Speculative fiction or ‘what-if ‘ fictions as they are popularly called, is a broad genre of fiction that encompasses futuristic or imaginative themes. They contain elements from fantasy, horror, philosophy, science fiction, supernatural, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, alternate history, utopian and dystopian novels. As the word itself suggests and means, they ‘speculate’ or theorize about a subject that is non-real or doesn’t exist in the real world.The term has lately been congruous with science fiction only.
Writers have hypothesized about a lot of non-existent things in their stories for a very long time and they should definitely not be missed by anybody who has a healthy appetite for books.
Sub-genres of speculative fiction
Let’s see what are the sub- genres in speculative fiction! I have expounded very briefly on each of them and succored each of them with examples! The books that I discuss later have not been reviewed in this section!
Utopian fiction is an imaginative world that holds the author’s most cherished and valued ethos. It is portrayal of an ideal society namely those of political and social structures. Nowhere by William Morris is one the best utopian fictions ever written. The narrator, William Guest, falls asleep after returning from a meeting of the Socialist League and awakens to find himself in a socialist society of common ownership of land and democratic control of means of production. The novel epitomized state socialism and is a classic read in the world of speculative fiction that must not be missed!
Dystopian fiction is an imaginative world whose ethos are contradictory to the author’s most cherished ideals. Totalitarianism, hunger, mass poverty, unemployment and oppression are some of the predominant themes in dystopian literature. George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic in the sub-genre.
Also known as alternate historical fiction or allohistory (other history), this genre of speculative fiction predicts outcomes other than those given in the historical record and explores the question of “what if” in history. Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is an alternate fiction about a time traveler who attempts to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I have already deliberated fantasy fiction in a separate article, all you have to do is Click Here!
Apocalyptic fiction is when the earth’s civilization is collapsing. There is destruction and decimation of human life from the planet due to a catastrophic event which could be natural or man made. Susan Beth Pfeffer’s ‘Life as we knew it’ of ‘The Last survivors’ series is an Apocalyptic fiction about the girl Miranda and her family who have to put up a fight to survive. An asteroid has hit the moon and brought it closer to the earth and everybody is left to fend for themselves in the biting cold of Northeastern Pennsylvania and widespread hunger brought by the apocalypse.
Also called the literature of ideas, sci fi deals with futuristic concepts that deals with advancement in science and technological and usually explore the possibilities of scientific innovation. The Foundation galaxy series by Issac Asimov is a perfect example of this.
Post-apocalyptic fiction is the imaginative world which speculates the consequences of the apocalyptic event. Catching Fire in the Hunger Games trilogy.
Read on the catching Fire Here!
Here is my list of must read speculative fiction books:
1984 by George Orwell
A dystopian classic novel by one of greatest writers of all times, Orwell’s prescience of modernity will give you the nerves. The speculative fiction contemplates the nightmares of totalitarianism and a bureaucratic world. As the magazine puts it, throughout the Cold War, the novel found avid underground readers behind the Iron Curtain who wondered, How did he know? In the Trump’s era, I personally believe that the novel can be a bestseller again.
Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Gliding between the world of the woodland and the fairies, this William Shakespeare classic revolves around the the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to the former queen of the Amaazons, Hippolyta. The lovers are manipulated by fairies where most of the speculative fiction is set. Famous for the line
Ay me, for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth…
the book speculates the troubles of romance and pokes fun at the torments and afflictions those in love suffer.
You can read the play by clicking here!
Lord of Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
With musings like ” I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve” to tell us about his characters, J.R.R. Tolkien has won zillion hearts in the reading community of the world. Speculating the enchanting world of the Hobbits supposed to be in Middle-Earth, the story is about Frodo Baggins who has embarked on the journey to destroy a ring, which will ensure the destruction of its maker, Lord Sauron. Tolkein is phenomenal in his imagination and was fifty years ahead of his time in his vision. His story has one of the most brilliantly chiseled characters arcs you can ever read.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
A future Thailand is fighting is fighting for an environmental collapse. Calorie companies rule the world, bio-terrorism has become a tool to extort corporate profit and oceans sea levels are rising. An American, Anderson Lake is roaming the streets of Bagkok hoping to make a motor spring and looking to make blight-resistant foods. The hardened capitalist finds himself falling for bioengineered artificial human Emiko (“the windup girl”) who has ended up in a rotten Thai brothel. The relationship that ensues, is one of the most delightful speculative fiction read that will manage to make you think and entertain at the same time.
Foundations Galaxy by Issac Asimov
The expansive Galactic Empire is doomed and on its Foundation a new Galaxy will be built. A collection of short stories revolving about different time periods in the two Galaxies, Asimov’s story is about a Hari Seldon who has used psycohistory to predict the fall of our exapansive Empire, including the Milky way Galaxy to give way to a second Empire. Although the fall is inevitable Asimov devises a plan to deflect the apocalypse by just a thousand years. He goes on to gather two groups of scientists and engineers who could settle at opposite ends of the galaxy – “to preserve the spirit of science and civilization, and thus become the cornerstones of the new galactic empire.” A triumph of imagination in its time and one of the first books I recall when thinking of speculative fiction, this is a must read for anybody who likes reading science fiction.
Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
One of the most gripping tales in speculative fiction, Margaret Atwood in her inimitable style, introduces us to the themes of women in subjugation, their individuality and independence in her epochal work, Handmaid’s tail. Set in the Republic of Gilead, the story is about a young woman named Offred who leaves the home of the Commander who is supposed to make her pregnant, which is what Handmaids are valued for (their ovaries) in an age of declining births. She misses her husband Luke, the independence she had with him and most importantly the access to knowledge. She gets to know of “Mayday” a society aimed to overthrow Gilead from fellow handmaid Ofglen. When Offred does not turn fertile for a very long time, the commander’s wife insists that she sleep with his chaueffeur Nick. The commander takes her to Jezbel’s where the Commanders ususally mingle with prostitutes. When the Commander’s wife finds out that she had been there, she promises her punishement. But Nick tells her that they are members to Mayday who have come to rescue her. Offred leaves with them on her way either to prison or to freedom—she does not know which.
You can learn the Margaret Atwood style of writing fiction by Clicking Here !
Did I miss any of your favorite speculative fiction? Let me know in the comment section below and I will add them to my list!