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Writing Craft: On Writing Speculative Fiction

Why write speculative fiction? The answers are varied, numerous and wonderful; speculative fiction is designed to create new worlds.

This article is a living document. It will evolve and change over time. It was created as a writing supplementary document for a speculative fiction class, designed specifically for students of color. I will continue to add useful resources to the document as my time permits. Check back at least one a month. If there’s something you think should be included, please make a note in the side comments.

A Brief History of Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements. The popularity of the term is sometimes attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculative fiction, or its variant “speculative literature” (from the History of Science Fiction, Wikipedia).

  • Soft Science fiction tends towards stories where the science is less strictly held to the laws of physic and the stories issues tend toward social, sociological, psychological issues raised by the creation, use or development of technology.
  • Low Fantasy: Tends to revolve more around individuals whose lives are spent fighting for or against a particular cause, even if that cause is just getting to one’s next meal. Sword and sorcery, a particular kind of low fantasy usually deals with magic as a undesirable or unreliable tool, used only as a last resort.
  • Today, however, pulp or neo-pulp is enjoying a resurgence as the heroes of those eras move into modern tales characterized by over the top adventures, larger than life legendary heroes. If James Bond, came to mind, he would be an example of a modern pulp hero.
  • The other ‘punk genres are generally counter-culture, meaning they fight against whatever the primary culture deems important because it is also stagnating and reductive, making people in slaves of the mainstream culture.

The Many Genres of Speculative Fiction

Why write speculative fiction?

The benefits of writing speculative fiction are many.

  • The freedom to imagine worlds completely different from our own. Speculative fiction gives you the ability to create worlds, ideas, themes that have no place in our current reality. Creating internally-consistent fantasy worlds allow writers to experiment with nature in ways not currently possible with science as we know it.
  • The ability to extrapolate the future, based on the present: you have the option to take our current world or some past world and change an element of that past/present and talk about a possible future, either more favorable or less, depending on the ideas you are addressing. This is one of the most powerful aspects of speculative fiction.

Writing and Productivity Resources

Where to experiment with writing online

  • The best of the online writing environments. The interface is easy to learn, visually compelling and has an extensive collections of other writers to read and learn from —
  • One of the newer collections of writers with a relatively easy to use interface. The quality of writers varies widely but there are editors and contests pointing out the best of these nascent writers. Contests held here are free and give you an opportunity to have your work actively reviewed by local editors and other writers.
  • An old site with a very funky interface, but there are thousands of stories here by varying qualities of writers. What makes this site fairly unique is the nature of the stories being told. Fan fiction are stories told with already existing characters you know in fiction.
  • Works only if you have an existing Twitter account to log into. A decent networking, test-writing area where multiple writers can share, edit and coordinate writing documents for publication.
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Online References

  • Writing World: — an excellent website breaking down all aspects of writing from outlining to manuscript production. A goldmine of information:
  • Dammit, I’m a Science Fiction Writer: Requires A Facebook account — this online forum is a collection of writers who share ideas and information on improving one’s writing skills and publishing opportunities as a writer of speculative fiction. We have several famous writers as members who share their experiences in the industry. The age recommendation is 14+, but there are no pornographic, erotic or lewd information displayed. Moderation is taken seriously and offenders are summarily booted.
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The significance of plot without conflict

In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures–which permeate Western media–have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.

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