones. So tell us a Mythical.
More to come soon. Stay in touch by signing up for the Gnews.